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May 2018
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WTO and India Global Groupings and Conventions

Food security: time to move to cash transfers




Mains paper 3:Indian Economy|Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bali conference, Peace clause

Mains level: PDS transfer vs Cash subsidy (the never ending debate!)


The impasse at the recently concluded 11th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires is casting doubts over the future of developing countries’ food procurement programmes

What is a bone of contention?

  1. US allegedly reneged on its promise to not block food stockholding policies in return for India, the country with the world’s biggest stockholding programme, signing the trade and facilitation agreement (TFA).
  2. US support is important because India’s Food Security Act, passed in 2013, ran into WTO rules that keep a country’s domestic policies from distorting international trade.
  3. The law forced a significant ramping up of food procurement by the government to provide coverage to two-thirds of its population. Simultaneously, the government supports farmers through minimum support prices.
  4. The cost of these programmes—basically a country’s food subsidy bill—says the WTO, must not exceed 10% of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.
  5. At the Bali conference in December 2013, India secured a ‘peace clause’ that protected it from legal action should it breach the 10% limit.
  6. However, the concession was limited to programmes running in 2013 and it comes with onerous reporting requirements about food subsidy levels.

Why is India complaining?

  1. Given that food subsidy is calculated at 1986-88 prices, many countries are limited to less than 10% of production in practice on account of inflation.
  2. Due to the obligation to reduce trade-distorting subsidies, rich countries have redesigned their programmes to give unconditional cash transfers to farmers—a policy that does distort trade by lowering international prices.


Cash transfer as a model for delivering food subsidy in India

(a) Rationale

  1. India’s current food and farmer support programme is distortionary, leaky and unsustainable.
  2. If the currency appreciates or either one of MSP or procurement increases, India could breach its 10% limit and face hostile litigation by other countries for violating WTO rules.
  3. It is, perhaps, wise to keep our food-support schemes under WTO-prescribed limits and gradually transition to a cash-based transfer for both consumers and farmers.
  4. That way, we will preserve our political capital for other issues like trade rules on electronic commerce, services trade, fisheries and the TFA.
  5. India can utilize this situation to make a virtue out of a necessity. Government policies have increased bank account coverage to 99% of households, and more than 90% of adults are linked to the UID scheme, Aadhaar.
  6. A move to cash transfers, for both consumers and producers, is more practical today than it was four years ago.
  7. Cash transfer provides beneficiaries flexibility as well as convenience and choice in terms of quality of food;
  8. Cash transfer allows them to buy better quality grains than what they got through the PDS or could diversify their diet by adding dairy products or local grains                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (b) Challenges
  1. cash-transfer pilot in three Union territories, conducted from January 2016, showed that 20% of the beneficiaries reported not receiving the transfer, even though the government reported 99% success.
  2. Beneficiaries spent more time and money in obtaining the cash and food from the market. Also, grievance redressal mechanisms are inadequate.

Way Forward

  1. The op-ed therefore, favours a choice-based transition to cash transfers so that people continue to have the option to remain in the present system until they’re comfortable with the quality of implementation in their region.
  2. This could continue for a couple of years after the capability of starting universal cash transfers is achieved.


Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc Security Issues

For a safe cyberspace


 Mains paper 3:Internal Security| basics of cyber security

From UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims level: Ransomware

Mains level: This article deals with Why Cybersecurity in India needs to be integrated in every aspect of policy and planning. Cyber security is a hot topic in mains.Every year UPSC asks a question in it in mains.Even in 2017 mains they asked 1 question on Cybersecurity.


Performance of India with respect to Digital and Knowledge-based economy

  1. India is one of the key players in the digital and knowledge-based economy, holding more than a 50% share of the world’s outsourcing market.
  2. Pioneering and technology-inspired programmes such as Aadhaar, MyGov, Government e-Market, DigiLocker, Bharat Net, Startup India, Skill India and Smart Cities are propelling India towards technological competence and transformation.
  3. India is already the third largest hub for technology-driven startups in the world and its Information and Communications Technology sector is estimated to reach the $225 billion landmark by 2020.

 Vulnerabilities of India with respect to cyberspace

  1. India is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world in terms of cybersecurity breaches.
  2. According to the Internal Security Threat Report of 2017 by Symantec. Till June 2017, 27,482 cybersecurity threats had been reported in the country.

Which Types of Attacks are most common in recent years?

