Daily Current Affairs : 6th February 2024

Topics Covered

  1. Fiscal Consolidation
  2. Disputes over Varanasi and Mathura Mosques
  3. National Credit Framework
  4. Facts for Prelims

    1 . Fiscal Consolidation


    Context: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced during her Budget speech that the Centre would reduce its fiscal deficit to 5.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2024-25. 

    What is fiscal deficit?

    • Fiscal deficit refers to the shortfall in a government’s revenue when compared to its expenditure. 
    • When a government’s expenditure exceeds its revenues, the government will have to borrow money or sell assets to fund the deficit. 
    • Taxes are the most important source of revenue for any government. In 2024-25, the government’s tax receipts are expected to be ₹26.02 lakh crore while its total revenue is estimated to be ₹30.8 lakh crore. The Union government’s total expenditure, on the other hand, is estimated to be ₹47.66 lakh crore. When a government runs a fiscal surplus, on the other hand, its revenues exceed expenditure.

    Fiscal Deficit and National Debt

    • The national debt is the total amount of money that the government of a country owes its lenders at a particular point in time. 
    • The national debt is usually the amount of debt that a government has accumulated over many years of running fiscal deficits and borrowing to bridge the deficits.  
    • The fiscal deficit is generally expressed as a percentage of a country’s GDP since it is believed that the figure shows how easily the government will be able to pay its lenders. In other words, the higher a government’s fiscal deficit as a share of GDP, the less likely its lenders will be paid back without trouble. Countries with larger economies can run higher fiscal deficits (in terms of absolute numbers of money). 

    How does government fund its fiscal deficit?

    • In order to fund its fiscal deficit, the government mainly borrows money from the bond market where lenders compete to lend to the government by purchasing bonds issued by the government.
    • It should be remembered that central banks such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are also major players in the credit market, although they may not always directly purchase government bonds. 
    •  The RBI may still purchase government bonds in the secondary market, from private lenders who have already purchased bonds from the government. So, when a government borrows from the bond market, it not only borrows from private lenders but also indirectly from the central bank.  
    • The RBI purchases these bonds through what are called ‘open market operations’ by creating fresh money, which in turn can lead to higher money supply and also higher prices in the wider economy over time. 
    • Government bonds are generally considered to be risk-free as the government can ,under the worst-case scenario , get help from the central bank, which can create fresh currency to pay off the lenders. So governments generally do not find it hard to borrow money from the market. 
    • The bigger problem is the rate at which they are able to borrow the money. As a government’s finances worsen, demand for the government’s bonds begins to drop forcing the government to offer to pay a higher interest rate to lenders, and leading to higher borrowing costs for the government.  
    • Monetary policy also plays a crucial role in how much it costs governments to borrow money from the market. Central bank lending rates which were near zero in many countries before the pandemic have risen sharply in the aftermath of the pandemic. This makes it more expensive for governments to borrow money and could be one reason why the Centre is keen to bring down its fiscal deficit. 

    Why does the fiscal deficit matter?

    • There is a strong direct relationship between the government’s fiscal deficit and inflation in the country. When a country’s government runs a persistently high fiscal deficit, this can eventually lead to higher inflation as the government will be forced to use fresh money issued by the central bank to fund its fiscal deficit. 
    • The fiscal deficit also signals to the market the degree of fiscal discipline maintained by the government. A lower fiscal deficit may thus help improve the ratings assigned to the Indian government’s bonds. When the government is able to fund more of its spending through tax revenues and borrow less, this gives more confidence to lenders and drives down the government’s borrowing cost. 
    • A high fiscal deficit can also adversely affect the ability of the government to manage its overall public debt.  
    • A lower fiscal deficit may help the government to more easily sell its bonds overseas and access cheaper credit.  

    Future course of action

    • The Centre plans to bring down its fiscal deficit in 2024-25 to 5.1% of GDP despite having plans to boost capital expenditure and to spend on other programmes. So, most of the revenue to fund such spending will have to come from tax collections. 
    •  The Centre expects tax collections to rise by 11.5% in 2024-25. It has also projected a cut in expenditure on fertilizer subsidy, from ₹1.88 lakh crore in 2023-24 to ₹1.64 lakh crore in 2024-25. The amount spent on food subsidy is also projected to drop from ₹2.12 lakh crore in 2023-24, to ₹2.05 lakh crore in 2024-25. Trying to balance the budget primarily through raising tax rates to increase tax collections, however, could come at the cost of economic growth since taxes can act as a dampener on economic activity. 
    • There is no guarantee, however, that the government will be able to meet its fiscal deficit target, which is seen as ambitious by many, as its projections may turn out to be wrong. 

    2 . Disputes over Varanasi and Mathura Mosques


    Context: Civil suits questioning the religious character of mosques at Varanasi and Mathura are progressing apace. 

    Why was the Places of Worship Act enacted?  

    • When the Babri-Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi dispute gained momentum, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Hindu organisations took up the case of two other mosques — the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah in Mathura. 
    • In 1991, the P.V. Narasimha Rao government enacted a special law to freeze the status of places of worship as they were on August 15, 1947. The law kept the disputed structure at Ayodhya out of its purview as it was then an ongoing litigation. 

