The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind recently promulgated the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021. The ordinance will allow pre-packaged insolvency resolution process for MSMEs. The Pre-packaged Insolvency Resolution Process is called PIRP.
About the Ordinance
The ordinance introduces a pre-packaged insolvency resolution process for corporate persons classified as MSMEs under the MSME Development Act, 2006. Chapter III-A has been introduced to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 under the amendment. It explains the initiation of resolution, duties of resolution professional and eligibilities to take the benefits of pre-packaged insolvency resolution processes, etc.
What is the main objective of the ordinance?
The ordinance aims to provide an efficient alternative insolvency resolution process for the corporate persons classified as MSMEs.
How will the ordinance benefit the corporates?
The ordinance allows the corporate debtor to submit a “base resolution plan” to the resolution professional. However, the debtor should have the plan ready before approaching the creditors to initiate PIRP. If the committee of creditors did not approve the plan, then the resolution professional shall invite applicants to submit different plans.
The new pre-pack framework is applicable to MSMEs with a maximum default value of Rs 1 crore.
A PIRP cannot run in parallel to a CIRP. CIRP is Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process.
The PIRP should have a three-year cooling off period from the closure of the other PIRP or CIRP.
Control of Company during PIRP
During the PIRP framework, the management of affairs of the corporate debtor will continue to vest with the Board of Directors.
What is the difference between PIRP and normal IBC process?
PIRP is applicable only to MSMEs. On the other hand, IBC is applicable to all the corporate debtors.
PIRP has a default threshold of Rs 1 crore. IBC deals with threshold greater than Rs 1 crore.
PIRP provides 90 days of timeline to submit a resolution plan. On the other hand, the IBC provides 180 days.
The management control lies with the corporate debtor in possession with creditor in control. On the other hand, the management control in IBC lies with the creditor in control.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation recently developed an Advanced Chaff Technology to safeguard naval ships against missile attacks. One of the DRDO laboratories located in Jodhpur developed three variants of the Advanced Chaff Technology. They were Short Range Chaff Rocket, Long Range Chaff Rocket and Medium Range Chaff Rocket.
Key Features of the Technology
The Chaff technology is used in Naval ships worldwide to self-defend against enemy radar and radio frequency missile seekers.
The most significant fact of the Advance Chaff Technology developed by DRDO is that it uses very less chaff material to deflect enemy missiles.
The technology is now ready for mass production.
Chaff is originally called Window. The idea of using Chaff developed in the era of second world war.
It is basically a radio frequency counter measure.
It consists of aluminium coated glass fibres ranging in lengths of 0.75 centimetres to 0.8 centimetres. They are released in packets of 100 million such fibres.
Most of the modern armed forces use chaff to distract the missiles from their targets.
The warships use chaff for self-defence.
An intercontinental ballistic missile releases chaff in its mid-course.
Recent Developments by DRDO
In March 2021, the UXOR (Unexploded Ordnance Handling Robot) completed its user trials. The UXOR was developed for Indian Air Force and Indian Army. It can handle 1,000 kg of ordnance.
In March 2021, NMRL conducted successful tests of indigenous air independent propulsion systems.
Sindhu Netra satellite developed by DRDO was deployed in space on February 28, 2021. The main objective of the satellite is to boost the surveillance capability of India and monitor military warships and merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently approved the “National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021”.
Key Features of National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021
The policy focuses on early screening and prevention of rare diseases. This is to be achieved through Health and Wellness Centres. The screening is to be supported by the Nidhan Kendras set up by Department of Biotechnology.
Around eight health facilities are to be designated as Centres of Excellence of rare diseases. They will focus on prevention and treatment of rare diseases. These centres are to be provided with a one-time financial support of Rs 5 crores.
The Government of India has announced a financial support of Rs 20 lakhs under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi for treatment of rare diseases. This financial assistance is to be extended to 40% of the population. It is to be noted that the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi is allocated only to Below Poverty Line people. However, this time it is being extended.
Challenges to be addressed by the policy
The National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021, will address the following challenges:
The research and development for majority of rare diseases is less as very little is known about pathophysiology of these diseases.
The patient pool of rare diseases is less.
Lack of availability and accessibility of medicines to rare diseases.
Cost of treatment of rare disease is highly expensive.
What are Rare Diseases?
According to the World Health Organization, the rare diseases are those diseases with a prevalence of 1 or less per thousand population. However, several other countries use their own definitions. Some even define as prevalence of 1 per 10,000 population.
