Daily Current Affairs for UPSC – 20th July 2023

GS 2

The India-UAE deal to trade with rupees

Relevance: GS Paper – 2 India and its Neighbourhood

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the UAE.

  • During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the UAE, the RBI and the Central Bank of the UAE signed two MoUs.
  • The first MoU establishes a Local Currency Settlement System (LCSS) to promote the use of the rupee and the dirham for cross-border transactions.
  • The second MoU interlinks India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) with UAE’s Instant Payment Platform (IPP) and the card switches RuPay and UAESWITCH.

Promotion of Local Currencies:

  • The LCSS will enable exporters and importers to use their domestic currencies (rupee and dirham) for transactions, reducing exchange rate risks.
  • It aims to develop the INRAED foreign exchange market and boost investments and remittances between India and the UAE.

Significance for Exporters:

  • Denominating export contracts and invoices in local currencies mitigates exchange rate risks and facilitates competitive pricing.
  • Enhanced cooperation between banking systems of both countries will expand trade and economic activity.
  • Major Indian exports to the UAE include mineral fuels, electrical machinery, pearls, and precious stones.

Interlinking Payment Systems:

  • The second MoU connects India’s UPI with UAE’s IPP, and RuPay with UAESWITCH.
  • It explores linking payment messaging systems of both countries.

Benefits of Interlinked Payment Systems:

  • The UPI-IPP linkage enables fast, convenient, safe, and cost-effective cross-border fund transfers.
  • Card switches facilitate mutual acceptance of domestic cards and processing of card transactions.
  • The linkage will address high transaction costs for remittances, benefiting the 3.5 million Indian residents in the UAE.

Previous Similar Endeavors:

  • In the past, NPCI collaborated with Singapore’s PayNow to facilitate cross-border real-time money transfers, reducing remittance costs.
  • Non-resident accounts from 10 countries were onboarded into the UPI ecosystem, including the UAE, making remittances easier.
  • Increase in Remittances to India:
  • India experienced a 24.4% increase in remittances to $111 billion in 2022, accounting for 3.3% of GDP.
  • Remittance inflows from GCC countries, constituting 28% of total remittances, saw significant growth due to high energy prices and measures to curb food price inflation.
  • About 36% of remittances came from high-skilled Indian migrants in the U.S., the U.K., and Singapore.

India reports a record 93% DPT3 immunisation coverage in 2022: WHO

Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Health Government Policies & Interventions

Context: India’s DPT3 (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) vaccine coverage rate reached an all-time high of 93% in 2022, surpassing the previous best of 91% recorded in 2019 and a significant increase from the 85% recorded in 2021.

DPT3 stands for Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus. It refers to a combination vaccine that provides protection against three infectious diseases: diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus. These three diseases can be severe and life-threatening, particularly for young children.

  • Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the respiratory system. It can lead to a thick coating in the back of the throat, making it difficult to breathe and swallow. In severe cases, diphtheria can cause heart and nerve complications.
  • Pertussis (Whooping Cough): Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the respiratory system. It causes severe coughing fits, often followed by a “whooping” sound when gasping for breath. Pertussis can be especially dangerous for infants and young children, leading to serious complications, including pneumonia and brain damage.
  • Tetanus: Tetanus is caused by a bacterial toxin that affects the nervous system. It enters the body through open wounds or cuts and causes muscle stiffness and spasms. If left untreated, tetanus can be fatal.

GS 3

A push for GM mustard disregarding science, the law

Relevance: GS Paper – 3 Biotechnology

Context: Environmentalists are fiercely opposing Delhi University’s genetically modified (GM) herbicide-tolerant (HT) mustard in the Supreme Court of India.

Concerns Surrounding GM Crops in India:

  • India has engaged in a robust two-decade-long debate on the safety, efficacy, and necessity of GM crops.
  • Bt cotton, the only approved GM crop, raised concerns over limited benefits for farmers and increased cultivation costs.

Parliamentary and Expert Committee Reports:

  • Standing Committees of the Parliament and a Technical Expert Committee (TEC) examined GM crops and food independently.
  • Both committees highlighted major weaknesses in the regulatory system, calling for cautious approaches before releasing GM food.
  • The TEC warned against HT crops, citing serious harm to the environment, livelihoods, and sustainable agriculture if released.

Convergence in Risk Assessment:

  • Noted scientists and elected representatives reached a decisive consensus against releasing HT crops, like GM mustard.
  • Such convergence counters the perception that critics of GM crops are against development.

Pushing Ahead with GM Mustard:

  • The government is moving forward with GM mustard despite the scientific and political consensus for careful evaluation.
  • The full biosafety dossier of GM mustard has not been made public, violating transparency provisions.
  • The government is also facing criticism from agricultural scientists who claim non-GM mustard hybrids have better yields.

Misleading Arguments in Court:

  • To downplay ecological and health risks, the government argues that GM mustard is not HT, but intended to improve yields.
  • However, the scientific community agrees that GM mustard is indeed an HT crop, raising concerns about misleading the court.

Implications and the Need for Precaution:

  • The government’s disregard for science-based concerns and opposition to GM mustard is alarming.
  • If GM mustard is allowed, it could set a precedent for the release of other HT crops, impacting farming, food culture, and heritage in India.


A fascinating fusion of rock art in A.P.’s Rudragiri

Rudragiri Hillock in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district is a site with a rich historical past and significant archaeological monuments. It boasts a unique blend of prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic period and exquisite artwork from the Kakatiya dynasty.

Mesolithic Rock Paintings:

  • Rudragiri features five naturally formed rock shelters at its foothills, facing westward.
  • These shelters served as living quarters for people during the Mesolithic age around 5000 B.C.
  • The rock paintings found in these shelters date back to the Mesolithic period and offer fascinating insights into the lifestyle of ancient inhabitants.
  • Kakatiya Artwork:
  • Two natural caves at the southern end of the hillock showcase remarkable murals from the Kakatiya kingdom.
  • The caves depict scenes from the epic Ramayana, showcasing the artistic brilliance of the Kakatiya period.
  • The paintings, using a variety of colors derived from white kaolin and different pigments, have survived despite some damage due to exposure to the elements.

Cave Descriptions:

a. First Cave:

  • The first cave portrays a narrative mural depicting the intense battle between the Vanara brothers Vali and Sugriva.

b. Middle Cave:

  • The middle cave features a grand sketch of Hanuman, accompanied by sacred symbols of the conch (Sankha) and the fire altar (Yagna Vedi).
  • Hanuman is depicted carrying the Sanjivani hill in his hand, symbolizing his mission to save Lakshmana’s life.

c. Third Cave:

  • The third cave houses prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic era.
  • Remarkably, the Kakatiya artist chose the same rock shelter to superimpose the elegant figure of Hanuman in a unique ‘Anjali’ posture, showing divine offering.

Coexistence of Art Styles:

  • The Ramayana figures from the Kakatiya period coexist with the Mesolithic rock paintings, and the artwork does not overshadow the scenic beauty of the prehistoric drawings.

U.K.’s illegal migration Bill on its way to becoming law

The U.K. House of Lords has passed the Illegal Migration Bill, a legislation that empowers the Home Secretary to remove illegal migrants from the country and introduces changes to existing asylum seeker protections. The Bill aims to deter illegal migration, particularly through small boats crossing the English Channel.

Aim of the Bill:

  • The Illegal Migration Bill seeks to decrease access to asylum routes to deter illegal migration, particularly via small boats crossing the English Channel.
  • The U.N.’s refugee and human rights heads have criticized the legislation for eroding protections for refugees.

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