Daily Current Affairs for 23th January 2023

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  5. Daily Current Affairs for 23th January 2023

Dry, cold winter and rabi crop

Why in News?

2021-22 was the Year of Climate Change for Indian agriculture. Every single month from September 2021 to January 2022 recorded excess rain, which significantly damaged the post-monsoon kharif crop at the time of harvesting

Key Highlights

  • 2022-23 has been quite different.Rainfall was 37.4% below the all-India average in November, with the corresponding deficits at 14.5% for December and 57.5% during January 1-22.
  • The shortfalls have been greater in northern, central, and western India, where much of the rabi winter-spring crops especially wheat, mustard, chana (chickpea), and masur (red lentil), as also maize, potato and onion are grown.
  • India Meteorological Department has forecast
    • Scattered to fairly widespread rainfall accompanied by thunderstorm activity” over Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh during January 24-26, besides “light isolated” rain over north Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
    • A fresh western disturbance is expected to bring more rain over northwest India from January 27

How will this impact the rabi crops?

  • Farmers have sown wheat on 341.13 lakh hectares (lh) this time, as against 339.87 lh in 2021-22, and a normal area of 304.47 lh.
  • That should ordinarily translate into bumper production required particularly in the context of annual retail cereal inflation hitting 13.79% in December and wheat stocks in government warehouses on January 1 at a six-year-low.
  • Harvesting is more than two months away and knowing the havoc untimely heavy rain and hailstorms (as in March 2015) or early onset of summer (March 2022) can wreak — making any output predictions based on crop acreages is fraught with risk.

Policymakers can take comfort from two things

  • The first is the more-than-adequate public stocks of rice to meet the public distribution system’s requirements, before the new wheat crop arrives from April.
  • The second is international wheat prices, which have eased considerably from their March-May highs immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Prices at the Chicago Board of Trade futures exchange are ruling at their lowest since September-October 2021.
  • These comfort factors may not, however, suffice in the event of a crop failure similar to last year’s which led to wheat procurement by government agencies plunging to 187.92 lakh tonnes (lt), from 433.44 lt during the preceding marketing season (April-June).
    • A second consecutive poor crop, forcing India to import, could well drive up global prices again.

What is the current crop condition?

  • The wheat that was sown before mid-November is now in the “boot” stage, where the earheads (which bear the flowers and eventually grain) are forming at the top of the plants.
  • Heading (when the earheads fully emerge from the stem) and flowering (pollination) happens within 90-100 days from sowing, which is followed by about 25 days of early kernel formation (“milk” stage) and another 15 days or more of grain-filling (“dough”).
  • Rain would be welcome at this time: “It will provide growth momentum to the crop by cooling the canopy and enabling natural nitrogen fixation.”
  • light showers along with thunderstorms now would be equivalent to applying 15 kg of urea per acre. Rainwater will also wash away the dust and pollutants deposited on leaves , it is also purer than groundwater that may contain salts and other contaminants.
    • It will save irrigation costs
      • Wheat needs around four irrigations, and up to five or six if there is no rain. “Irrigating one acre takes 5 hours and 1-1.5 litres of diesel per hour. So, for every extra irrigation, you burn an additional 5-7.5 litres at Rs 90/litre.

What is the situation with mustard?

  • Farmers have planted an all-time-high area of 91.56 lh under mustard, compared to 84.47 lh in 2021-22, and the normal average of 63.46 lh.
  • Unlike with wheat though, the dry and cold winter has not been beneficial for mustard.
    • Mustard, which is generally sown by October-end, starts flowering after 50-60 days and forming siliqua (pods containing seeds) over the next 35-40 days. The severe cold wave conditions prevailing over Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh during January 15-18 is believed to have caused frost damage to the crop in many areas.
  • Mustard was vulnerable because siliqua/ pod development has been advanced in its case as opposed to wheat, where even flowering is yet to commence.
  • While clear sunshine in the morning and a sharp dip in night temperatures to near freezing point isn’t bad for wheat in the tillering/ booting stages, it can be disastrous for mustard.
  • The extent of injury or rupture of the pods due to cold shock and frost ice crystals forming inside the plant tissues is still not known.

