28 th June, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘UDYAM SANGAM’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the Udyam Sangam-2018, being organised by the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) to celebrate the 2nd United Nations Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day. On this occasion, he also launched the Solar Charkha and MSME Sampark Portal.
About UN MSME day
- The General Assembly, recognizing the need to improve small business access to microfinance and credit, decided to designate 27 June as Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day through its resolution. The goal is to encourage member states to facilitate observance of the day by increasing awareness and actions to support small business.
- The resolution was introduced by the delegation of Argentina, co-sponsored by 54 member states and adopted without a vote by the 193-member General Assembly on 6 April 2017
Significance of this sector
- These types of enterprises are responsible for significant employment and income generation opportunities across the world and have been identified as a major driver of poverty alleviation and development.
- MSMEs tend to employ a larger share of the vulnerable sectors of the workforce, such as women, youth, and people from poorer households. MSMEs can even sometimes be the only source of employment in rural areas. As such, MSMEs as a group are the main income provider for the income distribution at the “base of the pyramid”.
- MSMEs should be the first responders to societal needs and provide the safety net for inclusiveness
Challenges faced by this sector
- Although MSMEs generate the most new jobs, they face many challenges in day-to-day operations and to grow. Access to finance is often cited as one of the primary obstacles that affect MSMEs disproportionately. According to the World Bank, there are 200 to 245 million formal and informal enterprises that do not have a loan or overdraft, but are in need of one, or do have a loan but still find access to finance as a constraint. More than 90 percent are MSMEs.
- Financing constraints are also magnified for informal firms, which tend to be small in size, and although often less productive than formal enterprises, contribute significantly to economic activity and employment. Informal firms are estimated to account for around 74 percent of all MSMEs in the world, and around 77 percent of all MSMEs in developing countries. Unregistered firms rely mostly on informal financing, which — although important in facilitating access to finance — is associated with lower firm growth and increased firm illegality.
- A developed financial sector helps mobilize and allocate resources, and manage risks, contributing to private sector development. Finance helps economic growth, and in turn, job creation.
- With this challenge, an opportunity arises for both policy makers and the private sector to intervene at various levels to try to encourage the formalization, participation and growth of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises in international, regional and national markets, including through access for all to capacity-building and financial services, such as affordable microfinance and credit
Sustainable development goals
- Micro-, small and medium sized enterprises are vital in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular in promoting innovation, creativity and decent work for all.
- Efforts to enhance access to finance for SMEs across key sectors of national economies are an important element of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG targets 8.3 and 9.3 call for enhancing the access of SMEs to financial services. In addition, SMEs are an important element in the implementation of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure).
What is Solar Charkha?
- The Solar Charkha Mission will entail a subsidy of Rs 550 crore in the initial two years for 50 clusters and every cluster will employ 400 to 2000 artisans. The mission will generate employment in rural areas and contribute to the green economy.
- About Sampark Portal
- The digital platform `Sampark portal’ will be useful in creating a skill pool of workers and connecting trained youth with job opportunities
‘Sant Kabir’ (GS1: Indian History)
Issue: The Prime Minister will offer floral tributes at SantKabir Samadhi, on the occasion of the 500th death anniversary of the great saint and poet, Kabir
- Kabir was a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement and his verses are found in Sikhism’s scripture Guru Granth Sahib. His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu bhakti leader Ramananda.
- Kabir is known for being critical of both Hinduism and Islam, stating that the former was misguided by the Vedas, and questioning their meaningless rites of initiation such as the sacred thread and circumcision respectively
- Kabir suggested that True God is with the person who is on the path of righteousness, considered all creatures on earth as his own self, and who is passively detached from the affairs of the world
- Kabir’s legacy survives and continues through the Kabir panth (“Path of Kabir”), a religious community that recognises him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members are known as Kabir panthis
‘Export Credit Guarantee Corporation’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the capital infusion of Rs.2000 crore for strengthening of Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC).
Aim of this infusion
- The infusion would enhance insurance coverage to MSME exports and strengthen India’s exports to emerging and challenging markets like Africa and Latin American countries. With enhanced capital, ECGC’s underwriting capacity and risk to capital ratio will improve considerably. With a stronger underwriting capacity, ECGC will be in a better position to support Indian exporters to tap new and unexplored markets. Increased capital infusion will help ECGC to diversify its product portfolio and provide cost effective credit insurance helping exporters to gain a stronger foothold in the difficult markets. Covers from ECGC will help in improving competitive position of India exporters in International markets. More than 85% of customers benefitted by ECGC’s covers are MSMEs. ECGC covers exports to around 200 countries in the world.
- ECGC is a premier export credit agency of the Government of India to provide Export Credit Insurance Services to facilitate exports from the country. The ECGC offers credit insurance schemes to exporters to protect them against losses due to non-payment of export dues by overseas buyers due to political and / or commercial risks. It works under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry
‘National Export Insurance Account Trust’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved contribution of Grant-in-Aid (Corpus) of Rs.1,040 crore to National Export Insurance Account Trust (NEIA).
