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Current Affairs 08 February 2022

CONTENTS

  1. India – Sri Lanka Relations
  2. Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)
  3. Operation AAHT
  4. PM CARES – Fund 
  5. RBI’s digital currency plans
  6. Dholes

India – Sri Lanka Relations


Context:

India’s support has made a “world of difference” to Sri Lanka’s economic situation, said Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, on his first visit to India, making it clear that the flurry of agreements announced in recent weeks have allowed the neighbours to move on from the problems of the “immediate past”.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important Foreign Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India – Sri Lanka Relations
  2. History of India-Sri Lanka relations
  3. Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war
  4. Geopolitical Significance of Sri Lanka

India – Sri Lanka Relations

  • India and Sri Lanka share a maritime border and India is the only neighbour of Sri Lanka, separated by the Palk Strait.
  • Both nations occupy a strategic position in South Asia and have sought to build a common security umbrella in the Indian Ocean.
  • Both India and Sri Lanka are republics within the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, education, culture and defence.
  • In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects has further cemented the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
  • The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in 2009. During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Sri Lankan Government to act against terrorist forces.
  • India’s consistent position has been in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights.
History of India-Sri Lanka relations
  • India-Sri Lanka relations date back to over 2,500 years, with the Kingdoms in Sri Lanka engaging in continuous wars with occupying South Indian Kingdoms.
  • According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles (such as the Dipavamsa), Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 4th century BCE by Venerable Mahinda, the son of Indian Emperor Ashoka. Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation.
  • Tamils in Sri Lanka, had established Hinduism and Tamil language links with South India.
Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war
  • In the 1970s–1980s, private entities and elements in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the state government of Tamil Nadu were believed to be encouraging the funding and training for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist insurgent force.
  • In 1987, faced with growing anger amongst its own Tamils, and a flood of refugees, India intervened directly in the conflict for the first time.
  • After subsequent negotiations, India and Sri Lanka entered into an agreement (13th amendment.)
  • The peace accord assigned a certain degree of regional autonomy in the Tamil areas with Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) controlling the regional council and called for the Tamil militant groups to lay down their arms.
  • Further India was to send a peacekeeping force, named the IPKF to Sri Lanka to enforce the disarmament and to watch over the regional council.
  • Most Tamil militant groups accepted this agreement, however, the LTTE rejected the accord because they opposed a candidate.
  • The result was that the LTTE now found itself engaged in military conflict with the Indian Army.
  • The government of India then decided that the IPKF should disarm the LTTE by force, and the Indian Army launched a number of assaults on the LTTE, including a month-long campaign dubbed Operation Pawan to wrest control of the Jaffna peninsula from the LTTE.
  • The Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, which had been unpopular amongst Sri Lankans for giving India a major influence, now became a source of nationalist anger and resentment as the IPKF was drawn fully into the conflict.
Geopolitical Significance of Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region as an island State has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to several major powers.
  • Some examples that highlight Western interests in Sri Lanka’s strategic location are the British Defence and External Affairs Agreement of 1948, and the Maritime Agreement with USSR of 1962.
  • Even during the J.R Jayewardene (1978-1989) and Ranasinghe Premadasa (1989-1993) tenures, Sri Lanka was chosen to build the Voice of America transmitting station (suspected of being used for intelligence gathering purposes and electronic surveillance of the Indian Ocean).
  • It was the massive Chinese involvement during the Rajapaksa tenure that garnered the deepest controversy in recent years.
  • China is building state of the art gigantic modern ports all along the Indian Ocean to the south of it, in Gwadar (Pakistan), Chittagong (Bangladesh, Kyauk Phru (Myanmar) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka).
  • China’s string of pearl’s strategy is aimed at encircling India to establish dominance in the Indian Ocean.
  • Post 2015, Sri Lanka still relies heavily on China for Port city project and for continuation of Chinese funded infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka.
  • Although the Hambantota harbour is reportedly making losses, it too has potential for development due to its strategic location.
  • Sri Lanka has a list of highly strategic ports located among busiest sea lanes of communication.
  • Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port is the 25th busiest container port in the world and the natural deep-water harbor at Trincomalee is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world.
  • Port city of Trincomalee was the main base for Eastern Fleet and British Royal Navy during the Second World War.
  • Sri Lanka’s location can thus serve both commercial and industrial purposes and be used as a military base.

