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Current Affairs 21 February 2023


  1. UPI-PayNow linkage
  2. NITI Aayog
  3. Autism spectrum disorder
  4. Draft RBI (Government Securities Lending) Directions, 2023
  5. Harike Wetland

UPI-PayNow linkage


India’s real-time retail payment system Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which has allowed for quick digital payments through apps like BharatPe and Paytm, and its equivalent network in Singapore called PayNow, will be integrated to enable faster remittances between the two countries at a competitive rate.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are UPI and PayNow?
  2. What is the UPI-PayNow linkage?
  3. How will it benefit the citizens of both countries?

What are UPI and PayNow?

  • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is India’s mobile-based fast payment system, which facilitates customers to make round-the-clock payments instantly, using a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) created by the customer.
  • It eliminates the risk of sharing bank account details by the remitter.
  • UPI supports both Person-to-Person (P2P) and Person-to-Merchant (P2M) payments and it also enables a user to send or receive money.
  • PayNow is a fast payment system in Singapore.
  • It enables peer-to-peer funds transfer service, available to retail customers through participating banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NFIs) in Singapore.
  • It allows users to send and receive instant funds from one bank or e-wallet account to another in Singapore by using just their mobile number, Singapore National Registration Identity Card (NRIC)/Foreign Identification Number (FIN), or VPA.

 What is the UPI-PayNow linkage?

  • Cross-border retail payments are generally less transparent and more expensive than domestic transactions. The UPI-PayNow linkage is a significant milestone in the development of infrastructure for cross-border payments between India and Singapore and closely aligns with the G20’s financial inclusion priorities of driving faster, cheaper and more transparent cross-border payments.
  • India is chairing the G20 on basis of the rotational membership structure this year.
  • Singapore, although not a G20 member, has been invited to participate in the G20 Summits and its related processes from 2010 to 2011 and from 2013 to 2023.
  • The project to link both the fast payment systems was initiated in September 2021 to facilitate faster, more efficient and transparent cross-border transactions relating to trade, travel and remittances between the two countries.

How will it benefit the citizens of both countries?

  • The UPI-PayNow linkage will enable users of each of the two fast payment systems to make instant, low-cost fund transfers on a reciprocal basis without a need to get on board the other payment system.
  • It will also help the Indian diaspora in Singapore, especially migrant workers and students, through the instantaneous and low-cost transfer of money from Singapore to India and vice-versa.
  • Of the total inward remittances to India in 2020-21, the share of Singapore stood at 5.7 per cent, according to the RBI Remittance Survey, 2021.

-Source: Indian Express

NITI Aayog


Recently, The Cabinet Committee on Appointments appointed former Union Commerce Secretary and retired civil servant B.V.R. Subrahmanyam as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NITI Aayog. 


GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About NITI Aayog
  2. Composition
  3. Objectives
  4. Related Concerns and Challenges

About NITI Aayog

  • The NITI Aayog serves as the apex public policy think tank of the GoI.
  • It was established in 2015, by the NDA government, to replace the Planning Commission which followed a top-down model.
  • It advises both the centre and states on social and economic issues.
  • It is neither a constitutional body nor a statutory body but the outcome of an executive resolution. It was not created by the act of parliament.

It has two Hubs.

  • Team India Hub acts as interface between States and Centre.
  • Knowledge and Innovation Hub builds the think-tank acumen of NITI Aayog.


  • Chairperson: Prime minister
  • Vice-Chairperson: To be appointed by Prime-Minister
  • Governing Council: Chief Ministers of all states and Lt. Governors of Union Territories.
  • Regional Council: To address specific regional issues, Comprising Chief Minister and Lt. Governors Chaired by the Prime Minister or his nominee.
  • Ad-hoc Membership: Two members in ex-officio capacity from leading Research institutions on a rotational.
  • Ex-Officio membership: Maximum four from the Union council of ministers to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
  • Chief Executive Officer: Appointed by the Prime-minister for a fixed tenure, in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.
  • Special Invitees: Experts, Specialists with domain knowledge nominated by the Prime Minister.