Rare Diseases in India
The rare diseases recorded in India are primary immunodeficiency disorder, Cystic Fibrosis, Pompe disease, Gaucher’s disease, fabry disease, maple syrup urine disease, etc.
Preventive measures adopted by the policy
The preventive measures adopted by the National Policy for Rare Diseases are as follows:
Preventing birth of an affected child.
Prenatal Screening by invasive testing
New born screening
Early postnatal diagnosis and treatment
Implementation of the policy
A National Registry for rare diseases is to be set up in ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).
A digital platform is to be created to bring the notified centres of excellence together.
Ministry of Finance will be requested to reduce custom duties on import medicines related to rare diseases.
The State Governments will be requested to create Department of Medical Genetics at least in one medical college in the state.
AIIMS, Delhi is to act as the head in coordinating all the other centres of excellence to be established under the policy.
February 28 is observed as Rare Disease Day every year.
The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) operating under Ministry of Tribal Affairs recently launched the “SANKALP SE SIDDHI”.
SANKALP SE SIDDHI
It is a hundred-day drive. The main aim of the drive is to activate the Van Dhan Vikas Kendras located in tribal villages.
It aims to cover 1,500 villages in India in hundred days.
Around one hundred and fifty teams have been formed to roll out the drive. These teams will identify the locations for clustering them as TRIFOOOD and SFURTI units.
SFURTI is Scheme for Fund for the Regeneration of Traditional Industries.
TRIFOOD is a joint initiative of Ministry of Food Processing and TRIFED. It was launched in August 2020. The TRIFOOD parks will produce processed foods from minor forest produce and also from the food gathered by the tribal people in that region.
What is the plan?
After the Van Dhan Vikas Kendras are activated in the selected 1,500 villages, these kendras will work towards achieving Rs 200 crores of sales target.
Van Dhan Vikas Kendras
The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras were established under the Van Dhan Yojana. The Government of India provides capacity building training and skill upgradation facilities for the tribal population in these Van Dhan Vikas Kendras.
A Van Dhan Vikas Kendra is formed by fifteen tribal Self-Help Groups. Each group consists of twenty artisans or tribal food gatherers.
The first Van Dhan Vikas Kendra was established in Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh.
According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the following are the problems faced by the tribal population in India:
The tribal population in India has the largest number of anaemic women.
The mortality rates such as infant mortality rates and child mortality rates are the highest among the tribal population.
The Gross Enrolment Ratio among tribal students has declined from 113.2 in 2014 to 109.4 in 2016. The Gross Enrolment Ratio is used to determine the number of students enrolled in schools at different grade levels.
As of 2015, there has been a short fall of 1,267 primary health centres and 309 community health centres in the tribal areas.
Due to developmental projects, 85 lakh tribal people had to be rehabilitated. However, only 21 lakh tribal members have been rehabilitated so far.
A professor and a research associate of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur have developed a sensitive watch for the use of visually impaired people. The watch has tactile hour indicators of different shapes. These indicators help the visually impaired persons to recognize the time easily.
About the Touch Sensitive Watch
The user has to touch and scan the hour indicator of the watch to know the time. The watch then communicates back to the user with the help of different vibration patterns. The watch provides user privacy as it does not require audio feedback.
Currently, mechanical watches are available for the visually impaired. Here the user has to feel the needles of hour and minute hand to know the time. On the other hand, the touch sensitive watch developed has no moving parts. Thus, there is no scope of breakage in the touch sensitive watch.
National Programme for Control of Blindness
The programme was launched in 1976.
The main objective of the programme was to reduce the prevalence of blindness in the country from 1.4% to 0.3%. The prevalence of blindness was 1% in 2007.
In 2016, under the National Programme for Control of Blindness, cataract surgeries were performed on 6.5 million people.
Main causes of blindness in India
The main causes of blindness in India are refractive error, cataract, corneal blindness, surgical complication, Glaucoma, Posterior Capsular Opacification, Surgical Complication, posterior capsular opacification.
Blindness in India
According to World Vision Report of World Health Organization, the rate of cataract surgery has increased by nine-fold between 1981 and 2012 in India.
Major barriers to access treatment
Financial constraint is the main barrier for men to access blindness treatment in India.
Local reasons and financial constraints are the main barriers for the women to access treatment for blindness.
Hubert Hurkacz of Poland has won the Miami Open title. He won the title playing against Jannik Sinner. Hubert has become the Poland’s first Masters 1000 Champion.