  1. Ransomware attacks have been the most common in the last few years (Ransomware is a type of software that threatens to publish a person’s data or block it unless a ransom is paid).
  2. Apart from WannaCry and Petya, other Ransomware attacks that made news globally were Locky, Cerber, Bucbi, SharkRaaS, CryptXXX and SamSam.
  3. In India, in May 2017, a data breach at the food delivery App, Zomato, led to personal information of about 17 million users being stolen and put for sale on the Darknet. The company had to negotiate with the hacker in order to get it taken down.

Which devices are more vulnerable for attacks?

  1. While Windows operating systems were the most vulnerable to cyberattacks, a number of Android threats have been reported in the last couple of years, including potent crypto-ransomware attacks on Android devices.
  2. The attacks aren’t limited to mobile phones and e-Pads. All devices, including televisions that use Android, are also potentially vulnerable.
  3. In 2016, the first known Ransomware, named KeRanger, targeting Mac users was also reported.
  4. The Mirai botnet malware affected 2.5 million home router users and other Internet of Things devices


What should India do?

  1. Given the huge number of online users and continued efforts on affordable access, cybersecurity needs to be integrated in every aspect of policy and planning.
  2. India needs to quickly frame an appropriate and updated cybersecurity policy, create adequate infrastructure, and foster closer collaboration between all those involved to ensure a safe cyberspace.
  3. There is a need for a Geneva-like Convention to agree on some high-level recommendations among nations to keep the Internet safe, open, universal and interoperable.


Read more about Ransomware:



Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc. Finance and Banking

Micro-finance institutions yet to recover from demonetisation shock


Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth.

Prelims: RBI, Demonetization.

Mains level: The news card discusses RBI’s study titled ‘The impact of demonetization on financial sector’ which further highlights that MFIs, NBFCs are yet to recover from the impact of demonetization.



The RBI’s study on ‘The impact of demonetisation on financial sector’.

  1. Disbursals by micro-finance institutions (MFIs), which plunged by over 71 per cent after demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, are yet to bounce back into the positive territory, a Reserve Bank of India study has said.
  2. However, the study attributed the decline to farm loan waivers by various state governments.
  3. In the case of MFIs, however, disbursals continued to contract in comparison with the monthly average of disbursals during April-October 2016 in view of the uncertainty surrounding loan waivers by state governments.
  4. While the average monthly disbursals by MFIs declined by 71.4 per cent in December.
  5. Disbursals gradually improved but stayed down in June 2017, the study said.
  6. However, collections by MFIs fell during November 2016-February 2017 vis-a-vis April-October 2016, but witnessed an improvement in March, May and June 2017.
  7. Growth in collections (i.e., repayments of loans) of asset finance firms and loan firms during November 2016-June 2017 increased over the monthly average collections during April-October 2016.

Trend of Bank Credit to NBFCs

  1. Bank credit to NBFCs decelerated from 5.1 per cent (y-o-y) in October 2016 to 1.3 per cent in November 2016.
  2. However, it improved to 10.9 per cent in March 2017.
  3. In terms of the returns submitted by the reporting NBFCs, loans and advances by NBFCs rose broadly at the same rate in the year ending March 2017 (16.4 per cent) against FY16 (16.6 per cent), the RBI study said.
  4. During demonetisation and the subsequent period, there has been a distinct rise in saving flows into equity/debt oriented mutual funds and life insurance policies.
  5. Apart from this, NBFCs seem to have recorded improvement in collections and disbursals.
  6. Demonetisation-led increase in CASA deposits also led to significant improvement in transmission to bank lending rates during the post-demonetisation period.


  1. The challenge, going forward, would be to channel these funds into productive segments of the economy and expand the footprints of the digital economy, which has undergone a sharp increase, another important consequence of demonetisation.
  2. Fake notes detected per million pieces of notes processed at the currency chest level was 7 pieces for Rs 500 denomination and 19 pieces for Rs 1000 denomination.
  3. At the RBI’s currency verification and processing system, there were 2 fake Rs 500 notes and 6 fake Rs 1000 notes for every million pieces processed during 2015-16. These rose to 6 pieces and 12 pieces, respectively, during the post-demonetisation period.
  4. As compared to 2015- 16, 12 clusters for Rs 500 denomination and 14 clusters for Rs 1000 denomination showed a statistically significant higher rate of fake note detection during the post-demonetisation period.
  5. These findings imply a significant pick-up in the rate of fake notes detection at the Reserve Bank level in the post-demonetisation period as compared to a year ago.

FEMA norms eased to spur investment from overseas


 Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth.

Prelims: FEMA.

Mains level: The news card talks about the recent RBIs notification regarding FEMA amendment which has simplified the procedures to spur foreign investment in the country.



