28 Apr 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

28 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. Chakmas and Hajongs need help: rights group
B. GS 2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. In a crisis year, Sri Lanka gears up for daunting debt repayment
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. BTAD placed under Governor’s Rule
C. GS 3 Related
ECONOMY
1. RBI opens ₹50,000 cr. liquidity tap for MFs
2. Brokers seek action against Templeton
DEFENCE
1. India among top 3 military spenders: report
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1.  ‘We have 56% more water in reservoirs than we had last year’
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. The script of disruption and a new order
1. India in the post-pandemic world
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Virtual, yet open
F. Prelims Facts
G. Tidbits
1. UN warns of a ‘human rights disaster’
2. Cost of doing business to see significant rise
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. BTAD placed under Governor’s Rule

Context:

Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) has been placed under Governor’s Rule.

Details:

  • The Bodos are the largest plains tribe in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) straddling four districts – Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri – of western Assam.
  • The BTAD, comprising 4 districts of Assam, falls under the Bodoland Territorial Council formed in 2003.
  • The 5-year term of the council that governs the BTAD has expired.
  • Its scheduled elections have been deferred.

For more about Bodos and Bodoland Territorial Area Districts, read 10th February 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis.

2. Brokers seek action against Templeton

Context:

Stock brokers want the government and the capital markets regulator to take strict action against Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund, including appointing a high-powered committee to take over the management of the fund house while examining investment decisions taken by the house.

Background:

  • Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund (MF), the ninth-largest in the country, jolted investors with its decision to wind up six yield-oriented managed credit funds.
  • The six schemes have combined assets under management of around Rs 28,000 crore, nearly 25% of the total assets under management of Franklin Templeton MF in India.
  • The fund house has said it took the decision in order to protect value for investors via a managed sale of the portfolio, amid the severe market dislocation and illiquidity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Investors, however, are bracing for substantial losses.

Details:

  • Shutting down six schemes is unprecedented and can break investor confidence in mutual funds.
  • The Association of National Exchanges Members of India (ANMI), an umbrella body representing about 900 brokers, has again written to the Ministry of Finance and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) seeking urgent action to safeguard further erosion of investor wealth while enabling a plan for investors to get their money in a time-bound manner.
  • While highlighting the fact that a significant portion of the investments in the six schemes that Franklin Templeton MF decided to wind up were in securities that were rated ‘A’ or lower, the broker body has said that questionable investment decisions forced Franklin Templeton to stop redemptions.
  • As per the broker body, Franklin Templeton MF invested in long-duration securities even though SEBI norms clearly state that ultra short duration funds can have bonds with a tenure between three months and six months.

What does the winding up of schemes mean for investors?

  • It essentially means that Franklin Templeton MF will first liquidate the assets in the schemes and then return the money to investors.
  • With the market situation tough for now, investors may not get an immediate exit.
  • The fund house may find it difficult to get a buyer for the low-rated assets in the portfolio, so investors may have to wait.
  • On the other hand, if the fund house pushes hard to get new buyers for those assets, it will go at a substantial haircut, which would mean a big loss for investors on their capital investment.

What are credit risk funds?

  • Credit risk funds are debt funds that play on the principle of high-risk-high-reward.
  • By definition, credit funds invest 65 per cent of the portfolio in bonds that are AA rated or below, and investors must be aware that they are investing in schemes that are investing in lower-rated papers.
  • While higher-rated bonds of companies are more secure and offer lower interest rates, credit risk funds generally invest in lower-rated bonds which offer higher return but also carry a higher risk.

How important is the role of the fund manager?

  • While all credit risk funds invest up to 65 per cent in bonds rated AA or below, market experts say that fund managers can lower their risk by following a higher diversification strategy.
  • If the scheme is diversified significantly on the asset side (not given large exposure to a few companies), then even if there is a default by one or two companies, the entire portfolio does not get affected.
  • Similarly, if the scheme is well diversified on the liability side (not having just a few large investors), then even if one or two investors seek redemption, it does not push the fund house to sell — as has happened with Franklin Templeton.

Category: DEFENCE

1. India among top 3 military spenders: report

Context:

The annual report by a Swedish think tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) – ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2019’ has been released.

