Daily Current Affairs - 17-03-2021

The Parliament has cleared the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The bill was approved in the Rajya Sabha March 16, 2021. The bill was already passed in the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020.

Highlights

The bill was passed with the objective of amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. It seeks to increase the upper limit of legal abortions to 24 weeks for the special categories of women. This increase in the upper limit of the abortions was done in light with the advancement of the medical technologies which has made it possible to allow removal of foetus even at the advanced stage of pregnancy.

Key Features of the Bill

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 proposes for the opinion from one provider to terminate the pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation. It has introduced the requirement of opinion from the two providers in order to terminate the pregnancy up to 20-24 weeks. The bill also increases the upper gestation limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks for the special categories of women like survivors of rape, differently-abled women, minors and victims of incest. The bill proposes that the upper gestation limit will not be applicable in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities if it is diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of the Medical Board will be provided under the Act. The bill also proposes that, the name and other such details of woman whose pregnancy has been terminated should only be revealed to the person authorised by law.

Aim of the Bill

The amendments in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill was brought about with the objective of expanding the women’s access to safe and legal abortion services on eugenic, therapeutic, social & humanitarian grounds.

The state Bank of India highlighted that, it will be arranging $100 million linked to SOFR for 5 years. The LIBOR will no longer work as the benchmark after December 2021. Thus, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) and Sterling Overnight Interbank Average Rate (SONIA) are the most potential alternatives. But only a few swap deals are linked to these alternatives at the international level. Libor is still used extensively specially for loans which are getting matured within the year.

London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR)

LIBOR is an interest-rate average which is calculated with the help of the estimates which is submitted by leading banks in London. Under it, each bank estimates what it would be charged to borrow from other banks. The rate was formerly known as British Bankers’ Association Libor (BBA LIBOR) before the responsibility of the administration was transferred to Intercontinental Exchange. It is a primary benchmark for the short-term interest rate across the world, along with the Euribor. However, this interest rate average will not be published any after December 2021 and the market participants are being encouraged to transition towards other risk-free rates. These rates are calculated on five currencies and seven borrowing periods which ranges from overnight to one year. The rates are published each business day by the Thomson Reuters.

The largest floating solar farm of the world is being built in Singapore. The country has resorted to set up the energy plants off the coasts and reservoirs across it.

Highlights

This floating solar farm is being set up in the light that despite being one of the smallest countries across the world, it is one of the biggest per capita carbon dioxide emitters in India. Thus, to cater to the issue of climate change and to cut the greenhouse gas emission it is building the floating solar farm. This project is being built by Sembcorp Industries.

Renewable Energy in Singapore

The renewable energy is a challenge for Singapore because the country has no rivers for hydro-electricity. The wind is also not that strong to power the turbines. Thus, with the setting up of the floating solar farms the authorities seek to change that notion. So, this tropical country has turned to the solar power. Since, it has little land space, equal to the half the size of Los Angeles, the country has decided to setting up energy plants off its coasts and on reservoirs.

Threat to the country

The island nation is threatened by the rising sea levels as a result of the climate change. So, the country is aware of urgency to cut down the emissions.  In the light, the government of Singapore unveiled several “green plans” including the steps like building more charging points to encourage the electric cars uses, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and planting more trees. The country has also target to increase its solar energy use by four times amounting to two percent of the power needs of the country by 2025 and then to three percent by 2030.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced on March 16, 2021 that it has fined India’s largest lending bank “State Bank of India (SBI)” with Rs 2 crore after it failed to follow the regulations in payment of remuneration to its employees through the commissions.

Highlights

The Reserve Bank of India imposed the monetary penalty of rupee 2 crore on SBI in an order dated March 15, 2021. It imposed the penalty on SBI for the contravention of provisions of section 10 (1) (b) (ii) of Banking Regulation Act, 1949. RBI also issued the specific directions to the bank on payment of remuneration to its employees in the form of commission.

Why this action was taken?

This move was taken with the central bank’s focus on regulatory enforcement issues. This move is not meant to be the judgement on merits of any transaction or arrangement between SBI and its customers.

Background

RBI had also fined the SBI with Rs 7 crore in 2019 because it violated the norms related to the non-performing assets (NPAs) and the fraud risk management.

