16 Apr 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

16 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
WORLD HISTORY
1. How pandemics have changed the world
B. GS 2 Related
HEALTH
1. Approval to use plasma enrichment technique
2. ‘Disinfectant tunnels can cause harm’
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Outdated census data keep 10 cr. out of PDS: economists
C. GS 3 Related
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY
1. Cease the distractions, seize the moment
GOVERNANCE
1. Stress test: On revised lockdown guidelines
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. WHO funding halted over handling of coronavirus
F. Prelims Facts
G. Tidbits
1. Industries operating in rural areas to reopen
2. Russian firm to donate $2 mn to PM CARES
3. IEA forecasts huge drop in oil demand in 2020
4. Liquor ban costs States dear
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

2. ‘Disinfectant tunnels can cause harm’

Context:

The use of a disinfectant tunnel, in which sodium hypochlorite is sprayed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, may give a false sense of security and cause harmful side effects, the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, has said.

Details:

  • The tunnels are being set up at crowded places like malls, markets and offices and it was initially believed that the tunnel would work as a mass disinfectant.
  • It is found that the use of these tunnels may give a false sense of security and may have adverse health effects as sodium hypochlorite has a lot of harmful effects on the human body.
  • It has been advised that the use of disinfection tunnels not be recommended as a prevention measure.

Sodium Hypochlorite:

  • Sodium hypochlorite is most often encountered as a pale greenish-yellow dilute solution commonly known as liquid bleach or simply bleach, a household chemical widely used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.
  • It is used for a variety of cleaning and disinfecting purposes.
  • The concentration of the chemical in the solution varies according to the purpose it is meant for.
  • A normal household bleach usually is a 2-10% sodium hypochlorite solution.
  • At a much lower 0.25-0.5%, this chemical is used to treat skin wounds like cuts or scrapes. An even weaker solution (0.05%) is sometimes used as a hand wash.
  • It releases chlorine, which is a disinfectant. Large quantities of chlorine can be harmful.

Concerns:

  • A 0.5% solution of hypochlorite, which is known as Dakin solution, is used for disinfecting areas contaminated with bodily fluids, including large blood spills.
  • However, higher concentrations of sodium hypochlorite (5%) exposure may cause nasal and ocular irritation, sore throat and coughing.
  • Exposure to stronger concentration (10-15%) of hypochlorite can cause serious damage to multiple organs, including burning pain, redness, swelling and blisters, damage to the respiratory tract as well as the oesophagus, serious eye damage, stomach ache, a burning sensation, diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), too, disinfectants will work on surfaces, but not on the human body, and can also harm people.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Outdated census data keep 10 cr. out of PDS: economists

Context:

Over 10 crore people have been excluded from the Public Distribution System because outdated 2011 census data is being used to calculate State-wise National Food Security Act (NFSA) coverage, according to economists Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera.

Details:

  • Under the NFSA, the PDS is supposed to cover 75% of the population in rural areas and 50% of the population in urban areas, which works out to 67% of the total population, using the rural-urban population ratio in 2011.
    • India’s population was about 121 crore in 2011 and so PDS covered approximately 80 crore people.
  • When the NFSA came into effect in 2013, State-wise ratios were worked out for rural and urban areas, using National Sample Survey data, in such a manner that everyone below a given national “per-capita expenditure benchmark” is covered, meaning that PDS coverage should be higher in poorer States.
  • However, applying the 67% ratio to a projected population of 137 crore for 2020, PDS coverage today should be around 92 crore.
  • The economists highlight that, taking into account growing urbanisation, the shortfall would be around 10 crore people who have slipped through the cracks.

Concerns:

  • Many State governments are reluctant to issue new ration cards beyond the numbers that will be provided for by the Central quota, making it difficult to reduce exclusion errors in the PDS.
    • About seven lakh applications for ration cards are pending in Jharkhand, because the State government stopped issuing new ration cards several years ago to avoid exceeding the numbers provided for by the Central government
  • The biggest gaps are in Uttar Pradesh, where 2.8 crore people may have been left out, and Bihar, which would have had almost 1.8 crore people excluded from the NFSA.
  • With the 2021 census process being delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis, any proposed revision of PDS coverage using that data could now take several years.

Conclusion:

The Centre’s calculation of the actual number of people to be covered in each State has remained frozen. The numbers should be updated using projected population figures, allowing State governments to issue new ration cards over time.

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Stress test: On revised lockdown guidelines

Introduction

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the continuation of the national lockdown till 3rd of May.
  • The Union Home Ministry has also said select public activities would be allowed across states from 20 April.
    • The Guidelines state these activities will be operationalized based on strict compliance to existing lockdown guidelines.
    • States would be required to ensure that all precautions with regard to social distancing are followed.
    • The Ministry said, in case a new area is added to the list of containment zones in the country, the relaxed guidelines would be suspended in that area until it turns COVID-19 free.

