Current Affairs 24 November

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana

As per the latest data released by the Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion (CDFI) that uses technology for financial inclusion, the government has transferred over Rs 1,600 crore to eligible mothers under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana through direct benefit transfer so far. Rs 16,04,66,63,000 has been transferred through direct benefit transfer to 48.5 lakh women.


CAS (Common Application Software) System:


CDFI is a non-profit organisation. It had conceptualised, designed and implemented the PMMVY-CAS (Common Application Software) System through which disbursements were made.

About PMMVY:

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a maternity benefit rechristened from erstwhile Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY). The IGMSY was launched in 2010.

The scheme is a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant and lactating women of 19 years of age or above for first live birth.

It provides a partial wage compensation to women for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices.

Exceptions: The maternity benefits under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) are available to all Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) except those in regular employment with the Central Government or State Government or Public Sector Undertaking or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
Funding: The scheme is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under which cost sharing ratio between the Centre and the States & UTs with Legislature is 60:40 while for North-Eastern States & three Himalayan States; it is 90:10. It is 100% Central assistance for Union Territories without Legislature.

Need for special attention:

Under-nutrition continues to adversely affect majority of women in India. In India, every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anaemic. An undernourished mother almost inevitably gives birth to a low birth weight baby. When poor nutrition starts in-utero, it extends throughout the life cycle since the changes are largely irreversible.

Owing to economic and social distress many women continue to work to earn a living for their family right up to the last days of their pregnancy. Furthermore, they resume working soon after childbirth, even though their bodies might not permit it, thus preventing their bodies from fully recovering on one hand, and also impeding their ability to exclusively breastfeed their young infant in the first six months.
What to study?

Static part: Key Highlights of the PMMVY, funding and beneficiaries.
Dynamic and Current Part: Performance of the scheme, how it has helped empower women, has it met its stated objectives? Why do we need such schemes?

Quadricycles

The ministry of road transport and highways has approved the sale of quadricycles for personal use.

Quadricycle – a vehicle of the size of a 3-wheeler but with 4 tyres and fully covered like a car. It has an engine like that of a 3-wheeler.

Ministry of Road Transport & Highways notified the insertion of ‘Quadricycle’ as a ‘non transport’ vehicle under the Motor Vehicles Act 1988.

Quadricycles were only allowed for transport usage under the Act, but now has been made usable for non-transport also (Personal use).

Intention behind this move:

The main aim is to give another mobility option, especially to the middle class who want to upgrade from two-wheelers. Besides, a person cannot carry family members in a three-wheeler, therefore, quadricycles are being allowed in the private category. The move will help them to upgrade to four-wheelers and move around with family.

Advantage:

It is cheap and safe mode of transport for last mile connectivity.

Exceptions:

Quadricycles will not be allowed for transporting cargo or luggage.

Impact on the auto- industry:

Quadricycles will pose a serious challenge to entry level cars. With the centre giving a go-ahead on the sale of quadricycles for personal use, top auto makers will have to revamp their strategy on entry-level cars, given quadricycles are expected to be far cheaper.

Facts for Prelims:

Bajaj Auto Ltd’s Qute is the first locally produced quadricycle.

Analysis- what is left out?

While the government is trying to improve the safety standards of vehicles for Indian roads, quadricycles may not even meet the basic safety norms. Quadricycles should have been restricted only for commercial purposes since they don’t meet the emission and safety norms of passenger cars. The regulators have been lenient and have diluted the norms for vehicles in this segment.

Background:

Earlier this year, the Indian Government had approved of the Quadricycle as a vehicle category. Similar to all other vehicles sold in India even the Quadricycle vehicles will have to undergo a rigorous crash test and will have to meet the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP) safety norms and also the BS-VI emission norms.

The government has also approved full electric or hybrid models of Quadricycle vehicles but even those models cannot skip the stringent crash test norms.

What to study?

Static Part: What are Quadricycles, how are they regulated in India?
Dynamic and current: How do they affect the present market, environmental concerns, benefits for the people.

Prompt corrective action (PCA) framework

The 11 state-run banks, which are under the RBI’s prompt corrective action (PCA) framework, have seen a 400 basis points increase in their share of retail loans at 19% in the four years ending September 2018.

Background:
The RBI began to place state-run banks under the PCA framework for the first time in September 2016, when their NPAs soared beyond the regulatory tolerance levels.

Negative effects:

Banks under the PCA have lost market share to private sector banks in corporate loans and unsecured personal loans, and it will be a Herculean task for the affected banks to claw this back. The PCA framework puts restrictions on weaker banks on many aspects, including fresh lending and expansion, and salary hikes, among others.

The 11 banks under the PCA are: Allahabad Bank, United Bank of India, Corporation Bank, IDBI Bank, UCO Bank, Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Dena Bank and Bank of Maharashtra. These banks together control over 20 per cent of the credit market.

What is PCA?

