1. RBI keeps policy rates unchanged
It retains GDP growth projection for 2021-22 at 10.5%, despite COVID-19 surge
The Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to leave the policy repo rate unchanged at 4%, Governor Shaktikanta Das announced on Wednesday.
“It also unanimously decided to continue with the accommodative stance as long as necessary to sustain growth on a durable basis and continue to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, while ensuring that inflation remains within the target going forward,” he added.
Observing that the economic prospects for 2021-22 had strengthened with the progress of the vaccination programme, Mr. Das said the recent surge in infections had, however, “imparted greater uncertainty to the outlook and it needs to be closely watched, especially as localised and regional lockdowns could dampen the recent improvement in demand conditions and delay the return of normalcy.”
The MPC had, therefore, decided to retain the accommodative policy stance “till the prospects of sustained recovery” were well secured, he added.
Mr. Das stressed that the focus must now be on containing the spread of the virus as well as on economic revival by consolidating the gains achieved so far and sustaining the impulses of growth in the new financial year.
“A key aspect of this strategy will be to strengthen the bedrock of macroeconomic stability that has anchored India’s revival from the pandemic. This will help stakeholders in taking efficient spending decisions over longer horizons, thereby improving the investment climate,” he said.
Mr. Das said the RBI is optimistic about a pick-up in demand and expansion of business activity this year.
“Rural demand remains buoyant and record agriculture production in 2020-21 bodes well for its resilience. Urban demand has gained traction and should get a fillip with the ongoing vaccination drive,” he added.
Taking various factors into consideration, the projection of real GDP growth for 2021-22 has been retained at 10.5% consisting of 26.2% in Q1; 8.3% in Q2; 5.4% in Q3; and 6.2% in Q4, Mr. Das said.
The RBI Governor said that while headline inflation at 5.0% in February 2021 remained within the tolerance band, some underlying constituents were testing the upper tolerance level.
Taking into consideration various factors, the RBI had revised the projection for CPI inflation to 5.0% in Q4 of 2020-21; 5.2 % in Q1 of 2021-22; 5.2% in Q2; 4.4% in Q3; and 5.1% in Q4, with risks broadly balanced, he said.
Based on its experience last year, the RBI had also decided to put in place a secondary market G-sec acquisition programme or G-SAP 1.0, whereby the central bank would commit upfront to a specific amount of open market purchases of government securities with a view to enabling a stable and orderly evolution of the yield curve amid comfortable liquidity conditions. “The endeavour will be to ensure congenial financial conditions for the recovery to gain traction,” Mr. Das said.
For Q1, it had been decided to announce a G-SAP of ₹1 lakh crore. The first purchase of government securities for an aggregate amount of ₹25,000 crore under G-SAP 1.0 would be conducted on April 15, he said.
“The Reserve Bank will, of course, continue to do whatever it takes to preserve financial stability and to insulate domestic financial markets from global spillovers and the consequent volatility,” Mr. Das emphasised.
Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)
The RBI has a government-constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) which is tasked with framing monetary policy using tools like the repo rate, reverse repo rate, bank rate, cash reserve ratio (CRR).
It has been instituted by the Central Government of India under Section 45ZB of the RBI Act that was amended in 1934.
The MPC is entrusted with the responsibility of deciding the different policy rates including MSF, Repo Rate, Reverse Repo Rate, and Liquidity Adjustment Facility.
Composition of MPC
- The committee will have six members. Of the six members, the government will nominate three. No government official will be nominated to the MPC.
- The other three members would be from the RBI with the governor being the ex-officio chairperson. Deputy governor of RBI in charge of the monetary policy will be a member, as also an executive director of the central bank.
Selection and term of members
Selection: The government nominees to the MPC will be selected by a Search-cum-Selection Committee under Cabinet Secretary with RBI Governor and Economic Affairs Secretary and three experts in the field of economics or banking or finance or monetary policy as its members.
Term: Members of the MPC will be appointed for a period of four years and shall not be eligible for reappointment.
How decisions are made?
Decisions will be taken by majority vote with each member having a vote.
RBI governor’s role: The RBI Governor will chair the committee. The governor, however, will not enjoy a veto power to overrule the other panel members, but will have a casting vote in case of a tie.
What is RBI Monetary Policy?
The term ‘Monetary Policy’ is the Reserve Bank of India’s policy pertaining to the deployment of monetary resources under its control for the purpose of achieving GDP growth and lowering the inflation rate.
The Reserve Bank of India Act 1934 empowers the RBI to make the monetary policy.
What the Monetary Policy intends to achieve?
As per the suggestions made by Chakravarty Committee, aspects such as price stability, economic growth, equity, social justice, and encouraging the growth of new financial enterprises are some crucial roles connected to the monetary policy of India.
- While the Government of India tries to accelerate the GDP growth rate of India, the RBI keeps trying to bring down the rate of inflation within a sustainable limit.
