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Current Affairs 08 June 2024

  1. RBI’s Strategic Move: Repatriation of Gold
  2. Open Network for Digital Commerce
  3. QS World University Rankings 2025
  4. Jailed Leaders Win Lok Sabha Elections
  5. World Wealth Report 2024
  6. SEBI Introduces Framework to Mitigate Impact of Market Rumours


Context:

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has undertaken a significant strategic move by bringing back over 100 tonnes of gold from the UK to its domestic vaults. This has marked the largest such repatriation since the early 1990s and signifies the RBI’s evolving approach to managing its gold reserves.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Gold Reserves in India
  2. Reasons for RBI Moving Gold Back to India
  3. Importance of Gold in the Economy

Gold Reserves in India

Current Status:
  • Total Reserves: As per the National Mineral Inventory, India has total gold ore reserves of 501.83 million tonnes as of 2015.
  • Major Locations: The largest gold ore resources are in Bihar (44%), followed by Rajasthan (25%), Karnataka (21%), West Bengal (3%), Andhra Pradesh (3%), and Jharkhand (2%).
  • Karnataka’s Contribution: Karnataka contributes around 80% of India’s total gold output. The Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) in the Kolar district are among the world’s oldest and deepest gold mines.
Major Gold Buyers

Global Trends:

  • China: According to the World Gold Council (WGC) report from April 2024, China was the top buyer of gold among central banks in the first quarter of 2024.
  • Turkey: As of April 2024, Turkey’s Central Bank had purchased the most gold (8 tonnes) year-to-date, bringing its total holdings to 578 tonnes.
  • Emerging Economies: The WGC report consistently shows that central banks from emerging economies are leading the trend in gold buying.
Gold Holdings of RBI

Legal Framework:

  • Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934: This act provides the legal framework for managing reserves in different foreign currency assets and gold.
Current Holdings:
  • Total Gold Held (March 2024): The RBI held 822.10 tonnes of gold, with 408.31 tonnes stored domestically. The remaining 413.79 tonnes are held in custody with foreign institutions like the Bank of England and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).
  • Forex Reserves: As of April 2024, gold constitutes USD 54.4 billion of India’s total forex reserves of USD 648.562 billion.
Recent Purchases:
  • Top Five Central Banks: The RBI is among the top five central banks buying gold, according to the World Gold Council.
  • Global Financial Crisis: The RBI purchased 200 tonnes of gold during the global financial crisis in 2009.
  • Recent Acquisitions: The RBI bought 65.11 tonnes of gold in FY 2022, 34.22 tonnes in FY 2023, and 19 tonnes in FY 2024.

Reasons for RBI Moving Gold Back to India

Inflation Protection:
  • Value Stability: Gold tends to retain its value during periods of high inflation. Unlike currencies that may depreciate due to inflation, gold’s historical trends show it can even increase in value during such times.
  • Potential Gains: This offers the RBI an opportunity for favorable returns, even in difficult economic scenarios.
Geopolitical Factors:
  • Sanctions and Asset Security: The geopolitical landscape, including events like the Russia-Ukraine conflict, has resulted in sanctions on Russia by Western nations, leading to the freezing of Russian assets held abroad. This situation may have prompted the RBI to secure its assets by bringing them back to India.
  • Safe Investment: Gold is viewed as a secure investment during periods of geopolitical and economic uncertainty.
Diversification and Liquidity:
  • Foreign Exchange Portfolio: Adding gold to its reserves allows the RBI to diversify its foreign exchange holdings.
  • Secure and Liquid Asset: Gold is a secure and liquid asset, easily tradable on the international market at transparent prices.
  • Reserve Management: This provides the RBI with greater flexibility and more options for managing its reserves.
Economic Confidence:
  • Economic Growth Indicator: Repatriating gold demonstrates India’s strong economic growth and the ability to safeguard financial assets, instilling confidence in the stability of the Indian economy.
  • Contrast to 1991 Crisis: This move is a contrast to the 1991 economic crisis when India had to pledge gold reserves for foreign currency.
Cost Savings:
  • Eliminating Storage Costs: Moving the gold back to India eliminates storage fees previously paid to the Bank of England.

Importance of Gold in the Economy

Finite Supply and Intrinsic Value:
  • Geological Constraints: Gold has a limited supply due to geological factors.
  • Intrinsic Value: This scarcity, combined with unique physical properties and historical importance, gives gold its intrinsic value.
Performance During Inflation:
  • Positive Correlation: Gold has historically maintained its value well during inflation. A 2023 study by the World Gold Council found a positive correlation between gold prices and US inflation over the past 50 years, making gold an effective hedge against inflation.
Diversification and Stability:
  • Foreign Reserves: Gold diversifies a country’s foreign reserves, reducing reliance on a single currency and providing stability during economic challenges.
  • Investor Confidence: Holding gold reserves can signal confidence in a country’s economy to international investors.
Cultural Significance:
  • Jewelry Demand: The demand for gold in jewelry remains high globally, particularly in regions like India and China.
  • Cultural Importance: Gold holds significant cultural value in many societies, further influencing its demand and value.