-Source: The Hindu


Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)


Context:

The government’s recent announcement that the maternity benefit programme which provides ₹5,000 for first child will be extended to cover the second child only if it is a girl has met with sharp criticism from activists who have demanded that it be universalised.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Women and Health, Government Initiatives and Policies, Welfare Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)
  2. Concerns with PMMVY
  3. Way Forward

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a maternity benefit programme being implemented in all districts of the country with effect from 2017.
  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme being executed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Under PMMVY Cash benefits are provided to pregnant women in their bank account directly to meet enhanced nutritional needs and partially compensate for wage loss.
  • All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM), (excluding those who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits) who have their pregnancy on or after 1st January 2017 for the first child in the family – are the beneficiaries targeted by the scheme.
  • Beneficiaries receive a cash benefit of Rs. 5,000 in three installments on fulfilling the following conditions:
    • Early registration of pregnancy
    • Ante-natal check-up
    • Registration of the birth of the child and completion of first cycle of vaccination for the first living child of the family.
  • Implementation of the scheme is closely monitored by the central and state governments through the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana – Common Application Software (PMMVY-CAS).

Concerns with PMMVY

  • Poor Performance: The scheme’s performance has been poor, forcing an immediate need for improvement.
  • Exclusion of beneficiaries: The Government of India’s yearly estimate of the intended recipients has remained consistent throughout time. Because the objective has stayed constant throughout time, it barely covers 40% of the eligible population.
  • Expenditure Deficit: According to data published by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, enrolment and payouts under the plan have decreased in the previous two years.
  • Improper Implementation: More than half of registered beneficiaries did not receive all three installments in 2020-21, resulting in a 9% decline in participation in the plan.

Way Forward

  • PMMVY maternity benefits ca be extended to the second live birth and all live births can be included in the maternity benefit coverage – to increase the benefit coverage – especially for women in the unorganized sector who are more vulnerable to economic shocks and nutrition loss.
  • Since the PMMVY’s principal goal is to give partial salary compensation – the amount of the maternity benefits can be examined for a consideration of an increase.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should get 12 weeks of pay compensation totaling to Rs. 15,000 in accordance with the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which stipulates 12 weeks of maternity leave for women with two or more children.

-Source: The Hindu,


Operation AAHT


Context:

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) has launched a nationwide ‘Operation AAHT’ to curb human trafficking.

Relevance:

GS Paper II: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Operation AAHT
  2. About Human Trafficking
  3. Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018
  4. Reasons for Human Trafficking
  5. Government Efforts against Trafficking
  6. Way Forward

Operation AAHT

  • As part of this operation, special teams will be deployed on all long-distance trains/routes with focus on rescuing victims, particularly women and children, from the clutches of traffickers.
  • The RPF will act as a bridge cutting across States to assist the local police in the mission to curb the menace.
  • The infrastructure and intelligence network of the force could be utilized to collect, collate and analyse clues on victims, source, route, destination, popular trains used by suspects, identity of carriers/agents, kingpins etc and shared with other law-enforcing agencies.

About Human Trafficking

  • Elements of Human Trafficking: Trafficking in persons has three constituent elements:
    • The Act (What is done): Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons;
    • The Means (How it is done): Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim;
    • The Purpose (Why it is done): For exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.

