Prelims Booster

3rd June – Prelims Booster

Confederation of Indian Industry

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently addressed the 125th annual session of Confederation of Indian Industry.

About Confederation of Indian Industry –

  • CII is a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organisation.
  • Founded in 1895, it has over 9,000 members, from the private as well as public sectors, including SMEs and MNCs, and an indirect membership of over 300,000 enterprises from around 265 national and regional sectoral industry bodies.
  • CII works with the Government on policy issues. It played a very important role during economic liberalisation in 1991 which knocked down the high walls of protection between Indian industry and the rest of the world.
  • CII serves as a reference point for Indian industry and the international business community.
  • It has 65 offices, including 9 Centres of Excellence, in India, and 11 overseas offices in Australia, Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States.

Cyclone Nisarga

After Cyclone Amphan, India is bracing to face another cyclone, this time on its western coast. In strength and intensity, this would be much weaker than Cyclone Amphan that struck on May 20.

Where is it headed?

It is headed towards the coastline of north Maharashtra and south Gujarat. By the time it makes a landfall, it is likely to evolve into a Severe Cyclonic Storm, which, roughly stated, is of strength 2 on a 1-to-5 of strength of cyclones that arise in the Indian Ocean.

Strength of the cyclone –

At its strongest, Nisarga would be associated with wind speeds in the range 95-105 km per hour. Amphan, on the other hand, was classified as a super-cyclone, of category 5, though it had weakened to category 4, ‘Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm’, ahead of its landfall, at which time the wind speeds were in excess of 180 kph.

Arabian Sea Cyclones –

  • Cyclones formed in the Bay of Bengal side of the north Indian Ocean are more frequent and stronger than those on the Arabian Sea side. Meteorologists suggest the relatively cold waters of the Arabian Sea discourage the kind of very strong cyclones that are formed on the Bay of Bengal side; Odisha and Andhra Pradesh face the brunt of these cyclones every year.
  • 2019 was slightly unusual as the Arabian Sea saw the most frequent and intense cyclonic activity in more than 100 years, according to India Meteorological Department. Five cyclones originated in the area in 2019 — Vayu, Hikka, Kyarr, Maha and Pavan – when normally only one or two are formed.

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)

Following a report by security researchers alleging leak of personal data of millions of users of the BHIM payment application due to a website breach, the National Payments Corporation of India denied the claim, asking everyone to not fall prey to such speculation.

What is NPCI?

  • It is an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India.
  • It is an initiative of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) under the provisions of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
  • It has been incorporated as a “Not for Profit” Company under the provisions of Section 25 of Companies Act 1956 (now Section 8 of Companies Act 2013).
  • The ten core promoter banks are State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Citibank and HSBC.
  • In 2016 the shareholding was broad-based to 56 member banks to include more banks representing all sectors.

What is UPI?

  • Launched in April 2016, UPI is a payment system that allows money transfer between any two bank accounts by using a smartphone.
  • UPI allows a customer to pay directly from a bank account to different merchants, both online and offline, without the hassle of typing credit card details, IFSC code, or net banking/wallet passwords.
  • It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.

National Productivity Council

Union Commerce and Industry Minister has recently reviewed the working of National Productivity Council (NPC) and advised it to leverage its strengths for expansion of its advisory and capacity building services.

About National Productivity Council –

  • Founded in the year 1958, NPC is an autonomous organisation of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
  • The organisation has been rendering expert services in the areas of Consultancy and Capacity Building in the domains of Energy, Environment, Business process and Productivity improvement.
  • NPC is a constituent of the Tokyo-based Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an Intergovernmental Body, of which the Government of India is a founder member.

Moody’s ratings for India

Recently, Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the Government of India’s foreign currency and local-currency long-term issuer ratings to ‘Baa3’ from ‘Baa2’. It stated that the outlook remained ‘negative’.

Details –

The latest downgrade reduces India to the lowest investment grade of ratings and brings Moody’s — which is historically the most optimistic about India — ratings for the country in line with the other two main rating agencies in the world — Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Fitch.

What is the reason for this downgrade?

There are four main reasons why Moody’s has taken the decision –

  1. Weak implementation of economic reforms since 2017.
  2. Relatively low economic growth over a sustained period.
  3. A significant deterioration in the fiscal position of governments (central and state).
  4. And the rising stress in India’s financial sector.