  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has simplified the Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident outside India) Regulations, by putting all the 93 amendments under one notification, a move that will significantly make it easier for foreign investors to invest in the country.
  2. The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), introduced in 1999, was amended 93 times.
  3. Guide to investors
  4. Anyone who wants to invest in India, from this notification, he will know in which company he can invest, who can invest, how they can invest, how the money should come in, what the reporting is, everything is there in the notification.
  5. Earlier it was in a very disjointed manner in various places.

The Notification by RBI

  1. The new notification combines two regulations on foreign investments
  • One which is popularly called investment in an Indian company or a partnership, or in a limited liability partnership, or FEMA 20,
  • The other FEMA 24, which is investment in a partnership firm.
  1. Another significant change is the introduction of a late submission fee that could allow an investor to regularise any contravention due to non-reporting, by paying the fee.

Big impact

  1. It is going to impact in a very big manner because 60-70% of the contravention cases which RBI receives are due to delays in reporting.
  2. In addition, any transfer of investment from non-resident Indians to any non-residents has been brought under the automatic route, subject to reporting.


Foreign Exchange Management Act:


  1. The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) is an Act of the Parliament of India “to consolidate and amend the law relating to foreign exchange with the objective of facilitating external trade and payments and for promoting the orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India”.
  2. It replaces the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA). This act seeks to make offenses related to foreign exchange civil offenses. It extends to the whole of India.
  3. It enabled a new foreign exchange management regime consistent with the emerging framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It also paved way to Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002, which was effected from 1 July 2005.
NPA Crisis Finance and Banking

Bad loans of private banks also spurt, keep pace with PSU counterparts


 Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth.

Prelims: RBI, NPAs.

Mains level: The news card talks about the rising NPAs in private banks and also about several instances of under-reporting, divergence of actual bad loans by private banks.



Rise of NPAs in private banks

  1. Private banks have reported a massive rise in bad loans in the last five years, in a sign that they are not far behind their public sector counterparts when it comes to stressed assets in the banking system.
  2. The rise in NPAs of private banks is as steep as their PSU counterparts.
  3. Private banks also have exposure in many of the highly leveraged and stressed corporates, especially steel, infra and telecom.

The Statistics

  1. Gross non-performing assets of private banks soared to Rs 100,481 crore at the end of September 2017 against Rs 22,020 crore in September 2013, a rise of 356 per cent.
  2. During the 12 month ended September 2017, 12 private banks have added another Rs 30,000 crore to the NPA list.
  3. State owned banks also showed a similar trend.
  4. Gross NPA ratio of 12 private banks, when combined, have increased from 3.5 per cent of total advances in September 2016 to 4.3 per cent in September 2017.
  5. The spurt in NPAs happened in the last two years.
  6. There’s a belief that only PSU banks were reporting huge NPAs. It’s not true. The stress in the banking sector is across the board.
  7. The banks were supposed to clean up their balance sheets by March 2017.
  8. According to Care Ratings, private banks set aside around Rs 33,000 crore towards provisions and contingencies in the last five years.
  9. However, the divergence, of NPAs announced by private banks has raised concerns about the classification of loans.

Under-reporting of NPAs by private banks

  1. This is at a time when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) unearthed several instances of under-reporting, or divergence, of actual bad loans by private banks.
  2. For Example- Yes Bank reported NPAs of Rs 2,018.6 crore, bad loans as assessed by the RBI were Rs 8,373.8 crore, showing a divergence of Rs 6,355 crore for the fiscal 2017.
  3. The RBI’s assessment of NPAs is yet to come to us. It will be disclosed in the next quarter.
  4. For FY 2016, three private banks had reported divergences worth Rs 18,760 crore.
  5. If the RBI detects more under-reporting of NPAs in fiscal 2018, private banks’ contribution will increase further.
  6. Concerned over the impact of hidden real NPAs on share valuations, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) had recently asked listed banks to make disclosures if the provisioning and NPAs assessed by the RBI had exceeded 15 per cent of their published financials.
  7. Market valuations of banks which showed divergence had taken a hit.
  8. The Sebi directive came after the RBI issued a circular asking banks to disclose divergence in the asset classification and provisioning.

The RBI’s Financial Stability Report says that a severe credit shock is likely to impact capital adequacy and profitability of a significant number of banks.

