Daily Current Affairs – 13-05-2023

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    Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)

    Syllabus: GS2/ Governance

    In News

    • Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections’ results were released recently. There were allegations that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from South Africa were being used for voting.

    Production of EVMs in India

    • EVMs were first used in 70-Paravur Assembly Constituency of Kerala  in 1982.
    • EVMs are produced indigenously by 2 PSUs viz. Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bengaluru and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad.
    • India does not use any EVMs produced abroad.
    • After the introduction of EVM machines in elections of India, many countries used EVM machines made in India in their elections, like Bhutan, Nepal and Namibia.

    What parts make up an EVM?

    • EVM has two parts – a ‘control unit’ and a ‘balloting unit’ – connected by a 5-metre cable. 
    • The balloting unit is in the voting compartment into which the voter enters to cast the vote by pressing the button against the name and symbol of the candidate of her choice and the control unit is with the EC-appointed polling officer.
    • The control unit has been termed the EVM’s ‘brain’, as the balloting unit is turned on only after the polling officer presses the ‘Ballot’ button on it and the vote is then cast. The control unit is with the Election Commission selected polling officer.
    • The Software Programme Code is written in-house, by these two PSUs, not outsourced, and subjected to security procedures at factory level to maintain the highest levels of integrity. 
    • The programme is converted into machine code and only then given to the chip manufacturer abroad because we don’t have the capability of producing semi-conductor microchips within the country.

    Concerns of using electronic voting machines

    • No certification: No nationally or internationally recognised institutions or governments have certified the EVMs as cent per cent accurate.
    • Vulnerability to malware: Many software programmers have claimed that the electronic voting machines are vulnerable to malicious programming and if it gets affected then any hacker can hack the machine and can tamper the vote counts easily.
    • Loss of data: The biggest change with technology is that no matter how much data it records, a single virus can destroy the entire data storage.
    • Not suitable to Humid places: The highly humid area and those areas which receive frequent rainfall are not suitable for casting votes using electronic voting machines. As machines are prone to damage due to high humidity level, thus usage of electronic voting machines is not advisable in such areas.
    • Manufacturing: Most of the electronic voting machines used in the country were foreign manufactured which means the secret codes that control the electronic voting machines are in foreign hands and they can be used to influence the election results.
    • Fake votes: Most of the electronic voting machines used in the country do not have any mechanism by which the voter can verify their identity before casting the vote due to which fake voters can cast numerous fake votes.

    Advantages of Electronic Voting machines

    • Right to vote: The right to vote is the supreme right of democracy which is being executed through the EVMs.
    • Many developed countries have adopted ballot paper: It is the constitutional duty and the responsibility of the Election Commission and the Central government to introduce such a transparent system of voting and counting in the elections which can be evaluated by the public, the voters, themselves.
      • Despite this fact, by conducting polling using the machines in India, which is the biggest democracy in the world, the constitutional right to vote is being violated.
    • Difficult for the hackers to hack: In most of the advanced versions of electronic voting machines, there are no external communication paths which make it difficult for the hackers to hack the machine and tamper the count numbers.
    • Electronic voting machines are cost effective and economical: In the paper ballot, the amount of raw material used is higher. It directly impacts the environment as paper ballots use papers to cast votes.
    • Time savers: one can count the votes in a few minutes which make life easier for the election officers on duty. In a paper ballot, the vote counting process is quite tedious and time-consuming.
    • Electronic voting machines are quite effective against bogus votes: Electronic voting machines are programmed to capture a maximum of five votes in a minute. Due to which a single vote cannot cast fake votes.
    • Electronic voting machines are easier to carry and transport from one place to another without any hassle: One single machine can record several votes captured through that machine.

    Advantages of Paper Ballot

    Disadvantages of Paper Ballots

    The paper ballot is a traditional method used for vote counting is a trust factor for people.

    There is no scope for automation in the paper ballot system

    EVMs might get stuck in between due to low power charge unlike paper ballots.

