Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 21st July-2021

Topics

  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021
  • Conjugal rights before the Supreme Court
  • The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021
  • Monetary Policy Transmission
  • Monkey B virus
  • Tipu Sultan

 

  1. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021

#GS2 #Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger #Important International Institutions, agencies.

Context: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently published its “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report”.

About the report:

  • This report presents the first global assessment of food insecurity and malnutrition for 2020 and offers some indication of what hunger might look like by 2030 in a scenario further complicated by the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The report is presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.
  • FAO’s study was conducted in 63 low- and middle-income countries.
  • They covered a population of 3.5 billion on changes in income of people. It has extrapolated its impact on choice of diets.
  • It includes estimates of the cost and affordability of healthy diets, which provide an important link between the food security and nutrition indicators and the analysis of their trends.

Highlights of the report:

  • The biggest impact of Covid-19 on food security has been on almost all low-and middle-income countries.
  • Moreover, those countries where there were climate-related disasters or conflict or both along with economic downturns as a consequence of the pandemic containment measure, suffered the most.
  • Malnutrition: Globally, malnutrition in all its forms also remains a challenge.
    • In 2020, it is estimated that 22.0 percent (149.2 million) of children under 5 years of age were affected by stunting, 6.7 percent (45.4 million) were suffering from wasting and 5.7 percent (38.9 million) were overweight.
    • Africa and Asia account for more than 9/10 of all children with stunting, more than 9/10 children with wasting and more than 7/10 children who are affected by overweight
  • Hunger: Compared with 2019, about 46 million more people in Africa, 57 million more in Asia, and about 14 million more in Latin America and the Caribbean were affected by hunger in 2020.
    • Globally, the world is not on track to achieve sustainable development goals (eliminating poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2)) targets for any of the nutrition indicators by 2030.
    • Around 11.8 crore more people faced hunger in 2020 than in 2019, an increase of 18%.
  • The high cost of healthy diets coupled with persistent high levels of income inequality put healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people, especially the poor, in every region of the world in 2019.
    • External (conflicts or climate shocks) and internal (e.g. low productivity and inefficient food supply chains) factors affecting food systems are pushing up the cost of nutritious foods.
  • Gender Disparity: There is a gap in access to food among men and women.
    • For every 10 food-insecure men, there were 11 food-insecure women in 2020, up from 10.6 in 2019.
    • Nearly a third of the world’s women of reproductive age suffer from anaemia.

Indian Scenario

Status of Malnutrition:

  • The prevalence of undernutrition among the total population in India was 15.3% during 2018-20. This is significantly low when compared to the global 8.9% during the same period.
  • This is an improvement from the 21.6% during 2004-06.
  • In the year 2020, about 17.3% of children under the age of five years suffered a wasted growth with low weight for height, the highest among countries.
  • About 31% of children have low height for age (stunted) which is an improvement from 41.7% in 2012 but is still higher than many other countries in the world.
  • The country has observed an increase in the prevalence of obesity among the adult population from 3.% in 2012 to 3.9% in 2016.
  • The prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age has only marginally improved from 53.2%in 2012 to 53% in 2019.

Road Ahead:

  • The report has laid down the following six pathways to address major drivers behind food security and nutrition trends.

 

2.Conjugal rights before the Supreme Court

#GS2 #Issues related to Women #Government policies

Context: The Supreme Court is set to begin hearing a challenge to a provision in Hindu personal law that allows restitution (recovery) of conjugal rights.

Key Details:

What is the provision under challenge?

  • Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which deals with restitution of conjugal rights, reads: “When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of conjugal rights and the court, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree restitution of conjugal rights accordingly.”

What are Conjugal Rights:

  • Conjugal rights are rights created by marriage, that is right of the husband or the wife to the society of the other spouse.
  • The law recognises these rights— both in personal laws dealing with marriage, divorce etc, and in criminal law requiring payment of maintenance and alimony to a spouse.
  • Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act recognises one aspect of conjugal rights — the right to consortium and protects it by allowing a spouse to move court to enforce the right.
  • The concept of restitution of conjugal rights is codified in Hindu personal law now, but has colonial origins has genesis in ecclesiastical law.
    • Originating from Jewish law, the provision for restitution of conjugal rights reached India and other common law countries through British Rule.
    • The British law treated wives as their husband’s personal possession hence they were not allowed to leave their husbands.
  • Similar provisions exist in Muslim personal law as well as the Divorce Act, 1869, which governs Christian family law.
    • Incidentally, in 1970, the United Kingdom repealed the law on restitution of conjugal rights.