- In order to achieve its main objectives, the Monetary Policy Committee determines the ideal policy interest rate that will help achieve the inflation target in front of the country.
Monetary Policy Instruments and how they are managed?
Monetary policy instruments are of two types namely qualitative instruments and quantitative instruments.
The list of quantitative instruments includes Open Market Operations, Bank Rate, Repo Rate, Reverse Repo Rate, Cash Reserve Ratio, Statutory Liquidity Ratio, Marginal standing facility and Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF).
Qualitative Instruments refer to direct action, change in the margin money and moral suasion.
2. Govt. mulling ways to boost yield from poppy
In a departure from the past, the Centre is planning to rope in the private sector to boost extraction of alkaloids
The Union government has decided to rope in the private sector to commence production of concentrated poppy straw from India’s opium crop to boost the yield of alkaloids, used for medical purposes and exported to several countries.
Among the few countries permitted to cultivate the opium poppy crop for export and extraction of alkaloids, India currently only extracts alkaloids from opium gum at facilities controlled by the Revenue Department in the Finance Ministry. This entails farmers extracting gum by manually lancing the opium pods and selling the gum to government factories.
The Ministry has now decided to switch to new technologies, after trial cultivation reports submitted last year by two private firms showed higher extraction of alkaloids using the concentrated poppy straw (CPS).
“While alkaloid extraction from the current opium crop using the CPS was found more than opium gum, it is possible to have two or three crop cycles in one year if we use CPS varieties of seeds that can be grown in indoor greenhouses too,” said an official aware of the development.
The outcome of the two trials conducted in the crop years of 2017-18 and 2018-19 were received in February 2020 and June 2020.
India’s opium crop acreage has been steadily declining over the years and using the CPS extraction method is expected to help cut the occasional dependence on imports of products like codeine (extracted from opium) for medicinal uses.
While roping in private players to partner with the government in producing CPS and extracting alkaloids from it is likely to require amendments to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, the Department has decided to appoint a consultant to help frame the bidding parameters and concession agreements for the same.
“The consultant will be required to help frame the modalities for this endeavour, with an appropriate model including public-private partnership (PPP), advise on the changes needed to the rules and laws to facilitate this, and recommend security measures to protect the crop and the final product,” the official said.
The firms carrying out the trials faced legal hassles in terms of getting relevant licences from the State governments to manufacture bulk alkaloids on their premises, which will need to be ironed out. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are the three traditional opium-growing States, where poppy cultivation is allowed based on licences issued annually by the Central Bureau of Narcotics.
As per the trials’ findings, the imported seeds of certain CPS varieties worked effectively in Indian fields and their narcotic raw material yield was much higher from imported seeds instead of those used currently.
“One of the firms purchased poppy straw of locally cultivated crop to analyse the yield from the same crop with the CPS method. They also cultivated CPS with hydroponic and aeroponic methods under a greenhouse environment. The other firm imported seeds from the U.K. and Australia, and carried out cultivation in association with an agriculture university,” the official said.
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act)
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 or the NDPS Act is the legislation that deals with narcotic drug or psychotropic substance prohibition in India.
The NDPS Act prohibits a person from the production/manufacturing/cultivation, possession, sale, purchasing, transport, storage, and/or consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
- Initially enacted in 1985, the Act was amended three times in 1988, 2001 and 2014.
- According to the Act, narcotic drugs include coca leaf, cannabis (hemp), opium, and poppy straw; and psychotropic substances include any natural or synthetic material or any salt or preparation protected by the Psychotropic Substances Convention of 1971.
- A psychotropic drug includes any natural or synthetic material or any salt or preparation protected by the Psychotropic Substances Convention of 1971.
- The penalties under this Act are severe considering the consequences of drug abuse and its trafficking.
- The offences under the Act attract jail terms ranging from one year to 20 years and fine depending on the crime.
- Under the Act, abetment, criminal conspiracy and even attempts to commit an offence attract the same punishment as the offence itself.
- Preparation to commit an offence attracts half the penalty.
- Repeat offences attract one and a half times the penalty and in some cases, the death penalty.
- The Narcotics Control Bureau was constituted in 1986 under the provisions of the NDPS Act.
- The NCB is a nodal agency that is responsible for coordination with various ministries, other offices & State/Central enforcement agencies with regard to drug law enforcement and also in respect of matters relating to drug abuse.
- Under the Act, property acquired by a person from drug-related offences, who has been convicted under the Act can be seized, frozen and forfeited by the government.
- All the offences under the NDPS Act are non-bailable.
- Also, no relief can be sought by the drug convicts by termination, remission, and commutation of sentences passed.
The Act has been amended thrice as mentioned above. The 2014 amendment eased restrictions on Essential Narcotic Drugs (Morphine, Fentanyl and Methadone), making them more accessible for use in pain relief and palliative care.