    Time consuming Election Process

    Using paper ballots is time-consuming but it generates a lot of employment

    Physically challenged: find it difficult to cast their votes through the paper ballot 

    The votes captured by paper ballot can be stored for a limited period of time

    Paper ballots might get damaged.

    It is easier for the robbers to rob the EVM but it is difficult for them to rob paper ballots.

    Corruption in elections due to bogus paper votes in the ballot.

    Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT)

    • Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) or verified paper record (VPR) is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballot-less voting system.
    • A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
    • It contains the name of the candidate (for whom vote has been cast) and symbol of the party/individual candidate.
    • The VVPAT offers some fundamental differences as a paper, rather than electronic recording medium when storing votes.

    Source: IE

    Model Prison Act 2023

    Syllabus: GS2/ Governance, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies

    In News

    • The Ministry of Home Affairs has prepared the ‘Model Prisons Act 2023’ on the recommendations of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD).

    Present Legal Status

    • Constitution: ‘Prisons’/’persons detained therein’ is a “State-List” subject under Entry 4 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Administration and management of prisons and prisoners is the responsibility of respective State Governments.
    • Laws: The existing law in this context, the Prisons Act of 1894 is a pre-independence era Act and is almost 130-years-old. Two other related laws — The Prisoners Act, 1900 and The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950 are also decades-old. There is also The Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003.
    • Types of Jails: The number of jail establishments in India stood over 1,000 which are categorised as Central Jails, District Jails, Sub-Jails, Juvenile and Women Jails as well as open Jails/Camps.

    Present issues with Prisons in India: View of Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007)

    • Issues with existing laws: The existing Act mainly focuses on keeping the criminals in custody and enforcement of discipline and order in prisons. There is no provision for reform and rehabilitation of prisoners in the existing Act.
    • Overcrowding: Jails India suffer from serious overcrowding. India’s prison population stood at 331,391 as on 31.12.2004 reflecting a jail population of 30 per hundred thousand Indians and jail occupancy levels stood at 139% of capacity.
    • Undertrial: Bulk of the inmates comprises undertrial prisoners. These are often people from disadvantaged backgrounds involved in minor and technical violations of the law who are incarcerated due to their inability to pay for bail and/or for good legal representation.
    • Poor conditions: The situation in many prisons is appalling enough to be considered a violation of human dignity as well as the basic human rights of the inmates. Convicts are imprisoned for long periods in crumbling buildings with inadequate accommodation and sanitary facilities.
    • Privileges for powerful people: Paradoxically, a few individuals, who are powerful are allowed to enjoy extraordinary facilities not permitted under the rules.
    • Misuse of Parole: The issue of misuse of the provisions for parole and for remission of sentences has significant implications for public order because indiscriminate and reckless grant of parole or remission of sentences can impact public order adversely.

    Model Prisons Act 2023

    • Model Prisons Act 2023 has assimilated the relevant provisions of ‘The Prisons Act, 1894’, ‘The Prisoners Act, 1900’ and ‘The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950’. These three acts will be replaced by the Model Prisons Act 2023.
    • Objective: It will serve as a “guiding document” for the States, and for adoption in their jurisdiction. It aims to overhaul the prison administration, with focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.

    Some salient features of the new Model Prisons Act are as follows:

    • Provision for security assessmentand segregation of prisoners, individual sentence planning,
    • Grievance redressal, prison development board, attitudinal change towards prisoners.
    • Provision of separate accommodation for women prisoners, transgender, etc.
    • Provision for use of technology in prison administration with a view to bring transparency in prison administration.
    • Provision for video conferencing with courts, scienti?c and technological interventions in prisons, etc.
    • Provision of punishment for prisoners and jail sta? for use of prohibited items like mobile phones etc. in jails.
    • Provision regarding establishment and management of high security jail, open jail (open and semi open), etc.
    • Provision for protecting the society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders, etc.
    • Provision for legal aid to prisoners, provision of parole, furlough and premature release etc. to incentivise good conduct.
    • Focus on vocational training and skill development of prisoners and their reintegration into the society.

    Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D)

    • Established in: 1970.
    • Headquarters: New Delhi.
    • Parent agency: Ministry of Home Affairs
    • Objective: It is a multifaceted, consultancy organisation which works for the modernisation of police forces. 
    • Divisions: It has 4 divisions – Research, Development, Training and Correctional Administration.

    Source: TH

     

    Greenwashing

    Syllabus: GS 3/ Economy

    In News

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will join 12 international regulators in the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN)’s first-ever Greenwashing TechSprint to develop a tool to help regulators and the market effectively tackle the risks of greenwashing in financial services.

    Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN)

    • The GFIN is the international network of financial regulators and related organisations committed to supporting financial innovation in the best interests of consumers. 
    • It was formally launched in 2019 and at present is a network of over 70 organisations.

    What is ‘greenwashing’? 

    • Greenwashing refers to misleading the general public into believing that companies, sovereigns or civic administrators are doing more for the environment than they actually are. 

    Origin of the Term

    • The term was coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986
    • During a 1983 stay in Fiji, he came across notes next to towels in a particular resort. 
    • The note asked customers to reuse the towels and help reduce ecological damage to the ocean and the coral reefs. While it may appear to be an environmentally-friendly practice, in reality, the endeavour was for the hotel to save up on laundry bills.

    How is it done?

    • This may involve making a product or policy seem more environmentally friendly or less damaging than it is in reality.
    • Examples: In April 2022, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission penalised retailers Kohl and Walmart $5.5 million for misleading customers about their home furnishing products being made of bamboo. In reality, they were made of rayon — a fibre made from cellulose whose manufacturing entails the use of harmful chemicals such as sodium hydroxide that are hazardous to the environment.  

    Why does greenwashing happen? 

    • It is done primarily for a company to either present itself as an ‘environment-friendly’ entity or for profit maximisation.  
    • The latter could be achieved by either introducing a product, catering to the inherent demand for environment-friendly products, or, in certain instances, using the larger idea as a premise to cut down on certain operational logistics and providing consumer essentials.
    • The phenomenon came into practice as consumers and regulators, owing to greater awareness and environmental consciousness, increasingly sought to explore planet-friendly, recyclable and sustainable ‘green’ products. By 2015, 66% of consumers were willing to shell out more for a product that was environmentally sustainable.
    • Referring to the recent net-zero commitments made by private companies and sovereigns, the UN Secretary-General observed that they had “varying levels of rigour and loopholes wide enough to drive a diesel truck through.”

    Criticism

    • At the COP27 conference, Secretary-General of the United Nations (U.N.), António Guterres said, “We must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing.” 
    • Although several companies, cities, states and regions have committed to reaching net-zero, in the absence of regulation, a lot of these pledges are not aligned with the science to achieve the same and do not have enough detail to be credible.
    • Additionally, the inconsistent use of terms ‘net-zero’, ‘net-zero aligned’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’ and ‘ecological’ among others are not accompanied with satisfactory evidence to substantiate their claims. 
    • If greenwash premised upon low-quality net zero pledges is not addressed, it will undermine the efforts of genuine leaders, creating both confusion, cynicism and a failure to deliver urgent climate action.

    Greenwashing and Financial Sector

    • Harvard Business School observes that sustainable investing has become increasingly popular among millennials and investors concerned with ‘ethical investing’.  
    • Broadly, financial institutions are expected to fund the transition towards renewable energy and discourage investments in further harnessing of conventional energy sources such as coal, oil and gas.  
    • Thus, if the financial sector is to respond effectively to the demand for products that endeavour to introduce positive changes into the economy, it is imperative that ‘greenwashing’ is averted, and that customers are accorded the right information and standards.  
    • Financial services providers expect increased scrutiny of a company’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials from regulators, shareholders, customers as well as other stakeholders. 
    • In May 2022, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) constituted an advisory committee to look into all ESG-related matters including instituting norms for continuous enhancement of disclosures specific to ESG Schemes of Mutual Funds, with a particular focus on mitigating risks pertaining to mis-selling and ‘greenwashing’. 