Air Pollution Conservation & Mitigation

Capital crisis: on Delhi’s deteriorating air quality



Mains Paper 3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Causes of environmental pollution
Mains level: Measures to reduce air pollution


1. The article talks about the the reasons for deteriorating air quality in Delhi
2. The central idea of the article is follows: There is an urgent need to address the issue of deteriorating air quality through state action.
Current Situation in Delhi
1. The extremely hazardous levels of air quality have turned into a public health emergency in the capital
2. The smog is worsened by the burning of biomass in Punjab and Haryana and the winter atmosphere is marked by poor ventilation
3. Construction dust, vehicular pollution, domestic and industrial emissions add to this poor quality of air
4. Civic agencies are ignoring the problem of rising dust levels that are caused by unpaved surfaces
Effects of this air pollution
1. Such toxic air causes extreme suffering especially among people with respiratory ailments and impaired lung function.
2. The post monsoon burning of rice and wheat residues release aerosols that contribute to the volume of PM2.5 that gets embedded in lungs.
3. Exposure to PM2.5 produces morbidity from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and leads to premature death
Measures undertaken
1. Ban on deepavali crackers
2. Shift to Compressed Natural Gas for commercial vehicles
3. Odd and Even Policy
4. Ministry of Environment’s Orders in 2015 under the Air(Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1981 for greening Delhi’s road margins
Way Forward
1. Governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, assisted by the Centre, should address the problems of farm residue burning and construction dust
2. The State Machinery should support the farmers for sustainable residue removal
3. Shifting more of the city’s travel to public transport will reduce the emission of fine particles
4. Measures undertaken in China to reduce PM2.5 emissions could be implemented here
A determined response and an integrated state action is essential for reducing the pollution levels in the National Capital.
Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc. Finance and Banking

Between January-August 2017: 2 million jobs lost sequentially, 6 million added on year-on-year basis

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning,mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: The trends in labour participation rate and unemployment rate
Mains level: Challenges of Development and Employment

1. The article talks about the fall in labour participation rate post-demonetisation as per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy(CMIE)
2. The central idea of the article is follows: A comparitive approach of the labour participation rate, unemployment rate and volatility of unemployment in the 10 months preceding and post demonetization.
Key trends in labour market post demonetization-
1. About 2 million jobs were lost between January and August 2017
2. The average labour participation rate during the 10 months preceding demonetisation was 47% which decreased to 44% during the 10 months following demonetisation
3. The immediate impact of GST has been less severe compared to demonetisation.
4. Labour participation was at its lowest in July 2017 but increased in the following months.
5. Demonetisation had a wealth distribution element which cushioned the impact of demonetisation on job losses
6. Monthly overall unemployment rate has been increasing steadily since August 2017 from 4.11% to 5.68% in October 2017
7. Overall employment rate showed a decline from September 2016 to April 2017. However it picked up from May 2017
8. Urban unemployment rate was 8.2% which was the highest recorded employment rate in the past 11 months
9. The rise in labour participation and unemployment rates indicate that although labour is entering the market, they are unable to find jobs.
10. The volatility of unemployment rate measured through the coefficient of variation increased from 8.8% in Jan-Oct 2016 to 23.5% in Nov 2016-August 2017
11. The volatility of unemployment in India was 8.3 times higher than in OECD countries in the overall 20-month period
For Prelims
1. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD)
– It is an intergovernmental economic organisation to stimulate economic progress and world trade
– Its headquarters are located in Paris, France
– India is not a member

1. Demonetisation: It is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender
2. Labour Participation Rate: It refers to the number of people who are either employed or actively looking for employment
3. Unemployment Rate: It is the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the labour force
Air Pollution Conservation & Mitigation

‘Like the Great Smog of London’


Mains Paper 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Prelims: Great Smog London

Mains level: This news card talks about the alarming air pollution in Delhi and its impact along with comparing it to the great London smog.



  1. As air pollution hit alarming levels in Delhi, major city hospitals on November 8 experienced a surge in the number of patients complaining of respiratory problems with AIIMS Director comparing the situation to the killer Great Smog of London in 1952.
  2. There is a need for implementation of long-term measures to tackle the crisis.
  3. There was a spurt in fresh cases in hospitals and conditions of patients with history of asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases deteriorated.

Breathlessness, coughing

  1. It leads to breathlessness, coughing, sneezing, tightness in chest, allergy and asthma complications.
  2. There is about 20 per cent rise in patients seeking treatment due to respiratory and cardiac issues.
  3. Pollution is at such a severe level that patients with respiratory and cardiac problems may develop life-threatening conditions.


London Smog

  1. On December 5, 1952, thick yellow smog brought London to a standstill for four days and is estimated to have killed more than 4,000 people.
  2. Sulfurous smog is also called “London smog,” (first formed in London).
  3. Sulfurous smog results from a high concentration of SULFUR OXIDES in the air and is caused by the use of sulfur-bearing fossil fuels, particularly coal.
  4. This type of smog is aggravated by dampness and a high concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China Bilateral Relations

India urged to join Belt and Road Initiative


Mains Paper 2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: OBOR.