Has chana been affected too?

  • Chana is the second biggest rabi crop by area, with farmers sowing 110.91 lh. That’s down from last year’s 112.65 lh, but higher than the normal area of 98.86 lh.
  • Sowing stretches from end-September (in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) to October (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat) and the first fortnight of November (Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab), with the crop duration also extending from 100-110 days to 120-130 and 130-140 days in these three regions.
  • There has been no loss from frost, as flowering will start only towards end-January/early-February and pod-setting 25-30 days after that.
    • The crop condition is good, but rain will be helpful at this point.


Chargesheet is not a“Public document”

Why in News?

The Supreme Court on Friday held that a chargesheet is not a“public document”,and allowingittobeaccessed freely will violate theCodeofCriminalProcedure(CrPC),1973, and compromise the rights of the accused, the victim,and investigating agencies.

What is a chargesheet?

  • A chargesheet, as defined under Section 173 CrPC, is the final report prepared by a police officer or investigative agencies after completing their investigation of a case.
  • After preparing the chargesheet, the officer-in-charge of the police station forwards it to a Magistrate, who is empowered to take notice of the offenses mentioned in it.
  • The charge sheet should contain details of names, the nature of the information, and offenses.
  • Whether the accused is under arrest, in custody, or has been released, whether any action was taken against him, are all important questions that the charge sheet answers.
  • When the chargesheet relates to offenses for which there is sufficient evidence against the accused, the officer forwards it to the Magistrate, complete with all documents.
  • This forms the basis for the prosecution’s case and the charges to be framed.
  • “The charge-sheet is nothing but a final report of the police officer under s. 173(2) of the CrPC,” the apex court held in its 1991 ruling in K Veeraswami vs UOI & Ors.
  • A charge sheet must be filed against the accused within a prescribed period of 60-90 days,otherwise the arrest is illegal and the accused is entitled to bail.

How is a chargesheet different from an FIR?

  • The term ‘chargesheet’ has been expressly defined under Section 173 of the CrPC but ‘First Information Report’ or FIR, has not been defined in either the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the CrPC. Instead, it finds a place under the police regulations/ rules under Section 154 of CrPC, which deals with ‘Information in Cognizable Cases’.
  • The chargesheet is the final report filed towards the end of an investigation, an FIR is filed at the ‘first’ instance’ that the police is informed of a cognizable offense or offence for which one can be arrested without a warrant; such as rape, murder, kidnapping.
  • An FIR does not decide a person’s guilt but a chargesheet is complete with evidence and is often used during the trial to prove the offenses the accused is charged with.
  • After filing an FIR, the investigation takes place.
    • Only if the police have sufficient evidence can the case be forwarded to the Magistrate, otherwise, the accused is released from custody under Section 169 of the CrPC. The law laid down by the Supreme Court in 1967 in Abhinandan Jha & Ors vs Dinesh Mishra reiterates this.
  • After filing an FIR, the investigation takes place. Only if the police have sufficient evidence can the case be forwarded to the Magistrate, otherwise, the accused is released from custody under Section 169 of the CrPC.
  • The law laid down by the Supreme Court in 1967 in Abhinandan Jha & Ors vs Dinesh Mishra reiterates this.
  • A chargesheet is filed by the police or law-enforcement/ investigative agency only after they have gathered sufficient evidence against the accused in respect of the offenses mentioned in the FIR, otherwise, a ‘cancellation report’ or ‘untraced report’ can be filed when due to lack of evidence.

Why is a chargesheet not a ‘public document’?

