Daily Current Affairs : 24th and 25th September 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Labour Bills
  2. CAG audit report on the toilets constructed in govt schools
  3. CAG report on cess receipts
  4. . Defence Offset
  5. Insolvency & Bankruptcy code
  6. Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia
  7. Cybersecurity of urban co-operative banks (UCBs)
  8. UNSC Reforms
  9. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  10. Mass Stranding of Whales
  11. Facts for Prelims

1 . Labour Bills

Context: The Lok Sabha has cleared three labour Bills- Industrial Relations Code, 2020; the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020; and the Code of Social Security, 2020.


  • Labour falls under the Concurrent List of the Constitution hence both Parliament and state legislatures can make laws regulating labour.  
  • There are over 100 state and 40 central laws regulating various aspects of labour such as resolution of industrial disputes, working conditions, social security and wages.
  • To improve ease of compliance and ensure uniformity in labour laws the Second National Commission on Labour (2002) had recommended the consolidation of central labour laws into broader groups such as: (i) industrial relations, (ii) wages, (iii) social security, (iv) safety, and (v) welfare and working conditions. 
  • In 2019, the Ministry of Labour and Employment introduced four Bills to consolidate 29 central laws.  
  • These Codes regulate: (i) Wages, (ii) Industrial Relations, (iii) Social Security, and (iv) Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions.  
  • Code on Wages, 2019 has been passed by Parliament, Bills on the other three areas were referred to the Standing Committee on Labour.  The Standing Committee has submitted its report on all three Bills.  The government has replaced these Bills with new ones on September 19, 2020.  

Key Provisions of Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, 2020

  • Under Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, 2020 13 Acts have been subsumed- The Factories Act, 1948, The Plantations Labour Act, 1951, The Mines Act, 1952, The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1955, The Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958, The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961, The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966, The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, The Sales Promotion Employees (Condition of Service) Act, 1976, The Inter-State Migrant workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981, The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 and The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
  • Exemption : The bill empowers the state government to exempt any new factory from the provisions of the Code in order to create more economic activity and employment.
  • Threshold : It increases the threshold to: (i) 20 workers for premises where the manufacturing process is carried out using power, and (ii) 40 workers for premises where it is carried out without using power.
  • Hazardous Activity : It includes all establishments where any hazardous activity is carried out regardless of the number of workers.
    • It specifies that the Code will apply to establishments or contractors employing 50 or more workers (on any day in the last one year).
    • It instead prohibits contract labour in core activities, except where: (i) the normal functioning of the establishment is such that the activity is ordinarily done through contractor, (ii) the activities are such that they do not require full time workers for the major portion of the day, or (iii) there is a sudden increase in the volume work in the core activity which needs to be completed in a specified time.  
  • Contract Labour : It clarifies that the Code will apply to contract labour engaged through a contractor in the offices of the central and state governments (where the respective government is the principal employer).
  • Daily working hours : It has fixed the maximum limit at eight hours per day.
    • It provides that women will be entitled to be employed in all establishments for all types of work under the Bill. 
    • It also provides that in case they are required to work in hazardous or dangerous operations, the government may require the employer to provide adequate safeguards prior to their employment.
  • Inter State Migrants :
    • The bill adds that any person who moves on his own to another state and obtains employment there will also be considered an inter-state migrant worker.   
    • The 2020 bill also specifies that only those persons will be considered as inter-state migrants who are earning a maximum of Rs 18,000 per month, or such higher amount which the central government may notify. 
    • The bill provides for certain benefits for inter-state migrant workers.  These include: (i) option to avail the benefits of the public distribution system either in the native state or the state of employment, (ii) availability of benefits available under the building and other construction cess fund in the state of employment, and (iii) insurance and provident fund benefits available to other workers in the same establishment.
    • It requires the central and state governments to maintain or record the details of inter-state migrant workers in a portal.  An inter-state migrant worker can register himself on the portal on the basis of self-declaration and Aadhaar.
  • Social Security Fund
    • It provides for the establishment of a Social Security Fund for the welfare of unorganised workers. 
    • The amount collected from certain penalties under the Code (including the amount collected through compounding) will be credited to the Fund.  
    • The government may prescribe other sources as well for transferring money to the Fund.

Key Provisions of Code of Social Security, 2020

  • The 2020 Bill states that the central government may, by notification, apply the Code to any establishment (subject to size-threshold as may be notified).  
  • Social security funds for unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers : The bill states that the central government will set up such a fund.  Further, state governments will also set up and administer separate social security funds for unorganised workers.  
  • Three categories of workers : The bill also makes provisions for registration of all three categories of workers – unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers.   
  • National Social Security Board  : The bill states that in addition to unorganised workers, the National Social Security Board may also act as the Board for the purposes of welfare of gig workers and platform workers and can recommend and monitor schemes for gig workers and platform workers.
    • The bill clarifies that schemes for gig workers and platform workers may be funded through a combination of contributions from the central government, state governments, and aggregators.
  • Gratuity Period : The bill reduces the gratuity period from five years to three years for working journalists.  