Drug Control Legislation in India – Background
There were no laws regulating narcotics in India till 1985 when the NDPS Act was passed. Smoking of cannabis has been mentioned in the Atharva Veda and its recreational use was common and accepted in society on a par with alcohol consumption. Until 1985, cannabis and its derivatives like hashish, marijuana, bhang, etc. were sold legally in the country.
The NDPS Act was enacted to fulfill India’s treaty obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Drug abuse is a huge socio-economic problem in India and the government is taking several measures to reduce drug demand and promote rehabilitation of drug addicts into society.
The National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) works towards these objectives.
NDPS Act Criticism
The Act has received criticism from various quarters for not distinguishing between soft drugs and hard drugs. Some claim that the same punishment for all drugs would lead drug dealers to shift to harder drugs where they can make better profits. Some have criticised the ban on cannabis as ‘elitist’. Some people recommend making soft drugs legal saying that it might reduce heroin addiction. However, the counterclaim to this is that soft drugs are gateway drugs whose consumption would increase the chances of the person using hard drugs later on.
3. Incentives for solar energy sector
The scheme aims to make manufacturing in India globally competitive
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved two production-linked incentive schemes for white goods (air-conditioners and LED lights) and high-efficiency solar photovoltaic modules.
The Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, took another step towards the vision of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India) with the approval for the ₹6,238-crore PLI scheme for air-conditioners and LEDs, a government statement said.
“The prime objective of the PLI scheme is to make manufacturing in India globally competitive by removing sectoral disabilities, creating economies of scale and ensuring efficiencies. It is designed to create complete component ecosystem in India and make India an integral part of the global supply chains,” the government said.
The scheme would extend an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales of goods made in India for five years. The statement said the scheme was estimated to lead to incremental investment of ₹7,920 crore over five years and lead to production worth ₹1.68 lakh crore, as well as lead to 4 lakh jobs.
The Cabinet also approved a proposal of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for a PLI scheme for high efficiency solar PV modules with an outlay of ₹4,500 crore.
“Solar capacity addition presently depends largely upon imported solar PV cells and modules as the domestic manufacturing industry has limited operational capacities of solar PV cells and modules. The National Programme on High Efficiency Solar PV Modules will reduce import dependence in a strategic sector like electricity. It will also support the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative,” the government said.
The scheme was expected to lead to 10,000 MW of additional capacity of solar PV plants and investment of around ₹17,200 crore in solar PV manufacturing projects, it said.
The scheme would lead to direct employment of 30,000 people and indirect jobs to 1.2 lakh.
India’s Renewable Energy Plan
- Dedicated Project Development Cells have been established to facilitate investors ensuring ‘Ease of Doing Business’.
- India’s renewable power capacity is the fourth largest in the world and is growing at the fastest speed among all major countries.
- India is a big market and a lot of countries are attracted towards it in terms of One Sun, One World, One Grid and International Solar Alliance.
- The renewable energy capacity in India is currently 136 Giga Watts, which is about 36% of its total capacity.
- Target for capacity increase is 450GW by 2030, increasing 25GW every year as we move forward.
- Per capita consumption of energy in India is quite low as compared globally.
- Power sector, being primarily dependent on fossil fuels, is one of prime sources of air pollution.
Why Renewable Energy
- Sustainable: Energy generated from renewable sources will be cleaner and greener and more sustainable.
- Employment opportunities: Inclusion of a newer technology simply means more employment opportunities for the working population of the country.
- Market assurance: From the economy point of view, renewable sources provide the market and revenue assurance which no other resources can provide.
- Power supply: Providing 24*7 power supply to 100% of the households, sustainable form of transports are some of the goals that can only be achieved through sustainable power that comes from renewables.
- PLI Scheme: The Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) scheme is an excellent initiative of the Government of India with respect to enhancing the manufacturing sector.
- The scheme proposes a financial incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in the electronics value chain including electronic components and semiconductor packaging.
- Pradhan Mantri- Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan: PM- KUSUM aims to provide financial and water security to farmers through harnessing solar energy capacities of 25,750 MW by 2022.
- Solarisation of water pumps is a step in distributed power providing at the doorstep of the consumer.
- The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy on its website also hosts Akshay Urja Portal and India Renewable Idea Exchange (IRIX) Portal.
- IRIX is a platform that promotes the exchange of ideas among energy conscious Indians and the Global community.
India’s Key Focus for Next Five Years
- The Twin Challenge: India has a twin challenge of providing more energy as well as cleaner energy to the masses in India.
- It should focus on getting into the manufacturing of the solar panels under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative as the demand is to create jobs as well as supply decentralised energy to all the households in India.
- Look and develop the entire supply chain of all the components beside the manufacturing sector.
- Methanol and Biomass: Looking for other alternatives such as methanol based economy and biomass.
- Bio-CNG vehicles with 20% blending in petrol is also a target the government has been chasing.
- Conversion of energy from Biomass is a considerable option as it will clean the cities as well as reduce our energy dependence.
