Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - September 29, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

LIC, GIC, New India Assurance systemically important insurers: IRDAI

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • Regulator IRDAI has identified LIC, GIC and New India Assurance as domestic systemically important insurers (D-SIIs) and subsequently decided to subject them to enhanced regulatory supervision.
  • The three insurers have also been asked to raise the level of corporate governance, identify all relevant risks and promote a sound risk management culture, the Insurance Regulator and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) said in a statement.

About D-SIISs

  • D-SIIs will also be subjected to enhanced regulatory supervision.
  • D-SIIs refer to insurers of such size, market importance and domestic and global inter-connectedness whose distress or failure would cause a significant dislocation in the domestic financial system.
  • Therefore, the continued functioning of D-SIIs is critical for the uninterrupted availability of insurance services to the national economy.

Highlights

  • D-SIIs are perceived as insurers that are 'too big or too important to fail' (TBTF).
  • This perception and the perceived expectation of government support may amplify risk taking, reduce market discipline, create competitive distortions, and increase the possibility of distress in future.
  • It added that these considerations require that D-SIIs should be subjected to additional regulatory measures to deal with the systemic risks and moral hazard issues.
  • To identify such insurers and put them to enhanced monitoring mechanism, IRDAI has developed a methodology for identification and supervision of D-SIIs.
  • The parameters, as per the methodology, include the size of operations in terms of total revenue, including premium underwritten and the value of assets under management; and global activities across more than one jurisdiction.
  • The regulator would identify D-SIIs on an annual basis and disclose the names of these insurers for public information.

Source: Business Standard.

Vodafone wins Rs 20,000-crore tax arbitration case against government

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • British telecom giant Vodafone Group plc won arbitration against the Indian government over its demand for Rs 22,100 crore in taxes using retrospective legislation.
  • However, the Centre said it will study the arbitration award to decide on its future course of action.

Background

  • The international arbitration tribunal ruled that India’s demand in past taxes was in breach of fair treatment under a bilateral investment protection pact.
  • Vodafone confirms that the investment treaty tribunal found in Vodafone’s favour.
  • This was a unanimous decision, including India’s appointed arbitrator Rodrigo Oreamuno.
  • The tribunal held that any attempt by India to enforce the tax demand would be a violation of India’s international law obligations.

Highlights

  • The government said it will be studying the award and all its aspects carefully in consultation with its counsels.
  • “After such consultations, the government will consider all options and take a decision on further course of action including legal remedies before appropriate fora,” the finance ministry said in a statement.
  • Meanwhile, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said the Government of India’s liability will be restricted to about Rs 75 crore in cost refunds.
  • As per the award, the government has to reimburse Vodafone 60 per cent of its legal costs and half of the 6,000 Euros cost borne by Vodafone for appointing an arbitrator on the panel.
  • The arbitration tribunal said India’s “conduct in respect of the imposition” of tax demand on Vodafone “notwithstanding the Supreme Court judgement is in breach of the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment” in the bilateral investment protection treaty.
  • Vodafone had before the arbitration tribunal challenged India’s usage of a 2012 legislation that gave it powers to retrospectively tax deals like Vodafone’s USD 11 billion acquisition of 67 per cent stake in the mobile phone business owned by Hutchison Whampoa in 2007.
  • It challenged the demand of Rs 7,990 crore in capital gains taxes (Rs 22,100 crore after including interest and penalty) under the Netherlands-India Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT).

Source: Economic Times.

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Jnanpith Award Presented To Renowned Malayalam Poet Akkitham

Focus: GS1.

Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.


Context

  • Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri is the sixth author to bag the Jnanpith Award for Malayalam literature.
  • Renowned Malayalam poet Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri was conferred the Jnanpith award, the nation’s highest literary award, at a particular perform held at his home at Kumaranallur, close to Palakkad.

