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Current Affairs 01 December 2023

  1. Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana
  2. Argentina at a Crossroads: Dollarization as an Economic Remedy
  3. Fast-Track Courts
  4. Parthenon Sculptures
  5. Angkor Wat
  6. Ayushman Arogya Mandir
  7. X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat)


Context:

The Union Cabinet announced the extension of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) scheme for another five years, starting from January 1, 2024.

Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana
  2. Eligibility 
  3. What are NFSA beneficiaries entitled to?
  4. How many persons are covered under the NFSA?
  5. How is the PM-GKAY different from the NFSA?

About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana:

  • It is considered as world’s largest food security scheme, aims at ensuring sufficient food for the poor and needy during the coronavirus crisis.
  • It was announced as part of the first relief package during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Part of the scheme, the food needs to be provided to all the beneficiaries under public distribution system (TPDS) for Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority household (PHH) ration cardholders.
  • As per updates, the eligible beneficiaries will receive 5kg of foodgrains and 1 kg Gram per month.

Eligibility 

  • Families belonging to the Below Poverty Line – Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Households (PHH) categories will be eligible for the scheme.
  • PHH are to be identified by State Governments/Union Territory Administrations as per criteria evolved by them. AAY families are to be identified by States/UTs as per the criteria prescribed by the Central Government:
  • Households headed by widows or terminally ill persons or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support.
  • Widows or terminally ill persons or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more or single women or single men with no family or societal support or assured means of subsistence.
  • All primitive tribal households.
  • Landless agriculture labourers, marginal farmers, rural artisans/craftsmen such as potters, tanners, weavers, blacksmiths, carpenters, slum dwellers, and persons earning their livelihood on daily basis in the informal sector like porters, coolies, rickshaw pullers, hand cart pullers, fruit and flower sellers, snake charmers, rag pickers, cobblers, destitutes  and other similar categories in both rural and urban areas.
  • All eligible Below Poverty Line families of HIV positive persons.

What are NFSA beneficiaries entitled to?

  • There are two categories of beneficiary households under the NFSA — the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, and the Priority Households (PHs).
    • Each AAY household is entitled to 35 kg of foodgrains every month irrespective of the number of members in the household. PHs are entitled to receive foodgrains according to the number of family members.
    • Each member of a PH is entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains every month under the NFSA. So, the bigger a PH family, the greater is the quantity of foodgrains it gets.
At what rate are foodgrains provided under the NFSA?
  • NFSA beneficiaries are entitled to receive foodgrains at highly subsidised rates. Under the food law, rice is provided at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg, and coarse grains at Re 1 per kg.

How many persons are covered under the NFSA?

  • The NFSA, enacted by the UPA government in 2013, aims at ensuring “access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices” to 50 per cent of the urban and 75 per cent of the rural population of the country. The overall national coverage of the NFSA is about 67.5 per cent.
  • Section 9 of the NFSA states that the number of persons to be covered in rural and urban areas of a state shall be calculated on the basis of population estimates as per the Census of which the relevant figures have been published.
  • The latest published Census figures are from 2011, and based on that about 81.35 crore people can be covered by the NFSA.
  • However, Food Ministry data show that of the accepted figure of 81.35 crore, 98.05 per cent, or 79.77 crore persons, had been identified until July 2022.
  • Thus, even with the ceiling fixed at 81.35 crore, states can still identify and add about 1.58 crore people under the NFSA.

How is the PM-GKAY different from the NFSA?

  • The NFSA is a right-based scheme under a law of Parliament, while the PM-GKAY is a scheme announced by the executive as a top-up to the entitlements of beneficiaries covered under the NFSA.
  • So, only those people who were already getting subsidised foodgrains can get free foodgrains under the PM-GKAY.
  • The PM-GKAY provides additional benefits to NFSA beneficiaries, but does not cover additional beneficiaries beyond the accepted limit of 81.35 crore persons under the NFSA.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Argentina, plagued by severe inflation and widespread poverty, faces a pivotal moment. Dollarisation is seen as a potential remedy for the country’s economic challenges.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dollarization’s Economic Impact: Strategies and Benefits
  2. Major Challenges Associated with Dollarisation
  3. De-dollarisation: Reducing Reliance on the US Dollar

Dollarization’s Economic Impact: Strategies and Benefits

Curbing Hyperinflation:

  • Dollarization introduces the stable United States Dollar, breaking the cycle of hyperinflation driven by uncontrolled money supply.
  • Stabilization fosters economic confidence, encouraging investment and consumer spending.

