01 Jul 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

1 July 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

 
TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. 46 million girls went missing in India
B. GS 2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Free food grain scheme till Nov.
HEALTH
1. Sharp fall in reporting of non-COVID diseases
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Despite opposition, China passes Hong Kong security law
C. GS 3 Related
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. Gas leak in Vizag pharma plant kills two
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. World Bank okays funds for Namami Gange
ECONOMY
1. External debt rises $15.4 billion to $558.5 billion in March
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Reviving SAARC to deal with China
ECONOMY
1. Making trade more digitised
GOVERNMENT SCHEMES
1. Utilise MGNREGA to the fullest capacity
F. Prelims Facts
G. Tidbits
1. Core industry output contracts for third month
2. Banned apps will get chance to send in their clarifications
3. Centre to focus on online education
4. India, Sri Lanka hold talks over debt
5. The rural salve
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

Category: HEALTH

1. Sharp fall in reporting of non-COVID diseases

Context:

According to the information on weekly outbreaks available on the website of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has led to India’s disease surveillance system recording unusually fewer instances of diseases other than COVID-19.

Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP):
  • It is a disease surveillance scheme under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India, assisted by the World Bank.
  • It is a unit under the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
  • A large amount of data on disease reports are collected in order to be able to identify the outbreak of a disease, identify its causes and take corresponding preventive and responsive measures.
  • An early warning system has been put into place in order to take timely preventive steps.

Objectives of IDSP:

  • To strengthen/maintain a decentralized laboratory based IT enabled disease surveillance system for epidemic-prone diseases.
  • To monitor disease trends.
  • To detect and respond to outbreaks in the early rising phase through trained Rapid Response Teams (RRTs).

Details:

  • The IDSP issues weekly reports on disease outbreaks across the country based on its surveillance network that spans at least 600 districts.
  • In the week of March 16-22, the most updated report that is available, there were only six outbreaks/disease alerts reported.
    • The six alerts in Week 12 of the year included a case of Crimean-Congo Haemorraghic Fever from Gujarat, three cases of chickenpox from Bihar, and a case each of dengue and food poisoning from Karnataka and West Bengal respectively.
    • An alert is when a sizeable number of cases from a region are reported.
  • In the same week in 2019, there were 17 alerts; in 2018, there were 28, and in 2017, there were 45.

Reasons for fall in reporting on non-COVID diseases:

  • Officials said the under-reporting was due to the lockdown and the behavioural change that actually depressed instances of disease spread.
  • They also denied the possibility that fewer outbreaks were reported because COVID-19 was prioritised over all else and monitors ignored other diseases.
  • Distancing and lack of contact may have seen a decline in contagious diseases as well as say, waterborne infectious diseases.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Despite opposition, China passes Hong Kong security law

Context:

China’s Parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong.

Details:

  • The legislation sets the stage for the most radical changes to Hong Kong’s (former British colony) way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.
  • The law comes in response to last year’s often-violent pro-democracy protests in the city and aims to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces.
  • Details of the law are yet to be released.

Global reaction:

  • Britain, the EU, Japan, Taiwan and others have also criticised the law. However, China has hit back at the outcry, denouncing interference in its internal affairs.
  • The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the U.S., Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997 handover.
  • The U.S., already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law, halting defence exports and restricting technology access.
  • China said it would retaliate.

This topic has been covered in 23rd May 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis.

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. World Bank okays funds for Namami Gange

Context:

The World Bank has approved a five-year loan to the Namami Gange project worth ₹3,000 crore ($400 million) to develop and improve infrastructure projects to abate pollution in the river basin.

Details:

  • The Second National Ganga River Basin Project (SNGRBP), approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, will support the government’s Namami Gange programme and its long-term vision for controlling pollution in the river and restoring its water quality.
  • The World Bank has been supporting the government’s efforts since 2011 through the ongoing National Ganga River Basin Project, which helped set up the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) as the nodal agency to manage the river, and financed sewage treatment infrastructure in several riverside towns and cities.
  • NMCG has already received ₹4,535 crore ($600 million) from the World Bank until December 2021 as part of the first phase of the National Ganga River Basin Project.
  • So far, 313 projects worth ₹25,000 crore have been sanctioned under the mission.

Projects under the second phase:

  • The Project will help NMCG develop state-of-the-art tools to help manage the river basin more effectively.
  • Spillover projects from the first phase of the mission as well as cleaning projects in tributaries such as the Yamuna and Kali.
  • In the second phase, the loan would fund $150 million for three new ‘Hybrid Annuity Projects’ in Agra, Meerut and Saharanpur for the tributaries of the Ganga.
  • Other heads of distribution would include ‘Institutional Development’; ‘Improving Investments Resilience to COVID-19 Like Emergency Situations’; Performance-Based Incentive for Urban Local Bodies and Programme Communication and Management.

