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Current Affairs 30 April 2024

  1. Rupee Depreciation Against US Dollar: A Comparative Analysis
  2. Controversy Surrounds FSSAI’s Decision to Increase Pesticide Limits
  3. NHRC to Defend Human Rights Processes for Retaining “A Status” at Geneva Meeting
  4. Virtual Private Network
  5. Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Programme
  6. PayU Receives In-Principle Approval from RBI to Operate as Payment Aggregator
  7. Unveiling of First True Copy of Raja Ravi Varma’s “Indulekha” at Kilimanoor Palace


Between April-end 2014 and the present, the Indian rupee has depreciated by 27.6% against the US dollar, from Rs 60.34 to Rs 83.38. This depreciation is slightly higher than the 26.5% witnessed from April-end 2004 to April-end 2014, during which the rupee fell from 44.37 to 60.34 against the dollar.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How is the Strength or Weakness of the Rupee Decided?
  2. Measures of EER
  3. Conclusion

How is the Strength or Weakness of the Rupee Decided?

  • The strength or weakness of the rupee is determined by its exchange rate not only with the US dollar but also with other global currencies due to India’s diverse trade activities.
  • The rupee’s effective exchange rate (EER) calculates its strength or weakness, which is an index similar to the consumer price index (CPI).
Understanding the EER
  • The EER is an index that measures the weighted average of the rupee’s exchange rates against the currencies of India’s major trading partners.
  • Currency weights are determined based on the share of each country in India’s total foreign trade, similar to how commodities are weighted in the CPI.

Measures of EER

Nominal EER (NEER):

  • NEER indices are constructed by the Reserve Bank of India against a basket of six or 40 currencies.
  • The six-currency NEER covers major currencies like the US dollar, euro, Chinese yuan, etc., while the 40-currency NEER includes currencies from countries representing 88% of India’s annual trade.
  • NEER indices are referenced to a base year value of 100 for 2015-16, where increases indicate rupee appreciation and decreases signify depreciation.

Real EER (REER):

  • REER is the NEER adjusted for inflation differentials between the home country and its trading partners.
  • It reflects changes in the internal value of the rupee by considering inflation.
  • If a country’s nominal exchange rate falls less than its domestic inflation rate, the currency has appreciated in “real” terms.
Interpreting the Data
  • Chart 1 illustrates the decline in the rupee’s NEER against major currencies over the last two decades, showing a lesser depreciation compared to the US dollar.
  • Chart 2 depicts the rupee’s trade-weighted REER, indicating a strengthening trend over time, implying potential overvaluation.
  • A higher REER signifies increased export costs relative to import prices, leading to a loss of trade competitiveness.


  • The rupee’s strength or weakness is evaluated based on its exchange rates against major currencies using EER indices.
  • While NEER reflects external value changes, REER accounts for inflation differentials, providing a holistic view of the rupee’s performance in international trade.

-Source: Indian Express


The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recently drew criticism from activists and scientists following its decision to raise the maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides. The FSSAI order increased the MRL of pesticides allowed in herbs and spices by tenfold, from 0.01 mg/kg to 0.1 mg/kg, sparking concerns over potential health risks and trade implications.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Issue Regarding the FSSAI Order
  2. What is Pesticide Poisoning?
  3. What is the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)?

Issue Regarding the FSSAI Order

Contradiction with Previous Stance:

  • The recent order by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) contradicts its stance from April 2022.
  • Previously, FSSAI acknowledged the lack of field trial data for most Indian pesticides and advocated using Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) established by Codex Alimentarius.

Deviation in Approach for Spices and Herbs:

  • However, the latest order deviates from this approach specifically for spices and herbs, raising concerns and questions about the rationale behind this decision.

Use of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs):

  • The maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides for food and commodities, including spices and culinary herbs, is specified under the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulation, 2011.
  • These limits are based on field trial data received through the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC), Union Ministry of Agriculture and Family Welfare.