Key provisions of Industrial Relations Code, 2020

  • Applicability of standing orders: All industrial establishment with 300 workers or more must prepare standing orders on the matters listed in a Schedule to the Code.  These matters relate to: (i) classification of workers, (ii) manner of informing workers about work hours, holidays, paydays, and wage rates, (iii) termination of employment, and (iv) grievance redressal mechanisms for workers.  
  • Prior permission of the government: An establishment having at least 300 workers was required to seek prior permission of the government before closure, lay-off, or retrenchment.  Lay-off refers to an employer’s inability to continue giving employment to a worker in the face of adverse business conditions.  Retrenchment refers to the termination of service of a worker for any reason other than disciplinary action.
  • Disputes relating to termination of individual worker: The 2020 Bill classifies any dispute in relation to discharge, dismissal, retrenchment, or otherwise termination of the services of an individual worker to be an industrial dispute.  The worker may apply to the Industrial Tribunal for adjudication of the dispute.  The worker may apply to the Tribunal 45 days after the application for the conciliation of the dispute was made.
  • Exemptions : The appropriate government may exempt any new industrial establishment or class of establishments from the provisions of the Code in public interest.

Significance of the bills

  • The bills will help in improving ease of compliance and ensure uniformity in labour laws.
  • Apart from offering some degree of flexibility on government permissions for retrenchment, the most important aspect of the Bill is that it presents the legal framework for ushering in the concept of ‘fixed-term employment’ through contract workers on a pan-India basis.
  • Currently, companies hire contract workers through contractors. With the introduction of fixed-term employment, they will be able to hire workers directly under a fixed-term contract, with the flexibility to tweak the length of the contract based on the seasonality of industry. These workers will be treated on a par with regular workers during the tenure of the contract.
  • The move to include it in a central law will help in wider reach, and states are expected to follow similar applicability. The government had tried a move last year to apply fixed-term employment across “central sphere establishments” (which are establishments under the authority of the central government, Railways, mines, oilfields, major ports, or any other central public sector undertaking) in all sectors, but it failed to elicit the desired results as states did not notify similar provisions for it. The Bill now ensures a pan-India impact of this move.

Issues with the bills

  • All three Labour Bills specify that the central government will act as the appropriate government for any central public sector undertaking (PSUs).  But it is unclear as to why the central government should continue to exercise jurisdiction over an establishment in which it does not own controlling stake (even in cases where it has sold its entire stake).  
  • The three labour Bills delegate various essential aspects of the laws to the government through rule-making.  But the question arises whether the power to decide such matters should be retained by the legislature or whether these could be delegated to with the government.
  • Unclear provision regarding retrenchment would lead to uncertainty, and discretionary behaviour during implementation by the central or state government.
  • The central and the state government have wide discretion in providing exemptions from these Bills. The exemptions could cover a wide range of provisions including those related to hours of work, safety standards, retrenchment process, collective bargaining rights, contract labour.
  • Low numeric thresholds may create adverse incentives for establishments sizes to remain small, in order to avoid complying with labour regulation.
  • The increase in the threshold for standing orders from the existing 100 to 300 is uncalled for and shows the government is very keen to give tremendous amounts of flexibility to the employers in terms of hiring and firing…dismissal for alleged misconduct and retrenchment for economic reasons will be completely possible for all the industrial establishments employing less than 300 workers.
  • The Industrial Relations Code also introduces new conditions for carrying out a legal strike. The time period for arbitration proceedings has been included in the conditions for workers before going on a legal strike as against only the time for conciliation at present. For instance, the IR Code proposes that no person employed in an industrial establishment shall go on strike without a 60-day notice and during the pendency of proceedings before a Tribunal or a National Industrial Tribunal and sixty days after the conclusion of such proceedings. Thus, elongating the legally permissible time frame before the workers can go on a legal strike, making a legal strike well-nigh impossible.
  • The IR code has expanded to cover all industrial establishments for the required notice period and other conditions for a legal strike. The Standing Committee on Labour had recommended against the expansion of the required notice period for strike beyond the public utility services like water, electricity, natural gas, telephone and other essential services. At present, a person employed in a public utility service cannot go on strike unless he gives notice for a strike within six weeks before going on strike or within fourteen days of giving such notice, which the IR Code now proposes to apply for all the industrial establishments

2 . CAG audit report on the toilets constructed in govt schools

Context: Recently CAG has presented an audit report on the toilets constructed in govt schools.