- Fuels produced from biomass have a high calorific value and are cleaner than traditional biomass.
- Hydrogen based FCV: Hydrogen in technology is likely to change the landscape of renewables, shifting towards Hydrogen Based Fuel Cells Vehicles (FCV) is another area of focus.
- Grid Integration: It is the practice of developing efficient ways to deliver variable renewable energy (RE) to the grid.
- Identifying the demands which are in tune with the characteristics of the renewables, focussing on characteristics of renewables mainly solar and wind and considering their variability as strength rather than weakness.
Challenges with Renewable Energy
- Integration with the Main Grid: Integrating the renewables with the main grid is the area India needs to work upon.
- To accelerate the uptake of renewables, storage and battery solutions is needed in large quantities.
- Cost factor: Renewable resources are slightly more expensive than conventional sources.
- 24*7 Power Supply: Sustainable, round-the-clock power supply along with the storage system is a big challenge ahead.
- Agricultural Sector: Much power is consumed in the agricultural sector. The challenge is to provide sufficient power and energy to every household and to the agricultural sector as well.
4. Russia to supply military gear to Pakistan
Lavrov says both countries will boost ties in the fight against terror, hold joint military exercises
Russia’s Foreign Minister on Wednesday said Moscow and Islamabad would boost ties in the fight against terrorism, with Russia providing unspecified military equipment to Pakistan and the two holding joint exercises at sea and in the mountains.
Sergey Lavrov spoke on the second day of a two-day trip to Pakistan. It’s the first visit by a Russian Foreign Minister in nine years, part of an effort to improve ties. It comes as Moscow seeks to increase its stature in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. There, it has sought to inject itself as a key player in efforts to find a peaceful end to decades of war.
“We stand ready to strengthen the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including by supplying Pakistan with special military equipment,” Mr. Lavrov said, without going into detail about the equipment.
Washington is reviewing an agreement it signed more than a year ago with the Taliban as it rethinks a May 1 withdrawal of its soldiers. Meanwhile, Moscow has stepped up its involvement in Afghanistan, emerging as a significant player. Last month, it hosted talks between the Taliban and senior government officials, and Mr. Lavrov suggested another high-level meeting could again be held in Moscow.
Mr. Lavrov arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday from neighbouring India, with whom Moscow has had a long and solid relationship. The apparent reset in Pakistani-Russian relations, however, is by contrast a recent phenomena. In the 1980s, Pakistan was a staging arena for anti-communist Afghan rebels who were aided by the U.S. to oust the former Soviet Union, which negotiated an end to a 10-year occupation in 1989.
Russia is also building a gas pipeline between the southern port city of Karachi and eastern Lahore. Pakistan’s Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Islamabad will also buy 5 million doses of the Russian made COVID-19 Sputnik V vaccine, and expressed a desire to eventually manufacture it in Pakistan. He said Pakistan also wanted Russian expertise to modernise its antiquated railway system as well as its energy sector.
The visit underlines the waning influence of the U.S. in the region, while Russian and Chinese clout grows, says Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center.
“There’s a good reason why this is the first Russian Foreign Minister visit to Islamabad for nearly a decade: Russia-Pakistan relations are on the ascent,” he said. He also noted a new 25-year development agreement between Iran and China.
Pakistan also is a key player in China’s Belt and Road Initiative — a massive, cross-continental infrastructure development project aimed at expanding China’s commercial connections globally. “America will soon be ceding important real estate to its top rivals,” said Mr. Kugelman. “That’s the cost of an impending U.S. withdrawal from the region. But with the U.S. intent on pulling back, it is seemingly a cost it is willing to bear.”
5. Iranian ship attacked in Red Sea, report says it was Israeli payback
Vessel was deployed to safeguard shipping in the area: Tehran
An Iranian freighter was hit by an “explosion” in the Red Sea, Tehran said on Wednesday, after U.S. media reported Israel had struck the ship in retaliation for past Iranian strikes on its vessels.
Iran was at pains to stress that the freighter was a civilian ship, although other sources said it had been used by Iranian commandos as a base for shipping protection and other duties in the area.
The explosion comes at a sensitive time as U.S. President Joe Biden attempts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran which was strongly opposed by Israel and abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in 2018.
The blast struck the “Iranian commercial vessel” MV Saviz off the coast of Djibouti on Tuesday morning, Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh said, adding an inquiry had been opened into the cause.
“The accident caused no casualties and a technical investigation is under way to determine its circumstances and origin,” he said. “Our country will take all necessary steps through international bodies in this regard.”
Mr. Khatibzadeh said the Saviz was a “civilian vessel” that had been deployed in coordination with the International Maritime Organization to protect shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Many foreign governments have stationed protection vessels in the area since a rash of attacks by Somali pirates between 2000 and 2010.
“This ship has been serving as Iran’s logistics station — for technical and logistical support — in the Red Sea,” the spokesman added.
