Exams In The Time of Corona

Giving exams in times of Covid-19

In wake of Coronavirus, board and college exams had been postponed in various states and students of primary and secondary were given promotions. The Central government and few State governments have declared rescheduled dates for board exams along with the guidelines to be followed. Ministry of Human Resource Development is even creating a framework for the post-Covid academic session.
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Crux of the Matter

HRD’s Declaration
Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) announced that final exams will be conducted in July. The government said the health and safety of students are of utmost priority and thus social distancing, masks, and sanitizers will be common practices for conducting exams. Moreover, students will be able to give exams from the district they are in rather than going to the exam center in another district.

If the situation does not improve by July then for then, new dates or modes of conducting exams can be thought about but the exam will take place for final year students.

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, HRD Minister

Following are some announcements made by Ministry of HRD:

  • Pending 10th and 12th boards exams to be conducted between 1-15 July
  • 1st-year college students may get promoted if exams not conducted till July
  • 2nd and 3rd- year students to get promotion on the basis of internal assessment (50%) and previous academic record (50%)
  • Final year college students have to appear for exams

However many students have raised concerns over conducting an exam during the pandemic. Some say that final exam is not possible with an incomplete syllabus. Furthermore, a lack of infrastructure to conduct and appear for an online exam is also a major concern. Delay in exams will also cause a delay in the issuance of Degrees.

Updates on Other Exams

  • JEE Mains and NEET to take place between 18-23 July, and JEE Advanced exams on 23 August
  • ~11 lakh students to appear for JEE mains
  • ~15 lakh students to appear for NEET
  • UPSC exam date to be announced on 5 June
  • CA exams to be conducted from 29 July to 16 August
  • SAT exam to be conducted in August, September, and October
  • GRE and GMAT have introduced home-based online exam under online surveillance of a trained human proctor from start to finish to maintain test security

Updates From Some States

  • Tamil Nadu board exams postponed to 15 June
  • Telangana SSC exams scheduled to begin from 8 June
  • Madhya Pradesh state board’s pending 12th board exams to be held between 9-15 June
  • West Bengal Higher Secondary Council and CISCE to conduct exam between 1-15 July
  • Uttarakhand state board to conduct remaining board exams of 10th and 12th after 15 June

HRD’s Post-Covid Proposal

  • 220 working days might come down to 100
  • Study hours at school: 600
  • Study hours at home: 600
  • Social distancing – 6ft distance – in classroom
  • Assessment components eased to quizzes, assignments, projects, presentations, role-play, games, etc.
  • Proposed attendance policy:
    • Standard 1 to 5 – 1-2 days/week
    • Standard 6 to 8 – 3-4 days/week
    • Standard 9 to 12 – 4-5 days/week

  • The University of the Third Age is an international movement whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community—those in their third ‘age’ of life. It is commonly referred to as U3A. U3A started in France at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Toulouse in 1973.
  • Ancient China was the first country in the world that implemented a nationwide standardized test, which was called the imperial examination. The main purpose of this examination was to select able candidates for specific governmental positions. The imperial examination was established by the Sui dynasty in 605 AD.
  • The design of the NCERT logo is taken from an Ashokan period relic of the 3rd century BCE. The intertwined swans symbolize the integration of the three aspects of the work of NCERT – Research and development, Training, and Extension. The motto has been taken from the Isha Upanishad and means ‘life eternal through learning’.

Aarogya Setu Goes Open Source

India's Covid-19 tracking app Aarogya Setu

Indian government amid concerns over the security of the Covid-19 tracking app Aarogya Setu, made it open source with the aim of bringing transparency and improvement in the app.
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Crux of the Matter

History of Aarogya Setu
The app’s motive is to monitor the live location and trace the travel history of the user. It also has the health record of the user. As per the Government, Aarogya Setu uses the live location and Bluetooth-based proximity to keep track of an individual. More than 100 million people have downloaded the app so far and 98 % of users use it on Android devices.

In a press release, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY) said that this app tracked around 9 lakh people related to Covid-19 positive cases and helped find 24% Covid-19 positive cases.

However, the app drew criticism and concerns over data security and Terms of Use from Cyberlaw activists and critics. Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) was at the forefront while addressing the issue. Software developers and experts demanded the government to allow reverse engineering of the app and to publish the source code of the app.

Government’s Action
The government responded to the concerns and have made the Aarogya Setu an open-source software. As of now, only the Android version of the app has been made open source. It is expected that next week the government will make iOS version of the app open source.

Open source means that anyone can open, analyze, change, and use the original code of the software without acquiring the license to do so to develop a separate derivative software. One just has to acknowledge the owner of the app or the original code. VLC media player, WordPress, Mozilla Firefox, etc are some of the open-source software.

The government has said that this is taken in order to promote transparency of the app. The government has also launched a bounty of ₹1 lakh for anyone who can find loopholes and vulnerabilities in the app.