About the report

  • The CAG audit conducted a physical survey of a sample of 2,695 toilets built by 53 CPSEs companies in 15 States and 1,967 coeducational schools were also surveyed.
  • Public sector units claimed to have constructed 1.4 lakh toilets in government schools as part of a Right to Education project

Findings of CAG

  • Almost 40% of those surveyed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) were found to be non-existent, partially constructed, or unused. In an audit report presented in Parliament, the CAG said over 70% did not have running water facilities in the toilets, while 75% were not being maintained hygienically.
  • There are 10.8 lakh government schools in the country and overall, more than 1.4 lakh toilets have been built by 53 CPSEs, with significant support coming from power, coal and oil companies. But almost 40% of those surveyed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General were found to be non-existent, partially constructed, or unused.
  • Out of a sample of 2695 toilets, CPSEs identified but did not construct 83. Another 200 toilets were reported to be constructed, but were non-existent, while 86 toilets were only partially constructed. Another 691 toilets were found not in use mainly due to lack of running water, lack of cleaning arrangements, damages to the toilets and other reasons like use of toilets for other purposes, toilets locked up, etc.
  • Out of the 1,967 coeducational schools surveyed, 99 schools had no functional toilets while 436 had only one functional toilet, meaning that the objective of providing separate toilets for boys and girls was not fulfilled in 27% of the schools.
  • Survey found that 72% of constructed toilets had no running water facilities inside, while 55% had no hand washing facilities at all. The audit also noticed “cases of defective construction of toilets, non-provision of foundation/ramp/staircase and damaged/overflowed leach pit, which led to ineffective use of toilets.
  • With regard to maintenance and sanitation, 75% of toilets did not follow the norm for daily cleaning at least once a day. The survey found that 715 toilets were not being cleaned at all, while 1,097 were being cleaned with a frequency of twice a week to once a month. “Cases of non-provision of soap, bucket, cleaning agents and disinfectants in toilets and inadequate cleanliness of pathway were also noticed,” said the report.

Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan

  • Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan was launched by the Human Resource Development Ministry in September 2014 to meet the Right to Education Act’s mandate that all schools must have separate toilets for boys and girls.
  • It is a national campaign driving ‘Clean India: Clean Schools’.
  • A key feature of the campaign is to ensure that every school in India has a set of functioning and well maintained water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools refers to a combination of technical and human development components that are necessary to produce a healthy school environment and to develop or support appropriate health and hygiene behaviours.
  • The technical components include drinking water, hand washing, toilet and soap facilities in the school compound for use by children and teachers.
  • The human development components are the activities that promote conditions within the school and the practices of children that help to prevent water, hygiene and sanitation related diseases.

3 . CAG report on cess receipts

Context: According to the CAG report the Centre retained in the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) more than ₹1.1 lakh crore out of the almost ₹2.75 lakh crore collected in 2018-19 through various cesses, instead of transferring the receipts to the specified Reserve Funds that Parliament had approved for such levies.

About the News

  • The Centre retained in the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) more than ₹1.1 lakh crore out of the almost ₹2.75 lakh crore collected in 2018-19 through various cesses.
  • ₹1,24,399 crore collected as cess on crude oil over the last decade had not been transferred to the designated Reserve Fund — the Oil Industry Development Board — and had been retained in the Centre’s coffers.
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Compensation Cess, which has become a bone of contention between the States and the Centre, was also ‘short-credited’ to the relevant reserve fund to the extent of ₹40,806 crore in 2018-19.


  • Cesses and levies for specific purpose are required to be first transferred to designated Reserve Funds and utilised for the specific purposes intended by Parliament. 

Consolidated Fund of India

  • The Consolidated Fund of India includes revenues, which are received by the government through taxes and expenses incurred in the form of borrowings and loans.
  •  It represents one of the three parts of the Annual Financial Statement with the other two: the Contingency Fund and Public Account
  • All government expenditures are met by consolidated funds except a few made by contingency fund or public fund. 
  • The Consolidated Fund of India was created under Article 266 of the Constitution. 
  • It is also considered as the most important part of the financial statement. 
  • Similar to the Centre, every state has its own Consolidated Fund as well.
  • No money can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India, without the government securing the approval of the Parliament.

What goes into Consolidated Fund of India?

