News Snippet

News 1: Panel moots gas pricing freedom from 2026

News 2: New digital lending norms kick in today

News 3: India’s core sector growth braked to 0.1% in October

News 4: 160-200 mn Indians could be exposed to lethal heat waves annually – World Bank Report

News 5: SC seeks Centre’s response on evolving a programme to protect Great Indian Bustard

News 6: India-U.S. exercise near LAC irks China

News 7: Why constitutional validity of J&K Reorganisation Act clause went unchallenged – SC

News 8: Kerala’s man-animal conflict mitigation team selected for Wildlife Trust of India award

News 9: Kerala Cabinet allows Bill to remove Governor as Chancellor

News 10: Are ransomware attacks increasing in India?

News 11: The Assam-Meghalaya border firing

Other important news:

  1. 100 monuments to be lit up to mark India’s G-20 Presidency

News 1: Panel moots gas pricing freedom from 2026


Background

A government-appointed gas price review panel led by Kirit Parikh on Wednesday, submitted its report to the government, recommending a floor and ceiling price for legacy fields and complete pricing freedom starting January 1, 2026.

Kirit Parikh gas price review panel

Currently, fields in deep sea or in high-temperature, high-pressure zones are governed by a different formula that includes an element of imported LNG cost, but the same is also subject to a ceiling.

“Such producers have marketing and pricing freedom which is constrained by an upper bound fixed by the government. We have suggested continuing with the cap for 3 years and giving total pricing freedom from Jan. 1, 2026, removing the cap,” Kirit Parikh said.

The panel also suggested including natural gas in the one-nation one-tax regime of GST by subsuming excise duty charged by the Centre and varying rates of VAT levied by State governments.


News 2: New digital lending norms kick in today


Background

The Reserve Bank’s modified guidelines on digital lending for customers who had taken loans prior to September 2 will come into force from December 1, 2022. The guidelines seek to protect customers from unethical loan recovery practices.

New digital lending norms

In order to ensure a smooth transition, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had given time till November 30 to Regulated Entities (REs) to put in place adequate systems and processes to ensure compliance of the guidelines for digital loans sanctioned before September 2.

As per an RBI circular, the digital loan providers were required to comply with the modified norms for all new loans from September 2.

Under the new norms, all loan disbursals and repayments are required to be executed only between the bank accounts of the borrower and regulated entities (such as banks and NBFCs) without any pass-through / pool account of the Lending Service Providers (LSPs).

“Any fees, charges, etc, payable to LSPs in the credit intermediation process shall be paid directly by RE and not by the borrower”, the RBI said while conveying the regulatory stance.

Guidelines applicable to different types of Regulated Entities

All Commercial Banks

Primary (Urban) Co-operative Banks

State Co-operative Banks

District Central Co-operative Banks

Non-Banking Financial Companies (including Housing Finance Companies)

Digital Lending

A remote and automated lending process, largely by use of seamless digital technologies for customer acquisition, credit assessment, loan approval, disbursement, recovery, and associated customer service.

Digital Lending Apps/Platforms (DLAs)

Mobile and web-based applications with user interface that facilitate digital lending services. DLAs will include apps of the Regulated Entities (REs) as well as those operated by Lending Service Providers (LSPs) engaged by REs for extending any credit facilitation services in conformity with extant outsourcing guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank.

Lending Service Provider (LSP)

An agent of a Regulated Entity who carries out one or more of lender’s functions or part thereof in customer acquisition, underwriting support, pricing support, servicing, monitoring, recovery of specific loan or loan portfolio on behalf of REs in conformity with extant outsourcing guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank.

How new guidelines on digital lending will help stakeholders

 With steadily increasing demand, the fintech market was valued at $50 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach around $160 billion by 2025. 

One of the major trends in the fintech sector is digital lending, which has increased significantly in the previous two years with the market projected to be worth $350 billion by the financial year 2023 from $150 billion in the financial year 2020.

 However, the number of conflicts between lenders and borrowers has also increased with the passage of time due to various technical and ethical issues.