  • The Court held that a chargesheet cannot be made publicly available as it’s not a ‘public document’ under Sections 74 and 76 of the Evidence Act, as argued by the Petitioners’.
  • Section 74 of the Evidence Act defines ‘public documents’ as those which form the acts or records of sovereign authority, official bodies, tribunals, and of public offices either legislative, judicial or executive in any part of India, Commonwealth or a foreign country.
  • It also includes public records “kept in any State of private documents”.
  • Section 76 of the Evidence Act mandates every public officer having custody over such documents to provide its copy pursuant to a demand and payment of legal fee, accompanied by a certificate of attestation along with the date, seal, name and designation of the officer.
  • “Documents mentioned in Section 74 of the Evidence Act can only be said to be public documents, certified copies of which are to be given by the concerned public authority having the custody of such a public document. Copy of chargesheets along with necessary public documents cannot be said to be ‘public documents’ under Section 74 of the Evidence Act.”
  • As per Section 75 of the Evidence Act, all documents other than those listed under Section 74’ are private documents.
  • As per Section 75 of the Evidence Act, all documents other than those listed under Section 74’ are private documents.
  • The Court rejected the reliance on its judgment by saying that the directions given by it in the 2016 ruling only applied to FIRs and could not extend to chargesheets.

What is the Court’s refrain on the misuse of documents?

  • One of the concerns expressed by Justice MR Shah during the proceedings was the possibility of misuse by NGOs and ‘busybodies’ “Chargesheets cannot be given to everybody.
  • Vijay Madanlal Choudhary vs UOI’, where the Court held that ECIR is not equivalent to FIR and thus, the accused cannot be allowed a copy of the same.
  • Suffice it to observe that ECIR cannot be equated with an FIR which is mandatorily required to be recorded and supplied to the accused as per the provisions of the 1973 Code.


Eradication of Measles and Rubella

Why in News?

India had set a target to eliminate measles and rubella (MR) by 2023, having missed the earlier deadline of 2020, due to a variety of reasons, exacerbated by disruptions due to the pandemic.

About Measles and Rubella

Measles:It is a highly contagious viral disease and is a cause of death among young children globally.It is particularly dangerous for children from the economically weaker background, as it attacks malnourished children and those with reduced immunity.It can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia.

Rubella:It is also called German Measles.Rubella is a contagious, generally mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults.Rubella infection in pregnant women may cause death or congenital defects known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) which causes irreversible birth defects.

Why is this target crucial?

  • The measles virus is one of the world’s most contagious human viruses that kills more than 1,00,000 children every year globally, and rubella is a leading vaccine­preventable cause of birth defects, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Both measles and rubella can be prevented by just two doses of a safe and effective vaccine. Over the past two decades, the measles vaccine is estimated to have averted more than 30 million deaths globally, as per the WHO’s statistics.
  • In both diseases, the symptoms are a rash and fever. While measles has a high fatality rate, rubella infection in a pregnant woman will have an impact on the foetus, resulting in birth defects.

What happened in 2022?

  • From October 2022 at least 22 Children Died in Mumbai , Maharashtra who got infected as per report.
  • Virologist equates it to a phenomenon similar to COVID­19 infections catching up in China end of last year
  • It is a similar phenomenon, because during the winter months of 2020 and 2021 (November to January when there is the usual spurt in cases of measles) there were no outbreaks
  • The 2022 outbreak was like epidemiological compensation. This outbreak will contribute to ramping up herd immunity in the population which along with a robust vaccination programme will help achieve the necessary targets.

What has India done to achieve targets?

  • The pandemic led to poor immunisation rates, in a paper, Progress Toward Measles and Rubella Elimination
  • During 2010–2013, India conducted a phased measles catch­up immunisation for children aged 9 months–10 years in 14 States, vaccinating approximately 119 million children
  • Mission Indradhanush was launched in 2014 to ramp up vaccinating the unvaccinated population.
  • During 2017–2021, India adopted a national strategic plan for measles and rubella elimination, and introduced rubella­containing vaccine (RCV) into the routine immunisation programme, besides launching a nationwide measles­rubella supplementary immunisation activity (SIA) catch­up campaign.
  • Transitioned from outbreak­based surveillance to case­based acute fever and rash surveillance, and more than doubled the number of laboratories in the measles­rubella network.

Is the target to eliminate MR achievable?

  • The main concern is the under one year population. But if we are able to keep up the tempo of immunization at 95 % the second dose coverage (which means the first dose coverage has to be higher), it will be possible.
  • Give each district a target to achieve the required rate of immunization, conduct a robust fever and rash surveillance programme, besides testing for MR.
  • It is possible to be free of the disease as some other countries have recently demonstrated, including Sri Lanka, the Maldives and South Korea.
  • provide full support to the ground level staff who implement the programme — the village health nurses, ASHA (accredited social health activists) workers, anganwadi and ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) workers.
  • WHO has said India can reach MR elimination goals in India if we strengthen surveillance by finding, investigating, and collecting and testing a sample for every suspected case, in each district in every State and UT.


