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Current Affairs – 13 September 2021

Battle of Saragarhi 

Indian Express

GS 1: Indian History

Context:

  • September 12 marked the 124th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi that has inspired a host of armies, books, and films, both at home and abroad.

About:

  • The Battle of Saragarhi is considered one of the finest last stands in the military history of the world.
  • Twenty-one soldiers were pitted against over 8,000 Afridi and Orakzai tribals but they managed to hold the fort for seven hours.
  • Though heavily outnumbered, the soldiers of 36th Sikhs (now 4 Sikh), led by Havildar Ishar Singh, fought till their last breath, killing 200 tribals and injuring 600.
  • Saragarhi was the communication tower between Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan.
  • The two forts in the rugged North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now in Pakistan, were built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh but renamed by the British.
  • Though Saragarhi was usually manned by a platoon of 40 soldiers, on that day, it was being held by only 21 soldiers from 36th Sikh (now 4 Sikh) and a non-combatant called Daad, a Pashtun who did odd jobs for the troops.
  • Saragarhi helped to link up the two important forts which housed a large number of British troops in the rugged terrain of NWFP.
  • Fort Lockhart was also home to families of British officers. The wife of the commanding officer of 36th Sikh, Lt Col John Haughton, was at the fort till May 1897 when she went home to deliver a baby.
  • On that day, the tribals wanted to isolate the two forts by cutting off the lines of communication between them.
  • The British, who regained control over the fort after a few days, used burnt bricks of Saragarhi to build an obelisk for the martyrs. They also commissioned gurdwaras at Amritsar and Ferozepur in their honour. Now Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee has named a hall after Saragarhi.

 

Indebted India

Down to Earth

GS 3: Economy

Context:

  • According to the latest ‘Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land Holdings of Households in Rural India, 2019’, more than half of India’s agricultural households were in debt, with an average outstanding of Rs 74,121.

About:

  • The percentage of households in debt reduced slightly from 51.9% as seen in the previous survey in 2013; but the average debt jumped 57% from Rs 47,000 in 2013.
  • The National Statistical Office (NSO) reported the data based on its 77th round of survey of more than 45,000 such households conducted January 1-December 31, 2019.
  • The data represents the situation before the onset of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in early 2020.
  • The countrywide lockdown has marred economic prospects since the first quarter of 2020-21 financial year.
  • Though agriculture did not take much of a hit last year, households dependent on migrant workers have faced prolonged periods of joblessness.

State Indebt:

  • The 2019 survey found Andhra Pradesh to have the highest average outstanding loan, at Rs 2.45 lakh, among 28 states.
  • The state also had the highest proportion (93.2%) of agricultural households under debt, followed by Telangana (91.7%) and Kerala (69.9%).
  • Those four states, along with Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu reported loans above Rs 1 lakh per household on an average.
  • For at least 11 states, the amount exceeded the national average of Rs 74,121.
What is an agricultural household?

  • It is defined as one receiving more than Rs 4,000 as value of produce from agricultural activities (cultivation of field crops, horticultural crops, fodder crops, plantation, animal husbandry, poultry, fishery, piggery, beekeeping, vermiculture, sericulture, etc) and that has at least one member self-employed in agriculture (either in principal or in subsidiary status) in the last 365 days.

 

People eviction due to COVID-19

Down to Earth

GS 1: Social Issues

Context:

  • According to the ‘Forced Evictions in India 2020: A Grave Human Rights Crisis During the Pandemic’, fourth comprehensive report, by the ‘National Eviction and Displacement Observatory’, as many as 257,700 people across India were evicted from their homes by the central government between March 2020 and July 2021.

About:

  • Over 500 people every day and 21 people every hour were forced to move out of their homes during this period when the country saw two deadly waves of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Most of these people were labourers in the informal sector and had been living in the demolished settlements for decades.
  • Most of the colonies were cleared out to make way for development projects and some for environmental conservation. 
  • In India, over four million are homeless and at least 75 million live in informal urban settlements without access to essential services such as water and sanitation. 
  • This is despite counsel from various international organisations, including the United Nations, against evictions in the middle of the pandemic as staying indoors is necessary to avoid contagion and also to follow containment protocols.

 

Status of Coral Reefs of the World

Down to Earth

GS 1: Geography

Context:

  • According to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020 by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, coral reefs have suffered terribly in the past three decades. Yet, they are resilient and would be able to withstand challenges posed by a warming world.