PCA norms allow the regulator to place certain restrictions such as halting branch expansion and stopping dividend payment. It can even cap a bank’s lending limit to one entity or sector. Other corrective action that can be imposed on banks include special audit, restructuring operations and activation of recovery plan. Banks’ promoters can be asked to bring in new management, too. The RBI can also supersede the bank’s board, under PCA.

When is PCA invoked?

The PCA is invoked when certain risk thresholds are breached. There are three risk thresholds which are based on certain levels of asset quality, profitability, capital and the like. The third such threshold, which is maximum tolerance limit, sets net NPA at over 12% and negative return on assets for four consecutive years.

What are the types of restrictions?

There are two type of restrictions, mandatory and discretionary. Restrictions on dividend, branch expansion, directors compensation, are mandatory while discretionary restrictions could include curbs on lending and deposit. In the cases of two banks where PCA was invoked after the revised guidelines were issued — IDBI Bank and UCO Bank — only mandatory restrictions were imposed. Both the banks breached risk threshold 2.

What will a bank do if PCA is triggered?

Banks are not allowed to re new or access costly deposits or take steps to increase their fee-based income. Banks will also have to launch a special drive to reduce the stock of NPAs and contain generation of fresh NPAs. They will also not be allowed to enter into new lines of business. RBI will also impose restrictions on the bank on borrowings from interbank market.

Impact:

Small and medium enterprises will have to bear the brunt due to this move by RBI. Since the PCA framework restricts the amount of loans banks can extend, this will definitely put pressure on credit being made available to companies especially the MSMEs.

Large companies have access to the corporate bond market so they may not be impacted immediately. It has been predicted that if more state-owned banks are brought under PCA, it will impact the credit availability for the MSME segment.

Microbiome research


Why in News?

From November 19 to 22, Pune hosted an international conference on microbiome research — a field of study that is still in its infancy in India.

What is “Human Microbiome”?

The human body carries diverse communities of microorganisms, which are mainly bacterial. These are referred to as “human microbiome”.

Their role:

These organisms play a key role in many aspects of host physiology, ranging from metabolism of otherwise complex indigestible carbohydrates and fats to producing essential vitamins, maintaining immune systems and acting as a first line of defense against pathogens.

Significance of research on the human microbiome:

Research on the human microbiome has thrown light on various aspects — how different parts of the human body are occupied by characteristic microbial communities, and how various factors contribute in shaping the composition of the microbiome, including the genetics, dietary habits, age, geographic location and ethnicity. These studies laid a strong foundation to decipher the microbiome’s implications on health and a wide range of diseases.

India’s project:

India has proposed a project that would study and map the human microbiome across the country. The Rs 150-crore project will get approval soon.

The project will include collection of saliva, stool and skin swabs of 20,000 Indians across various ethnic groups from different geographical regions. India provides for a wide range of research with more than 4,500 ethnic groups and presence of two global biodiversity hotspots (Himalayan range and Western Ghats).

Need:

Scientists at NCSS have conducted a meta-analysis on gut microbiota of healthy Indian individuals and compared it with that of individuals from other parts of the world. It shows that the Indian population harbours a distinct gut microbial community, which, scientists say, calls for an in-depth investigation of the Indian microbiome.

India has a large number of tribal populations largely unaffected by “modern” diet and lifestyle. The prevalence of lifestyle-related disorders such as obesity and diabetes has been known to be significantly lower compared to the non-tribal (urbanised) populations across the globe. Hence, scientists say, a study on the tribal population would help improve knowledge of evolution of the mutualism between gut microbiota and the host.

What to study?

Static Part: What is Microbiome research, significance of Human Microbiome.
Dynamic and Current: Indian project on Microbiome research, concerns, potential and challenges ahead.

Transgenic rice with reduced arsenic accumulation

Arsenic accumulation in rice grains is one of the serious agricultural issues in India. To address this, researchers at Lucknow-based CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute have developed transgenic rice by inserting a novel fungal gene, which results in reduced arsenic accumulation in rice grain.

How was it achieved?

Researchers have cloned Arsenic methyltransferase (WaarsM) gene from a soil fungus, Westerdykellaaurantiaca, and inserted the same into the rice genome with the help of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a soil bacterium which has natural ability to alter the plant’s genetic makeup.

The newly developed transgenic rice along with normal rice was then treated with arsenic. Comparison of transgenic and non-transgenic rice showed that transgenic plants accumulated less arsenic in root as well as shoot as compared to non-transgenic lines.
Researchers found that the resulting transgenic plant acquired the potential for methylating inorganic arsenic to a variety of harmless organic species, including volatile arsenicals. This could be potential strategy for developing transgenic rice capable of low arsenic accumulation not only in grain but also in straw and feed which are used for livestock.

Need and significance:

As large number of people are affected by arsenic toxicity, it is imperative to develop rice with lesser arsenic content and high yield. In this background, biotechnological methods such as modulating the expression of Arsenic metabolism-related genes in rice will be a fruitful and practical approach to decrease arsenic accumulation.
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