25 November, 2020

  • Sedition in India (Polity and Governance)
  • Entry of Corporate/Industrial Houses in Banking (Economy)
  • Poshan Abhiyaan needs a boost Page 10 (Social Issues)
  • Govt. orders "priority" for local tenders Page 14 (Economy)
  • Govt. orders priority for local tenders Page 14 (Economy)
  • Sputnik V shows interim efficacy of 91%, says RDIF Page 10 (Science and Technology)
  • QOD

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: Umar veteran of sedition, say police in riots chargesheet | Page 02

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Sedition | Law commission views on sedition  |View of Supreme Court on Sedition in Kedar Nath | UPSC

    WHAT IS FREE SPEECH & REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS?

    Free speech is an important principle of democracy as it allows an individual to attain self-fulfillment, assist in discovery of truth and strengthen the capacity of a person to take informed decisions. However, such freedom of speech often poses difficult questions at times exceeding the limit of reasonable restrictions. Thus, it becomes important to differentiate between freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution, reasonable restrictions imposed on such freedom and grounds on which sedition can be imposed by State authorities.

    Article 19(1) guarantees freedom of speech and expression subject to reasonable limitations under Article 19(2) on grounds of -

    • interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India,
    • the security of the State,
    • friendly relations with foreign States,
    • public order, decency or morality, or
    • in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

    WHAT AMOUNTS TO SEDITION?

    • Sedition as defined in Indian Penal Code under section 124A.

    “ Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”

    • The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
    • Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under sedition.
    • Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

    LAW COMMISSION VIEWS ON SEDITION

    The Law Commission of India was asked to consider section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which deals with sedition. Some of the important observations of Law Commission in its consultation paper (released in August, 2018) are:

    • Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of a robust public debate in a vibrant democracy. Thus, if the country is not open to positive criticism, there lies little difference between the pre- and post-Independence eras.
    • Right to criticise one’s own history and the right to offend are rights protected under free speech under Article 19 of the Constitution. While it is essential to protect national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech.
    • Every restriction on free speech and expression must be carefully scrutinised to avoid unwarranted restrictions.
    • In a democracy, singing from the same songbook is not a benchmark of patriotism. People should be at liberty to show their affection towards their country in their own way.
    • An expression of frustration over the state of affairs cannot be treated as sedition. For merely expressing a thought which is not in consonance with the policy of the government of the day, a person should not be charged under the provision of sedition.
    • The Commission also asked whether it would be worthwhile to rename Section 124A and find a suitable substitute for the term - sedition.

    Thus, mere criticism of the government or its policies does not amount to sedition. Such a dissent or criticism must be accompanied by incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace which is against the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India or security of the state - for invoking charges under sedition.

    • The Supreme Court in Romesh Thapar vs State of Madras declared that unless the freedom of speech and expression threaten the security of or tend to overthrow the State, any law imposing restriction upon the same would not fall within the purview of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
    • In Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar,1962, a Constitution Bench had ruled in favour of the constitutional validity of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC. The Court in this case:
      • Considered the importance of government established by law; and
      •  Struck a balance between the right to free speech and ο expression and the power of the legislature to restrict

    On Sedition - The Court in Kedar Nath stated that:

    • Creating public disorder by the use of actual violence or incitement to violence thereby disturbing public peace. such right
    • Sedition is an offence against the state and any act which have the effect of subverting the Government by bringing that Government into contempt or hatred, or creating disaffection against it will be considered as sedition, including feeling of disloyalty to the Government established by law or enmity to it.
    • On striking a balance – The Court held that a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Say ‘no’ to corporate houses in Indian banking | Page 06 | Dangerous suggestion | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III | Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Evolution in Banking Policy | Present Status of Banking Sector |Pros and Cons of allowing Corporate Houses to set up Banks |UPSC

    Context:

    In June 2020, the RBI had appointed Internal Working Group (IMG) to review the ownership guidelines and corporate structure of the Indian Private Banks. One of the most contentious recommendations submitted by this committee is to allow large corporate/Industrial houses to be the promoters of the Indian Banks. 

