Daily Current Affairs : 30th and 31st January 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Anti defection Law
  2. Parasitic Plant
  3. Asafoetida
  4. Pegasus & Snooping
  5. Privilege Motion
  6. Design Linked Incentive Scheme
  7. India-Oman Relationship
  8. NARCL
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . Anti Defection Law

Context : Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has referred petitions submitted by the Trinamool Congress and the YSR Congress Party under the anti-defection law against Sisir Adhikari and K. Raghu Rama Krishna Raju, respectively, to the Privileges Committee.

Background of Anti Defection Law

  • Indian political scene was besmirched by political defections by members of the legislature. This situation brought about greater instability in the political system.
  • Legislators used to change parties frequently, bringing about chaos in the legislatures as governments fell. In sum, they often brought about political instability. This caused serious concerns to the right thinking political leaders of the country.Several efforts were made to make some law to curb defections
  • Finally, in 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought a Bill to amend the Constitution and curb defection.
  • Through 52nd constitutional amendment act 10th Schedule of the Constitution, which contains the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution.

About Anti Defection Law

  • The purpose of the law is to curb political defection by the legislators.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  • There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified.
    • If the member voluntarily gives up the membership of the party, he shall be disqualified. Voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party. Even without resigning, a legislator can be disqualified if by his conduct the Speaker/Chairman of the concerned House draws a reasonable inference that the member has voluntarily given up the membership of his party.
    • If a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his party and his action is not condoned by his party, he can be disqualified.

About Speaker’s Power under Anti Defection Law

  • The ultimate evaluator in the case of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule is the Speaker of the House.
  • The Speaker can disqualify a member-only if a claim of disqualification is made before him under Para 2 of the Tenth Schedule.
  • Under the light of Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution and the Tenth Schedule, the Speaker’s exercise is of judicial nature as he can take a decision only after a member files a disqualification petition.

Exception from Disqualification

  • The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.


  • When it was enacted first, there was a provision under which if there occurs a split in the original political party and as a result of which one-third of the legislators of that party forms a separate group, they shall not be disqualified.
  • This provision resulted in large scale defections and the lawmakers were convinced that the provision of a split in the party was being misused. Therefore, they decided to delete this provision.
  • Now, the only provision which can be invoked for protection from disqualification is the provision relating to the merger

Is the law, as it stands now, open to interpretation?

  • The first ground for disqualifying a legislator for defecting from a party is his voluntarily giving up the membership of his party. This term “voluntarily giving up the membership of his party” is susceptible to interpretation. As has been explained earlier, voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party.
  • The Supreme Court has clarified this point by saying that the presiding officer (Speaker), who acts as a tribunal, has to draw a reasonable inference from the conduct of the legislator.


  • The law certainly has been able to curb the evil of defection to a great extent. But, of late, a very alarming trend of legislators defecting in groups to another party in search of greener pastures is visible.
  • The recent examples of defection in state Assemblies and even in Rajya Sabha bear this out. This only shows that the law needs a relook in order to plug the loopholes if any. But it must be said that this law has served the interest of the society. Political instability caused by frequent and unholy change of allegiance on the part of the legislators of our country has been contained to a larger extent.


  • The anti-defection law seeks to provide a stable government by ensuring the legislators do not switch sides. However, this law also restricts a legislator from voting in line with his conscience, judgement and interests of his electorate. Such a situation impedes the oversight function of the legislature over the government, by ensuring that members vote based on the decisions taken by the party leadership, and not what their constituents would like them to vote for.
  • Political parties issue a direction to MPs on how to vote on most issues, irrespective of the nature of the issue. Several experts have suggested that the law should be valid only for those votes that determine the stability of the government (passage of the annual budget or no-confidence motions

Way Forward

  • Various expert committees have recommended that rather than the Presiding Officer, the decision to disqualify a member should be made by the President (in case of MPs) or the Governor (in case of MLAs) on the advice of the Election Commission.
  • This would be similar to the process followed for disqualification in case the person holds an office of profit (i.e. the person holds an office under the central or state government which carries a remuneration, and has not been excluded in a list made by the legislature).

2 . Parasitic Plants

Context : A new genus of a parasitic flowering plant has recently been discovered from the Nicobar group of islands. The genus Septemeranthus grows on the plant species Horsfieldia glabra (Blume) Warb. The parasitic flowering plants have a modified root structure spread on the stem of the tree and are anchored inside the bark of the host tree.