Legislative Framework on Human Trafficking:

  • The Constitution of India:
    • Article 23 which prohibits trafficking in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour.
    • Article 39(e) and 39(f) which ordain that the health and strength of individuals are not abused and that no one is forced by the economic necessity to do work unsuited to their age or strength and that childhood and youth should be protected against exploitation.
  • Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956: It is the only legislation which specifically addresses Trafficking. It penalizes trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Other Legislations: There are some more legislations which directly or indirectly deal with human trafficking like:
    • Indian Penal Code, 1860;
    • Bonded labour system (Abolition) Act, 1976;
    • Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986;
    • Juvenile Justice Act, 2000;
    • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and
    • Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
    • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 (Nirbhaya Act)

Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018:

The main features of the bill include:

  • The confidentiality of victims/ witnesses and complainants by not disclosing their identity.
  • Time bound trial and repatriation of the victims – within a period of one year from taking into cognizance and designated courts in each district for the speedy trial of the cases.
  • Immediate protection of rescued victims and their rehabilitation.
  • Rehabilitation Fund created for the first time.
  • The Bill creates dedicated institutional mechanisms at District, State and Central Level. National Investigation Agency (NIA) will perform the tasks of Anti-Trafficking Bureau at the national level present under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • Punishment ranges from rigorous minimum 10 years to life and fine not less than Rs. 1 lakh.

Reasons for Human Trafficking:

Poverty is one of the main driving force behind human trafficking. Other factors include:

  • Caste and gender-based discrimination along with commodification of women (bride trafficking)
  • Lack of resources and lack of human and social capital,
  • Social insecurity and exclusion,
  • Inadequate and outdated state policies,
  • Nexus of police and traffickers,
  • Unemployment,
  • Cheap child labour,
  • Lack of awareness etc.

Government Efforts against Trafficking

  • Project on “strengthening the law enforcement response in India against trafficking in persons through training and capacity building”: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in association with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has initiated a two year project for training the Law Enforcement Officers on human trafficking in four States, namely Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Coordination Meetings: The MHA conducts regular coordination meetings with the Nodal Officers of Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) of States/UTs for effective inter-state coordination.
    • Since ‘Police’ is a State subject, registration, investigation and prevention of human trafficking is primarily the responsibility of State Governments.
  • IGNOU Certificate Course: The course is mandatory for the Officers/Officials dealing with such cases to develop a comprehensive and functional understanding on anti-human trafficking.
  • Anti-Trafficking Cell: The MHA has set up a nodal cell for dealing with matters relating to trafficking in human beings.
  • Web Portal on Anti-Human Trafficking: A Website on Anti Human Trafficking has been launched.
  • Ujjawala Scheme: The Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing “Ujjawala” –a Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking and Rescue, Rehabilitation, Re-integration and Repatriation of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation. The Schemes provide shelter, food and clothing, counseling, medical care, legal aid and other support, vocational training and income generation activities for the victims.

Way Forward:

  • A strong anti-trafficking law is the moral and constitutional responsibility of our elected leaders, and a necessary step towards nation-building and economic progress.
  • sIt is non-negotiable for the realisation of an India that our Constitution-makers envisioned, our freedom fighters struggled for, our soldiers die for, and our children deserve. India is stepping into its 75th year of Independence.

-Source: The Hindu


PM CARES – Fund 


Context:

The PM CARES Fund collected ₹10,990 crore since its inception in March 2020 until March 2021. It spent ₹3,976 crore during the 2020-21 financial year, according to the audited financial statement posted on its website. As on March 31, 2021, the Fund had an unspent balance of ₹7,044 crore.