The New York Times cited a U.S. official as saying Israel had informed Washington it had struck the ship in “retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels”.
The paper said that according to the Israelis, “the Saviz had been damaged below the water line”.
There was no immediate reaction from the Israeli authorities to the Times report.
The Tasman Sea is a marginal sea of the South Pacific Ocean, situated between Australia and New Zealand. It measures about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) across and about 2,800 kilometres (1,700 mi) from north to south. The sea was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, who was the first recorded European to encounter New Zealand and Tasmania. The British explorer Captain James Cook later extensively navigated the Tasman Sea in the 1770s as part of his first voyage of exploration.
This inland sea of some 251,000 square kilometres (96,912 sq mi) is connected to the Gulf of Oman in the east by the Strait of Hormuz; and its western end is marked by the major river delta of the Shatt al-Arab, which carries the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Its length is 989 kilometres (615 miles), with Iran covering most of the northern coast and Saudi Arabia most of the southern coast. The Persian Gulf is about 56 km (35 mi) wide at its narrowest, in the Strait of Hormuz. The waters are overall very shallow, with a maximum depth of 90 metres (295 feet) and an average depth of 50 metres (164 feet).
Countries with a coastline on the Persian Gulf are (clockwise, from the north): Iran; Oman’s exclave Musandam; the United Arab Emirates; Saudi Arabia; Qatar, on a peninsula off the Saudi coast; Bahrain, on an island; Kuwait; and Iraq in the northwest. Various small islands also lie within the Persian Gulf, some of which are the subject of territorial disputes between the states of the region.
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant. The sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, although it is usually identified as a separate body of water.
The countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea are
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
In addition the Gaza Strip (“Palestine” has been associated with the geographical area that currently covers the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed inland body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world’s largest lake or a full-fledged sea. It is in an endorheic basin (a basin without outflows) located between Europe and Asia.
The Caspian Sea is bordered on the northwest by Russia, on the northeast by Kazakhstan, on the west by Azerbaijan, on the southeast by Turkmenistan, and on the south by Iran. It is classified as both a sea and a lake, and it is the largest enclosed inland body of water in the world.
The Red Sea (also the Erythraean Sea) is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. To the north lie the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez (leading to the Suez Canal). The sea is underlain by the Red Sea Rift which is part of the Great Rift Valley.
The salinity of the Red Sea is greater than the world average, approximately 4 percent. This is due to several factors:
- Lack of significant rivers or streams draining into the sea.
- Limited connection with the Indian Ocean, which has lower water salinity.
- High rate of evaporation and very little precipitation.
The six countries bordering the Red Sea proper are:
- Saudi Arabia
The Aral Sea was an endorheic lake lying between Kazakhstan (Aktobe and Kyzylorda Regions) in the north and Uzbekistan (Karakalpakstan autonomous region) in the south. The name roughly translates as “Sea of Islands”, referring to over 1,100 islands that once dotted its waters; in the Turkic languages aral means “island, archipelago”.
South China Sea
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi). The area’s importance largely results from one-third of the world’s shipping sailing through its waters and that it is believed to hold huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.
It is located
- south of China;
- east of Vietnam and Cambodia;
- northwest of the Philippines;
- east of the Malay peninsula and Sumatra, up to the Strait of Malacca in the western, and
- north of the Bangka–Belitung Islands and Borneo
The Ross Sea is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, between Victoria Land and Marie Byrd Land. It derives its name from the British explorer James Ross who visited this area in 1841. To the west of the sea lies Ross Island and to the east Roosevelt Island, while the southernmost part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf, and is about 200 miles (320 km) from the South Pole.
The Weddell Sea is part of the Southern Ocean and contains the Weddell Gyre. Its land boundaries are defined by the bay formed from the coasts of Coats Land and the Antarctic Peninsula. The easternmost point is Cape Norvegia at Princess Martha Coast, Queen Maud Land. To the east of Cape Norvegia is the King Haakon VII Sea. Much of the southern part of the sea is covered by a permanent, massive ice shelf field, the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf .
The sea is named after the Scottish sailor James Weddell, who entered the sea in 1823 and originally named it after King George IV; it was renamed in Weddell’s honour in 1900.
6. RBI extends fresh support of ₹50,000 cr. to NABARD, others
Panel to review ARCs in the works, priority sector rules to stay for 6 more months
To help mitigate the impact of the pandemic and aid economic revival, the RBI said it would extend fresh support of ₹50,000 crore to the All India Financial Institutions for new lending in FY22.
Accordingly, NABARD will be provided a special liquidity facility (SLF) of ₹25,000 crore for one year to support agriculture and allied activities, the rural non-farm sector and non-banking financial companies-micro finance institutions, the RBI said.
An SLF of ₹10,000 crore will be extended to the National Housing Bank for one year to support the housing sector. SIDBI will be provided ₹15,000 crore under this facility for up to one year for funding of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). All three facilities will be available at the prevailing policy repo rate.
