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Current Affairs 12 February 2024

  1. UPI services to be launched in Sri Lanka and Mauritius
  2. Biennial polls to the Rajya Sabha
  3. India’s Minerals Security Partnership to secure critical mineral
  4. Surge in Engineering Goods export to Russia
  5. Bihar Floor Test
  6.  PM-SVANidhi scheme


Context:

India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) services will be launched in Sri Lanka and Mauritius on February 12, 2024.

  • The RuPay card services will also be lunched in Mauritius.


Relevance:

GS3-Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About UPI
  2. About the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
  3. Positive Impacts of UPI
  4. Negative Impacts of UPI
  5. Way Forward
  6. What is a RuPay Card?

About UPI:

  • UPI is an enhanced version of the Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), offering round-the-clock funds transfer for quicker, smoother, and easier cashless transactions. It integrates multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application, consolidating various banking features such as seamless fund routing and merchant payments.
  • NPCI manages various payment systems, and UPI stands as the largest among them, including the National Automated Clearing House (NACH), IMPS, Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS), Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), and RuPay.
  • Prominent UPI applications include PhonePe, Paytm, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and BHIM, the latter being a government initiative. As part of an agreement, India’s UPI will be linked to Singapore’s PayNow.
  • NPCI introduced UPI with the collaboration of 21 member banks in 2016.

About the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI):

  • The National Payments Corporation of India serves as the umbrella organization for various retail payments systems in India. Established with guidance and support from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), its objectives include streamlining and integrating multiple systems into a standardized national process for retail payments. The goal is to provide affordable payment mechanisms for the general public across the country, fostering financial inclusion.
  • The digital payments sector in India is projected to grow from Rs. 2,153 trillion at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27% to Rs. 7,092 trillion by 2025. In 2022, India emerged as the global leader in digital payments, accounting for 46% of global real-time payments and surpassing other top countries in terms of combined digital payments.

Positive Impacts of UPI:

  • Ease of usage: Simplified digital transactions via smartphones.
  • Financial Inclusion: Access to digital payments for all individuals.
  • Decreased Cash Dependency: Curbing illicit transactions and risks.
  • Boost to Digital Economy: Promoting digital entrepreneurship and innovation.

Negative Impacts of UPI:

  • UPI as Petty Cash Alternative: Growing reliance on UPI for smaller transactions, replacing petty cash.
  • Limited Transaction Flexibility: Confusing limits set by various apps and banks impacting transaction flexibility.
  • Infrastructure Challenges: Difficulties keeping up with the surge in UPI payments, necessitating infrastructure upgrades.
  • Security and Fraud Prevention: Rising cyber threats and fraud risks requiring robust security measures.

Way Forward:

  • Agile Infrastructure Development: Invest in advanced infrastructure and technology solutions to manage increased UPI transaction volume.
  • Personalized Financial Insights: Utilize data analytics and AI to offer tailored financial insights to UPI users.
  • Blockchain Integration: Explore integrating blockchain for enhanced security and scalability.
  • AI-Powered Fraud Prevention: Implement AI and machine learning for real-time fraud detection and prevention.

These measures can contribute to a seamless and secure UPI experience for both users and banks, facilitating the continued growth of digital payments in India.

What is a RuPay Card?

  • Origin and Issuance: RuPay is an Indian domestic card scheme introduced and managed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • Affordability and Variants: RuPay cards are cost-effective and can be issued as credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards.
  • Wide Acceptance: RuPay cards enable electronic payments at all Indian banks and financial institutions.

-Source:  AIR, The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Government released a list of 14 candidates for the biennial polls to the Rajya Sabha.


Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Nominated Members of Rajya Sabha:
  2. Article 80
  3. Difference between Nominated and Elected members

About Nominated Members of Rajya Sabha:

  • 12 people are nominated by the President for six year term in Rajya Sabha for their contribution and expertise in the fields of:
    • Art
    • Literature
    • Science
    • Social Service

Normal composition

  • The present strength is 245 members of whom 233 are representatives of the states and UTs and 12 are nominated by the President.
  • The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution; one-third of its members retire every second year.

Article 80

  • As per Article 80 (Part V) of the Constitution, President can nominate 12 members in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).
  • These persons should have special knowledge or practical experience in the field of Art, Science, Literature and Social Service.
  • The rationale behind principle of the nomination is to facilitate the representation of eminent professionals and experts who cannot face direct elections.