Problem Solved?
By making the app open source, any software developer will be able to go through the code. The move is expected to help find vulnerabilities and loopholes in the app. One can address the problems by writing fresh codes or suggesting these to the government. Cyber experts have also demanded the government to release the server-side code of the app to address the issue effectively. Moreover, it is too early to say whether this move will address security and privacy concerns.

However, open sourcing the code can also be misused by miscreants in multiple ways. It can make any vulnerability easily transparent to the public at large. Also, others can make copycat apps that redirect user data to their servers.

Other Open Source Covid Tracking Apps

  • Czech Republic government’s Covid-19 tracking App eRouška (eFacemask)
  • Singapore’s TraceTogether Covid App
  • Austria’s Stopp Corona App
  • UK’s NHS COVID-19
  • Australia’s COVIDSafe App
  • A 2008 report by the Standish Group stated that the adoption of open-source software models has resulted in savings of about $60 billion per year for consumers.
  • A 1997 paper on analysis of the hacker community and free-software principles received significant attention in the early 1998 and was one factor in motivating Netscape Communications Corporation to release their popular Netscape Communicator Internet suite as free software. This source code subsequently became the basis behind SeaMonkey, Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird, and KompoZer.
  • Open Source for America is a group created to raise awareness in the United States Federal Government about the benefits of open-source software. Their stated goals are to encourage the government’s use of open-source software, participation in open-source software projects, and incorporation of open-source community dynamics to increase government transparency.

Cryptocurrency Gets Green Light In India

cryptocurrency bitcoin

Recent declaration by RBI cleared all confusions regarding legality of Cryptocurrency, as RBI announced that there is no prohibition on opening of bank accounts by Cryptocurrency traders.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Reversal
In March 2020, Supreme Court of India reversed RBI’s decision of 2018 of banning regulated financial intermediaries from using cryptocurrency. However, confusion lingered among potential investors. On the demand of a Right To Information (RTI) application, RBI announced that cryptocurrency traders can be allowed to open bank accounts.

While the Supreme Court ruling had made it very clear that there are no curbs on banking for crypto businesses, the RBI reply to RTI filing is very much welcome. There has been confusion amongst many banks despite the Supreme Court ruling because these banks have been waiting for information from RBI.

Nischal Shetty, CEO of WazirX

History Of Cryptocurrency In India

  • 2012-2013: Cryptocurrency comes in mainstream observation
  • 2013: RBI cautions of it and labels it “risky”
  • 2016: Exponential increase in its use after Demonetization
  • 2017: RBI repeats concerns of 2013, with the Finance Ministry expressing concern over safety and legality of transactions
  • 2018: RBI prohibits regulated financial institutions’ dealing with cryptocurrency
  • March 2020: SC legalizes Cryptocurrency, overturning RBI’s decision of 2018
  • May 2020: RBI Says “No Prohibition” on Banks allowing accounts to Cryptocurrency traders

Crypto Around The World

  • 2008: An anonymous paper by title “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” appeared
  • 2009: Bitcoin made available to public
  • 2011: Other cryptocurrencies appear – Namecoin, Litecoin, etc
  • 2013: Bitcoin prices crash after reaching 1 Bitcoin = $1,000
  • 2014: Bitcoin exchange Mt.Gox goes offline. Loss of $450 million
  • 2017: Japan passes law legalizing Bitcoin as payment method
  • 2020: India legalizes Cryptocurrency
  • Satoshi Nakamoto is the name used by the presumed pseudonymous person or persons who developed bitcoin, authored the bitcoin white paper, and created and deployed bitcoin’s original reference implementation. As part of the implementation, Nakamoto also devised the first blockchain database.
  • Libra is a permissioned blockchain digital currency proposed by the American social media company Facebook, Inc. The currency and network do not yet exist, and only a rudimentary experimental code has been released. The launch is planned to be later this year.
  • ZebPay is a cryptocurrency exchange and wallet provider headquartered in Singapore with a registered office in Australia. It is currently operational in over 163 countries, including India. In 2020, ZebPay was acquired by Rahul Pagidipati, who is currently serving as CEO, and relaunched in India with a new crypto-crypto trading feature.


Pulwama Redux Prevented By Indian Forces

  • Wanted terrorist Riyaz Naikoo was among the three militants killed in the intensified operations of the Indian security forces in south Kashmir early this week. The hiding terrorists were cornered in Pulwama’s Beigpora village when the operation was launched.
  • According to the 2011 census Pulwama district has a population of 560,440. This gives it a ranking of 537th in India (out of a total of 640). The literacy rate of the district is 63.54%.
  • In 1831’s Battle of Balakot, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army defeated Syed Ahmad Barelvi and his army. After 2019 Pulwama attacks, a JeM terrorist training camp in Balakot was bombed out by India warplanes

RBI’s New Banking Reforms

Covid-19 has crippled the global economy and it is inexorably headed to a recession wherein central banks have to answer the call to the frontline in defence of the economy. This crisis is likely to shift scenarios and provide new dimensions to the economies and bring banking reforms worldwide.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

India has a history of bringing in reforms during the periods of crisis and following the pandemic, the Reserve Bank Of India is making unprecedented monetary and regulatory banking reforms to provide relief and ensure liquidity funds flow to the affected sectors.