    Recommendations to combat ‘greenwashing’ 

    • Non-state actors cannot claim to be net-zero while they continue to build or invest in new fossil fuel supply. Thus, companies must work towards reducing emissions across their entire value chain and not limit the endeavour to only one part of the chain. 
    • Companies must not invest, through any means, in harnessing fossil fuels or engage in deforestation and other environmentally destructive activities.  
    • In addition to this, companies cannot compensate for this investment by means of cheap credits, which “often lack integrity”. For perspective, carbon credits work as a permit allowing the holder to emit a stipulated amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.
    • The committee also recommends a transition from voluntary disclosures (pertaining to net emissions) to regulatory norms. Verification and enforcement in a voluntary space can be particularly challenging. 

    Source: TH

     

    Carbon Dating, Radiometric Dating & Cosmogenic Nuclide Dating

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science & Technology

    In News

    • The Allahabad High Court ordered a “scientific survey”, including carbon dating, of a structure – claimed to be a “Shivling” by the Hindu side – found at the Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi after setting aside a lower court order on the issue.

    About

    • Carbon dating is a widely-used method applied to establish the age of organic material, things that were once living. Living things have carbon in them in various forms. 
    • The dating method makes use of the fact that a particular isotope of carbon called C-14, with an atomic mass of 14, is radioactive, and decays at a rate that is well known.
    • Carbon-14 is radioactive and reduces to one-half of itself in about 5,730 years. This is what is known as its ‘half-life’.
    • So, after a plant or animal dies, the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the body, or its remains, begins to change. This change can be measured and can be used to deduce the approximate time when the organism died.

    Limitations

    • Though extremely effective, carbon dating cannot be applied in all circumstances. Specifically, it cannot be used to determine the age of non-living things, like rocks, for example. 
    • Also, the age of things that are more than 40,000-50,000 years cannot be arrived at through carbon dating. This is because after eight to ten cycles of half-lives have been crossed, the amount of carbon-14 becomes almost negligible and undetectable.

    Radiometric Dating

    • There are other methods to calculate the age of inanimate things, many of which are based on the same principle as carbon dating. So, instead of carbon, decays of other radioactive elements that might be present in the material become the basis for the dating method.
    • These are known as radiometric dating methods. 
    • Many of these involve elements with half-lives of billions of years, which enable scientists to reliably estimate the age of very old objects.
    • Two commonly employed methods for dating rocks are potassium-argon dating and uranium-thorium-lead dating. 
    • Potassium-Argon Dating: The radioactive isotope of potassium decays into argon, and their ratios can give a clue about the age of rocks. 
    • Uranium-Thorium-Lead Dating: Uranium and thorium have several radioactive isotopes, and all of them decay into the stable lead atom. The ratios of these elements present in the material can be measured and used to make estimates about age.

    Cosmogenic nuclide dating

    • There are also methods to determine how long an object has remained exposed to sunlight. The most common of these is called cosmogenic nuclide dating. 
    • It uses the interactions between cosmic rays and nuclides in glacially transported boulders or glacially eroded bedrock to provide age estimates for rock exposure at the Earth’s surface. It tells us how long the rocks have been located at the surface, for example, on a moraine.

    Gyanvapi Mosque-Kashi Vishwanath Temple

    • Gyanvapi Mosque: The Gyanvapi Mosque was built in 1669 during the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who ordered the demolition of the existing Vishweshwar temple at the site, and its replacement by a mosque. The name of the mosque is said to have derived from an adjoining well, the Gyanvapi, or Well of Knowledge.
    • Kashi Vishwanath Temple: For more than 100 years after the mosque was built, there was no temple at the site. The present Kashi Vishwanath Temple was built in the 18th century by Rani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, immediately to the south of the mosque. 