Highlights

  • The award was introduced in November final yr however the handing over ceremony was delayed resulting from COVID-19 lockdown.
  • The first Jnanpith was awarded to Keralite poet G Sankara Kurup in 1965, then in 1980 it was awarded to author S Okay Pottekkatt, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai in 1984, M T Vasudevan Nair in 1995 and O N V Kurup in 2007.
  • Akkitham is the one residing poet being known as Mahakavi (nice poet) in Malayalam.
  • The 93-year-old poet is instrumental in heralding modernism in Malayalam poetry.
  • A real Gandhian, social reformer, journalist and an iconic instance of simplicity, Akkitham has been a person who wears many hats with aplomb in addition to his gifted literary life.
  • Born in a standard Namboothiri (Brahmin) household in Kumaranallur in Palakkad district, Akkitham had trumpeted his arrival to Malayalam literature on the age of eight by penning his first poem.
  • He later gained recognition as poet, essayist and editor in his decades-long life in addition to collaborating in social reform and renaissance actions.

Source: DD news.

Truth about Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan: 40% of toilets non-existent, unused in govt schools surveyed by CAG

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


Context

  • As part of a Right to Education project, Public sector units have claimed to have constructed 1.4 lakh toilets in government schools.
  • But in a survey by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) almost 40% were found to be non-existent, partially constructed, or unused.

Background

  • In an audit report presented in Parliament, CAG said over 70% did not have running water facilities in the toilets, while 75% were not being maintained hygienically.
  • In September 2014, Ministry of Human Resource Development had launched Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan to meet the Right to Education Act’s mandate that all schools must have separate toilets for boys and girls.

Highlights

  • There are around 10.8 lakh government schools across the country. Overall, more than 1.4 lakh toilets were built by 53 central public sector enterprises (CPSEs).
  • The audit by CAG conducted a physical survey of a sample of 2,695 toilets built by these companies in 15 States.
  • In the survey, CAG found out that CPSEs identified but did not construct 83. Another 200 toilets were reported to be constructed, but were non-existent, while 86 toilets were only partially constructed.
  • Another 691 toilets “were found not in use mainly due to lack of running water, lack of cleaning arrangements, damages to the toilets and other reasons like use of toilets for other purposes, toilets locked up, etc,” said the audit report.
  • 99 schools had no functional toilets while 436 had only one functional toilet, out of the 1,967 co-educational schools surveyed.
  • It means that the objective of providing separate toilets for boys and girls was not fulfilled in 27% of the schools, said CAG.
  • To effectively change the behaviour of students, the project norms required the CPSEs to build toilets with running water and hand washing facilities, and to maintain the toilets for three to five years while charging the annual expenses to their CSR budgets.

About the findings

  • The survey has found that 72% of constructed toilets had no running water facilities inside, while 55% had no hand washing facilities at all.
  • The audit also noticed “cases of defective construction of toilets, non-provision of foundation/ramp/staircase and damaged/overflowed leach pit, which led to ineffective use of toilets,” read the report.
  • 75% of toilets did not follow the norm for daily cleaning at least once a day. The survey found that 715 toilets were not being cleaned at all, while 1,097 were being cleaned with a frequency of twice a week to once a month.
  • “Cases of non-provision of soap, bucket, cleaning agents and disinfectants in toilets and inadequate cleanliness of pathway were also noticed,” said the report.

Source: The Hindu.

India’s External Debt Rose By Nearly 3% To $559 Billion In 2019-20: Finance Ministry Report

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • India’s total external debt rose 2.8% year-on-year to $558.5 billion as on March 31, 2020, mainly due to rise commercial borrowings, according to a finance ministry report.
  • The external debt stood at $543 billion at the end of March 2019.

About the report findings

  • The ratio of foreign currency reserves to external debt stood at 85.5% in FY20.
  • External debt as a percentage of GDP rose to 20.6% in FY20 from 19.8% a year ago.
  • Sovereign debt shrank 3% year-on-year to $100.9 billion in FY20 as FIIs’ holding in government securities fell 23.3% year-on-year to $21.6 billion.
  • Loans from multi-lateral and bilateral sources under external assistance grew 4.9% year-on-year to $87.2 billion.
  • Non-sovereign debt rose 4.2% to $457.7 billion in FY20 as commercial borrowings increased by 6.7% to $220.3 billion.
  • Outstanding NRI deposits remained steady at $130.6 billion.

