16th January Current Affairs

1.Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana

News: The third phase of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY 3.0)  will be launched tomorrow in 600 districts across all states of India. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), this phase will focus on new-age and COVID-related skills.

Details:

  • Skill India Mission PMKVY 3.0 envisages training of  eight lakh candidates over a scheme period of 2020-2021 with an outlay of Rs. 948.90 crore.
  • The 729 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKKs), empaneled non-PMKK training centres and more than 200 ITIs under Skill India will be rolling out PMKVY 3.0 training to build a robust pool of skilled professionals.
  • On the basis of the learning gained from PMKVY 1.0 and PMKVY 2.0, the Ministry has improved the newer version of the scheme to match the current policy doctrine and energize the skilling ecosystem affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About PMKVY:

  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship launched the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) in 2015 administered by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The Government of India aims to provide the country’s youth with training that will help them achieve meaningful, industry-relevant skills.

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) Objective

  • PMKVY is a Skill Certification Scheme that aims to encourage the youth population of the country to take up training which is Industry- Relevant and builds them in Skill Development. The scheme was launched with an intention to provide secure livelihoods for the individuals participating in the training. PMKVY will also certify the previous learning experiences or skills of the individuals under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

Components of PMKVY

ComponentDescription
Short Term TrainingThe National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) and different training centres will provide skill development training to the unemployed and school/college dropouts. They’ll also grant Soft Skill training, Digital & Financial Literacy sessions, Entrepreneurship, etc. depending upon the requirements of the industry.

The training provided will be NSQF Level 5 and below.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)Individuals having prior learning experiences/skills are certified and assessed under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). RPL is a process of assessment of an individual’s prior learning, skills, and experience.
Special ProjectsThis component of PMKVY aims to encourage training in the groups of society that are marginalized and vulnerable. These Special projects can be defined as the projects that have some deviation in the Terms and Conditions from the Short Term Training projects.
Kaushal and Rozgar MelaThey are events organized every six months in order to provide assistance for individuals who have taken PMKVY training and have been certified.
Placement and Monitoring GuidelinesCreating and Providing placement opportunities to trained and certified individuals.

Maintaining high-quality training standards through the Skills Development Management System (SDMS).

Training Partners (TPs)Placement assistance, Training to NSQF level 5 and below and Providing support to entrepreneurship development.

PMKVY Implementation

  • PMKVY is administered and implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
  • Along with this, the training providers affiliated with the State or Central government will also provide training under the PMKVY scheme.
  • The training providers have to register themselves on the Skill Management & Accreditation of Training Centre(SMART) portal to participate and provide training under the scheme.
  • PMKVY training is scrutinized by the Sector Skills Councils and State Governments.

2.India’s Latest Foreign Trade

News: India’s overall exports (Merchandise and Services combined) in April-December2020-21* are estimated to be USD 348.49Billion, exhibiting a negative growth of (-)12.65per cent over the same period last year. Overall imports in April-December 2020-21* are estimated to be USD 343.27Billion, exhibiting a negative growth of (-) 25.86per cent over the same period last year.

*Note: i) The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for November 2020. The data for December 2020 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release ii) the figures in bracket are growth rates vis-à-vis corresponding period of last year.

Merchandise trade

EXPORTS (including re-exports)

  • Exports inDecember2020 were USD27.15Billion, as compared to USD27.11Billion in December 2019, exhibiting a positive growth of 0.14per cent. In Rupee terms, exports were Rs. 1,99,770.58Crore in December2020, as compared to Rs. 1,92,984.47Crore in December2019, registering a positive growth of 3.52 per cent.
  • Cumulative value of exports for the period April-December 2020-21 was USD200.80Billion (Rs.14,95,705.96Crore) as against USD238.27Billion (Rs.16,77,370.97Crore) during the period April-December 2019-20, registering a negative growth of (-) 15.73per cent in Dollar terms (negative growth of (-) 10.83per cent in Rupee terms).
  • Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in December 2020 were USD22.22Billion, as compared to USD21.06Billion in December2019, registering a positive growth of 5.50per cent.
  • Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in April-December 2020-21 were USD166.33Billion, as compared to USD178.15Billion for the corresponding period in 2019-20, which is a decrease of (-) 6.63%.