All the government revenue generated from taxes, asset sale, earnings from state-run companies, etc go into the Consolidated Fund of India. The fund gets money from:

  • Revenue earned in direct taxes such as income tax, corporate tax, etc
  • Revenue earned in indirect taxes such as GST
  • Dividends and profits from PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings)
  • Money earned through government’s general services
  • Disinvestment receipts
  • Debt repayments
  • Loan recoveries

Parts of Consolidated Fund Of India

The Consolidated Fund of India is divided into five parts namely:

  • Revenue account (receipts)
  • Revenue account (disbursements)
  • Capital account (receipts)
  • Capital account (disbursements)
  • Disbursements charged on the Consolidated Fund.

Charged Expenditures on Consolidated Fund of India

The disbursements charged on the Consolidated Fund or Charged Expenditures are non-votable charges. No voting takes place for the withdrawal of these expenditures from the Consolidated Fund of India. These charges have to be paid whether the Budget is passed or not.

The expenses under this category include salaries and allowances of:

  • the President
  • the Speaker
  • the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha
  • Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
  • salaries and allowances of Supreme Court judges
  • pensions of Supreme Court and High Court judges

Consolidated Fund vs Contingency Fund

  • The Contingency Fund stores money for some of the urgent or unplanned expenditures of the government. 
  • The President gives advance nod for a particular sum of money to be stored in the Contingency Fund for emergency uses. 
  • The CAG, or the Comptroller and Auditor General, is responsible for audit of receipts and expenditure from the Fund and also of the states.

IGST – Integrated Goods and Services Tax

  • IGST stands for Integrated Goods and Services Tax. IGST is one of the three components of Goods and Services Tax. IGS tax is levied when there is an inter-state transfer of goods and services.
  • Integrated Goods and Service Tax or IGST numerically equals= CGST+SGST. 
  • For example: movement of goods from New Delhi to Agra will attract IGST.


  • Cess is a form of tax charged/levied over and above the base tax liability of a taxpayer. 
  • A cess is usually imposed additionally when the state or the central government looks to raise funds for specific purposes. 
  • For example, the government levies an education cess to generate additional revenue for funding primary, secondary, and higher education. 
  • Cess is not a permanent source of revenue for the government, and it is discontinued when the purpose levying it is fulfilled. 
  • It can be levied on both indirect and direct taxes.


  • The government can impose cess for purposes such as disaster relief, generating funds for cleaning rivers, etc.  For example, after Kerala floods in the year 2018, the state government imposed a 1% calamity cess on GST and became the first state to do it. 
  • In other instances, the central government may levy an education cess, or a health cess, or a sanitation cess.  All these levies are usually imposed as a percentage of the taxpayer’s basic tax liability. 
  • Under the GST (Goods and Services Tax) regime, certain sin goods and luxury items also attract a cess.

4 . Defence Offset

Context : French aerospace major Dassault Aviation and European missile maker MBDA have till date “not confirmed” the transfer of technology for the indigenous development of engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), under the offset contract relating to the ₹60,000 crore deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report tabled in Parliament on September 23.


  • The Rafale deal signed in September 2016 has a 50% offset clause to be discharged by the four French partners — Dassault Aviation, MBDA, Safran and Thales.
  • Dassault Aviation has set up a joint venture with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence — Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited — in Nagpur to manufacture components for the former’s civil jets.
  • The MoD informed the CAG that the offset obligations of the vendor are to start from September 23, 2019 and the first annual commitment would have to be completed by September 23, 2020.

Issues found by CAG with defence offset contracts

  • In many cases, it was found that the foreign vendors made various offset commitments to qualify for the main supply contract but later, were not earnest about fulfilling these commitments,” 
  • Auditing the offset policy in defence deals, the CAG said that from 2005 till March 2018, 46 offset contracts were signed with foreign vendors, valued at ₹66,427 crore, of which, by December 2018, ₹19,223 crore worth of offsets should have been discharged by the vendors. “However, the offsets claimed to have been discharged by them was only ₹11,396 crore, which was only 59% of the commitment,” the report said.
  • Further, only 48%, or ₹5,457 crore, of these offset claims submitted by the vendors were accepted by the Ministry. “The rest were largely rejected as they were not compliant to the contractual conditions and the Defence Procurement Procedure,” the CAG said.
  • The remaining offset commitments of about ₹55,000 crore would be due to be completed by 2024 but the rate at which the foreign vendors have been fulfilling their offset commitments was about ₹1,300 crore per year. “Given this situation, fulfilling the commitment of ₹55,000 crore by the vendors in the next six years remains a major challenge,” the federal auditor stated.

What is meant by Defence Offset?

  • To develop the Indian defence industry and bring in high technologies, the offset policy for defence deals was adopted in 2005 for all defence capital imports above ₹300 crore under which the foreign vendor is required to invest at least 30% of the value of the contract in India.