Mains level: It is important as the article highlights how China is open and inclusive to cooperation with India on BRI.



China urges India to join BRI

  1. China on Wednesday counselled India to shed its objections to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and take advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which had already drawn wide international support.
  2. China in a veiled reference to India, said the project did not target “third countries” or prejudice China’s position on territorial disputes.
  3. Also, that CPEC corridor is an economic cooperation.
  4. China hopes that countries and parties with shared vision will work with us to allow practical cooperation to bring more benefits to our peoples.
  5. And China is open and inclusive to cooperation involving the BRI.


One Belt One Road Initiative

  1. It is a development strategy proposed by China‘s paramount leaderXi Jinping to connect China with Central Asia, Europe, Africa and Indo-Pacific littoral countries. He called for the building of a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, collectively referred to as One Belt One Road (OBOR).
  2. This policy has two components:
  • Belt– The “One Belt” refers to the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt”. Here Beijing aims to connect the country’s underdeveloped hinterland to Europe through Central Asia.
  • Road – The “One Road” references the ocean-going “Maritime Silk Road”. It is to connect the fast-growing South East Asian region to China’s southern provinces through ports and railways.
  1. The Belt and Road initiative is geographically structured along 6 corridors.
  2. The strategy underlines China’s push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network.
  3. In the past three years, the focuses were mainly on infrastructure investment, construction materials, railway and highway, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel.
Banking Sector Reforms Finance and Banking

Rs 2.11-lakh crore recapitalisation plan: To help fund bank cash infusion, Government looks to tap RBI’s reserves


Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth.

Prelims: RBI, Bank Recapitalization, FOREX.

Mains level: The news card talks about the government’s move to consider partial financing of bank recapitalization through RBI. It also talks about the Economic Survey recommendations regarding the same.



  1. The government is weighing the option of getting the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to part-finance the capital infusion plan for public sector banks and has initiated discussions with the central bank to deploy a portion of its foreign exchange or other reserves for this purpose.
  2. The discussions are at a “nascent stage” and depending on the response of the RBI, the Finance Ministry will work on creating a mechanism for capital infusion that is in consonance with fiscal responsibility regulations.
  3. The government last month announced plans to inject Rs 2.11 lakh crore of equity in PSU banks — Rs 1.35 lakh crore through recapitalisation bonds, Rs 18,000 crore from budgetary resources and Rs 58,000 crore to be raised by banks from the market.
  4. The government will stick to the timeline of capital infusion announced earlier and a significant portion of the equity can be injected in a couple of months.

Foreign exchange Reserves and Bank Recapitalization

  1. With foreign exchange reserves crossing $400 billion, there is a view within the government that a portion can be used for capitalising banks without adversely affecting the country’s import cover and macro-economic stability.
  2. As of September 22, the RBI’s foreign exchange reserves were $402. 24 billion.
  3. The forex reserves comprised foreign currency assets of $377.751 billion, gold of $20.69 billion, special drawing rights of $1.51 billion and reserve tranche position of $2.29 billion with the International Monetary Fund.
  4. In 2007, the RBI had approved a proposal to invest up to $5 billion out of its forex reserves to fund a wholly-owned UK-based subsidiary of the India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL).
  5. The IIFCL subsidiary used these funds to lend to Indian companies executing infrastructure projects in India, or to co-finance their external commercial borrowings for such projects for expenditure outside India for infrastructure projects.

Economic Survey Recommendations

  1. Earlier this year, the Economic Survey 2016-17 had suggested that the government use a part of the extra capital available with the RBI to capitalise banks.
  2. Even at current levels, the RBI is already exceptionally highly capitalised. In fact, it is one of the most highly capitalised central banks in the world. So, it would seem to be more productive to redeploy some of this capital in other ways.
  3. It could be used in several good ways:
  • For recapitalising the banks and/or recapitalising a Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency (PARA);
  • And, for extinguishing debt to demonstrate that the government is serious about a strong public sector fiscal position.

Why there is a need for the creation of SPV ?

  1. The government may need to create a special purpose vehicle to use resources from the RBI.
  2. This is because the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) Act does not allow the government to borrow from the RBI.
  3. But routing resources through the SPV should be in conformity with the law.