  • To generate a platform for national development, sectors and strategies with the collaboration of states and centre.
  • To boost the factor of cooperative federalism between the centre and the states. For national development, it is necessary for both wings to work in synergy.
  • To develop such mechanisms which work at the ground root level for progressive growth. A nation develops when its regions and states develop.
  • To work on long term policies and strategies for long-term development.
  • To set up a system for monitoring progress so that it can be used for analysing and improving methods.
  • To provide a platform for resolving inter-departmental issues amicably.
  • To make it a platform where the programmes, strategies, and schemes can be monitored on a day to day basis, and it could be understood which sector needs more resources to develop.
  • To upgrade technological advancements in such a manner that focus can be made on initiatives and programmes.
  • To ensure India’s level and ranking at the worldwide level and to make India an actively participating nation.
  • To progress from food security towards nutrition and standardised meals and focus on agricultural production.
  • To make use of more technology to avoid misadventures and corruption in governance.
  • To make the working system more transparent and accountable.

NITI Aayog – Seven Pillars of Effective Governance

NITI Aayog works on principles like Antyodaya (upliftment of poor), inclusion (to include all sections under one head), people participation, and so on.

NITI Aayog is a body that follows seven pillars of governance. They are:

  1. To look after pro-people agenda so that the aspirations and desires of no one are compromised.
  2. To respond and work on the needs of citizens.
  3. Make citizens of the nation involve and participate in various streams.
  4. To empower women in all fields, be it social, technical, economic, or other.
  5. To include all sects and classes under one head. To give special attention to marginalised and minority groups.
  6. To provide equal opportunity for the young generation.
  7. To make the working of government more accountable and transparent. It will ensure less chance of corruption and malpractices.

Related Concerns and Challenges:

  • NITI Aayog has no powers in granting discretionary funds to states, which renders it toothless to undertake a transformational intervention.
  • It acts as an advisory body only that advises the government on various issues without ensuring the enforceability of its ideas.
  • NITI Aayog has no role in influencing private or public investment.
  • Politicization of the organization has been in recent times.
  • NITI Aayog has been transformed into a glorified recommendatory body which lacks the requisite power to bring positive change in the government’s actions.

-Source: The Hindu

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the term for a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. Researchers are yet to fully understand the causes of ASD.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Autism spectrum disorder
  2. Exploring the Connection between Gut Microbiome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  3. Ongoing Research on the Gut Microbiome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that impact social interaction, communication skills, and behavior.

  • Researchers have yet to fully understand the causes of ASD, but a disorder in the gut-brain axis may have a prominent role.
Prevalence and Characteristics of ASD
  • According to the WHO, ASD affects one in 100 children, and it can have a significant impact on cognitive abilities and quality of life.
  • Children with ASD may exhibit impaired social interactions, lack of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and restricted and repetitive behaviors.
Gastrointestinal Problems Associated with ASD
  • Some children with ASD experience gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, and bloating, among others.
  • Limited research findings and anecdotal evidence suggest that there is a link between gastrointestinal problems and ASD, but this area remains relatively under-researched.
Pathophysiology and Current Treatment for ASD
  • Although several theories have been proposed to explain the aetiology of ASD, the pathophysiology of the disorder remains largely unknown.
  • There are currently no known cures or therapeutic interventions available to treat or reverse ASD, highlighting the need for continued research in this area.
  • Aetiology is the study of factors that cause a condition or disease.
  • Pathophysiology is the study of a condition’s impact on biological processes.

Exploring the Connection between Gut Microbiome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

The Impact of Gut Microbiome on Human Health
  • Advances in gene-sequencing technologies and bioinformatic analysis have helped researchers to explore the connections between human health, diseases, and microbiomes.
  • The gut microbiome has been found to have a significant impact on immune modulation and metabolic activities in the human body.
Potential Connections between Gut Microbiome and ASD Symptoms
  • Investigating the dynamic cross-talk between the gut microbiome and the host environment has revealed potential connections to ASD symptoms.
  • Aberrant antigen trafficking through an impaired intestinal barrier could allow antigens to pass through the barrier surrounding the brain, triggering a chain of events that worsen ASD symptoms.
The Role of Gut Microbiome in the Pathophysiology of ASD
  • Some scientists have disputed the significance of the gut microbiome in the pathophysiology of ASD, arguing that it cannot cause ASD.
  • However, research has shown that abnormalities in the gut microbiome can challenge a person with toxic metabolites, hindering the synthesis of neurotransmitters involved in cognition, behavior, mood, and sleep.
  • Fixing the gut microbiome in ASD can reduce the toxic burden and/or help complete necessary neurotransmitter synthesis pathways, potentially improving symptoms.