Signalling the importance of Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) to deal with bad loans, the RBI said it would constitute a committee to undertake a comprehensive review of the working of ARCs in the financial sector ecosystem and recommend suitable measures for enabling such entities to meet the growing requirements of the financial sector.
It said while ARCs had grown in number and size, their potential for resolving stressed assets was yet to be realised fully.
A six-month extension to September 30 for Priority Sector Lending (PSL) classification for lending by banks to NBFCs for ‘on-lending’ to sectors that contribute significantly to the economy in terms of export and employment — has been approved.
This would provide an impetus to NBFCs providing credit at the bottom of the pyramid.
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has released a study named, ‘Achieving Nutritional Security in India: Vision 2030’, in December 2020. The report assesses the trends for nutritional security and identifies determining factors that have a significant effect on reducing malnutrition levels in India.
NABARD is India’s apex development bank – National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. With headquarters in Mumbai, NABARD has branches across India.
|Important Facts about NABARD|
|It came into existence on||12th July 1982|
|Its origin lies with||CRAFICARD was formed on 30th March 1979. B. Sivaraman was the chairman of the committee.|
|Who owns NABARD?||Government of India|
|What is the vision of NABARD?||Rural prosperity|
|Who are NABARD subsidiaries?||NABKISAN Finance Limited (NABKISAN) NABSAMRUDDHI Finance Limited (NSFL) NABFINS Limited (NABFINS) NABFOUNDATION NABCONS (NABARD Consultancy Services) NABVENTURES Limited NABSanrakshan Trustee Company Private Limited|
|Government Schemes with NABARD partnership||Dairy Entrepreneurship Development Scheme Commercial production units of organic inputs Agriclinic and Agribusiness Centres Scheme National Livestock Mission GSS – Ensuring End Use of Subsidy Released Interest subvention Scheme New Agricultural Marketing Infrastructure|
|NABARD Official Website||https://www.nabard.org/|
In the year 1982, CRAFICARD or the Committee to Review Arrangements of Institutional Credit for Agriculture and Rural Development recommended the establishment of a developmental bank and accordingly, NABARD was set up.
It was formed by a special parliamentary act. The chief focus of the organisation was the advancement of rural India by enhancing the flow of credit for the upliftment of agriculture as well as the rural non-agricultural sector.
Functions of NABARD
The functions of NABARD are described below.
- In order to build an empowered and financially inclusive rural India, NABARD has specific departments that work towards the desired goals. These departments can be collectively categorized into three majors units:
- The financial support necessary to build rural infrastructure is provided by NABARD.
- Preparation of district-level credit plans by NABARD are used to guide and motivate the banking industry to achieve required targets.
- NABARD also supervises the Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and Cooperative Banks along with developing their banking practices and integrating them to the Core Banking Solution (CBS) platform.
|What is the CBS platform? Core Banking Solution (CBS) is a networking of branches, which enables customers to operate their accounts, and avail banking services from any branch of the Bank on the CBS network, regardless of where he maintains his account. The customer is no longer the customer of a Branch. He becomes the Bank’s Customer.|
- NABARD also helps handicraft artisans sell their products by training and providing a marketing platform for them.
- NABARD has partnered with various leading global organisations and institutions affiliated with the World Bank that have played a role in transforming agriculture.
- It offers advisory services and financial assistance provided by these international partners to help in consultation with rural development and other agricultural practices.
Important Contributions of NABARD
|Kisan Credit Card Scheme: This scheme was introduced in 1998 in association with RBI to provide crop loans.||RuPay Kisan Cards: All farmer clients were provided with RuPay cards trying to bring a technological change in the rural financial sector.|
7. Editorial-1: Deconstructing declarations of carbon-neutrality
India should not join this game as it has to stay focused on development as its immediate need and aspirational goal
At the latest count by the non-profit Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), at the beginning of April, 32 countries had declared, in some documented form, their proposed intention to achieve carbon neutral status by mid-century or thereabouts. Of these, only eight have any firm status, the rest being in the form of proposed legislation or mentions in policy documents. Since some months ago, the UN Secretary General has taken the lead in sparking off an international chorus, led by global civil society organisations based in the developed countries and encouraged by their governments, that is urging all countries, especially India, to make explicit declarations.
The impetus for such declarations arises from Article 4.1 of the Paris Agreement that states that “In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty”.
The temperature goal referred to is the much better known declaration of intent of the Paris Agreement, of limiting temperature rise to well below 2°C and further pursuing efforts to restrict it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
It is evident that the balance of emissions and removal of greenhouse gases is not sought on a country-wise basis but for the world as a whole. Though both developed country governments and civil society outfits commonly state this as an individual commitment by all countries, the text of the Paris Agreement clearly indicates, based on considerations of equity and differentiation, that this is a global goal.