 

Category: ECONOMY

1. External debt rises $15.4 billion to $558.5 billion in March

Context:

According to RBI data, India’s external debt stood at $558.5 billion in March 2020, an increase of $15.4 billion compared with the year-ago period.

Details:

  • Commercial borrowings remained the largest component of the external debt, with a share of 39.4%, followed by non-resident deposits at 23.4% and short-term trade credit at 18.2%.
  • The data showed valuation gains due to the appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the Indian rupee and other major currencies were at $16.6 billion.
    • Excluding the valuation effect, the increase in external debt would have been $32 billion instead of $15.4 billion.
  • At the end of March, long-term debt, with an original maturity of above one year, saw a rise of $17 billion over the level recorded in March 2019.
  • U.S. dollar-denominated debt continued to be the largest component of India’s external debt, with a share of 53.7% at end-March 2020, followed by the Indian rupee (31.9%), yen (5.6%), SDR (4.5%) and the euro (3.5%).
  • The RBI also said debt service (principal repayments plus interest payments) increased marginally to 6.5% of current receipts at the end of March compared to 6.4% in the same period a year ago. This reflects higher interest payments on commercial borrowings and lower current receipts.

 

Category: ECONOMY

1. Making trade more digitised

Context:

  • Effect of the COVID pandemic on trade.

Background:

Efforts in India:

  • Recognizing digitisation of procedures and lower human intervention as the two major pillars that drive trade across borders, India has embarked on multiple reforms.
  • Post the ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization in April 2016, India’s reforms focused on infrastructural up-gradation, digitisation and automation.
    • Schemes such as Direct Port Entry and Direct Port Delivery, the Radio Frequency Identification system and the Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade, significantly reduce the time and cost of clearance of goods.
    • The Port Community System aimed at seamlessly integrating all maritime trade-related stakeholders on a single platform and e-SANCHIT (e-Storage and computerised handling of indirect tax documents) have significantly reduced human intervention.
  • There has been an increased focus on effective logistics and smooth export-import (EXIM) procedures at Indian borders. This has contributed to India’s continuous improvement in the Ease of Doing Business ranking, particularly in the ‘trading across\s borders’ parameter (ranked 68 in 2020).

Pandemic effect:

  • India’s exports in April 2020 have contracted by 60% year-on-year.
    • There has been a drastic drop in the cargo handled by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in April 2020 as compared to April 2019 which is indicative of the drop in India’s trade.
  • The slump in international trade due to the pandemic is understandable. As countries slowly emerge out of this, new demand and supply chains will form, which will be located in countries that re-orient their existing trade structures.
    • The significance of a more digitised trading environment, with minimal manual touchpoints, will increase.
    • With the current crisis, there will be the demand for a greater leap in trade facilitation measures to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods.

Challenges:

  • While different interventions of the government have positively developed the logistics sector, there are still some gaps that need to be bridged.
    • Some of the delays in moving to a paperless trade ecosystem can be attributed to gaps in the effective implementation of digital platforms. The shortcomings in the functionality of the digital system and technical glitches result in limited use of the system.
    • The lack of connectivity/message exchanges between different stakeholders’ systems results in delayed cargo clearance.
    • The lack of awareness, acceptability and adaptability of new initiatives among the users is a concern, due to issues with respect to training and capacity building amongst the users, restricting the optimal utilisation of digital platforms.
    • There is also the issue of standardisation and coordination of processes across ports.

Way forward:

  • The present crisis presents an opportunity to develop new systems and enhance existing platforms.
    • Measures to facilitate and expedite the clearance process to make it more automated, online and paperless should be promoted.
    • There is a need to further augment the digital infrastructure in the trade ecosystem.
    • Enhanced integration of systems and coordination between the different stakeholders with the sharing of input data between them on a real-time basis should be promoted.
      • Promoting the use of a multi-stakeholder single platform like the Port Community System can streamline EXIM procedures.
  • These efforts will be instrumental towards improving India’s trading ecosystem and achieving the desired target of Ease of Doing Business (ranking under 50). The more digitised our trade facilitation infrastructure, the more immune we will be to future disruptions.

Category: GOVERNMENT SCHEMES

1. Utilise MGNREGA to the fullest capacity

Context:

  • Work programmes during the pandemic crisis.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA):

Significance:

  • The experience of the lockdown has brought to light the role of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as a lifeline for the working poor in rural India by ensuring a livelihood opportunity and financial stability.
  • There has been a marked increase in the number of households who have taken work under MGNREGA in the months of May and June of 2020.
  • The absence of MGNREGA could accentuate rural distress.