Conflict of Interest:

  • One issue is the potential conflict of interest, as the studies providing field trial data are often conducted or sponsored by the pesticide companies themselves.

Lack of Comprehensive Data:

  • Additionally, the Centre’s Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at the National Level (MPRNL) does not test spices and lacks comprehensive data, further complicating the situation.

International Repercussions:

  • Countries with stricter pesticide regulations, such as Europe, have rejected Indian products exceeding their MRLs, leading to recalls of Indian food products containing excessive pesticide residues.
  • For instance, in April 2024, several popular Indian spice firms faced bans in Singapore and Hong Kong due to alleged contamination with the harmful pesticide ‘ethylene oxide’ beyond permissible limits.

What is Pesticide Poisoning?

Definition and Risks:

  • Pesticide poisoning refers to the adverse effects of exposure to pesticides on humans or animals.
  • Pesticides pose serious risks to human health and the environment, especially when misused, overused, or sold illegally.

Regulation in India:

  • Pesticides are regulated under the Insecticides Act, 1968 and the Insecticides Rules, 1971, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Types of Pesticides:

  • Insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, bio-pesticides, and others are different types of pesticides used for various purposes in agriculture and beyond.

Health Effects:

  • Pesticide exposure can lead to adverse health effects, including cancer, reproductive issues, and damage to the immune or nervous systems.
  • Acute poisoning occurs from high doses over a short period, while chronic poisoning results from prolonged exposure to lower doses.

Global Impact:

  • Pesticide poisoning is a significant cause of death among agricultural workers worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), highlighting its global impact and importance in regulatory oversight.

What is the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)?


  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is a statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
  • It operates under the purview of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Legal Framework:

  • Formed under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which replaced earlier legislation such as the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, the Fruit Products Order, 1955, and the Meat Food Products Order, 1973.


  • FSSAI regulates various aspects of food safety, including the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food articles.
  • It establishes standards to ensure the safety and quality of food consumed by the public.


  • The authority consists of 22 members, including a Chairperson, with a requirement that one-third of the members must be women.
  • Regulation Development: FSSAI has the authority to formulate regulations to enforce food safety standards across the country.
  • Lab Accreditation: It establishes guidelines for accrediting food testing laboratories to ensure accurate and reliable testing of food samples.
  • Inspection Authority: Food safety officers appointed by FSSAI have the power to enter and inspect any premises involved in the manufacturing, storage, or display of food products.
  • Research and Development: The Research and Development division conducts research in food safety standards, with a focus on adopting international best practices.
  • Data Collection: FSSAI collects data related to food consumption, contamination, emerging risks, and other relevant factors to inform its regulatory decisions.

Continuous Improvement:

  • FSSAI continuously strives to adopt and implement international food standards to enhance food safety and quality standards in India.

-Source: The Hindu


The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is gearing up to defend its human rights processes at an upcoming meeting in Geneva. Scheduled for May 1, the meeting of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) will determine whether India’s human rights body retains its “A status,” recognized by the United Nations.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
  2. Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)
  3. India’s Accreditation Review

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Establishment and Legal Basis:

  • NHRC is a statutory body established on October 12, 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

Watchdog of Human Rights:

  • NHRC serves as the watchdog of human rights in India, overseeing the protection and promotion of human rights across the country.

Conformity with Paris Principles:

  • NHRC’s establishment aligns with the Paris Principles (1991), which were adopted at the first international workshop on national institutions for the protection of human rights.