About Parasitic Plant

  • Parasitic plants are plants that obtains all or part of its nutrition from another plant (the host) without contributing to the benefit of the host and, in some cases, causing extreme damage to the host. The defining structural feature of a parasitic plant is the haustorium, a specialized organ that penetrates the host and forms a vascular union between the plants.

How do parasitic plants attach to other plants?

  • Parasitic plants use a structure called a haustorium to penetrate their host plant. This specialised organ forms a connection between the two plants, which they use to drain nutrition. Some parasites, such as Rafflesia and Thurber’s stemsucker, grow within the plant and only emerge to flower, while others attach their haustoria externally.
  • All parasitic plants have evolved from non-parasitic species. Some are only partially parasitic. These plants are known as hemiparasites and can photosynthesise but also drain water and nutrition from their hosts. Other parasitic plants, known as holoparasites, cannot photosynthesise and depend on their hosts for food.
  • Parasites that cannot survive without a host are known as obligate, while facultative parasites can live and reproduce without a host plant. 

About genus Septemeranthus

  • The genus Septemeranthus has a distinct vegetative morphology, inflorescence architecture and floral characters. 
  • The leaves of the plant are heart-shaped with a very long tip and the ovary, fruit and seeds are ‘urceolate’ (earthen pot-shaped). The flowers have five persistent bracts having conspicuous margins.
  • The name Septemeranthus is derived from the Latin word ‘septem’ meaning ‘seven’, referring to the arrangement of flowers.
  • The genus belongs to the family Loranthaceae, a hemi-parasite under the sandalwood order Santalales and is of widespread importance. Plants which are hemi-parasites are partially dependent on their host plants for nutrition. For instance, the newly discovered plant that derives nutrients from its hosts has green leaves capable of photosynthesis.
  • What makes the new genus unique is that it is endemic only to the Nicobar group of islands.
  • Birds consume viscous seeds of this new genus and seeds have potential of pseudo viviparous germination that deposit on the leaves and branches of their same plant which is already attached to host plants. After germination, the life cycle of the genus starts all over again.

3 . Asafoetida

What is asafoetida and where is it commonly cultivated?

  • Ferula asafoetida is a herbaceous plant of the umbelliferae family. It is a perennial plant whose oleo gum resin is extracted from its thick roots and rhizome. The plant stores most of its nutrients inside its deep fleshy roots.
  • Asafoetida, or heeng, is a common ingredient in most Indian kitchens –– so much so that the country imports Rs 600 crore worth of this pungent flavoured herb every year.
  • Asafoetida is endemic to Iran and Afghanistan, the main global suppliers. It thrives in dry and cold desert conditions. While it is very popular in India, some European countries too use it for its medicinal properties.

How is India entering into heeng cultivation?

  • Heeng is not cultivated in India. Government data states that India imports about 1,200 tonnes of raw heeng worth Rs 600 crore from Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
  • Between 1963 and 1989, India once attempted to procure asafoetida seeds, the ICAR – National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi stated. However, there are no published results of the same.
  • In 2017, IHBT approached NBPGR with an experimental project idea to cultivate heeng in the Indian Himalayas.
  • For research, heeng seeds were imported from Iran and they remained in the custody of NBPGR. There, the seeds were subjected to a number of tests while being kept under quarantine, to rule out fungal or infectious diseases, possibility of pest attacks and other adverse effects to an area if these seeds were cultivated in fields. This process can take up to two months.
  • After acquiring all regulatory approvals from Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), six accessions of heeng (EC966538 with Import Permit-318/2018 and EC968466-70 with Import Permit-409/2018) were introduced by IHBT, who have been carrying out further R&D since 2018. At this Palampur institute, the seeds were studied, and then put to test to see if they would germinate under a controlled laboratory set-up.
  • The challenge for the scientists here was that heeng seeds remain under a prolonged dormant phase and the rate of seed germination is just one per cent. “Each of the six accessions imported showcased varying degrees of germination.
  • To tackle this dormancy, which according to scientists is part of the plant’s adaptation technique to survive in desert conditions, they subjected the seeds to some special chemical treatments.
  • After about 20 days, the seeds –– all six accessions gathered from various regions of Iran –– germinated under controlled laboratory conditions
  • In June this year, the CSIR institute inked an MoU with the agriculture ministry of Himachal Pradesh. Jointly, the project will be spearheaded over the next five years in the state.

