15 Apr 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

15 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. U.S. approves 2 missile deals with India
HEALTH
1. ‘117 mn children face measles risk’
C. GS 3 Related
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. ‘Yamuna cleaner due to lockdown’
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. Lockdown norms can’t be diluted: NDMA
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Survey of India maps add heft to Aarogya Setu app
ECONOMY
1. World economy to contract by 3%: IMF
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
HEALTH
1. The pandemic and the contours of a health response
ECONOMY
1. Economic liberalisation and its faults
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Halting the march of rumours
F. Prelims Facts
1. Lifeline Udan flights
2. Amid lockdown, hunters eye rhino horns
G. Tidbits
1. ICMR suggests testing of pooled samples
2. North Korea fires missiles ahead of elections in South
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

Category: HEALTH

1. ‘117 mn children face measles risk’

Context:

The United Nations has warned that around 117 million children worldwide risk contracting measles because dozens of countries are curtailing their vaccination programmes as they battle COVID-19.

Details:

  • Currently 24 countries, including several already dealing with large measles outbreaks, have suspended widespread vaccinations, the World Health Organisation and the UN’s children’s fund UNICEF said.
  • While vaccination has drastically reduced global measles deaths — a 73% drop between 2000-2018 worldwide — measles is still common in many developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia.

Measles:

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is a cause of death among young children globally.
  • Measles is also known as rubeola or red measles.
  • It is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus which causes rashes all over the body.
  • Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.

Prevention and control:

  • Routine measles vaccination for children combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with low routine coverage are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths.
  • Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles and rubella are targeted for elimination in five WHO Regions by 2020. WHO is the lead technical agency responsible for the coordination of immunization and surveillance activities supporting all countries to achieve this goal.

Category: DISASTER MANAGEMENT

1. Lockdown norms can’t be diluted: NDMA

Context:

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued an order under the Disaster Management Act directing the Chairman, National Executive Committee, that existing lockdown measures be continued to be implemented in all parts of the country till May 3, 2020.

Details:

  • The Home Ministry has issued an order to all States and UTs on the lockdown measures imposed.
  • According to the order, with the extension of the lockdown, all restrictions that have been imposed in various sectors, and on various activities, will continue to remain in force.
  • As per the orders issued by the MHA under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the States and Union Territories cannot dilute restrictions imposed via the guidelines.
  • The first set of such guidelines to be followed by States for “containment of COVID-19 epidemic” was issued on March 24, 2020 under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, invoked for the first time in the country.

Read more about Disaster Management in India.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Survey of India maps add heft to Aarogya Setu app

Context:

To complement the Aarogya Setu App (a government endorsed application that helps trace the contacts of those who may have been infected by COVID-19), the Survey of India (country’s apex map maker) has made public a trove of maps.

Benefits:

  • This could improve geospatial data.
  • It could help develop maps that could be customised to a variety of ‘COVID-related applications’ such as healthcare facilities, infection clusters and disaster management.
  • The platform is initially expected to strengthen the public health delivery system of the State and Central governments and subsequently provide the necessary geospatial information support to citizens and agencies dealing with the challenges related to health, socio-economic distress, and livelihood challenges.

Aarogya Setu App:

  • The mobile application has been customised to collect COVID-19 specific geospatial datasets through community engagement to augment the response activities by government to the pandemic.
  • It also helps the government trace contacts of those infected to execute quarantining.
  • Critics say that Aarogya Setu and applications like Sahyog that link to it, could infringe privacy as there wasn’t clarity on how data would be shared between the two applications.
  • However, the government has said that data would be collected only for managing the pandemic.

Category: ECONOMY

1. World economy to contract by 3%: IMF

Context:

As per the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO), the COVID-19 pandemic is having a severe effect on the world economy which is expected to contract by 3% in 2020, much worse than the 2008-09 financial crises.