State Bank of India (SBI)

The bank is an Indian multinational, public sector banking and the financial services statutory body. It is headquartered in Mumbai. The bank is the 43rd largest bank across the world. In the year 2020, it ranked 221st in the Fortune Global 500 list of “world’s biggest corporations”. It is the only Indian bank that finds its place in the Fortune Global List. It is a nationalised bank and the largest bank in India. It accounts for 23% market share by assets and 25% share of the loan and deposits market.

History

The bank is the descends of the Bank of Calcutta. It was founded in the year 1806 through the Imperial Bank of India. Thus, it is the oldest commercial bank in the Indian subcontinent. The Bank of Madras was merged into other two presidency banks that is Bank of Calcutta and Bank of Bombay in the British India. The merger came to be known as the “Imperial Bank of India” which in the year 1955 became the State Bank of India.

The Rajasthan Assembly has passed the demand for grants of Rs 370.60 for the higher education by voice vote on March 16, 2021.

Highlights

The bill was passed amid the protest by the opposition legislators. They stormed into the well of the House and staged a sit-in against the government even though the Higher Education Minister, Bhanwar Singh Bhati, had replied to the issue. The bill was passed in line with the government’s focus on the skill development and quality education.

Demand for Grants

Demand for Grant is a form where the estimates of expenditure from the Consolidated Fund are included in annual financial statement or the Budget. The demand for grant is required to be voted upon in Lok Sabha or in the state assembly.  The demand for grants is submitted in light with Article 113 of the Constitution. It comprises of the provisions with respect to the revenue expenditure, grants to state & Union Territory governments, capital expenditure along with the loans and advances. The demand for grant is presented with respect to each ministry or department. On the other hand, for the large ministries and departments more than one demand is put forward. It includes both the voted as well as the charged expenditure.

Article 113

This articles states that, proposal or estimate seeking the withdrawal of money from Consolidated Fund of India shall be presented to the Lok Sabha in the form of demand for grants. It is presented to Lok Sabha only after approval is given by the President of India.

Who proposes Demand for Grants?

The demand for grants is proposed and prepared by the ministry for the expenditure which will be incurred in next financial year. These demands for grants are collectively presented in the Lok Sabha under the Union Budget.

Indian stocks have gained the most across the world’s top 10 nations by market value in the fiscal year 2021-2022. This has underscored the strength of rally which was not affected by the covid-induced economic uncertainties.

Highlights

The data from the Bloomberg highlights that, India’s aggregate market capitalization has reached to 88% in dollar terms in the current fiscal. This was recorded as the sharpest increase in the aggregate market capitalization since the financial year 2011. In the fiscal year 2019-2020, the market capitalization of India reached to 31% following the nationwide lockdown wrecked investor sentiment.

Where does India stand?

Despite witnessing the sharp rise, India was ranked at the eighth position among countries with the market capitalization of $2.8 trillion.

Market capitalization of other nations

The United States saw the aggregate market capitalization expansion of 67% with the market capitalization of $45.83 trillion while China saw the expansion of 52% with the market capitalization at $10.57 trillion from April 2020 till date. Canada saw the expansion of 78% with market capitalization of $2.89 trillion. The lowest growth of 28% was witnessed in Saudi Arabia where the market capitalisation was $2.53 trillion.

Market Capitalization

It is commonly known as the market cap. Market cap is defined as the market value of the outstanding shares of any publicly traded company. It is equal to the share price multiplied by the number of shares outstanding. The capitalization can also be used as the indicator of the public opinion since the outstanding stock is bought and sold in the public markets. It only shows the equity value of the company.

Rajya Sabha has passed the “National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professional Bill, 2020” by voice vote on March 16, 2021. The Bill seeks to regulate & maintain the standards of education & services by allied & healthcare professionals.

Key Provisions of the Bill

The bill was passed with the aim of fulfilling the long-pending demands for the sector. The bill will create an institutional structure in order to enhance the employability. It will benefit around 8 to 9 lakh existing allied and healthcare professionals. With the implementation of the bill, these professionals will be more ready to cater the global shortage and demand of 1.80 crore professional by 2030 which was predicted by WHO global workforce report. It also provides for regulation and maintenance of the standards of education & services by allied & healthcare professionals. It also provides for the assessment of institutions and maintenance of the central and state register. The bill also seeks to create the system in order to improve the research & development and adoption of the latest scientific advancement.

Allied & Healthcare Professional

Allied and healthcare professions include a huge range of workers to diagnose, evaluate and treat the acute and chronic diseases. These health professions further work to optimise the patient outcomes. They also look after the overall prevention, promotion, wellness and management of the diseases.

Why this bill was tabled?

