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22nd & 23rd November Current Affairs


  1. Bank Moratorium Explained
  2. Why did India stay out of the RCEP deal?
  3. Solution to the ‘slash and burn’ problem
  4. How Kala-Azar was eliminated in an endemic district?
  5. Ethics of denying COVID-19 vaccine to placebo group
  6. UNICEF: “Averting a lost Covid generation”
  7. Exercise Malabar and CORPAT concludes
  8. Uproar over Kerala law to curb abusive content
  9. Parliamentary panel on laws to counter bio-terrorism
  10. Jobs for kin of those killed in conflict with wildlife


Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • Recently the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had recommended the Government to impose a moratorium on Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) which has been struggling with losses for three years.
  • As its financial position deteriorated, the regulator placed it under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework, which restricts certain operations depending on the severity of financial stress.
  • After allowing time for the bank to find investors to shore up its capital, the RBI has appointed an administrator for the bank and mooted a merger with the Indian subsidiary of the Singapore-based DBS Bank.
  • Similar moratoria were placed in the recent past on other lenders too, including Yes Bank and Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank.

What is Prompt Corrective Action (PCA)?

  • Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) is a framework under which banks with weak financial metrics are put under watch by the RBI.
  • PCA aims to check the problem of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in the Indian banking sector.
  • PCA is intended to help alert the regulator as well as investors and depositors if a bank is heading for trouble. The idea is to head off problems before they attain crisis proportions.
  • Essentially PCA helps RBI monitor key performance indicators of banks, and taking corrective measures, to restore the financial health of a bank.
  • The PCA framework deems banks as risky if they slip some trigger points – Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR), net NPA, Return on Assets (RoA) and Tier 1 Leverage ratio.
  • The PCA framework is applicable only to commercial banks and not to Co-Operative Banks and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).

What is a moratorium?

  • The RBI, the regulatory body overseeing the country’s financial system, has the power to ask the government to have a moratorium placed on a bank’s operations for a specified period of time.
  • Under such a moratorium, depositors will not be able to withdraw funds at will.
  • In most cases, the regulator allows for funds of a larger quantum to be withdrawn in case of an urgent requirement, such as medical emergencies, but only after the depositor provides the required proof.
  • Often, the moratorium is lifted even before the originally stipulated deadline is reached.
  • A key objective of a moratorium is to protect the interests of depositors.

When does it come into play?

  • Usually, the RBI steps in if it judges that a bank’s net worth is fast eroding and it may reach a state where it may not be able to repay its depositors.
  • When a bank’s assets (mainly the value of loans given to borrowers) decline below the level of liabilities (deposits), it is in danger of failing to meet its obligations to depositors.
  • After banks were nationalized in 1969, the RBI sought to always intervene to protect depositors’ interests and prevent commercial banks from failing.

How does a moratorium prevent a ‘run’ on the bank?

  • A moratorium primarily helps prevent what is known as a ‘run’ on a bank, by clamping down on rapid outflow of funds by wary depositors, who seek to take their money out in fear of the bank’s imminent collapse.
  • Temporarily, it does affect depositors who may have placed, for example, their retirement with the bank, or creditors who are owed funds by the bank but are struggling with the collection.
  • A moratorium gives both the regulator and the acquirer time to first take stock of the actual financial situation at the troubled bank.
  • It allows for a realistic estimation of assets and liabilities, and for the regulator to facilitate capital infusion, should it find that necessary.
  • Even if they are temporarily handicapped by facing restricted access to their funds, there is a high probability that the bank would soon return to normal functioning once a bailout is arranged.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • Recently the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed by 15 countries led by China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the 10-country ASEAN group.
  • It is billed as one of the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement (FTA), accounting for nearly 30% of the global GDP covering 30% of the world’s population.
  • After long negotiations, India exited the grouping saying it wanted to protect its economy from rising trade deficits with a number of RCEP members.

Are FTAs bad for India? What are the other objections to RCEP?

  • Of the 15 countries in RCEP, India had previously signed an FTA with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and also with Japan and South Korea, all three of which are now under review.
  • If you look at India’s experience with the already signed free trade agreements with the ASEAN group, South Korea and Japan, you will see that India’s trade deficit with these countries or groups rose very sharply during this period.

Why are trade deficits growing?

  • Other experts contest the FTA argument on two accounts.
  • A 2019 published paper explained that while deficits have increased for India in all foreign trade, India’s FTAs or PTAs (Preferential Trade Agreements) do not account for a bigger chunk of the trade deficit than they did before.
  • Trade deficits with India’s bilateral partners accounted for 12.6% of the overall trade deficit in the year 2007. In 2017, they accounted for a considerably smaller 7.5%.
  • Another explanation for the growing trade deficits comes from the downturn in India’s GDP since 2016, and the decline in manufacturing.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the debate?