The Government’s Approach

  1. The government plans to adopt a differential and selective approach for capital infusion in the public sector banks.
  2. While strong banks will get greater capital, weak banks may have to either shrink in size or not grow from the current position.
  3. Of the total 22 PSU banks, as many as eight PSU banks currently have gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) above 15 per cent and 14 banks have GNPA of more than 12 per cent.
  4. The government had earlier hoped to reap significant windfall gains from the decision to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 n
  5. The amount of currency that was not be deposited with the banks could have been a gain to the Centre after extinguishing the RBI’s liability which could have been used to capitalise PSU banks.
  6. But with over 99 per cent of the demonetised currency coming into the banks, the government took the recapitalisation bonds route to fund the banks.

‘Mixed reality, AI to shape tech future’


Mains Paper 3: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Mixed Reality, AI, Quantum Computing

Mains level: This article talks about the three key technologies of the future. UPSC may ask question on them.



Three key technologies that would shape the future

  1. Microsoft CEO sees mixed reality, artificial intelligence and quantum computing as the three key technologies that would shape the future in the decades to come.
  2. According to him observing that computing history had been all about enhancing the man-machine interface.
  3. However the ultimate computing experience for him was mixed reality which is an idea that you can just in front of your eyes have both the real world and the virtual world and it can blend the two.
  4. Also, for him it was amazing as people are able to transcend space and time to collaborate and this teleportation is no longer just Star Trek, it’s sort of possible.
  5. The currency of our times will be our ability to collect data, but more importantly its ability to create intelligence or AI.
  6. Quantum computing would be the third, longer-term bet.
  7. We celebrate so much of our technological progress, but we also need to be clear eyed about some of the harder challenges that is computational in nature but yet not solved.
  8. Microsoft also announced a partnership with ride hailing app Ola to build a new-age ‘connected vehicle platform’ for car manufacturers worldwide.


Artificial Intelligence (AI)

  1. Artificial Intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines.
  2. It is a branch of computer science which deals with creating computers or machines as intelligent as human beings.
  3. The term was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy at the Dartmouth conference, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  4. It is a simulation of human intelligence processes such as learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using the rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions), and self-correction by machines, especially computer systems.
  5. Nowadays it has become an umbrella term which encompasses everything from robotic process automation to actual robotics.
  6. Recently it has become widely popular and gained prominence due to its multifaceted application ranging from healthcare to military devices.

Mixed Reality

  1. Mixed reality (MR) is the merging of real and virtual worlds where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.
  2. People will be able to transcend space and time to collaborate and this teleportation is possible now.

Quantum Computing

  1. It is an innovation in the field of computers that seeks to exponentially increase the speed and ability of processors, thus overcoming the limitations set by Moore’s law.
  2. Quantum computers seek to use the processes of quantum superposition and quantum entanglement to allow atoms and molecules to work as carriers of information and perform processing.
  3. The above processes allow such atoms to hold binary values (0 and 1) at the same time, thus allowing for parallelism that increases the speed of such computers drastically.
  4. It has ability to process theoretically infinite data that is, big data and data mining.
  5. It helps in improving predictive decision making like for weather patterns, election results, lottery predictions, etc, scan the universe for habitable planets, discover tumors in time and develop better targeting drugs, etc.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Finance and Banking

Insolvency resolution norms made stringent


Mains Paper 3: Indian economy – planning and development.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: IBBI.

Mains level: This newscard talks about the amendments made by the IBBI in corporate resolution process and  its impact.



The amendment

  1. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has amended the corporate insolvency resolution process regulations to ensure that applicants, including promoters, are put to a stringent test with respect to their credit worthiness and credibility.
  2. The amendment also imposes greater responsibility on the resolution professional and the Committee of Creditors in discharging their duties.
  3. The amendments will ensure that as part of due diligence prior to approval of a resolution plan, the antecedents, credit worthiness and credibility of a resolution applicant, including promoters, are taken into account by the Committee of Creditors.
  4. To ensure that the corporate insolvency resolution process results in a credible and viable resolution plan, the IBBI has carried out amendments to the IBBI (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) Resolution Process, 2016 (CIRP Regulations).



