29 Jan 2021: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

29 Jan 2021 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. ‘U.S. will rejoin deal if Iran is compliant’
2. Jaishankar suggests way forward for China ties
3. ‘India’s UNSC seat a matter of discussion’
C. GS 3 Related
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Three States to divert more sugar for ethanol
ECONOMY
1. ‘Plug gaps in GST to raise fiscal support’
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
GOVERNMENT POLICIES
1. Global antitrust and the challenge of Big Tech
HEALTH
1. Tempered optimism
F. Prelims Facts
1. 18 Opposition parties to boycott President’s address
G. Tidbits
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

2. Jaishankar suggests way forward for China ties

Context:

After a year of exceptional stress in a relationship profoundly disturbed by the border crisis, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that recognition of “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests” was key to repairing India-China relations.

Details:

  • Even before the events of 2020, the India-China relationship had reflected “a duality of cooperation and competition”.
  • While both sides had made a common cause on development and economic issues and common membership of plurilateral groups was a meeting point, there were divergences when it came to interests and aspirations.
  • However, over the years, there has been no significant progress in arriving at a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC.
    • Also, there has been an increasing construction of border infrastructure, especially on the Chinese side.
    • He added that India had made efforts to reduce the considerable infrastructure gap since 2014, including through greater budget commitments and road building.

Way forward:

  • The minister suggested three mutuals and eight broad propositions as a way forward for the relationship.
  • Mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests, he said were determining factors.
  • The first proposition was that agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit.
  • Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.
  • Peace and tranquillity in border areas was the basis for the development of the relationship in other domains. If that was disturbed, he said, the rest of the relationship would be too.
  • The other proposition was that while both remain committed to a multipolar world, they should recognise that a multipolar Asia was one of its essential constituents.
  • While each state had its interests, concerns and priorities, sensitivities to them could not be one-sided and relations were reciprocal in nature. As rising powers, neither should ignore the other’s set of aspirations.

Conclusion:

While there could be divergence and differences between the two neighbours, their management is essential for stronger ties.

3. ‘India’s UNSC seat a matter of discussion’

Context:

The U.S. President’s pick for UN Ambassador’s response to a question on whether India, Germany and Japan should become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Details:

  • She noted that there were arguments for and opinions against these countries becoming permanent members.
    • China opposes permanent membership for India and Japan.
    • The Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group — Pakistan, South Korea, Italy and Argentina also oppose the G4 (Brazil, Germany, Japan and India) becoming permanent members.
  • Recognizing India’s growing role on the world stage, the Obama-Biden Administration formally declared U.S. support for India’s membership in a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council.
  • The U.S. has for some years supported India’s permanent membership to the Council — with former President Barack Obama declaring his country’s support in his address to Parliament in 2010.

Note:

  • India, along with Brazil, Japan and Germany are pressing for urgent reform of the UN Security Council and for a permanent seat in it.
  • Also, India officially began its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with the beginning of the year 2021.

Read more on this topic covered in 27th January 2021 CNA.

Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group:
  • Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group is an informal club that developed at the UN in the 1990s.
  • The group developed in opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
  • Under the leadership of Italy, it aims to counter the bids for permanent seats proposed by G4 nations (Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) and is calling for a consensus before any decision is reached on the form and size of the Security Council.
  • The thesis of the Uniting for Consensus group is that any increase in permanent seats would further accentuate the disparity between the member countries.
  • Italy along with Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt, in 1995 founded the “Coffee Club“.
  • They were soon joined by other countries, including Spain, Argentina, Turkey, Canada, and South Korea, and in a short time, the group came to include about 50 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Category: ECONOMY

1. ‘Plug gaps in GST to raise fiscal support’

Context:

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist’s suggestions to India with respect to policy support in the middle of a pandemic.

Details:

  • The chief economist has suggested a few measures that India should take in order to contain borrowing costs while enhancing fiscal support for the economy. They are:
    • Propose a credible privatisation plan for public sector firms
    • Plug gaps in GST collections
    • Cut wasteful expenditure from the Budget
  • She said that India must continue to provide support to the weaker sections and increase outlays for the national employment guarantee scheme, adding that the policies of in-kind and in-cash support that were deployed in 2020 and expired in 2020, should be deployed again for 2021.
  • While concerns are being raised about high government debt, she said any tightening of fiscal policies in the middle of the pandemic would be damaging.
  • She emphasised that credibility on effectiveness in GST collections, disinvestment plans would give confidence to the markets and keep borrowing costs low during the transition.

Category: HEALTH

1. Tempered optimism

Context:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a new set of guidelines for the containment of COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The guidelines will be applicable for the entire month of February.

Details:

  • A steady decline in the number of active and new cases in the country over the last four months has been seen with optimism and has given way for a slight relaxation of a number of restrictions.

The new guidelines

  • The Home Ministry has proposed relaxations in the protocols for public activities including occupancy levels in cinema theatres, holding of exhibitions and access to swimming pools.
  • The guidelines allow cinema halls and theatres to function at a higher capacity than the 50% seating strength allowed hitherto.
  • All kinds of social, religious and cultural gatherings that were earlier restricted to a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces, will now be allowed subject to the standard operating procedure issued by the State governments.
  • This will come as a relief to some of the outlying sectors that could not fully unlock so far, although, as the Ministry points out, all other activities have been permitted.
  • The guidelines for Surveillance, Containment and Caution presented an opportunity for further relaxation of international air travel and resumption of certain suspended routes, but the Director-General of Civil Aviation has decided to maintain status quo on scheduled flights till February 28th, exercising caution.
  • A complete resumption of inter-city rail services is yet to be announced, however, with the economy in recession, there is a need to unlock the economy but not without strict enforcement of public health measures.