  • For the first time in 60 years, nearly every country in the RCEP grouping is facing a recession.
  • The fears over individual losses, combined with the trend worldwide against globalisation, are driving countries to formulate smaller trading coalitions outside of the World Trade Organization.
  • In addition, travel between countries is being restricted by the spread of the virus, further promoting local or regional trade and travel bubbles.
  • As the world’s second largest economy and one of the only ones to show GDP growth this year, China offers potential investment to RCEP countries, and that was another incentive for them to conclude the agreement on schedule, without delaying it to a time after the pandemic.
  • On the other hand, India’s tensions with China over the PLA’s (People’s Liberation Army) aggressions at the Line of Actual Control this year, and the continued standoff between their armies have hardened its position on RCEP, and officials say events during the pandemic have only “vindicated” India’s stand on staying out of the grouping.

Who wants India in?

  • Several RCEP countries still hope India will reconsider its decision of staying out.
  • For Japan and Australia, the large size of the Indian economy and its negotiating heft would pose a valuable counterpoint to China within the grouping.
  • It is for this reason that Japan led the drafting of the special statement on India, which would waive the 18-month mandatory waiting period if India applied formally to rejoin the group.
  • For ASEAN countries that led the RCEP negotiations, India’s presence would provide weight to the centrality of the ASEAN grouping in the region.
  • The importance of drawing India into the agreement was underlined when leaders of all ten ASEAN countries travelled to India as the Republic Day chief guests in 2018.
  • For China, too, having India within the RCEP tent would not just open up India’s market access for Beijing, but would also provide one more forum on which to cooperate that does not include the United States (U.S.), its biggest rival.
  • Finally, there is the question of how the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) would operate on economic issues, particularly in terms of securing supply chains, with the U.S. walking out of the Comprehensive and Progressive agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and India exiting the RCEP.

Did RCEP address India’s concerns?

  • India’s concerns over Chinese goods flooding the Indian market through other markets under the RCEP, without clear guidelines on rules of origin, find clear mention and an entire chapter devoted to it in the final RCEP text of 20 chapters, despite the fact that India is no longer in the grouping.
  • There is also a chapter on allowing trade in services, particularly financial, telecommunications and professional services, which was another key demand by India during the seven years that it continued to negotiate the RCEP.
  • In addition, there is a summary of objections by various RCEP members to different parts of the agreement, which are expected to be resolved in the next few years as the treaty goes through ratification processes across the region.

Click Here to read more about RCEP

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology


  • Year after year, farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi have been burning agricultural waste, particularly the stubble left after harvesting wheat, leading to environmental hazards, such as smoke and particle-rich air, making the air we breathe extremely poisonous.
  • As the spring season starts, like now, people in the area are hit with ‘smog’, or smoke and fog, making the air unbreathable.
  • The Air Quality Index or AQI rises to severe levels.
  • Incidentally, AQI is estimated based on the amount of particle pollution in the air and the associated generation of ozone, NO2, SO2, CO.

Understanding AQI scores in various places.

AQI is:

  1. Good when it is lower than 50 units (as in Mysuru, Kochi, Kozhikode and Shillong),
  2. Moderate when it is 51–100,
  3. Unhealthy between 151–200, (as in Hyderabad these days),
  4. Very unhealthy between 201–300, hazardous between 301–400 and
  5. Severe above 400 (as in today’s Delhi region, where stubble burning continues).

Click Here to read more about AQI

Viable solution ‘Pusa Decomposer’

  • The Government of Delhi has recently come up with a viable solution to handle this problem of stubble burning, thanks to its collaboration with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) at Pusa, in the city.
  • Called ‘Pusa Decomposer’, they have come up with a set of capsules, which are dissolved in water containing jaggery, chickpea flour and a set of about eight types of microorganisms (fungi), essential to quicken the decomposition of the stubble.
  • This is then fermented for three-to-four days, and the liquid so obtained is ready to be sprayed in the farmers’ field in order to decompose the left-over biomass.
  • Incidentally, it is interesting to note that food grains produced using the Pusa Decomposer qualify as organic farming, since it involves no growth hormones, antibiotics, no genetically modified organisms, and no leaching of surface water or ground water.