RBI’s recent guidelines on digital lending are not only to safeguard customers’ rights but they are aimed to establish a more fruitful financial landscape in the digital world.

Apart from promoting an innovative culture of digital lending in India, the newly issued guidelines are expected to encourage digital lenders for fierce but fair market competition.

But the most significant or favourable change as per the new guidelines is the direct disbursal of the loan amount, i.e., from the lender’s account to the beneficiary’s account, without any third-party involvement.

The other imperative guidelines issued by RBI mandatorily provide a ‘Key Fact Statement’ or KFS to the borrower, all loans must be reported to the bureaus, Lending Service Providers (LSPs) have to charge customers fees from the regulated entity (REs) only and not directly from customers, and a special emphasis on customers’ data privacy.


News 3: India’s core sector growth braked to 0.1% in October


Background

India’s eight core sectors’ output growth virtually ground to a halt in October, slowing sharply to just 0.1%, from 7.8% in September, with cement and refinery products slipping into contraction and electricity generation rising a mere 0.4%.

Weak performance

Economists reckoned October saw the weakest core sector performance since February 2021, partly driven by base effects.

Index of core Industries

The Index of Core Industries, which constitutes about 40% of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), was unchanged month-on-month at 138, signalling a flat sequential trend.

While the data signal weakening activity, last October’s high base of 8.7% growth also had a role, said Bank of Baroda chief economist Madan Sabnavis.


News 4: 160-200 million Indians could be exposed to lethal heat waves annually – World Bank Report


Background

From 2030, 160 million to 200 million people can be exposed to lethal heatwaves in India every year, and nearly 34 million Indians will face job losses due to heat stress-related productivity decline.

By 2037, the demand for cooling is likely to be eight times more than the current level, the World Bank has said in a report.

Findings of the Report

According to the report, “Climate investment opportunities in India’s cooling sector”, this could open an investment opportunity of $1.6 trillion by 2040, besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly and creating 3.7 million jobs.

With the demand for cooling shooting up, there will be a demand for a new air-conditioner every 15 seconds, the report said, leading to an expected rise of 435% in annual greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades.

Thus, there is a need to shift to a more energy-efficient pathway which could lead to a reduction in expected CO2 levels.

The report proposes a road map to support New Delhi’s India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), 2019, through new investments in three major sectors: building construction, cold chains and refrigerants.

Adopting climate-responsive cooling techniques as a norm in both private and government-funded constructions can ensure that those at the bottom of the economic ladder are not disproportionately affected by rising temperatures.

The report suggests that India’s affordable housing programme for the poor, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), can adopt such changes on scale.

It proposed enacting a policy for “district cooling”, which could lead to the consumption of 20-30% less power than the most efficient conventional cooling solutions.

District cooling technologies generate chilled water in a central plant which is then distributed to buildings via underground insulated pipes. This brings down the cost for providing cooling to individual buildings.

Apart from this, guidelines for implementation of local and city-wide urban cooling measures such as cool-roofs should also be considered. “India’s cooling strategy can help save lives and livelihoods and reduce carbon emissions.

India Cooling Action Plan

Launched: 2019

Ministry: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

Cooling requirement is cross sectoral and an essential part for economic growth and is required across different sectors of the economy such as residential and commercial buildings, cold-chain, refrigeration, transport and industries.

The Environment Minister said that the thrust of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) is to look for synergies in actions for securing both environmental and socio-economic benefits. 

The India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) provides an integrated vision towards cooling across sectors encompassing inter alia reduction of cooling demand, refrigerant transition, enhancing energy efficiency and better technology options with a 20 year time horizon.

The India Cooling Action seeks to

(i)            reduce cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25% by 2037-38,

(ii)          reduce refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by 2037-38,

(iii)         Reduce cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by 2037-38

(iv)         Recognize “cooling and related areas” as a thrust area of research under national S&T Programme

(v)          Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by 2022-23, synergizing with Skill India Mission.

