09 Dec 2023: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

09 December 2023 CNA
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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
C. GS 3 Related
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. Coastal Urban Flooding in Chennai
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. An icy warning
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 
1. India-Sri Lanka Ties
F. Prelims Facts
1. RBI keeps repo rate at 6.5%
2. Private member’s bill
3. Centre bans onion export & revises wheat stock limit
4. CRISPR gene therapy for sickle cell disease
G. Tidbits
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
FIP Magazine


Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

2. India-Sri Lanka Ties

Syllabus: GS-2, Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Mains: India-Sri Lanka Ties 

Context:​  Sri Lanka’s President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, recently proposed establishing land connectivity with India, reviving a two-decade-old vision of building a bridge between Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Talaimanar in Sri Lanka. 

  • This proposal aligns with the broader goal of regional economic integration, fostering growth opportunities for both nations. 
  1. Historical Context:
  • Ranil Wickremesinghe proposed the bridge idea in Chennai two decades ago, envisioning regional economic integration.
  • Opposition from groups claiming to represent Sinhalese-Buddhists often stalled progress, citing concerns about the project’s benefits.
  1. Recent Developments:
  • A joint statement in July between Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated the commitment to land connectivity, mentioning a feasibility study.
  • Wickremesinghe, in his recent Budget address, highlighted the project’s importance for utilizing Colombo and Trincomalee ports to meet India’s supply needs.
  1. Infrastructure Gaps:
  • Despite shared aspirations, the relationship’s depth in infrastructure development is lacking.
  • For example, the idea of connecting the electricity networks of the two countries was floated even in 1970.
  • Over 13 years have elapsed since the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the bilateral grid, but not even one unit of electricity has been transmitted.
  • Progress in energy collaboration with Bangladesh surpasses that with Sri Lanka.
  1. Trade and Economic Ties:
  • The India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (1998) has not seen significant advancements, and economic cooperation negotiations resumed recently.
  • India has regained its position as the largest source of imports for Sri Lanka, accounting for about 26% of total imports.
  1. Potential and Underperformance:
  • Bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka in 2021 was $5.45 billion, significantly lower than India’s trade with Bangladesh ($18.14 billion).
  • Tourism, a major revenue source for Sri Lanka, has untapped potential despite India being the largest source of tourist arrivals.
  1. Initiatives and Momentum:
  • Recent developments, such as the resumption of air services and joint ventures, indicate positive momentum.
  • Sustaining and enhancing initiatives, like passenger ferry services and economic collaborations, is essential for progress.
  1. Learning from Bangladesh:
  • Sri Lanka, despite historical challenges, should learn from Bangladesh in establishing mutually beneficial economic relationships.
  • Overcoming political hurdles and fostering economic cooperation are crucial for shared prosperity.

Way forward:

  • Sustained Initiatives:
    • Continue and enhance recent initiatives like air services, joint ventures, and passenger ferry services.
    • Explore new avenues for collaboration in various sectors, including trade, tourism, and infrastructure.
  • Political Will:
    • Address historical opposition by showcasing the potential benefits of enhanced connectivity and cooperation.
    • Emphasize the economic advantages and job creation potential to garner political support.
  • Comprehensive Economic Agreement:
    • Accelerate negotiations on an economic and technology cooperation agreement, building on the existing Free Trade Agreement.
    • Establish a comprehensive framework for economic collaboration to address trade and investment barriers.

Nut Graf: Bridging the deficit between India and Sri Lanka is not merely a matter of physical connectivity but a strategic imperative for shared economic growth.

F. Prelims Facts

1. RBI keeps repo rate at 6.5%

Context: The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has maintained the key interest rates, keeping the repo rate at 6.5%. 

Issues Addressed:

  • Unchanged Repo Rate:
    • The MPC decided to keep the key repo rate unchanged at 6.5%, offering no immediate relief to borrowers.
    • Despite the moderation of food inflation from double-digit levels to 6.2% in October, uncertainties persist, especially related to food prices.
  • GDP Growth Projection:
    • The committee revised the GDP growth projection for 2023-24 to 7%, reflecting confidence in economic recovery.
    • The upward revision signals optimism about India’s economic performance, albeit amidst global uncertainties.
  • Inflation Concerns:
    • While acknowledging progress in bringing inflation below 5%, the RBI Governor highlighted the challenge of reaching the 4% inflation target.
    • Inflation, influenced by supply shocks, remains a concern, with potential spikes expected in November and December.

Significance of the Decision:

  • Cautionary Approach: The cautionary stance on inflation spikes emphasizes the need for vigilance, particularly in managing food inflation.
  • The RBI recognizes the importance of preventing isolated shocks from becoming generalized and impacting overall inflation trends.