The proposed relaxations are, hence, a step forward.

Selected sectors will be allowed to operate

  • Industries outside city limits, certain types of construction both in rural and urban areas, segments of the service sector, and manufacturing partially will reopen after April 20.
  • Small service providers, such as electricians, plumbers, IT repair, motor mechanics and carpenters, will be allowed to operate, which will help them and those who need to hire them.

Punitive actions will be initiated against the violators

  • New measures also include punishment for spitting and a ban on tobacco and gutkha at workplaces.
  • Those violating the quarantine could face up to six months in jail.

Coercive measures fall heavily on the poor, and the government’s strategy for containment is pushing millions into a corner and some have also resorted to rioting due to lack of economic opportunities.

Comprehensive strategy

  • The Government must help people stay at home, incentives should be provided to employers to pay salaries, and an expansion of welfare support for the most vulnerable.
  • MGNREGA, which is meant to guarantee a minimum income to the poorest in situations of distress such as this, has completely collapsed.
    • The programme will be allowed to restart, but there must be proactive efforts to expand it.
  • Another area in need of urgent attention of governments is the breakdown of general health care in many parts of the country, claiming several lives and leaving far too many begging for treatment.
    • States such as Kerala and Rajasthan have involved local bodies and community organisations to provide food, medicine and other essential items to people at their locations, leading to near total compliance of lockdown guidelines.

Conclusion

  • Getting the country back on track will require mass education on mask use, hand hygiene and physical distancing to change social behaviour.
  • The Centre must take the initiative to ensure that best practices from successful States are adopted across the country.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. WHO funding halted over handling of coronavirus

Context

  • US President Donald Trump has instructed his administration to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Where does WHO get its funding from?

It is funded by a large number of countries, philanthropic organisations, United Nations organisations, etc.

  • According to information uploaded by WHO, voluntary donations from member states (such as the US) contribute 35.41%, assessed contributions are 15.66%, philanthropic organisations account for 9.33%, UN organisations contribute about 8.1%; the rest comes from myriad sources.
  • The US contributes almost 15% of the WHO’s total funding and almost 31% of the member states’ donations, the largest chunk in both cases.
  • India contributes 1% of member states’ donations.
  • Countries decide how much they pay and may also choose not to.

What does the WHO do with its funds?

The WHO is involved in various programmes.

  • For example, in 2018-19, 19.36% (about $1 bn) was spent on polio eradication, 8.77% on increasing access to essential health and nutrition services, 7% on vaccine preventable diseases and about 4.36% on prevention and control of outbreaks.
  • The African countries received $1.6 bn for WHO projects; and South East Asia (including India) received $375 mn.
  • India is a member state of the WHO South East Asia Region. The Americas received $62.2 mn for WHO projects. That is where most of WHO funding comes from and the least of it goes.

How does WHO prioritise spending?

  • The annual programme of work is passed by WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly.
  • It is attended by delegates from all member states and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
  • The main functions of the Assembly, held annually in Geneva, are to determine WHO policies, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.
  • The decision on which country gets how much depends on the situation in the countries.

What is the basis of criticism the WHO faces from various countries?

  • While most countries closed down air travel at the first stage, the WHO for a long time took a stand against travel and trade restrictions on China. On January 30, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO opposed such an idea.
  • The International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee urged countries to be prepared, but the Committee did not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available.
  • According to senior officials in the National Centre for Disease Control, in January when cases were piling up in China, there was a meeting in Delhi in which WHO officials brushed aside government concerns saying “there is no human to human transmission”.

Trump, at a White House news conference, said the WHO had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable.” He said the group had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.

Concerns

  • Halting funding at a crucial time will not only impact the functioning of the global body but also hurt humanity.
  • Many low and middle-income countries that look up to WHO for guidance and advice, and even for essentials such as testing kits and masks, will be badly hit for no fault of theirs.
  • When solidarity and unmitigated support from every member-state is necessary to win the war against the virus, withholding funding will not be in the best interest of any country, the U.S. included.

WHO has guided the immunization programmes in several countries

  • It has been at the forefront of the fight against several diseases, with notable successes such as eradicating smallpox globally and eliminating polio in several parts of the world.
  • It has helped draw up agendas on mental health.
  • It has persuaded its members to sign landmark conventions on tobacco-control.
  • In the past three decades, the WHO has helped nations frame strategies during outbreaks such as Zika, Ebola and HIV/AIDS.
  • The agency’s role in developing a vaccine against Ebola, in fact, illuminates one of its key advantages – no other health outfit can bring together scientists, industry, regulators and governments during a public health emergency as rapidly as the WHO.

This means the global agency’s decades-long work in low and middle-income countries and its robust understanding of a variety of cultural contexts mean that an empowered WHO holds the key to protecting the interests of the poor and most vulnerable countries during the pandemic.

