Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- RBI Monetary Policy
- Mutual Logistic Agreement with Vietnam
- Environment Performance Index
- Minimum Support Price
- Presidential Polls
- Cancer Cure Medicine
- Facts for Prelims
1 . RBI Monetary Policy
Context : The Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to raise the repo rate
Details of the Monetary Policy
- Repo rate will be increased by 50 basis points to 4.90% in a bid to slow inflation which it estimates will average 7.5% in the current April-June quarter.
- The MPC also decided to remain focused on the withdrawal of accommodation which had been provided to support the COVID-19 hit economy, to ensure that inflation remains within the target going forward, while supporting growth
- Based on the assumption of a normal monsoon in 2022, and average crude oil price (Indian basket) of $105 per barrel, retail inflation was now projected at 6.7% in 2022-23, with Q1 at 7.5%; Q2 at 7.4%; Q3 at 6.2%; and Q4 at 5.8%, with risks evenly balanced, about 75% of the increase in inflation projections could be attributed to the food group
- The MPC retained its forecast for real GDP growth for 2022-23 at 7.2%. Output would expand by 16.2% in Q1, by 6.2% in Q2, 4.1% in Q3 and 4.0% in Q4
- RBI removed the word “accommodative” from the policy stance. The RBI’s policy panel, chaired by the RBI Governor, has decided to remain focused on withdrawal of accommodation to ensure that inflation remains within the target. The RBI had pumped huge liquidity into the system in 2020 to counter the impact of the pandemic. While this did support econonic recovery, it has also been the main reason for the rise in inflation.
What will be the impact?
- Equated monthly instalments (EMIs) on home, vehicle and other personal and corporate loans are likely to go up. Deposit rates are also set to rise after the Repo rate hike
- By hiking the Repo rate, the RBI is aiming to keep inflation – which is already close to 7 per cent — at its desired level, and control and monitor money flow into the banking system at a time when the global economy is facing turbulent times.
What does the Repo rate hike mean?
- Repo rate refers to the rate at which the RBI lends to commercial banks. When interest rates are raised, it makes money more expensive, thereby resulting in reduction of demand in the economy and bringing down inflation.
- The hike in Repo rate – the key policy rate of RBI or the rate at which it lends to banks – means the cost of funds for banks will go up. This will prompt banks and NBFCs to raise the lending and deposit rates in the coming days. However, analysts say that consumption and demand can be impacted by the Repo rate hike. The RBI last hiked the Repo rate by 25 bps to 6.50 per cent in August 2018
Policy Stances of RBI
- Accommodative Stance
- Accommodative stance means the central bank is telling the market to expect a rate cut anytime
- Usually, this policy is adopted when there is slowdown in the economy.
- Neutral stance
- Neutral stance doesn’t have any particular meaning. This means anything can happen anytime means the RBI would have the flexibility to either increase or decrease the policy rates
- Tight and Calibrated Tightening stance
- Tight – It indicates an impending rate hike
- Calibrated Tightening – RBI would either keep the rates constant or increase the rates.
2 . Mutual Logistic Agreement with Vietnam
Context : India and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on mutual logistics support during the ongoing visit of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to the Southeast Asian nation.
About Mutual Logistic Agreement with Vietnam
- Logistics agreements are administrative arrangements facilitating access to military facilities for exchange of fuel and provisions on mutual agreement simplifying logistical support and increasing operational turnaround of the military when operating away from India.
- India has signed several logistics agreements including with all Quad countries, France, Singapore and South Korea beginning with the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. in 2016.
- The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on mutual logistics support is the first such major agreement that Vietnam has signed with any country.
- This is significant as it allows Indian warships and military planes to re-fuel and seek supplies at the Vietnamese bases.
3 . Environment Protection Index
Context : The newly released Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022, measured by Yale and Columbia universities, ranks India at the bottom position among 180 countries. The Environment Ministry has issued a rebuttal saying the indicators used in the assessment are based on “unfounded assumptions”.
So, what is the Environmental Performance Index?
- The EPI is an international ranking system of countries based on their environmental health.
- It is a biennial index, first started in 2002 as the Environment Sustainability Index by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia University Center for International Earth Information Network.
- EPI 2022 uses 40 performance indicators to assess and rank 180 countries.
- The report says it uses the most recent data, and the indicators “measure how close countries are to meeting internationally established sustainability targets for specific environmental issues”.
- The 40 indicators are under the broad categories of climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality.