Challenges:

  • According to figures available on the Rural Development Ministry’s website, as many as 1.82 crore workers who demanded work were turned back.
  • In spite of a legal provision of unemployment allowance, compensation for not providing work has not been paid.
  • The issue of unemployment allowance would become more relevant given the advent of monsoons in India. During the rainy season even though demand is high, work provision is low.
  • With the return of migrant workers to their home States and with substantial numbers having completed the quarantine period, the demand for work is bound to increase. Despite the Central government’s release of additional grants, the funds remaining with the States would be insufficient.

Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan:

  • The Central government’s new scheme, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, aims to provide work to migrant workers in 116 selected districts.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal Ministry for this scheme.
  • The scheme is primarily meant for migrant workers in those districts where their numbers are 25,000 or more.

For more information on this topic, refer to:

PIB dated June 18, 2020

CNA dated June 19, 2020

Concerns:

  • The author of the article claims the lack of a credible criterion for the selection of states for the implementation of the new scheme and alleges favouritism in the selection of states.
  • The author claims a high degree of similarity between the MGNREGA and the new scheme and questions the need for a new scheme even with the existence of the effective MGNREGA.
  • While the right to work is a legal right under the MGNREGA, under the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, there is no such legal binding on the administration.
  • The author expresses concerns about how the new scheme might impact the MGNREGA work in the selected districts and laments the lack of clarity on this critical issue in the set of guidelines issued by the Ministry.
  • The scheme is primarily meant for migrant workers in those districts where their numbers are 25,000 or more. That means in these selected districts, women who comprise a smaller percentage of migrant workers will be largely excluded. So unless the work under the new scheme is in addition to MGNREGA, women will suffer.

Conclusion:

  • The author calls for not diluting the MGNREGA scheme in the name of the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan. The author argues for the full utilization of the potential of the MGNREGA to provide relief to the suffering of rural India.
    • This could involve the move to remove the restriction of only one person per household to make every individual eligible. The cap of 100 days should also be removed to expand it to at least 200 days. Unemployment allowance should be guaranteed for all those turned away from work.
    • It is essential for the Central government to ensure that States are provided with timely funds to pay for the work under MGNREGA and also unemployment allowance to workers demanding work.

F. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Tidbits

1. Core industry output contracts for third month

What’s in News?

According to data released by the Commerce Ministry, the output of eight core sector industries shrank 23% in May 2020, the third straight month of contraction.

  • Of the eight core sectors, the fertilizer industry was the only one that saw actual growth in output in May 2020, rising 7.5% in comparison to May 2019.
  • The rest continued to contract, with the steel sector performing the worst and recording a 48.4% fall, while cement production dropped 22%.
  • The energy sectors also showed negative growth.

Read more about Core sectors.

2. Banned apps will get chance to send in their clarifications

What’s in News?

The Union government has banned 59 Chinese applications citing threat to national security and sovereignty.

This topic has been covered in the 30th June 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis.

  • Information Technology Ministry official has said that the banned platforms would be given a chance to submit their clarifications.
  • This is in line with provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.

3. Centre to focus on online education

What’s in News?

With the social inequity in online education coming to the fore due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre has proposed long-term measures to bridge the divide.

  • The measures include plans to distribute laptops or tablets to 40% of all college and university students over the next five years, and to equip all government schools with information and communication technology (ICT).
  • The School Education Department also estimated it would need to spend up to ₹1 lakh per school for sanitisation and quarantine measures in preparation for the safe reopening of schools that have been shut due to the pandemic.
  • Funds for these measures are being provided under the composite grant for schools, ranging between ₹25,000 for small schools with less than 100 students and ₹1 lakh for schools with over a thousand students.
  • For college and university students, the promotion of online education, which has become more urgent due to the pandemic, will be twofold. On the one hand, the Human Resource Development Ministry proposes to spend ₹2,306 crore on developing and translating digital course content and resources over the next five years.
  • On the other, it intends to provide laptops and tablets to 4.06 crore students — that is, 40% of the projected student population — by 2026, at a total cost of ₹60,900 crore. The largest chunk of 1.5 crore students are to receive devices in the next financial year 2021-22. An average cost of ₹15,000 has been assumed per device.
  • The Centre and States are to share the cost of making devices available, in a 60:40 ratio, according to the presentation to the Finance Commission.

4. India, Sri Lanka hold talks over debt

What’s in News?

India is holding close and constructive discussions with Sri Lanka on Colombo’s pending requests for rescheduling its debt repayment and for currency swap facilities under bilateral and SAARC arrangements.

  • Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had sought a moratorium on the debt owed by Colombo — totalling $960 million — during his New Delhi visit in February 2020.
  • The request “was under consideration”. The matter [Sri Lanka’s requests] had been taken up at the leadership level and has been followed up by senior functionaries bilaterally.
  • Sri Lanka’s mounting external debt was a concern even before the coronavirus pandemic, but its impact has aggravated the strain on the island nation’s economy that is saddled with loans — bilateral, multilateral and in the international money market — amounting to billions of dollars.
  • This year alone, Sri Lanka is scheduled to repay $2.9 billion of its debt, which Colombo is reportedly trying to reschedule with bilateral partners.
  • It is unclear how Sri Lanka will repay the apparently non-negotiable $1 billion international sovereign bond maturing in October 2020.
  • While economists and experts have been arguing that Sri Lanka must avoid resorting to further debt in this situation, Colombo appears to have few other options in hand.
    • Sri Lanka is in talks with the IMF, from whom it sought a rapid financing instrument.
    • Following the global pandemic, Beijing has pledged a loan of $500 million to help Colombo deal with its immediate impact.
    • Sri Lanka already owes China about $5 billion.
    • Further, upon Sri Lanka’s request, the China Development Bank (CDB) entered into a $140 million-facility agreement with the Bank of Ceylon, drawn under two tranches of $70 million each to help the State-owned bank cope amid the pandemic.

5. The rural salve

  • The high levels of reverse migration recorded during the COVID-19 related lockdown led to a sudden surge in demand for work through MGNREGS in states where the bulk of the migrants returned.
  • Sowing of Kharif crops has doubled this year following a massive increase in rural labour and an above-average monsoon.
  • Increased demand for work under MGNREGS and increased sowing activities has led to increased levels of employment in rural areas.
    • Available data on employment shows that the rural employment rate has bounced back to pre-COVID levels while the urban rate is still suffering after a decent recovery following the unlock.

Concerns:

  • The sudden rise in sowing has to be met with an equal increase in government procurement. If not, the glut in the market will cause prices to crash and profits to dwindle.
  • Though rural jobs have increased, the excess supply of labour may result in wage rates decreasing significantly.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements with respect to Attorney General (AG) of India:
  1. AG enjoys all the privileges and immunities that are available to a Member of Parliament.
  2. AG’s remuneration is fixed by the Parliament.
  3. AG has the right to take part in a meeting of any committee of the Parliament of which he is named as a member, but without a right to vote.
  4. The Indian Constitution mentions the procedure and grounds for the removal of the Attorney General.

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

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

Answer: a

Explanation:

  • President of India appoints Attorney General for a term which is decided by President.
  • He can be removed by the president at any time. There is no procedure or ground mentioned in the Constitution for his removal.
  • He shall hold office during the pleasure of the President, and shall receive such remuneration as the President may determine.
  • He enjoys all the privileges and immunities that are available to a Member of Parliament.
  • AG has the right to take part in a meeting of any committee of the Parliament of which he is named as a member, but without a right to vote.[/su_spoiler]
Q2. Wari-Warkari tradition is geographically associated with the state of:
  1. Karnataka
  2. Maharashtra
  3. Gujarat
  4. Odisha
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation:

  • Wari-Warkari is a Maharashtrian festival celebrated by the Warkari sect.
  • It is a tradition within the Bhakti spiritual movement of Vaishnavaite Hinduism.
  • It is geographically associated with the state of Maharashtra.[/su_spoiler]
Q3. Consider the following statements with respect to Hydrogen Sulfide:
  1. It is a colourless and odourless gas.
  2. It is poisonous, corrosive and inflammable.
  3. It is used to produce heavy water for nuclear power plants.

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

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

Answer: a

Explanation:

  • Hydrogen sulfide is a colourless chalcogen hydride gas with a characteristic foul odour.
  • It is very poisonous, corrosive, and flammable.
  • Hydrogen sulfide is used primarily to produce sulfuric acid and sulfur.
  • It is also used to create a variety of inorganic sulfides used to create pesticides, leather, dyes, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Hydrogen sulfide is used to produce heavy water for nuclear power plants.[/su_spoiler]
Q4. Consider the following statements:
  1. IUCN classifies both Javan and Sumatran Rhinos as Critically Endangered in its Red List.
  2. Greater one-horned rhinoceros is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

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
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: d

Explanation:

Both statements are correct.[/su_spoiler]

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. In the light of China increasing its influence in the South Asian region as part of its global expansionism, discuss the need and strategy for India to reinvigorate SAARC to counter Chinese plans for the region. (15 marks, 250 words)
  2. Enumerate the reforms introduced in India to up-grade, digitize and automate its logistics systems for inter-country trade. Discuss the existing challenges in this sector and suggest suitable measures. (15 marks, 250 words)

Read the previous CNA here.

1 July 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

 

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