  1. It is a modern framework to deal with bankruptcy and insolvency of variety of economic players, including individuals, but excluding financial firms.
  2. Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India has been setup to act as a regulator for these utilities and professionals.
  3. It has restored some power to creditors, both financial and operational.
  4. It has fast-tracked the mechanism of insolvency resolution process.
  5. The corporate insolvency would have to be resolved within a period 180 days, extendable by 90 days.
  6. It also provides for fast-track resolution of corporate insolvency within 90 days.
  7. Debt Recovery Tribunals have been set up as adjudicating authority over both individual & unlimited liability partnership firms.
  8. National Company Law Tribunalis adjudicating authority with jurisdiction over companies with limited liability.
  9. It has a clause to provide for insolvency professionalswho will specialize in helping sick companies and in their revival.
  10. It also provides for information utilities that will collate all information about debtors to prevent serial defaulters from misusing the system.
  11. It has also established  Insolvency and Bankruptcy Fund of India, deposits of the fund will include grants made by the central government, the amount deposited by the persons, interest earned on investments made from the fund etc. any person, who has contributed to the fund, may apply for withdrawal, in a case of proceedings against him.
Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc. Health

51% of Indian women are anaemic, reveals Global Nutrition Report


Mains Paper 1: Role of Women.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: The Global Nutrition Report by IFPRI

Mains level: This news card lists the findings of the Global Nutrition Report, 2017.



The Global Nutrition Report

  1. India has the largest number of anaemic women in the world, with 51% of those aged between 15 and 49 years suffering from iron deficiency, according to Global Nutrition Report 2017.
  2. The anaemia figure quoted in the report is marginally better than the 53 per cent quoted in the National Family Health Survey 4 which analysed data from 2015-16.
  3. The report that looked at 140 countries.
  4. The country is followed by China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia.
    India also faces the double whammy of undernutrition on one hand and obesity on the other.
  5. While 38% of children under 5 are affected by stunting and 21% children in the same age group are defined as ‘wasted’ or ‘severely wasted’ (where their weight is not enough for their height), 16% of men and 22% of women (1 in 5) are overweight.
  6. The report has found ‘significant burdens’ of three major forms of malnutrition used as indicator of broader trends —childhood stunting which does irreversible damage to brain capacity, anaemia in women of reproductive age that can have long term health impacts for mother and child, and overweight women, a rising concern as women are disproportionately affected by the global obesity epidemic.
  7. According to the report, while India has shown some progress in addressing stunting among under-5 children, there is a long way to go in dealing with anaemic women of reproductive age and in reaching targets on reducing adult obesity and diabetes.
  8. The Global Nutrition Report highlights that the double burden of undernutrition and obesity needs to be tackled as part of the national nutrition strategy. For undernutrition especially, major efforts are needed to close the inequality gap.
  9. Overall, the report says 88% of countries face a serious burden of either two or three forms of malnutrition (childhood stunting, anaemia in women of reproductive age and/or overweight in adult women), with 815 million going to bed hungry, up from 777 million in 2015.
  10. One-third of people worldwide are overweight and obese, while over a staggering billion and a half suffer from anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies.


  1. Ironically, donor funding for nutrition rose by just 2% in 2015, to $867 million, representing a slight fall in the overall percentage of global aid.
  2. The report says funding needs to be ‘turbo charged’ and calls for trebling of global investments in nutrition, to $70bn over 10 years to tackle childhood stunting, wasting and anemia and to increase breastfeeding rates.
  3. To help address malnutrition, the Global Nutrition Summit 2017 held in Milan, galvanized global aid to help reach these targets, which includes a pledge of $50 million over five years, by Tata Trusts, a philanthropic arm of Tata group.


  1. The report shows that despite steps taken by the world, nutrition is still a large-scale and universal problem.
  2. There is an urgent need for nutrition to be placed at the heart of all global efforts, be it to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards or/and tackle climate change, and hence it is key in enabling sustainable development.
  3. Poor nutrition elevates the risk of poverty, with 43% of children under 5 in low-and middle-income countries at an elevated risk of poverty because of stunting.
  4. Though undernutrition in children is decreasing, global progress has not been fast enough to meet internationally agreed nutrition goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Black Money – Domestic and International efforts Finance and Banking

Sebi, income tax dept to probe Indians named in Paradise Papers


Mains Paper 3:  Money laundering and its prevention.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), CBDT, SEBI

Mains level: It is important to know how CBDT, SEBI and the government are planning to crackdown on companies and individuals evading taxes. This article talks about the Paradise paper leak which seconds such big leak disclosure by ICIJ since Panama paper leaks of 2015.



Paradise Paper Leak

  1. The income-tax department and the capital markets regulator said they will be scrutinizing the so-called Paradise Papers, documents obtained by a global network of investigative journalists to see if any Indian individual or companies were guilty of wrongdoing.
  2. While the income-tax authorities will investigate companies allegedly evading taxes by using complex offshore structures, the market regulator will be scrutinizing disclosures.