WEO findings:

  • World growth rates have been revised downwards by more than six percentage points since the January WEO update.
  • The cumulative loss to global GDP over 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic crisis could be around $9 trillion, greater than the economies of Japan and Germany combined.
  • The global forecast is characterised by ‘extreme uncertainty,’ the IMF warned.
  • Emerging Asia is projected to be the only region that grows in 2020, at a rate of 1% — still more than 5 percentage points below the previous decade’s average.
  • In China, where the coronavirus’s impacts were first recorded this year, the first quarter economic activity could have contracted by 8% year-on-year. China is projected to grow at 1.2% in 2020 and 9.2% in 2021.
  • Assuming the pandemic fades in the second half of this year, with containment efforts gradually easing up, the world economy is projected to grow at 5.8% in 2021 as economic activity normalises, aided by policy, the IMF said.

India:

  • India’s growth is expected to dip to 1.9% in 2020 and rebound to 7.4% in 2021, as per the WEO released by the IMF.
  • India’s growth projection for 2020 is 3.9% less than what was projected in the January update to the WEO while its rebound in 2021 is 0.9 % higher than the January projection (for India, forecasts are on a fiscal year basis).

Way forward:

  • IMF called on policymakers to make targeted fiscal, monetary and financial sector interventions to support impacted households and businesses.
  • It advised that the fiscal measures should be two-fold, cushioning the impact on the most-exposed households and businesses and reducing firm closures, i.e., preserving economic relationships.
  • It was said that necessary measures to reduce contagion and protect lives will take a short-term toll on economic activity but should also be seen as an important investment in long-term human and economic health.
  • The economic impact of the disease depends on a number of factors and their unpredictable interaction, including the pandemic’s pathway, the intensity and effectiveness of containment efforts, significant tightening of global financial market conditions and so forth.

E. Editorials

Category: HEALTH

1. The pandemic and the contours of a health response

Context:

  • COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary state health response.

Background:

  • India is facing the worst public health crisis in its independent history.
  • The rapid spread of the disease, apart from leading to a health challenge, has also posed multiple other challenges before the people and the government. The lockdown measures in place to contain the spread have led to economic and social challenges of an unprecedented nature.
  • India’s response has been to restrict the entry and quarantine international travellers and impose a 21-day national lockdown. The government has further extended the lockdown period.

Details:

Strategy for post lockdown phase:

  • The extension of the national clampdown is a much needed step to stem the tide of rising infection levels. Though the lockdown measures help confine the pool of infected persons to their homes, the aftermath of the lockdown when they will start moving out will pose enormous challenges.
  • Central and State Governments should plan to adopt a public health approach to address the situation and use the time during the lockdown to ready strategies and tools for the post lockdown phase.
  • Prevention, care and support are the only strategies that will succeed in mitigating the current crisis.
  • This will need a carefully planned public health approach that identifies the risks based on evidence and pro-actively intervenes to mitigate them.

Prevention measures:

Isolation:

  • The foremost task is to identify people who returned from abroad in the last two months and who have turned symptomatic. They need to be immediately quarantined either in their homes or in community care centres identified by the State and district authorities.
    • Civil society could help organize and manage the care centres.

Testing:

  • There should be increased testing to identify infected people and subsequent contact tracing to help identify possible infections. Doubtful cases should be placed in quarantine. This will help prevent rapid spread of the disease.
  • Apart from the current RT-PCR viral tests which are expensive and time consuming, there is a need to ensure that rapid testing is introduced on a large scale in the country.
  • Rapid test kits should be made available in care centres. As these test kits become available in large quantities at a lower cost, community-level testing can be introduced to enable people to check their COVID-19 status. This measure will help in normalizing the disease in the community and lift the stigma and fear surrounding COVID-19.

Social distancing and sanitation measures:

  • Routine sanitation in public places will also help limit the possibility of spread of the disease.
  • Strict social distancing norms should be followed.
  • A few cities have ordered the wearing of masks as compulsory in public places. This could be extended to the whole country. People could make use of home-made masks in case of non-availability of sufficient face masks in the country.