    Gyanvapi Mosque-Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Timeline of Dispute

    • The Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath dispute first reached the courts in 1991, when a petition sought the removal of the mosque from the site and the transfer of possession of the land to the Hindu community.
    • The petitioners claimed that Maharaja Vikramaditya had built the temple more than 2,000 years ago and that the mosque was only constructed in 1664 after Mughal ruler Aurangzeb ordered the demolition of the temple.
    • The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which manages the Gyanvapi mosque complex, had said the Gyanvapi mosque is a Waqf property. They argued that the plea was not maintainable under the Places of Worship Act 1991 which prohibits conversion of any place of worship and mandates the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.
    • The legal suit coincided with the peak of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue in Ayodhya. 
    • Interestingly, the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi mosque complex featured as one of the three religious sites the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) wanted to “liberate” during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, along with Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid and the Shahi Idgah in Mathura.

    Source: IE

     

    Govt’s New GST Compliance Measures

    Syllabus: GS3/ Indian Economy & Related Issues

    In News

    • Government recently undertook two significant measures to curb tax evasion and increase compliance under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime
      • Lowering the threshold for businesses to generate e-invoice for business-to-business (B2B) transactions, from Rs 10 crore to Rs 5 crore, and 
      • Rolleing out the automated return scrutiny module for GST returns in a backend application for central tax officers.

    More about the news

    • The ‘Automated return scrutiny module’:
      • This will enable the officers to scrutinise GST returns of centre-administered taxpayers selected on the basis of data analytics and risks identified by the system.
        • Discrepancies on account of risks associated with a return will be displayed to the tax officers. 
        • They will interact with the taxpayers through the GSTN common portal for communication of discrepancies noticed in returns and subsequent action in form of either issuance of an order of acceptance of reply or issuance of show cause notice or initiation of audit/investigation.
      • The automated return scrutiny module has already commenced with the scrutiny of GST returns for FY 2019-20, with the requisite data already with the tax officers.
    • Changes changes for e-invoicing:
      • At present, businesses with turnover of Rs 10 crore and above are required to generate e-invoice for all B2B transactions.
      • 37th meeting of GST Council:
        • The GST Council in its 37th meeting in September 2019 had approved the standard of e-invoice with the primary objective to enable interoperability across the entire GST ecosystem
          • Under this, a phased implementation was proposed to ensure a common standard for all invoices, that is, an e-invoice generated by one software should be capable of being read by any other software and through machine readability, an invoice can then be uniformly interpreted.
      • New compliance:
        • The government now has lowered the threshold for businesses to generate e-invoice for business-to-business (B2B) transactions to Rs 5 crore from Rs 10 crore under GST. 
          • The changes will come into effect from August 1.

    Significance

    • Amid rising instances of GST frauds and cases of fake invoices, these changes are expected to broaden the compliance mandate for more businesses, especially small and medium enterprises 
    • The measures are also expected to help boost the GST revenue collections.
    • With a uniform invoicing system, the tax authorities are able to pre-populate the return and reduce the reconciliation issues.

    Challenges

    • While the reduction in the e-invoicing threshold is seen as an important factor for boosting GST revenue collections and checking frauds, it will also increase compliance requirements for smaller businesses.
      • Industry needs to ensure that any vendor supplying goods or services and crossing the threshold turnover of Rs 5 crore is necessarily issuing an e-invoice from August 2023 to avoid any dispute with respect to availability of input tax credit.