Need for caution

  • The declining infection rates have been very encouraging, however, the threat hasn’t receded completely.
  • The present landscape of the coronavirus pandemic reveals a very contrasting picture, wherein certain advanced countries are up against challenges of running out of vaccines, experiencing a tide of new cases and deaths like in the case of the United Kingdom, and the poorer countries have still not been able to get access to vaccination, while India reports a case decline.

Indian vaccination programme

  • The Indian vaccination programme commenced on January 16th, India aims to immunize 300 million people in the target group in the first phase of the programme.
  • At the end of ten days, the data suggest that over 1.95 million people were vaccinated. The number of people vaccinated each day has been slowly but steadily increasing since day one from over 1.91 lakh to about 3.35 lakh on day ten.
  • The pace at which the immunization campaign against COVID-19 is happening is not commensurate to India’s population, this has become a cause for concern.
  • Vaccine hesitancy is seen as an emerging cause for low turnout, this may even be leading to wastage of precious vials in some States. The government must investigate and publicise the reasons for vaccine hesitancy.
  • The vaccination programme is a powerful weapon in combating the Covid-19 pandemic, but it requires people to volunteer, thus it is very important to create a sense of assurance among the people.
  • The example of Tamil Nadu is striking, a state with a relatively higher percentage of health literates, and relatively well-equipped with health infrastructure, managed to have only over 16% of its targeted coverage on the day of the launch and astonishingly, the second day of vaccination witnessed an even lower turnout.

Optimism with caution

  • The guidelines to unlock certain activities have come at a time when there have been several instances of crowded election campaigns, agitations and gatherings.
  • India’s declining infections has been encouraging but that should not lead to dropping of guard against the virus, complacency can undo months of hard work in curtailing the virus.
  • The genetic mutations of the coronavirus in South Africa, the U.K. and Brazil pose a new worry.
    • A mutation means an alteration in genetic material. A mutation is part of the life cycle of a virus. Once the virus enters a host, it begins to replicate and make copies of itself.
    • An alteration in this base can be a mutation, effectively changing the shape and behaviour of the virus.
  • Poor communication and lack of transparency on vaccine efficacy data have produced vaccine hesitancy, resulting in low uptake in some States.
  • The virus variants have shifted the focus on second-generation vaccines that are expected to protect against them but will take time to arrive. Thus in the absence of ready pharmaceutical remedies, citizens and policymakers have to rely upon maintaining personal hygiene standards and social distancing.
  • In India, even with a sizeable population exposed to the virus, as seropositivity surveys show, the spate of infections in Kerala and Maharashtra underscores the value of the precautionary principle on the road to universal vaccination.

F. Prelims Facts

1. 18 Opposition parties to boycott President’s address

What’s in News?

18 Opposition parties, led by the Congress, have announced their decision to boycott President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.

President’s address at the start of the Budget session:

  • On the first day of the Budget Session of Parliament, Hon’ble President will address a joint sitting of the two Houses.
  • The budget session starts every year with the President’s Address to both Houses.
  • Following the President’s address, a debate takes place not only on the contents of the address but also the broad issues of governance in the country. This paves the way for discussion on the Budget.
  • The Constitution binds the President to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers of the Union, on a majority of issues.
  • The speech that the President reads before the legislature is the viewpoint of the government and is prepared by it.

G. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements with respect to Lala Lajpat Rai:
  1. He founded the “Arya Gazette”.
  2. He co-founded the Punjab National Bank.
  3. He is the founder of the Servants of People Society.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1 and 2 only
  4. None of the above
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: d

Explanation:

  • Lala Lajpat Rai Born was in 1865 in Moga district, Punjab.
  • He was a lawyer by profession and is called ‘Punjab Kesari’.
  • He was the editor of the Arya Gazette, which he had founded.
  • He founded the Servants of People Society in 1921.
  • He co-founded the Punjab National Bank in 1894.
Q2. Which of the following schemes are subsumed under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan?
  1. Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA)
  2. Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)
  3. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)
  4. Teacher Education (TE)

Choose the correct option:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 1, 2 and 3 only
  3. 1, 3 and 4 only
  4. 2, 3 and 4 only
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: c

Explanation:

  • Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan is an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class 12.
  • The scheme has been prepared with the broader goal of improving school effectiveness measured in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and equitable learning outcomes.
  • It subsumes the three Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE).
  • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 aiming at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.
Q3. Consider the following statements with respect to Ethanol:
  1. Ethanol is alcohol of 99% plus purity that can be used for blending with petrol.
  2. Ethanol is mainly produced from molasses.
  3. Ethanol blending with fossil fuels will cut down carbon emissions.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: d

Explanation:

All the statements are correct.

Q4. Consider the following statements with respect to Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group:
  1. It is an informal club that developed at the United Nations.
  2. It began as a movement nicknamed the Coffee Club that called for expansion of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
  3. It supports the extension of UNSC permanent membership to G4 nations.
  4. The group opines that any increase in permanent seats would further accentuate the disparity between the member countries.

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

  1. 1 and 4 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1, 2 and 3 only
  4. 4 only
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation:

  • Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group is an informal club that developed at the UN in the 1990s.
  • It began as a movement nicknamed the Coffee Club. The group developed in opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
  • The group opines that any increase in permanent seats would further accentuate the disparity between the member countries.

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. Poor communication and lack of transparency on vaccine efficacy data have produced vaccine hesitancy, resulting in low uptake in some States. Comment. (10 marks, 150 words) [GS-2, Health]
  2. What are some of the key issues and perspectives of various stakeholders on net neutrality in India? (15 marks, 250 words)[Gs-2, Governance}

Read the previous CNA here.

29 Jan 2021 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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