Export-Oriented Strategies:

  • Dollarization incentivizes a shift toward export-oriented strategies, promoting economic growth.

Foreign Investor Attraction:

  • A stable currency attracts foreign investors, fostering foreign trade and enhancing economic stability.
  • Predictable dollar value allows for more accurate long-term economic planning by businesses.

Mitigating Speculative Risks:

  • Dollarization mitigates risks associated with fluctuating exchange rates, making the economy more attractive to foreign investors.

Fiscal Policy Emphasis:

  • Dollarization shifts control away from monetary policy, prompting reliance on fiscal policies for economic stability.
  • This shift encourages prudent fiscal management, potentially curbing government overspending.
Ecuador’s Dollarization Experience: Lessons Learned

Initial Challenges:

  • Ecuador faced political upheaval following dollarization in 2000.

Economic Progress:

  • Despite challenges, Ecuador experienced reduced inflation rates, lowered debt ratios, and improved social welfare.

Contributing Factors:

  • Economic progress in Ecuador was not solely attributed to dollarization.
  • Booming oil and gas reserves and expanded government intervention played significant roles in sustaining prosperity.

Major Challenges Associated with Dollarisation

Limited Monetary Policy Independence:

  • Dollarisation significantly constrains a country’s ability to independently manage monetary policy.

Loss of Control Over Money Supply and Interest Rates:

  • The loss of control over money supply and interest rates can impede the government’s responsiveness to economic downturns.

Vulnerability to External Economic Shocks:

  • Fixed currencies in dollarized economies may heighten vulnerability to external economic shocks.

Lack of Exchange Rate Flexibility:

  • The absence of flexibility in adjusting exchange rates leaves dollarized economies unable to counterbalance sudden changes in the global economic environment.

Greece’s Warning Example:

  • The situation in Greece serves as a cautionary example of challenges associated with adopting a foreign currency.
  • Despite some growth, the Eurozone crisis highlighted the difficulties of using a currency without control over its policies.

Budgetary Constraints and Financial Assistance:

  • Greece, after adopting the euro, faced the necessity of accepting strict budget cuts and financial assistance, revealing the limitations of using a foreign currency.

Restriction on Currency Devaluation:

  • Loss of control over the exchange rate limits a country’s ability to use currency devaluation as a tool to enhance export competitiveness.

Inadequate Addressing of Internal Structural Issues:

  • Dollarisation may not effectively address internal structural issues within an economy.

Dependency Overshadowing Reforms:

  • Relying on a foreign currency might overshadow the need for internal reforms, such as productivity improvements or addressing income inequality, essential for sustained economic development.

De-dollarisation: Reducing Reliance on the US Dollar

  • De-dollarisation is a deliberate or unintentional process undertaken by a country or region to diminish dependence on the US dollar within its financial system or economy.

Measures Involved:

  • Involves various measures aimed at decreasing the use of the dollar in transactions, reserves, trade, or as a standard for pricing goods and services.

Reasons for Pursuit:

  • Governments may pursue de-dollarisation to reduce exposure to the impact of US monetary policy.
  • Asserting economic sovereignty, mitigating the effects of dollar fluctuations, or seeking greater independence in global finance are additional reasons.

Strategies for De-dollarisation:

  • Strategies include diversifying currency reserves, promoting alternative currencies in trade agreements, establishing currency swap agreements, or encouraging the use of regional currencies in financial transactions.

Example: RBI’s March 2023 Initiative:

  • In March 2023, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) implemented a mechanism for rupee trade settlement with 18 countries.
  • Banks from these countries were permitted to open Special Vostro Rupee Accounts (SVRAs) for settling payments in Indian Rupees.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the continuation of fast-track courts dedicated to the dispensation of justice in cases of sexual offences, for a period of three years.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Fast-track courts
  2. Advantages of Fast track courts
  3. Issues Faced by FTCs

About Fast-track courts :