Which regions offer favourable conditions for asafoetida cultivation in India?

  • The agriculture ministry has identified four locations in the valley and has distributed heeng seeds to seven farmers in the region.
  • Asafoetida best grows in dry and cold conditions.
  • “The plant can withstand a maximum temperature between 35 and 40 degree, whereas during winters, it can survive in temperatures up to minus 4 degree. During extreme weather, the plant can get dormant,” said Kumar.
  • Regions with sandy soil, very little moisture and annual rainfall of not more than 200mm are considered conducive for heeng cultivation in India. Some initial experiments were conducted in high altitude districts of Mandi, Kinnaur, Kullu, Manali and Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. Besides, the researchers plan to expand their experiments to Ladakh and Uttarakhand. The institute will provide cultivation knowledge and skilling to local farmers. Seed productions centres are also in the offing.

What are some of the benefits of asafoetida? 

  • Published studies list out a range of medicinal properties of heeng, including relief for digestive, spasmodic and stomach disorders, asthma and bronchitis. The herb is commonly used to help with painful or excessive bleeding during menstruation and pre-mature labour. Being an anti-flatulent, the herb is fed to new mothers.

4 . Pegasus & Snooping


  • Popular messaging platform WhatsApp was used to spy on journalists and human rights activists in India earlier this year.
  • The surveillance was carried out using a spyware tool called Pegasus, which has been developed by an Israeli firm, the NSO Group. T
  • he surveillance was carried out “between in and around April 2019 and May 2019” on users in 20 countries across four continents.

About Pegasus

  • All spyware do what the name suggests — they spy on people through their phones. Pegasus works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone.
  • Once Pegasus is installed, the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone. Pegasus does so by exploiting vulnerabilities in the phone’s operating system. Smartphones have operating systems (OS) much like the desktops and laptops we use.
  • Pegasus delivers “a chain of zero-day exploits to penetrate security features on the phone and installs Pegasus without the user’s knowledge or permission”. A “zero-day exploit” is a completely unknown vulnerability, about which even the software manufacturer is not aware, and there is, thus, no patch or fix available for it.
  • In the specific cases of Apple and WhatsApp, therefore, neither company was aware of the security vulnerability, which was used to exploit the software and take over the device
  • Zero-day exploits could exist for virtually every software and app in the world — and that they might be exploited at some point in the future by individuals or agencies determined to do so.

Android Version

  • The Android version of Pegasus spyware is called Chrysaor Malware and was found on about three dozen devices in 2017 according to a blog by Google.
  • The Android version of Pegasus installs as an application on your phone, and uses a known root technique called framaroot.
  • Rooting an Android phone enables one to get privileged user (root) access, and thus allowing the spyware to monitor various activities.

What all Pegasus can do when installed

  • Once the phone is exploited and Pegasus installed, it begins contacting the operator’s command and control servers to receive and execute operator commands, and send back the target’s private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls from popular mobile messaging apps.
  • The operator can even turn on the phone’s camera and microphone to capture activity in the phone’s vicinity. 

How Pegasus exploited Whatsapp

  • A missed call on the app was all that was needed to install the software on the device — no clicking on a misleading link was required.
  • Pegasus had exploited the video/voice call function on the app, which had a zero-day security flaw. It did not matter if the target did not take the call — the flaw allowed for the malware to be installed anyway.

Legality of Snooping

  • Communication surveillance in India takes place primarily under two laws — the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • While the Telegraph Act deals with interception of calls, the IT Act was enacted to deal with surveillance of all electronic communication, following the Supreme Court’s intervention in 1996. A comprehensive data protection law to address the gaps in existing frameworks for surveillance is yet to enacted.

Telegraph Act

  • Under this law, the government can intercept calls only in certain situations — the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence. These are the same restrictions imposed on free speech under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • Significantly, even these restrictions can be imposed only when there is a condition precedent — the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of public safety.
  • Additionally, a proviso in Section 5(2) states that even this lawful interception cannot take place against journalists. “Provided that press messages intended to be published in India of correspondents accredited to the Central Government or a State Government shall not be intercepted or detained, unless their transmission has been prohibited under this sub-section.”
  • The Supreme Court’s guidelines formed the basis of introducing Rule 419A in the Telegraph Rules in 2007 and later in the rules prescribed under the IT Act in 2009.
  • Rule 419A states that a Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs can pass orders of interception in the case of Centre, and a secretary-level officer who is in-charge of the Home Department can issue such directives in the case of a state government.
  • In unavoidable circumstances, Rule 419A adds, such orders may be made by an officer, not below the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India, who has been duly authorised by the Union Home Secretary or the state Home Secretary.