Key Objective of the Defence Offset Policy

  • The key objective of the Defence Offset Policy is to leverage capital acquisitions to develop Indian defence industry by
    • (i) fostering development of internationally competitive enterprises,
    • (ii) augmenting capacity for Research, Design and Development related to defence products and services
    • (iii) encouraging development of synergistic sectors like civil aerospace, and internal security. 

5 . Insolvency & Bakruptcy Code

Context: Corporate India has got three more months of relief from the invocation of insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings by lenders as the government has extended the suspension of relevant provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) against firms defaulting on their loans since March 25 this year.


  • The IBC’s invocation was first suspended for a period of six months in view of the emergent stress on balance sheets due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown announced in March. 
  •  The government had issued an ordinance to amend the IBC in June 2020 to enable the suspension of the Code’s provisions for firms committing defaults after March 25. The ordinance permits the government to extend the suspension of insolvency invocation for up to one year, and was passed as a legislation by Parliament this week.

Significance of the suspension

  • The extension of the suspension of sections 7, 9 and 10 of the IBC reinforces the government’s commitment to protecting businesses. 
  • It will give companies breathing time to recover from financial stress
  • The extension will help the stakeholders to build consensus on resolving the stress created on account of COVID-19 to avoid further build-up of stress at the end of the period.

What is Insolvency?

  • Insolvency is a term for when an individual or company can no longer meet their financial obligations to lenders as debts become due. 

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) 2016

  • Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 was implemented through an act of Parliament. It got Presidential assent in May 2016. 
  • The law was necessitated due to huge pile-up of non-performing loans of banks and delay in debt resolution. 
  • Insolvency resolution in India took 4.3 years on an average against other countries such as United Kingdom (1 year) and United States of America (1.5 years), which is sought to be reduced besides facilitating the resolution of big-ticket loan accounts.

What does the IBC aim to do?

  • IBC applies to companies, partnerships and individuals. 
  • It provides for a time-bound process to resolve insolvency. When a default in repayment occurs, creditors gain control over debtor’s assets and must take decisions to resolve insolvency. 
  • Under IBC debtor and creditor both can start ‘recovery’ proceedings against each other.

What is the timeframe for completion of the exercise under the Code?

  • Companies have to complete the entire insolvency exercise within 180 days under IBC. 
  • The deadline may be extended if the creditors do not raise objections on the extension. 
  • For smaller companies including startups with an annual turnover of Rs 1 crore, the whole exercise of insolvency must be completed in 90 days and the deadline can be extended by 45 days. 
  • If debt resolution doesn’t happen the company goes for liquidation.

Who regulates the IBC proceedings?

  • Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India has been appointed as a regulator and it can oversee these proceedings. 
  • IBBI has 10 members; from Finance Ministry and Law Ministry the Reserve Bank of India.

Who facilitates the insolvency resolution?

  • A licensed professional administer the resolution process, manage the assets of the debtor, and provide information for creditors to assist them in decision making.

Who adjudicates over the proceedings?

  • The proceedings of the resolution process will be adjudicated by the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT), for companies and the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) for individuals. 
  • The courts approve initiating the resolution process, appointing the insolvency professional and giving nod to the final decision of creditors. 
  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board regulates insolvency professionals, insolvency professional agencies and information utilities set up under the Code.

What is the procedure to resolve insolvency under the Code?

  • When a default occurs, the resolution process may be initiated by the debtor or creditor.
  • The insolvency professional administers the process. 
  • The professional provides financial information of the debtor from the information utilities to the creditor and manage the debtor’s assets. 
  • This process lasts for 180 days and any legal action against the debtor is prohibited during this period.

6 . Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia

Context: Recently the Foreign Minister’s meetings of the 8-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the 27-nation Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) was conducted.

Discussions at the meetings

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar called on all SAARC members to collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict, which impede the objective of SAARC to realise its full potential for collective collaboration and prosperity across South Asia.
  • Pakistan has condemned and opposed any unilateral and illegal measures to change the status of disputed territories in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. Pakistan also mentioned about systematic human rights violations of the people suffering from long-running disputes.
  • All SAARC nations including India and Pakistan, however, built a common stand on the need to cooperate in battling the coronavirus pandemic.
  • India also listed a number of measures taken by it in the past few months – ‘COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX)’, a SAARC Food Bank mechanism, the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, to which India has contributed $10 million, making essential drugs.