Details:

  • According to the report, in 2019, the global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion with India and China emerging among the top three spenders.
  • In 2019, China and India were, respectively, the second- and third-largest military spenders in the world.
    • China’s military expenditure reached $261 billion in 2019, a 1% increase from 2018, while India’s expenditure increased by 6.8% to $71.1 billion.
  • The top five largest spenders were U.S. ($732 bn), China ($261), India ($71.1), Russia ($65.1 bn) and Saudi Arabia ($61.9 bn).
    • These 5 countries accounted for 62% of the global expenditure.
  • Pakistan was at the 24th position in 2019 compared to 19th in 2018.

Report on India:

  • India’s military expenditure has risen significantly over the past few decades.
    • It grew by 259% over the 30-year period of 1990–2019, by 37% over the decade of 2010–19.
    • However, its military burden fell from 2.7% of GDP in 2010 to 2.4% in 2019.
  • While India’s defence spending excluding pensions, which constitute a significant part, has been growing in absolute terms, it has been going down as a percentage of its GDP as noted by the report.
  • The $71.1 billion spent by India in 2019 was 2.4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • In 2018, India was at the fourth position with Saudi Arabia at the third.
  • The report quoted that India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased military spending.

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. ‘We have 56% more water in reservoirs than we had last year’

Context:

Jal Shakti Minister’s comments on how India is placed in terms of water availability as COVID-19 underlines the necessity of piped supply.

Details:

  • The plentiful rains in 2019 and heavy snowfall in the Himalayan States have ensured that in terms of just volumes, India is pretty well off for 2020.
  • With the review of 132 reservoirs under the Central government, which are out of the 5,000 total reservoirs but which provide two-thirds of the total supply of water across the country, it is found that India has 56% more water than 2019, in the reservoirs.
    • This is 47% higher than the average for the last 10 years.

Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • The Jal Jeevan Mission was announced in August 2019.
  • The chief objective of the Mission is to provide piped water supply (Har Ghar Jal) to all rural and urban households by 2024.
  • It also aims to create local infrastructure for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household waste water for reuse in agriculture.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country.

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. The script of disruption and a new order

Context:

  • COVID-19 is set to drastically alter geopolitics and human society.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and has led to radical uncertainty. COVID-19 would change the world and reshape the human society.

Changes in global relations:

Threat of Deglobalization:

  • The pandemic will impact human values and conduct.
  • The diminution in human values could have a negative impact on the concept of an international community. Each nation would tend to look inwards, concentrating on its narrowly defined national interests rather than looking for cooperation and collaboration with other countries.

International Institutions under fire:

  • Existing international institutions such as the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council and the World Health Organization (WHO) are being blamed of having failed to measure up to the challenge posed by the pandemic.
    • The UN Security Council has not been able to take any concrete action in dealing with the situation.
    • WHO has been blamed of being China-centric. WHO’s underestimation and inaction during the initial phase could have amplified the pandemic to such large scales.
    • The UN and other global organizations have not been able to ensure a common vision or approach among the many nations. They have failed to ensure cooperation and collaboration among its members.
  • That prestigious global institutions are under attack, even in such critical times, speaks about the mood prevailing across the world.

Economic shock:

  • Given the disruption in the global economy, the World Bank has predicted negative growth for most nations. India’s growth forecast for the current fiscal year has been estimated at 1.5% to 2.8%.
  • Globalization, global trade and global value chains have been a major cohesive force in integrating the world. Contraction of the economy and the loss of millions of jobs across all segments will complicate the situation.

China’s dominance:

  • Far-reaching changes due to the pandemic can be anticipated in the realm of geo-economics and geopolitics.

Geo-economical change:

  • China, which is already one of the most prominent nations of the world and an important player in international institutions, could grow even stronger.
  • China is considered indispensable as the world’s supplier of manufactured goods.
  • China now seeks to benefit from its early recovery from the pandemic to take advantage of the problems of the rest of the world, by using its manufacturing capability to its geo-economic advantage.
  • The current pandemic could hollow out the financial viability of many companies, institutions and banks across the world. There are reports of China’s intentions to acquire financial assets and stakes in banks and companies across the world, taking advantage of the scaled-down value of their assets.
  • China is poised to dominate the global economy.

Geo-political changes:

  • By offering medical aid and other essential supplies to several Asian and African countries during the current pandemic threat, China would gain a geopolitical advantage by its action.
  • China with its Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to combine regional connectivity alongside gaining a virtual economic and substantial stranglehold across Asia, is ostensibly preparing the way for a China-centric multilateral globalisation framework.