In 2018, Hubert qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals held in Milan.
In 2019, he won his first ATP title in Winston-Salem.
His best performance in Grand Slam has been reaching the third round at Wimbledon in 2019.
In 2020 French Open, he was seeded at No.29.
In 2021, he was seeded 4th at the Delray Beach Open.
He reached quarter finals at the 2021 Great Ocean Road Open. It was held in Melbourne, Australia.
Hubert Hurkacz uses an all-court game strategy. The other tennis strategies used by the players are baseliners and volleyers.
A baseliner plays from back of the tennis court. He prefers to hit ground strokes. These players allow more time to react to their opponent’s shots.
A volleyer prefers to hit volleys. He allows less time for his opponent to react to his shots. Volley is a shot in tennis where the ball is struck before it bounces on the ground. The main objective of volley is to cut the reaction time of the opponent.
An all-court player plays somewhere between the above two strategies.
The Miami Open is also called the Miami Masters. The tournament is held at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. The tournament is being held from 1987.
It is a series of nine tennis tournaments that features top ranked players. Novak Djokovic holds the record for winning most of the titles in this series. He is the only tennis player to complete Career Golden Masters.
The Chinese scientists have recently identified the transfer of genes from plants to insects. Usually transfer of genes happen among the same family. For instance, the genes of a human parent get transferred to his or her child. However, this is not the case in the recent discovery. Here the insect called whiteflies has incorporated a portion of DNA from plants into their genome.
About the Gene Transfer
The transfer of gene from one family to another is referred to as horizontal gene transfer. Here, in the recent discovery the transfer of gene is from the plant family to insect family.
The Chinese scientists have found that the insect whiteflies use the stolen gene to degrade common toxins in plants. Plants use these toxins to defend themselves against insects. The incorporation of the plant gene in the whiteflies allow the insects to feed on the plants safely.
The incorporated gene found was BtPMaT1. The whiteflies use this gene to neutralise the toxic compounds produced by the plants against them.
According to the scientists, the whiteflies have incorporated the gene from the plants more than 35 million years ago.
This is one of the main reasons why whiteflies still prevail as the major threat to agricultural crops. This is because they have built a strong defence mechanism against the plants using this gene incorporation.
Whiteflies are one of the major agricultural pests in the world. They are capable of attacking 600 different plants all over the world. Lately, these pests have acquired incredible adaptations to circumvent plant defences.
Using this discovery, the Chinese scientists have now developed a strategy to counter back the super power of whiteflies. They have developed a new molecule that will interfere with the gene BtPMaT1.
Whiteflies Resistant Cotton
In 2020, the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow developed a Whiteflies resistant cotton variety. Cotton is one of the worst hit crops by whiteflies in India.
Whiteflies are the greatest threat to agriculture in warm and tropical regions and also in green houses.
On April 4, 2021, the multinational military exercise “Shantir Ogroshena, 2021” was begun at Bangabandhu Senanibas, Bangladesh. The exercise is being held to commemorate the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He is the Father of Bangladesh.
The exercise is to be held between April 4, 2021 and April 12, 2021.
Indian Army contingent of thirty personnel are participating in the exercise.
The other participants in the exercise are Sri Lankan Army, Royal Bhutan Army, Bangladesh Army.
Also, military observers from UK, USA, Turkey, Kuwait, Singapore and Saudi Arabia are to participate in the exercise.
The main objective of the exercise is to enhance interoperability among neighbourhood. This will help in peace keeping operations.
The armies of the participating nations are to share their experiences in peace keeping during the exercise.
The theme of the exercise is: “Robust Peace Keeping Operations”
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a Bangladeshi politician. He was the first president of Bangladesh. He is popularly called as “Bangabandhu”.
He was a leading figure in Awami League political party that was founded in 1949. He later became the leader of the party. The party played a major role in the Bangladesh Liberation war in 1971.
His daughter Sheikh Hasina is the current President of Bangladesh.
In 1975, Rahman and most of his family members were killed by a group of young Bangladesh Army.
On March 17, 2020, the Bangladesh Government celebrated the 100th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu.
The Indian Government conferred the Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2020 to Bangabandhu.
Other Military Exercises between India and Bangladesh
SAMPRITI is a joint military training exercise held between India and Bangladesh.
India and Bangladesh Navies hold CORPAT exercises annually.
