Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 09 July 2023

India joins Champions Group of GCRG

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

India has joined the champions group of the Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG) following an invitation from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

More about GCRG

  • The GCRG was set up by the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) in March last year to address urgent and critical global issues such as food and energy security challenges.
  • The MEA said the decision to join the group reflects India's increasing global leadership and commitment to addressing contemporary challenges.
  • The GCRG is overseen by the Champions Group and comprises heads of states and heads of governments of Bangladesh, Barbados, Denmark, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal.
  • India's participation will further boost the efforts of the United Nations in finding result-oriented solutions on developmental issues that impact the world, particularly developing countries.
  • Sanjay Verma, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, has been designated as Sherpa to the GCRG process.
  • The Sherpas, including Verma, will hold a virtual meeting to discuss the agenda.


Internationalisation of the rupee

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) inter-departmental group (IDG) said with India remaining one of the fastest-growing countries and showing remarkable resilience in the face of major headwinds, the rupee has the potential to become an internationalised currency. These recommendations are significant, in light of the economic sanctions imposed by the US on Russia for invading Ukraine and the growing clamour for finding an alternative to the US dollar for international transactions.

Internationalisation of rupee

  • Internationalisation is a process that involves increasing the use of the rupee in cross-border transactions.
  • It involves promoting the rupee for import and export trade and then other current account transactions, followed by its use in capital account transactions. These are all transactions between residents in India and non-residents.
  • The internationalisation of the currency, which is closely interlinked with the nation’s economic progress, requires further opening up of the currency settlement and a strong swap and forex market.
  • More importantly, it will require full convertibility of the currency on the capital account and cross-border transfer of funds without any restrictions. India has allowed only full convertibility on the current account as of now.
  • Currently, the US dollar, the Euro, the Japanese yen and the pound sterling are the leading reserve currencies in the world. China’s efforts to make its currency renminbi have met with only limited success so far.

Advantages of internationalisation of the rupee

  • The use of the rupee in cross-border transactions mitigates currency risk for Indian businesses.
  • Protection from currency volatility not only reduces the cost of doing business, it also enables better growth of business, improving the chances for Indian businesses to grow globally.
  • While reserves help manage exchange rate volatility and project external stability, they impose a cost on the economy.
  • Internationalisation of the rupee reduces the need for holding foreign exchange reserves. Reducing dependence on foreign currency will make India less vulnerable to external shocks.
  • As the use of the rupee becomes significant, the bargaining power of Indian businesses would improve, adding weight to the Indian economy and enhancing India’s global stature and respect.

The recommendations

  • The working group, headed by RBI Executive Director Radha Shyam Ratho, has recommended a slew of short to long term measures to accelerate the pace of internationalisation of the rupee.
  • For the short term, the group has suggested adoption of a standardised approach for examining the proposals on bilateral and multilateral trade arrangements for invoicing, settlement and payment in the rupee and local currencies, encouraging the opening of the rupee accounts for non-residents both in India and outside India and integrating Indian payment systems with other countries for cross-border transactions.
  • It suggested strengthening the financial market by fostering a global 24×5 rupee market and recalibration of the FPI (foreign portfolio investor) regime.
  • Over the next two to five years, the group has recommended a review of taxes on masala (rupee-denominated bonds issued outside India by Indian entities) bonds, international use of Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) for cross-border trade transactions and inclusion of Indian Government Bonds in global bond indices.
  • For the long term, the group has recommended that efforts should be made for the inclusion of the rupee in IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) SDR (special drawing rights).

What is SDR?

  • The SDR is an international reserve asset created by the IMF to supplement the official reserves of its member countries.
  • The value of the SDR is based on a basket of five currencies — the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling.


IMO adopts interim guidance on biofuels' use

GS Paper - 3 (Energy)

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has adopted interim guidance on the use of biofuels and biofuel blends, a resolution vehemently pushed by India at a maritime environment protection conference.

More about the guidance

  • The interim guidance adopted at the 80th Session of the Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO stressed that biofuels that have been certified by an international certification scheme, meeting its sustainability criteria and provide a well-to-wake GHG emissions reduction of at least 65 per cent compared to the fossil fuels can be used in the shipping industry.
  • With this guidance coming into effect, India has great potential to be developed as a biofuel hub of the world.
  • Other member states backed up India on the resolution, overlooking the objections raised by the US.
  • Member governments are invited to bring the annexed interim guidance to the attention of their administration, ship owners, ship operators, fuel oil suppliers, and any other interested or relevant stakeholders concerned of application as of 1 October 2023, the adopted IMO circular said.
  • The IMO circular also said the interim guidance should only be viewed as an interim simplified method until a more comprehensive method is developed to calculate a fuel's emission conversion factor, reflecting its well-to-wake GHG emissions and removals based on the IMO Life Cycle Analysis guidelines.
  • India has already tested 11 ships using its indigenously developed second-generation biofuel.


  • The London-based IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations which is responsible for measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent pollution from ships.


The two ‘mosaic’ viruses hit tomato crop

GS Paper - 3 (Agriculture)

Tomato growers in Maharashtra and Karnataka have blamed two different viruses for the loss of yields earlier this year. Farmers in Maharashtra have said their tomato crop was impacted by attacks of the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), while growers in Karnataka and other South Indian states have blamed the tomato mosaic virus (ToMV) for crop losses.

What are CMV and ToMV?

  • The two plant pathogens have similar names and cause similar damage to crops, but they belong to different viral families, and spread differently.
  • ToMV belongs to the Virgaviridae family and is closely related to the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). ToMV hosts include tomato, tobacco, peppers, and certain ornamental plants.
  • CMV has a much larger host pool that includes cucumber, melon, eggplant, tomato, carrot, lettuce, celery, cucurbits (members of the gourd family, including squash, pumpkin, zucchini, some gourds, etc.), and some ornamentals. CMV was identified in cucumber in 1934, which gave the virus its name.

How do these two viruses spread?

  • ToMV spreads mainly through infected seeds, saplings, agricultural tools and often, through the hands of nursery workers who have failed to sanitise themselves properly before entering the fields.
  • It would require only a few infected saplings for the virus to take over an entire field in a matter of days.
  • CMV is spread by aphids, which are sap-sucking insects. CMV too can spread through human touch, but the chances of that are extremely low.
  • Conditions of high temperature followed by intermittent rain, which allow aphids to multiply, are conducive to the spread of CMV.
  • These conditions were seen in Maharashtra — the late rabi crop (planted in January-February) faced a sudden bout of rain followed by extreme heat.
  • For ToMV, farmers in Maharashtra have blamed seed manufacturers and nurseries. Tomato growers plant 3-4-inch saplings in their fields, which they buy from nurseries.
  • It is very important to ensure that nurseries maintain bio safety, and restrict entry into the premises. “Seed treatment at the nursery is necessary to prevent future spread of the virus”.

How do viruses affect the crop?

  • Both viruses can cause almost 100 percent crop loss unless properly treated on time.
  • The foliage of plants infected with ToMV shows alternating yellowish and dark green areas, which often appear as blisters on the leaves.
  • Distortion of leaves and twisting of younger leaves are also symptoms. The fruit develops necrotic spots, which leads to overripening. Younger plants are dwarfed, and fruit setting is affected.
  • CMV too causes distortion of leaves, but the pattern is different. Often leaves at the top and bottom are distorted while those in the middle remain relatively blemish-free.
  • In cucumber, the virus causes a mosaic-like pattern of alternating yellow and green spots. In tomatoes, fruit formation is affected, and in some cases the fruit is distorted and small.
  • While specific effects vary depending on the host, overall, CMV causes stunting and lower production.

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