-Source: Economic Times



Context:

Recently, Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) recorded an all-time high of 8.9 million transactions across retail and ride-hailing segments in May 2024, representing a 23% month-on-month increase in total transaction volume.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is ONDC?
  2. What led to formation of ONDC?
  3. What are the likely benefits of ONDC?

What is ONDC?

  • It is a not-for-profit organisation that will offer a network to enable local digital commerce stores across industries to be discovered and engaged by any network-enabled applications.
  • It is neither an aggregator application nor a hosting platform, and all existing digital commerce applications and platforms can voluntarily choose to adopt and be a part of the ONDC network.
  • The ONDC model is trying to replicate the success of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in the field of digital payments.
  • UPI allows people to send or receive money irrespective of the payment platforms they are registered on.
  • The open network concept also extends beyond the retail sector, to any digital commerce domains including wholesale, mobility, food delivery, logistics, travel, urban services, etc.
The main aims of ONDC are to:
  • Promote open-source methodology, using open specifications and
  • Promote open network protocols independent of any specific platform
  • Digitise value chains,
  • Promote inclusion of suppliers,
  • Standardize operations,
  • Derive efficiencies in logistics
  • Enhance value for consumers.

Example:

  • Currently, a buyer needs to go to Amazon, for example, to buy a product from a seller on Amazon.
  • Under ONDC, it is envisaged that a buyer registered on one participating e-commerce site (for example, Amazon) may purchase goods from a seller on another participating e-commerce site (for example, Flipkart).

What led to formation of ONDC?

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), under Ministry of Commerce and Industries, conducted an outreach during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to understand its impact on small sellers and hyperlocal supply chain functioning.
  • Post which, it found that there is a huge disconnect between the scale of online demand and the ability of the local retail ecosystem to participate.
  • Following this, consultations were held with multiple ministries and industry experts and “ONDC was envisioned to revolutionise digital commerce in India,” as per the strategy paper.

What are the likely benefits of ONDC?

  • The ONDC will standardise operations like cataloguing, inventory management, order management and order fulfilment, hence making it simpler and easier for small businesses to be discoverable over network and conduct business.
  • However, experts have pointed out some likely potential issues such as getting enough number of e-commerce platforms to sign up, along with issues related to customer service and payment integration.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, the latest QS World University Rankings for 2025 were released revealing significant improvements for Indian universities and notable global standings.

Relevance:

GS II: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. QS World University Rankings
  2. Key Highlights of the 2025 QS World University Rankings

QS World University Rankings:

  • The QS World University Rankings are annual rankings released by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).
  • These rankings aim to evaluate and compare the performance and quality of universities worldwide.
  • The methodology used by QS takes into account various indicators, including academic reputation, faculty-student ratio, employer reputation, sustainability, employment outcomes, international research network, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio, and international student ratio.
  • In addition to the overall rankings, QS also provides rankings by subject, region, student city, business school, and sustainability, catering to specific areas of interest and focus.

Key Highlights of the 2025 QS World University Rankings

Compilation and Data:
  • Scope of Analysis: The 2025 QS World University Rankings evaluated 17 million research papers, 176 million citations, and data from 5,600 institutions worldwide. Input was gathered from 175,798 academics and 105,476 employers.
Top Global Institutes:
  • MIT: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology maintained its top position as the best institute globally for the 13th year in a row.
  • Imperial College London: Rose from sixth place to second.
  • Harvard and Oxford: Harvard University and the University of Oxford jointly held the third spot.
Regional Highlights:
  • Continental Europe: ETH Zurich continues to be the leading institution in Continental Europe for the 17th consecutive year.
  • Asia: The National University of Singapore (NUS) retained its prominent position, staying in eighth place.
India’s Position:
  • Representation: India, with 46 universities ranked, is the seventh most represented country globally and third in Asia, following Japan (49 universities) and China (71 universities).
  • Ranking Improvements: 61% of Indian universities saw an improvement in their rankings, with IIT Bombay achieving the highest position among Indian institutions.
  • Ranking Stability: 61% of Indian universities moved up in rank, while 24% maintained their previous positions.
Research and Collaboration:
  • Citations per Faculty: India performs well in this indicator, with a score of 37.8, surpassing the global average of 23.5. This score is the second highest in Asia among countries with over 10 ranked universities.
  • International Collaboration: India needs to improve in the International Faculty Ratio and International Student Ratio indicators, indicating a need for enhanced international collaboration and exchange.
Top Indian Institutes:
  • IIT Bombay: Leading among Indian institutions, IIT Bombay advanced from 149th in 2024 to 118th in 2025.
  • IIT Delhi: Secured the second spot among Indian institutions, moving up 47 places from 197th to 150th.
  • IIT Indore: The only Indian institution to experience a decline, falling from 454th to 477th.
  • New Entrants: Symbiosis International (Deemed University) entered the top 20, ranked between 641-650 globally.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Jailed leaders Amritpal Singh and Engineer Rashid, who ran as independent candidates in the Lok Sabha elections, have won the election. Both leaders are currently in prison on serious charges being investigated by the National Investigation Agency. According to Indian laws, they were eligible to contest the election unless convicted. However, like other accused persons in Indian prisons, they were barred from voting in the recently held elections.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What happens next? How will they take oath as MPs?
  2. Duties as a Lawmaker

What happens next? How will they take oath as MPs?

