UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 9th April 2022
Topics for the day:
- All adults to get precaution jab
- Gujarat reports XE variant
- RBI holds benchmark interest rates
- SC upholds new restrictions on receiving foreign funds
- Mission vatsalya scheme
- Electoral Bonds
All adults to get precaution jab
- The Union Health Ministry announced that the precautionary or third dose of COVID-19 vaccine would be made available to the 18+ population at private vaccination centres.
- It would be the same as the previous doses.
- The administration of this dose would begin on April 10. All those who have completed nine months after the second dose would be eligible, it stated.
- Cases had dipped to triple digits but there’s been an uptick in some States
- Kerala has reported 2,321 cases in the last week, accounting for nearly 30% of the country’s new cases along with an increase in positivity
- This has prompted the Health Ministry to write to the State asking to increase testing and take required measures in areas with high positivity and step up genome sequencing of samples.
- Recently there was detection of the XE variant, a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that is a genetic offshoot of the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron variants.
- Though not associated with increased disease severity, it has been linked to a spike in infectivity in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe.
- Currently as per the Health Ministry, about 96% of all 15+ population in the country have received at least one vaccine dose, while about 83% of 15+ population had received both the doses.
- Also, more than 2.2 crore precaution doses have been administered to healthcare and frontline workers and 60+ population group
Variants of corona :
- Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate it from the other variants that are in circulation.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies variants into three categories:
- Variant of Interest (VOI):
- A variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralization by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity.
- An example of VOI is the B.1.617 variant of the virus which has two mutations, referred to as E484Q and L452R.
- Both are separately found in many other coronavirus variants, but they have been reported together for the first time in India.
- Variant of Concern (VOC):
- A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
- The B.1.1.7 (UK variant), B.1.351 (South Africa Variant), P.1 (Brazil Variant), B.1.427, and B.1.429 variants circulating in the US are classified as VOCs.
- Variants Under Investigation (VUI):
- When the variants of SARS-CoV-2 are considered to have epidemiological, immunological or pathogenic properties, they are raised for formal investigation.
- Case study of Delta variant :
- Delta Variant is the name given to the SARS-Cov-2 virus variant first identified in India by Indian scientists.
- It is also called SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617 and has about 16 mutations.
- It was first reported in October 2020 in India. It has been reported in at least 80 countries since.
- The Delta variant (B.1.617) has three subtypes:
- 617.1 (variant of interest) – also named Kappa variant
- 617.2 (variant of concern)
- 617.3 (variant of interest)
- The B.1.617.2 variant has been named Delta Plus.
- An additional mutation to the Delta Plus variant has been named as the K417N mutation.
- The Delta variant has been named a VOC because of:
- Increased transmissibility
- Stronger binding to receptors of lung cells
- Potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response
- Potential post-vaccination immune escape
- Variant of Interest (VOI):
Gujarat reports XE variant
- The XE variant of coronavirus has been found in Gujarat
- The Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre, an INSACOG laboratory, has reportedly confirmed the variant.
More on the news :
- The XE variant of coronavirus, a more infectious but not severe than the Omicron variant, has been found in Gujarat
- Earlier Mumbai civic officials reported a case of the XE variant from a sample
- An INSACOG laboratory in Gujarat, the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC), has confirmed the variant.
What are recombination variants ?
- While several variants of the coronavirus have emerged in the last two years because of mutations, recombination variants occur when, in extremely rare situations, two different lineages of the virus co-infect the same cell in the host and exchange fragments of their individual genomes.
- This generates a descendent variant having mutations that occurred in both the original lineages of the virus.
- The XE variant, for instance, is a recombinant of the BA.1 and BA.2 subtypes of the Omicron variant.
- While the current XE variant has generated public concern because the World Health Organisation has signalled its potential for increased infectivity, there have been other recombinants of the SARS-CoV-2 that have been identified by genome scientists.
RBI holds benchmark interest rates
- The Reserve Bank held benchmark interest rates and retained its ‘accommodative’ stance, even as it emphasised it was pivoting to focus on ‘withdrawal of accommodation to ensure that inflation remains within the target’ during the monetary policy committee meet.
- The RBI raised its forecast for inflation in FY23 to 5.7% from its February projection of 4.5%. The central bank also lowered its growth estimate for the current fscal to 7.2% from the 7.8% forecast earlier.
RBI monetary policy committee :
- The Monetary Policy Committee is a statutory and institutionalized framework under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, for maintaining price stability, while keeping in mind the objective of growth.
- The ex-officio chairperson is the Governor of the RBI
- Meeting quorum 4 persons,including the Governor
- Legally required to hold minimum four meetings in a year.In practice, they meet every two months to decide bi-monthly monetary policy updates
- When they vote for the first time, all members, including the Governor, will vote. If tie then Governor can vote again for second time as casting vote
- To ensure transparency / accountability :
- Govt can send message only in writing.
- Committee must publish its minutes of the meeting on the 14th day, and “Monetary Policy report” at every 6 months.
- Inflation target decided by Union Government, after consulting with RBI Governor
- Inflation refers to the rise in the prices of most goods and services of daily or common use, such as food, clothing, housing, recreation, transport, consumer staples, etc
- Wholesale Price Index measures the changes in the prices of goods sold and traded in bulk by wholesale businesses to other businesses. Published by the Office of Economic Adviser, Ministry of Commerce and Industry
- Consumer Price Index measures price changes from the perspective of a retail It is released by the National Statistical Office (NSO). The CPI calculates the difference in the price of commodities and services such as food, medical care, education, electronics etc
|Various Policy Stances of RBI|
|Accommodative stance :||? An accommodative stance means the central bank is prepared to expand the money supply to boost economic growth.
