Daily Current Affairs : 19th January 2021

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Jaya Jaitlee Committee
  2. Quota in Promotion
  3. Monsoon Forecast
  4. Bad bank
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Jaya Jaitlee Committee


Context : The task force set up to take a re-look at the age of marriage for women has submitted its report to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, it is reliably learnt.

Background

  • The Government of India in a gazette notification issued on 04th June 2020, has set up a Task Force to examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR, improvement of nutritional levels and related issues.
  • Union Finance Minister, during her Budget Speech for 2020-21 in the Parliament stated that “Women’s age of marriage was increased from fifteen years to eighteen years in 1978, by amending erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929. As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. Entire issue about age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light. Task force was proposed in the budget which will present its recommendations in six months’ time.
  • Subsequently the task force was set up with Ms. Jaya Jaitly as chairperson and 9 other members

The Terms of Reference of the Task Force

  1. To examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with (a) health, medical well-being and nutritional status of mother and neonate/infant/child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter, (b) key parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB), Child Sex Ratio (CSR) etc. and (c) any other relevant points pertaining to health and nutrition in this context.
  2. To suggest measures for promoting higher education among women.
  3. To suggest suitable legislative instruments and/or amendments in existing laws to support the recommendations of the Task Force.
  4. To work out a detailed roll-out plan with timelines to implement the recommendations of the Task Force.
  5. The Task Force may invite other experts to its meetings if and as required.
  6. The Task Force will be provided secretarial assistance by the NITI Aayog and will submit its report by 31st July, 2020.

Current Age of Marriage

  • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively. The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral. An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875. 

Why is the law being relooked at?

  • From bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women. Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.
  • Despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.
  • Women’s rights activists have opposed the suggestion of raising the age of marriage from 18 to 21 for women and have cited evidence to show that such a move may be used to incarcerate young adults marrying without the consent of their parents. They suggest that instead of taking coercive steps, the government must ensure access to education and employment for women which will help delay the age at which they get married.
  • It is also widely believed among policy watchers that the “age of marriage” issue is a subterfuge for controlling population growth which had found mention in PM’s 2019 I-Day speech, while the NFHS-5 data shows that India’s population is stabilising.

2 . Quota in Promotion


Context : The Supreme Court asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to compile the various issues being raised by States with regard to the application of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2006 in M. Nagaraj case, which had upheld the application of creamy layer principle to members of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities in promotions.

About the Case

  • The case is based on a plea by the Centre to refer to a seven-judge Bench the question whether creamy layer should apply or not to the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community while providing them reservation in government promotions.
  • The Centre’s plea came despite the Supreme Court, in September 2018, in Jarnail Singh case, reiterating the Nagaraj judgment of 2006.
  • The 2018 judgment, which was authored by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, had refused the government’s plea to refer the 2006 Nagaraj judgment to a seven-judge Bench.
  • It had, while modifying the part of the Nagaraj verdict which required States to show quantifiable data to prove the ‘backwardness’ of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community to provide quota in promotion in public employment, rejected the Centre’s argument that Nagaraj misread the creamy layer concept by applying it to SC/ST.

M Nagraj Case

  • In 2006, the five-judge Bench, in Nagaraj, laid down three conditions for promotion of SCs and STs in public employment.
  • The court held that the government cannot introduce quota in promotion for its SC/ST employees unless it proves that the particular community was backward, inadequately represented and providing reservation in promotion would not affect the overall efficiency of public administration. The opinion of the government should be based on quantifiable data.
  • The judgment in Nagaraj also held that the creamy layer was applicable to SCs and STs in government promotions.

Jarnail Singh’ judgment

  • In Jarnail Singh, another five-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra upheld the 2006 verdict’s reasoning that the creamy layer principle was based on the right to equality.
  • Criticisms against Nagaraj were reviewed by another five-judge bench in Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta in 2018
  • In this case, the bench held that Nagaraj’s insistence on collection of quantifiable data on backwardness in relation to the SCs and STs was contrary to Indra Sawhney, and therefore, bad in law.
  • But the bench approved Nagaraj’s insistence on proof for inadequate representation of classes for whom promotional posts are reserved, and on submission of additional proof that efficiency would not be impacted by such reservation, because of Article 335.
  • The bench in Jarnail Singh held that the creamy layer principle is an essential aspect of the equality code, and therefore, exclusion of creamy layer while applying the principle of reservation is justified, even in the case of SCs and STs.

3 . New Monsoon Forecast Model


Context : The India Meteorological Department (IMD) may introduce new monsoon models this year to better forecast changes in rainfall.

Background

  • The monsoon that concluded in 2020 was unique, in that with monsoon 2019, it was only the third time in a century that India saw back-to-back years of above normal rainfall.
  • In both years — and monsoon 2019 was a 25-year high — the IMD failed to forecast the magnitude of the excess and only indicated that monsoon would be “above normal”.
  • Hence several senior meteorologists across the IMD’s offices and those from affiliated climate research institutes discussed on the accuracy of the existing models, emerging weather models and their strengths and weaknesses in capturing the vagaries of the monsoon and the extent to which they were effective, over varying time-scales, in forecasting heavy rain or an extended dry patch.