Information Technology Act

  • Section 69 of the Information Technology Act and the Information Technology (Procedure for Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 were enacted to further the legal framework for electronic surveillance.
  • Under the IT Act, all electronic transmission of data can be intercepted. So, for a Pegasus-like spyware to be used lawfully, the government would have to invoke both the IT Act and the Telegraph Act.
  • Apart from the restrictions provided in Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and Article 19(2) of the Constitution, Section 69 the IT Act adds another aspect that makes it broader — interception, monitoring and decryption of digital information “for the investigation of an offence”.
  • Significantly, it dispenses with the condition precedent set under the Telegraph Act that requires “the occurrence of public emergency of the interest of public safety” which widens the ambit of powers under the law.

R V Raveendran Committee

  • Supreme Court ordered a probe headed by former SC judge R V Raveendran to look into the allegations of unauthorised surveillance using the Israeli-built Pegasus spyware.
  • The court has set seven terms of reference for the committee, which are essentially facts that need to be ascertained to decide the issue.
  • These range from determining who procured Pegasus and whether the petitioners in the case were indeed targeted by use of the software, to what laws justify the use of such spyware against citizens.
  • The court has also asked the committee to make recommendations on a legal and policy framework on cyber security to ensure the right to privacy of citizens is protected.
  • The committee is expected to submit its report in eight weeks.

5 . Privilege Motion

Context : On Sunday, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to Speaker Om Birla to demand a privilege motion against Information Technology (IT) Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for “deliberately misleading the House on the Pegasus issue”. Mr. Chowdhury cited a report in the New York Times thatclaimed that the Modi government had purchased the Pegasus spyware from the Israeli group, NSO, in July 2017.

About Privilege Motion

  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
  • When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament. A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  • Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

Where do these rules find mention?

  • The rules governing privilege motion are mentioned as Rule 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and as Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha Rule Book.
  • According to the rules, an MP may raise a question of breach of privilege with the Speaker or the Chairperson, notices for which have to be sent to them before 10am.
  • The breach of privilege could be of another MP, a committee or of the House. However, the rules mandate the notice should be regarding an incident which has occurred recently and that it needs the intervention of the House.

What is the authority of the Speaker/ Chairperson vis-à-vis privilege motion?

  • The first level of scrutiny that a privilege motion has to go through is that of the Speaker, in case the motion is moved in the Lok Sabha, and that of the Chairperson when a motion is moved in the Rajya Sabha. The Speaker/Chairperson may decide on the privilege motion at their own discretion or they may refer it to a parliamentary committee. If the Speaker/Chairperson admits the motion, then the concerned member is given an opportunity to explain themselves by making a short statement.

What if the Speaker/Chairperson refers the motion to a parliamentary committee?

  • In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges which consists of 15 members proportionate to the strengths of various political parties in the Lower House of Parliament.
  • They prepare a report which is then presented before the House for its consideration. The Speaker may allow a half-an-hour debate on the report before she/he passed the final orders.
  • The Speaker can also direct that the report be tabled before the House and a resolution may be unanimously passed on the breach of privilege. Currently, Congress MP PC Chacko is the chairperson of the privilege committee.
  • The process is similar in the Upper House, except that the privilege committee consists of 10 members and is headed by the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

Have privilege motions been passed in Parliament earlier?

A number of privilege motions have been passed in Parliament earlier, with most of them being rejected and very few demanding penal action.

  • The most significant privilege motion was passed against Indira Gandhi in 1978. The then Home Minister Charan Singh had moved a resolution of breach of privilege against her on the basis of observations made by Justice Shah Commission, which investigated the excesses during the Emergency. Mrs Gandhi, who had just won the Lok Sabha elections from Chikmagalur, was expelled from the House.
  • In another case, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy was expelled from Rajya Sabha in 1976 for bringing disgrace to Parliament through his interviews to foreign publications.
  • In 1961, editor of ‘Blitz’ RK Karanjia was indicted with gross breach of privilege after the publication put out an article that publicly castigated Congress veteran JB Kripalani. Karanjia was reprimanded in Lok Sabha and the gallery pass of his correspondent was annulled.