    What are the Act’s main features?  

    • The Act declares that the religious character of a place of worship shall continue to be the same as it was on August 15, 1947. It says that no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section. 
    • It declares that all suits, appeals or any other proceedings regarding converting the character of a place of worship, which are pending before any court or authority on August 15, 1947, will abate as soon as the law comes into force. No further legal proceedings can be instituted.  
    • There are a couple of exceptions to the rule. The 1991 Act will not apply to ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains that are covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. 
    • It will also not apply to any suit that has been finally settled or disposed of, any dispute that has been settled by the parties before the 1991 Act came into force, or to the conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence. 

    What is the status of the ongoing cases on the Gyanvapi mosque?  

    • A suit was filed in 2022 in the Varanasi district court by a group of Hindu women worshippers seeking to assert their right to worship deities they claim are still found on the premises of the Gyanvapi mosque. The plaintiffs say they have a right to worship Ma Sringar Gauri, Ganesh, Hanuman and other “visible and invisible” deities. Also pending is another batch of suits filed in 1991 seeking a declaration that a part of the site of the Gyanvapi mosque belongs to Lord Vishweshwar.  
    • The main basis for the suits is that the Hindu side says that an old temple of Lord Vishweshwar lies at the centre of the Gyanvapi compound. The site, they contend, is the abode of the ‘self-manifested’ deity since time immemorial. They claim that the temple was demolished on the order of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1669. 
    • So far, court orders have favoured the position that these suits are not barred by the Places of Worship Act. On the district court’s order, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has conducted a survey of the premises. 
    • The ASI’s report, submitted to the Varanasi district court, claims that a temple existed there prior to the construction of the mosque. 
    • Subsequently, the court has allowed the conduct of Hindu prayers at a cellar on the premises. 
    • The order allowing Hindu prayers has been questioned by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which administers the Gyanvapi mosque. 
    • The suits in Mathura pertain to the Shahi Idgah mosque that stands adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple there. These suits claim that the mosque was built over the birthplace of Lord Krishna. 
    • The mosque committee, however, denies the allegation.  The dispute was settled through a compromise between the Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan and the Shahi Idgah Trust in 1968, and implemented through a decree in 1974. 
    • As part of the settlement, the Sansthan had given up a portion of the land to the Idgah. The current suits challenge this compromise as ‘fraudulent’ and seek the transfer of the entire parcel of land to the deity. The Allahabad High Court has transferred to itself all suits pertaining to the Mathura dispute. 

    Why hasn’t the Act barred suits on Gyanvapi and Shahi Idgah?  

    • In both disputes, the respective mosque committees sought rejection of the suits on the ground that the Places of Worship Act prohibits such litigation. However, court orders so far say the Act does not bar these suits and that they must go on. 
    • In the Gyanvapi worshippers’ case, the ruling is that the suits aimed to assert the right of worship of the Hindu deities and did not seek to convert the status of the mosque. Regarding the earlier batch of suits, the Allahabad High Court has taken the view that the Act does not define the term ‘religious character’. 
    •  A structure cannot have the dual character of being both Hindu and Muslim, and that only an examination of evidence can determine its religious character. The Act cannot be an absolute bar on proceedings to ascertain its religious character, it held. 
    • Regarding the Mathura dispute, the district court has taken the view that the suits are not barred by the Places of Worship Act, as what is under challenge is the compromise decree based on the 1968 agreement. As the decree was drawn up before the commencement of the 1991 Act, it is not applicable to the case, it has held. 

    3 . National Credit Framework


    Context: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has urged principals of schools affiliated to the board to start contemplating the pattern for allocating credits to students for subjects, in line with the National Credit Framework (NCrF). 

    What is NCrF? 

    • The National Credit Framework (NCrF) is a single meta-framework that works on the accumulation of credits earned through school education, higher education and vocational & skill education.  
    • Under this system credit will be assigned to academic learning and skill learning. 

    How was NCrF formulated? 

    • The credit system is already being followed by IITs, IIMs, NITs and other INIs 
    • The National Credit Framework (NCrF) is developed by the collective efforts of the UGC, AICTE, NCVET, NCERT, CBSE and NIOS. 

    What are the benefits of NCrF? 

    • To remove the separations between educational streams, General and Vocational education, Curricular & other activities. 
    • Establishing equivalence between general and vocational education & training/skilling. 
    • Mobility between and within General and vocational education & training/skilling 
    • Provisions for lifelong learning through multiple entry and multiple exit(ME-ME) options. 
    • The credit framework provides for a comprehensive and practical approach to include all dimensions of learning i.e. academic education, skilling and experiential learning including relevant experience and professional levels acquired. 

    What are the different NCrF Credit Levels? 

    • The NCrF has proposed that the maximum levels within this framework shall uniformly be up to level 8.  
    • The assignment of Credit levels under NCrF will be based on the cumulative number of years of learning with an assessmenti.  
    • The credit level that can be attained after completion of school education i.e. grade 5th will be level 1, grade 8th will be level 2, grade 10th will be level 3 and grade 12th will be level 4.ii. The higher education shall be from credit levels of 4.5 and to level 8. 
    •  For Vocational Education, Training and Skilling, the NCrF credit levels are from level 1 to 8 wherein level 1 is of the lowest level of competence and complexity while level 8 indicates the highest level of competence and complexity. 