The following benefits would accrue to the society over and above the environmental benefits:

(i)            Thermal comfort for all – provision for cooling for EWS and LIG housing,

(ii)          Sustainable cooling – low GHG emissions related to cooling

(iii)         Doubling Farmers Income – better cold chain infrastructure – better value of produce to farmers, less wastage of produce

(iv)         Skilled workforce for better livelihoods and environmental protection

(v)          Make in India – domestic manufacturing of air-conditioning and related cooling equipment’s

(vi)         Robust R&D on alternative cooling technologies – to provide push to innovation in cooling sector.

Cooling is also linked to human health and productivity. Linkages of cooling with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are well acknowledged. The cross-sectoral nature of cooling and its use in development of the economy makes provision for cooling an important developmental necessity.


News 5: SC seeks Centre’s response on evolving a programme to protect Great Indian Bustard


Background

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought the government’s response about evolving a “Project Great Indian Bustard” conservation programme like the Project Tiger to bring attention to the peril faced by the critically endangered bird.

Deaths of Great Indian Bustard

The court is hearing a series of petitions highlighting the numerous deaths of Great Indian Bustards due to power transmission lines criss-crossing their habitat in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Expert panel

In its order, the Special Bench, including Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, directed the Chief Secretaries of Gujarat and Rajasthan to undertake and complete a comprehensive exercise within four weeks to find out the total length of the transmission lines in question and the number of bird diverters required in the priority areas of the birds’ habitats.

Great Indian Bustard

Conservation and Protection

Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972

CMS Convention – Appendix I

CITES – Appendix I

IUCN status – Critically Endangered

Great Indian bustard - Wikipedia

National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016)

Historically, the great Indian bustard was distributed throughout Western India, spanning 11 states, as well as parts of Pakistan. Its stronghold was once the Thar desert in the north-west and the Deccan plateau of the peninsula. Today, its population is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. Small population occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. 

It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

Threats

Hunting, which is still prevalent in Pakistan.

Occasional poaching outside Protected Areas

Collisions with high tension electric wires, fast moving vehicles and free-ranging dogs in villages

Habitat loss and alteration as a result of widespread agricultural expansion and mechanized farming, infrastructural development such as irrigation, roads, electric poles, as well as mining and industrialization.

While the GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent, it has now shrunk to just 10 per cent of that. Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats.

The terrestrial birds spend most of their time on the ground, feeding on insects, lizards, grass seeds, etc. GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.


News 6: India-U.S. exercise near LAC irks China


Background

China on Wednesday said it had expressed its concern to India over the joint India-U.S. military exercise, Yudh Abhyas, being conducted in Uttarakhand, about 100 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“The joint military exercise between India and the U.S. close to the LAC at the China-India border violates the spirit of the agreements signed between India and China in 1993 and 1996. It does not serve the mutual trust between India and China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing.

China’s concerns about the Yudh Abhyas exercise

China seeks to “prevent” tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from pushing India “to partner more closely” with the U.S. and has warned American officials “not to interfere” with its relationship with India, the U.S. Department of Defence said in its latest report.

Interests of China in matters of border instability

“Throughout the stand-off [which began in 2020], PRC [People’s Republic of China] officials sought to downplay the severity of the crisis, emphasising Beijing’s intent to preserve border stability and prevent the stand-off from harming other areas of its bilateral relationship with India,” the China military power report 2022, which was submitted to the U.S. Congress, said.

The report said that over the course of 2021, and as seen in 2022, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) increasingly turned to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as “an instrument of statecraft in support of its national strategy and global ambitions”, while also highlighting that the PLA had “adopted more dangerous, coercive and aggressive actions” in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Differing perceptions of border demarcations along the LAC combined with recent infrastructure construction, led to multiple unarmed clashes, an ongoing stand-off, and military build-ups on both sides of the India-China border,” it said.

Galwan Valley Clash

Further, referring to the violent Galwan Valley clash of June 2020, which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese personnel, the report said the Western Theatre Command conducted large-scale mobilisation and deployment of PLA forces.

The report said that each country demanded the withdrawal of the other’s forces and a return to the pre-stand-off conditions, but neither China nor India agreed to the conditions.