Reason for Challenging the Law:

  • The law is being challenged now on the main grounds that it violates the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
    • In 2019, a nine-judge Bench of the SC recognised the right to privacy as a fundamental right.
    • The 2019 judgement has set the stage for potential challenges to several laws such as criminalisation of homosexuality, marital rape, restitution of conjugal rights, the two-finger test in rape investigations.
  • The plea argues that a court-mandated restitution of conjugal rights amounted to a “coercive act” on the part of the state, which violates one’s sexual and decisional autonomy, and right to privacy and dignity.
  • Although the law is gender-neutral since it allows both wife and husband to seek restitution of conjugal rights, the provision disproportionately affects women.
    • Women are often called back to marital homes under the provision, and given that marital rape is not a crime, leaves them susceptible to such coerced cohabitation.
  • It is also argued whether the state can have such a compelling interest in protecting the institution of marriage that it allows a legislation to enforce cohabitation of spouses.
  • Another pertinent matter to take into consideration is the misuse of this provision as a shield against divorce proceedings and alimony payments.
  • Often an aggrieved spouse files for divorce from their place of residence and their spouse retaliates by filing for a decree of restitution in their place of residence.

Previous Judgements on the issue:

  • In 1984, the Supreme Court had upheld Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act in the case of Saroj Rani v/s Sudarshan Kumar Chadha, holding that the provision serves a social purpose as an aid to the prevention of break-up of marriage.
  • In 1983, a single-judge bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court had for the first time struck down the provision in the case of T Sareetha v/s Venkatasubbaiah and declared it null and void.
    • It cited the right to privacy among other reasons. The court also held that in “a matter so intimately concerned the wife or the husband the parties are better left alone without state interference”.
    • The court had, most importantly, also recognised that compelling “sexual cohabitation” would be of “grave consequences for women”.
  • However, in the same year, a single-judge Bench of the Delhi High Court took a diametrically opposite view of the law. In the case of Harvinder Kaur v Harmander Singh Chaudhry, the Delhi High Court upheld the provision.
    • Justice Avadh Behari Rohatgi of the Delhi High Court, while critiquing the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment, added that “it is in the interests of the State that family life should be maintained, and that homes should not be broken up by the dissolution of the marriage of parents.
    • Even in the absence of children, it is in the interest of the State that if possible the marriage tie should remain stable and be maintained”.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the Delhi High Court view and overruled the Andhra Pradesh High Court verdict.

Road Ahead:

  • When wives, tired and broken by cruelty, leave the husband’s house, a decree of restitution of conjugal rights is a noose around their necks.
  • It’s time for the Indian judiciary and society to shift to more progressive views starting with the progressive theory of marriage. Marriage is not built upon the ceremonies but upon the autonomy and freedom of two individuals who agree to share them with each other.

 

  1. The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021

#GS3 # Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment #GS2 #Government policies

Context: The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is set to table the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021 in Parliament during the Monsoon Session.

Background and New Changes:

  • Initially, the Commission for Air Quality Management ordinance was promulgated by the President in October, 2020 but the bill to replace the ordinance was not passed in the budget session of Parliament, as a result of which the commission ceased to operate in March, 2021.
  • Subsequently, the MoEFCC brought a second ordinance in April 2021, with modifications due to the farmers’ protest.
    • Farmers had raised concerns of stiff penalties and possible jail terms for stubble burning (as stated in the first ordinance).
  • The government has decriminalised the act of stubble burning and withdrawn the clause for possible jail time.
  • However, environmental compensation fees are levied on those who are found to be engaged in stubble burning, including farmers.

Key Details of the Bill:

  • Bill provides for the constitution of a Commission for better coordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems related to air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas.
  • Adjoining areas have been defined as areas in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh adjoining the NCR where any source of pollution may cause adverse impact on air quality in the NCR.
  • It also dissolves the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority established in the NCR in 1998.
  • The Commission will be a statutory authority.