Relevance:

GS II- Welfare schemes for vulnerable Sections

Dimensions of this article:
  1. About PM CARES – Fund
  2. About Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund(PMNRF)
  3. Difference between PMCARES and PMNRF in the below table

About PM CARES – Fund

  • The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was created on 28 March 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • The fund will be used for combating, and containment and relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future. 
  • Although the documentation for the constitution of the fund has not been made public, the Government of India has stated that the Prime Minister of India is the chairman of the fund, and that trustees include the Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance in the Government of India.
  • The PM CARES Fund has faced criticism for the lack of transparency and accountability in relation to its establishment, functioning, and accounts.
  • The total amount of funds donated and the names of donors have not been publicly disclosed, and the fund is privately audited.
  • The Government of India has initially claimed that the fund is a private fund, and denied that the PM CARES Fund is a public fund for the purposes of transparency laws such as the Right to Information Act 2005, even though the Fund uses government infrastructure and the national emblem of the Government of India.
  • In December 2020, the Government of India reversed its stance and admitted that the PM CARES Fund was a public fund, but still refused to disclose information regarding it under the Right to Information Act 2005.
  • There are currently several ongoing cases at the Supreme Court of India and several High Courts in relation to the Fund.

About Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund(PMNRF)

  • Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) in India is the fund raised to provide support for people affected by natural and man made disasters.
  • Natural disasters covered under this include flood, cyclone, earthquake etc. Man made disasters include major accidents, acid attacks, riots etc.
  • The fund is also allotted to the people for treatment like cancer, kidney transplantation, heart surgery etc.
  • The fund was first consolidated during the time of the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.

Difference between PMCARES and PMNRF in the below table;-

PMNRF (Prime Minister National Relief Fund)PM CARES Fund [Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund]
PMNRF (Prime Minister National Relief Fund) was established in January 1948.PM CARES Fund was established on 27th March 2020.
PMNRF was established by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.The PM CARES Fund was established by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
The initial purpose of establishing PMNRF (Prime Minister National Relief Fund) was to help the people displaced due to partition of India and Pakistan.The PM CARES fund was established with the objective of helping people affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
Chairman of the Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is the Prime Minister of India. Other members are from Tata Trusts, representatives of FICCI, Congress President.Chairman of the PM-CARES fund is the Prime Minister of India. The Prime Minister has the power to nominate members. The other members of the PM CARES Fund are the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
The minimum amount one can donate in the Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is Rs 100.PM CARES Fund allows option for Micro donation, one can donate as low as Rs 10 in the PM CARES Fund.
PMNRF focuses on all kinds of natural disasters and calamities like Cyclones, Earthquakes, Floods, Tsunamis etc. The PMNRF funds are also utilized for acid attack victims, cancer treatments, kidney transplants etc.PM CARES fund is exclusively used for COVID-19 purposes.
The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), which was set up in 1948, is not audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)CARES Fund is not being audited by the CAG, and is being audited by a private party appointed directly by the Government of India instead.

-Source: The Hindu


RBI’s digital currency plans


Context:

In the Budget presented for 2022-23, Finance Minister had announced the introduction of India’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and that the digital rupee would give a ‘big boost’ to digital economy.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Banking, Money, Monetary Policy),

GS-III: Science and Technology (Developments in Science and Technology, Application of Technology in Daily life, Blockchain technology).

Dimensions of this Article:
  1. Central Bank Digital Currency
  2. Why are central banks issuing digital currencies?
  3. Risks in adopting digital currencies issued by Central bank
  4. Way forward

Central Bank Digital Currency

  • A CBDC is no different from the cash that we hold in our wallets, except that it exists in a digital form.
  • It will be held in a digital wallet that is supervised by the Central bank.
  • In India, it will be the RBI that supervises the digital rupee although it may delegate some power to banks.
  • It should be noted that the RBI’s digital rupee will not directly replace demand deposits held in banks.
  • Physical cash will continue to be used by banks, and people who wish to withdraw cash from banks can still do so. But they can also opt to convert their bank deposits into the new digital rupee.

Why are central banks issuing digital currencies?