In October 2020, the countries held BONGOSAGAR Naval exercise.
In the United Kingdom, thousands are protesting against the new legislation introduced in the British Parliament. The new legislation is called the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, 2021. The protests against the bill have been named as “Kill the Bill” protest.
Why is Police and Crime Bill being passed?
Currently, the British Police is using public order legislation called the Public Order Act passed in 1986 to manage the protests in the country. However, according to the British Government, this legislation is no longer fit to manage the types of protests that are faced in the country. The “April Uprising” is being cited as an example where the protests went out of control. The British Police spent 16 million USD to control the April Uprising.
Police and Crime Bill features
The bill widens the range of conditions that the police shall impose on protests. They can impose conditions such as start and finish times. Also, they can fix maximum permissible noise in static protests.
The bill will introduce a statutory offence of public nuisance. This means that it will provide clarity on forbidden conducts such as producing smells or noise, dangerous behaviour in public (like hanging from bridges, etc).
If the protestors fail to follow police directions in conducting the protests, they shall be fined up to 2,500 Euros.
Maximum sentences for assaults against the emergency service workers.
The bill provides powers to closely monitor offenders released from prison.
Why are people protesting against the bill?
According to the critics, the provisions of the bill will provide more rights to the police to control and monitor the protests.
The Labour Party of UK opposes the following provisions of the bill:
The bill criminalises protestors even for making noise.
It also accuses persons for creating serious annoyance or serious inconvenience. Such persons can be imprisoned for a period for ten years.
The Japan Meteorological Agency recently announced that the Cherry Blossom season of Japan is in full bloom. Usually, the Cherry trees of Japan reach their full bloom in April. This time the Cherry Blossom has occurred ten days earlier. This is the first time the Cherry trees have bloomed this earlier in Japan. Previously, the earliest Cherry Blossoms in Japan occurred before 1,200 years.
Earliest Cherry Blossom
According to Osaka University of Japan, the flowering of the Cherry trees was this earlier in 812 AD. This is mainly due to Climate Change and global warming. The average temperature of Japan increased from 47.5 degrees Fahrenheit in 1953 to 51.1 degrees Fahrenheit in 2020.
Cherry Blossom in Japan
The emergence of Cherry blossoms in Japan is often a sign that the spring season is in its full bloom.
The Cherry Blossom in Japan is called Sakura.
During the Cherry Blossom season, Japan organises Hanami or flower viewing. Hanami has a long history in the land of Japan. Hanami was started in 710 AD.
Cherry Blossom is a flower. The Cherry Blossom trees are ornamental Cherry trees. They are different from edible Cherry trees.
How is Climate Change affecting Cherry Blossom trees?
The leaves of the Cherry trees secrete a hormone that stops the flowers from blooming further. The secretion of this hormone stops when the temperature increases. After the weather becomes warm, the flowers bloom completely. This year, due to climate change, the flowers reached this stage earlier than usual as the hormones stopped secreting.
Where are Cherry Blossom trees found?
Cherry Blossom trees are found throughout the world. They are usually common in Northern Hemisphere, especially in regions with temperate climate. This includes Japan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Korea, USA, UK, Indonesia, etc.
Cherry Blossom in India
In India, Cherry Blossom is common in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Garo Hills and Khasi Hills in the north east. Cherry Blossom festivals in India are held during autumn, that is, in October and November. Shillong is known for its Cherry Blossom.
The ARWU (Academic Ranking of World Universities) is also called Shanghai Ranking. Around fifteen Indian Universities have made it to the ARWU, 2020.
Indian Universities in ARWU Ranking, 2020
The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore has secured the top position among the higher education institutes in India.
Calcutta University secured third position among the higher education institutes in India.
The other top performing institutes that were included in the ranking were as follows:
Jawaharlal Nehru University
Aligarh Muslim University
Vellore Institute of Technology
All India Institute of Medical Sciences
IISER (Indian Institute of Science and Education Research)
Though, the above institutes were included in the ranking, none of them were in the top 100 list. All the Indian institutes were placed in the category of 501-600.
The ARWU ranking is prepared by the Shanghai Ranking consultancy. It is an independent organisation that is dedicated to research on higher education, intelligence and consultation. The consultancy has been publishing the Academic Ranking of World Universities since 2009.
How are the universities ranked in ARWU ranking?