    The acceptance of this recommendation would pave way for large corporates such as Reliance, Tata etc. to set up private sector Banks. On one hand, the entry of these corporate houses into Banking sector would enhance competition in the Banking sector, promote higher efficiency and lead to development of large sized banks to support credit needs of $ 5 trillion Economy. On the other hand, some of the experts such as Ex-RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan believes that such a move would be a bad idea and would have an adverse impact on the economy.

    In this regard, we would focus on the following dimensions:

    • Evolution in Banking Policy
    • Present Status of Banking Sector
    • Pros and Cons of allowing Corporate/ Industrial Houses to set up Banks
    • Way Forward

    Evolution in Banking Policy

    Phase of Nationalisation (1969-1991): India's public sector banks (PSBs) were initially set up as Private Banks and later on Nationalised in two waves in 1969 and 1980. After the 1980 nationalization, PSBs had a 91 per cent share in the national banking market with the remaining 9 per cent held by “old private banks” (OPBs) that were not nationalized.

    Entry of New Private Banks (NPBs) post 1991 Reforms: Based upon the recommendations of Narasimhan committee, the RBI issued the policy guidelines to facilitate the entry of new private Banks (NPBs) on a large scale. Subsequently, it led to the entry of large-sized Private Banks such as HDFC, ICICI, Axis Bank etc.

    Guidelines for Licensing of Universal Banks in the Private Sector: The minimum initial paid-up capital for setting up new private Bank was set at Rs 500 crores. Resident individuals and professionals having 10 years of experience in banking and finance were also eligible to promote universal banks. However, Large corporate/industrial houses were not allowed to set up Banks but were permitted to invest in the banks up to 10 per cent.

    Consolidation of Public Sector Banks (PSBs): The Associate Banks of SBI and Bharatiya Mahila Bank got merged into State of Bank of India. It was followed by the merger of Vijaya Bank, Dena Bank and Bank of Baroda in 2018. In the year 2019, 10 Public sector Banks were merged into 4 large banks. After the mergers, there are 12 public sector banks, including the SBI.

    Present Phase: Shift towards greater role of Private Sector in the Banking.

    Public Sector Banks: The Government has proposed new Public Sector Enterprise Policy wherein sectors would be categorized into - Strategic and Non-Strategic. In case of Strategic sector, the number of PSUs would be limited to 4 and the remaining PSUs would either be privatized or merged into larger PSUs. In case of non-strategic sector, all the PSUs would be privatized. The Government is likely to designate Banking as Strategic sector, which would mean there would be maximum 4 PSBs and the remaining PSBs would be merged into larger PSBs or privatized.

    • Private Sector Banks: The Internal Working Group (IWG) has proposed to allow large corporate/Industrial houses to open private sector Banks.

    Present Status of Banking Sector

    Under-developed Banking Sector: The banking sector has grown significantly over the years but the total balance sheet of banks in India still constitutes less than 70 per cent of the GDP. This is much lower as compared to global peers such as China (170%), Japan (110%) etc. Further, the domestic credit provided by Indian banks still remains low compared to other countries.

    As highlighted by Economic Survey 2019-20, the Indian Banking sector has remained dwarf in comparison to the size of our economy. Take for instance, India's largest Bank i.e., SBI is ranked at 55th position globally. The growth of large-sized economies such as USA, China etc. has been supported by large-sized global Banks. Hence, in order to cater to the vision of $ 5trillion economy, we need to have large sized Banks which would be able to enhance competition and efficiency and meet the credit needs of growing economy such as India.

    Government's Monopoly in Banking Sector: As of March 2019, PSBs had Rs 80 lakh crore in deposits and gave loans of Rs 58 lakh crore, accounting for almost 70% of the market share in the Banking sector. However, the performance of the Public Sector Banks has been quite poor as compared to new private Banks (NPBs).  The PSBs account for 80% of the overall NPAs of the Banking sector. The NPAs of the PSBs is around 12% and is much higher as compared to NPBs. In 2019, the cumulative loss of the PSBs due to bad loans accounted for around Rs 66,000 crores.