The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill stated that, advancement in the health sector, changing preferences of the consumers & service providers led to the creation of a new vision of healthcare delivery. This healthcare delivery is following more of the patient-centric approach. It also focuses on moving towards the multi-disciplinary team-based care.

Background

The Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018, was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2018. It then referred to the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee. The committee recommended several amendments.  Thus, the bill was withdrawn and a new Bill called the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020 was introduced which incorporated the recommendations made by the panel.

The Information technology companies of India, like Wipro and Tech Mahindra, will be collaborating with the companies of Finland to develop the 5G and 6G technologies to use them in India and other markets.

Highlights

The tech company, Nokia has already started working in the rural areas of India so as to expand the 5G applications. This was announced after the Indian Prime Minister and Prime Minister of Finland hold a virtual summit on March 16, 2021.

India- Finland collaboration

Finland has been a pioneer in technologies such as 2G, 3G and 4G. So, the Indian tech companies namely Wipro and Tech Mahindra are working with the companies and institutes in Finland to further the collaboration and expansion of 5G technology and evolution of the 6G technologies.

India-Finland virtual summit

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin hold the virtual summit during which they reviewed the ongoing collaboration in the fields of innovation, research & development, energy & clean technologies and trade & investment. Both the sides agreed over the “ongoing collaboration in joint development of Quantum Computer using the artificial intelligence”. The Quantum computer is being developed after a collaboration between the Indian Institute of Science, Education & Research, Pune, and the Aalto University, Finland. It is being developed to meet the societal challenges. Both the sides also noted that the digital domain was one of the most promising sectors for intensive India−Finland relation. The two countries will also be focusing on the areas of  future ICT, quantum technologies & computing, future mobile technologies, 6G research and development, digital transformation, future education, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies.

The Indian Parliament is discussing over a proposal to form a Parliamentary Friendship Group with the friendly nations in a bid to strengthen the bilateral relations.

Highlights

This information was announced by the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on March 16, 2021 while he was meeting the Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Dilshod Akhatov, at Parliament. During the meeting, the Lok Sabha speaker highlighted that the “India Friendship Group” has been set up in both the Houses of the Uzbek Parliament. He further noted that, the proposal to set up a Parliamentary Friendship Group for Uzbekistan is under consideration.

India-Uzbekistan relation

India and Uzbekistan share a close friendly relation and both the countries are also strategic partners. The relation between both the nation has been steadily strengthening through cooperation in the areas such as trade, culture, politics, science, defence, humanitarian and education over the years. The strategic partnership between the countries has also reached new heights after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited to Uzbekistan in the year 2015 and 2016 and the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev visited India in the year 2018 and 2019.

Parliamentary Diplomacy

The Lok Sabha speaker mentioned that, the interactions between both the democratic countries and sharing of best practices will strengthen the parliamentary diplomacy. The Parliaments both the countries are working to strengthen the bilateral ties. The countries also cooperate in the field of training and capacity building of the parliaments.

Economic Relation

The countries also focus on issues such as agriculture, trade, tourism, health and renewable energy. These areas have huge potential to boost the bilateral trade.

Military cooperation

The military cooperation between two countries also strengthening over time. The Indo-Uzbekistan Joint Military Exercise “Dustalik-II” is also a milestone to boost the cooperation.

About DUSTLIK

DUSTLIK was the first-ever joint military exercise of the Indian army and army of Uzbekistan. The first exercise took place in 2019 in Uzbekistan. The curtain raiser was chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister of Uzbekistan. The exercise focused on the counter terrorism.

The Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS), which is a joint venture between the Kalyani Group of India and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems of Israel, have released the first batch of Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) kits. The missile was released for Indian Army and Indian Air Force.

Highlights

The release of the MRSAM Missile also marked the KRAS’ commitment to deliver more than 1000 MRSAM missile kits to India in near future. These missile sections will then be sent for further and future integration to the Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). The Kalyani Group has infused the “State-of-the-art technology with the engineering excellence in the company.

About KRAS

It is the private sector MSME of India comprising of advanced manufacturing capabilities and facilities which is specially dedicated to address the assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of the state-of the-art weapon systems which are being inducted in the India’s defence forces. KRAS also address the Maintenance and Repair Operations (MRO) of the major in-service Air Defence Missile System in the Indian Air Force.

Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM)

The MRSAM was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in association with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The missile was handed over to India in August 2019. The missile provides the air defence capability to the Indian Armed forces against a several aerial threats at medium ranges. The MRSAM weapon system comprises one command & control system, one tracking radar, Mobile launcher systems and missiles. Mobile launcher system is used to transport and launch up to eight canisterised missiles. It is 4.5m-long and weighs 276kg. The weapon is also equipped with the canards and fins to control & manoeuvrability. It is also equipped with the advanced active radar radio frequency (RF) seeker and an advanced rotating phased array radar.

The Swiss group “IQAir” which measures the air quality levels on the basis of concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles called PM 2.5 presented its “2020 World Air Quality Report”. The report indicated that; the capital city of India, New Delhi, is the world’s most polluted capital across the world for the third straight year in the year 2020.

Highlights

The report states that, India is home to 35 of the polluted cities out of world’s 50 most polluted cities. IQAir Study had prepared the report by collecting data across 106 countries. The findings of the report were based on annual average of particulate matter PM2.5 and the airborne particles having diameter less than 2.5 microns. The Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 results into the deadly diseases like cancer and cardiac problems.

Key Findings

The report highlights that, in the year 2020, the average annual concentration of PM2.5 of New Delhi was 84.1 cubic meter of air. This figure was more than double the level of PM 2.5 concentration in Beijing with the average of 37.5 in 2020. Thus, it was the 14th most polluted city across the world. The study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Analysis & IQAir states that, the air pollution resulted into an estimated 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi in the year 2020. The report further highlights that, amid the covid-19 led lockdown had resulted into 11 % reduction in annual average of the PM 2.5 levels. Despite that, India become the world’s third most polluted country. The top polluted countries include Bangladesh and Pakistan. Report also stated that, the average PM 2.5 levels was 144 micrograms per cubic metre in November 2020 and in December it increased to 157 micrograms per cubic metre because of stubble burning. This was 14 folds greater than the annual exposure guidelines of the World Health Organisation.

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has given its approval on March 16, 2021 on the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in sports & youth affairs between India and Maldives.

Background

The MoU on cooperation in sports and youth affairs was signed in November 2020. It was signed between Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of India and Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment of Maldives.

Significance of the MoU

The bilateral exchange programmes under the MoU between both the countries in the arena of sports and youth affairs will help to expand the expertise and knowledge with respect to sports science, sports medicines, coaching techniques and participation in youth festivals & camps. This in turn will result in improving the performances of sportspersons of India at the international tournaments. The MoU will also strengthen the bilateral relations between both the countries. The MoU will benefit all the sportspersons of India belonging to any of the region, caste, creed, gender, and religion equally.

India-Maldives Relation

India and Maldives established a diplomatic relation after Maldives got independence from British rule in the year 1966. India was the first country that recognised the independence of the island nation. Following that, both the countries have developed a close strategic, economic, military and cultural relations.

Maritime Treaty

The countries had signed the Maritime Boundary Treaty in December 1976 to agree on maritime boundaries. This treaty places “Minicoy Island” to the Indian side of boundary.

Comprehensive Trade Agreement

Both the countries signed a comprehensive trade agreement in 1981. The countries are founding members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and South Asian Economic Union. They are also signatories to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement.

The Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, announced on March 16, 2021 that the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has cleared the proposal of setting up of the “Development Finance Institution (DFI) with the capital infusion of rupees 20,000 crore. This proposal was approved in a bid to boost the infrastructure development in country.

Background

The announcement for this legislation was made by the finance minister during the Union Budget 2021-2022 speech on February 1, 2021. After the announcement, some 7,000 projects have been identified under National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). The government has projected the investment of Rs 111 lakh crore for the period 2020-25.

Development Finance Institution (DFI)

The Development Finance Institution will be set up in order to raise long-term funds. There will also be some tax benefits on DFI for a period of 10-years. DFI would comprise of a professional board in which 50 percent of the members will be non-official directors. Under it, the initial grant will be ₹ 5,000 crores. Later, additional increments of grant will be made in to effect within the limit of ₹ 5,000 crore. In the initial phase, new institution will be owned by government while in the later phase, the government’s stake will be cut to 26 per cent.

Significance of DFI

The government is also planning to issue securities to DFI which in turn will help in lowering the cost of funds. This will help the institution to leverage the initial capital and drawing funds from several sources. It will also positively impact the bond market in India. The institution also seeks to raise the funds from global pension and insurance sectors in order to invest in new projects. DFI would also help the banks to cater the issue of asset-liability mismatch in the bank which are lending to infrastructure.