UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 16th March 2022
Topics for the day:
- Social stock exchange
- Hijab row : Verdict by karnataka HC
- SC stays telecast ban on MediaOne
- Reforms-Based and Results-Linked, Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme
- FCRA curbs
- Mobile data users in India touch 765 mn
Social Stock Exchange
- The Securities and Exchange Board of India has sought clarity from the ministry of home affairs on the participation of foreign entities in the proposed social stock exchange (SSE).
- The market regulator has asked the ministry if foreign entities can invest in SSE-listed entities.
What is social stock exchange (SSE)?
- It is a new concept in India and such an exchange is meant to serve private and non-profit sector providers by channeling greater capital to them.
- Relevant securities of social enterprises (SEs) will be listed on a dedicated exchange and those can be traded by public.
- It would be a new investment avenue for socially conscious investors
Importance of Social stock exchange(SSE) now :
- India will need a significant amount of patient capital to repair and rebuild the livelihoods affected by the Virus which are the bedrock of the economy.
- Conventional capital that prioritizes financial returns will not be able to carry such a burden all by itself.
- Social capital is not only patient but its goal is to support and fortify social structures that are in danger of collapsing because of COVID-19.
Recommendations made by SEBI’s technical group (TG) on social stock exchanges (SSEs):
- Both for-profit (FP) and not-for-profit organisations (NPO) should be allowed to tap the SSE provided they are able to demonstrate that social intent and impact.
- Corporate foundations, political and religious organisations should be made ineligible to raise funds using the SSE mechanism.
Modes available for fundraising:
- For NPOs, it shall be equity, zero coupon zero principal bond, development impact bonds, social impact fund and donations by investors through mutual funds.
- For Profit enterprises, it will be equity, debt, development impact bonds, and social venture funds.
Corpus size of the fund:
- Minimum corpus size for such funds be reduced from Rs 20 crore to Rs 5 crore and the minimum subscription amount be reduced from Rs 1 crore to Rs. 2 lakh.
The capacity building fund for SSE:
- It should have a corpus of Rs 100 crore.
- This fund should be housed under Nabard.
- Exchanges and other developmental agencies such as SIDBI should be asked to contribute towards this fund.
List of broad activities based on those identified by Niti Aayog under sustainable development goals that SEs can engage in:
- These include eradicating hunger,poverty malnutrition and inequality;
- promoting gender equality by empowerment of women and LGBTQIA+ communities;
- training to promote rural sports;
- and slum area development, affordable housing.
Hijab row : Verdict by karnataka HC
Context and more on the news :
- The Karnataka High Court upheld the ban on the wearing of hijab (head scarf ) by students in schools and colleges in the State.
- It held that wearing the hijab is not an essential religious practice in Islam and is not, therefore, protected under by the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.
- The court said it was a reasonable restriction that was constitutionally permissible.
- The Bench also upheld the legality of the Karnataka government’s February 5, 2022, order prescribing guidelines for uniforms in schools and pre-university colleges under the provisions of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983
- In its 129-page judgement, Bench also spoke about the possibility of some “unseen hands” behind the hijab row to engineer social unrest and disharmony, and expressed dismay over the issue being blown out of proportion by the powers
- The court said that the school uniform will cease to be a uniform if hijab is also allowed.
- On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an order exercising its powers under Section 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983
- The directive specifies that a headscarf is not part of the uniform and thus women were stopped from entering the campuses
- Karnataka High Court is hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the government order banning the hijab in government educational institutions
- As an interim order the HC held that students should not wear hijab, saffron shawls or use any religious flags while attending classes in Karnataka colleges which have a prescribed uniform, till the Court decides the case relating to ban on hijab in certain government colleges
Issues involved :
- Wearing a hijab is an expression protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression.
- Constitutionally, a right under Article 19(1)(a) can only be limited on the “reasonable restrictions” mentioned in Article 19(2) and these include sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of courts, defamation or incitement to an offence.
- Student silently wearing a hijab/headscarf and attending class cannot in any manner be said to be a practice that disturbs “public order”
- Ban on headscarves violates the fundamental right to equality since other religious markers, such as a turban worn by a Sikh, are not explicitly prohibited.
SC stays telecast ban on MediaOne
- The Supreme Court stayed the Central government’s decision to revoke the security clearance of Kerala-based news and current affairs TV channel MediaOne “on the basis of intelligence inputs which are sensitive and secretive in nature”.
- Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a three-judge Bench, said the Centre’s decision had effectively shut down the business of media house Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, which runs MediaOne, in the name of “national security and public order” without fully disclosing the specific reasons for revoking its security clearance.
- SC said the company was entitled to know the “particulars” of the ban
- The Bench said the issue of whether the internal files of the government ought to be shared with the company to pursue its challenge against the ban would be “expressly kept open to be resolved”.
Background of the case :
- Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) informed the Malayalam-language news channel “Mediaone” that its broadcast license had been cancelled.
- The cancellation order cited a Home Ministry order that had denied security clearance to the channel
- Media One is operating since 2013. The channel recently applied for a renewal of its license. But the renewal was cancelled based on home ministry’s advice
- Earlier in 2020, the channel was suspended for covering Delhi riots.
- The government is working on a digital ‘stack’ of agricultural datasets, with its core as land records.
- Applications built over the stack will provide farmers with recommendations on which seeds to buy, and best practices to maximise their yield, along with updates on weather, agricultural credit, insurance and more.