  • Fast-track courts (FTCs) are created primarily to deal with the judicial backlog.
  • A ‘special court’ is one which is to deal with special types of cases under a shortened and simplified procedure.
  • Fast-track courts (FTCs) have been around for a long time, with the first ones being established in the year 2000.
  • However, 56% of the States and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, had no FTCs.
  • Judges are appointed on the ad hoc basis.
  • Retired judges or eligible judicial officers who are selected by the High court of the respective states are the head of these courts.
Need for Fast Track courts
  • Clearing the considerable amount of pending cases
  • Expected to reduce the number of undertrials in jails
  • Need for Speedy Trial
  • Judiciary’s commitment to end sexual and gender based violence
Advantages of Fast track courts:
  • Lessening of the general caseload burden: The objective with which the fast track courts were established has been very beneficiary for judiciary as it has solved over a million cases and has reduced the case load from other courts.
  • Promotes specialization and professionalization: It has helped employ thousands of people from different fields, it also avails retired judges from high courts and district courts. The establishment of fast track courts has promoted the specialization of a category of law.
  • Improves judicial efficiency and effectiveness: By the proper use of judiciary and by speedy trial and judgment, fast track courts boost the efficiency of the judiciary.
  • High case clearance rate and speedy trial rate: Fast Track courts in India have the highest case disposal rate due to its speedy trial and judgment. And hence it is efficient in solving cases in a bound time.
  • Guarantees consistency and predictability: Fast track courts have high performance rate and are stable and steady. It renders justice with high accuracy.
Issues Faced by FTCs
  • Non-Uniformity in Type of Cases: In a survey of FTCs conducted by National Law University Delhi, it was observed that there is a huge variation in the kinds of cases handled by these courts across States, with certain States primarily allocating rape and sexual offence cases to them and other States allocating various other matters.
  • Infrastructural Issues: Most FTCs were not set up with different infrastructure or facilities, but were often housed in an existing court. Moreover, several States appoint FTCs special judges from the current pool of judges. This substantially increases the workload of the remaining judges.
  • Technological Barrier: Several FTCs lacked technological resources to conduct audio and video recordings of the victims and many of them did not have regular staff.
  • Adhocism: Setting up of FTCs was not based on actual problems of pendency, but was often in response to specific incidents such as securities scams, rape cases and sexual harassment of children.
  • Lack of Coordination: In India, tribunals are managed by different ministries, and fast-track courts and special courts are administered under different judicial bodies, with little coordination or uniformity among them.
  • Other Issues: There are delays in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories, judges make frivolous adjournments and inadequate staff adversely affect the efficiency of the fast track courts.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

British PM Rishi Sunak’s cancellation of a meeting with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis has escalated tensions over the status of the Parthenon Sculptures housed at the British Museum, commonly known as the Elgin Marbles. Athens accuses London of evading discussions on the contested artifacts. Greece has repeatedly requested the permanent return of the sculptures, but the British Museum has steadfastly refused to comply, exacerbating the longstanding dispute over cultural heritage.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Parthenon Sculptures: Ancient Treasures at the British Museum
  2. Journey of the Parthenon Sculptures to Britain: A Controversial History
  3. British Museum’s Response

Parthenon Sculptures: Ancient Treasures at the British Museum

  • The Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum consist of more than 30 ancient stone sculptures from Greece, dating back over 2,000 years.

Origin:

  • Originally adorned the walls and grounds of the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis hill in Athens.
  • Created between 447 BC and 432 BC during Athens’ Golden Age.

Components:

  • Frieze depicting the Panathenaic festival procession.
  • Metopes illustrating the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths at Peirithoos’ marriage-feast.
  • Figures of gods and legendary heroes from the temple’s pediments.
History of the Parthenon:
  • Construction:
    • Built in the 5th century BC, symbolizing Athens’ power during that era.
  • Symbolic Significance:
    • Became a symbol for modern Greece after gaining independence in 1832.
  • Transformations:
    • Served as a temple, church, and mosque before becoming an archaeological site.
    • Significant damage, including an explosion in 1687, left the Parthenon in ruins.
  • Architectural Style:
    • Designed in the Doric style with incorporated Ionic elements.
    • Doric features include fluted columns without bases and simple rectangular capitals.
  • Philosophy of Design:
    • Reflects ancient Greek ideals of harmony, beauty, and balance based on mathematical ratios.
    • Illustrates the integration of mathematical principles into architectural styles.

Journey of the Parthenon Sculptures to Britain: A Controversial History

  • Removal by Lord Elgin:
    • The sculptures were removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th century by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, and the then-British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
  • Transport to Britain:
    • Lord Elgin took the marbles to Britain and subsequently sold them to the British Museum in 1816.
Controversy Surrounding the Removal:
  • Accusations of Theft:
    • Athens accused Lord Elgin of theft, while he maintained he had permission from the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Athens at the time.
  • Disputed Permission:
    • The original letter granting permission has been lost, and its contents remain disputed.
  • Calls for Return:
    • Athens has been demanding the return of the sculptures since gaining independence in the early 1830s.
    • The movement gained momentum in the 1980s when Greek actress Melina Mercouri, serving as the culture minister, launched a campaign for their return.

