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Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

Financial inclusion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Challenges in financial inclusion

Context

There are 63.4 million MSMEs in India and 99 per cent of which are micro-enterprises with less than Rs 10 lakh in investment. Financial inclusion and integration is key to bring these businesses into the formal economy.

Financial integration

  • What is Financial inclusion? On the front of “financial inclusion”, which refers to the accessibility of banking and availability of credit, we have made significant progress.
  • Financial integration:  The journey from inclusion to integration is not only about making products available and accessible, but also about making them relevant, applicable, and acceptable.

Demand size challenges

1) Gap between demand and supply of capital

  • Due to a limited risk appetite, low or thin-file data on customers and challenging regulatory oversight, capital remains a constraint in designing bespoke products.
  • Way forward: For India to overcome these challenges, the existing infrastructure must be adapted to our new purpose, providing easy-to-use, customer-centric experiences.

2) Accessibility

  •  Greater accessibility has major benefits for not only the customer but also the supplier.
  • For example, in rural India, people tend to save in the post office, because of village postal agents collect their savings from their doorstep.

3) Intelligent product design and delivery

  • Products must be designed and delivered intelligently to meet the customer where they are, and by keeping in mind that they use products to reach their goals.
  • This involves tailoring the products to the needs and income profile of the customer, including being cognisant of their environment, geography, and demography.

4) Lowering the operating costs

  • In the traditional financial system, the design and distribution cost on financial products at sachet size is high.
  • Financial service providers are consequently dissuaded from attempting to reach rural, financially excluded groups.
  • By using the power of machine learning and cloud infrastructure, we can significantly lower operating costs while offering customers affordable, bespoke financial products.

5) Demand-side issues: Financial literacy and technology readiness

  • Financial literacy and technology readiness are two critical issues on the demand size.
  • Financial education assists people in making sound financial decisions.

Consider the question “Benefits of the financial inclusion remain unrealised without financial integration. In light of this, examine the challenge in financial integration in India and suggest the way forward” 

Conclusion

It is our responsibility to create an ecosystem for them to deploy this capital of courage.

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Temple entry for women : Gender Equality v/s Religious Freedom

State control over Temples

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 25 and 26

Mains level : Paper 2- Evolution of rights-bases jurisprudence

Context

On August 14, 2021, the Tamil Nadu government appointed 24 trained archakas (priests) in temples across the State. In the weeks since, a series of writ petitions have been filed before the Madras High Court assailing these appointments.

Administration of  Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu by government and challenges to it

  • The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE), 1959, is the governing law on the administration of Hindu temples and religious institutions.
  • In 1971, Section 55 of the HR&CE Act was amended to abolish hereditary priesthood.
  • Removal of caste-based discrimination: In 2006, the amendment provided for the appointment of sufficiently trained Hindus irrespective of their caste as archakas to Hindu temples by the government.
  • Challenges in the Court: Challenges to both amendments were taken to the Supreme Court, which upheld the law, as amended.
  •  In Seshammal v. Union (1972), the Supreme Court observed that the amendment to the HR&CE Act abolishing hereditary priesthood did not mean that the government intended to bring about any “change in the rituals and ceremonies”.
  • Constitutional legitimacy: In Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal v. Govt. of Tamil Nadu (2015), the Supreme Court observed that “the constitutional legitimacy, naturally, must supersede all religious beliefs or practices”.
  • The Court further went on to state that appointments should be tested on a case-by-case basis and any appointment that is not in line with the Agamas will be against the constitutional freedoms enshrined under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

Judicial balancing of the various rights by the Supreme Court

  • In Indian Young Lawyers’ Association v. State of Kerala (the Sabarimala case) and Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court reiterated the need to eliminate “historical discrimination which has pervaded certain identities”’, “systemic discrimination against disadvantaged groups”.
  • In these cases the Supreme Court rejected stereotypical notions used to justify such discrimination.
  • In all these cases, the Court prioritised judicial balancing of various constitutional rights.
  • The constitutional order of priority: In the Sabarimala case, it held that “in the constitutional order of priorities, the individual right to the freedom of religion was not intended to prevail over but was subject to the overriding constitutional postulates of equality, liberty and personal freedoms recognised in the other provisions of Part III”.