? The central bank, during an accommodative policy period, is willing to cut the interest rates. A rate hike is ruled out.
? The central bank typically adopts an accommodative policy when growth needs policy support and inflation is not the immediate concern.
|Neutral stance :||? A ‘neutral stance’ suggests that the central bank can either cut rate or increase rate.
? This stance is typically adopted when the policy priority is equal on both inflation and growth.
? The guidance indicates that the market can expect a rate action on either way at any point.
|Hawkish Stance||? A hawkish stance indicates that the central bank’s top priority is to keep the inflation low.
? During such a phase, the central bank is willing to hike interest rates to curb money supply and thus reduce the demand.
? A hawkish policy also indicates tight monetary policy.
? When the central bank increases rates or ‘tightens’ the monetary policy, banks too increase their rate of interest on loans to end borrowers which, in turn, curbs demand in the financial system.
|Calibrated Tightening:||? Calibrated tightening means during the current rate cycle, a cut in the repo rate is off the table.
? However, the rate hike will happen in a calibrated manner.
? This means the central bank may not go for a rate increase in every policy meeting but the overall policy stance is tilted towards a rate hike.
? This can happen outside the policy meetings as well if the situation warrants.
SC upholds new restrictions on receiving foreign funds
- The Supreme Court on Friday upheld amendments introducing restrictions in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) while holding that no one has a fundamental or absolute right to receive foreign contributions.
- The court reasoned that unbridled inflow of foreign funds may destabilise the sovereignty of the nation.
- The restrictions involve a bar on using operational FCRA accounts to get foreign contributions and mandatory production of the Aadhaar card for registration under the FCRA.
- They require NGOs and recipients to open a new FCRA account at a specifed branch of the State Bank of India in New Delhi as a “one-point entry” for foreign donations.
- The petitioners, including individuals and NGOs engaged in cultural, educational, religious activities, argued that the amendments,violated their fundamental rights.
- The Supreme court read down one of the provisions – Section 12 (A) – of the 2020 Amendment Act, which mandated the production of Aadhaar card for registration and said that applicants should be allowed to produce Indian passports when foreign nationals are allowed to do so.
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.
Mission Vatsalya scheme
- The Union government plans to partner with the private sector and volunteer groups for its scheme for protection of vulnerable children such as those abandoned or missing.
About the scheme :
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development sent its draft guidelines for Mission Vatsalya Scheme to States and Union Territories and sought suggestions
- Mission Vatsalya is essentially renaming of a pre-existing scheme called Child Protection Services, and also includes child welfare services.
- Child protection programme components :
- Include institutional services through child care institutions (CCI)
- Family-based non-institutional care through sponsorship, foster care and adoption.
- It also supports after-care programme for children at CCIs once they turn 18, and emergency outreach service through Childline or the national helpline 1098 for children.
- The civil society, people’s groups and various volunteering organisations can be encouraged to participate under Mission Vatsalya in a systematic and planned manner.
- These could include organisations under government initiatives such as Bharat Scout and Guide, NSS Volunteers, and Nehru Yuva Kendras.
- The Ministry has also proposed a Vatsalya portal that will allow volunteers to register so that State and District Authorities can engage them for executing various schemes.
- Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has assured petitioners that the Supreme Court will take up for hearing a pending plea challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018
- Some NGOS’s Common Cause and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) – have challenged the scheme, alleging that it is “distorting democracy”.
- The CJI has not specified any date for the hearing
What are electoral bonds?
- Electoral Bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties.
- The bonds are issued in multiples of 1,000, Rs. 10,000, Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 1 crore without any maximum limit.
- State Bank of India is authorised to issue and encash these bonds, which are valid for fifteen days from the date of issuance.
- These bonds are redeemable in the designated account of a registered political party.
- The bonds are available for purchase by any person (who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India) for a period of ten days each in the months of January, April, July and October as may be specified by the Central Government.
- A person being an individual can buy bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
- Donor’s name is not mentioned on the bond.
- The bonds are like banknotes that are payable to the bearer on demand and are interest-free.
- Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), and which secured not less than one percent of the votes polled in the last General Election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
- One can purchase these bonds only digitally or through cheques.
- The Electoral Bonds can be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
- Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue and no payment is being made to any payee Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after expiry of the validity period.
Issues associated with the scheme:
- Several key provisions of the scheme make it highly controversial :
- Anonymity: Neither the donor (who could be an individual or a corporate) nor the political party is obligated to reveal whom the donation comes from.
- Asymmetrically Opaque: Because the bonds are purchased through the State Bank of India (SBI), the government is always in a position to know who the donor is.
- Channel of Blackmoney: Elimination of a cap of 7.5% on corporate donations, elimination of requirement to reveal political contributions in profit and loss statements.
- Hindering Right to Know: Voters will not know which individual, company, or organisation has funded which party, and to what extent. Before the introduction of electoral bonds, political parties had to disclose details of all its donors, who have donated more than Rs 20,000. The change infringes the citizen’s ‘Right to Know’ and makes the political class even more unaccountable.
- Leading to Crony-Capitalism: It could become a convenient channel for businesses to round-trip their cash parked in tax havens to political parties for favours
UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 9th April 2022
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