British Museum’s Response:

  • Legal Contract Claim:
    • The British Museum claims that Lord Elgin acquired the sculptures under a legal contract with the Ottoman Empire.
  • Rejection of Return Demands:
    • The British Museum has consistently rejected demands for the return of the sculptures.
Recent British Stance:
  • Asset to the UK:
    • The British government, including Prime Minister Sunak, views the Parthenon Marbles as a significant asset to the UK.
  • Legal Standpoint:
    • In March, PM Sunak stated that the marbles were legally acquired, ruling out any change in laws allowing their return to Greece.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Angkor Wat temple, located in Cambodia, has defeated Pompeii in Italy to become the eighth Wonder of the World.

  • The unofficial title “Eighth Wonder of the World” is sometimes given to buildings, structures, projects, designs, or even people who are thought to be comparable to the Seven Wonders of the World.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Angkor Wat: Majestic Temple Complex
  2. Distinctive Features
  3. Geographical Location

Angkor Wat: Majestic Temple Complex

  • Angkor Wat stands as the largest religious monument globally, constructed by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century.
  • Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it later transformed into a Buddhist temple by the late 12th century.
  • Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Distinctive Features:

Architectural Elements:
  • Constructed using sandstone blocks.
  • Protected by a 15-foot-high wall and a wide moat.
  • Encompasses a vast area of 200 acres.
Sacred Symbolism:
  • The temple boasts five major towers symbolizing the peaks of Mount Meru, considered the abode of gods in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
  • Thousands of bas-reliefs on temple walls depict significant deities, figures, and narrative events from Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Geographical Location:

  • Situated in the northwestern province of Siem Reap in Cambodia.
  • Part of the larger city of Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire thriving from the 9th to 15th centuries.
  • Angkor spans over 400 km2, housing remnants of various temples, including Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, and Ta Prohm.

-Source: Times of India



Context:

Recently, the Union Government has decided to rename the existing Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) as ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Ayushman Arogya Mandir: Revolutionizing Primary Healthcare
  2. Key Facts about Ayushman Bharat (AB):

Ayushman Arogya Mandir: Revolutionizing Primary Healthcare

Government Initiative (2018):

  • In 2018, the Government of India unveiled plans to create 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) by transforming existing sub-health centres and primary health centres. This initiative was declared one of the two components of Ayushman Bharat.

Funding and Design Strategy:

  • The Centre committed to providing 60% of the funding, with states following a design manual outlined by the central government.

Remarkable Progress:

  • Currently, 61 lakh Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) have been operationalized nationwide, surpassing the initial target.

Services Provided:

  • AB-HWCs offer comprehensive primary healthcare, including maternal and child healthcare services, primary-level care for emergencies and trauma, along with free drugs and diagnostic services.

New Tagline:

  • The AB-HWCs’ new tagline is ‘Arogyam Parmam Dhanam,’ emphasizing the significance of health as the ultimate wealth.

Key Facts about Ayushman Bharat (AB):

Dual Initiatives Announced (2018):

  • In 2018, the Union government introduced two pivotal health sector initiatives as part of the Ayushman Bharat program.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY):

  • Focuses on curative care, providing coverage of up to 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization at private hospitals.

Health and Wellness Centres (HWC):

  • Aimed at strengthening primary healthcare, AB-HWCs are integral to the Ayushman Bharat program’s primary care component.

National Health Authority (NHA):

  • Tasked with the implementation of PMJAY, the National Health Authority plays a crucial role in the successful execution of the health initiatives.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that India is set to launch its first X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat).

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat): India’s Pioneering Polarimetry Mission

XPoSat represents India’s inaugural dedicated polarimetry mission designed to explore the dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions.

Aim:

  • The primary goal is to investigate the polarization of intense X-ray sources, advancing our understanding of celestial phenomena.
Scientific Payloads:
  • POLIX (Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays):
    • Measures polarimetry parameters (degree and angle of polarization) in the medium X-ray energy range (8-30 keV) for astronomical photons.
  • XSPECT (X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing) Payload:
    • Provides spectroscopic information in the energy range of 0.8-15 keV.
Orbit and Designation:
  • Designated for observation from a Low Earth Orbit, specifically a non-sun synchronous orbit at an altitude of approximately 650 km with a low inclination of around six degrees.
Mission Duration:
  • Anticipated mission life is approximately five years.
Observation Strategy:
  • Payloads onboard XPoSat will observe X-ray sources during the spacecraft’s transit through Earth’s shadow, particularly during the eclipse period.
Launch Details:
  • The satellite is scheduled to be launched by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

-Source: Indian Express


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