NHRC has several key objectives, including:

  • Strengthening institutional arrangements for addressing human rights issues comprehensively and effectively.
  • Investigating allegations of human rights violations independently of the government, thus emphasizing the government’s commitment to safeguarding human rights.
  • NHRC consists of a chairperson and eight other members.
  • The chairperson of NHRC is a retired Chief Justice of India.
  • Among the eight members, four are full-time members, while the other four are deemed members.
  • Full-time members include a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, a retired Chief Justice of a High Court, and two members selected for their experience and knowledge of human rights.
  • Deemed members are the chairpersons of the National Commission for Minorities, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and the National Commission for Women.
Appointment Process:

The chairperson and members are appointed by the President of India based on the recommendations of a six-member committee. This committee comprises:

  • Prime Minister (as the head)
  • Speaker of the Lok Sabha
  • Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
  • Leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament
  • Union Home Minister

Functions and Powers of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • Complaint Investigation: NHRC can inquire into complaints of human rights violations, either on its own initiative or through petitions filed by victims or their representatives. These complaints may involve violations by public servants or negligence in preventing such violations.
  • Intervention in Court Proceedings: The Commission has the authority to intervene in any legal proceedings related to human rights violations pending before a court, subject to the approval of the respective court.
  • Visitations and Recommendations: NHRC can conduct visits to correctional facilities and institutions under state government control where individuals are detained or housed for purposes of treatment, reformation, or protection. During these visits, it examines the living conditions of inmates and offers recommendations for improvement.
  • Human Rights Education: NHRC plays a role in spreading human rights literacy among various segments of society, promoting awareness and understanding of human rights principles.
  • International Treaties and Instruments: The Commission is responsible for studying international treaties and other instruments related to human rights and making recommendations for their effective implementation in India.
  • Civil Court Powers: While investigating complaints, NHRC possesses the same powers as a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. This includes the authority to summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses and examine them under oath.
  • Compensation: NHRC can grant compensation to victims of police brutality or other forms of human rights violations, providing redress for the harm suffered.
  • Legal Action: When necessary, NHRC has the authority to approach the Supreme Court or the High Court to enforce human rights protections and safeguard the rights of individuals or groups.
  • Suo Motu Cognizance: NHRC can take “suo motu” cognizance of human rights violations, meaning it can initiate investigations and proceedings on its own accord, even without a formal complaint being filed.

Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)


  • GANHRI is an organization affiliated with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • It serves as a global network of national human rights institutions (NHRIs), representing 120 NHRIs worldwide.
  • GANHRI aims to promote and protect human rights by uniting, promoting, and strengthening NHRIs in line with the UN Paris Principles.

Accreditation Process by GANHRI:

  • The Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) conducts reviews of NHRIs every five years.
  • The accreditation process ensures compliance with the internationally recognized Paris Principles, focusing on independence, pluralism, and accountability.
  • NHRIs are assessed based on their adherence to the Paris Principles, with ‘A status’ for full compliance and ‘B status’ for partial compliance.
  • Accreditation status impacts a country’s voting rights at the UN Human Rights Council and other UNGA bodies.

India’s Accreditation Status:

  • India’s NHRC attained ‘A status’ accreditation in 1999, reaffirmed in 2006, 2011, and 2017 after a deferred review.
  • However, India’s accreditation status is currently under review due to concerns raised in 2023.
India’s Accreditation Review:


  • The NHRC’s accreditation review was halted in 2023 due to concerns regarding its composition, police involvement in investigations, and gender and minority representation.
  • The NHRC’s performance will be reassessed on May 1, 2024, to determine its accreditation status.

Observations by the Review Committee (2023):

  • The SCA highlighted concerns about the NHRC’s independence from government interference.
  • Police involvement in investigations was criticized as a conflict of interest.
  • Lack of gender and minority representation in the NHRC’s composition was noted.
  • The committee emphasized the need for diversity in the NHRC’s membership to reflect society’s diversity, including representation of minority religions.

-Source: The Hindu


Russia’s tightening grip on online content in recent years has led to a significant surge in Virtual Private Network (VPN) usage among citizens seeking unrestricted access to information and media platforms.


GS III- Science and Technology, Cyber Security

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a VPN?
  2. Why do people use VPN?
  3. Why is anonymity or privacy so important for VPN providers and users?