    About the Goods and Service Tax (GST)

    • About:
      • Goods and Services Tax is an indirect tax used in India on the supply of goods and services.
      • It is a value-added tax levied on most goods and services sold for domestic consumption.
      • It was launched in India in 2017 as a comprehensive indirect tax for the entire country.
      • It is a comprehensive, multistage, destination-based tax– 
        • Comprehensive because it has subsumed almost all the indirect taxes except a few state taxes. 
      • It is paid by the consumers and is remitted to the government by the businesses selling the goods and services.
    • It is of three types i.e. 
      • CGST to be levied by the Centre, 
      • SGST to be levied by the States and 
      • IGST a tax levied on all Inter-State supplies of goods and/or services.  
        • All these taxes are levied at rates mutually agreed upon by the Centre and the States. 
    • Governance:
      • The GST Council headed by the Union Finance Minister is the governing and key decision-making body for GST. 
    • Significance of GST:
      • Better Compliance: 
        • GST helped in achieving better tax compliance by subsuming multiple taxation and reduction in taxation burden in the last four years.
      • Automated tax ecosystem: 
        • It helped the country in transitioning to an automated indirect tax ecosystem. From electronic compliances, generation of e-invoices to tracking movement of goods through e-waybill – everything is now online
      • E-invoice & More Revenue: 
        • The E-invoicing system helped reduce fake invoicing. Use of technology with online bill generation has resulted in smoother consignment movement and much fewer disputes with officials. After the introduction of E-invoice, GST collections have risen steadily since November 2020, surpassing the Rs. 1 lakh crore mark on several occasions.
      • Logistical efficiency, production cost cut: 
        • Another major achievement of this regime is the fact that over 50% of logistics effort and time is saved since GST has ensured the removal of multiple checkpoints and permits at state border checkpoints. 
      • Lesser transaction costs: 
        • After the introduction of GST, there has been a significant reduction in transaction costs. This reduction has been a huge breakthrough in the interstate movement of products, allowing the country to boast of a single national unified market for businesses. 
      • Cooperative Federalism: 
        • The customs portals are linked with the GST portal for credit availing on imports constitution of the GST Council and ensuring Centre-State partnership in the decision-making process. It ensured cooperative federalism to be its major part.
      • Ease of doing business: 
        • India’s ease of doing business ranking has improved significantly in the last four years. Before GST was implemented, India’s Ease of Doing Business ranking was 130 in 2016. In 2020, India was ranked 63rd on the list.
      • More Freedom: 
        • Since the GST rate is the same across the country for a particular supply, traders and manufacturers in the organised sectors have gained more freedom to choose the best vendors, suppliers, and other stakeholders with better pricing, regardless of their location. 
      • Improved Competitiveness: 
        • GST has improved the competitiveness of domestic industries in the international market by removing hidden and embedded taxes. 

    Source: IE

    California Anti-Caste Bill (SB 403)

    Syllabus: GS2/ International Relation

    In News

    • The California Senate has passed the SB 403 Bill, a legislation seeking to explicitly ban caste discrimination

    Caste, Varna and Jati

    • Caste is an institution uniquely associated with the Indian sub-continent. 
    • The English word ‘caste’ is actually a borrowing from the Portuguese casta, meaning pure breed. In Indian languages, this word is referred to by two distinct terms, Varna and Jati. 
    • Varna refers to a broad four-fold division of society into brahmana, kshatriya, Vaishya and shudra. This excludes a significant section of the population composed of the ‘outcastes’, sometimes refered to as the panchamas or fifth category. 
    • Jati refers to the regional or local sub-classification of this broad four-fold division into hundreds or even thousands of castes and sub-castes.

    Caste discrimination in U.S

    • Ambedkar once wrote that “if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem.” 
    • Indian Americans are the second-largest immigrant group in the US. According to data from the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS), which is conducted by the US Census Bureau, there are 4.2 million people of Indian origin residing in the United States.
    • A 2020 study conducted among Indian Americans by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that roughly half of the Hindu respondents identified with a caste group.
    • In the U.S., caste has long been a sensitive and controversial issue as it stands directly in opposition to the myth that the Indian diaspora is a “model minority”—a group of well-educated and hard-working immigrants who assimilate seamlessly into the country.
    • A survey conducted by Dalit rights organization Equality Labs in 2018 found that one in four Dalits had faced verbal or physical assault, while two out of every three faced caste discrimination at work. In 2020, California regulators sued tech giant Cisco Systems Inc for allowing caste-based harassment. 

