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OJAANK IAS ACADEMY

17 May 2022 – Current Affairs

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Workforce Expansion

Paper 3 indian economy


Why You Should Know? 

• In million, the number of people who joined the country’s workforce in April, as per data provided by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
• India’s labour force increased by 8.8 million to 437.2 million in April, one of the largest monthly increases since the beginning of the pandemic.
• The increase in employment in April was in Industry and services. Industry added 5.5 million jobs and services added another 6.7 million jobs, as per the data. Employment in the agricultural sector fell by 5.2 million.

About The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy

• The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) is an independent private limited entity that serves both as an economic think-tank as well as a business information company.
• CMIE research group has built databases on the Indian economy and private companies. CMIE provides this information in the form of databases and research reports via a subscription-based business model. It is headquartered in Mumbai, with additional offices in India.

Raking Profits

Paper 3 economy

Why You Should Know?

• The percentage by which oil giant Saudi Aramco’s profits soared in the first three months of the year, as the company cashed in on the volatility in global energy markets and rising oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
• The first-quarter earnings by the firm formally known as the Saudi Arabian Oil show a record net income of $39.5 billion, up from $21.7 billion during the same period Last year.
• The figure marks the oil group’s highest quarterly profit since 2019. Shares of Aramco were up 1.85% following the earnings report.

About Saudi Aramco 

• Saudi, is a Saudi Arabian public petroleum and natural gas company based in Dhahran. As of 2020, it is one of the largest companies in the world by revenue.
• Saudi Aramco has both the world’s second-largest proven crude oil reserves, at more than 270 billion barrels (43 billion cubic metres), and largest daily oil production of all oil-producing companies.
• It is the single greatest contributor to global carbon emissions of any company in the world since 1965.
• On May 11, 2022, Saudi Aramco became the largest company in the world by market cap, surpassing Apple Inc.
• Saudi Aramco operates the world’s largest single hydrocarbon network, the Master Gas System.
• In 2013 crude oil production total was 3.4 billion barrels (540 million cubic metres), and it manages over one hundred oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia, including 288.4 trillion standard cubic feet (scf) of natural gas reserves.
• Saudi Aramco operates the Ghawar Field, the world’s largest onshore oil field, and the Safaniya Field, the world’s largest offshore oil field.
• On 11 December 2019, the company’s shares commenced trading on the Tadawul stock exchange.
• The shares rose to 35.2 Saudi riyals, giving it a market capitalisation of about US$1.88 trillion, and surpassed the US$2 trillion mark on the second day of trading.
• In the 2020 Forbes Global 2000, Saudi Aramco was ranked as the 5th-largest public company in the world.
• In March 2021, Saudi Aramco announced that earnings in 2020 fell by nearly 45% compared with 2019, as lockdowns around the world following the COVID-19 pandemic curbed demand for oil.

Frauds in Public Sector Banksa

Paper 3 economy

Why You Should Know?

• The percentage by which public sector banks (PSB) reported a dip in the amount involved in frauds during the financial year ended March 2022.
• According to the RBI data on frauds reported by PSBs in all categories during FY22, the highest amount of 79,528.95 crore was reported by the Punjab National Bank (PNB), involving 431 such incidents.
• The country’s largest lender the State Bank of India reported frauds worth 26,932.37 crore in as many as 4,192 cases – reflecting incidents of a large number of small value frauds.

Public sector banks in India

• Public Sector Banks (PSBs) are a major type of government owned banks in India, where a majority stake (i.e. more than 50%) is held by the Ministry of Finance of the Government of India or State Ministry of Finance of various State Governments of India.
• The shares of these banks are listed on stock exchanges. Their main objective is social welfare.

Emergence of public sector banks

• The Central Government entered the banking business with the nationalization of the Imperial Bank of India in 1955.
• A 60% stake was taken by the Reserve Bank of India and the new bank was named State Bank of India. The seven other state banks became subsidiaries of the new bank in 1959 when the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959 was passed by the Union government.
• The next major government intervention in banking took place on 19 July 1969 when the Indira government nationalised an additional 14 major banks.
• The total deposits in the banks nationalised in 1969 amounted to 50 crores. This move increased the presence of nationalised banks in India, with 84% of the total branches coming under government control.

Before the economic liberalisation

• The share of the banking sector held by the public banks continued to grow through the 1980s, and by 1991 public sector banks accounted for 90% of the banking sector.
• A year later, in March, 1992, the combined total of branches held by public sector banks was 60,646 across India, and deposits accounted for ₹1,10,000 crore.
• The majority of these banks was profitable, with only one out of the 21 public sector banks reporting a loss.

