CAO Daily Editorial analysis for UPSC IAS 30-November, 2017

Current Affairs Only Daily Editorial Analysis for Competitive Exams


30 November, 2017

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Cryptocurrencies here to stay {Digitalization}

(The Hindu)


Growth rate of Bitcoin

Bitcoin saw its value trading at above $10,000 (about Rs. 6.43 lakh) per bitcoin, up by about 900% from its value on January 1, 2017.

At a time when the Indian government is in the process of determining the legality of cryptocurrencies, it is important to understand what exactly a virtual currency means for the layman.

What is bitcoin?


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  • Bitcoin is a digital currency created in 2009. It follows the ideas set out in a white paper by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity has yet to be verified.
  • Bitcoin offers the promise of lower transaction fees than traditional online payment mechanisms and is operated by a decentralized authority, unlike government-issued currencies. Today’s market cap for all bitcoin (abbreviated BTC or, less frequently, XBT) in circulation exceeds $7 billion.
  • There are no physical bitcoins, only balances kept on a public ledger in the cloud, that – along with all Bitcoin transactions – is verified by a massive amount of computing power. Bitcoins are not issued or backed by any banks or governments, nor are individual bitcoins valuable as a commodity. Despite its not being legal tender, Bitcoin charts high on popularity, and has triggered the launch of other virtual currencies collectively referred to as Altcoins.

Is it legal in India?

At the moment, the Reserve Bank of India has banned transactions in India using cryptocurrencies. In other words, while you can buy and sell cryptocurrencies on online exchanges, you can’t use them to pay for goods and services within the country.

Way forward

The only way to regulate their value and quantity is for central banks to issue their own digital currencies. While the value of digital currencies such as bitcoin are market-determined, depending on what somebody is willing to pay, a central bank-backed digital currency will have its value controlled to an extent by the central bank itself, much like any other major currency in the world.

How Bitcoin Works?

  • Bitcoin is one of the first digital currencies to use peer-to-peer technology to facilitate instant payments. The independent individuals and companies who own the governing computing power and participate in the Bitcoin network, also known as “miners,” are motivated by rewards (the release of new bitcoin) and transaction fees paid in bitcoin.
  • These miners can be thought of as the decentralized authority enforcing the credibility of the Bitcoin network. New bitcoin is being released to the miners at a fixed, but periodically declining rate, such that the total supply of bitcoins approaches 21 million.
  • One bitcoin is divisible to eight decimal places (100 millionth of one bitcoin), and this smallest unit is referred to as a Satoshi. If necessary, and if the participating miners accept the change, Bitcoin could eventually be made divisible to even more decimal places.

Against gender rights {Rights Issues}

(The Hindu)


Context

The decision to re-introduce the 2016 Bill on transgender rights makesa mockery of democratic norms

In news

The transgender community and its allies have erupted in anger over the decision of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to re-introduce the original Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 in the winter session of Parliament.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016

  • The Bill defines a transgender person as one who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male.  In addition, the person’s gender must not match the gender assigned at birth, and includes trans-men, trans-women, persons with intersex variations and gender-queers.
  • A transgender person must obtain a certificate of identity as proof of recognition of identity as a transgender person and to invoke rights under the Bill.
  • The Bill prohibits discrimination against a transgender person in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare.  It directs the central and state governments to provide welfare schemes in these areas.Such a certificate would be granted by the District Magistrate on the recommendation of a Screening Committee.  The Committee would comprise a medical officer, a psychologist or psychiatrist, a district welfare officer, a government official, and a transgender person.
  • Offences like compelling a transgender person to beg, denial of access to a public place, physical and sexual abuse, etc. would attract up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • The Supreme Court has held that the right to self-identification of gender is part of the right to dignity and autonomy under Article 21 of the Constitution.   However, objective criteria may be required to determine one’s gender in order to be eligible for entitlements.
  • The Bill states that a person recognised as ‘transgender’ would have the right to ‘self-perceived’ gender identity.  However, it does not provide for the enforcement of such a right.  A District Screening Committee would issue a certificate of identity to recognise transgender persons.
  • The definition of ‘transgender persons’ in the Bill is at variance with the definitions recognised by international bodies and experts in India.
  • The Bill includes terms like ‘trans-men’, ‘trans-women’, persons with ‘intersex variations’ and ‘gender-queers’ in its definition of transgender persons.  However, these terms have not been defined.
  • Certain criminal and personal laws that are currently in force only recognise the genders of ‘man’ and ‘woman’.  It is unclear how such laws would apply to transgender persons who may not identify with either of the two genders.

Time Line of the bill

  • The transgender community saw the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in NALSA v. Union of India as a victory, as it recognised that transgender persons have fundamental rights.
  • The judgment was followed by a private member’s Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, which was unanimously passed in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Instead of introducing it in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry uploaded its own Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015, on its website in December for public comments.
  • The 2015 Bill, which was largely based on the 2014 Bill, did away with the national and State commissions for transgender persons and transgender rights courts.
  • The Bill was fairly progressive since it granted a transgender person the right to be identified as a ‘man’, ’woman’ or ‘transgender’. However, the 2016 Bill, that was finally introduced in the Lok Sabha, came as a shock.

The committee report

The standing committee invited public comments and thereafter held multiple rounds of consultations.

Its report, released on July 22, 2017, criticised the 2016 Bill for its stark deficiencies and recommended re-drafting the definition of a ‘transgender person’ to make it inclusive and accurate; providing for the definition of discrimination and setting up a grievance redress mechanism to address cases of discrimination; and granting reservations to transgender persons.


 The worst may be over for the Indian economy {Economy}

(LiveMint)


 Context

India’s GDP growth rate is seen rebounding to 6.4% in the September quarter, as the disruptive effects of demonetisation and GST rollout fade..

In news

India’s economic growth is set to rebound after decelerating to 5.7% in the quarter ended June, the slowest pace in three years, as the disruptive effects of the withdrawal of high-value banknotes in November 2016 and the 1 July switch to the goods and services tax (GST) fade

GDP numbers

A pick-up in consumer demand is necessary to boost growth at a time when government spending is slowing and investment demand is not showing any signs of a pick-up, owing to impaired balance sheets in both the corporate and banking sectors.

The most pessimistic forecasts are for growth to rebound. Rabobank, which had correctly predicted the June quarter’s 5.7% number, has forecast GDP will expand 5.9% for the three months ended September. Wells Fargo has predicted an optimistic 7.1%. The reasons for the foreseen growth recovery are many: a rise in industrial production and exports, restocking by businesses after the transition to GST and some major festivals that would have boosted consumer demand.

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