Highlights

  • In most emerging markets, as the economy expands, foreign debt accumulates to address shortage of domestic savings.
  • India is no exception to this phenomenon.
  • Economic activity in India influences the accumulation of external debt, reflecting the policy over the years of enabling private sector to access foreign debt.
  • Precisely the reason why non-sovereign debt (private sector debt) was four times that of sovereign debt at the end of the previous fiscal.
  • Further, the report stated, non-financial corporations are biggest debtors, accounting for 42% of total debt, followed by deposit-taking corporations (28.3%) and the general government (18.1%).
  • However, as the momentum of economic activity slowed in 2019-20, private sector's appetite to access foreign debt ebbed, resulting in relatively lower growth of 6.7% in the stock of commercial borrowings as of end-March 2020 when compared to that recorded during the first five years of the previous decade.

Source: Quint.

Priceless artefacts damaged in Indian Museum renovation: CAG

Focus: GS1.

Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.


Context

  • A Comptroller and Auditor General of India report has criticised the Indian Museum Kolkata for damaging priceless artefacts during modernisation work from 2017-18, contending that the project lacked any proper conservation plan.
  • The report for the year ended March 2018, tabled in Parliament, said no guideline and laid down criteria for restoration of monuments issued by the Union Ministry of Culture were followed while work was undertaken, and the executing agency had no expertise in conservation of heritage buildings.

Background

  • Proper conservation processes were not followed during renovation resulting in damage to priceless artefacts.
  • CAG said, adding, financial safeguards were also not ensured.
  • Works sanctioned at a cost of ₹ 83.66 crore were executed for ₹ 105.70 crore, with works estimated to cost ₹ 25.76 crore not awarded at all.

Highlights

  • The Indian Museum Kolkata, which is under the Union Ministry of Culture, was founded in 1814 and is the oldest museum in the country.
  • The CAG audit further noted that storage and upkeep of reserved artefacts were "completely ignored" during the project execution, although provision for modern storage system for the artefacts were included in the proposal at an estimated cost of ₹ 15.75 crore.
  • The reserves account for almost 94 per cent of the collection of museum and consist of inorganic objects susceptible to heat and humidity.
  • Fire detection system and CCTV surveillance were also not provided in the reserve store, though included in the approved cost.

Source: The Hindu.

Toxins in water killed hundreds of elephants in Botswana

Focus: GS3.                                

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Context

Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana this year, officials said, announcing the result of an investigation into the deaths which had baffled and alarmed conservationists.

About Cyanobacteria

  • Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil.
  • Not all produce toxins but scientists say toxic ones are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.

About the Highlights

  • Some cyanobacterial blooms can harm people and animals, and scientists are concerned about their potential impact as climate change leads to warmer water temperatures, which many cyanobacteria prefer.
  • Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • It amounts to having the right conditions, in the right time, in the right place and these species will proliferate.

Source: AIR News.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Consider the following statements wrt Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd.:
    1. IREDA is a Public Limited Government Company established as a Non-Banking Financial Institution in 1987.
    2. IREDA’s corporate and registered office housed in Mumbai.
    3. The Agency, a Mini Ratna (Category– I) Government of India Enterprise under the administrative control of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) already has two branch offices in Chennai and Hyderabad.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

       A. 1 and 2 only
       B. 2 and 3 only
       C. 1 and 3 only
       D. AOTA

Solution: C

  • IREDA’s corporate and registered office housed in New Delhi.

  1. Panchajanya weekly was started by:

        A. Syama Prasad Mookerjee
        B. Hedgewar
        C. Baluji Mahashabde
        D. Deendayal Upadhyaya

Solution: D

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