About:

  • Reducing local pressures on coral reefs to maintain their resilience would be critical in the years to come.
  • Monitoring data collected in the field was also essential to understand the status of the trends in coral reef condition.

Status of bleaching:

  • The 1998 coral bleaching event killed 8% of the world’s coral.
  • Subsequent events between 2009 and 2018 killed 14% of the world’s coral.
  • Most declines in global coral cover were associated with either rapid increase in sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly or sustained high SST anomaly.
  • There was 20% more algae on the world’s coral reefs in 2019 than in 2010. The increase in the amount of algae, was associated with declines in the amount of hard coral.
  • Since 2010, almost all regions had exhibited a decline in average coral cover. According to estimates, coral reefs would experience further declines in the coming decades as sea temperatures arose.
  • However, the increases in global coral cover between 2002 and 2009 and in 2019 showed that coral reefs globally remained resilient and could recover if conditions permitted.
  • For instance, coral reefs in east Asia, which has 30% of the world’s coral reefs, had more coral on average in 2019 than they did in 1983, despite the area being affected by large-scale coral bleaching events during the last decade.
  • This showed that high coral cover and diversity might confer a degree of natural resistance to elevated sea surface temperatures.

 

 

Strategic Disinvestment

Indian Express

GS 3: Economy

Context:

  • Recently, the Government allowed disinvested PSUs to set off previous losses.

About:

  • To facilitate the strategic disinvestment, it has been decided that Section 79 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, shall not apply to an erstwhile public sector company that has become so as a result of strategic disinvestment.
    • The above relaxation will cease to apply from the previous year in which the company, that was the ultimate holding company of such erstwhile public sector company immediately after completion of the strategic disinvestment, ceases to hold, directly or through its subsidiary or subsidiaries, 51% of the voting power of the erstwhile public sector company.
  • Finance Act, 2021 has amended section 72A of the Income-tax Act, 1961 that deals with the amalgamation of a public sector company (PSU) which ceases to be a PSU (erstwhile public sector company) as part of strategic disinvestment, with one or more company or companies and carry forward of losses in case of change in shareholding following the sale by the government.

Strategic Investment Policy

  • Aim: 
    • To finance various social sector and developmental programmes.
    • To infuse private capital, technology and best management practices in Central Government Public Sector Enterprises.
  •  Budget FY 2021-22 Announcement: 
    • In the Union Budget FY 2021-22, a policy of strategic disinvestment of public sector enterprises was approved that will provide a clear roadmap for disinvestment in all non-strategic and strategic sectors.
  • Policy on Strategic Disinvestment:
    • Fulfilling the governments’ commitment under the Atma Nirbhar Package of coming up with a policy of strategic disinvestment of public sector enterprises, the following were highlighted as its main features:
      • Existing CPSEs, Public Sector Banks and Public Sector Insurance Companies to be covered under it.
      • Twofold classification of Sectors to be disinvested:
        • Strategic Sector: 
          • Bare minimum presence of the public sector enterprises and remaining to be privatised or merged or subsidiaries with other CPSEs or closed.
          • Following 4 sectors to come under it :
            • Atomic energy, Space and Defence
            • Transport and Telecommunications
            • Power, Petroleum, Coal and other minerals
            • Banking, Insurance and financial services
        • Non- Strategic Sector : 
          • In this sector, CPSEs will be privatised, otherwise shall be closed.
  • Moving forward task: 
    • Further to fast forward the policy, NITI Aayog has been asked to work out on the next list of Central Public Sector companies that would be taken up for strategic disinvestment.
  • Incentivising states for disinvestment:
    • To incentivise States to take to disinvestment of their Public Sector Companies, an incentive package of Central Funds for them will be worked out.
  • Special purpose vehicle for monetising idle land:
    • Recognising that Idle assets will not contribute to Atma Nirbhar Bharat and the non-core assets largely consist of surplus land with Government Ministries/Departments and Public Sector Enterprises,it was proposed to use a Special Purpose Vehicle in the form of a company to carry out monetization of idle land.
    • This can either be by way of direct sale or concession or by similar means.
  • Exit mechanism:
    • It was proposed to introduce a revised mechanism that will ensure timely closure of sick or loss-making CPSEs.

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