Difference between Nominated and Elected members:

  • Nominated members enjoy all powers, privileges and immunities available to an elected member of Parliament.
  • They, however, are not entitled to vote in the election of the President of India.  
  • But in the election of the Vice-President of India, they have a right to vote.
  • A nominated member is allowed six months, should he decide to join a political party after he has taken his seat in the House in terms of article 99 of the Constitution. 
  • A nominated member has also been exempted from filing his assets and liabilities under Section 75A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which requires the elected member to do so within 90 days of his making or subscribing oath/affirmation.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

As an effort to help the central public sector undertakings or PSUs to acquire critical mineral assets abroad, the Ministry of Mines in an US-led Minerals Security Partnership, proposed to circulate critical mineral block proposals received by partner countries with the PSUs.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. What are Critical Minerals?
  3. Why is this resource critical?
  4. What is China ‘threat’?
  5. What are countries around the world doing about it?

Details:

  • The initiative will help PSUs in the acquisition of critical mineral assets abroad. It involves circulating details of some block proposals received through the MSP.
  • PSUs such as Coal India Limited, NLC India Ltd, and NTPC Ltd, have expressed interest in securing lithium, cobalt, and graphite assets overseas.
  • About the MSP:
    • The MSP is a US-led collaborative effort involving thirteen countries including the UK, Australia, France, and Germany, and the European Union.
    • Aim:
      • It aims to catalyse public and private investment in critical mineral supply chains globally.
    • Functions: The collaboration is currently engaged in fostering a critical minerals and metals cooperation forum for
      • Sharing of expertise,
      • Building a robust battery materials supply chain, and
      • Jointly developing a minerals processing facility in South America.

What are Critical Minerals?

  • Critical minerals are elements that are the building blocks of essential modern-day technologies, and are at risk of supply chain disruptions.
  • These minerals are now used everywhere from making mobile phones, computers to batteries, electric vehicles and green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.
  • Based on their individual needs and strategic considerations, different countries create their own lists.
  • However, such lists mostly include graphite, lithium and cobalt, which are used for making EV batteries; rare earths that are used for making magnets and silicon which is a key mineral for making computer chips and solar panels.
  • Aerospace, communications and defence industries also rely on several such minerals as they are used in manufacturing fighter jets, drones, radio sets and other critical equipment.

Why is this resource critical?

  • As countries around the world scale up their transition towards clean energy and digital economy, these critical resources are key to the ecosystem that fuels this change.
  • Any supply shock can severely imperil the economy and strategic autonomy of a country over-dependent on others to procure critical minerals.
  • But these supply risks exist due to rare availability, growing demand and complex processing value chain.
  • Many times the complex supply chain can be disrupted by hostile regimes, or due to politically unstable regions.
  • They are critical as the world is fast shifting from a fossil fuel-intensive to a mineral-intensive energy system.

What is China ‘threat’?

  • China is the world’s largest producer of 16 critical minerals.
  • China alone is responsible for some 70% and 60% of global production of cobalt and rare earth elements, respectively, in 2019.
  • The level of concentration is even higher for processing operations, where China has a strong presence across the board.
  • China’s share of refining is around 35% for nickel, 50-70% for lithium and cobalt, and nearly 90% for rare earth elements.
  • It also controls cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from where 70% of this mineral is sourced.
  • In 2010, China suspended rare earth exports to Japan for two months over a territorial dispute.

What are countries around the world doing about it?

  • US has shifted its focus on expanding domestic mining, production, processing, and recycling of critical minerals and materials.
  • India has set up KABIL or the Khanij Bidesh India Limited, a joint venture of three public sector companies, to “ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to the Indian domestic market”.
  • Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) and KABIL had recently signed an MoU aimed at ensuring reliable supply of critical minerals to India.
  • The UK has unveiled its new Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre to study the future demand for and supply of these minerals.

-Source: The Indian Express



Context:

As Russia-Ukraine war enters its third year, the export of Engineering goods to Russia has increased significantly.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. Current Scenario of Indian Export
  3. Status of the Export Sector in India
  4. Challenges Related to the Export Sector in India

Details:

  • The outbound shipments of India in the ‘engineering goods’ category doubling in 2023 to cross a record $1-billion mark.
  • The export of Indian manufactured machines, auto parts, steel and aluminum products, internal combustion (IC) engines, pumps and other items to Russia are on the rise.
  • Owing to the continuing Russia-Ukraine war, which has entered its third year, there is a surge in Russian industries supplying goods to its military.
    • This has significantly increased the requirement of engineering goods in Russia.
  • As per the official data from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, India’s total exports to Russia in 2023 surged 40 per cent to cross the $4-billion mark, largely driven by engineering goods which nearly doubled to $1.32 billion in 2023 from $680 million in 2022.
  • Fall in exports to Europe:
    • On the Contrary, there is a fall in India’s engineering goods export to Europe. It fell by 11%.
    • The surge in Indian exports to Russia is mainly attributed to near collapse of Moscow’s trade with the West and Ukraine.
    • Sanctions and counter-sanctions on Russia led to its closer trade ties with China and India.