News 7: Why constitutional validity of J&K Reorganisation Act clause went unchallenged – SC


Background

The Supreme Court on Wednesday quizzed petitioners about the reason for not challenging the constitutional validity of a specific provision in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act which gives the Delimitation Commission the power to “carry out” the readjustment of constituencies in the Union Territory formed after the dilution of Article 370 in the erstwhile State.

Hearings of the matter

Justice Oka said the notifications drew their power specifically from Section 62(2) of the 2019 Act. Section 62(2) provides for the readjustment of constituencies to be carried out by the Delimitation Commission.

The court asked why the petitioners without challenging the source of the government’s notifications, that is Section 62(2), had confined their challenge solely to the notifications.

The petitioners, represented by senior advocate Ravi Shankar Jandhyala and advocates Sriram Parakkat and M.S. Vishnu Shankar, argued that only the Election Commission (EC), under Section 60 of the 2019 Act, was empowered to conduct the delimitation exercise.

They further argued before the Bench that Article 170 of the Constitution barred delimitation exercise on the basis of the 2011 census. It had to either happen on the basis of 2001 census or await “the first census after the year 2026”, they argued.

The petitioners alleged that Sections 60 and 61 of the 2019 Act, which defined the role of the EC in the process of delimitation, were in contradiction to Section 62.

View of the Government

The government has countered that there were two alternative mechanisms to carry out delimitation for J&K. By virtue of Sections 60-61, while the power to determine delimitation was conferred on the EC, Section 62(2) and 62(3) conferred powers to carry out delimitation on the Commission.


News 8:  Kerala’s man-animal conflict mitigation team selected for Wildlife Trust of India award


Background

An eight-member team from Chinnakkanal that comes under the Munnar forest division, which has been instrumental in bringing down the incidents of man-animal conflict in the region, has won recognition for its efforts.

Taking note of its contributions in mitigating man-animal conflicts as well as in ensuring the protection of wild elephants over the past eight months, the Wildlife Trust of India has selected the team for its award this year.

Wildlife Trust of India

Established: 1998

Headquarters: Noida, Uttar Pradesh

Type: Charitable trust

WTI was formed, as a response to the rapidly deteriorating condition of wildlife in India.


News 9: Kerala Cabinet allows Bill to remove Governor as Chancellor


Background

The Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday approved the draft Bill removing Governor Arif Mohammed Khan as Chancellor of the State universities after recurrent and politically charged run-ins with Raj Bhavan over matters relating to the administration of centres of higher learning.

Bill to supplant Governor as Chancellor

Instead, the Bill proposes supplanting the Governor with eminent academicians as Chancellors of various universities. The Bill, if passed, will, at a stroke, negate the Governor’s watchdog role in university administration and accord the government more leeway in appointing Chancellors of its choice.

The proposed legislation also aspires to amend the statutes of 14 universities. The Bill caps a season of taut political theatre following the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the KTU Vice-Chancellor’s appointment.

Mr. Khan had sought the resignations of 11 other Vice-Chancellors on the ground that the government had appointed them through the same process deemed unlawful by the apex court.

However, the government took a contrarian view and held it was legally anomalous to apply the Supreme Court ruling in an individual case broadly.


News 10: Are ransomware attacks increasing in India?


Background

On November 23, e-services at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) were crippled by what is being suspected to be a ransomware attack.

The Delhi Police’s Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Operations have registered a case and launched investigations to identify the perpetrators, while cyber security experts are employing software tools for data recovery.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software, used by cyber criminals, to infect a computer system by blocking access to the stored data by encrypting the files. A ransom is then demanded from the owner in exchange for the decryption key.

While it is not yet clear as to how exactly the AIIMS computer systems were targeted, the malware may usually be injected remotely by tricking the user into downloading it upon clicking an ostensibly safe web link sent via email or other means, including hacking.

It can spread throughout the network by exploiting existing vulnerabilities. Ransomware attacks can also be accompanied by theft of sensitive data for other sinister motives.

How serious are ransomware attacks?

Cybersecurity firm Trellix, in its third-quarter global report, has identified 25 major ransomwares in circulation.