    What is a Notional Learning Hour? 

    • Notional hours refer to the time that the average student would need to attend all classes, study for tests and do assignments and homework. 
    • The total Notional Learning Hours for one year of education/ learning across school education, higher education and vocational education, training and skilling have been agreed to be 1200 Hrs per year for the purpose of assignment of credits for which the students/ learners shall be awarded 40 Credits subject to assessment. 

    How the credits will be stored and redeemed? 

    • The credits earned after the completion of academic education, vocational education, training & Skill education – the collected credits will be stored in the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC). 

    4 . Facts for Prelims


    Dusted Apollo

    • Dusted Apollo (Parnassius stenosemus), is an extremely rare high-altitude butterfly. 
    • It has been sighted and photographed for the first time in Himachal Pradesh, indicating the flourishing diversity of Apollo butterflies in the region. 

    Kalaripayattu 

    • Considered among the oldest and most scientific martial arts in the world, Kalaripayattu was developed in Kerala. Lauded as the pride of Kerala, it is acknowledged and respected across the world.  
    • The training begins with an oil massage of the entire body until it is agile and supple. Feats like chattom (jumping), ottam (running) and marichil (somersault) are also integral parts of the art form. There are also lessons in using weapons like swords, daggers, spears, maces, and bows and arrows.  
    • The primary aim is the ultimate coordination between mind and body. Another focus of Kalaripayattu is specialisation in indigenous medicinal practices. Kalaris are also important centres of religious worship. Once the course is complete, one should engage in oil massage and practice to maintain shape.   

    Gatka 

    • Gatka is a form of martial art associated primarily with the Sikhs of the Punjab and other related ethnic groups, such as Hindkowans. 
    • It is a style of stick-fighting, with wooden sticks intended to simulate swords. 
    • The Punjabi name, gatka, refers to the wooden stick used and this term might have originated as a diminutive of a Sanskrit word, gada, meaning “mace 
    • Gatka’s theory and techniques were taught by the Sikh gurus. 
    • After the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the art was banned by the new British administrators of India in the mid-19th century 

     Mallakhamb 

    • Mallakhamb is a form of ancient martial arts intended as a training aid for wrestlers and ancient warriors. 
    • ‘Malla’ literally means wrestling and ‘khamb’ translates to pole. Together, mallakhamb means wrestling on a pole. Wrestlers and warriors used to use the pole as a training apparatus to perfect martial arts moves which they could later use on opponents in the ring or the battlefield. 
    • Rules 
      • The rules of mallakhamb are fairly simple and close to gymnastics. 
      • Participants need to perform acrobatic feats with a vertical pole or rope as the prop and judges score them according to their mastery over the skills. 
      • Competitors are mainly judged on five different categories – mounting (where performers jump on and run on the pole), acrobatics (where performers execute acrobatic flips, turns and twists on the pole), catches (where performers catch the pole after being airborne), balances (where performers showcase their balance on the pole) and dismounts (where performers jump off gracefully from the top of the pole). 
      • Judges score each competitor during a performance and the one with the highest score is declared the winner. 

    Thang-ta  

    • Thang Ta – is an ancient Manipuri Martial Art developed from the war environment of Manipur & created by the Meitei. Thang Ta was also known as Huyen Lallong which means ‘The art of sword and the spear’. 
    • The art developed from the war environment of Manipur. It played an important role in the geopolitical environment of medieval times in between India and China with many independent states at war with each other. 

    Grammy Awards  

    • The Grammy Awards are awards presented by the Recording Academy of the United States to recognize “outstanding” achievements in the music industry.   
    • They are regarded by many as the most prestigious and significant awards in the music industry worldwide.   
    • They were originally called the Gramophone Awards, as the trophy depicts a gilded gramophone.   
    • The Grammys are the first of the Big Three networks’ major music awards held annually and are considered one of the four major annual American entertainment awards with the Academy Awards (for films), the Emmy Awards (for television), and the Tony Awards (for theater). 
    • Indian musicians Shankar Mahadevan and Zakir Hussain’s fusion band ‘Shakti’ bagged the Grammy’s award for ‘Best Global Music Album’ this year. The award was for their latest album ‘This Moment’. 

    RISC 5

    • The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Academy of Military Sciences had used an open-source standard known as RISC-V to reduce malfunctions in chips for cloud computing and smart cars 
    • RISC-V is an instruction set architecture, a computer language used to design anything from smartphone chips to advanced processors for artificial intelligence. 
    • The most common standards are controlled by Western companies: x86, dominated by U.S. firms Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, and Arm, developed by Britain’s Arm Holdings, owned by SoftBank Group. Arm and x86 are closed architectures, meaning they are proprietary and charge users a license fee. 
    • RISC-V is free to use and has a simpler outline, often leading to more energy-efficient chips, and users can build atop the framework to suit their needs. 

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