Maintaining Prolonged Pause:

  • The RBI is expected to continue a prolonged pause on the monetary policy rate until August 2024.
  • A pivot is anticipated thereafter, contingent on improved visibility regarding the durability of achieving the 4% inflation target.
Repo Rate

Image source: The Hindu

2. Private member’s bill

Context: In a significant development, a private member’s Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, addressing the issue of the accountability of Governors in India. Moved by CPI(M) MP, the Bill aimed to confer powers upon State Assemblies to remove Governors. 

  • The parliamentary discussion on this proposal sparked a broader conversation on the need for a system ensuring the accountability of Governors, who hold a crucial constitutional position.

Issues Addressed:

  • Accountability of Governors:
    • The primary concern revolves around establishing a system to fix the accountability of Governors, ensuring they enjoy legitimate support and are answerable to the people of the State.
    • The Bill contends that the current practice of appointing the Head of State governments through executive orders is contrary to democratic and federal principles.
  • Democratic Appointment Process:
    • The Bill proposes amendments to the Constitution, advocating that Governors should be elected by an electoral college.
    • The electoral college would comprise Legislative Assemblies of the States, along with elected members of gram panchayats, municipalities, and corporations within the States.
  • Proportional Representation and Secret Ballot:
    • The proposed election process for Governors advocates proportional representation through the single transferable vote system.
    • Emphasizing transparency, the Bill suggests that voting in such elections should be conducted through a secret ballot.

Significance of the Bill:

  • Preserving Federal Rights:
    • The Bill, supported by several Opposition members, underscores the necessity for parliamentary intervention to safeguard the federal rights of States.
    • It seeks to address concerns related to the appointment process, emphasizing the importance of a democratic and transparent approach.
  • Legitimacy and Dignity of Governor’s Office:
    • The statement of objects and reasons in the Bill emphasizes that the stature and dignity of the Governor’s office require the occupant to have the legitimate support of the people.
    • By advocating an electoral college approach, the Bill aims to enhance the legitimacy of the Governor’s position.
  • Promoting Democratic Principles:
    • The proposed amendments align with democratic principles, emphasizing the need for elected representatives to play a role in the appointment of Governors.
    • Proportional representation and secret balloting further reinforce democratic ideals in the process.

3. Centre bans onion export & revises wheat stock limit

Context: The Union government has imposed a ban on the export of onions until March 31, 2024, to control rising local prices. This decision, communicated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), has led to protests by farmers in Nashik, Maharashtra. 

  • Additionally, the Centre has revised wheat stock limits to curb inflation and hoarding. These developments mark significant interventions in agricultural policies, sparking reactions from various stakeholders.

Onion Export Ban:

  • Government Directive:
    • The DGFT, in an order, amended the export policy of onions, shifting it from free to prohibited until March 31, 2024.
    • The move comes after a previous imposition of a 40% duty on onion exports until December 31, aiming to boost domestic availability and mitigate rising prices.
  • Protests in Nashik:
    • Farmers in Nashik protested the ban, blocking the Mumbai-Agra National Highway and disrupting onion auctions at key markets.
    • The farmers argue that the ban would negatively impact them, leading to road blockades with tractors and redirection of onion-laden vehicles.
  • Impact on Farmers:
    • Protesters claim that the ban is untimely, as onion prices have recently decreased, and the decision could lead to losses for farmers.
    • They demand direct government sales without intermediary involvement, blaming middlemen for artificial price inflation.
  • Call for Government Intervention:
    • Farmers and traders associations plan to meet with government officials to express their concerns and seek support for revoking the onion export ban.

Wheat Stock Limits Revised:

  • Government’s Decision:
    • In a separate move, the Centre revised wheat stock limits to manage food security, prevent hoarding, and curb speculation.
    • Limits for traders and wholesalers were reduced from 2,000 tonnes to 1,000 tonnes, and for retailers, the revised limit is five tonnes per outlet.
  • Increased Market Supplies:
    • The government decided to increase supplies in the open market from three lakh tonnes to four lakh tonnes immediately.
  • Registration and Monitoring:
    • Wheat stocking entities are required to register on the wheat stock limit portal and update stock positions weekly.
    • Non-compliance may result in punitive action under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, emphasizing strict enforcement.
  • Ensuring Wheat Availability:
    • Officials from Central and State governments will closely monitor the enforcement of stock limits to prevent artificial scarcity of wheat in the country.

Significance:

  • Addressing Food Security: The government’s decisions on onion exports and wheat stock limits aim to address concerns related to food security, pricing stability, and hoarding prevention.
  • Farmers’ Livelihoods: The protests in Nashik highlight farmers’ concerns about the timing and impact of the onion export ban on their livelihoods.
  • Direct government sales and support are seen as essential to mitigate potential losses.
  • Inflation Management: The revised wheat stock limits and increased market supplies aim to manage inflation and ensure sufficient availability of essential commodities.