According to the Interpol’s first-ever Global Crime Trend report presented at its 90th General Assembly meeting in Delhi this October, ransomware was the second highest-ranking threat after money laundering, at 66%. It is also expected to increase the most (72%).

Which agencies in India deal with cyber-attacks?

Set up in 2004, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is the national nodal agency that collects, analyses and circulates inputs on cyber-attacks; issues guidelines, advisories for preventive measures, forecasts and issues alerts; and takes measures to handle any significant cyber security event. It also imparts training to computer system managers.

The National Cyber Security Coordinator, under the National Security Council Secretariat, coordinates with different agencies at the national level on cybersecurity issues, while the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre has been set up for the protection of national critical information infrastructure.

According to the government, the Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) has been launched for detection of malicious software programmes and to provide free tools to remove the same, while the National Cyber Coordination Centre works on creating awareness about existing and potential threats.


News 11: The Assam-Meghalaya border firing


Background

A bid by the Assam police and forest personnel to catch alleged timber smugglers from Meghalaya led to the killing of six people at a place claimed by each State to be within its territory. 

Apart from heightening tensions along a stretch of the interstate boundary, the incident sparked protests and stray cases of violence in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong and a temporary suspension of vehicular movement between the two States. It also led to a delay in the process of resolving the Assam-Meghalaya boundary dispute.

What was the immediate fallout?

What seemed to be a local incident from far became fodder for pressure groups in poll-bound Meghalaya to rail against the Sangma-led coalition government for failing to protect border residents. 

Stray cases of arson, vandalisation of Assam-registered vehicles, and attacks on security personnel and civilians — mostly non-tribals — marked the protests in Shillong. For six days after the incident, Assam police restricted the movement of vehicles to Shillong and other parts of eastern Meghalaya for security reasons.

Tourism in Meghalaya was hit hard in a year it had recorded the highest number of footfalls with many tourists cancelling their trips and some cutting short their stay to get out of uncertainty. The complications arising out of the Mukroh incident also delayed the process of resolving the boundary dispute between the two States in the remaining six of the 12 sectors.

How is the boundary dispute linked to the incident?

Although the Assam government claims to the contrary, the fact that the two governments refer to the place of the incident by two names makes it apparent that the boundary dispute is intertwined. 

While Meghalaya says the place is Mukroh in West Jaintia Hills District, Assam claims it is Mukhrow or Moikrang in West Karbi Anglong district. The village is also very close to Block 1, one of the six dispute sectors that remain to be resolved. 

Whatsoever may be the dispute between the two States, the NHRC said the police have to use restraint in such situations and examine the standard operating procedure for firing by the armed forces in areas of a border dispute.

How did the boundary dispute start?

Meghalaya, carved out of Assam as an autonomous State in 1970, became a full-fledged State in 1972. The creation of the new State was based on the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969, which the Meghalaya government refused to accept. 

This was because the Act followed the recommendations of a 1951 committee to define the boundary of Meghalaya. On that panel’s recommendations, areas of the present-day East Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi and West Khasi Hills districts of Meghalaya were transferred to the Karbi Anglong, Kamrup (metro) and Kamrup districts of Assam.

 Meghalaya contested these transfers after statehood, claiming that they belonged to its tribal chieftains. Assam said the Meghalaya government could neither provide documents nor archival materials to prove its claim over these areas.

After claims and counter-claims, the dispute was narrowed down to 12 sectors on the basis of an official claim by Meghalaya in 2011.


Other important news


100 monuments to be lit up to mark India’s G-20 Presidency

One hundred Centrally protected monuments will be illuminated for a week beginning Thursday when India assumes G-20 presidency for a year.

The monuments include Delhi’s Qutub Minar and Purana Qila, Fort Vellore in Tamil Nadu and the Golconda Fort in Hyderabad.

The other monuments on the list include the Sarnath and Dhamek stupas, Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra in Agra, the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram and the Charminar in Hyderabad.

The Jageshwar temple in Uttarakhand, the Hazarduari palace in Murshidabad in West Bengal and the Ancient Palace in Leh are also part of the list.


 

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