Imports

  • Imports in December2020 were USD42.59Billion (Rs.3,13,407.53Crore), which is an increase of7.56per cent in Dollar terms and 11.18per cent in Rupee terms over imports of USD39.59Billion (Rs2,81,880.86Crore) in December2019. Cumulative value of imports for the period April-December 2020-21 was USD258.27Billion (Rs.19,22,790.49Crore), as against USD364.18Billion (Rs.25,62,539.91Crore) during the period April-December 2019-20, registering a negative growth of (-) 29.08per cent in Dollar terms and a negative growth of (-) 24.97per cent in Rupee terms.
  • Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in December2020 over the corresponding month of last year are mentioned in the picture.

Crude oil and non-oil imports:

  • Oil imports inDecember2020 were USD9.58Billion (Rs. 70,516.27Crore), which was 10.61percentlower in Dollar terms (7.59percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD10.72Billion (Rs. 76,310.52Crore) in December2019. Oil imports inApril-December 2020-21 were USD53.69Billion (Rs.3,99,976.85 Crore) which was 44.49per cent lower in Dollar terms (41.23percent lower in Rupee terms) compared to USD96.71Billion (Rs. 6,80,620.86Crore), over the same period last year.
  • In this connection it is mentioned that the global Brent price ($/bbl) has decreased by 24.27% in December2020 vis-à-vis December2019 as per data available from World Bank.
  • Non-oil imports inDecember2020 were estimated at USD33.00Billion (Rs. 2,42,891.26Crore) which was 14.30percent higher in Dollar terms (18.15percent higher in Rupee terms), compared to USD28.88Billion (Rs. 2,05,570.34Crore) in December2019. Non-oil imports inApril-December 2020-21 were USD204.58Billion (Rs. 15,22,813.64Crore) which was 23.51per cent lower in Dollar terms (19.08percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD267.47Billion (Rs. 18,81,919.04Crore) in April-December2019-20.
  • Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports wereUSD28.52Billion in December2020, recording a positive growth of 7.99per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold importsof USD 26.41Billion in December2019. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports wereUSD187.80Billion in April-December 2020-21, recording a negative growth of (-) 23.16per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports ofUSD 244.42Billion in April-December 2019-20.

Trade in services

Exports (receipts)

  • As per the latest press release by RBI dated 15thJanuary 2021, exports in November2020 were USD 17.08Billion (Rs.1,26,767.42Crore) registering a negative growth of (-) 5.09per cent in Dollar terms, vis-à-vis November2019. The estimated value of services export for December2020* is USD 17.31Billion.

Imports (payments)

  • As per the latest press release by RBI dated 15thJanuary 2021, imports in November 2020 were USD 10.12Billion (Rs. 75,110.44Crore) registering a negative growth of (-) 11.79per cent in Dollar terms, vis-à-vis November2019. The estimated value of servicesimport for December2020* is USD 10.32Billion.

Trade balance

  • MERCHANDISE: The trade deficit for December2020 was estimated at USD15.44Billion as against the deficit of USD12.49Billion inDecember2019, which is anincrease of 23.66 percent.
  • SERVICES: As per RBI’s Press Release dated 15thJanuary 2021, the trade balance in Services (i.e. Net Services export) for November 2020 is USD6.96Billion. The estimated trade balance in December 2020 is USD 6.99Billion.
  • OVERALL TRADE BALANCE:Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade surplus for April-December 2020-21 is estimated at USD5.22Billion as compared to the deficit of USD64.09Billion in April-December 2019-20.

3.One Nation One Ration Card

News: Tamil Nadu has become the 11th State in the country to successfully undertake “One Nation One Ration Card system” reform stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance. Thus, the State has become eligible to mobilise additional financial resources of Rs.4,813 crore through Open Market Borrowings. Permission for the same was issued by the Department of Expenditure.

Details:

  • Tamil Nadu has now joined 10 other States namely, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh, who have completed this reform.
  • On completion of One Nation One Ration Card system reform, these 11 States have been granted additional borrowing permission of Rs.30,709 crore by the Department of Expenditure.

About the scheme:

  • One Nation One Ration Card (RC) will ensure all beneficiaries especially migrants can access PDS across the nation from any PDS shop of their own choice.
  • Benefits: no poor person is deprived of getting subsidised foodgrains under the food security scheme when they shift from one place to another. It also aims to remove the chance of anyone holding more than one ration card to avail benefits from different states.
  • Significance: This will provide freedom to the beneficiaries as they will not be tied to any one PDS shop and reduce their dependence on shop owners and curtail instances of corruption.