- This will also help increase farmers’ income and improve the efficiency of the agricultural sector
- The proposal comes against the backdrop of the government backtracking on three farm laws passed in September 2020, which the government had said would help in its target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
What is Agristack ?
- As a collection of digital databases, AgriStack would have some core features including a unique farmer identity number for each farmer, and some building blocks such as data on weather, the newest science and research on agriculture, agricultural commodity prices in India and abroad, information and access to central government schemes, agricultural regulations and permissions.
- The aim of AgriStack is to ensure that farmers take informed decisions on what crops to grow and when, which seeds to buy, and how to maximise yield.
- Players in the agricultural supply chain can precisely plan their production and logistics
- The overall objective is that India moves to precision farming the use of all agricultural inputs in a specific, measured quantity for high yields.
- Under the programme, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them. India has 140 million operational farm-land holdings.
- These new databases are being built to primarily tackle issues such as poor access to credit and wastage in the agricultural supply chain.
Issues with the Agristack :
- Such a centralised stack will use old and inaccurate land records;
- Farmers’ personal and financial details will be used without a strong data protection law; It might end up being an exercise where private data processing entities may know more about a farmer’s land than the farmer himself. Without safeguards, private entities would be able to exploit farmers’ data to whatever extent they wish to.
- Rural areas have a low level of digital literacy
Reforms-Based and Results-Linked, Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme
- REC and PFC, the state-run lenders that are the nodal lending agencies for the Rs 3.03 lakh crore revamped distribution sector scheme (RDSS) launched by the Union ministry of power will release the first tranche of funds to a host of states including Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya
About the scheme:
- It is worth Rs. 3.03 trillion scheme wherein the Centre’s share will be Rs. 97,631 crore.
- It aims to improve the operational efficiencies and financial sustainability of discoms
What is the scheme ?
- It is a reforms-based and results-linked scheme. It seeks to improve the operational efficiencies and financial sustainability of all DISCOMs/Power Departments excluding Private Sector DISCOMs.
- The scheme envisages the provision of conditional financial assistance to DISCOMs for strengthening supply infrastructure.
- The assistance will be based on meeting pre-qualifying criteria as well as upon the achievement of basic minimum benchmarks by the DISCOM.
- All the existing power sector reforms schemes such as Integrated Power Development Scheme, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana will be merged into this umbrella program.
- It would be based on the action plan worked out for each state rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
- Rural Electrification Corporation and Power Finance Corporation.
Consumer Meters and System Meters:
- The scheme involves a compulsory smart metering ecosystem across the distribution sector starting from electricity feeders to the consumer level, including in about 250 million households.
- It is proposed to install approximately 10 crore prepaid Smart Meters in the first phase.
- Scheme also focuses on funding for feeder segregation for unsegregated feeders, which would enable solarization under the PM-KUSUM Scheme.
- Solarization of feeders will lead to cheap/free day time power for irrigation and additional income for the farmers.
- The Scheme has a major focus on improving electricity supply for the farmers and for providing daytime electricity to them through solarization of agricultural feeders.
Objectives of the scheme :
- Reduction of AT&C losses (operational losses due to inefficient power system) to pan-India levels of 12-15% by 2024-25.
- Reduction of cost-revenue gap to zero by 2024-25.
- Developing Institutional Capabilities for Modern DISCOMs.
FCRA Curbs :
- The Ministry of Home A!airs (MHA) told the Lok Sabha that the United Kingdom (U.K.) raised the issue of Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) curbs against Oxfam India during a bilateral dialogue
What is the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)?
- It is an act of Parliament enacted in 1976 and amended in 2010.
- The objective is to regulate foreign donations and to ensure that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
- Coverage: It is applicable to all associations, groups, and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations.
- It is mandatory for all such NGOs to register themselves under the FCRA. The registration is initially valid for five years.
- The registration can be renewed subsequently if they comply with all norms.
- Registered NGOs can receive foreign contributions for five purposes – social, educational, religious, economic, and cultural.
- They need to have a separate account listing the donations received from foreigners, getting it audited by a Chartered Accountant and submitting it to the Home Ministry, every year
- These people are debarred from receiving foreign contributions :
- A candidate contesting an election
- Cartoonist,Editor,publishers of a registered newspaper
- Government servants or employee of any corporation
- Member of any legislature
- Political parties
Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment), Act 2020 :
- Transfer of foreign contribution: Under the Act, foreign contribution cannot be transferred to any other person unless such person is also registered for that purpose.
- The amendment also forbids sub-granting by NGOs to smaller NGOs who work at the grassroots.
- Single FCRA account: The act states that foreign contributions must be received only in an FCRA account opened in the State Bank of India, New Delhi Branch.
- No funds other than the foreign contribution should be received or deposited in this account.
- Regulation: The Act states that a person may accept foreign contributions if :
- They have obtained a certificate of registration from the central government
- They have taken prior permission from the government to accept foreign contributions.
- Aadhaar usage: The act makes it compulsory for all trustees to register their Aadhaar card with the FCRA account.
- Reduction in use of foreign contribution for administrative purposes: The Act decreases administrative expenses through foreign funds by an organisation to 20% from 50% earlier.
Mobile data users in India touch 765 mn
Context and news :
- Mobile broadband users in India more than doubled to 765 million and 4G data traffic grew 6.5 times in the last five years, according to a Nokia report.
- The 4G service contributed 99% to the country’s total data consumption and is expected to continue as a broadband growth engine for the next few years even as 5G services are expected to be rolled out in India this year.
- The report said that millennials are now spending around 8 hours per day online.
UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 16th March 2022
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