Care measures:

  • There is a need to ensure there are COVID-19 specific hospitals in all parts of the country with at least one such hospital in each district. The public health system should prepare itself for a spike in number of cases with sufficient availability of hospital beds. The private hospitals could also be used if the situation demands.
  • Only the serious cases among the quarantined should be referred to hospitals for treatment. The intermediate step of quarantine will help check the huge rush of patients even with minor symptoms to hospitals which could choke the health-care facilities. The health care system should focus attention on the more serious and needy cases of emergency medical care.
  • The government should focus on supplying essential resources to the health care system. This could involve the availability of sufficient medicines, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves and face masks to the medical personnel.
    • The administration should ensure the production activity in the pharmaceutical sector remains unaffected by the lockdown measures and support it to ensure sufficient medicinal supplies.
    • The government should plan for the ventilator demand and mobilize its resources along with the private sector to help ensure sufficient availability.
    • For PPE supplies, community organisations can be mobilised to procure and supply such equipment to complement government efforts.

Support measures:

Counselling:

  • As the number of patients starts increasing in hospitals, counselling services for patients and members of their families would be of utmost necessity.
    • Notably, trained counsellors in care centres and hospitals can relieve the huge pressure on doctors and nursing staff and will make a huge difference to the quality of care to infected persons.
  • Large number of counsellors can be mobilized at short notice from existing national programmes and communities which have the necessary experience in counselling.

Community support:

  • Families of infected persons face a challenging task. Until they show symptoms of COVID-19, they need to remain in isolation and at the same time, look after their wards who are admitted in care centres and hospitals. They might also have to face stigmatization in the locality or neighbourhood.
  • Local communities can help provide support to the families of infected persons.
    • In metropolitan cities, resident welfare associations and mohalla committees can play such a role. In the smaller towns and villages, local communities can provide supporting services.

Socio-economic support:

  • The lockdown has led to large-scale migration of daily wage earners and construction workers from metropolitan cities. Many of them are stranded in shelter camps across the country. The loss of employment is a huge socio-economic problem for this vulnerable section.
  • The government should ensure sufficient support for the migrant labourers and poor people. It should ensure both food and economic security and also provide shelter wherever necessary for them.
  • Community involvement can ensure that the benefits governments are announcing actually reach the needy and those who deserve them.
  • Community-based organisations should also help in mobilising Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for mitigating the misery of migrant families.

Conclusion:

  • Until a preventive vaccine or a therapeutic drug has been found, the threat of increasing cases cannot be ruled out.
  • Only a measured public health approach with community participation will help the government in ensuring a sustained response against COVID-19.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Economic liberalisation and its faults

Context:

  • The authors of this article argue that the COVID-19 pandemic reveals how dependence on a more liberalized economic model has proved to be counter-productive and disastrous in the current scenario.

Background:

Change in industrial model of production:

  • In the late 1980s, transnational corporations started shifting their production base to developing countries, especially Asia, in search of cheap labour and raw materials.
  • Developed countries supported the move as it helped them shift the polluting and labour-intensive industries to other countries, while still retaining the ownership.
  • Thus, the world witnessed the development of global supply chains in many products.

Changes in India:

  • The 1991-92 Budget speech of the then government marked the beginning of the end of the ‘Licence Raj’ in India. It marked a notable shift from a public sector-based economic model to a more private sector-led economic model.
  • The Budget also announced the reduction of import duties and paved the way for foreign-manufactured goods to flow into India. Following this, most of the manufacturing sector was opened up to foreign direct investment.

Details:

Dominance of Chinese industries:

  • Though many developing countries participated in the global production/value/supply chains, the substantial value addition happened only in a few production hubs, of which China emerged to be a major one. Manufacturing shifted from a decentralised production system spread across different counties to just a few locations.
  • Notably, countries like China defied the logic of supply/value chains and carried out backward integration and emerged as global manufacturing hubs for certain products.
    • In the case of health products, China became the global supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical devices diagnostics.

COVID-19 response:

  • The structural changes observed have had major implications in the COVID-19 response.
  • The lack of domestic manufacturing base has affected the ability of many governments, including that of developed countries, to put up an effective response against the crisis. This has lead to the need for drastic measures in such countries.
    • The U.K. Prime Minister has asked the country’s manufacturers to produce ventilators in order to provide care for critical COVID-19 patients.
    • The U.S. President invoked the Defence Production Act of 1950 to ramp up N95 mask production. Under this legislation, the U.S. President can direct U.S. manufacturers to shift from their normal manufacturing activities to produce goods according to the directions of the government.
    • The French Health Minister has stated that the country may nationalize vaccine companies if necessary.
    • Spain nationalized all its private hospitals.
    • Israel and Chile issued compulsory licences to ensure that medicines are affordable.