Highlights of the scheme:

  • The poor migrant workers will be able to buy subsidised rice and wheat from any ration shop in the country but for that their ration cards must be linked to Aadhaar.
  • Migrants would only be eligible for the subsidies supported by the Centre, which include rice sold at Rs. 3/kg and wheat at Rs. 2/kg, It would not include subsidies given by their respective state government in some other state.

Standard format of ‘one nation, one ration card’:

  • A standard format for ration card has been prepared after taking into account the format used by different states.
  • For national portability, the state governments have been asked to issue the ration card in bi-lingual format,wherein besides the local langauge, the other language could be Hindi or English.
  • The states have also been told to have a 10-digit standard ration card number,wherein first two digits will be state code and the next two digits will be running ration card numbers.
  • Besides this, a set of another two digitswill be appended with ration card number to create unique member IDs for each member of the household in a ration card.

4.New Advisory in Solar Rooftop

News: To generate solar power by installing solar panels on the roof of the houses, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India is implementing Grid-connected Rooftop Solar Scheme (Phase-II). Under this scheme Ministry is providing 40% subsidy for the first 3 kW and 20% subsidy beyond 3 kW and upto 10 kW. The scheme is being implemented in the states by local Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOMs).

Details:

  • It has been brought to the notice of the Ministry that some rooftop solar companies / vendors are setting up rooftop solar plants by claiming that they are authorized vendors by the Ministry. It is clarified that no vendor has been authorized by the Ministry.
  • This scheme is being implemented in the state only by DISCOMs. The DISCOMs have empaneled vendors through bidding process and have decided rates for setting up a rooftop solar plant.
  • Almost all the DISCOMs have issued online process for this purpose. Residential consumers willing to set-up a rooftop solar plant under MNRE scheme can apply online and get rooftop solar plants installed by listed vendors. For this, they have to pay the cost of rooftop solar plant by reducing the subsidy amount given by the Ministry as per the prescribed rate to the vendor.
  • The process of which is given on the online portal of the DISCOMs. The subsidy amount will be provided to the vendors by the Ministry through the DISCOMs. Domestic consumers are informed that to get subsidy under the scheme of the Ministry, they should install rooftop solar plants only from the empanelled vendors of the DISCOMs following due process of approval by DISCOMs.
  • The solar panels and other equipment to be installed by the empanelled vendors shall be as per the standard and specifications of the Ministry and also includes 5-year maintenance of the rooftop solar plant by the vendor.
  • It has also been brought to the notice of the Ministry that some vendors are charging more price than the rates decided by DISCOMs from domestic consumers, which is incorrect. Consumers are advised to pay only according to the rates decided by DISCOMs. The DISCOMs have been instructed to identify and punish such vendors.

Grid-Connected Rooftop Solar Programme

  • In grid-connected rooftop or small SPV system, the DC power generated from the SPV panel is converted to AC power using the power conditioning unit and is fed to the grid.

Objectives:

  • To promote the grid-connected SPV rooftop and small SPV power generating plants among the residential, community, institutional, industrial and commercial establishments.
  • To mitigate the dependence on fossil fuel based electricity generation and encourage environment-friendly Solar electricity generation.
  • To create an enabling environment for investment in the solar energy sector by the private sector, state government and the individuals.
  • To create an enabling environment for the supply of solar power from rooftop and small plants to the grid.

5.India’s Road Sector

Background:

  • The central government has set a target of increasing the investment in infrastructure to over Rs 111 lakh croreover the period FY20-FY25. Within the transportation segment, projects worth Rs 36.7 lakh crore, constituting 55% of transportation infra, are for the road sector.
  • The large investment planned in the road sector signifies its importance—it has a multiplier effect on the economyand provides large employment opportunities.

Models for the road sector

  • Out of HAM (Hybrid Annuity Model) and BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer)—toll developers prefer therelatively lower risk HAM model.
  • This is due to its various positives likelower equity requirements, provision for mobilisation advances, better right of way availability, inflation-linked adjustments for bid project cost, termination payments during the construction period and de-linking construction and operations.
  • These HAM features have garnered a favourable response and mix of HAM awards has increased from 10% in FY16 to 48% in H1FY2021.

About HAM Model

  • During the operations period for a HAM project, the recovery from authority is in the form offixed annuity payments along with interest on balance accumulated annuity payments (calculated @300 bps over prevailing bank rate) The only major risk for HAM is the prevailing low bank rates adversely affecting the overall project viability and returns.
  • Such interest receipts account for around 45% of total inflows. Low bank rate would thus reduce the overall inflows for a HAM project, thereby adversely affecting its debt coverage metrics and returns to the investors. The second problem is related to delayed and inadequate interest rate transmission—there is a transmission lag for the project loan (linked to MCLR of banks).