    Higher Efficiency of Private Sector Banks: According to the Economic Survey 2019-20, every rupee of the taxpayers' money which is invested in PSBs fetches a market value of 71 paise. On the other hand, every rupee invested in NPBs fetches a market value of Rs 3.70 i.e., more than five times as much value as that of a rupee invested in PSBs. This shows that the taxpayers' money is inefficiently deployed in the Public sector Banks which in turn is leading to loss of both the Government as well as the taxpayers.

    Should Corporate/ Industrial houses be allowed to set up Banks?

    A large corporate/industrial/business house is defined as a group having total assets of Rs 5000 crore or more wherein the non-financial business of the group accounts for more than 40 per cent in terms of total assets or gross income. The Committee has highlighted that the private sector Banks must be set up non-operative finance holding company (NOFHC) structure. This would provide for the separation of ownership and management control over the Private sector Banks.

     

    Arguments in Favour

    Arguments against

    ·         Bring in Capital and necessary expertise in Banking

    ·         Improve the Credit-to-GDP ratio and facilitate Investment driven Model.

    ·         Reduce the Government’s monopoly in banking sector and reap benefits ( Example of Liberalisation of Telecom and Aviation Sectors)

    ·         Infuse competition in Banking Sector leading to higher efficiency.

    ·         Lead to development of large-sized banks to cater to credit needs of $ 5 trillion economy.

    ·         Leverage the Private sector Banks for the socio-economic development. ( Ex: Jan Dhan Yojana, DBT etc)

    ·         Many Countries across the world have not explicitly prohibited entry of large corporate/Industrial houses.

    Prone to Shocks: The Indian Economy remained less affected by Global financial crisis 2017-18 due to the dominance of the Public Sector Banks.

    Conflict of Interest:  Corporate houses can involve in inter-connected lending. They can easily turn banks into a source of funds for their own businesses. They can also use banks to provide finance to customers and suppliers of their businesses. Tracing inter-connected lending is a challenge.

    Contagion Impact: Banks owned by corporate houses will be exposed to the risks of the non-bank entities of the group.

    Poor Supervision and Regulatory oversight: The recent failure of Yes Bank and Laxmi Vilas Bank has exposed the weakness in supervision of PSBs. Failure of Banks promoted by large corporate houses would be disastrous.

    Concentration of Political and Economic Power: Political biasedness in giving licenses to certain corporate houses; Anti-competitive practices; promotion of crony Capitalism.

    Misallocation of Credit: Possibility of diverting depositors’ money only towards certain sectors and hence may affect financial inclusion.

    Over-Burden RBI leading to decrease in quality of Regulation.

    Moral Hazard: The Banks in India are rarely allowed to fail. They may have to be rescued by the Government which poses moral hazard.


    Way forward

    As can be seen from the above discussion, the entry of Corporate houses into the Banking sector would have both benefits and challenges. In February 2013, the RBI had issued guidelines that permitted corporate and industrial houses to apply for a banking licence. However, no corporate was ultimately given a bank licence. Only two entities qualified for a licence, IDFC and Bandhan Financial Services.

    This clearly shows that presently, the RBI is itself not very comfortable with issuing licenses to the corporate houses. Hence, we need to be extra-cautious in issuing licenses to corporate houses. The issue of licences to the corporate houses should be preceded by number of reforms:

    Strengthen Banking Regulation Act, 1949: The Federal Reserve Act in USA prohibits financial transactions of Banks with their affiliates. Hence, amendments to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 should be done in order to prevent Inter-connected lending.

    Consolidated Supervision: The RBI must be empowered to carry out the consolidated supervision of the Banks and their non-Banking entities to avoid any conflict of Interest.

    Strengthen Supervisory Cadre: The RBI has set up Specialised Supervisory and Regulatory Cadre (SSRC) in November 2019 to strengthen and consolidate the supervision functions, which were scattered across different departments. The SSRC needs to be strengthened and given proper training.

    Reforms in PSBs: The failure of Yes Bank and Laxmi Vilas Bank (LVB) has highlighted that it is not the ownership structure, rather the quality of corporate governance which determines the efficiency of the banks. Hence, the Government must also give due amount of emphasis on reforming PSBs as highlighted by P.J. Nayak Committee.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Poshan Abhiyaan needs a boost: study | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Issues

    Sub Theme: Health & Nutrition| Poshan Abhiyan | UPSC

    Poshan Abhiyaan needs a boost: study

    About National Nutrition Mission or the Poshan Abhiyaan - World’s largest nutrition programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers was launched in 2018.                 