Concerns:

For the developed economies:

Fallacy of privatization:

  • The current state of affairs around the world including the most developed countries exposes the poor state of preparedness and dependence on imports for essential goods required to meet the challenge of any major disease outbreak.
  • The lack of domestic industries and dependence on imports are a clear indication of the fact that though the evolution of global value chains has been a good development for the multinational companies, it need not be good for the country in all circumstances.
  • This might indicate that the overwhelming objective of private sector-led economic growth has proved to be disastrous.

For India:

  • In India, economic liberalization has limited the government’s capacity in a few ways.

Lack of credible information:

  • First, it incapacitated the government to respond to emergencies based on credible information.
  • The dismantling of the ‘Licence Raj’ system resulted in the elimination of channels of information for the government, which is crucial to make informed policy choices.
  • As part of the removal of the ‘Licence Raj’, the government stopped asking for information from the manufacturer to file the quantity of production of various products.
    • As a result, in the case of medicines, it took much effort and time for the government to gather information about stocks and the production capacity of pharmaceutical companies.
    • Similarly, there were difficulties in finding out India’s production capacity of PPE, medical devices and diagnostics.

Undermined manufacturing capabilities:

  • The logic and policies of economic liberalization have seriously undermined the manufacturing capabilities of health products in India.
  • The short-sighted policy measures, with primary focus on enhancing profitability of the private sector, allowed the import of raw materials from the cheapest sources rather than focussing on domestic resource base development.
    • The API industry serves as a typical example of this mistake. China has been a dominant player in the API sector and has been able to sell its products at much lower prices owing to larger economies of scale. This has resulted in the debasing of the domestic API industry in India.
    • According to a report of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), nearly 70% of India’s API import is from China. The CII report lists nearly 58 API where the dependence is 90% to 100%. The disruption in the supply of API due to the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the production of not only medicines required for COVID-19 patients, but also of other essential medicines in India. This has also limited India’s ability to export medicines which are in high demand globally.

High dependency:

  • India is heavily dependent on supplies of PPE, medical devices and diagnostic kits.
    • The 100% dependence on reagents, an important chemical component for testing, is limiting the capacity of the government to expand testing. This dependence on imports affects the ability of Indian diagnostic companies to provide an affordable test.
    • There are only a few domestic manufacturers who can produce PPE and medical devices like ventilators.
  • The current restrictions in place have resulted in India not being able to get required quantities of test kits, PPE and parts of ventilators through importation pointing to the inherent dangers of dependency.

Effect on domestic industries:

  • Keeping in line with the spirit of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG) reforms, India’s industrial policies have largely neglected the interests of domestic production. There seems to be very little attention on the idea of self-reliance.
  • Also in the name of economic efficiency, India allowed unconditional imports without sufficient attention to the development of domestic industries.
  • Global supply/production chains have not only destroyed the manufacturing base in developed and developing countries but have also resulted in loss of jobs and poor working conditions in these sectors.
    • Big companies with massive market power dictate the terms to smaller manufacturers down the value chain to produce cheaply.
    • Developing countries are forced to ease their labour protection laws to facilitate investment. People are forced to work in precarious working conditions without any social security net.

Conclusion:

  • The current pandemic should lead the countries to rethink and revaluate the economic efficiency theory propounded by the LPG principle. There should be the emphasis on an industrial policy that helps maintain core capacity in essential products.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Halting the march of rumours

Context:

  • This article discusses the threat of fake news to the efforts against COVID-19 and the necessary measures to tackle it.

For more information on this issue refer:

CNA dated March 30, 2020

F. Prelims Facts

1. Lifeline Udan flights

What’s in News?

In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, 218 Lifeline Udan flights carrying 377.50 tonnes of essential medical cargo have been sent to different parts, particularly in the north-east region, hilly states and island territories.