  • To bring down the use of physical cash.
  • The cost of issuing digital currencies is far lower than the cost of printing and distributing physical cash.
  • The RBI can create and distribute the digital rupee at virtually zero cost since the creation and the distribution of the digital rupee will happen electronically.
  • Unlike physical cash, which is hard to trace, a digital currency that is monitored by the RBI can be more easily tracked and controlled by the Central bank.
  • Central bank digital currencies are promised as reliable, sovereign-backed alternatives to private currencies which are volatile and unregulated.
  • This feature of digital currencies, however, has raised various concerns regarding their privacy and could slow down their adoption.
  • In fact, it is worth noting that the need for privacy has been one of the primary reasons behind the switch to private digital currencies.

Risks in adopting digital currencies issued by Central bank

  • People may begin withdrawing money from their bank accounts as digital currencies issued by Central banks become more popular.
    • Many people currently use bank accounts to safely store their cash.
    • When the digital wallet offered by the RBI can serve the same purpose, people could very well begin converting their bank deposits into digital cash.
  • One thing that could prevent any large flight of capital from bank accounts to digital currencies is the fact that bank accounts, unlike digital currencies, offer interest on deposits.
    • But in developed economies, where interest rates are near zero or even negative, the risk of people rushing their money out of bank accounts and into digital currencies is real.
    • This may not be an immediate concern for banks in India which still offer returns that are positive, at least in nominal terms, to their depositors.
  • The withdrawal of bank deposits can also affect the amount of loans created by banks. However, this could happen not simply because banks will have fewer cash deposits to lend to borrowers.
  • Contrary to popular belief, banks do not loan out actual cash deposits. Instead, they use cash deposits as a base on which they create a pyramid of electronic loans far in excess of the cash deposits.
  • So banks hold lower amounts of cash in their vaults than what their depositors and borrowers could demand from them anyway.
  • The real reason banks will be able to create fewer loans is that when customers convert their bank money into CBDCs, banks will be forced to surrender at least some cash and will thus possess an even smaller base on which to create loans.
  • Also, when bank customers convert their deposits into digital rupee, the RBI will have to take these liabilities from the books of banks and onto its own balance sheet.

 

Way forward:

  • Central banks may cap the amount of money that an individual can hold in the form of CBDCs.
    • This can prevent the mass withdrawal of deposits from banks.
  • Some even believe that some Central banks, such as the European Central Bank, may impose a negative penalty on their digital currencies. This could be done to force people to spend their digital currencies and to discourage the withdrawal of deposits from banks that impose negative interest rates.
  • Central banks may also have to inject fresh money into banks to ensure that the ability of banks to create loans is not affected by depositors’ rush to digital currencies.

-Source: The Hindu


Dholes


Context:

A new study has reported the presence of dholes or Asiatic wild dogs in the high mountains of Central Asia nearly 30 years after their presence was last recorded.

  • The animals have been discovered in the Bek-Tosot Conservancy in the Osh region of southern Kyrgyzstan, a few kilometres from the Tajik border. It lies in the Pamir mountain range of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China.
Relevance:

GS III- Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Conservation

Dimensions of this article:
  1. About Dholes
  2. Conservation Status
  3. Reasons for their Population Decreasing

About Dholes

  • It is a wild carnivorous animal and is a member of the family Canidae and the class Mammalia.
  • They are also known as Asian wild dogs.
  • Historically, dholes purportedly occurred throughout southern Russia, all across central Asia, south Asia and southeast Asia.
  • According to recent research and current distribution maps, they are restricted to south and southeast Asia, with the northernmost populations in China.
  • In India, they are found in three clusters across India namely the Western and Eastern Ghats, central Indian landscape and North East India.
  • Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh rank high in the conservation of the endangered dhole in India, according to a study (2020).
  • Dholes play an important role as apex predators in forest ecosystems.

Conservation Status

  • IUCN List of Threatened Species: Endangered
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix II
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 : Schedule II

Reasons for their Population Decreasing

  • Due to deforestation and fragmentation of forest corridors.
  • Ungulates are the main prey of dholes whose population is rapidly decreasing due to excessive hunting and habitat loss.
  • Persecution due to livestock predation and disease transfer from domestic and feral dogs.

-Source: Down to Earth


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