6 . Design Linked Incentive Scheme

Context : India has invited applications from 100 domestic companies, startups and small and medium enterprises to become a part of the design-linked incentive (DLI) scheme.  Along with it the IT ministry has sought proposals from academia, start-ups and MSMEs to train 85,000 qualified engineers on semiconductor design and manufacturing. 

What is the DLI scheme?

  • The DLI scheme aims to provide financial and infrastructural support to companies setting up fabs or semiconductor making plants in India.  
  • It will offer fiscal support of up to 50% of the total cost to eligible participants who can set up these fabs in the country, MeitY said in a statement. It will also offer fiscal support of 30% of the capital expenditure to participants for building compound semiconductors, silicon photonics and sensors fabrication plants in India, under this scheme. 
  • An incentive of 4% to 6% on net sales will be provided for five years to companies of semiconductor design for integrated circuits, chipsets, system on chips, systems and IP cores. 
  • It is expected to facilitate the growth of at least 20 such companies which can achieve a turnover of more than ₹1500 crore in the coming five years, according to MeitY. 

How can the scheme make a difference in the semiconductor manufacturing industry in India? 

  • The sudden surge in demand of chips and semiconductor components has underpinned the need to establish a robust semiconductor ecosystem in India. Several sectors, including auto, telecom, and medical technology suffered due to the unexpected surge leading to the scarcity of chips manufactured by only a few countries. 
  • Schemes like the DLI are crucial to avoid high dependencies on a few countries or companies. The inception of new companies will help in meeting the demand and supply and encourage innovation in India
  • The DLI scheme aims to attract existing and global players as it will support their expenditures related to design software, IP rights, development, testing and deployment.
  • It will boost the domestic companies, start-ups, and MSMEs to develop and deploy the semiconductor design. It will also help global investors to choose India as their preferred investment destination

What are other countries doing to be dominant in the race of chip making?

  • Currently, semiconductor manufacturing is dominated by companies in the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel and the Netherlands. They are also making efforts in solving the chip shortage problem.
  • U.S President Joe Biden wants to bring manufacturing back to America and reduce the country’s reliance on a small number of chipmakers based largely in Taiwan and South Korea. 
  • These chipmakers produce up to 70% of the world’s semiconductors,
  • The European Commission has also announced a public-private semiconductor alliance with the goal of increasing Europe’s chip production share to 20% by 2030. 
  • South Korea has offered various incentives to attract $450 billion in investments by 2030.
  • From focusing on designs, setting up firms that are highly specialised in the chip making process to building leading-edge expertise, these countries have come a long way in making semiconductors 

What are the challenges in making semiconductors in India?

  • In India, more than 90% of global companies already have their R&D and design centres for semiconductors but never established their fabrication units. Although India has semiconductor fabs in Mohali and Bangalore they are purely strategic for defence and space applications only
  • Setting up fabs is capital intensive and needs investment in the range of $5 billion to $10 billion. Lack of investments and supportive government policies are some of the challenges to set up fabs in India
  • New fabs use sub 5 nano meter technology that requires clearance from both the technology provider and the Government. So, a combination of capital and the geopolitical situation comes into play to build new fabs. He also identified infrastructure like connectivity to airports, seaports and availability of gallons of pure water as challenges to set up fabs in India. 


Context : A key proposal announced in this year’s (2021) Budget, a bad bank to deal with stressed assets in the loss-laden banking system, has received all regulatory approvals.

What is the structure of the bad bank?

  • NARCL will acquire and aggregate the identified NPA accounts from banks, while IDRCL, under an exclusive arrangement, will handle the debt resolution process
  • Although “certain concerns” were raised, eventually both NARCL and IDRCL have received the requisite approval. The concerns mainly arose on the dual ownership structure and operational mechanism, with the setting up of two separate entities NARCL and IDRCL.
  • Majority-owned by state-owned banks, the NARCL will be assisted by the India Debt Resolution Company Ltd (IDRCL), in turn majority-owned by private banks, in resolution process in the form of a Principal-Agent basis.

How will the bad bank work? What does the Principal-Agent mechanism entail?