Way forward

  • Building on the Sabrimala case: The constitutional courts will now be called upon to build on the gains of the Sabarimala case when it comes to administration of temples, insofar as it concerns matters that are not essentially religious.
  • Dealing with the gender bias: The Supreme Court, in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018), interpreted Article 15 as being wide, progressive and intersectional.
  • Today, while most of the debate is around whether men from all caste groups can become archakas, we have failed to recognise the gender bias inherent in these discussions.

Consider the question “We have been witnessing the evolution of rights-based jurisprudence in the various judgements of the Supreme Court. This will help to eliminate “systemic discrimination against disadvantaged groups”, and reject stereotypical notions used to justify such discrimination. Comment.”

Conclusion

At once, caste orthodoxy and patriarchy entrenched within the realm of the HR&CE Act can be eliminated and supplanted with a vision of a just, equal and dignified society.

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North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

In Manipur, a case for asymmetric federalism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Autonomous districts, Sixth Schedule

Mains level : Issues related to Assymetric Federalism in India

As a normative idea and an institutional arrangement that supports the recognition and provision of an expansive ‘self-rule’ for territorially concentrated minority groups, asymmetric federalism has recently received bad press in India.

India’s Federalism: A backgrounder

  • Nations are described as ‘federal’ or ‘unitary’, depending on the way in which governance is organised.
  • In a unitary set-up, the Centre has plenary powers of administration and legislation, with its constituent units having little autonomy.
  • In a federal arrangement, the constituent units are identified on the basis of region or ethnicity and conferred varying forms of autonomy or some level of administrative and legislative powers.
  • In India, the residuary powers of legislation, that is the power to make law in a field not specified in the Constitution, is vested in Parliament.
  • Hence India has a quasi-federal framework.

Why is it said that India has asymmetric federalism?

  • The main forms of administrative units in India are the Centre and the States.
  • Just as the Centre and the States do not have matching powers in all matters, there are some differences in the way some States and other constituent units of the Indian Union relate to the Centre.
  • This creates a notable asymmetry in the way Indian federalism works.
  • But there are other forms, too, all set up to address specific local, historical and geographical contexts.

The asymmetric structure

  • Besides the Centre and the States, the country has Union Territories with a legislature, and Union Territories without a legislature.
  • When the Constitution came into force, the various States and other administrative units were divided into Parts A, B, C and D.
  • Part A States were the erstwhile provinces, while Part B consisted of erstwhile princely states and principalities. Part C areas were the erstwhile ‘Chief Commissioner’s Provinces’.
  • They became Union Territories, and some of them initially got legislatures and were later upgraded into States.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa belong to this category.

Power apparatus in these asymmetries: Sixth Schedule

  • The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution contains provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • These create autonomous districts and autonomous regions.
  • Any autonomous district with different Scheduled Tribes will be divided into autonomous regions.
  • These will be administered by District Councils and Regional Councils.
  • These Councils can make laws with respect to allotment, occupation and use of land, management of forests other than reserve forests and water courses.
  • Besides they can regulate social customs, marriage and divorce and property issues.

An integrationist approach adopted by the Constituent Assembly

  • Post-independence, India was criticized for arguably becoming a ‘homogenous Hindu nation’ after Partition.
  • To counter this, the Gopinath Bordoloi Committee, a sub-committee of the Constituent Assembly sought to accommodate the distinctive identity, culture and way of life of tribal groups in the NE by envisioning ‘self-rule’.
  • This distinctive constitutional status to territorially concentrated minorities fosters centrifugal tendencies.
  • Asymmetric federalism fosters subversive institutions, political instability and breakup of States.

Curious case of Manipur: Recent developments

  • Article 371 gives expansive constitutional powers to Manipur’s Hill Areas Committee (Article 371C) over tribal identity, culture, development and local administration, are exemplars.
  • The integrationist approach resonates powerfully in two recent attempts by Manipur’s government to
  1. stall the introduction and passage of the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and
  2. induct nine Assembly members from the valley areas into the Hill Areas Committee.
  • This move is being perceived as a “malicious” and “direct assault” on the Hill Areas Committee and the constitutional protection accorded to the Hill Areas of Manipur under Article 371C.