- The 2022 EPI has included new parameters to its earlier assessments, with projections of progress towards net-zero emissions in 2050, as well as new air quality indicators, and sustainable pesticide use.
EPI assessment of India?
- With a rank of 180 and a score of 18.9, India has fallen from rank 168 and a score of 27.6 in 2020.
- India comes after Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar, the poorest performers. Denmark tops the list with a score of 77.9.
- India ranks close to the bottom on a number of indicators including ecosystem vitality (178th), biodiversity (179th), biodiversity habitat index (170th), species protection index (175th), wetland loss, air quality (179th), PM 2.5 (174th), heavy metals such as lead in water (174th), waste management (151st) and climate policy (165th) including projected greenhouse gas emissions (171st).
- India has also scored low on rule of law, control of corruption and government effectiveness, according to the report.
Objections raise by India against EPI
- According to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change: “Some of these indicators used for assessing performance are extrapolated and based on surmises and unscientific methods.”
- Ministry officials cited two major concerns – that baseline data does not seem to have been used, and that there has been no explanation for the weightages assigned to certain indicators.
- The Ministry said the shifting of weightage on many indicators has resulted in India’s low ranking. For example, for black carbon growth, India’s score actually improved from 32 in 2020 to 100 (the top score) in 2022, but the weightage of this indicator has been reduced to 0.0038 in 2022 from 0.018 in 2020.
Objection with the Greenhouse Gas projections
- The government has objected to calculations of greenhouse gas projections for 2050, which ties into countries’ net zero goals. India has set a net zero target for 2070, unlike developed nations that have set 2050.
- The government said the projection for greenhouse gas emissions has been computed based on the average rate of change in emission of the last 10 years rather than modelling that takes into account a longer period, extent of renewable energy capacity and use, additional carbon sinks, energy efficiency etc.
- Crucial carbon sinks that mitigate GHG, such as forests and wetlands, have not been taken into account. India’s low emissions trajectory, unlike high historical trajectories of developed countries, has been ignored.
- The government has objected to the low weightage given to per-capita GHG emissions (2.6%).
- Among other objections raised: the index emphasises the extent of protected areas rather than the quality of protection that they afford; the computation of biodiversity indices does not factor in management effectiveness evaluation of protected areas the index computes the extent of ecosystems but not their condition or productivity; indicators such as agro biodiversity, soil health, food loss and waste are not included even though they are important for developing countries with large agrarian populations.
4 . Minimum Support Price
Context : The Union Cabinet on Wednesday raised the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy by ₹100 a quintal for the Kharif season of 2022-23. The rates for 14 crops have been increased in the range of 4% to 8%.
What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
- Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
- MSP is the minimum price set by the Government at which farmers can expect to sell their produce for the season.
- When market prices fall below the announced MSPs, procurement agencies step in to procure the crop and ‘support’ the prices. Hence minimum support prices are a guarantee price for their produce from the Government.
- The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution.
- In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.
- The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs announces MSP for various crops at the beginning of each sowing season based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- The FCI and Nafed help the Centre procure select food crops with the help of the States. Procured farm products are kept in government warehouses and distributed through the PDS and various food security programmes.
- Currently, there are 20-plus crops that have an MSP announced for them every year before the beginning of the kharif and rabi seasons.
Factors taken into consideration for fixing MSP include:
In formulating the recommendations in respect of the level of minimum support prices and other non-price measures, the Commission takes into account, apart from a comprehensive view of the entire structure of the economy of a particular commodity or group of commodities, the following factors:-
- Cost of production
- Changes in input prices
- Input-output price parity
- Trends in market prices
- Demand and supply
- Inter-crop price parity
- Effect on industrial cost structure
- Effect on cost of living
- Effect on general price level
- International price situation
- Parity between prices paid and prices received by the farmers.
- Effect on issue prices and implications for subsidy
Cost of Production
- CACP considers both A2+FL and C2 costs while recommending MSPs. CACP reckons only A2+FL cost for return.
- However, C2 costs are used by CACP primarily as benchmark reference costs (opportunity costs) to see if the MSPs recommended by them at least cover these costs in some of the major producing States.
- The Union Budget for 2018-19 had announced the pre-determined principle to keep MSP at levels of one and half times of the cost of production. Accordingly, Government has increased the MSPs for all mandated Kharif, Rabi and other commercial crops with a return of atleast 50 per cent of cost of production for the agricultural year 2018-19.
- During 2019-20 also, Government has increased the MSP of all mandated kharif and rabi crops in line with the principle of fixing the MSP with a return of atleast 50 per cent of the cost of production.