Composition of the Commission:

  • Chairperson: To be chaired by a government official of the rank of Secretary or Chief Secretary.
    • The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until s/he attains the age of 70 years.
  • It will have members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the stakeholder States.
  • It will have experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Civil Society.

Functions of the Commission:

  • Co-ordinating actions taken under the Ordinance by concerned state governments (Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh)
  • Planning and executing plans to prevent and control air pollution in the NCR
  • Providing a framework for identification of air pollutants
  • Conducting research and development through networking with technical institutions
  • Training and creating a special workforce to deal with issues related to air pollution and
  • Preparing various action plans such as increasing plantation and addressing stubble burning.

Powers of the Commission:

  • Restricting activities influencing air quality
  • Investigating and conducting research related to environmental pollution impacting air quality
  • Preparing codes and guidelines to prevent and control air pollution,
  • Issuing directions on matters including inspections, or regulation which will be binding on the concerned person or authority.
  • The Commission will be the sole authority with jurisdiction over matters defined in the Ordinance (such as air quality management).
    • In case of any conflict, the orders or directions of the Commission will prevail over the orders of the respective state governments, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), state PCBs, and state-level statutory bodies.

Way Forward

  • Legal and regulatory changes to tackle public issues like air pollution, need a democratic conceptualisation.
  • There is a need for the large scale development of intra-city public transport, and to move industries, power plants away from polluting fuels like coal to natural gas, electricity and renewable energy to ensure clean combustion.

 

  1. Monetary Policy Transmission

#GS3 #Indian Economy and related issues #Banking Sector #Monetary Policy

Context: According to a recent RBI report on ‘Monetary transmission in India’, the share of outstanding loans linked to External Benchmarks Lending Rate (EBLR – like repo rate), increased from as low as 2.4% during September 2019 to 28.5% during March 2021.

Key Details:

  • The increase in EBLR linked lending will contribute to significant improvement in monetary policy transmission.
  • According to the RBI report, legacy of internal benchmark linked loans (BPLR, base rate and MCLR(marginal cost of funds-based lending rate)) together comprised 71.5 per cent of outstanding floating rate rupee loans as at end March 2021, impeding the transmission.
  • The share of loans linked to MCLR stood at 62.9 per cent as of March 2021.
  • Only 8.6 per cent of floating rate rupee loans were still linked to the BPLR and base rate even though the Reserve Bank had moved to MCLR based regime over five years ago.
  • The opacity in interest rate setting processes under internal benchmark regime hinders transmission to lending rates, although the EBLR regime is indirectly also leading to moderate improvement in transmission to MCLR based loan portfolio.
    • The RBI had made it mandatory for banks to link all new floating rate personal or retail loans and floating rate loans to MSMEs to an external benchmark like the Repo rate effective October 1, 2019.
    • The MCLR method (considered as non-transparent) which was introduced in the Indian financial system by the RBI in 2016, replaced the base rate system that was introduced in 2010.

Other reasons behind slow rate of transmission:

  • Higher interest rates offered by competing saving instruments such as small saving schemes and debt mutual fund schemes have impeded transmission especially during the easing cycle.
    • The interest rates on small saving schemes, administered by the central government, in principle are set with a lag on a quarterly basis since April 2016 and are linked to the secondary market yields on G-secs of comparable maturities.
  • The interest rates on the various small savings instruments, after being lowered sharply during Q1 of 2020-21 in alignment with the formula-based rates, were left unchanged during the remaining quarters of 2020-21 and Q1, Q2 of 2021-22.
    • The interest rates on various instruments were 46-179 bps higher than the formula-based rates for Q2 of 2021-22, with implications for monetary transmission.

Internal Benchmark Lending Rate (IBLR):

  • The Internal Benchmark Lending Rates are a set of reference lending rates which are calculated after considering factors like the bank’s current financial overview, deposits and non-performing assets (NPAs) etc. BPLR, Base rate, MCLR are the examples of Internal Benchmark Lending Rate.

Benchmark Prime Lending Rate (BPLR):

  • BPLR was used as a benchmark rate by banks for lending till June 2010.
  • Under it, bank loans were priced on the actual cost of funds.
  • However, the BPLR was subverted, resulting in an opaque system. The bulk of wholesale credit (loans to corporate customers) was contracted at sub-BPL rates and it comprised nearly 70% of all bank credit.
  • Under this system, banks were subsidising corporate loans by charging high interest rates from retail and small and medium enterprise customers.