Jongue’s method

  • A farmer called Jongue in Mozambique in East Africa did not burn his corn farm, but let the corn stalks rot.
  • In one part of his farm, rather than slash and burn, he mixed tomatoes and peanuts in the field to rot.
  • Then he let the mice in the field eat up this stuff – a natural way of removing the rotting material. He also tried planting sorghum with success.
  • The yield and the quality were good enough to sell the corn or sorghum in the market.
  • His organic farming was based on the use of mice as the source of the necessary molecular ingredients such as fungi, and no other additives.

Shifting Cultivation

  • Shifting cultivation, locally called ‘Jhum’, is a widely practiced system of crop cultivation among the indigenous communities of Northeast India. The practice, also known as slash-and-burn agriculture, is when farmers clear land by slashing vegetation and burning forests and woodlands to create clear land for agricultural purposes.
  • This provides very easy and very fast method of the preparation of the land for the agriculture.
  • The bush and the weeds can be removed easily. The burning of waste materials provides needed nutrients for the cultivation.
  • It gives a family its food, fodder, fuel, livelihood and is closely linked to their identity.
  • Because of cutting of forests and trees, this practice leads to soil erosion and may also affect the course of rivers.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Science and Technology


  • Kala-azar or visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a tropical disease characterised by irregular fever, weight loss, anaemia and swelling of the spleen and liver.
  • It is caused by a protozoan Leishmania parasite and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected female sandflies.
  • India accounts for about two-thirds of the total global cases, and the disease is endemic to Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

WHO initiative

  • An initiative was launched by WHO to eliminate VL as a public health problem from the South East Asia region by 2020. The deadline has now been extended to 2023.
  • In a recent paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases a team from Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (ICMR), tells the success story of how they eliminated the disease from Vaishali, a district in Bihar where the disease is highly endemic.

Campaigns, measures

  • Their programme included mapping of the case distribution, early case detection and chemical-based vector control.
  • They also carried out community awareness campaigns.
  • Hospital staff and medical doctors in these regions were trained.
  • Once a person is diagnosed with VL, indoor residual spraying was done at his house and at the neighbouring houses within 500 metres.
  • Though the disease is not contagious, the infected sand fly may be present in the area and the chemical spray will help kill them.

Monitoring disease

  • A strong supervision and monitoring system are required. GIS-based mapping, and case data management and spatial visualisation system are required for the proper implementation of control strategies.
  • Also, frequent monitoring of active cases – track, test, and treat strategy – in the hotspot region is very important at the current stage.

Visceral leishmaniasis / Kala Azar

  • Visceral leishmaniasis, which is commonly known as Kala-azar in India is the most severe form of leishmaniasis and, without proper diagnosis and treatment, is associated with high fatality.
  • The parasite migrates to the internal organs such as the liver, spleen (hence “visceral”), and bone marrow, and, if left untreated, will almost always result in the death of the host.
  • Signs and symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, anemia, and substantial swelling of the liver and spleen.
  • This disease is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world (after malaria).
  • Kala-Azar is fatal in over 95% of the cases, if left untreated.
  • The only drug available against leishmaniasis, miltefosine, is rapidly losing its effectiveness because of emerging resistance to this drug due to a decrease in its accumulation inside the parasite, which is necessary for the drug to kill the parasite.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-IV Ethics

Why in news?

  • Pfizer (one of companies making tremendous progress towards releasing a vaccine for Covid-19) said that in the primary efficacy analysis, the vaccine was 95% effective against COVID-19 disease beginning 28 days after the first dose.
  • Pfizer is submitting a request to U.S. FDA for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
  • The analysis was carried out on 170 confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease, of which 162 were in the placebo group and just eight were in the vaccine arm.
  • The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) authority allows FDA to help strengthen the nation’s public health protections against CBRN threats by facilitating the availability and use of MCMs needed during public health emergencies.

The Question of denying vaccine to placebo group

  • Now that the vaccine has been found to be highly efficacious, including in older adults, and can prevent severe disease, a tricky question is whether it would be ethical to deny the vaccine to those participants who have received the placebo.
  • But offering the vaccine right away to those in the placebo group will first require unblinding the study.
  • Unblinding the study and offering the vaccine to the placebo group will make it almost impossible to gather further information on vaccine efficacy, thus making full licensure challenging.

How is it dealt with?

  • Participants are offered the vaccine at the end of the designated follow up period, but participants are also given updated information on what is happening with vaccine development as soon as it is available (treating informed consent as a process instead of just at the entry into the study).
  • Those in the placebo group cannot be ‘denied’ the vaccine if they want to get it based on an EUA.
  • However, since EUA does not equate to a changed standard of care, it would not be ethically required to offer the vaccine candidate to them.
  • Though vaccination of high-risk groups may begin in December, majority of trial participants, including those in the placebo group, will not belong to a priority group that would get the vaccine for at least one year.