The ARWU ranking uses six indicators to rank the universities. They are as follows:
Number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes
Number of persons winning Field medals
Number of published journals of science and nature
Number of articles indexed in Social Sciences Citation Index
Number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index
Per Capita performance of the universities
More than 1800 universities are ranked every year.
Top performers of ARWU Ranking
The top performers of ARWU ranking are as follows:
Harvard University topped the list.
Stanford University occupied the second position.
Cambridge University was ranked at third position.
WITH (4th place)
Berkeley (5th place)
Princeton University (6th place)
Columbia University (7th place)
The UK based payments system company ACI recently released a report on digital payments. According to the report, India has the highest number of real-time online transactions in 2020.
Key Findings of the Report
The Digital payment market of India is led by Paytm, PhonePe, BharatPe, Pine Labs, etc.
The UPI (Unified Payment Interface) transaction increased by 18.7% in March 2021 as compared to February 2021. In February 2021, the UPI transaction was Rs 4.25 lakh crores and in March 2021, it was Rs 5.05 lakh crores.
India was ahead of China, US, South Korea, UK, Thailand in number of online transactions.
According to the report, the share of electronic transactions in India will exceed 50% by 2024.
How did COVID-19 accelerate India’s digitisation?
According to Reserve Bank of India, India is now clocking around 100 million digital transactions in a day. This is five times as compared to that in 2016. Much of these transactions are powered by UPI.
The acceleration of India’s digitisation during COVID-19 was mostly through JAM. JAM is Jan Dhan Aadhaar Mobile. The JAM trinity was proposed by Economic Survey 2014-15. It is an initiative to link Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhar cards and mobile numbers. JAM played the role of safety net during lockdown.
During COVID-19, several e-retailers requested payments via digital mechanisms which is contactless and also reduces the risk of spread of the virus. This was another major reason for the increase of digital transactions during COVID-19.
India also moved towards UPI from card segment for money transactions during COVID-19 times. UPI touched new highs every month during COVID-19.
Looking at the promising digital growth in India, Google announced an additional investment of 10 billion USD in India to provide internet access to the country.
Challenges in Digital Transformation in India
Most of the central digital services function in Hindi or English. With India being highly diverse in culture, more services should be launched in local languages. Launching digital services in multiple languages is one of the main objectives of Google’s 10 billion USD investment plan.
Unreliable performance and poor technical support, poor web or mobile application designs are creating loss of faith and confidence in government digital channels.
The National Savings Institute operating under the Ministry of Finance recently announced that West Bengal is the top contributor to the Small Savings Scheme in the country. The state contributes 15% of the total corpus. It has so far collected Rs 90,000 crores under the Small Savings Scheme.
Top performers of Small Savings Scheme
West Bengal was followed by Uttar Pradesh with a contribution of 15.09%. The state of Uttar Pradesh has collected Rs 69,660 crores.
Maharashtra was ranked third. The state of Maharashtra contributed 10.57%, which is Rs 63,026 crores.
Gujarat was ranked fourth. Gujarat contributed 8.16%, that is Rs 48,645 crores.
Tamil Nadu ranked fifth contributing 4.8%, which is Rs 28,598.
Recent Developments of Small Savings Schemes
The Small Savings Schemes attracted deposits of Rs 6 lakh crores in 2017-18.
The Government of India recently announced that the interest rates of Small Savings Schemes are being lowered. The interest rates of Public Provident Funds are lowered from 7.1% to 6.4$. The interest rates of National Savings Certificate are lowered from 6.8% to 5.9%. The interest rates of Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is to be lowered from 4% to 3.5%.
What are Small Savings Schemes?
The Small Savings Schemes consist of twelve instruments. The major Small Savings Schemes are as follows:
National Savings Certificate
Public Provident Fund
Kisan Vikas Patra
Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme
National Savings Certificate
It is a fixed income investment that can be opened at any post office. It helps small to mid income investors to invest while saving on income tax. There is no maximum limit on purchase of National Savings Certificate. However, according to Section 80 of Income Tax Act, only investments up to Rs 1.5 lakhs can bring tax breaks.
Public Provident Funds
The Public Provident Fund was introduced in India in 1968. The main objective of Public Provident Funds is to mobilize small saving in the form of investment. Basically, Public Provident Funds is a long-term investment. The interests earned under the scheme are not taxable.
Kisan Vikas Patra
It was launched in 1988. Kisan Vikas Patra is a small saving certificate scheme. It is a long-term investment.
Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme
The scheme was launched for the parents of girl child. It encourages the parents of a girl child to build funds for her future education.