Liberalisation in the 2000s

• The nationalised banks reported a combined loss of ₹1160 crores. However, the early 2000s saw a reversal of this trend, such that in 2002-03 a profit of ₹7780 crores by the public sector banks: a trend that continued throughout the decade, with a ₹16856 crore profit in 2008–2009.

Mergers

• The consolidation of SBI-associated banks started first by State Bank of India merging its subsidiary State Bank of Saurashtra with itself on 13 August 2008. Thereafter it merged State Bank of Indore with itself on August 27, 2010.
• The remaining subsidiaries, namely the State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore, and Bharatiya Mahila Bank were merged with State Bank of India with effect from 1 April 2017.
• Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank were merged into Bank of Baroda in 2018. IDBI Bank was categorised as a private bank with effect from January 2019.
• On 30 August 2019, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the government’s plan for further consolidation of public sector banks: Indian Bank’s merger with Allahabad Bank (anchor bank – Indian Bank); Punjab National Bank’s merger with Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank (anchor bank – Punjab National Bank); Union Bank of India’s merger with Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank (anchor bank – Union Bank of India); and Canara Bank’s merger with Syndicate Bank (anchor bank – Canara Bank). The mergers took effect from 1 April 2020.

Understanding Long COVID and Its Effects

Paper 2 HEALTH

Why You Should Know?

• Recntly, Months after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in the world outside China, concerns about persistent symptoms post infection cropped up.
• Systems were then set up to study this phenomenon and provide possible solutions to those suffering from sequalae related to their COVID infection.
• The Lancet’s May Il publication has provided more grist to the mill for those calling for greater attention to Long COVID, establishing that the burden of symptomatic sequelae remained fairly high even two years after COVID.
• Pandemic survivors also had a remarkably lower health status than the general population at two years, it said.

What is long COVID?

• With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, evidence showed that a considerable proportion of people who have recovered from COVID-19 continue to face long-term effects on multiple organs and systems.
• These sequelae have also been noticed in people who did not exhibit any symptoms during their infection stage.
• In the absence of a universally-accepted definition, post-COVID Syndrome, by consensus, is defined as signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19 which continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by alternative diagnosis.
• Technically, post-COVID defines symptoms that persist four weeks after infection and Long COVID, 12 weeks past a COVID-19 infection.
• The effects range from skin rash, sleep difficulties, fatigue or muscle weakness, hair loss, joint pain, palpitations, dizziness, cough, headache, sore throat, chest pain, smell and taste disorders, anxiety disorders and mobility issues.

How long does long COVID last for?

• The study, perhaps for the first time, described Long COVID for the longest time possible – two years.
• It characterises the longitudinal evolution of health outcomes in hospital survivors with different initial disease severity throughout the two years after an acute COVID-19 infection.
• A matched control group of adults without a COVID-19 infection were studied against patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and had been discharged from Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, between January 7 and May 29, 2020.
• Health outcomes were measured at six months, 12 months and two years after symptom onset.
• The study did note that the proportion of individuals with at least one sequelae symptom decreased significantly from 68% at six months to 55% at two years, (with fatigue or muscle weakness being the most frequently reported symptom throughout follow-up).
• The scene continued to improve in almost all domains, especially in terms of anxiety or depression, with the proportion of participants reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression dropping significantly from 23% at six months to 12% at two years.
• About 89% of those who had been hospitalised for COVID had returned to their regular work at the end of two years.
• At the two-year follow-up, notably, long COVID symptoms were related to a decreased health-related quality of life and exercise capacity, psychological abnormality, and increased use of health care after discharge.
• COVID-19 survivors still had more prevalent symptoms and more problems with pain or discomfort, as well as anxiety or depression, at two years, than did the control group, as per the study.
• Additionally, a significantly higher proportion of survivors who had received higher-level respiratory support during hospitalisation continued to have lung issues.
• The study findings indicate that there was an urgent need to explore the pathogenesis of Long COVID and develop effective interventions to reduce the risk of such side effects.

What is the status in India? 

• The government of India developed its own National Comprehensive Guidelines for the management of post-COVID sequelae.
• This document sets out detailed techniques to treat post-COVID complications affecting cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nephrological, neurological and respiratory systems. Several hospitals set up COVID wards to treat persons who complain of what seemed like post-COVID symptoms.
• In January 2022, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, reported that people infected in the second wave of COVID have experienced four times more Long COVID conditions than those from the first wave.
• According to doctors at the hospital, people who contracted the virus in the second wave showed multiple symptoms including high grade fever, diarrhoea and severe lung infection.

IMF lifts weighting of dollar, Chinese yuan in SDR basket

Paper 2 HEALTH

Why You Should Know?

• THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary has increased the weighting of the dollar and Chinese yuan in its review of the currencies that make up the valuation of its Special Drawing Rights (SDR), an international reserve asset.
• Thereview is the first since the yuan, also known as the renminbi, joined the basket of currencies in 2016 in what was a milestone in Beijing’s efforts to internationalise its currency.
• The IMF raised the US currency’s weighting to 43.38 per cent from 41.73 per cent and the yuan to 12.28 per cent from 10.92 percent. The euro’s weighting declined to 29.31 per cent from 30.93 per cent, the yen’s fell to 7.59 per cent from 8.33 per cent and the British pound fell to 7.44 per cent from 8.09 per cent.
• The IMF said in a statement its executive board had determined the weighting based on trade and financial market developments from 2017 to 2021.

About Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)

• Special drawing rights (SDRs) are supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets defined and maintained by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
• SDRs are units of account for the IMF, and not a currency perse. They represent a claim to currency held by IMF member countries for which they may be exchanged.
• SDRs were created in 1969 to supplement a shortfall of preferred foreign exchange reserve assets, namely gold and U.S. dollars.
• The ISO 4217 currency code for special drawing rights is XDR and the numeric code is 960. SDRs are allocated by the IMF to countries, and cannot be held or used by private parties.
• The number of SDRs in existence was around XDR 21.4 billion in August 2009. During the global financial crisis of 2009, an additional XDR 182.6 billion was allocated to “provide liquidity to the global economic system and supplement member countries’ official reserves”.
• By October 2014, the number of SDRs in existence was XDR 204 billion. Due to economic stress caused by the global pandemic some economists and several finance ministers of poorer countries have called for a new allocation of $4T to support member economies as they seek ways to recover.
• In March 2021 the G24 and others proposed an allocation of $500B for this purpose. The value of a SDR is based on a basket of key international currencies reviewed by IMF every five years.
• The weights assigned to each currency in the XDR basket are adjusted to take into account their current prominence in terms of international trade and national foreign exchange reserves.
• In the review conducted in November 2015, the IMF decided to add the Renminbi (Chinese yuan) to the basket, effective 1 October 2016.
• Since that date, the XDR basket has consisted of the following five currencies: U.S. dollar 41.73%, euro 30.93%, renminbi (Chinese yuan) 10.92%, Japanese yen 8.33%, British pound sterling 8.09%.

Floods, Landslides In Assam

Paper 1 geography

Paper 3 disaster management & environment

Why You Should Know?

• Floods and landslides have killed three persons and affected more than 56,000 people across eight districts of Assam.
• Flash floods and landslips damaged the hill railway section in DimaHasao district at 26 locations, leaving more than 2,000 passengers stranded for more than 24 hours before some of them could be airlifted to safety.
• Locals of Hokai Pungchi, a village 6 km from Dima Hasao district headquarters Ha flong, had sought the help of defence personnel after a landslide flattened many houses. The bodies of three persons were later retrieved from the debris.

Roads washed away

• Flash floods washed away portions of roads, including a national highway in Dima Hasao district, besides an arterial railway track – the lifeline for southern Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.
• Several stretches of the railway track were covered by mud and stones that hurtled down the hills. Some railway bridges were also damaged.
• “All the trains had been cancelled except for two trains. The Guwahati-Silchar Express was stranded at New Haflong and the Silchar-Guwahati Express at Ditokcherra since Saturday morning.

A Flood

• A flood is an overflow of water[a] that submerges land that is usually dry. In the sense of “flowing water”, the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide.
• Floods are an area of study of the discipline hydrology and are of significant concern in agriculture, civil engineering and public health.
• Human changes to the environment often increase the intensity and frequency of flooding, for example land use changes such as deforestation and removal of wetlands, changes in waterway course or flood controls such as with levees, and larger environmental issues such as climate change and sea level rise.
• In particular climate change’s increased rainfall and extreme weather events increases the severity of other causes for flooding, resulting in more intense floods and increased flood risk.
• Flooding may occur as an overflow of water from water bodies, such as a river, lake, or ocean, in which the water overtops or breaks levees, resulting in some of that water escaping its usual boundaries,or it may occur due to an accumulation of rainwater on saturated ground in an areal flood.
• While the size of a lake or other body of water will vary with seasonal changes in precipitation and snow melt, these changes in size are unlikely to be considered significant unless they flood property or drown domestic animals.
• Floods can also occur in rivers when the flow rate exceeds the capacity of the river channel, particularly at bends or meanders in the waterway.
• Floods often cause damage to homes and businesses if they are in the natural flood plains of rivers.
• While riverine flood damage can be eliminated by moving away from rivers and other bodies of water, people have traditionally lived and worked by rivers because the land is usually flat and fertile and because rivers provide easy travel and access to commerce and industry.
• Flooding can lead to secondary consequences in addition to damage to property, such as long-term displacement of residents and creating increased spread of waterborne diseases and vector-bourne disesases transmitted by mosquitos.