  • NARCL and IDRCL will have an exclusive arrangement that will be as per the scope defined in the ‘Debt Management Agreement’ to be executed between these two entities. This arrangement will be on a ‘Principal-Agent’ basis and final approvals and ownership for the resolution shall lie with NARCL as the Principal.
  • Principal and Agent mechanism’ that has been put in place to address regulatory concerns, the final approvals will still be done by NARCL as the Principal.
  • So, even though IDRCL is majority-owned by private banks, the final authority will rest with NARCL, which is majority-owned by public sector banks. This has been done possibly to address regulatory concerns around the bad bank structure.

What kind of resolutions are expected?

  • The asset resolution will be done in a phased manner. A total of 38 accounts aggregating Rs 82,845 crore have been identified for transfer to NARCL.
  • In the first phase, at least 15 accounts worth Rs 50,335 crore will be transferred to the proposed bad bank by March 31. Initially, an estimated Rs 2 lakh crore worth of bad assets was planned to be transferred; however, some of these accounts have already been resolved and further resolutions will happen as and when referred to the bad bank.
  • With a combination of post-Covid moratorium and recoveries, there was an actual decline in NPAs from Rs 8.40 lakh crore in 2020 to Rs 7.80 lakh crore in 2021.
  • In a press statement, SBI said IDRCL is expected to bring in superior resolution techniques, preserve the value, showcase brownfield assets, and attract domestic as well as foreign investors, Alternate Investment Funds, etc. This will free up capital for further bank lending, it said.

What will the government guarantee?

  • The NARCL will purchase these bad loans through a 15:85 structure, where it will pay 15 per cent of the sale consideration in cash and issue security receipts (SRs) for the remaining 85 per cent. The SRs will be guaranteed by the government. The government guarantee will essentially cover the gap between the face value of the security receipts and realised value of the assets when eventually sold to the prospective buyers.
  • The government approved a 5-year guarantee of up to Rs 30,600 crore for security receipts to be issued by NARCL as non-cash consideration on the transfer of NPAs. This will address banks/RBI concerns about incremental provisioning.
  • Government guarantee, valid for five years, helps in improving the value of security receipts, their liquidity and tradability. A form of contingent liability, the guarantee does not involve any immediate cash outgo for the central government.

8 . India – Oman Relationship

Context : India is laying out the red carpet for Oman’s top defence official Mohammed Nasser Al Zaabi, who will be in India from January 30 to February 4 on an official visit. Al Zaabi, the Secretary General of Ministry of Defence of the Sultanate of Oman, is the executive head of the Omani defence establishment as the Minister-in-charge is held by the Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Shihab. Zaabi will be in Delhi to co-chair the Joint Military Cooperation Committee (JMMC) with Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.

About JMCC

  • The JMCC is the highest forum of engagement between India and Oman in the field of defence that evaluates and provides guidance to the overall framework of defence exchanges between the two sides. The JMCC is expected to meet annually, but could not be organised since 2018 when the meeting of the 9th JMCC was held in Oman.
  • Coming as it does after a hiatus of three years and after the pandemic period, the 10th JMCC is expected to comprehensively evaluate the ongoing defence exchanges and provide a roadmap for further strengthening defence ties in the coming years.

Why is Oman important from a defence and strategic point of view?

  • Oman is India’s closest defence partner in the Gulf region and an important anchor for India’s defence and strategic interests. Defence cooperation has emerged as a key pillar for the robust India-Oman strategic partnership. Defence exchanges are guided by a Framework MOU which was recently renewed in 2021.
  • Oman is the only country in the Gulf region with which all three services of the Indian armed forces conduct regular bilateral exercises and staff talks, enabling close cooperation and trust at the professional level. Oman also provides critical operational support to Indian naval deployments in the Arabian sea for anti-piracy missions.
  • Bilateral training cooperation between the two sides is also robust with Omani forces regularly subscribing to training courses in India both at professional as well as higher command level. Indian armed forces also subscribe to the Staff and Command courses conducted at NDC, Oman. Oman also actively participates in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

Indian diaspora in Oman

  • There are about 6.2 lakh Indians in Oman, of which about 4.8 lakh are workers and professionals. There are Indian families living in Oman for more than 150-200 years. Thousands of Indians are working as doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, teachers, lecturers, nurses, managers among other professionals.
  • Apart from the welfare of the Indian community, what’s the strategic imperative?
  • In a strategic move to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean region, India has secured access to the key Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support. This is part of India’s maritime strategy to counter Chinese influence and activities in the region. This was one of the key takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Oman in February ‘2018.
  • He had met Sultan of Oman Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said and an annexure to the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation was signed between the two countries. Sources said following this pact, the services of Duqm port and dry dock will be available for maintenance of Indian military vessels.