    California SB 403 Bill

    • A similar bill is being introduced in the State House of Representatives, before it can be sent to the Governor to be signed into a law. The law would make California the first US State to add caste as a protected category in its anti-discrimination laws. 
    • The bill adds caste as a protected category to an existing law, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which provides that all people in California are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments.
    • The bill provides explicit protections to those who have been systemically harmed due to caste bias and prejudice. 
    • It also provides firm legal consequences for those seeking to avoid responsibility or ramifications for permitting or participating in caste discrimination and caste-based violence.

    Other anti-caste discrimination policies in the U.S.

    • This law is an extension of a similar trend that has been observed in college campuses across the US. Several universities in the U.S., including Harvard, Brown and California State University, have added the caste criteria to its anti-discrimination policies.
    • Earlier this year, Seattle became the first US city to outlaw caste discrimination.

    Arguments in favour of California Bill

    • All of the inequalities associated with Caste status have become embedded into mainstream American institutions which have significant South Asian immigrant populations.
    • Till now in California, caste “was not an explicitly protected class”. The human rights authorities were unable to investigate a complaint based solely on caste discrimination. Caste discrimination should be recognised even if it is experienced by “just a small population”.

    Arguments against California Bill

    • Many Hindu organisations across the US opposed this move on the ground that it could put the Hindu Community under more legal scrutiny, generate more anti-Hindu discrimination and could dissuade employers from hiring South Asians.
    • They also argued that proper research has not been done before the resolution was passed.

    Caste discrimination in India

    • According to the Census (2011), there are an estimated 20 crore Dalits in India. 
    • Article 15 of the Constitution lays down that no citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. 
    • To address the social discrimination that arose out of the practice of untouchability, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 was enacted, recognising Hindu Dalits as Scheduled Castes, later amended to include Dalits who had converted to Sikhism and Buddhism. 
    • The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 was passed to end untouchability. 
    • The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was enacted to prevent atrocities against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
    • In 2021, 50,900 cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes (SCs) were registered, an increase of 1.2% over 2020 (50,291 cases), according to National Crime Records Bureau data. 

    California

    • California is a state in the Western United States.
    • California borders Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, the Mexican state of Baja California to the south; and it has a coastline along the Pacific Ocean to the west.
    • The state’s extremely diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east to the Mojave Desert in the southeast.
    • It is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area.
    • Sacramento is the state’s capital, while Los Angeles is the most populous city in the state.

    Source: TH

    LIBOR

    Syllabus: GS3/Indian Economy & related issues

    In News

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) asked banks & RBI-regulated entities to take steps to ensure a complete transition away from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) from July 01, 2023.
      • Banks and private companies were using LIBOR as the benchmark rate for raising funds abroad. It was a key benchmark for setting the interest rates charged on adjustable-rate loans, mortgages and corporate debt.

    What is LIBOR?

    • LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate.
    • An interest rate average submitted by leading UK banks, it is a benchmark rate against which global lenders currently mark their transactions.
    • It acts as a benchmark for short-term interest rates. LIBOR is administered by the Intercontinental Exchange or ICE. 
    • It is computed for five currencies with seven different maturities ranging from overnight to a year. The five currencies for which LIBOR is computed are Swiss franc, euro, pound sterling, Japanese yen and US dollar.

    Why is LIBOR being phased out?

    • Because of the role it played in worsening the 2008 Financial Crisis, as well as scandals involving LIBOR manipulation among rate-setting banks. 
    • In 2012, investigations into the way LIBOR was set uncovered a widespread, long-lasting scheme among multiple banks to manipulate rates for profit.
    • LIBOR became more vulnerable to short-term market illiquidity and amplification of price moves that could cause systemic risks.
    • Secured overnight financing rate (SOFR) is being widely used as a substitute for LIBOR across the world.

    Source: IE