Steps Taken by CBDT

  1. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has asked its investigation wing to reopen the income-tax returns filed by the companies and individuals named in the leaks to see if any of their past incomes have gone un-taxed.
  2. It has also briefed all directors general of investigations across the country about the exposé by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). These reports have not named all the companies and directors in those companies.
  3. Wherever names are available their income-tax returns will be checked to see if there is any under-reporting of income.
  4. Also, once more details and names come out, the tax department will take appropriate action.
  5. The Indian Express reported that 714 Indian companies and individuals are listed in the documents.
  6. The CBDT has also reconstituted the multi-agency group headed by its chairman to monitor investigations into the papers. Previously this group made up of officials from the tax department, the Enforcement Directorate, the Reserve Bank of India and the Financial Intelligence Unit had monitored investigations into the so-called Panama papers, another set of financial documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm in 2015, dealing with offshore assets allegedly held by businesses.

Steps taken by SEBI

  1. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has initiated an examination of the listed companies mentioned in the Paradise Papers for disclosure lapses and fund diversion.
  2. Sebi will ask stock exchanges to ask for information from the listed companies on their offshore entities and this will be matched with their statutory disclosures.
  3. These disclosures are made by companies in their annual reports and exchange filings.
  4. Mere existence of an offshore entity is not an offence but not disclosing it is in violation of Sebi Act.

Steps taken by the Government

  1. India renegotiating its tax treaty with countries such as Mauritius, a major source of foreign direct investment into India.
  2. India is also renegotiating its bilateral investment protection agreements with other nations to check abusive practices by businesses.
  3. In June, India joined a multilateral agreement to combat aggressive tax avoidance by multinationals, which at one stroke modified India’s DTAAs with about 93 nations, including Cyprus, Mauritius and Singapore.
  4. The country also actively participated in evolving the treaty text with members of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development

Not all cases mentioned in the Paradise Leak are fraudulent

  1. It may be the case that many cases listed in the Paradise Papers may not actually be tax frauds as setting up holding companies in countries with which India has double tax avoidance agreements (DTAAs) to route investments into India has been a common tax planning practice.
  2. In the investigations into the Panama Papers, the income-tax department found that about 279 cases were “non-actionable”. In the 46 cases in which action has been taken, five criminal cases were filed and investigations are ongoing in other cases.
  3. Indian companies and individuals are allowed to invest abroad but regulations require these outbound capital flows to be reported in tax returns.
  4. Structured data connected to the Paradise Papers investigation will be released only in the coming weeks on the offshore leaks website of ICIJ in phases.


The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)

  1. It is a global network of more than 200 investigative journalists in 70 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.
  2. Founded in 1997 by the respected American journalist Chuck Lewis, ICIJ was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity, focusing on issues that do not stop at national frontiers: cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power.
  3. In February 2017,ICIJ was spun off to become a fully independent news organization with the goal of extending our global reach and impact even farther.
  4. ICIJ was recently granted its own nonprofit status from U.S. tax authorities.
  5. ICIJ is governed by three committees – a traditional board of directors with a fiduciary role; an Advisory Committee made of supporters and experienced investigative journalists; and an ICIJ Network Committee.

Crude oil futures surge to Rs 3,630 per barrel


Mains Paper 3: Resource Mobilisation.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Brent Crude

Mains level: Just the trend is important that is, the current surge in oil prices.



Rise in Crude Oil Prices

  1. Crude oil futures rose 83 per cent to Rs 3,630 per barrel as speculators widened their positions amid a firm trend overseas.
  2. At the Multi Commodity Exchange, crude oil for December delivery was trading higher by Rs 30 or 0.83 per cent at Rs 3,630 per barrel in 62 lots.
  3. On similar lines, crude for delivery in current month was trading higher by Rs 29 or 0.81 per cent at Rs 3,608 per barrel in a business turnover of 1,416 lots.

Market Trend

  1. Analysts said rise in crude oil futures was largely in tandem with a firm trend in global market where prices hit their highest levels since July 2015 as markets tightened, while Saudi Arabia’s crown prince cemented his power over the weekend through an anti-corruption crackdown that included high profile arrests.
  2. Meanwhile, the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude prices surged 12 cents or 0.22 per cent to $55.76 a barrel, and Brent crude climbed 20 cents to $62.27 a barrel.


What is Brent Crude?

  1. Brent Crude is a major trading classification of sweet light crude oilthat serves as a major benchmark price for purchases of oil worldwide.
  2. This grade is described as light because of its relatively low density, and sweet because of its low sulfur content.
  3. Roughly two-thirds of all crude contracts around the world reference Brent Blend, making it the most widely used marker of all.


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