December 3

1) Centre’s graded response action plan to tackle different levels of pollution which drafted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in consultation with noted environmentalist Sunita Narain

  • Under the plan, the air quality has been divided into four categories —
    • Moderate to Poor,
    • Very poor,
    • Severe( levels of pollution when particulate matter (PM) 2.5 levels are above 250 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) or PM10 levels are above 430 µg/m³ in the ambient air)
    • Emergency (“The threshold for this category (health emergency) will be 300 microgram per cubic metre for PM2.5 and 500 microgram per cubic metre for PM10, which are five times the standard)

and specific actions have been prescribed for each situation.

  • “Enforcement of the plan shall be under the orders of Environment Pollution (Control and Prevention) Authority (EPCA) and all other authorities should act in aid of such direction,”
  • Immediate steps need to be taken at a point of Severe, including a ban on construction and implementation of odd-even scheme.
  • Major sources of pollution includes:
    • vehicles, road dust, biomass burning, construction, power plants and industries, remain continuous throughout all seasons except biomass burning which is seasonal due to stubble burning are seasonal activity i.e. after harvesting
  • “The actions are to be implemented in the entire NCR, except the action related to stubble burning, which is to be implemented in the states of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh
  • A task force of officials from the central and state pollution control boards, health experts and India Meteorological Department officials will also be set up. This body will work on forecasting and review of pollution levels.

With the CPCB forecasting that the coming winter months would witness “severe and very poor air quality” for Delhi, the response plan, if notified immediately, would play the role of a life-saver.

2) Co-operative Banks: the financial institutions which largely cater to agrarian and semi-rural population across the country

  • Cooperative banks against demonetisation: the Centre and the RBI of attempting to cripple the rural and agrarian economy through demonetisation, which they termed “anti-competitive, violative of the spirit of the Constitution.”
    • Why?:  Cash crunch due to denial of primary exchange facility by the government after the November 8 demonetisation
  • Centre Stand: It accused District Central Co-operative Banks (DCCBs) of “low-order professionalism among their staff and low-level of automation.” The government said the “capability of DCCBs to detect fake currency notes is also low.” These handicaps were roadblocks to the government’s twin objectives of demonetisation — weeding out black money and ending a “parallel economy” fuelled by fake currency.

3) 17th Karmapa’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh

  • is the head of the Karma Kagyu, the largest sub-school of the Kagyu, itself one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • China has not reacted yet and we see no reason they should react publicly as it would isolate them more.
  • Since the Karmapa’s dramatic escape from Tibet, the Indian government had put him under the scanner and restricted his movement. But recently the CCS revised its earlier decision and he could visit Arunachal Pradesh,
  • “The devotees as well as the government of Arunachal Pradesh is pleased with the government’s decision to allow the 17th Karmapa’s visit to the State.”
  • Earlier China had criticised India for Mr. Verma’s visit to Tawang which is disputed territory.

4) Heart of Asia conference:

  • the annual conference of the Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process is deliberating on various challenges facing Afghanistan, including revival of a peace process in the conflict-ridden country.
  • The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.
  • The conference, whose theme is security and prosperity, will also deliberate on major connectivity initiatives including Chabahar project, a five-nation railway project. There may be deliberations on TAPI (Turkmenistan–Afghanistan-Pakistan–India) gas pipeline project.
  • Terrorism, trade and defence assistance will be on the top of the agenda
  • Terrorism:
    • The annual conference is taking place amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan in the wake of the audacious terror attack on Nagrota army base and there was no clarity on an Indo-Pak bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the conclave.
    • Ahead of the conference, both India and Afghanistan had called terror emanating from Pakistan as the “greatest threat” to regional peace and stability, and both the countries are set to press hard for adopting the counter-terror framework
  • Trade:
    • India’s plans to develop the Chabahar port in Iran for trade to Afghanistan.
  • Defence:
    • The Govt is likely to build on India’s commitment on military aid to Afghanistan, of which seven helicopters including 3 utility choppers have already been supplied, and work is on on a trilateral framework with Russia on supplying spares and conducting repairs on other aircraft in Afghanistan.

5) Market stabilisation scheme

  • MSS (Market Stabilisation Scheme) securities are issued with the objective of providing the RBI with a stock of securities with which it can intervene in the market for managing liquidity.
  • Remember: These securities are issued not to meet the government’s expenditure.
  • Due to demonetisation there has been a significant increase of liquidity in the banking system which is expected to continue for some time. In order to facilitate liquidity management operations by the Reserve Bank of India in the current scenario, Government of India has on the recommendation of the Reserve Bank of India, decided to revise the ceiling for issue of securities under the Market Stabilisation Scheme (MSS) to Rs 6 lakh crore. The earlier limit was Rs 30,000 crore.
  • This hike is valid only for 28 days. Under MSS, the central bank will issue cash management bills (CMB).
  • In the context of demonetisation, why are banks for MSS more than Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR)?
    • CRR is a percentage of total deposits the banks are required to set aside with the RBI. It is a sort of contingency fund and does not earn any interest. An increase in CRR means the funds available with banks for lending purposes will be that much lower, ultimately limiting the possibility of a lending rate cut by banks. MSS bonds, on the other hand, have a fixed tenure and earn returns.
  • Other tools apart from issuing MSS bonds with RBI that can help drain additional liquidity are:
    • increasing CRR,
    • Reverse repo, or
    • Interest yielding short term cash management bills
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