Ongoing Research on the Gut Microbiome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Dysbiosis in the Gut Microbiome of Children with ASD
  • In their research, the authors have explored the gut microbiome in children with and without ASD and have reported several interesting microbial biomarkers in children with ASD.
  • Dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome, was observed in children with ASD. They had a higher abundance of lactobacillaceae, bifidobacteriaceae, and veillonellaceae bacteria, and the fraction of bacteria of the phylum firmicutes was found to be significantly higher in their guts.
Short-Chain Fatty Acids and the Gut-Brain Axis
  • The authors found an underrepresentation of certain microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) in children with ASD, such as faecalibacterium and roseburia.
  • This supports the hypothesis that a lower level of SCFAs in ASD could lead to an imbalance in brain function and behavior.
  • Some proposals suggest introducing these strains of bacteria as a probiotic for children with ASD to help alleviate common gastrointestinal problems and positively influence cognitive and behavioral functions.
Emerging Areas of Study and Future Consensus
  • Since these are emerging areas of study, there are pockets of agreement as well as disagreement in the scientific community.
  • The consensus on the role of the gut microbiome in ASD lies in the future as further research is conducted.

-Source: The Hindu

Draft RBI (Government Securities Lending) Directions, 2023


Recently, the Reserve Bank of India released Draft Reserve Bank of India (Government Securities Lending) Directions, 2023.


GS II: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Draft Reserve Bank of India (Government Securities Lending) Directions, 2023
  2. What are G-Sec yields?

About Draft Reserve Bank of India (Government Securities Lending) Directions, 2023

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed the introduction of securities lending and borrowing for Government Securities (G-sec) in order to provide investors with an opportunity to earn returns by deploying their idle securities in the securities lending market.
  • This move is expected to encourage wider participation in the market.
  • Under the proposed scheme, Government Securities Lending (GSL) transactions can be conducted for a minimum of one day and a maximum of 90 days.
  • Only government securities issued by the central government, excluding Treasury Bills, would be eligible for lending/borrowing in a GSL transaction.
  • Both Central and state government securities, including Treasury Bills, would be eligible for use as collateral in a GSL transaction.
  • Lenders of securities can include entities that are eligible to undertake repo transactions in government securities, as well as any other entity approved by the Reserve Bank.

What are G-Sec yields?

  • G-secs, or government securities or government bonds, are instruments that governments use to borrow money. Governments routinely keep running into deficits — that is, they spend more than they earn via taxes. That is why they need to borrow from the people.
  • But G-secs are different from everyday lending between two private individuals or entities.
  • For one, G-secs carry the lowest risk of all investments.
  • After all, the chances of the government not paying back your money are almost zero. It is thus the safest investment one can make.
  • The other ways in which G-Secs are different are in the manner in which they are structured, and how their effective interest rates (also called yields) are calculated.

-Source: Economic Times

Harike Wetland


According to the recent water bird census, the Harike wetland witnessed a decline in migratory birds’ arrival this year.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

About Harike wetland:

  • Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, known locally as “Hari-ke-Pattan,” is a significant wetland in northern India. Here are some key facts about the wetland:
  • Located at the confluence of two major rivers, Sutlej and Beas, in Punjab.
  • Originated in 1953 due to the construction of a barrage on the Sutlej River.
  • It is one of the largest wetlands in northern India and spreads across three districts of Punjab: Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, and Kapurthala.
  • The wetland has been designated as one of the Ramsar sites in India, signifying its international importance as a wetland ecosystem.

-Source: The Hindu


December 2023