About CICA 

  • Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) is a multi-national forum for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. 
  • It is a forum based on the recognition that there is a close link between peace, security and stability in Asia and in the rest of the world. 
  • The Member States, while affirming their commitment to the UN Charter, believe that peace and security in Asia can be achieved through dialogue and cooperation leading to a common indivisible area of security in Asia where all states co-exist peacefully and their peoples live in peace, freedom and prosperity.
  • The idea of convening the CICA was first proposed by the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy H.E. Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, on 5 October 1992, at the 47th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
  • CICA pursues its policy based on the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference in internal affairs of the Member States and economic, social and cultural cooperation to achieve its main objective of enhancing co-operation through elaborating multilateral approaches towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. 
  • All decisions within CICA framework are taken by consensus.
  • For becoming a member of CICA, a state must have at least a part of its territory in Asia. 
  • The highest decision making organ of CICA is the Meeting of the CICA Heads of State and Government. 
  • The CICA Summit is convened every four years in order to conduct consultations, review the progress of, and set priorities for CICA activities. 
  • CICA Special Ministerial conference brings together Asian nations ranging from Russia and Central Asia to the Gulf and South-East Asia.

COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX)

  • Covid-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX) for SAARC countries was announced by the Prime Minister of India at the Video Conference with the SAARC leaders held on 15 March 2020 on the fight against Coronavirus in the region.
  • COINEX is aimed at comprehensively covering the aspects of disease surveillance, contact tracing, travel restrictions and evacuation, risk assessment, diagnostics, isolation and quarantine methods and facilities, clinical management of patients, treatment options and protocols and safety of healthcare providers.
  • It also seeks to serve as a multipurpose vehicle to further discuss and conduct activities such as online training for emergency response personnel, knowledge partnerships, sharing of expertise in disease surveillance, including the corresponding software, and joint research for new diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for epidemic diseases.
  • In the SAARC framework, the COINEX demonstrates the significance and efficacy of joint action to deal with shared challenges for shared benefit.

SAARC Food Bank mechanism

  • The decision to establish SAARC Food Bank was taken at the 14th SAARC Summit held in New Delhi on April 3-4, 2007,
  • The Heads of States of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries had signed an Agreement for this.
  • The aim of Food Bank is to supplement national efforts to provide food security to the people of the region.
  • SAARC Food Bank reserves foodgrains which is maintained by each member states consisting of either wheat or rice, or a combination of both as assessed share of the country.
  • Joint Secretary(IC), Department of Food & Public Distribution has been designated as Member of SAARC Food Bank Board to represent India

SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund

  • In order to combat COVID-19 in the region, Prime Minister of India had proposed creation of a COVID-19 Emergency Fund based on voluntary contributions from all the SAARC member countries.
  • The fund can be used by any of the partner countries to meet the cost of immediate actions.
  • India had announced a donation of $10 million as its initial contribution to support the initiative

7 . Cybersecurity of urban co-operative banks (UCBs)

Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come out with a document ‘Technology Vision for Cyber Security for Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) 2020-2023’ to enhance cybersecurity of urban co-operative banks (UCBs).

About Technology Vision for Cyber Security for Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) 2020-2023

  • The Technology Vision for Cyber Security for Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) 2020-2023 document has been released by the RBI to enhance cybersecurity of urban co-operative banks (UCBs).

What are the objectives?

  • It plans to achieve its objective through a five-pillared strategic approach GUARD, viz. Governance Oversight, Utile Technology Investment, Appropriate Regulation and Supervision, Robust Collaboration and Developing necessary IT, cybersecurity skill sets.
  • To enhance cybersecurity it will involve concerted efforts of all stakeholders.


  • It aspires to involve more board oversight over cybersecurity.
  • It will enable UCBs to better manage and secure IT assets
  • It will implement an offsite supervisory mechanism framework for UCBs on cybersecurity-related controls
  • It will develop a forum for UCBs so that they can share best practices and discuss practical issues and challenges
  • It will implement a framework for providing awareness/training for all UCBs


  • It is significant as the cybersecurity landscape is evolving with wider adoption of digital banking channels, thus it is important for the UCBs to manage the associated risks effectively. 
  • It will help in achieving active collaboration within UCBs and stakeholders that would be necessary for sharing and co-ordinating various measures taken on cyber security aspects.

8 . UNSC Reforms

Context: Recently the G4 foreign ministers virtual meeting was held that coincided with the 75th session of the UN General Assembly 

Details of G4 meeting

  • G4 is a group of countries- Brazil, Germany, India and Japan that are seeking permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
  • At the G4 grouping the countries have expressed their concern over lack of any “meaningful” forward movement on long-pending reform of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and have demanded “urgency” on the issue.
  • The four countries stressed delivering concrete outcomes, in writing and within a time frame.
  • Unanimous call for text-based negotiations in a fixed time frame. Reformed Multilateralism guides India’s approach to the United Nations


  • United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the UN’s main executive body with the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security.
  • UNSC has five permanent members- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (P5)  that enjoy veto power.