Aim of this move
The Corpus would strengthen NEIA to support project exports from the country that are of strategic and national importance. The trust works under the ministry of commerce and industry
‘Higher Education Commission of India’ (GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: In a landmark decision, a Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill 2018 which seeks to repeal UGC Act and provides for setting up of Higher Education Commission of India has been prepared by the Ministry of HRD
- The transformation of the regulatory set up is guided by the following principles:
- Less Government and more Governance:
- Downsizing the scope of the Regulator. No more interference in the management issues of the educational institutions.
- Separation of grant functions:
- The grant functions would be carried out by the HRD Ministry, and the HECI would focus only on academic matters.
- End of Inspection Raj:
- Regulation is done through transparent public disclosures, merit-based decision making on matters regarding standards and quality in higher education.
- Focus on academic quality:
- HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology etc. It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of University started under any Law (including State Law).
- Powers to enforce :
- The Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions. Non-compliance could result in fines or jail sentence.
Highlights of the Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill 2018
- The focus of the Commission will be on improving academic standards and quality of higher education, specifying norms for learning outcomes, lay down standards of teaching/research etc.
- It will provide a roadmap for mentoring of institutions found failing in maintaining the required academic standards.
- It shall have the power to enforce its decisions through legal provisions in the Act,
- The Commission shall have the power to grant authorization for starting of academic operations on the basis of their compliance with norms of academic quality.
- It will also have the powers to revoke authorization granting to a higher education institution where there is a case of wilful or continuous default in compliance with the norms / regulations.
- It will also have the power to recommend closure of institutions which fail to adhere to minimum standards without affecting students’ interest.
- The Commission will encourage higher education institutions to formulate a Code of
Good Practices covering promotion of research, teaching and learning.
- The constitution of the Commission is strengthened by the cooption of Chairpersons of regulatory bodies in higher education, namely the AICTE and the NCTE. Moreover the Chairpersons/Vice-Chairpersons and members will be scholars of eminence and standing in the field of academics and research, possessing leadership qualities, proven capacities for institution building and deep understanding of issues of higher education policy and practice.
- The Bill also provides for the penal provisions, which albeit graded in nature, will cover withdrawal of power to grant degrees/ diplomas or direction to cease academic operations and in cases of wilful non-compliance, may result in prosecution sanction as per the Criminal Procedure Code with a punishment of imprisonment for a term which may extend up to 3 years.
- There will be an Advisory Council to render advice to the Commission on matters concerning coordination and determination of standards in the country. This will be represented by the Chairpersons / Vice-Chairpersons of State Councils for Higher Education and chaired by the Union Minister for HRD.
- The Commission will also specify norms and processes for fixing of fee chargeable by higher education institutions and advice the Central Government or the State Governments, as the case may be, regarding steps to be taken for making education affordable to all.
- The Commission will monitor, through a national data base, all matters covering the development of emerging fields of knowledge and balanced growth of higher education institutions in all spheres and specially in promotion of academic quality in higher education.
‘Strategic Petrol Reserve’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved establishment of additional 6.5 Million Metric Tonne (MMT) Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facilities at two locations, i.e. Chandikhol in Odisha and Padur in Karnataka
Aim of this move
- ISPRL has already constructed underground rock caverns for storage of 5.33MMT of crude oil at three locations, viz. Vishakhapatnam (1.33 MMT), Mangalore (1.5 MMT) and Padur (2.5 MMT). The total 5.33 MMT capacity under Phase-I of the SPR programme is currently estimated to supply approximately 10 days of India’s crude requirement according to the consumption data for FY2016-17. Cabinet’s approval for establishing additional 6.5 MMT Strategic Petroleum Reserve facilities will provide an additional supply of about 12 days and is expected to augment India’s energy security.
‘Statistics Day’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: In recognition of the notable contributions made by Late Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in the fields of statistics, statistical system and economic planning, Government of India in 2007, has designated 29thJune as the “Statistics Day” in the category of Special Days to be celebrated every year at the National level.
Objective behind the celebration
- The objective of celebration of this Day is to create public awareness about the importance of statistics in socio-economic planning and policy formulation, to acknowledge the contribution of Prof. Mahalanobis, and to pay homage to him. Every year, one particular theme of current national importance is selected for focused discussions and efforts throughout the year aimed at bringing about improvements in the selected area. The theme selected for the Statistics Day this year is ‘‘Quality Assurance in Official Statistics’. The theme has been chosen to underscore the importance of compliance with essential parameters of quality in statistical systems and products. The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) at Kolkata, set up by Prof. Mahalanobis in 1931, and was declared an autonomous “Institute of National Importance” through an act of Parliament in 1959, celebrates 29th June as the “Worker Day”.
Financial Action Task Force’ (GS2: Global Groupings)
Issue: In a blow to Pakistan, the Financial Action Task Force has placed it on the ‘grey list’ for failing to curb anti-terror financing despite Islamabad submitting a 26-point action plan and launching a concerted diplomatic effort to avert the decision
- The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
- The placement on the ‘grey list’ could hurt Pakistan’s economy as well as its international standing. The endorsement of the plan means that FATF formally placed Pakistan on the list. In case it had rejected the plan, Pakistan would have been on FATF’s Public Statement, also called as the black list.