Current Scenario of Indian Export

The current scenario of Indian exports indicates a series of decelerations in both goods and services exports:

Goods Export Performance:

  • Goods exports have been facing a downward trend in recent months, experiencing a significant 22% decline in June 2023, which marks the steepest fall in 37 months.
  • The total export value for June 2023 was USD 32.7 billion, the lowest since October 2022.

Services Export Performance:

  • Exported services have also witnessed a slowdown, with forex earnings from intangible exports growing by only 5.2% to USD 80 billion in the first quarter of 2023-24.
  • In contrast, the previous year 2022-23 saw substantial growth of around 28% in services export earnings, reaching USD 325 billion.

Factors Influencing Exports:

  • A sharp decline of 33.2% in petroleum exports during the first quarter was primarily caused by reduced global oil prices. Additionally, sanctions on Russian oil shipments with price caps have contributed to a moderation in demand.
  • The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) forecast of slower global trade growth in 2023 is influencing India’s export outlook, necessitating a more cautious approach.
  • As per the new Foreign Trade Policy, India’s broader target for exports is to achieve USD 2 trillion by 2030, with services and goods exports each contributing a trillion dollars.

Status of the Export Sector in India:

  • Merchandise Trade Deficit: The merchandise trade deficit, representing the gap between exports and imports, increased significantly by over 39% in 2022-23, reaching USD 266.78 billion, compared to USD 191 billion in the previous year 2021-22.
  • Merchandise Imports and Exports: In 2022-23, merchandise imports rose by 16.51%, while merchandise exports saw a more moderate increase of 6.03%.
  • Overall Trade Deficit: Despite the substantial merchandise trade deficit, the overall trade deficit stood at USD 122 billion in 2022-23, benefiting from a trade surplus in services.

India’s Major Export Arenas:

  • Engineering Goods: The exports of engineering goods witnessed a remarkable growth of 50% in FY22, amounting to USD 101 billion.
  • Agriculture Products: Agricultural exports received a boost due to the government’s efforts to meet global food demand during the pandemic. India’s rice exports were particularly significant, reaching USD 9.65 billion, the highest among agricultural commodities.
  • Textile and Apparels: The textile and apparel sector, including handicrafts, experienced substantial growth, with exports amounting to USD 44.4 billion in FY22. This sector has been further supported by government initiatives like the Mega Integrated Textile Region and Apparel (MITRA) Park.
  • Pharmaceuticals and Drugs: India plays a major role in the pharmaceutical industry, being the third-largest producer of medicines by volume and the largest supplier of generic drugs. India’s pharmaceutical exports contribute significantly to fulfilling global demand, supplying over 50% of Africa’s generic drug requirements, around 40% of the US’s generic drug demand, and 25% of all medicines in the UK.

Challenges Related to the Export Sector in India:

  • Limited Access to Affordable Finance: Exporters in India often struggle to access affordable and timely finance. High interest rates, strict collateral requirements, and limited credit availability from financial institutions, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), hinder their ability to conduct international trade effectively.
  • Overdependence on Few Sectors: India’s export basket is heavily concentrated in a few sectors, such as engineering goods, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. This concentration makes the country’s export sector vulnerable to fluctuations in global demand and market risks. Diversification of exports is crucial to reduce reliance on specific industries and enhance overall resilience to changing global trade dynamics.
  • Protectionist Trade Policies: The global political order has been disrupted by events like the Russia-Ukraine War, leading to an increase in protectionist trade policies in various countries. The weaponization of supply chains and the rise of protectionism in international trade pose significant challenges for India’s export capacities, restricting access to certain markets and affecting trade flows.

-Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express



Context:

The Bihar Assembly to take up the Floor Test to demonstrate the majority of the newly formed coalition government headed by CM Nitish Kumar.

  • The Bihar State Assembly recently passed a no-confidence motion against Speaker and RJD leader Awadh Bihari Choudhary.
  • Following this, he was removed from his position as speaker of the Bihar assembly.
  • This test will determine the stability and legitimacy of the newly formed state government.  


Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Floor Test?
  2. Motion of No-Confidence
  3. Passing of No-Confidence Motion in Lok Sabha

What is a Floor Test?

  • A floor test can be explained as a motion initiated by the government in position seeking to know if it enjoys the confidence of the legislature.
  • As part of this procedure, the chief minister appointed by the governor will be asked to prove majority on the Legislative Assembly’s floor.
  • When a floor test is called for in the assembly of a state, the chief minister will move a vote of confidence and prove that he has the majority support.
  • If the floor test fails, the chief minister will have to resign.
  • The whole idea of a floor test is incorporated in the constitution of India to ensure transparency in the constitutional process.