Background on Security Council Reform

  • The UN General Assembly began debating Security Council reform in 1993 where several models were put forward as viable options and several countries have put themselves forward as candidates for permanent membership.

Need for UNSC reforms

  • The Security Council is not representative of the geopolitical realities of the modern world.
  • Both Africa and Latin America lack a permanent seat on the Council, while Europe is overrepresented and Asia is underrepresented.
  • The reforms are needed to make it a more efficient, effective, credible and a legitimate body.

Proposed UNSC reform by G4

  • The G4 (Brazil, India, Japan and Germany) has proposed expanding UNSC membership from 15 to 25 by adding six permanent members and four non-permanent members, with the objective of the G4 obtaining permanent membership. 
  • The G-4 countries have agreed to forego their right to the veto for at least 15 years.
  • The G4 countries agreed to work with other reform-minded countries and groups to start text-based negotiations (TBN) without delay and seek concrete outcomes during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.
  • G4 nations have called for representation of Africa in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of membership of a reformed and expanded Security Council to correct the historical injustice against this continent with regard to its under-representation in the Security Council.
  • G4 Ministers reiterated support for each other’s membership to the UNSC given the capacity and willingness to take on major responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security.

India’s stand on UNSC reforms

  • India has been spearheading decades-long efforts to reform the Security Council. 
  • India has always maintained that the UNSC was set up in 1945and now it does not reflect contemporary realities of the 21st century and is ill-equipped to handle current challenges.
  • India has widespread support for its permanent membership, including by four of the five permanent members of the Security Council – the US, the UK, France and Russia.

Benefits for India

  • If the UNSC reforms and India gets a permanent seat then it will have the veto power and greater say in matters that are of consequential importance.
  • India can protect its interests and force Pakistan to stop supporting terror elements and let non-state actors use its soil for terrorist actions.
  • With increase n regional representation India will be in a better position to stop western forces from promoting their vested interests

Opposition to Reforms

  • The P5 generally opposes any expansion of membership of the Council that would diminish their power though they occasionally support some countries bids. As negotiations are currently stalled over membership expansion, P5 countries have supported bids for membership by some countries. Most recently, the US gave its support to India. France has backed Africa for a permanent seat.
  • Uniting for Consensus (UFC) is a movement, nicknamed the Coffee Club, that developed in the 1990s in opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council. Under the leadership of Italy, it aims to counter the bids for permanent seats proposed by G4 nations (Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) and is calling for a consensus before any decision is reached on the form and size of the Security Council.
  • India is demanding a permanent seat in the UNSC and its case is being supported by four of the five permanent members of the Security Council – USA, UK, France and Russia. India is facing opposition only from China. Pakistan’s is also opposing India’s stand.
  • Italy and Spain are opposed to Germany’s bid for UNSC’s permanent membership
  • Argentina is against Brazil’s bid
  • Australia is opposing Japan.

9 . Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Context : Rajya Sabha passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which is aimed at deregulating commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes.

What is the Bill about?

  • It is a four-page Bill that amends the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, by introducing a new Subsection (1A) in Section 3.
  • After the amendment, the supply of certain foodstuffs — including cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, potato — can be regulated only under extraordinary circumstances, which include an extraordinary price rise, war, famine, and natural calamity of a severe nature. In effect, the amendment takes these items out from the purview of Section 3(1), which gives powers to central government to “control production, supply, distribution, etc, of essential commodities”.
  • Earlier, these commodities were not mentioned under Section 3(1) and reasons for invoking the section were not specified. The amendments states that “such order for regulating stock limit shall not apply to a processor or value chain participant of any agricultural produce, if the stock limit of such person does not exceed the overall ceiling of installed capacity of processing, or the demand for export in case of an exporter…”

How is an ‘essential commodity’ defined?

  • There is no specific definition of essential commodities in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. Section 2(A) states that an “essential commodity” means a commodity specified in the Schedule of the Act.
  • The Act gives powers to the central government to add or remove a commodity in the Schedule. The Centre, if it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in public interest, can notify an item as essential, in consultation with state governments.
  • According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, which implements the Act, the Schedule at present contains seven commodities — drugs; fertilisers, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs including edible oils; hank yarn made wholly from cotton; petroleum and petroleum products; raw jute and jute textiles; seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables, seeds of cattle fodder, jute seed, cotton seed.
  • By declaring a commodity as essential, the government can control the production, supply, and distribution of that commodity, and impose a stock limit.

Under what circumstances can the government impose stock limits?