Way forward:

  • Dialogue with Stakeholders
  • Balancing Export Policies

4. CRISPR gene therapy for sickle cell disease

Context: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval to two gene therapies for sickle cell disease, marking a significant breakthrough in the treatment of this painful and inherited blood disorder. 

  • Lyfgenia from Bluebird Bio and Casgevy from Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics have been approved, with Casgevy being the first treatment based on the CRISPR gene editing technology
  • Both therapies are intended for individuals aged 12 years and older.

Breakthrough Therapies:

  • Lyfgenia by Bluebird Bio:
    • One of the approved gene therapies for sickle cell disease.
    • Represents a significant advancement in treating the debilitating blood disorder.
  • Casgevy by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics:
    • Utilizes CRISPR gene editing technology, a groundbreaking approach acknowledged with the Nobel Prize in 2020.
    • Marks a milestone in the use of gene editing for medical purposes.

Sickle Cell Disease Overview:

  • Prevalence and Impact:
    • A painful, inherited blood disorder affecting approximately 100,000 people in the U.S., predominantly in the Black community.
    • Can lead to debilitating symptoms and premature death.
  • Mechanism of Sickle Cell Disease:
    • Results in the production of flawed, sickle-shaped haemoglobin, impairing the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells.
    • Sickle cells can clump together, causing blockages in small blood vessels, intense pain, and complications such as strokes and organ failure.

Therapies and Approval:

  • Lyfgenia and Casgevy Approval:
    • Both gene therapies granted FDA approval for individuals aged 12 years and older.
    • Represent significant progress in treating sickle cell disease.
  • CRISPR Gene Editing Technology:
    • Casgevy, a collaboration between Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics, employs the Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR gene editing technology.
    • Signifies a groundbreaking approach to addressing genetic disorders.
  • Treatment Outlook:
    • Pitched as One-Time Treatments: Both therapies presented as one-time treatments.
    • Limited data on the duration of their effectiveness, with a bone marrow transplant currently being the only longer-term treatment for sickle cell disease.

Significance:

  • Breakthrough in Sickle Cell Treatment: Approval of gene therapies, particularly the CRISPR-based Casgevy, represents a breakthrough in the treatment of sickle cell disease.
  • Offers hope for improved management and potential transformative impact.
  • Addressing Racial Disparities: Significant for the Black community, which is disproportionately affected by sickle cell disease.
  • Represents a step toward addressing racial disparities in healthcare.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. With reference to Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), which of the following 
statements is/are incorrect?
  1. They occur when the dam containing a glacial lake fails, leading to a catastrophic flood.
  2. GLOFs are caused only by the buildup of water in the lake due to heavy precipitation or the inflow of meltwater.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation: GLOFs can also be triggered by the rapid melting of glaciers and other factors, not just heavy precipitation or inflow of meltwater.

Q2. With reference to the Private Member’s Bill, consider the following 
statements:
  1. Only a Member of Parliament from the opposition party has the authority to propose a Private Member Bill.
  2. A restriction in the Constitution ensures that a member of the House can introduce a maximum of four Bills in one session.
  3. The Indian President can exercise the power of absolute veto to reject a private members’ bill.

How many of the statements given above are incorrect?

  1. Only one
  2. Only two
  3. All three
  4. None
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: a

Explanation: Statement 1 is incorrect. Members of Parliament of both the ruling party as well as the opposition can introduce a Private Member Bill. 

Q3. With reference to repo rate and reverse repo rate, which of the following 
statements is/are correct?
  1. Repo Rate is the interest rate at which the central bank lends money to commercial banks to regulate liquidity.
  2. Reverse Repo Rate is the rate at which commercial banks lend money to the central bank to control cash flow in the market.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: c

Explanation: Repo Rate regulates liquidity, and Reverse Repo Rate controls cash flow in the market.

Q4. Consider the following statements about sickle cell disease:
  1. It is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that affect haemoglobin.
  2. In sickle cell disease, the body produces normal, disc-shaped haemoglobin.
  3. Sickle cell disease can lead to intense pain, strokes, and organ failure due to the tendency of sickle cells to stick together.

How many of the statements given above are correct?

  1. Only one
  2. Only two
  3. All three
  4. None
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation: Sickle cell disease involves flawed, sickle-shaped haemoglobin causing various complications, including intense pain, strokes, and organ failure.

Q5. With reference to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, which of the 
following statements is/are correct?
  1. The Act specifies a clear definition of essential commodities.
  2. The Centre has the power to add or remove commodities from the Schedule.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation: The Act does not provide a specific definition of essential commodities, but it grants the Centre the power to modify the Schedule.

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