Formulae to arrive at the cost of production
The CACP has three formulae to arrive at the cost of production: A2, A2+FL and C2.
- A2 costs cover all paid-out expenses, both in cash and kind, incurred by farmers on seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, hired labour, fuel and irrigation, among others.
- A2+FL covers actual paid-out costs plus an imputed value of unpaid family labour.
- C2 costs are more comprehensive, accounting for the rentals and interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets respectively, on top of A2 + FL
- Government announces minimum support prices (MSPs) for 22- 23 mandated crops and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane.
- The mandated crops are 14 crops of the kharif season, 6 rabi crops and two other commercial crops. In addition, the MSPs of toria and de-husked coconut are fixed on the basis of the MSPs of rapeseed/mustard and copra, respectively. The list of crops are as follows.
- Cereals (7) – paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi
- Pulses (5) – gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil
- Oilseeds (8) – groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and nigerseed
- Raw cotton
- Raw jute
- De-husked coconut
- Sugarcane (Fair and remunerative price)
- Virginia flu cured (VFC) tobacco
- Price volatility makes life difficult for farmers. Though prices of agri commodities may soar while in short supply, during years of bumper production, prices of the very same commodities plummet.
- MSPs ensure that farmers get a minimum price for their produce in adverse markets. MSPs have also been used as a tool by the Government to incentivise farmers to grow crops that are in short supply.
- The Government of India has an MSP for 23 crops, but procurement at the MSP is effectively limited to rice and wheat, and that too concentrated in a few States only.
- Some critics argue that a rise in the MSP will lead to increase in food inflation, while others that it will augment farmers’ income
- Substantial proportion of crops are sold to local private traders and input dealers to whom the resource-poor marginal and small landholders are obligated to sell their crops due to tie-up with credit.
- A vast majority of the farming population is unaware of its existence as per the National Sample Survey’s (NSS) Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households 2013, even for paddy and wheat, less than one-third of farmers were aware of the MSP; for other crops, such awareness was negligible.
- Kharif Crops: (crops means: when a similar plant grown on fields) that are sown in the rainy season from June to September are characterized as Kharif Crops. Groundnut, Paddy (rice), Maize all need more water to cultivate, so grown in the rainy season thus called Kharif Crops.
- In this crop category, we can include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi, arhar, soybean, groundnut, cotton etc.
- The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats, chickpea/gram, linseed, mustard etc.
5 . Presidential Polls
Context : On July 18, elected MLAs and MPs across the country will vote to elect India’s 15th President. Under Article 62(1) of the Constitution, “an election to fill a vacancy caused by the expiration of the term of office of President shall be completed before the expiration of the term
How is the President elected?
- The Indian President is elected through an electoral college system, wherein the votes are cast by national and State-level lawmakers. The elections are conducted and overseen by the Election Commission (EC) of India.
- The electoral college is made up of all the elected members of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs), and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of States and Union Territories (MLAs).
- Before the voting, comes the nomination stage, where the candidate intending to stand in the election, files the nomination along with a signed list of 50 proposers and 50 seconders. These proposers and seconders can be anyone from the total members of the electoral college from the State and national level.
- The rule for securing 50 proposers and seconders was implemented when the EC noticed, in 1974, that several candidates, many without even a bleak chance of winning, would file their nominations to contest the polls.
- An elector cannot propose or second the nomination of more than one candidate.
What is the value of each vote and how is it calculated?
- A vote cast by each MP or MLA is not calculated as one vote. There is a larger vote value attached to it.
- The value of the vote of an MP in a presidential election is based on the number of elected members in Legislative Assemblies of Sta- tes and Union Territories, including Delhi, Puducherry, and Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Electoral College for the presidential election comprises the members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and those of the Legislative Assemblies of the States and Union Territories.
- The votes are weighted, their value determined by the population of each state as per Census 1971.
- The value of each MLA’s vote varies from a high of 208 in Uttar Pradesh to a low of 7 in Sikkim.
- This means that UP’s 403 MLAs contribute 208 × 403 = 83,824 votes to the electoral pool, while Sikkim’s 32 MLAs contribute 32 × 7 = 224 votes. The weighted votes from all the Assemblies add up to 5.43 lakh.
- The process demands that the 776 MPs (543 in Lok Sabha, 233 in Rajya Sabha) should contribute the same total of votes as the MLAs. Thus, the value of each MP’s vote is 5.43 lakh divided by 776, rounded off to 700. The combined electoral pool from the Assemblies and Parliament adds up to 10.86 lakh.
