UPSC CA: 2nd September 2020

IRDAI sets up panel on index-linked life products

Context:

  • A six-member working group on index-linked products has been constituted by Insurance regulator Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI).

Key points:

  • Current IRDAI product regulations do not specifically permit insurers to sell index-linked products.
  • As of now, in Ulips, one may invest in any of the fund options representing various asset classes such as equity or debt. However, the funds are actively managed by a fund manager and are benchmarked to an index.
  • In an index-linked fund, there is no role of the fund manager.
  • The investments in the index fund mirror the index that it tracks in the same weightage as per the index.
  • The fund management charges, therefore, are very low in them compared to actively-managed funds.

AGR dues have to be paid: SC

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has allowed telecom companies a reasonable time of a decade to pay their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues to the government in equal yearly instalments.

Key points:

  • An October 2019 judgment of the court in the AGR issue originally wanted the telcos to make the repayments in three months.
  • The decision was made taking into consideration the financial stress and the involvement of the banking sector.

AGR issue:

  • The telecom sector was liberalized under the National Telecom Policy, 1994 after which licenses were issued to companies in return for a fixed license fee.
  • To provide relief from fixed license fees, the government in 1999 gave an option to the licensees to migrate to the revenue sharing fee model. Under this, mobile telephone operators were required to share a percentage of their AGR with the government as annual license fee(LF) and spectrum usage charges (SUC).
  • DoT argued that AGR includes all revenues from both telecom and non-telecom services. The companies claimed that AGR should comprise just the revenue accrued from core services and not dividend, interest income or profit on the sale of any investment or fixed assets.
  • This contradiction over definition and the slowdown in the economy created huge financial liability under AGR rules throwing many telcos on the verge of collapse.

About AGR:

  • Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 percent and 8 percent respectively. 
  • Calculation of AGR:
    • As per DoT, the charges are calculated based on all revenues earned by a telco – including non-telecom related sources such as deposit interests and asset sales. Telcos, on their part, insist that AGR should comprise only the revenues generated from telecom services.

India, Russia to hold naval drills in Andaman Sea

In News:

  • India and Russia are scheduled to hold the bilateral naval exercise, Indra 2020, in the Andaman Sea.

Key points:

  • Amid high operational alert by the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to the ongoing stand-off with China in Ladakh, Indra 2020 will be held in the Andaman Sea, close to the strategic Strait of Malacca.
  • It comes just after India withdrew from the Kavkaz-2020 multinational exercise in Russia.

Naval Exercise Indra:

  • It is a bi-annual bilateral exercise which began in 2003.
  • India and Russia are the participating nations.
  • In July 2020, frontline warships of the Indian Navy conducted a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz strike group in the same area near the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) islands as it was transiting the Indian Ocean.
  • USS Nimitz was returning from the South China Sea through the Malacca Strait where it undertook freedom of navigation operations.

‘Project NETRA’

Key points:

  • Project NETRA – Network for space object Tracking and Analysis is an early warning system of ISRO, launched in 2019.
  • It aims for early warning in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.
  • Under the project, the ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities such as
    • Connected radars,
    • Telescopes,
    • Data processing units
    • Control center.
  • The project will give India its own capability in Space Situational Awareness (SSA) like the other space powers which is used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites.
  • NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.
  • The effort would make India a part of international efforts towards tracking, warning about and mitigating space debris.

Ivory seized in Odisha

In News:

  • The Odisha Forest Department has seized ivory in Keonjhar district and intensified its investigation into the network of wildlife poachers and traders in the State.

Elephant Mortality on the rise:

  • According to the Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) – an environmental pressure group, elephant mortality rate is rising alarmingly as the average percentage deaths per year had shot up to 78% since 2010, compared with 33% from 1990 to 2000, and 46% from 2000 to 2010.
  • While 463 elephant deaths were recorded during the period 2000 to 2010, the number rose sharply to 784 elephant deaths in the period 2010 to 2020.
  • It was concluded that nearly 50% of the elephant mortality in Odisha is unnaturally caused.

Manufacturing activity returns to expansion in August: PMI

Context:

  • Manufacturing activity has re-entered the growth territory in August 2020, according to a monthly survey.

Key points:

  • Seasonally-adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose from 46 in July to 52 in August, signalling an improvement in operating conditions across the manufacturing sector following four consecutive months of contraction.
  • The growth is driven by a rebound in production volumes and new work, amid an improvement in customer demand following the resumption of business operations.