However, there are two, related and more critical, issues that are often ignored. The first is the compatibility of the intent of Article 4.1 and Article 2. Is the achievement of carbon neutrality compatible with achieving the 1.5°C or 2°C. goal? And whether the mid-century carbon neutrality goals of developed countries are compatible with Article 2.2 that declares that the Paris Agreement “will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances”.
Current pledges fall short
The hard scientific reality is that such a three-way compatibility between temperature goals, carbon neutrality, and equity is not only not guaranteed, but cannot be achieved for the 1.5°C temperature goal at all. And even for the 2°C goal, the current pledges are highly inadequate. This harsh conclusion follows from straightforward scientific considerations, based on the global carbon budget, which indicates the limits on global cumulative emissions, from the pre-industrial era to the time when net emissions cease, that correspond to definite levels of global temperature rise.
According to the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° warming, what remains of this global carbon budget from 2018 onwards, for a 50% probability of restricting temperature rise to less than 1.5°C, is 480 Giga-tonnes (billion tonnes) of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq). At the current rate of emissions of about 42 GtCO2eq per year, this budget would be consumed in 12 years. To keep within the 480 Gt budget, at a steady linear rate of decline, global carbon neutrality must be reached by 2039. While this is quite clearly infeasible, other pathways that either frontload or backload the period of most rapid decline have even greater barriers to realisation.
For a 50% probability of restricting temperature rise to below 2°C, the budget is considerably more generous, amounting to about 1,400 GtCO2eq, that provides considerably greater room for manoeuvre.
Emissions in the West
But the hollowness of nation-level carbon neutrality declarations by developed countries is brought out more starkly when we consider the details, as in the case of the United States and the European Union. Emissions in the U.S. (not considering land use and land use change and forest related emissions) (LULUCF), peaked in 2005 and have declined at an average rate of 1.1% from then till 2017, with a maximum annual reduction of 6.3% in 2009, at the height of a recession. Even if it did reach net-zero by 2050 at a steady linear rate of reduction, which is unprecedented, its cumulative emissions between 2018 and 2050 would be 106 GtCO2, which is 22% of the total remaining carbon budget for the whole world — so high, that unless others reduced emissions at even faster rates, the world would most certainly cross 1.5°C warming.
Indeed, if the U.S. has to stay within its fair share of the remaining carbon budget, it would have to reach net zero emissions (with linear reduction) by 2025. It would still owe a carbon debt of 470 GtCO2 to the rest of the world for having used more than its fair share of carbon space in the past. At a very moderate carbon price of $30 per tonne of CO2, this translates to a carbon debt of over $14 trillion, that the U.S. owes the world.
Similarly, the European Union, to keep to its fair share of the remaining carbon budget would have to reach net zero by 2033, with a constant annual reduction in emissions. Individual countries will have different dates for a fair net zero — Germany’s is 2030. If the EU reaches net zero only by 2050 it would consume at least 71 GtCO2, well above its fair share. Either way, the EU owes the world a carbon debt of about $9.3 trillion (at the same price of $ 30/tCO2) for past emissions.
Regrettably, a section of the climate policy modelling literature has promoted the illusion that this three-way compatibility is feasible through speculative “negative emissions”, ostensibly through dramatic expansion of carbon capture, primarily by the biosphere. They have also been promoting the other illusion that not resorting to any serious emissions increase at all is the means to guarantee the successful development of the Third World.
India has no carbon debt
India clearly should not join this game of carbon neutrality declarations, for a number of reasons. For one, India has to stay focused on development — both as its immediate need as well as its aspirational goal. While sustainability is desirable, the question of how low India’s future low-carbon development can be is highly uncertain. India’s current low carbon footprint is a consequence of the utter poverty and deprivation of a majority of its population, and not by virtue of sustainability.
Second, India does not owe a carbon debt to the world. India’s emissions (non-LULUCF) are no more than 3.5% of global cumulative emissions prior to 1990 and about 5% since till 2018. Nor are India’s current annual emissions such as to seriously dent the emissions gap between what the world needs and the current level of mitigation effort, even as India’s mitigation efforts are quite compatible with a 2°C target. Any self-sacrificial declaration of carbon neutrality today in the current international scenario would be a wasted gesture reducing the burden of the developed world and transferring it to the backs of the Indian people.
Much of the argument for India declaring a target year for net-zero derives unfortunately from some form of climate hubris, accompanied by the hype that India risks being “left out” of some imagined global convergence in the climate arena. One variant of the hubris sees India taking the lead in some global ecological alternative driven by frugality, minimal consumption and little technological advance. Another imagines that India will somehow, in very short order, emerge as a global leader of green manufacturing and industry. While the latter is belied by the character of India’s overall growth trajectory, the former is clearly socio-politically infeasible and morally unacceptable.
India’s twin burden of low-carbon development and adaptation to climate impacts, is onerous and no doubt requires serious, concerted action.