This topic has been covered in 3rd April 2020 PIB. Click here to read.

2. Amid lockdown, hunters eye rhino horns

  • At least six thwarted attempts have been made by poachers eyeing Rhino horns, within a week in and around Assam’s national parks.
  • A member of the Special Rhino Protection Force received bullet injuries during an encounter with a group of poachers in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP).
  • The police also arrested five people involved in attempted poaching at the Nameri National Park.

Greater One-Horned Rhino:

  • The greater one-horned rhinoceros is the largest of the three Asian rhinos and, together with African white rhinos, is the largest of all rhino species.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
  • With at least half of the total population, India’s Kaziranga National Park remains the key reserve for this species.
  • The greater one-horned rhino is identified by a single black horn about 8-25 inches long and a grey-brown hide with skin folds, which gives it an armor-plated appearance.
  • They primarily graze, with a diet consisting almost entirely of grasses as well as leaves, branches of shrubs and trees, fruit, and aquatic plants.

G. Tidbits

1. ICMR suggests testing of pooled samples

What’s in News?

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued an advisory on the feasibility of using pooled samples for molecular testing of patient samples.

  • The advisory is aimed at increasing the capacity of the laboratories to screen increased numbers of samples using molecular testing for COVID-19 for the purpose of surveillance.
  • The council has said that it is critical to increase the numbers of tests conducted by laboratories.
  • But pooling of samples is not recommended in areas or population with positivity rates of >5% for COVID-19.
  • Preferable number of samples to be pooled is five, though more than two samples can be pooled, but considering higher possibility of missing positive samples with low viral load, it is strongly discouraged to pool more than five samples.

Pooled Testing:

  • A pooled testing algorithm involves the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) screening of a specimen pool comprising multiple individual patient specimens, followed by individual testing (pool de-convolution) only if a pool screens positive.
  • As all individual samples in a negative pool are regarded as negative, it results in substantial cost savings when a large proportion of pools tests negative.

2. North Korea fires missiles ahead of elections in South

  • A barrage of North Korean missiles fired from both the ground and fighter jets splashed down on the waters off the country’s east coast.
  • It was a part of the show of force on the eve of a key State anniversary in the North, and parliamentary elections in rival South Korea.
  • The launches were the latest in a series of weapons tests that North Korea has conducted in recent weeks amid stalled nuclear talks and outside worries about a possible COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
  • North Korean troops based in the eastern coastal city of Munchon are said to have first launched several projectiles. The weapons were flying more than 150 km at a low altitude off the North’s east coast.
  • Later, North Korea is said to have launched several Sukhoi-class fighter jets that fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters.
  • The launches came a day before North Korea marks the 108th birthday of the country’s late founder, Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-un.
  • They also came a day ahead of South Korean parliamentary elections, in which President Moon Jae-in’s liberal ruling party is expected to defeat the conservative opposition.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements:
  1. River Yamuna originates in the Banderpooch peak in the Lower Himalayas.
  2. The river flows through the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Which of the given statement/s is/are incorrect?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
See
Answer
Q2. In the IUCN Red List, Greater One-Horned Rhino is classified as:
  1. Endangered
  2. Vulnerable
  3. Critically Endangered
  4. Near Threatened
See
Answer
Q3. Which of the following is/are correctly matched?
  1. Global Financial Stability Report – World Bank
  2. The World Economic Outlook – International Monetary Fund
  3. Global Competitiveness Report – World Economic Forum

Options:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3
See
Answer
Q4. Consider the following statements:
  1. Measles is a highly contagious bacterial disease.
  2. Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka have eliminated Measles.
  3. Vaccine for Measles is covered under Mission Indradhanush of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Which of the given statement/s is/are incorrect?

  1. 2 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1 only
See
Answer

 

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. There is a need for a planned public health approach involving prevention, care and support systems along with community participation to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis. Comment. (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. Discuss, in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, how the dependence on a more liberalized economic model has proved to be counter-productive and disastrous in the current scenario. (15 marks,250 words)

Read the previous CNA here.

15 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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