Serious Charges
  • Amritpal Singh: Detained in Dibrugarh, Assam under the National Security Act (NSA) since March 2023. The NSA allows preventive detention for up to 12 months without formal charges.
  • Rashid: Currently held in Delhi’s Tihar jail under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on alleged terror-funding charges. He contested the election on a Awami Ittehad Party ticket.
Taking Oath
  • Despite being in prison, their election victories provide them with a constitutional mandate to serve as parliamentarians.
  • The first step is taking the oath, which is crucial for them to begin their parliamentary roles. Although not explicitly stated in the Constitution, there have been precedents where jailed lawmakers are granted temporary parole to take the oath.
    • Sanjay Singh (AAP): In March, while in Tihar jail on money laundering charges, he was permitted by a court to take the oath as Rajya Sabha MP for a second term.
    • Akhil Gogoi: In 2021, after winning in Sibsagar, Assam, he was allowed to leave prison temporarily to take the oath as a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly.
    • George Fernandes: In 1977, elected from Muzaffarpur while in jail during the Emergency, he was released before the oath ceremony.

Duties as a Lawmaker

  • Taking the oath is not the same as being granted bail. It is akin to a special parole for a day.
  • After taking the oath, the lawmaker must inform the Speaker about their inability to attend proceedings due to imprisonment.
  • Article 101(4) of the Constitution states that an MP’s seat can be declared vacant if they are absent for over 60 days without permission.
  • To attend a Parliament session or vote, the lawmaker must seek court permission.
  • Only a conviction and a sentence of two or more years will lead to disqualification from Parliament.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The number of high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) in India increased by 12.2% in 2023 compared to 2022 as per the Capgemini Research Institute’s World Wealth Report 2024.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Summary of the World Wealth Report 2024

Release and Coverage:
  • Publisher: Capgemini Research Institute.
  • Scope: Covers 71 countries, representing over 98% of global gross national income and 99% of the world’s stock market capitalization.
Highlights:

Global HNWI Wealth and Population:

  • The wealth of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) worldwide grew by 4.7% in 2023, reaching $86.8 trillion.
  • The global HNWI population rose by 5.1% to 22.8 million.
Definitions and Segmentation:
  • HNWIs: Individuals with investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables, and consumer durables.
  • Categories: HNWIs are divided into:
    • Ultra-HNWIs (wealth of $30 million or more)
    • Mid-Tier Millionaires ($5 million to $30 million)
    • Millionaires Next Door ($1 million to $5 million)
Regional Highlights:

APAC Region Performers:

  • India and Australia: Notable for their performance, with India and Australia seeing HNWI wealth growth of 12.4% and 7.9%, and HNWI population growth of 12.2% and 7.8%, respectively.
    • Economic resilience and strong equity markets contributed to this growth.
India-Specific Highlights:

HNWI Growth:

  • The number of HNWIs in India increased by 12.2% in 2023, reaching a total of 3.589 million.
  • Financial wealth of India’s HNWIs rose by 12.4% to $1,445.7 billion, up from $1,286.7 billion in 2022.
Economic Indicators:
  • The unemployment rate in India dropped to 3.1% in 2023, down from 7% in 2022.
  • Market capitalization surged by 29.0% in 2023, following a 6% rise in 2022.
  • National savings as a percentage of GDP increased to 33.4% in 2023, up from 29.9% in 2022.

-Source: Economic Times



Context:

To tackle any impact on the price of a scrip because of a market rumour, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) introduced a framework centred around its ‘unaffected price.’

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

About the New SEBI Framework

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has launched a framework focusing on the “unaffected price” concept to address the impact of market rumours on stock prices.

Purpose:

  • The framework aims to ensure a fair price for a security, free from the influence of unverified rumours, thereby safeguarding the interests of both companies and investors.
Implementation Phases:
  • Phase 1 (June 1): Targets the top 100 listed entities.
  • Phase 2 (December 1): Expands to include the top 250 listed entities.

Mechanism of “Unaffected Price”:

  • The “unaffected price” refers to the stock price before any specific rumour became public. This concept supports a fair price discovery process and protects market participants’ interests.
Benefits:
  • Enhancing Market Integrity: By promoting transparency and ensuring quicker responses from listed companies.
  • Boosting Investor Confidence: Helps maintain trust in the market.
  • Reducing Speculation: Aims to curb speculative activities based on rumours.
  • Level Playing Field: Ensures fairness in buybacks, mergers, acquisitions, and other transactions.

Timeframe:

  • The “unaffected price” must be established within 24 hours of any significant price movement, excluding the rumour.

-Source: The Hindu


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