Landslides

• Landslides, also known as landslips, are several forms of mass wasting that may include a wide range of ground movements, such as rockfalls, deep-seated slope failures, mudflows, and debris flows.
• Landslides occur in a variety of environments, characterized by either steep or gentle slope gradients, from mountain ranges to coastal cliffs or even underwater, in which case they are called submarine landslides.
• Gravity is the primary driving force for a landslide to occur, but there are other factors affecting slope stability that produce specific conditions that make a slope prone to failure.
• In many cases, the landslide is triggered by a specific event (such as a heavy rainfall, an earthquake, a slope cut to build a road, and many others), although this is not always identifiable.

Devasahayam Pillai

Paper 1 indian society

Why You Should Know?

• Devasahayam Pillai, who was born a Hindu in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and converted to Christianity in the 18th century, became the first Indian lay man to be declared a saint by the Vatican.
• Pope Francis canonised Blessed Devasahayam during the Canonisation Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, which was at tended by over 50,000 faithful from all over the world, as well as government delega tions honouring him and nine other new saints.
• Besides Devasahayam, the Pope pro claimed five other men-Titus Brandsma, Cesar de Bus, Luigi Maria Palazzolo, Giustino Maria Russolillo, and Charles de Foucauld – and four women – Maria Rivier, Maria Francesca of Jesus Rubatto, Maria of Jesus Santocanale, and Maria Domenica Mantovani – as saints.

Life and death

• Devasahayam was born on April 23, 1712 in Nattalam village in Kanyakumari district, and went on to serve in the court of Marthanda Varma of Travancore.
• After meeting a Dutch naval commander at the court, Devasahayam was baptised in 1745, and assumed the name ‘Lazarus’, meaning ‘God is my help’.
• According to the Vatican, “while preach ing, he particularly insisted on the equality of all people, despite caste differences”. which “aroused the hatred of the higher classes, and he was arrested in 1749”.
• On January 14, 1752, Devasahayam was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhy forest. He is widely considered a martyr, and his mortal remains were interred inside what is now Saint Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Kottar, Nagercoil.

Sainthood road 

• In 2004, the diocese of Kottar along with Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and Conference of Catholic Bishops of India recommended Devasahayam for beatification. He was declared blessed by the Kottar diocese in 2012, 300 years after his birth.
• During the midday ‘Angelus’ prayer in the Vatican that day, Pope Benedict XVI described Devasahayam as a “faithful lay man”, and urged Christians to “join in the joy of the Church in India and pray that the new Blessed may sustain the faith of the Christians of that large and noble country”.
• In 2014, Pope Francis recognised a mir acle attributed to Devasahayam, clearing the path to his canonisation.
• He was ap proved for sainthood in February 2020 for “enduring increasing hardships” after he decided to embrace Christianity, accord ing to the Vatican, which last November announced May 15, 2022 as the date for the ceremony.
• While clearing Devasahayam for saint hood in 2020, the Vatican dropped “Pillai’ from his name, and referred to him as “Blessed Devasahayam”.

Sweden and Finland to join NATO

Paper 2 international relation

Why You Should Know?

• Recently The strategic geopolitical ambiguity of Finland has finally come to a halt and taken a hard turn as Sweden and Finland formally announced its intention of joinind the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
• This marks the culmination of a series of veiled comments by Finland hinting their intention of joining NATO.
• The Finnish President Sauli Niinistö along with the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy announced their bid for NATO membership on Sunday.
• They would now send their recommendation to the Parliament where it is expected to pass through without any roadblocks.
• The last two odd decades have seen Finland revise its outlook of global geopolitics and order but rarely have their different heads of state overtly signalled their shift.
• This ambiguity has allowed them to not only improve their ties with rest of the Europe post 2000 but also go back to increasing trade ties with Russia during the European economic slump.
• Their actions post the collapse of the Soviet Union and emergence of a more integrated European Union indicate their preference for having their cake and eating it too. This is set to change and has been brought about by Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
• The Finnish security concerns began to heighten post the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and have snow-balled now into an immediate existential crisis of sorts after the recent Russian assault on Ukraine.

How has Russia responded to the announcement?