A determined move

  • These moves marks a calculated initiative to use this as a double-edged sword to simultaneously set apace electoral agenda for the upcoming Assembly elections in early 2022 and reclaim its agency to fortify state-level constitutional asymmetry.
  • The attempt to increase membership of the six district councils to 31 members each and secure more powers to the councils by giving more developmental mandate are welcome.

Managing HAC: A difficult task

  • If history is any guide, the task of reclaiming the Hill Areas Committee’s agency is not going to be easy.
  • Its members often leverage tribe/party loyalty over-commitment to protect constitutional asymmetry and common tribals’ cause.
  • How the HAC and various tribal groups strategically navigate their politics to offset the majoritarian impulse to manipulate the legal and political process to dilute/dissolve extant constitutional asymmetry remains to be seen.

Way forward

  • There should be sincere commitment to promote tribal development, identity and culture that Article 371C seeks to bridge.
  • Recognizing and institutionally accommodating tribal distinctiveness is not just as a matter of political convenience
  • This valuable and enduring good will be key to promote the State’s integrity, stability and peace in the long run.

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Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Can Thawing Permafrost cause another pandemic?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Permafrost

Mains level : Thawing of Permafrost

The latest IPCC report has warned that increasing global warming will result in reductions in Arctic permafrost and the thawing of the ground is expected to release greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

What is Permafrost?

  • ‘Permafrost’ or permanently frozen ground is land that has been frozen at or below 0 degrees Celsius for two or more consecutive years.
  • A staggering 17 per cent of Earth’s entire exposed land surface is comprised of permafrost.
  • Composed of rock, sediments, dead plant and animal matter, soil, and varying degrees of ice, permafrost is mainly found near the poles, covering parts of Greenland, Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia.
  • The Arctic region is a vast ocean, covered by thick ice on the surface (called sea ice), surrounded by land masses that are also covered with snow and ice.

Permafrost thawing

  • When permafrost thaws, water from the melted ice makes its way to the caves along with ground sediments, and deposits on the rocks.
  • In other words, when permafrost thaws, the rocks grow and when permafrost is stable and frozen, they do not grow.

Why thawing?

  • The link between the Siberian permafrost and Arctic sea ice can be explained by two factors:
  • One is heat transport from the open Arctic Ocean into Siberia, making the Siberian climate warmer.
  • The second is moisture transport from open seawater into Siberia, leading to thicker snow cover that insulates the ground from cold winter air, contributing to its warming.
  • This is drastically different from the situation just a couple of decades ago when the sea ice acted as a protective layer, maintaining cold temperatures in the region and shielding the permafrost from the moisture from the ocean.
  • If sea ice (in the summer) is gone, permafrost start thawing.

Impact on Climate Change

  • Due to relentlessly rising temperatures in the region, since the late-twentieth century, the Arctic sea ice and surrounding land ice are melting at accelerating rates.
  • When permafrost thaws due to rising temperatures, the microbes in the soil decompose the dead organic matter (plants and animals) to produce methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), both potent greenhouse gases.
  • CH4 is at least 80 times more powerful than CO2 on a decadal timescale and around 25 times more powerful on a century timescale.
  • The greenhouse gases produced from thawing permafrost will further increase temperatures which will, in turn, lead to more permafrost thawing, forming an unstoppable and irreversible self-reinforcing feedback loop.
  • Experts believe this process may have already begun. Giant craters and ponds of water (called ‘thermokarst lakes’) formed due to thawing have been recorded in the Arctic region. Some are so big that they can be seen from space.

Why a matter of concern?

  • An estimated 1,700 billion tonnes — twice the amount currently present in the atmosphere — of carbon is locked in all of the world’s permafrost.
  • Even if half of that were to be released to the atmosphere, it would be game over for the climate.
  • Scientific estimates suggest that the Arctic Ocean could be largely sea ice-free in the summer months by as early as 2030, based on observational trends, or as late as 2050, based on climate model projections.

Potential to cause another pandemic

Ans. Permafrost has many secrets.