What is a VPN ?

  • Any and all devices connected to the internet are a part of a large network of computers, servers and other devices spread across the world.
  • To identify each device connected to the internet, service providers globally assign a unique address to each such device called the internet protocol address or IP address.
  • It is this IP address that helps websites, law enforcement agencies and even companies track down individual users and their accurate location.
  • A virtual private network, when switched on, essentially creates a safe network within the larger global network of the internet and masks the IP address of the user by rerouting the data.
  • Acting as a tunnel, a VPN takes data originating from one server and masks it in a different identity before delivering it to the destination server.
  • In essence, a VPN creates several proxy identities for your data and delivers it safely without disturbing the content of the data.

Why do people use VPN?

  • Safe encryption: A VPN connection masks your internet data traffic and guards it against unauthorised access. Anyone with network access and the desire to examine it can access unencrypted data. Hackers and online criminals are unable to decode this data when using a VPN.
  • Hiding your location: VPN servers essentially serve as your online proxies. Your precise location cannot be identified since the demographic location data originates from a server located in another nation.
  • Data privacy is upheld: The majority of VPN providers don’t keep records of your online activity. On the other hand, some providers track your behaviour but do not disclose this information to outside parties. This ensures that any possible records of your user behaviour are kept secret at all times.
  • Secure data transfer: If you work from home, you might need to access crucial files on the network of your business. This type of information needs a secure connection for security reasons. A VPN connection is frequently necessary to access the network.

Why is anonymity or privacy so important for VPN providers and users?

  • The main reason why privacy or anonymity is important for both VPN service providers and users is that it helps to avoid being tracked, mostly by websites and cybercriminals.
  • Since VPN masks the location of a device from everyone, it also prevents government and law enforcement agencies from accurately identifying the location.
  • VPN has also been of vital importance in countries that try to suppress dissent.
  • By using VPNs, dissidents are able to spoof their location and stay safe.

-Source: Indian Express


The Centre has extended Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status to the gem and jewellery sector.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Programme
  2. About World Customs Organization

About Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Programme

  • An AEO is a business entity engaged in international goods movement, requiring compliance with national customs law standards.
  • Approval is granted by or on behalf of the national administration, adhering to the World Customs Organization (WCO) guidelines.
  • The WCO adopted the SAFE Framework of Standards (WCO SAFE FoS) in June 2005 to enhance international supply chain security, with AEO being one of its foundational pillars.
  • AEO fosters closer collaboration between customs departments and the trade industry.
  • The Indian AEO programme is based on the WCO SAFE FoS.
Overview of the AEO Programme
  • Introduced in India by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) in 2011, the AEO programme is voluntary and administered by CBIC.
  • Aims to provide benefits such as simplified customs procedures and expedited customs clearances to business entities offering high security guarantees in the supply chain.
  • Entities with AEO status are considered reliable and secure trading partners, allowing customs resources to focus on higher-risk businesses.
Benefits of AEO Status
  • Direct port delivery and port entry for imports and exports respectively.
  • Special focus on small and medium-scale entities; entities handling up to 25 import and export documents annually are eligible.
  • Expedited drawback amount disbursal, refunds, and adjudications.
  • Paperless declaration without supporting documents.
  • Site inspection or examination upon request.
  • Recognition by partner government agencies and stakeholders.
Eligibility for AEO Status
  • Business entities engaged in customs-related activities in India can apply for AEO status regardless of size.
  • Eligible entities include importers, exporters, Custom House Agents (CHA), Custodians or Terminal Operators, among others.

About World Customs Organization

  • The World Customs Organization is an inter-governmental organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
  • WPO is noted for its work in areas covering international conferences, equipment, and equipment development, commodity classification, evaluation, collection of rules of origin, customs revenue, and other topics.
  • The WTO takes account of the naming of International Relevant System (HS) goods, the technical aspects of the Trade Organisation (WTO), customs assessment, and rules of origin.
  • The WCO’s primary objective is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of member customs administrations, thereby assisting them to contribute successfully to national development goals, particularly revenue collection, national security, trade facilitation, community protection, and collection of trade statistics.