What is required to secure a victory?
- A nominated candidate does not secure victory based on a simple majority but through a system of bagging a specific quota of votes. While counting, the EC totals up all the valid votes cast by the electoral college through paper ballots and to win, the candidate must secure 50% of the total votes cast + 1.
- Unlike general elections, where electors vote for a single party’s candidate, the voters of the electoral college write the names of candidates on the ballot paper in the order of preference.
6 . Dostarlimab
Context : In a medical trial, 12 patients in the United States were completely cured of rectal cancer without requiring any surgery or chemotherapy.
About the News
- The trial used a monoclonal antibody called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months for the treatment of a particular kind of stage two or three rectal cancer.
- The study was done by doctors from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, and its results have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
What are the findings?
- The trial showed that immunotherapy alone – without any chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery that have been staples of cancer treatment – could completely cure the patients with a particular kind of rectal cancer called ‘mismatch repair deficient’ cancer”.
- All 12 patients had completed the treatment and were followed for six to 25 months after.
- “No cases of progression or recurrence had been reported during the follow-up,” the study said. The response too was rapid, with symptoms resolving in 81% of the patients within nine weeks of starting the therapy.
- PD1 is a protein that regulates immune function and can sometimes keep T cells from killing cancer cells. The therapy in the trial used PD1 blockades, allowing T cells to kill cancer cells. (Source: National Cancer Institute, US)
What is this deficiency, and how was it cured?
- ‘Mismatch repair deficient’ cancer is most common among colorectal, gastrointestinal, and endometrial cancers. Patients suffering from this condition lack the genes to correct typos in the DNA that occur naturally while cells make copies.
- The immunotherapy belongs to a category called PD1 blockades that are now recommended for the treatment of such cancers rather than chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
- PD1 is a type of protein that regulates certain functions of the immune system, including by suppressing T cell activity, and PD1 blockade therapy looks to release the T cells from this suppression.
- “The anomalies in the DNA result in cancerous growths in patients with mismatch repair deficient cancers. If you imagine the immune system to be a car, PD1 acts as the brakes for the T cells of the immune system. By giving the PD1 blockades, we release the brakes and allow the T cells to destroy the cancerous growth
- India has a couple of PD1 blockades available, although not the one used for this study.
If PD1 therapy was already in use, what’s new in the trial?
- Earlier, this therapy was used post-surgery, but the study has shown that a surgery may not be required.
- “Although the therapy is usually used for cancers that have metastasised (spread to locations other than where the cancer formed), it is now recommended for all mismatch repair deficient cancers as they result in quicker improvement and lesser toxicity as compared to traditional chemo and radiotherapy. So far, we have been using the therapy after a patient undergoes surgery; it is used for 10 to 15 indications. This study shows that even the surgery was not needed in these patients
- Eliminating other treatments can improve a patient’s quality of life by preserving fertility, sexual health, and bladder and bowel functions.
7 . Facts for Prelims
- Subsection 1 of Article 142 (“Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and orders as to discovery, etc.”) says “the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe.”
- Essentially, this provision of the Constitution gives the country’s top court wide powers to do “complete justice” in a case.
- Article 142, which started out as draft article 118, was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on May 27, 1949.
- Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. Stronger forms of the drug include high potency strains – known as sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah), hashish (hash for short), and extracts.
- Recently Thailand legalized Marijuana (First country in Asia). The country is known for its Thai Stick variety, which is named after the way its potent flowers are dried and tied into sticks and is the origin of many strains now grown overseas.
- There are a few different ways people use marijuana:
- smoking hand-rolled cigarettes called joints or marijuana cigars called blunts (often made by slicing open cigars and replacing some or all of the tobacco with marijuana)
- inhaling smoke using glass pipes or water pipes called bongs
- inhaling vapor using devices that pull the active ingredients (including THC) from the marijuana into the vapor. Some vaporizers use a marijuana liquid extract.
- drinking tea brewed with marijuana or eating food with marijuana cooked into it, sometimes called edibles—such as brownies, cookies, or candy.
- These extracts made from the marijuana plant should not be confused with “synthetic marijuana,” sometimes called “K2,” “Spice,” or “herbal incense.” These synthetic drugs are laboratory-made chemicals similar to THC that are sprayed onto plant materials to make it look like marijuana, but are often much stronger and very dangerous.
- The plant contains chemicals—called cannabinoids—that may be useful for treating a range of illnesses or symptoms