Base Rate:

  • Loans taken between June 2010 and April 2016 from banks were on base rate.
  • During the period, base rate was the minimum interest rate at which commercial banks could lend to customers.
  • Base rate is calculated on three parameters — the cost of funds, unallocated cost of resources and return on net worth.
  • Hence, the rate depended on individual banks and they changed it whenever their cost of funds and other parameters changed.

Marginal Cost of Lending Rate (MCLR):

  • It came into effect in April 2016. It is a benchmark lending rate for floating-rate loans. This is the minimum interest rate at which commercial banks can lend.
  • This rate is based on four components—the marginal cost of funds, negative carry-on account of cash reserve ratio, operating costs and tenor premium.
  • MCLR is linked to the actual deposit rates. Hence, when deposit rates rise, it indicates the banks are likely to hike MCLR and lending rates are set to go up.

Issues Related to IBLR Linked Loans:

  • The problem with the IBLR regime was that when RBI cut the repo and reverse repo rates, banks did not pass the full benefits to borrowers.
  • In the IBLR Linked Loans, the interest rate has many variables including bank’s spread, their current financial overview, deposits and non-performing assets (NPAs) etc.
  • Due to this, such internal benchmarks did little to facilitate any swift change in interest rates as per changes in RBI repo rate policy.
  • The opacity in interest rate setting processes under internal benchmark regime hinders transmission to lending rates.

How EBLR does addresses the above issues:

  • To ensure complete transparency and standardization, RBI mandated the banks to adopt a uniform external benchmark within a loan category, effective 1st October, 2019.
  • Unlike MCLR which was internal system for each bank, RBI has offered banks the options to choose from 4 external benchmarking mechanisms:
    • The RBI repo rate
    • The 91-day T-bill yield
    • The 182-day T-bill yield
  • Any other benchmark market interest rate as developed by the Financial Benchmarks India Pvt. Ltd.
    • T-Bill or Treasury bills are money market instruments issued by the Government of India as a promissory note with guaranteed repayment at a later date.
    • Financial Benchmarks India Pvt. Ltd was recognised by the Reserve bank of India as an independent Benchmark administrator on 2nd July 2015.

Benefits:

  • Banks are free to decide the spread over the external benchmark.
    • However, the interest rate must be reset as per the external benchmark at least once every three months.
  • Being an external system, this means any policy rate cut decision will reach borrowers faster.
  • The adoption of external benchmarking will make the interest rates transparent.
    • The borrower will also know the spread or profit margin for each bank over the fixed interest rate making loan comparisons easier and more transparent.

 

  1. Monkey B virus

#GS3 #Issues related to Health # Disaster and Disaster Management

Context: China has reported the first human infection case with Monkey B virus (BV) after a Beijing-based veterinarian was confirmed with the same a month after he dissected two dead monkeys in early March.

About the virus:

  • The virus, initially isolated in 1932, is an alpha herpesvirus endemic in macaques of the genus Macaca.
  • B virus is the only identified old-world-monkey herpesvirus that displays severe pathogenicity in humans.
    • Alpha herpesviruses are pathogens or neuroinvasive viruses that establish lifelong infections in the peripheral nervous system of humans and many other vertebrates.
  • B virus is also commonly referred to as herpes B, herpesvirus simiae, and herpesvirus B.
  • According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Macaque monkeys commonly have this virus, and it can be found in their saliva, feces (poop), urine (pee), or brain or spinal cord tissue.
  • The virus may also be found in cells coming from an infected monkey in a lab. B virus can survive for hours on surfaces, particularly when moist.

When can a human get infected with B virus?

  • The infection can be transmitted via direct contact and exchange of bodily secretions of monkeys and has a fatality rate of 70% to 80%.
  • Humans can get infected if they are bitten or scratched by an infected monkey.
    • Get an infected monkey’s tissue or fluid on broken skin or in eyes, nose, or mouth,
    • Scratch or cut oneself on a contaminated cage or other sharp-edged surface or get exposed to the brain (especially), spinal cord, or skull of an infected monkey.
  • Till date, only one case has been documented of an infected person spreading B virus to another person.