Hence, delay until vaccine registration may be justified.

Unblinding the Trial

  • But it is important that all trial participants are informed of the interim efficacy results and about the EUA for the vaccine, if the FDA grants one.
  • The vaccine should be offered to participants in the placebo group under two scenarios.
  • In the first case, any trial participants belonging to the high-risk group who would otherwise have got the vaccine on priority should be informed of their eligibility and offered the vaccine.
  • This will decrease the power of the study to define accurately how well the vaccine works in them.
  • But we will have to find ways of designing effectiveness studies to address how we get this information.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

  • Children and adolescents account for 1 in 9 reported COVID-19 infections, according to an analysis by the UNICEF in a report called “Averting a lost Covid generation” – which highlights significant and growing consequences of Covid-19 on children.
  • The report reiterated that vulnerabilities of women and children had increased, as health services continue to be disrupted and schools shut, denying children free mid-day meals offered at schools for underprivileged children by various nations.
  • It is the first UNICEF report to comprehensively outline the dire and growing consequences for children as the pandemic goes on.
  • It shows that while symptoms among infected children remain mild, infections are rising and the longer-term impact on the education, nutrition and well-being of an entire generation of children and young people can be life-altering.


  • As of the beginning of November 2020, children and adolescents accounted for 11% of the 25.7 million infections reported across 87 countries.
  • It estimated that a third of the countries analysed, witnessed a drop of at least 10% in coverage of health services and there was a 40% decline in the coverage of nutrition services for women and children across 135 countries.
  • As of October 2020, 265 million children were still missing out on school meals globally.
  • 65 countries reported a decrease in-home visits by social workers in September 2020, compared to 2019.

Way Forward

  • The report recommended bridging the digital divide to ensure all children were able to access school learning and guaranteed provision of nutrition and health services.
  • It appealed to the governments around the world to adopt measures to curb rise in child poverty.
  • Support and protect the mental health of children and young people and bring an end to abuse, gender-based violence and neglect in childhood.
  • Increase access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and address environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Reverse the rise in child poverty and ensure an inclusive recovery for all.
  • Redouble efforts to protect and support children and their families living through conflict, disaster and displacement.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The 24th edition of Exercise Malabar concluded recently by the Indian Navy which also carried out Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) with Thailand in the Andaman Sea and delivered food aid to South Sudan in western Indian Ocean under Mission Sagar-II.


  • The naval exercise, consisting of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S., was held in two phases this time.
  • Australia joined the war games for the first time since 2007.
  • In addition to ‘Dual Carrier’ operations, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings were also undertaken during both phases of Malabar 2020, demonstrating the synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the four friendly navies.
  • For Phase-II, Indian and the U.S. deployed aircraft carrier groups INS Vikramaditya and USS Nimitz respectively and P-8 long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft for Anti-Submarine Warfare drills.

India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT)

  • India and Thailand have been carrying out CORPAT along their International Maritime Boundary Line twice a year since 2005.
  • Indian Naval Ship (INS) Karmuk (an indigenously built Missile Corvette) and Thailand Frigate HTMS Kraburi, along with Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both the navies participated in the 30th edition.

In line with India’s SAGAR Vision:

As part of Indian Government’s vision of Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), the Indian Navy has been involved in assisting countries in the Indian Ocean Region with Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Surveillance, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), and other capacity building and capability-enhancement activities, on their request.

Click Here to read more about Malabar Exercise

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Governance and Polity 

Why in news?

  • A drastic amendment to the Kerala Police Act, 2011, to give the local law enforcement more teeth to curb defamation has led to an uproar with opposition parties, journalist bodies and civil rights activists seeing a threat to the freedom of the press and free speech in Kerala.
  • The recent ordinance amends the law to give the police more power to prosecute persons who exploit various communication platforms to slander fellow citizens.


  • The ordinance has introduced a new provision to the Kerala Police Act.
  • The amendment proposes three years of imprisonment and a fine of upto Rs. 10,000 for those convicted of producing, publishing or disseminating derogatory content through any means of communication to intimidate, insult or defame any person.
  • The Kerala Government has clarified that did not seek to curb reportage, political satire, opinion, free speech, impartial journalism or commentary.


  • Conferring power on the police to gauge mental injury, loss of reputation and such matters due to dissemination of information would result in widespread abuse.
  • The amendment could curtail the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution.
  • The State Government had repeatedly received complaints against the rampant misuse of social media, especially by specific online channels, to launch “inhuman and vile cyber-attacks” against individuals and their families under the guise of journalism.
  • However, the ordinance did not specifically mention social media posts.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Governance and Polity

Why in news?