Anti-China sentiments:

  • There have been calls for holding China responsible for its mismanagement of the epidemic and failure to inform the world of the threat of COVID-19.
  • Given the threat of Chinese take-over of fragile firms and banks, the clamour against China’s hostile takeover bids is becoming stronger. Several countries, apart from India, such as Australia and Germany, have begun to restrict Chinese foreign direct investment in companies and financial institutions in their countries, recognising the inherent danger of a possible Chinese hostile takeover of their critical assets.

A faltering West:

  • COVID-19 would effectively change the existing global order that has existed since the late 1940s. The geopolitical fallout of this pandemic could be the decreased dominance of the west.
  • The U.S. has been weakened economically and politically due to COVID-19. The U.S.’s capacity to play a critical role in world affairs seems to have diminished. The United States will be compelled to cede ground to the rising Chinese power.
  • The Brexit came as a body blow to the EU. Europe too has been badly affected by the pandemic. Germany which has played a major role in promoting EU is turning inwards. Both France and a post-Brexit United Kingdom will also be focusing more on domestic issues. Europe, in the short and medium term, will prove incapable of defining and defending its common interests, leaving it with very little influence in world affairs.

West Asia:

  • In West Asia, both Saudi Arabia and Iran are set to face difficult times.
  • The oil price meltdown will aggravate an already difficult situation across the region.
  • Given Israel’s non-dependency on oil and it being relatively less impacted due to the pandemic, it might emerge stronger out of the pandemic.

Effect on India:

  • The economic downturn might reduce India’s room for manoeuvring in global affairs.
  • The increasing Chinese investment in South Asia could see its influence grow in the South Asian region and diminish India’s influence in the region.
  • India’s leverage in West Asia will suffer due to the declining oil prices.
  • The large Indian expatriate community in West Asia would be severely affected and may seek repatriation back to India. This would substantially reduce the inflow of foreign funds to India from the region.

Changes in human society:

  • There would be fundamental alterations in governance and political management.
  • The role of the state as an enforcer of public good will become greatly enhanced. The limits on the role of the state would reduce. Various legislations of yesteryears which were perceived to be anachronistic in a modern democratic set-up would find increased use.
  • Many nations are showing a willingness to sacrifice personal liberties in favour of greater state control. Post COVID-19, the world may have to pay a heavy price in terms of loss of liberty. An omnipotent state could well become a reality.

2. India in the post-pandemic world

Context:

  • The article discusses what would be India’s role and position in the post pandemic age.

Details:

  • There have been varying estimates of the effect of COVID-19 on existing systems in the international relations domain. Nations would be scrambling for advantage in the world order as the pandemic recedes. India will need to adapt to such a scenario.
  • The role that India plays in the post-pandemic world order will be determined by how India deals with the crisis domestically, and how successfully it emerges out of the pandemic crisis.

Domestic efforts:

  • The pandemic has brought the world to an inflection point. How India deals with the pandemic will determine its place in the future world order.
  • India should effectively address the existing social and economic issues in the country which have been accentuated and magnified by the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Millions of Indians live in poverty and are disproportionately impacted by the current crisis.
    • Growing perceptions of injustice and government’s indifference to the plight of the poor could well lead to widespread outrage that would be difficult to control.
  • Mere welfare measures would not suffice and there is a need for a fundamental socioeconomic transformation.
  • The government should lay out a comprehensive road map to deal with both the health and the economic consequences of the crisis, and to make investments on a massive scale in universal health care, education and social security.
  • The upliftment of the poor and vulnerable would also place India in a comfortable position to make use of opportunities that emerge in the reordering of the global economy as the pandemic recedes.

Global efforts:

  • On the international front, nations will continue to strive for strategic advantage in furthering their interests and would be constrained by realpolitik in striving for the common good.
  • Contrary to the increasing tilt towards deglobalization, India should advocate a more robust multilateralism and must play a leadership role in mobilizing international cooperation.
  • India needs to be part of international efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis on multilateral, regional or bilateral levels.
  • India should participate in international efforts towards finding a vaccine and ramp up capacities to produce it in the quantities needed, both for our own people and for the world.
  • India’s decision to supply medicines in these critical times is a good move. Apart from being a humanitarian gesture it also makes strategic sense.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Virtual, yet open

Context:

  • Amidst the national lockdown, the Supreme Court and several other courts have been holding virtual proceedings.