• Official voices from within Russia give a sense of how they perceive the US’s role as an agent provocateur trying to lure other countries towards NATO.
• The Russian state seens to be going through a sense of mania where officials talk about nuking countries, *crushing bugs’ (referring to the Baltic states), and invading countries in a bid to safeguard their security.
• Finland’s formal declaration and Sweden’s interest in joining NATO has aggravated their security dilemma. We see the manifestation of Waltzian realism unravelling in front of us as nations begin to grapple with their existential crises precipitated by the anarchic structure of the world and actions of other states aimed towards their security goals.
• These states seek security guarantees through alliance formation as well. The risk of a new arms race cannot be entirely written off as we see strongman tactics from the Russian head of state and from different senior security officials of the Russian government which signal revanchist attitudes and a highly volatile method of engagement.

What does NATO membership achieve?

• One would expect NATO membership to allay Finland and Sweden’s security concems to a reasonable degree as all the countries involved in the highly volatile region would, likely, reach an impasse until someone decides to break through the gridlock through a change in tactics.
• However, the rational actor assumption has recently been on tumultuous grounds vis-à-vis Russia, and it would be difficult to predict its next set of actions as and when Finland and Sweden formally join NATO.
• Even the comments of a former Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on the NATO membership teaching Russian President Vladimir Putin the resolve of the West and the counterproductive nature of the war, are based on Mr. Putin following the supposed logic of a rational actor.

What lies ahead?

• As Kremlin’s rhetoric and threats against its neighbours continue to increase, it wouldn’t be a flight of fancy to imagine that more of its neighbours, primarily the Baltic states, will firmly express their heightened security concerns and seek to remedy them.
• Those actions would then in turn further create a high security risk environment in the immediate periphery of Russia.
• NATO expansionism has been publicly cited multiple times by Russian Ministers and senior defence officers as a major reason for Russia’s perceived security threat.
• Estonia has already asked NATO for local anti-Russia command centres and greater air defence systems citing Baltic security concerns.
• The full-blown Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began almost three months back, has only resulted in isolating Russia from most countries in the world.
• They are losing a significant number of troops and scores of military equipment as the war continues. What seemed initially like a quick victory to the Russians is now spiralling into a nightmare for Kremlin.
• The propaganda can only cloak the reality for so long. The war is also taking an economic toll on Moscow as it is further impacted by the economic sanctions against them by the West.
• As multiple corporations leave the Russian space and countries continue to decrease their energy dependency on Russia, the road ahead for Moscow is most certainly a dark and long-winding one. As Finland joins NATO.
• Russia could seek to deploy more troops along the Russian-Finland border and further thin-out an already attenuated Russian army.
• Finland and Russia share a 1,300 km border and Kremlin’s actions against Finland’s (and potentially Sweden’s) NATO membership may heavily depend on the potential military asset deployment along the border on the Finnish, and potentially Swedish, side.
• The Finns may very well not opt for immediate asset deployment and perhaps would want to use their NATO membership as a signal to Russia but if they continue to feel sufficiently threatened, they may opt for exhaustive asset deployment.
• Russia’s revanchist assault on Ukrainian sovereignty has cascaded into a nightmare for Russian security concerns, with NATO looking to be at their immediate doorsteps.
• Such actions would only further fuel already anxious and retaliatory minds within Russia and may cause things to spiral out of control Constant communication from all sides is key to avoid a grim eventuality.
• The Finns understand this and have constantly been in touch with Kremlin updating them of developments.
• The situation is also exacerbated by the political capital Mr. Putin continues to enjoy which makes it even more difficult for any significant political opposition to come to the fore.
• The only hope from within the Russian borders would be the collective conscience of the Russian public.

About The North Atlantic Treaty Organization 

• The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states – 28 European states, the United States, and Canada.
• Established in the aftermath of World War II on the insistence of the Truman administration in the United States, the organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed on 4 April 1949.
• NATO is a system of collective security: its independent member states agree to defend each other against attacks by third parties.
• It was established during the Cold War in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
• The alliance remained in place after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and has been involved in military operations in the Balkans, the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.
• The NATO headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
• The organization’s motto is “animus in consulendo liber” (Latin for “A mind unfettered in deliberation”).
• Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30.
• The most recent member state to be added to NATO was North Macedonia on 27 March 2020.
• NATO currently recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine as aspiring members.
• Enlargement has led to tensions with non-member Russia, which is one of the 20 additional countries that participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.
• Another 15 countries are involved in institutionalized dialogue programmes with NATO. The combined military spending of all NATO members in 2020 constituted over 57 per cent of the global nominal total.
• Members agreed that their aim is to reach or maintain the target defence spending of at least 2 per cent of their GDP by 2024.


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