Formulating effective laws to counter bio-terrorism is one of the important lessons to be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health has said in a report, “The Outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19 And its Management.”

Strategic partnerships

  • The adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic have taught the lesson on the importance of controlling biological agents and the need for strategic partnerships among different nations.
  • The committee, therefore, feels that the present time is the most appropriate for the government to formulate effective laws to counter bio-terrorism.
  • This conclusion is based on the deliberations that the committee had with the Department of Health and Family Welfare which submitted a seven-point action plan that is needed to ensure security against biological weapons.

Details about the report

  • The report has suggested that the Health Ministry should engage with agencies and actively participate in ongoing international treaties.
  • The committee strongly recommends the Ministry to conduct more research and work towards training and capacity building for management of public health emergencies arising from use of bio-weapons.
  • The report does not explicitly state that the COVID-19 virus itself was a bio-weapon.
  • The international scientific community has also repeatedly debunked the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 virus was developed as a bio-weapon.
  • The plethora of guidelines issued by the Health Ministry caused confusion and chaos, the report noted.
  • Many of these guidelines were contradictory and different quarantine rules imposed by the State governments added to the panic, the report said.
  • Since the demand for oxygen cylinders has reported an exponential increase, the committee has strongly advocated that necessary measures be taken to cap their price.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The West Bengal government has announced that next of kin of persons killed in conflict with wildlife will get jobs with the State police.


  • The decision to provide jobs to 74.3% of families of those killed in conflict with wildlife comes just months ahead of the Assembly polls in the State.
  • More than the timing, the decision is likely to have an impact on wildlife conservation and raises concerns over whether giving jobs to victims’ families, can lead to better wildlife management and mitigating the conflict.
  • The data on human deaths provided by the State government seems to be in consonance with data tabled in Rajya Sabha earlier this year, where it was pointed out that three States account to almost half (48%) of human deaths when it comes to human-elephant conflict over the past five years from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
  • West Bengal has the highest number of human casualties at 403, followed by Odisha with 397 and Assam with 332 deaths due to elephant attacks, as per the data tabled in the Upper House.

Human-Elephant Conflicts

  • Elephant-human conflict is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • When elephants and humans interact, there is conflict from crop raiding, injuries and deaths to humans caused by elephants, and elephants being killed by humans for reasons other than ivory and habitat degradation.
  • Such encounters foster resentment against the elephants amongst the human population and this can result in elephants being viewed as a nuisance and killed.
  • In addition to the direct conflicts between humans and elephants, elephants also suffer indirect costs like degradation of habitat and loss of food plants.

What is Man-animal conflict?

  • Man-animal conflict refers to the interaction between wild animals and humans which results in a negative impact on people, animals, resources, and habitats.
  • It occurs when growing human populations overlap with established wildlife territory which creates competition for space and resources.
  • Conflicts between the man and animal have occurred since the dawn of humanity. However, it has come to light ever more frequently in recent times.

Causes of Man-animal conflict

  • In modern times rapid urbanization and industrialisation have led to the diversion of forest land to non-forest purposes, as a result, the wildlife habitat is shrinking.
  • The expansion of road and rail network through forest ranges has resulted in animals getting killed or injured in accidents on roads or railway tracks.
  • The increasing population has also led to many human settlements coming up near the peripheries of protected areas and encroachment in the forest lands by local people for cultivation and collection of food and fodder etc. therefore increasing pressure on limited natural resources in the forests.

Way Forwards to prevent Man – Animal Conflicts

  • Surveillance- Increased vigilance and protection of identified locations using hi-tech surveillance tools like sensors can help in tracking the movement of animals and warn the local population.
  • Improvement of habitat- In-situ and ex-situ habitat conservation measures will help in securing animals their survival.
  • Re-locating of animal habitats away from residential and commercial centres will serve to minimize animal-man conflict for illegal and self-interested motives
  • Awareness Programmes- To create awareness among people and sensitize them about the Do’s and Don’ts in the forest areas to minimize the conflicts between man and animal.
  • Training programs- Training to the police offices and local people should be provided for this purpose forest department should frame guidelines.
  • Boundary walls- The construction of boundary walls and solar fences around the sensitive areas to prevent the wild animal attacks.
  • Technical and financial support- For the development of necessary infrastructure and support facilities for immobilization of problematic animals through tranquilization, their translocation.
  • Part of CSR- Safeguarding Tiger corridors, building eco-bridges and such conservation measures can be part of corporate social responsibility.

-Source: The Hindu

March 2024