Who are at higher risk for infection?

  • The virus might pose a potential threat to laboratory workers, veterinarians, and others who may be exposed to monkeys or their specimens.

Symptoms:

  • Initially there are flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, muscle ache, fatigue and headache.
  • Following this, an infected person may develop small blisters in the wound or area on the body that came in contact with the monkey.
  • Some other symptoms of the infection include shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and hiccups.
  • As the disease progresses, the virus spreads to and causes inflammation (swelling) of the brain and spinal cord, leading to neurologic and inflammatory symptoms such as pain, numbness, itching near the wound site; issues with muscle coordination.

Treatment:

  • Currently, there are no vaccines that can protect against B virus infection.
  • Timely antiviral medications could help in reducing the risk to life.

Is there a vaccine against B virus?

  • Currently, there are no vaccines that can protect against B virus infection.

 

  1. Tipu Sultan

#GS1 # The Freedom Struggle and its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country #Indian Culture

Context: Recently, naming a garden on Tipu Sultan in Mumbai sparked a controversy.

About Tipu Sultan:

  • Born in November 1750 to Haidar Ali
  • He was also known as the Tiger of Mysore.
  • He was well educated fluent in Arabic, Persian, Kanarese and Urdu.

Administrative and Economic reforms:

  • Tipu introduced a number of administrative innovations during his rule, including his coinage, a new Mauludi lunisolar calendar, and a new land revenue system which initiated the growth of Mysore silk industry.
  • The peak of Mysore’s economic power was under Tipu Sultan in the late 18th century.
  • Under his reign, Mysore overtook Bengal Subah as India’s dominant economic power, with highly productive agriculture and textile manufacturing.
  • Tipu Sultan laid the foundation for the construction of the Kannambadi dam (present-day KRS dam) on the Kaveri river, but was unable to begin the construction.
  • The Mysore silk industry was first initiated during the reign of Tipu Sultan.
  • He sent an expert to Bengal Subah to study silk cultivation and processing, after which Mysore began developing polyvoltine silk.
  • Under Tipu Sultan, Mysore had some of the world’s highest real wages and living standards in the late 18th century, higher than Britain.
  • Mysore’s average per-capita income was five times higher than subsistence level.

Foreign Relations:

  • Tipu was a great lover of democracy and a great diplomat who gave his support to the French soldiers at Seringapatam in setting up a Jacobin Club in 1797.
  • Tipu himself became a member of the Jacobin Club and allowed himself to be called Citizen Tipu.
  • He planted the Tree of Liberty at Seringapatam.

Maintenance of Armed Forces:

  • He organised his army on the European model with Persian words of command.
  • He was also a patron of science and technology and is credited as the ‘pioneer of rocket technology’ in India.
    • The rockets deployed by Tipu during the Battle of Pollilur were much more advanced than those the British East India Company had previously seen, chiefly because of the use of iron tubes for holding the propellant; this enabled higher thrust and longer range for the missiles (up to 2 km range)
  • He wrote a military manual (Fathul Mujahidin) explaining the operation of rockets.
  • Though he took the help of the French officers to train his soldiers, he never allowed them (French) to develop into a pressure group.
  • He was well aware of the importance of a naval force.
  • In 1796, he set up a Board of Admiralty and planned for a fleet of 22 battleships and 20 large frigates.
  • He established three dockyards at Mangalore, Wajedabad and Molidabad. However, his plans did not fructify.
  • In 1767, Tipu commanded a corps of cavalry against the Marathas in the Carnatic (Karnataka) region of western India, and he fought against the Marathas on several occasions between 1775 and 1779.

Tipu in Anglo-Mysore Wars:

  • Four wars were fought by British with Mysore (1767-69, 1780-84, 1790-92 and 1799).
    • 1767-69: Treaty of Madras.
    • 1780-84: Treaty of Mangalore.
    • 1790-92: Treaty of Seringapatam.
    • 1799: Subsidiary Alliance.
  • Only in the last – the Battle of Seringapatam – did the Company ultimately win a victory. Tipu Sultan was killed defending his capital Seringapatam.
  • Mysore was placed under the former ruling dynasty of the Wodeyars and a subsidiary alliance was imposed on the state.

 

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