  • When the permafrost was formed thousands of years ago, there weren’t many humans who lived in that region which was necessarily very cold.
  • Researchers recently found mammoths in the permafrost in Russia.
  • And some of these mammoth carcasses when they begin to degrade again may reveal bacteria that were frozen thousands of years ago.
  • So there will be surprises. But whether they will be lethal surprises is just not possible to say.

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Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NFRA

Mains level : Not Much

Audit regulator National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) wants to be positioned as a regulator for the entire gamut of financial reporting, covering all processes and participants in the financial reporting chain.

What is NFRA?

  • NFRA is an independent regulator to oversee the auditing profession and accounting standards in India under Companies Act 2013.
  • It came into existence in October 2018.
  • After the Satyam scandal took place in 2009, the Standing Committee on Finance proposed the concept of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) for the first time in its 21st report.
  • Companies Act, 2013 then gave the regulatory framework for its composition and constitution.

Functions

  • NFRA works to improve the transparency and reliability of financial statements and information presented by listed companies and large unlisted companies in India.

Powers & duties

  • NFRA is responsible for recommending accounting and auditing policies and standards in the country.
  • It may undertake investigations, and impose sanctions against defaulting auditors and audit firms in the form of monetary penalties and debarment from practice for up to 10 years.
  • Since 2018, the powers of the NFRA were extended to include the governing of auditors of companies listed in any stock exchange, in India or outside of India, unlisted public companies above certain thresholds.

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Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAFMD

Mains level : Not Much

India and the US has together launched the “Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)”.

What is CAFMD?

  • The CAFMD is one of the two tracks of the India-U.S. Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership launched at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021, by PM Modi and US President Mr. Biden.
  • The dialogue will strengthen India-US bilateral cooperation on climate and environment.
  • It will also help to demonstrate how the world can align swift climate action with inclusive and resilient economic development, taking into account national circumstances and sustainable development priorities.

Key agendas

  • The US will collaborate with India to work towards installing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030.
  • Currently, India’s installed power capacity is projected to be 476 GW by 2021-22 and is expected to rise to at least 817 GW by 2030.

CAFMD would have three pillars:

  1. Climate Action Pillar: which would have joint proposals looking at ways in emissions could be reduced in the next decade.
  2. Setting out a Roadmap: to achieving the 450GW in transportation, buildings and industry.
  3. Finance Pillar: would involve collaborating on attracting finance to deploy 450 GW of renewable energy and demonstrate at scale clean energy technologies.

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History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] Who was Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Social reformers in Colonial India

Mains level : Not Much

The PM has laid the foundation stone of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh State University in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh.

UPSC is exploring deeper for social reformers involved in the freedom struggle. This is very much visible from the questions based on Rakhmabai, Gopal Baba Walangkar, Sakharam Deuskar etc. in CS Prelims 2020.

Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh (1886-1979)

  • Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh was an Indian freedom fighter, journalist, writer and a revolutionary.
  • He was President in the Provisional Government of India, which served as the Indian Government in exile during World War I from Kaabul in 1915.
  • He also formed the Executive Board of India in Japan in 1940 during the Second World War.
  • He also took part in the Balkan War in the year 1911 along with his fellow students of Muhammedan Anglo College.
  • In recognition of his services, the government of India issued postage stamps in his honor. He is popularly known as “Aryan Peshwa”.
  • He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1932.

Involvement in Swadeshi Movement

  • He met several leaders involved in the Swadeshi movement, deciding to promote small industries with indigenous goods and local artisans.
  • He was influenced by the speeches of Dadabhai Naoroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Maharaja of Baroda, and Bipin Chandra Pal, helping to make him a patriot who turned Swadeshi.

Formation of provisional govt in exile

  • On 1 December 1915 during World War I Pratap established the first Provisional Government of India at Kabul in Afghanistan as a government-in-exile of Free Hindustan, with himself as President, Maulavi Barkatullah as Prime Minister, and Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi as Home Minister, declaring jihad on the British.
  • Due to his revolutionary ideas Pratap had a good relationship with Lenin, who invited him to Russia after its liberation and welcomed him.
  • By this time, the British had noticed his activities, and the British Government of India put a bounty on his head, attached/confiscated his entire estate, and declared him a fugitive, causing him to flee to Japan in 1925.

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