What’s the significance of the Duqm port?

  • The Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is strategically located, in close proximity to the Chabahar port in Iran. With the Assumption Island being developed in Seychelles and Agalega in Mauritius, Duqm fits into India’s proactive maritime security roadmap.
  • Duqm has seen a rise in Indian activities. In recent years, India had deployed an attack submarine to this port in the western Arabian Sea.
  • A Shishumar-class submarine entered Duqm along with naval ship INS Mumbai and two P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft. India gets access to strategic Oman port for military use, reconnaissance aircraft. The naval units were on a month-long deployment with the aim of enhancing surveillance and cooperation.
  • Following Modi’s visit to Oman, the joint statement said the two sides noted that the MoU on Military Cooperation, signed in 2005 and renewed in 2016, has provided the general framework to strengthen bilateral defence ties. India and Oman noted that the MoUs on cooperation in maritime security and between Coast Guards of the two countries, signed in May 2016, have provided a firm foundation for deepening institutional interactions. “Both sides expressed satisfaction at the signing of an annexure to the existing MoU on Military Cooperation between the defence ministries,” it said.
  • The joint statement had said the Indian side thanked Oman for facilitating operational visits by Indian Naval ships and aircraft as well as Indian Air Force aircraft to various ports and airports. “Recognising their common responsibility towards promoting regional peace and security, the two sides underlined the importance of further cementing bilateral strategic engagement, especially in the areas of security and defence,” it said.
  • It also said that the two sides expressed satisfaction at the ongoing bilateral security collaboration in the fields of counter-terrorism, information-sharing and capacity-building, and the Prime Minister appreciated the support extended by Omani security agencies on “specific issues of security concern to India”.

What other activities is India doing at the Duqm port?

  • The Port of Duqm also has a special economic zone, where about $1.8 billion investments are being made by some Indian companies. The Adani group had signed an MoU with Duqm port authorities in recent years.
  • In the context of strategic oil reserves near Duqm, India had extended an invitation to Oman to participate in building strategic oil reserves in India.

9 . Facts for Prelims

Ultra-long period magnetar

  • Ultra-long period magnetar is a variety of neutron star – the compact collapsed core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova – that is highly magnetised and rotates relatively slowly, as opposed to fast-spinning neutron star objects called pulsars that appear from Earth to be blinking on and off within milliseconds or seconds
  • It appeared to switch on every 18 minutes and 11 seconds for about 30 to 60 seconds, then off again. That is an effect similar to a lighthouse with a rotating light that seems to blink on and off from the perspective of a stationary observer.
  • Neutron stars including pulsars are among the universe’s densest objects. They are roughly 12 km in diameter – akin to the size of a city – but with more mass than our Sun. A neutron star with an extreme magnetic field, a magnetar, could potentially power the radio pulsations

InDEA 2.0

  • “InDEA 2.0 proposes a model of Federated Digital Identities that seeks to optimise the number of digital identities that a citizen needs to have.
  • The model empowers the citizen by putting her in control of these identities and providing her the option of choosing which one to use for what purpose. It gives the agency to the citizens and protects privacy-by-design
  • It explained that electronic registries can be linked via the IDs to allow easy, paperless onboarding of citizens and also avoid repeated data verification needs.
  • For example, when a beneficiary is registered for the PDS scheme, that record will be linked to Aadhaar by the PDS system storing the Aadhaar number (or a tokenised version of it).
  • Similarly, when someone obtains a PAN, that record gets linked to Aadhaar where the Aadhaar number becomes the linking ID.
  • Then when that person obtains a mutual fund account, the PAN, in turn, gets linked to the mutual fund record.

Udyam Registration

  • New online system of MSME is called as Udyam Registration Portal
  • It was launched by Union MSME Ministry, w.e.f. 1st July, 2020
  • Portal is seamlessly integrated with CBDT and GST networks  as also with the GeM. It may  be noted that through this integration, now MSME registration is a totally paperless exercise. 

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