RBI reduced the repo rate by 40 basis points or 0.4% to 4%. The reverse repo rate stood at 3.35%. Moreover, it extended the moratorium on term loans by 3 more months till 31st August. RBI has announced other measures in four broad categories: Measures to Improve the Functioning of Markets, Measures to Support Exports and Imports, Measures to Ease Financial Stress, and Debt Management.

Firstly, a refinancing facility for Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) for funding requirements of the MSME and secondly, Investments by Foreign Portfolio Investors under the Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) shall offer operational flexibility in terms of instrument choices and certain regulatory exemptions. These market improvement measures are intended to ease constraints on market participants and channel liquidity to various sectors of the economy.

Under the second category, the RBI has increased the Export Credit from 9 months to 15 months and also provided an extension of time for payment for imports. Along with that, RBI will also be providing additional assistance and liquidity facility for Exim Bank Of India in order to promote international trade.

The third category is the most important as it will mitigate the burden of debt servicing, prevent the transmission of financial stress to the real economy, and ensure the continuity of viable businesses and households. RBI has permitted a 6-month moratorium on all term loan installments and it has also allowed a deferment of interest on Working capital facilities. The RBI will also undertake Long Term Repo Operations (LTRO) which will allow additional liquidity with the banks.

The central bank has further brought in changes in the Asset Classification, Resolution Timeline, and the Group Exposures under the Large Exposures Framework to ease financial stress. Finally, for effective debt management: guidelines have been relaxed in the Consolidated Sinking Fund (CSF) of state governments.

Global Financial Crisis of 2008
The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in the US unfolded the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. It was understood that there is a high amount of risks involved when banks give loans of the entire value for a property assuming that the cost will rise and it will be easily repaid. When a number of banks did so, the banking sector and the economy saw the consequent effects leading to the global crisis.

The Indian banking sector remained largely unaffected but India was compelled to shift its credit demand from external sources to the domestic banking sector. Even though India’s financial system was less developed at that time; it did face serious consequences as the crisis led to the sharp decline in exports and fall of GDP to 6.72% in 2008-09 from 9.32% in 2007-08, giving rise to the expansion of fiscal deficit and extensive Public sector lending.

Due to lack of a framework for bankruptcy, India faced a risk of a large private sector bank going bankrupt with no legal way of dealing with it other than to force a public sector bank to buy it out, an approach that generally weakens the banking system. A number of expert committees recommended banking reforms, changes in regulations, and new frameworks like the Indian Bankruptcy Code. However, following different political scenarios and the legislative framework they could not be brought in which lead to the crisis of NPAs.

NPA Crisis
The 2008 crisis laid the foundation for much of today’s non-performing loans which have plagued the Indian banking sector. A loan given by a bank is classified as a Non-Performing Asset (NPA) if the borrower has stopped making interest or principal repayments for over 90 days. As of 2018, the gross value of NPAs stands at Rs. 10.35 lakh crores, out of which 85% is of Public sector banks.

Post-crisis the public sector banks were under tremendous pressure to lend large amounts to steel, power, and infrastructure projects and the euphoric lending led to a rise in bad loans and the NPA crisis. A number of scams came to the forefront wherein businesses borrowed under shell companies to execute projects in other countries; later the foreign banks invoked guarantees and domestic banks were obligated to pay and they could never recover their money.

NPAs have lowered the bank’s profitability and made them vulnerable to adverse economic shocks and consequently put consumer deposits at risk. This also led to India’s Twin Balance Sheet problem, wherein both the borrower and lender i.e. corporate sector and banking sector come under financial stress.

Thus, to avoid the snowballing effects leading to insolvency and NPA crisis, liquidity management has been given a priority by the RBI while bringing back normalcy in financial markets post Covid-19.

  • The Reserve Bank of India, which was established on April 1, 1935 during the British Rule, modeled its official emblem after the double mohur of The East India Company. The logo originally featured a sketch of the Lion and Palm Tree but it was later decided to replace the lion with a tiger to represent India better.
  • Ex RBI governor, Raghuram Rajan predicted the 2008 financial crisis in 2005. In his 2005 paper titled ‘Has Financial Development Made the World Riskier?’, Rajan predicted that a financial crisis is in the making and going to hit the economy in the next 3-4 years.
  • The oldest continually operating bank in the world is Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which has been operating as a bank in Italy since 1472. The bank is on record as the first official bank in the world, although the practice of banking has been traced back for several centuries.