Conclusion

  • Therefore, blaming and withholding WHO funding can have disastrous outcomes.
  • The right step would be to address failures due to lapse or other reasons, not in the mid of the pandemic but once the issue settles.

F. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Tidbits

1. Industries operating in rural areas to reopen

What’s in News?

Industries operating in rural areas would reopen on April 20, 2020.

Precautions taken:

Some of the directives have been issued in a fresh order, by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to manage the pandemic.

  • Wearing face covers and masks is now compulsory in public places and workplaces.
  • Spitting in public is a punishable offence.
  • Selling liquor, gutka and tobacco is strictly prohibited.
  • All industries operating in rural areas and the government’s flagship rural jobs scheme will also be allowed to reopen on a condition that they follow social distancing norms and other safeguards against the COVID-19 infection.
  • People violating quarantine will be punished under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes six months imprisonment, if convicted.
  • In the case of containment zones or hotspots, there will be a strict perimeter control.
    • The State governments may impose stricter measures as per requirement in local areas.
  • The revised guidelines permit small service providers, such as electricians, plumbers, IT repair, motor mechanics and carpenters, to operate.
  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is also being allowed.

2. Russian firm to donate $2 mn to PM CARES

What’s in News?

In the first such donation of its kind, Russia’s State-owned defence exports company Rosoboronexport has committed $2million (₹15.3 crore) to the newly set up ‘PM CARES Fund’.

  • The firm is the largest source of India’s arms imports and is set to supply defence equipment including the S-400 air defence systems, stealth frigates and AK-203 assault rifles.

Details:

  • On March 28 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund, putting aside the ‘Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF)’.
  • The proposed donation to the fund marks a significant shift in India’s policy on accepting contributions from foreign government owned companies.
  • Earlier in 2018, the Indian government had refused to accept offers of aid from several countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and the Maldives during the Kerala floods, stating that it was committed to meeting relief and rehabilitation requirements through domestic efforts.
  • Thus far, the government had been only open to contributions from “NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations”.
  • The donation offer from Rosoboronexport is a departure from precedent for India.

Read more about PM-CARES Fund covered in 31st March 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis.

3. IEA forecasts huge drop in oil demand in 2020

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast a 29 million barrel per day (bpd) dive in April 2020 oil demand to levels not seen in 25 years.
  • It warned that no output cut by producers could fully offset the near-term falls facing the market.
  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers including Russia have agreed to a record cut in output from May of 9.7 million bpd, or almost 10% of the global supply, to help support prices.

Read more on Oil Price War and Implications.

4. Liquor ban costs States dear

What’s in News?

Industry bodies representing the alcohol sector have written to the government to consider opening of wine shops, allow home delivery of alcoholic beverages and e-tailing of liquor as Indian states are collectively suffering a revenue loss of about ₹700 crore a day owing to no sales of alcoholic beverages during the lockdown.

  • Every State was already under heavy pressure financially and excise duty on alcohol is an important revenue source for them, which does not exist at the moment.
  • The states have complained of huge financial pressure.
  • Most states earn about 15-30% of revenue, or a total of ₹2.48 lakh crore, from the alcohol industry.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements with respect to Indian Monsoons:
  1. South-west Monsoons are formed due to intense low pressure system formed over the Tibetan Plateau.
  2. North-east Monsoons are associated with high pressure cells over Tibetan and Siberian plateaus.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
See
Answer
Q2. Consider the following statements:
  1. Antibodies are proteins produced and secreted by B cells.
  2. Antibodies bind to foreign substances that invade the body, such as pathogens.
  3. ELISA is carried out to detect and measure antibodies in the blood.

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

  1. 3 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. None of the above
See
Answer
Q3. Consider the following statements with respect to the National Food Security 
Act, 2013:
  1. NFSA gives legal entitlement to 67% of the population to receive highly subsidized foodgrains.
  2. NFSA provides for the payment of food security allowance to entitled persons by the Central Government in case of non-supply of entitled quantities of food grains.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
See
Answer
Q4. Consider the following statements with respect to the World Health Organisation (WHO):
  1. WHO membership is free for all the countries.
  2. China is the single-biggest contributor to the WHO, followed by the U.S.
  3. Voluntary contributions are the biggest category of funding that the WHO receives.

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

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

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. The balance of power between the legislature and the executive is broken down leading to a lack of accountability during the coronavirus pandemic. Illustrate with examples how ICTs will help in empowering and increasing the credibility of parliamentary institutions. (10 Marks, 150 Words)
  2. The WHO is coordinating and assisting poor nations in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Is it right for the USA to suspend aid to WHO amidst the crisis? Discuss. (15 Marks, 250 Words)

Read the previous CNA here.

16 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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