-Source: The Hindu


Fintech firm PayU has announced that it has received in-principle approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to operate as a payment aggregator (PA) under the Payment and Settlement Systems (PSS) Act, 2007. This approval allows PayU to onboard new merchants, although the final approval process typically takes six months to a year.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Payment Aggregator (PA)

Payment Aggregator (PA):


  • A Payment Aggregator acts as a facilitator between businesses and financial institutions, managing payment processing operations on behalf of merchants.

Simplifying Payment Acceptance:

  • Payment Aggregators streamline the acceptance of electronic payments for businesses, simplifying the process and reducing administrative burdens.

Streamlined Payment Process:

  • They streamline payment acceptance by eliminating the need for businesses to establish direct relationships with multiple financial entities.

Acceptance of Multiple Payment Methods:

  • Payment Aggregators enable businesses to accept various payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, e-wallets, and bank transfers, through a unified platform.


  • Notable examples of Payment Aggregators include Google Pay, Amazon Pay, PhonePe, and PayPal.

Regulatory Requirements:

  • New Payment Aggregators must meet certain financial criteria, including a minimum net worth of Rs 15 crore upon application, increasing to Rs 25 crore by the end of the third financial year post-authorization.

Regulatory Compliance:

  • While banks incorporate Payment Aggregator services within their existing banking relationships, non-bank Payment Aggregators require authorization from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (PSS).

Escrow Account Mandate:

  • Non-bank Payment Aggregators are obligated to maintain collected funds in an escrow account with a scheduled commercial bank for enhanced security and regulatory compliance.

Funds Settlement:

  • Payment Aggregators must adhere to predefined timelines for settling funds with merchants, ensuring prompt and transparent transactions in accordance with the transaction lifecycle and agreed-upon terms.

-Source: The Hindu


On the occasion of the 176th birth anniversary celebrations of Raja Ravi Varma, the first true copy of his painting “Indulekha” will be unveiled at the Kilimanoor Palace in Kerala. This event holds special significance as Kilimanoor Palace is the birthplace of the eminent artist, born in 1848.


GS I: History

About Raja Ravi Varma:


  • Raja Ravi Varma was an eminent Indian painter and artist, widely regarded as one of the greatest in Indian art history.
  • Born as Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran of Kilimanoor palace in the former princely state of Travancore (Thiruvithankur) in Kerala.

Artistic Themes:

  • Varma’s remarkable paintings primarily depict scenes from the Puranas (ancient mythological stories), as well as the Indian epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana.
  • His repertoire also includes portraits of both Indian and British figures in India.

Prolific Career:

  • Varma is estimated to have created approximately 7,000 paintings during his lifetime before passing away at the age of 58.
  • Some of his most renowned works include “Damayanti Talking to a Swan,” “Shakuntala Looking for Dushyanta,” “Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair,” and “Shantanu and Matsyagandha.”

Distinctive Features of His Work:

  • Varma’s paintings marked a departure from the Persian and Mughal schools that greatly influenced earlier Indian artists.
  • He was the first Indian artist to integrate Western techniques of perspective and composition into Indian subjects, styles, and themes.
  • His works exemplify the fusion of European academic art with Indian sensibilities and iconography.
  • Varma was an early adopter of oil paints and mastered the art of lithographic reproduction, making his paintings more widely accessible to the public.

Recognition and Achievements:

  • Varma gained international acclaim after winning an award for his paintings at an exhibition in Vienna in 1873.
  • His paintings were showcased at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where he received two gold medals.
  • In 1904, he was honored with the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal by Viceroy Lord Curzon on behalf of the King Emperor, marking the first official mention of his name as “Raja Ravi Varma.”

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024