Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 03 January 2023

Centre empowered to demonetise: SC

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Supreme Court said on 2 January 2022 the Centre is empowered to demonetise 'all' series of bank notes under Section 26(2) of the RBI Act. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice S A Nazeer, which upheld the Centre's 2016 demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes by a 4:1 majority verdict, said a statute must be construed having regard to the legislative intent.

More about verdict

  1. The power available to the Central Government under sub-section (2) of Section 26 of the RBI Act cannot be restricted to mean that it can be exercised only for 'one' or 'some' series of bank notes and not for 'all' series of bank notes.
  2. The power can be exercised for all series of bank notes. Merely because on two earlier occasions, the demonetisation exercise was by plenary legislation, it cannot be held that such a power would not be available to the Central Government under sub-section (2) of Section 26 of the RBI Act, the bench said.
  3. The apex court said the modern approach of interpretation is a pragmatic one, and not pedantic.
  4. An interpretation which advances the purpose of the Act and which ensures its smooth and harmonious working must be chosen and the other which leads to absurdity, or confusion, or friction, or contradiction and conflict between its various provisions, or undermines, or tends to defeat or destroy the basic scheme and purpose of the enactment must be eschewed.
  5. The primary and foremost task of the Court in interpreting a statute is to gather the intention of the legislature, actual or imputed.
  6. The top court said an interpretation which, in effect, nullifies the purpose for which a power is to be exercised would be opposed to the principle of purposive interpretation.
  7. The top court's judgment came on a batch of 58 petitions challenging the demonetisation exercise announced by the Centre on 8 November 2016.

Why was demonetisation challenged?

  1. The petitioners contending that the procedure prescribed in Section 26(2) of RBI Act, 1934, was not followed.
  2. Section 26(2) of the Act states that “on recommendation of the [RBI] Central Board, the Central Government may, by notification in the Gazette of India, declare that, with effect from such date, any series of bank notes of any denomination shall cease to be legal tender save at such office or agency of the Bank and to such extent as may be specified in the notification.
  3. It was argued that as per the particular section, the recommendation should have emanated from the RBI, but in this case, the government had advised the central bank, following which it made the recommendation.
  4. It was said when earlier governments had demonetised currency in 1946 and 1978; they had done so by way of a law made by Parliament.
  5. It also accused the government of withholding documents related to the decision-making process from the court and raised doubts about whether the quorum as required for the RBI Central Board meeting was met.


Centre launches ‘SMART’ program

GS Paper - 2 (Education)

National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM) and Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) under ministry of Ayush on 2 January 2023 launched ‘SMART’- scope for mainstreaming ayurveda research in teaching professionals programme.

More about the programme

  1. The programme aims to boost scientific research in healthcare research areas through ayurveda colleges and hospitals, the Ministry of Ayush said.
  2. The ‘SMART’ program will have a deep long term rejuvenating impact on research in the field of Ayurveda and it will be a great service to the nation.
  3. The proposed initiative is conceptualised with an objective to identify, support and promote innovative research ideas in healthcare research areas including Osteoarthritis, Iron Deficiency Anaemia, Chronic Bronchitis, Dyslipidemia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Obesity, Diabetes Mellitus, Psoriasis, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  4. The eligible Ayurveda academic institutions may apply by 10 January, 2023. All details regarding contact information, eligibility criteria and application process has been shared to all recognized academic institutions and hospitals through NCISM.
  5. The large network of Ayurveda colleges and hospitals across the country is an asset for the country in terms of its healthcare needs.
  6. This network has not only been offering healthcare services in hardest times, but it also has contributed significantly in terms of healthcare research in the country. The ‘SMART’ program will certainly motivate teachers for taking up projects in designated areas of healthcare research and create a large database.


International Year of Millets

GS Paper -3 (Economy-Agriculture)

The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. Since that was at the initiative of India, which also accounts for a fifth of the world’s millet production, the government would be expected to do something different this year to promote these “nutri-cereals.


The positives of millets

  1. Millets score over rice and wheat in terms of minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibre content, as well as amino acid profile.
  2. Up to 80% of wheat’s average 13% protein content comprises glutens, known to trigger gastrointestinal and autoimmune disorders in many people.
  3. Bajra (pearl millet), on the other hand, has iron, zinc, and protein levels comparable to that of wheat, but it’s gluten-free and has more fibre.
  4. The rotis from bajra makes one feel fuller for longer, as they take more time to digest and do not raise blood sugar levels too fast.
  5. The same nutritionally superior traits — which significantly address the problem of “hidden hunger”arising from the consumption of energy-dense but micronutrients-deficient foods — are present in other millets too: jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet) etc.
  6. Nutritional advantages apart, millets are hardy and drought-resistant crops. This has to do with their short duration (70-100 days, against 115-150 days for rice and wheat), lower water requirement (350-500 mm versus 600-1,250 mm) and ability to grow even on poor soils and in hilly terrain.

Some limitations for millets

  1. Millets aren’t the first choice either of consumers or of farmers.For the poor, both in urban and rural areas, rice and wheat were once aspirational foods.
  2. The government has, in fact, made the issue of the two fine cereals free of cost from January 2023, further tilting the scales against millets.
  3. Even for the better-off, rolling rotis is easier with wheat than millet flour. This is because the gluten proteins, for all their drawbacks, make the wheat dough more cohesive and elastic.
  4. Due to low per-hectare yields for farmers, the national average is roughly 1 tonne for jowar, 1.5 tonnes for bajra and 1.7 tonnes for ragi, as against 3.5 tonnes for wheat and 4 tonnes for paddy are a disincentive.
  5. Due to access to assured irrigation, they would tend to switch to rice, wheat, sugarcane, or cotton.
  6. The absence of government procurement at minimum support price (MSP), unlike in paddy and wheat, would make farmers hesitant to grow even this high-yielding and naturally bio-fortified bajra.


Crypto awareness campaign

GS Paper -3 (Economy)

The Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) will launch an outreach programme soon to create awareness of cryptocurrencies and online gaming. The need for the outreach is based on the observation that both crypto-assets and online gaming (that extends to gambling and betting) are still being promoted in a risky manner despite the recent turmoil in the sector.

Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF):

  1. It is managed by the IEPF Authority, which was set up in 2016 under the provisions of Section 125 of the Companies Act, 2013.
  2. It is entrusted with the responsibility of administration of the IEPF, which, besides promoting awareness among investors, makes refunds of shares, unclaimed dividends, matured deposits and debentures and so on to rightful claimants.
  3. Its focus areas include primary and secondary capital markets, various saving instruments, the instruments for investment such as mutual funds, equity, among others.

Concern about crypto currency:

  1. The dilemma stems from concerns about the unregulated currency having a destabilising effect on the monetary and fiscal stability of a country.
  2. Crypto exchanges in India are being investigated for their alleged involvement in unlawful practices such as drug trafficking, money laundering, violating foreign exchange legislation and evasion of GST.
  3. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recommended framing legislation on the sector. It is of the view that cryptocurrencies should be prohibited.
  4. In Lok Sabha recently, the Minister of State for Finance stated that crypto assets are by definition borderless and therefore, any legislation (for regulation or for banning) would require international collaboration to prevent regulatory arbitrage.

Significance of an outreach programme:

  1. As cryptocurrencies investing can be a complex and risky endeavour as the category is extremely volatile and works round the clock.
  2. It is important for potential investors to thoroughly educate themselves before making any decision.
  3. The immutable, public nature of the blockchain makes crypto a poor choice for money laundering because it allows law enforcement to uncover and trace money laundering far easier than cash transactions.