    *Note –

    Stunted - too short for their age but not necessarily thin

    Wasted - too thin for their height but not necessarily short

    Present situation - As per National Family Health Survey 4 released in 2016

    • More than a third of the children under five face stunting and wasting
    • 40% aged between one and four are anaemic
    • Over 50% of pregnant and other women were found to be anaemic                               

    Reason behind such a situation –

    • Household food insecurity – Poverty and hunger, Inadequate care and unhealthy household environment
    • Lack of health care service and timely interventions. Repeated attacks of diarrhoea and infections leads to weight loss and compromise a child’s nutritional status.
    • Lack of sanitation and clean drinking water are the reasons high levels of malnutrition persists in India despite improvement in food availability. Good sanitation practices have helped curb malnutrition. Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra is one such example.     
    • Gender inequality - Nutrition is an intergeneration issue and thus unhealthy mothers give rise to unhealthy child.
    • Climate change is affecting the global food system in ways that increase the threats to those who currently already suffer from hunger and undernutrition.

    NITI Aayog’s third progress report on the Nutrition Mission                                         

    • POSHAN Abhiyaan’s third progress report (October 2019-April 2020) takes stock of the roll-out status on the ground and implementation challenges encountered.
    • It takes into account large scale datasets already available at public domain like National Family and Health Survey (NHFS-4) and Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS).
    • Insights were also drawn from an in-depth retrospective mixed methods analysis of selected States (Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha and Tamil Nadu) that had successfully accelerated stunting reductions in the decade between 2006 and 2016.
    • The mixed methods stunting reduction success cases in selected States highlighted that in addition to the scaling up of interventions, important investments in social determinants, especially related to the status of girls and women (education during childhood, reducing early marriage and early pregnancy, improving care during and after pregnancy), poverty and food security, were important for reducing stunting.
    • States also offer important lessons on how these changes were facilitated – ownership of a common vision, capable and well supported administration and technical partners, adequate and flexible financing, strengthening implementation systems to enable intervention delivery, working with a range of partners and civil society, and finally, using data and evidence to track progress and learn.

    Recommendations – Report calls for a need to accelerate actions on multiple fronts

    • Recommendations for accelerating current trends in addressing key undernutrition goals
    • Emphasises improving complementary feeding using both behaviour change interventions and the complementary food supplements in ICDS, for stunting reduction.
    • The success cases in selected States highlighted the importance of investments in girls and women (education during childhood, reducing early marriage and early pregnancy, improving care during and after pregnancy) along with other social determinants for reducing stunting.
    • Improved water, sanitation, hand washing with soap and hygienic disposal of children’s stools were other effective interventions which would avert about a quarter of the stunting cases.
    • Recommendations for strengthening key POSHAN Abhiyaan pillars:
    • Technology - Many States still need to accelerate the procurement of phones and training of providers and managers. - Supportive efforts to scale-up technology – servers, network issues, capacity building, help desks - need attention.
    • Convergence - The vision of effective household convergence needs translation from national to district-level stakeholders. New models for diagnosis, planning and closing of gaps in effective convergence are needed.
    • Behavioral change - Efforts must be focused on extending the reach of routine platforms, like home visits, supported by community-based events and mass media, since these have higher reach. - Interpersonal counselling to support good nutrition practices must reach every family that has a child in the first two years of life, using existing frontline worker platforms and all available platforms.
    • Capacity building - Investment in the quality of capacity building.
    • Recommendations for strengthening core delivery platforms for POSHAN Abhiyaan (ICDS & NHM)
    • ICDS platform - Key governance challenges related to financing, supervision vacancies, infrastructure and more, must be addressed. - Core interventions such as home visits, THR and growth monitoring need significant quality improvements. All of these are important to detect and support care and referrals for wasting and to prevent stunting.
    • NHM platform - Ongoing efforts should continue to focus both on the quality of nutrition interventions in health services into the existing health platforms, such as Antenatal Care (ANC), Home Based Newborn Care (HBNC) and Home Based Young child Care (HBYC).
    • Recognizing and mobilizing to address the emerging and cross-cutting challenges of urbanization and overweight/obesity.
    • The challenge of overweight, obesity and non-communicable diseases must be confronted by tackling the food and physical environments in homes, workplaces and institutions.
    • Connect the existing movements, like Eat Right and Fit India with the POSHAN Abhiyaan’s mission of improving diets for all stakeholders.