- There are no formal sanctions that come with Pakistan being placed in the grey list
‘Fall in Rupee value’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Indian currency opened at 68.42 a dollar and touched a low of 68.50-a level last seen on 1 December 2016 on worries over rise in fiscal deficit and inflation due to rising crude oil prices.
Conditions pushing a fall in rupee value
- Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) have become more reluctant in Indian equities and debt lately. Signs of softer monetary policy have led to an outflow to the tune of around 3.5 billion USD from debt this year.
- Current Account Deficit (CAD) is also projected to edge higher, while inflation at both consumer and wholesale level has reversed the declining trend. FIIs have also taken out around Rs 16,000 crore from Indian equities during the first quarter of this fiscal.
- Rising oil prices is also hurting indian rupee value
‘Amarnath Yatra’ (GS1: Indian Culture)
Issue: With intelligence agencies warning of a terror strike during the annual Amarnath yatra which begins on Thursday, the Central Reserve Police Force has put in place security measures on a much larger scale than before with biker teams being deployed for the first time to escort yatris’ vehicles.
About Amarnath Yatra
- Amarnath cave is a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km (88 mi) from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir and reached through Pahalgam town. The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism, and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees make an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave across challenging mountainous terrain.
- Inside the 40 m (130 ft) high Amarnath cave, a stalagmite is formed due to freezing of water drops that fall from the roof of the cave on to the floor and grows up vertically from the cave floor. It is considered to be a Shiva Linga by Hindus. It is mentioned in the ancient Hindu texts of Mahabharata and Puranas that Lingam represents Lord Shiva
- According to a Hindu legend, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Parvati.
- The book Rajatarangini (written by Kalhana) (Book VII v.183) refers to Amareshwara or Amarnath. It is believed that Queen Suryamathi in the 11th century AD gifted trishuls, banalingas and other sacred emblems to this temple. Rajavalipataka, begun by Prjayabhatta has detailed references to the pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave. Other than this, there are further references to this pilgrimage in many other ancient texts.
‘UJJWALA revolution’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) completed two years of operation. During this time the number of LPG connections has crossed 4 crore, and LPG penetration in India has risen from 56% in 2014 to 80%.
Studying the usage of gas by PMUY customers and visiting multiple villages across the country, the following features of the programme are evident:
- Interactions with PMUY subscribers suggest that they focus on the value that LPG generates for them and not on its cost.
- Benefits such as customers being able to devote more time towards children, the elderly and sick, along with reduced drudgery and gains in health.
- The programme has also witnessed the emergence of a peer learning platform: the Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat. By sharing the vision of early adopters and ironing out service issues, the LPG Panchayats being held at village levels across India are helping more and more people appreciate the advantages of clean fuel.
- The adoption of LPG has received a boost with supplies ramping up and service improving. In April 2014, there were 13,896 LPG distributors across India. This number is now 20,227
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (GS2: Important International Institutions)
Issue: Beginning this week, India will participate in deliberations at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in New York on an important issue concerning resolution of commercial disputes
- Commercial disputes are resolved not only through courts and arbitration but also through mediation. The deliberations will consider how these settlement agreements in disputes in international commercial transactions will be implemented by courts in different countries.
Deliberations to be done in this meeting will largely include:
- Several concerns make this draft important for India and its businesses. Mandatory pre-litigation mediation has been introduced in commercial disputes. The adoption of the convention will address a policy gap on outcomes from the mediation process involving cross-border disputes. With a definitive legal framework recognizing and enforcing mediated settlement agreements, businesses will be encouraged to consider mediation in managing and resolving disputes that arise in their commercial transactions. India has lost substantial earnings as a result of international disputes being taken for resolution outside the country. Strengthening the dispute resolution policies will encourage dispute resolution in India, where the commercial relationship once began.
- The core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law. A legal body with universal membership specializing in commercial law reform worldwide for over 50 years, UNCITRAL’s business is the modernization and harmonization of rules on international business.
- Trade means faster growth, higher living standards, and new opportunities through commerce. In order to increase these opportunities worldwide, UNCITRAL is formulating modern, fair, and harmonized rules on commercial transactions. These include:
- Conventions, model laws and rules which are acceptable worldwide
- Legal and legislative guides and recommendations of great practical value
- Updated information on case law and enactments of uniform commercial law
- Technical assistance in law reform projects
- Regional and national seminars on uniform commercial law
‘Asteroid Ryugu’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 has successfully rendezvoused with Ryugu, beginning an 18-month stay at the diamond-shaped asteroid
About the mission
Launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, in 2014, the probe will poke, prod and even impact the asteroid, deploying a small lander and three rovers. It will then blast an artificial crater to analyze material below the asteroid’s surface. After that, the probe will head back to Earth, arriving near the end of 2020 with samples in tow.