Model concession agreement

  • As per revised concession agreement dated November 10, 2020, interest rate on annuities will be equal to the average MCLR of top 5 scheduled commercial banks plus 1.25% instead of bank rate.
  • With the average MCLR replacing the bank rate, there will be a natural hedge between the annuity inflows and interest costs, This will reduce the interest rate risks to a large extent, and that too without any delay.
  • The other major revision is the grant payment from the authority which will now be paid in 10 instalments instead of five. The other major revision is the grant payment from the authority which will now be paid in 10 instalments instead of five. Thus, the spacing between the payment milestones is reduced.
  • This will improve the cash conversion cycle for the contractors executing the HAM projects as their payments are back to back in nature. However, these changes will be applicable for new awards, and the fate of the existing HAM projects is hanging in the balance.

Conclusion

  • With improved attractiveness, HAM is expected to remain the mainstay for public-private partnership projects in the road sector.

6.Adultery in India Army

News: The Supreme Court has admitted a petition filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) seeking to exempt armed forces personnel from the ambit of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2018 that decriminalized adultery.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court had struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized adultery.
  • It also declared Section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Code as unconstitutional, which deals with the procedure for filing a complaint about the offence of adultery.

Details:

  • Section 497 was unconstitutional and is violative of Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) and Article 14 (Right to equality). The court observed that two individuals may part if one cheats, but to attach criminality to infidelity is going too far. How married couples deal with adultery is absolutely a matter of privacy. Besides, there is no data to back claims that abolition of adultery as a crime would result in “chaos in sexual morality” or an increase of divorce.
  • Any provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of women invites the wrath of the Constitution. It’s time to say that a husband is not the master of the wife. Legal sovereignty of one sex over other sex is wrong, ruled the court.
  • Marriage does not mean ceding autonomy of one to the other. Ability to make sexual choices is essential to human liberty. Even within private zones, an individual should be allowed her choice.

What about Armed forces?

  • The judgment of 2018 created “instability”. It allowed personnel charged with carrying on an adulterous or illicit relationship to take cover under the judgment.
  • The bench had then referred the case to the CJI to pass appropriate orders to form a five-judge Bench to clarify the impact of the 2018 judgment on the armed forces.
  • This case is now being under the observation of the apex court.

Govt. stance over this

  • The MoD has sought for an exemption to this decriminalization in the petition.
  • It said that there will always be a concern in the minds of the Army personnel who are operating far away from their families under challenging conditions about the family indulging in untoward activity.
  • The petition goes on to say that personnel of the Army, Navy and the Air Force were a “distinct class”. They were governed by special legislation, the Army Act, the Navy Act and the Air Force Act.
  • Adultery amounted to unbecoming conduct and a violation of discipline under these three Acts.
  • Unlike Section 497, the provisions of the three Acts did not differentiate between a man and a woman if they were guilty of an offence.

Rationale behind govt. stance

  • One has to remember that the armed forces exist in an environment wholly different and distinct from civilians. Honour is a sine qua non of the service. The provisions of the Acts should be allowed to continue to govern the personnel as a “distinct class”, irrespective of the 2018 judgment.
  • This is because, the discipline necessary for the performance of duty, crucial for national safety, would break down. It said the court would not, at the time, have been appraised of the different circumstances under which the armed forces operated.

Associated Constitutional Aspects:

  • These special laws imposed restrictions on the fundamental rights of the personnel, who function in a peculiar situation requiring utmost discipline.
  • The three laws were protected by Article 33 of the Constitution, which allowed the government to modify the fundamental rights of the armed forces personnel.

Article 33 of the Indian Constitution

  • It deals with the power of Parliament to modify the rights conferred by this Part III in their application etc.
  • Parliament may, by law, determine to what extent any of the rights conferred by this Part shall, in their application to-
  • the members of the Armed Forces; or
  • the members of the Forces charged with the maintenance of public order; or
  • persons employed in any bureau or other organisation established by the State for purposes of intelligence or counterintelligence; or
  • persons employed in, or in connection with, the telecommunication systems set up for the purposes of any Force, bureau or organisation referred to in clauses (a) to (c), be restricted or abrogated so as to ensure the proper discharge of their duties and the maintenance of discipline among them