    Way forward

    The report was prepared before COVID-19 spread rapidly across the country. Experts thus warn that deepening poverty and hunger may delay achieving the goals defined under the Nutrition Mission.

    COVID-19 disruptions to health and nutrition services will call for renewed efforts 

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Govt. orders ‘priority’ for local tenders| Page - 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Atmanirbhar Bharat | Vocal for Local |Priority to domestic industries in government tenders | UPSC   

    Context – The government has tightened its procurement norms to make it tougher for Ministries to pursue global tenders for contracts worth up to ₹200 crore. Any Ministry seeking an exemption to the norm, in order to call for a global tender enquiry, is required to seek the Cabinet Secretariat’s prior nod.

    In order to promote local manufacturing, DPIIT amended the public procurement rules (Public Procurement-Preference to Make in India) Order 2017 to –

    • ensure that only items with minimum 20% local content can participate in government tenders.
    • ensure that only items with minimum 20% local content can participate in tenders floated by the government or any of its entities.
    • make it compulsory to give preference to local suppliers while awarding tenders. Items with more than 50% local content will get purchase preference over other items.

    Firms defined as Class-I local supplier, having local content of ‘equal to or more than 50%’, will be the only ones eligible to bid for contracts that has a sufficient domestic capacity.

    The new Defence Acquisition Procedure of 2020 (DAP 2020), reserves several procurement categories for indigenous firms. “The categories of Buy (Indian designed, developed and manufactured), Make I, Make II and SP model will be exclusively reserved for Indian vendors.

    Government decided to impose Safeguard Duty on some of the goods such as Solar Panel Cells to promote domestic Manufacturing.

    Government is also aiming to boost manufacturing and global imprint of Indian toys. Significantly, the toy market is one of the several, flooded with Chinese products. Toys can be an excellent medium to further the spirit of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’. Toys can reflect India’s value system and culturally established environment-friendly approach.

    The growth of India's personal protective equipment (PPE) sector from zero before March, to 4,50,000 pieces a day by the beginning of July, is considered as a fine example of a self-reliant India.

    India's own 'Made in India' 5G network was announced in July 2020 by Reliance Jio.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Sputnik V shows interim efficacy of 91%, says RDIF| Page - 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social issues | GS Paper III – Science & Technology

    Sub Theme: Sputnik V vaccine| Adenoviral vector-based vaccines | UPSC  

    GENERAL INFORMATION

    • Currently there are over 200 different COVID-19 vaccines under development around the world.
    • Sputnik V is the world’s first registered vaccine based on a well-studied human adenoviral vector-based platform. It currently ranks among top-10 candidate vaccines approaching the end of clinical trials and the start of mass production on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list.
    • The ongoing Sputnik V post-registration clinical trial in Russia involves 40,000 volunteers.
    • Clinical trials of Sputnik V have been announced in the UAE, India, Venezuela and Belarus.
    • The vaccine is named after the first Soviet space satellite. The launch of Sputnik-1 in 1957 reinvigorated space research around the world, creating a so called “Sputnik moment” for the global community.

    HOW ADENOVIRAL VECTOR-BASED VACCINES WORK

    “Vectors” are vehicles, which can induce a genetic material from another virus into a cell. The gene from adenovirus, which causes the infection, is removed while a gene with the code of a protein from another virus spike is inserted. This inserted element is safe for the body but still helps the immune system to react and produce antibodies, which protect us from the infection.

    The technological platform of adenovirus-based vectors makes it easier and faster to create new vaccines through modifying the initial carrier vector with genetic material from new emerging viruses that helps to create new vaccines in relatively short time. Such vaccines provoke a strong response from a human immune system.

    Human adenoviruses are considered as some of the easiest to engineer in this way and therefore they have become very popular as vectors.

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