Motion of No-Confidence

  • No-confidence Motion or Motion of No-confidence is one of different types of motions in Indian Parliament. The constitutional provision behind this motion is Article 75, which says that “Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha”.
  • Thus, a council of ministers stays in office as long as it enjoys the confidence of majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Lok Sabha can remove the ministry from office by passing motion of no-confidence by simple majority.
  • Process of no-confidence motion is mentioned under Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and conduct of Lok Sabha.
  • Motion of No-confidence can be moved  only in Lok Sabha (Or State Legislative Assembly).
  • Rajya Sabha (Or state Legislative Council) does not have power to entertain such motion since it decides the fate of a popularly elected government.

Passing of No-Confidence Motion in Lok Sabha

  • Such a motion can be moved by any member of the house.
  • The member moving such motion is generally a member of opposition.
  • The motion need support of at least 50 members to be admitted.
  • Once admitted, it has to be passed within 10 days in the house.
  • The motion has to be passed by simple majority.
  • If passed, the Union Council of Ministers has to resign and government at centre falls. There is no impact on health of the government if such motion is not passed.

-Source: Livemint, The Hindu



Context:

As per the recent study that evaluated the impact of the PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi), it was found that the scheme boosted annual income of street vendors by Rs 23,000.


Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. PM Street Vendor’s Atmanitbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi)
  3. PM SVANidhi and SIDBI
  4. Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE)
  5. About SVANidhi se Samriddhi

Details:

  • The study that evaluated the impact of the PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) on street vendors was commissioned by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • It was carried out between January and June last year by the Centre for Analytical Finance of the Indian School of Business (ISB).
  • The scheme provides small working capital loan for street vendors.
  • The study found that the first tranche of `10,000 led to an additional annual income of `23,460 for each beneficiary.

PM Street Vendor’s Atmanitbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi)

  • PM SVANidhi is a Special Micro-Credit Facility.
  • PM SVANidhi was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for providing affordable Working Capital loan to street vendors to resume their livelihoods that have been adversely affected due to Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Under the Scheme, the vendors can avail a working capital loan of up to Rs. 10,000, which is repayable in monthly instalments in the tenure of one year.
  • The scheme promotes digital transactions through cash back incentives.
  • Beneficiaries: 50 lakh Street Vendors.

The eligible vendors are identified as per following criteria:

  • Street vendors in possession of Certificate of Vending / Identity Card issued by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs);
  • The vendors, who have been identified in the survey but have not been issued Certificate of Vending / Identity Card;
  • Street Vendors, left out of the ULB led identification survey or who have started vending after completion of the survey and have been issued Letter of Recommendation (LoR) to that effect by the ULB / Town Vending Committee (TVC); and
  • The vendors of surrounding development/ peri-urban / rural areas vending in the geographical limits of the ULBs and have been issued Letter of Recommendation (LoR) to that effect by the ULB / TVC.

PM SVANidhi and SIDBI

  • Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) is the Implementation Agency for PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi)
  • SIDBI will also manage the credit guarantee to the lending institutions through Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE).
  • SIDBI will leverage the network of lending Institutions like Non-Bank Finance Companies (NBFCs), Co-operative Banks etc., for the Scheme implementation.

Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE)

  • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, GoI and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), established a Trust named Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) to implement the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises.
  • Beneficiaries: New and existing Micro and Small Enterprises engaged in manufacturing or service activity excluding Educational Institutions, Agriculture, Self Help Groups (SHGs), Training Institutions etc., are eligible.
  • Fund and non-fund based (Letters of Credit, Bank Guarantee etc.) credit facilities up to Rs 200 lakh per eligible borrower are covered under the guarantee scheme provided they are extended on the project viability without collateral security or third-party guarantee.

About SVANidhi se Samriddhi

  • It is an additional program of PMSVANidhi was launched on 4th January 2021 in 125 cities in Phase 1, covering approximately 35 Lakh Street vendors and their families.
  • 22.5 lakh scheme sanctions have been extended to them including 16 lakh insurance benefits under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeeban Jyoti Yojana and 2.7 Lakh pension benefits under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan Yojana, amongst other such benefits. 
  • Considering the success of Phase I, MoHUA launched the program expansion to additional 126 cities with an aim to cover 28 Lakh Street vendors and their families, with a total target of 20 Lakh scheme sanctions for FY 2022-23. The remaining cities would be gradually added to the program.
  •  SVANidhi se Samriddhi program was started to provide social security benefits to street vendors for their holistic development and socio-economic upliftment.

-Source:  The Indian Express, PIB


 

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