Three different models

  • Based on the discussion three different models could be tested this year. Two of them were dynamical models and one a statistical model.

Dynamic Model & Statistical Model

  • In the Dynamic Model the climate on any particular day is simulated on supercomputers and meteorologists observe the changing daily output — much like a computer simulation of an event is allowed to unfold over time.
  • The other is the traditional statistical model that equates relationships of physical parameters, such as for instance sea surface temperatures, snowfall, the temperature of landmass etc with the actual observed rainfall in the past.

Current Indian Model

  • The trend in meteorology is towards dynamical models and though India uses several of them, the official forecasts rely on the outputs of statistical models.
  • Their chief limitation is that they don’t account for changes in weather, once the monsoon has commenced, that might influence its future performance.

Models under Consideration

  • The three models under consideration are: 12 global circulation models (dynamical) whose outputs would be combined into a single one; a model that gauges rainfall based on the sea surface temperature in the tropics (developed by Prof. Sumant Nigam, University of Maryland, U.S.) and the statistical model based on climate variables observed during the pre-monsoon.
  • All of them are ‘ensembles’ meaning smaller models are combined to arrive at an average value.

4 . Bad Bank


Context : With commercial banks set to witness a spike in NPAs, or bad loans, in the wake of the contraction in the economy as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das recently agreed to look at the proposal for the creation of a bad bank.

What’s a bad bank and how does it work?

  • A bad bank conveys the impression that it will function as a bank but has bad assets to start with.
  • Technically, a bad bank is an asset reconstruction company (ARC) or an asset management company that takes over the bad loans of commercial banks, manages them and finally recovers the money over a period of time.
  • The bad bank is not involved in lending and taking deposits, but helps commercial banks clean up their balance sheets and resolve bad loans.
  • The takeover of bad loans is normally below the book value of the loan and the bad bank tries to recover as much as possible subsequently.
  • US-based Mellon Bank created the first bad bank in 1988, after which the concept has been implemented in other countries including Sweden, Finland, France and Germany. However, resolution agencies or ARCs set up as banks, which originate or guarantee lending, have ended up turning into reckless lenders in some countries.

Do we need a bad bank?

  • The idea gained currency during Rajan’s tenure as RBI Governor. The RBI had then initiated an asset quality review (AQR) of banks and found that several banks had suppressed or hidden bad loans to show a healthy balance sheet.
  • However, the idea remained on paper amid lack of consensus on the efficacy of such an institution. ARCs have not made any impact in resolving bad loans due to many procedural issues.
  • Now, with the pandemic hitting the banking sector, the RBI fears a spike in bad loans in the wake of a six-month moratorium it has announced to tackle the economic slowdown.

Will a bad bank solve the problem of NPAs?

  • Despite a series of measures by the RBI for better recognition and provisioning against NPAs, as well as massive doses of capitalisation of public sector banks by the government, the problem of NPAs continues in the banking sector, especially among the weaker banks.
  • As the Covid-related stress pans out in the coming months, proponents of the concept feel that a professionally-run bad bank, funded by the private lenders and supported the government, can be an effective mechanism to deal with NPAs.
  • The bad bank concept is in some ways similar to an ARC but is funded by the government initially, with banks and other investors co-investing in due course.
  • The presence of the government is seen as a means to speed up the clean-up process. Many other countries had set up institutional mechanisms such as the Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP) in the US to deal with a problem of stress in the financial system.

How serious is the NPA issue in the wake of the pandemic?

  • Bad loans in the system are expected to balloon in the wake of contraction in the economy and the problems being faced by many sectors.
  • The RBI noted in its recent Financial Stability Report that the gross NPAs of the banking sector are expected to shoot up to 13.5% of advances by September 2021, from 7.5% in September 2020, under the baseline scenario, as “a multi-speed recovery is struggling to gain traction” amidst the pandemic.
  • The report warned that if the macroeconomic environment worsens into a severe stress scenario, the ratio may escalate to 14.8%. Among bank groups, the NPA ratio of PSU banks, which was 9.7% in September 2020, may increase to 16.2% by September 2021 under the baseline scenario.
  • The K V Kamath Committee, which helped the RBI with designing a one-time restructuring scheme, also noted that corporate sector debt worth Rs 15.52 lakh crore has come under stress after Covid-19 hit India, while another Rs 22.20 lakh crore was already under stress before the pandemic. This effectively means Rs 37.72 crore (72% of the banking sector debt to industry) remains under stress. This is almost 37% of the total non-food bank credit.
  • The panel led by Kamath, a veteran banker, has said companies in sectors such as retail trade, wholesale trade, roads and textiles are facing stress. Sectors that have been under stress pre-Covid include NBFCs, power, steel, real estate and construction. Setting up a bad bank is seen as crucial against this backdrop.

5 . Facts for Prelims


Tsari Chu river

  • Satellite image shows China built new village in Arunachal.
  • The settlements are situated on the banks of Tsari Chu river in Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal.
  • The village lies south of the McMahon Line. The McMahon Line demarcates between Tibet and India’s Northeast, which is disputed by China.

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