AT1 Bonds

Why in News?

The Bombay High Court Friday quashed the write-off of additional Tier-1 (AT1) bonds worth Rs 8,400 crore issued by Yes Bank Ltd, giving a big relief to investors who invested in bonds.

What are Bonds?

A bond is a debt instrument in which an investor loans money to an entity (typically corporate or government) which borrows the funds for a defined period of time at a variable or fixed interest rate. Bonds are used by companies, municipalities, states and sovereign governments to raise money to finance a variety of projects and activities. Owners of bonds are debt holders, or creditors, of the issuer.


Types of Government Bonds

  • Treasury Bills: Treasury bills (also known as T-bills) are short-term government bonds. They are issued with a one-year maturity date. These bonds are issued by the government in three categories: 91 days, 182 days, and 364 days. The difference between the face value and the discounted value is the profit for the investors. (*To read more about Treasury Bills, Click Treasury Bills)
  • Cash Management Bills: These are short-term bonds with a high degree of flexibility. They are issued in response to the government’s funding requirements. They must usually be less than 91 days. It’s similar to treasury bills. (*Click to read more about Cash Management Bills.)
  • Dated Government Securities: This type of bond has variable interest rates. Dated Government securities are so-called because they have a predetermined maturity date. These bonds are auctioned off by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • Fixed-Rate Bonds: These government bonds have a fixed coupon rate for the duration of the bond. In other words, regardless of market rates, the interest rate remains constant for the duration of the investment.
  • Floating Rate Bonds: The interest rate on these bonds fluctuates throughout the investment period. Interest rates are changed at predetermined intervals before the bond is issued.
  • Zero-Coupon Bonds: Bonds with no coupon payments are known as zero-coupon bonds. Profits from these bonds are generated by the difference between the issue price and the redemption value.
  • Capital Index Bonds: These are bonds in which the principal amount is linked to an accepted inflation index. This bond is issued to protect investors’ principal from inflation.
  • Inflation-Indexed Bonds: Inflation-Indexed Bonds (IIBs) are bonds in which the principal and interest payments are linked to an inflation index. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) may be used to calculate inflation (WPI).
  • Bonds with a Call or Put Option: These bonds have an option that allows the issuer to buy back the bond (call option).
  • Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs): The prices of Sovereign Gold Bonds are linked to the price of gold (commodity price). The bond’s nominal value is based on the previous week’s simple average closing price of 99.99% purity gold.

What are AT-1 Bonds?

  • AT1 Bonds are unsecured bonds that have perpetual tenor. In other words, these bonds,issued by banks,have no maturity date. They have a call option, which can be used by the banks to buy these bonds back from investors.
  • These bonds are typically used by banks to bolster their core or tier-1 capital.
  • AT1 bonds are subordinate to all other debt and only senior to common equity.
  • Mutual funds(MFs) were among the largest investors in perpetual debt instruments.

What led to the write-off?

  • Yes Bank, which was on the verge of a collapse, was placed under a moratorium by the Reserve Bank of India in March 2020 and a new management and board were appointed as part of a rescue plan worked out by the RBI.
  • TheReserveBankofIndia (RBI) allowed a write off of Rs 8400 crore on AT1 bonds issued by Yes Bank after it was rescued by StateBank of India (SBI).

What did Yes Bank do?

  • A Sebi probe found that the bank facilitated selling of AT1 bonds from institutional investors to individual investors.
  • It found that during the process of selling the AT1 bonds, individual investors were not informed about all the risks involved in subscription of these bonds.
  • The Sebi investigation also found that Yes Bank represented these bonds as a ‘Super FD’ and ‘as safe as FD’ to the investors.
  • SEBI also found that the push from the managing director of Yes Bank to down sell the AT1 bonds led its private wealth management team to recklessly sell the bonds to individual investors.

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