In its official statement, Moody’s said, “The decision to downgrade India’s ratings reflects Moody’s view that the country’s policymaking institutions will be challenged in enacting and implementing policies which effectively mitigate the risks of a sustained period of relatively low growth, significant further deterioration in the general government fiscal position and stress in the financial sector”.

What does ‘negative’ rating mean?

  • The negative outlook reflects dominant, mutually-reinforcing, downside risks from deeper stresses in the economy and financial system that could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion in fiscal strength than Moody’s currently projects.
  • In particular, Moody’s has highlighted persistent structural challenges to fast economic growth such as “weak infrastructure, rigidities in labor, land and product markets, and rising financial sector risks”.
  • In other words, a “negative” implies India could be rated down further.

Implications for Government of India –

  • A rating downgrade means that bonds issued by the Indian governments are now “riskier” than before, because weaker economic growth and worsening fiscal health undermine a government’s ability to pay back.
  • Lower risk is better because it allows governments and companies of that country to raise debts at a lower rate of interest.
  • When India’s sovereign rating is downgraded, it becomes costlier for the Indian government as well as all Indian companies to raise funds because now the world sees such debt as a riskier proposition.
  • However, it will make it attractive for investors to invest in India’s sovereign debt instruments as the Government of India will be willing to pay more interest to raise debt.

Sixth Mass Extinction

The ongoing sixth mass extinction may be one of the most serious environmental threats to the persistence of civilisation, according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

What is mass extinction of species?

  • Mass extinction refers to a substantial increase in the degree of extinction or when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short period of time. So far, during the entire history of the Earth, there have been five mass extinctions.
  • The sixth, which is ongoing, is referred to as the Anthropocene extinction. The five mass extinctions that took place in the last 450 million years have led to the destruction of 70-95 per cent of the species of plants, animals and microorganisms that existed earlier.
  • These extinctions were caused by “catastrophic alterations” to the environment, such as massive volcanic eruptions, depletion of oceanic oxygen or collision with an asteroid.
  • After each of these extinctions, it took millions of years to regain species comparable to those that existed before the event.

What does the research say?

  • The research claims that this extinction is human-caused and is more immediate than climate destruction.
  • The study says that even though only an estimated 2% of all of the species that ever lived are alive today, the absolute number of species is greater now than ever before. It was into such a biologically diverse world that we humans evolved, and such a world that we are destroying.

What is the sixth mass extinction?

  • Researchers have described it as the “most serious environmental problem” since the loss of species will be permanent.
  • The study analysed 29,400 species of terrestrial vertebrates and determined which of these are on the brink of extinction because they have fewer than 1,000 individuals.
  • Out of the studied species, they concluded that over 515 of them are near extinction, and that the current loss of species, which is based on the disappearance of their component populations, has been occurring since the 1800s.
  • Most of these 515 species are from South America (30 per cent), followed by Oceania (21 per cent), Asia (21 percent) and Africa (16 percent) among others.

What happens when a species go extinct?

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, when species go extinct, the impact can be tangible such as in the form of a loss in crop pollination and water purification. Further, if a species has a specific function in an ecosystem, the loss can lead to consequences for other species by impacting the food chain.

Deccan Queen

The historic Deccan Queen train between Mumbai and Pune completed 90 years on June 1. This train holds many a record, including that of being India’s first superfast train, first long-distance electric-hauled train, first vestibuled train, the first train to have a ‘women-only’ car, and the first train to feature a dining car.

About Deccan Queen –

  • The Deccan Queen was introduced between Mumbai and Pune on June 1, 1930 by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), the forerunner of the Central Railway.
  • This was the first deluxe train introduced to serve the two important cities of the region, and was named after Pune – also known as the “Queen of Deccan’’ (“Dakkhan ki Rani’’ in Hindi).
  • The Deccan Queen in its starting years operated only over the weekends, and became a daily train between the two cities in the 1940s.
  • It is among the rare Indian trains that has never been hauled using steam traction, and was always electric-powered; on rare instances running on diesel. The train became popular as a faster alternative to the Poona Mail, which required 6 hours to complete the Mumbai-Pune journey.
  • The GIPR in the 1940s would run Race Special trains for Mumbai’s horse racing enthusiasts who would come to Pune on weekends and race days.
  • In March this year, the Central Railway decided to give the train a makeover by upgrading its coaches to German-made LHB coaches, which have better safety features, better suspension system and better riding comfort.

Daily MCQs

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