Background:

Virtual proceedings:

  • Given the national lockdown in place, the Judiciary has resorted to virtual court proceedings. This is of significance because it ensures that the courts are open even during a national lockdown so that access to justice is not denied to anyone, and also helps maintain physical distancing.
  • A three-judge Bench headed by the CJI has ratified the validity of virtual judicial proceedings and has laid down broad norms for courts using video-conferencing.

Concerns:

Idea of open courts:

  • There have been concerns being expressed on if virtual courts would become the “new normal” and mark a move away from the idea of open courts.
  • This would inhibit the presence of lawyers and litigants in the judicial process.
  • Citing earlier judgments on the importance of open court hearings, the Supreme Court Bar Association has requested that the use of video conferencing should be limited to the duration of the current crisis, and should not replace open court hearings.

Suggestions:

  • Open court hearings should be restored at the earliest.

Live streaming:

  • The proceedings held virtually may also be streamed live so that access is not limited to the lawyers concerned, but is also available to the litigants and the public.
  • The issue of limited media access can also be resolved through live-streaming.

Improving judicial process:

  • As the use of technology is stepped up, courts should consider steps that will speed up the judicial process and reduce courtroom crowding.
    • In the lower courts, evidence could be recorded, with the consent of parties, by virtual means.
    • In the higher courts, a system based on advance submission of written briefs and allocation of time slots for oral arguments can be put in place.
  • The opportunity provided by the current crisis to improve the judicial process must be utilized well.

F. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Tidbits

1. UN warns of a ‘human rights disaster’

What’s in News?

The UN rights chief has warned that the countries flouting the rule of law in the name of fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic risk sparking a human rights disaster.

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on countries to refrain from violating fundamental rights under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures.
  • Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power, she warned in a statement.
  • However, it was acknowledged that states have the right to restrict some rights to protect public health, but it is insisted that any restrictions necessary should be proportionate and non-discriminatory, and also limited in duration.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also decried the mass arrests in some countries over curfew violations as both unnecessary and unsafe.
  • The UN rights chief also warned that efforts to rein in dangerous misinformation around the pandemic was in some cases being used as an excuse to crack down on legitimate free speech.

2. Cost of doing business to see significant rise

  • As COVID-19 takes its toll on the economy and on human lives, the cost of doing business is set to go up.
  • This is because the companies must gear up to adhere to new safety and hygiene standards in their daily operations despite likely scaled down business activity and lower earnings.
  • For large manufacturers and hotels and restaurants, the cost escalation will be in double digits, as companies will be forced to operate at sub-optimal levels due to lack of demand and fewer employees.
  • Airlines and airport operators will also have to bear extra costs to take on board fewer passengers, possibly well below existing capacities as well as breakeven levels and deploy more manpower to enforce safety and hygiene norms.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements:
  1. Chakmas are Buddhists, while Hajongs are Hindus.
  2. Chakmas and Hajongs lost their homes and land to the Kaptai dam project.
  3. Chakmas and Hajongs are both identified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 2 only
See
Answer
Q2. Consider the following statements with respect to SVAMITVA scheme:
  1. The scheme aims to provide an integrated property validation solution for rural India only.
  2. The scheme will be implemented with the collaborated efforts of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Departments, State Revenue Departments and Survey of India.

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
Q3. Consider the following statements:
  1. Bodo people are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  2. Bodoland Territorial Area District comprises five districts of Assam only.
  3. Bodo language is included in the 8th Schedule of Indian Constitution.

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

  1. 2 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. None of the above
See
Answer
Q4. Consider the following statements:
  1. Money market deals with short-term funds, the period of maturity of which is up to one year.
  2. Call money market is the market where overnight loans can be availed by banks to meet liquidity.
  3. Money market in India is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

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

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

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. Analyze how the COVID-19 pandemic would alter existing international relations and geopolitical systems. What should be India’s response to such changes? (15 marks, 250 words)
  2. Evaluate the significance and concerns regarding the Judiciary’s move to hold virtual judicial proceedings during the lockdown phase and suggest necessary changes. (10 marks, 150 words)

Read the previous CNA here.

28 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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