India’s approach to eventual net-zero emissions is contingent on deep first world emissions reductions and an adequate and unambiguous global carbon budget. Meanwhile, India must reject any attempt to restrict its options and be led into a low-development trap, based on pseudo-scientific narratives.
8. Editorial-2: Abortion is a woman’s right to decide
The amendment to the abortion laws retains the notion that the state must intervene in what is a woman’s absolute right
Given the phenomenal expansion in feminist jurisprudence over the last decade, particularly on the issue of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, it now appears quite plain that the central government’s amendment to the abortion laws not only retains the traditional notion that the state must intervene and decide for women as to when and in what circumstances abortions may be carried out, but even the pathetic measures set out in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 are too little and have come too late.
After much stonewalling
This government seems to be incompetent in understanding a woman’s right over her own body. The government’s conduct is particularly appalling since it comes after over a decade of procrastination and obstruction where indigent women in difficult circumstances tried to have abortions done and were stonewalled by government officials and prosecutors. The passing of this Act marks a new phase of the struggle to assert the absolute right of a woman over her body.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP) may have been considered progressive at that time considering that provisions in the Indian Penal Code regarding termination of pregnancy were enacted over a century ago in keeping with the British law on the subject. Abortions were made a crime and the woman concerned and her doctor would invariably land up in jail. Section 3 put an outer limit of 20 weeks on the length of the pregnancy and required two doctors to certify that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the woman or grave injury to her physical or mental health or that there was a substantial risk that the child born would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
Explanation 1 dealt with rape cases where it was to be presumed that the anguish caused would constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the woman. Explanation 2 laid down that any pregnancy occurring as a result of failure of contraception would likewise be presumed to constitute a grave injury. Account needed to be taken of the pregnant woman’s actual or reasonably foreseeable environment. Section 5 created an exception to the 20 week limit whenever such an abortion was immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.
The 1971 Act was based on “The Report of the Shantilal H. Shah Committee to Study the Question of Legislation of Abortion” 1967, which set out the limitations of technology which made it hazardous for women to have abortions done after the 20th week. This limitation disappeared with the phenomenal improvement in technology and processes rendering it possible to carry out abortions safely right up to full term. Thus the excuse of “safety of the woman” was no longer tenable to be used for restricting women’s rights.
The central government has been criminally negligent in allowing the law to stand as it has for five decades. It has pushed women seeking abortions underground where terminations are carried out in unhygienic and dangerous places, and in horrific situations. Even today about 800,000 illegal and unsafe abortions are performed every year in India, many of them resulting in morbidities and death. The government has not cared. Political parties of all hues had one thing in common; women dying do not matter.
The decision of the Bombay High Court in Nikita Mehta vs State of Maharashtra, saying that it was not open for the courts to double guess the statutory restrictions, sparked the debate around the right to abortion in India. From 2008 onwards, over 300 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court and the High Courts. Given the gruesome context from which these petitions sprung the Supreme Court generally responded well by ignoring the statutory provisions as it was patent that not allowing abortions to take place would have caused grave injustice to the woman. The Court then routinely allowed abortions way past the 20 week limit. In Murugan Nayakkar vs Union of India & Ors, the abortion was permitted at 31 weeks, very close to full term.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 fails miserably on the main count while introducing few collateral progressive measures. First, the Act fails to recognise the absolute right of a woman over her body in taking decisions regarding abortions and reproductive health. It still reserves to the state the right to dictate to the woman that she cannot have an abortion at will. Second, even though the limit has been pushed back from 20 to 24 weeks, this comes with the same state conditionalities as before. Third, 24 weeks is not rational given today’s technology where abortions can be done safely up to full term.
Medical boards are obstacles
By far the biggest failure of the government lies in enacting section 3(2B) which requires the pregnant woman to approach a medical board in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities and where she has crossed the 24 week limit. These boards impose insurmountable obstacles to the woman seeking late abortions. First, what used to be an exchange between the pregnant woman and her gynaecologist who would take a decision as to safety, has now been replaced by a board of a minimum of three doctors. This is totally unnecessary and breaches privacy.
Second, and this is indicative of complete non-application of mind, the Act provides in section 3(2C) for a single board for a State. Given the millions of abortions taking place in India past the deadline, it is impossible for one board to handle all cases. Third, assuming multiple boards will be established, the records show that no State has the finances or the human resources to maintain the operation and functioning of these boards. Fourth, the right to seek termination is restricted to “such category of women as may be prescribed by rules”. One wonders what categories of women would be permitted termination of pregnancies!
The main objection remains; that boards are totally unnecessary and an invasion of privacy, and pregnant women, like they used to do, should be left alone to consult their gynaecologist in late term pregnancies and carry out their abortion under the certificate of their own gynaecologist that the abortion can be performed safely. This is the trend worldwide and in the courts. The Indian government needs to wake up and educate itself on women’s emancipation worldwide.