  • While the 1955 Act did not provide a clear framework to impose stock limits, the amended Act provides for a price trigger. It says that agricultural foodstuffs can only be regulated under extraordinary circumstances such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity. However, any action on imposing stock limits will be based on the price trigger.
  • Thus, in case of horticultural produce, a 100% increase in the retail price of a commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or over the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower, will be the trigger for invoking the stock limit.
  • For non-perishable agricultural foodstuffs, the price trigger will be a 50% increase in the retail price of the commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or over the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower. However, exemptions from stock-holding limits will be provided to processors and value chain participants of any agricultural produce, and orders relating to the Public Distribution System.
  • “Price triggers will also minimise the earlier uncertainties associated with the imposition of orders under stock limits. This will now be more transparent and help in better governance,”
  • “The last 10 years have seen periods of prolonged application of the EC Act. Once imposed, they were for long periods — pulses from 2006 to 2017, rice from 2008 to 2014, edible oilseeds from 2008 to 2018. Amendments to the EC Act seek to remove this uncertainty by defining criteria for the process of imposing stock limits and making it more transparent and accountable

Why was the need for this felt?

  • The 1955 Act was legislated at a time when the country was facing a scarcity of foodstuffs due to persistent low levels of foodgrains production. The country was dependent on imports and assistance (such as wheat import form the US under PL-480) to feed the population. To prevent hoarding and black marketing of foodstuffs, the Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955.
  • But now the situation has changed. A note prepared by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution shows that production of wheat has increased 10 times (from less than 10 million tonnes in 1955-56 to more than 100 million tonnes in 2018-19), while the production of rice has increased more than four times (from around 25 million tonnes to 110 million tonnes during the same period). The production of pulses has increased 2.5 times, from 10 million tonnes to 25 million tonnes. In fact, India has now become an exporter of several agricultural products.

What will be the impact of the amendments?

  • The key changes seek to free agricultural markets from the limitations imposed by permits and mandis that were originally designed for an era of scarcity. The move is expected to attract private investment in the value chain of commodities removed from the list of essentials, such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes.
  • While the purpose of the Act was originally to protect the interests of consumers by checking illegal trade practices such as hoarding, it has now become a hurdle for investment in the agriculture sector in general, and in post-harvesting activities in particular. The private sector had so far hesitated about investing in cold chains and storage facilities for perishable items as most of these commodities were under the ambit of the EC Act, and could attract sudden stock limits. The amendment seeks to address such concerns.

Why is it being opposed?

  • This was one of the three ordinances/Bills that have seen protests from farmers in parts of the country. The Opposition says the amendment will hurt farmers and consumers, and will only benefit hoarders. They say the price triggers envisioned in the Bill are unrealistic — so high that they will hardly ever be invoked.

10 . Mass stranding of Whales

Context : At least 380 whales have died in a mass stranding in southern Australia, officials said on Wednesday, as hopes faded of saving more than a few dozen of those creatures still trapped.

About Mass stranding

  • If infection or some other factor interferes with a cetacean’s ability to navigate, it could come ashore while still alive—though most cetaceans have difficulty out of water and usually die. These cases are known (alive or dead) as single strandings.
  • Sometimes up to several hundred toothed whales swim ashore, and this phenomenon is known as a mass stranding.
  • Live or recently dead animals of the same species coming ashore in a group typically belong to species that have a “lead animal” and live in very tight social groupings. Pilot whales are the most familiar example. Usually when they strand it appears that either the leader has made a navigational mistake’, or one individual has become sick or wounded and led the rest of its pod onto the shore. Disease can also cause animals of the same species to strand..
  • If whales or dolphins of different species strand together, this could be because they have been schooling together at sea. Mixed species strandings might also show that some major disturbing event has occurred affecting a wide area and driving animals ahead of it to strand, for example a chemical spill or military exercise.

Biologists have tried to attribute mass stranding to a number of causes:

  • Something wrong with the leader of a group
  • Epidemic disease
  • Getting lost in pursuit of prey
  • Parasitic infestation that affects the hearing
  • Following migratory routes laid down by remote ancestors
  • Magnetic anomalies that lead the school astray
  • Behavioral reversion to a period when cetacean ancestors were terrestrial and land was a haven
  • Fright reaction to predators
  • Failure of echolocation signals to work properly in shallow water
  • Overpopulation
  • Suicide

9 . Facts for Prelims

Indian Museum, Kolkata

  • The Indian Museum in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, also referred to as the Imperial Museum at Calcutta in colonial-era texts, is the ninth oldest museum of the world, oldest museum in India and the largest museum in India
  • It has rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies and Mughal paintings. 
  • It was founded by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, in 1814. 
  • The founder curator was Nathaniel Wallich, a Danish botanist.
  • It is an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture, Government of India. 

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