24 Jun 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

24 June 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. India tells Pakistan to slash staff at mission
2. China warns risk of naval conflict with U.S.
3. Trump suspends H-1B visas till year-end
4. U.S. seeks to widen nuclear deal with Russia
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. SC gives nod to woman to abort foetus
C. GS 3 Related
ECONOMY
1. SEBI makes raising funds easier for stressed companies
2. Money supply surge signals uncertainty amid pandemic
3. Govt. mulls customs levy on solar equipment
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNAL SECURITY
1. The sharp end of military power
AGRICULTURE
1. Crop of ironies
F. Prelims Facts
1. Arrest the virus of arbitrary power
G. Tidbits
1. Russia to speed up defence deals
2. PM CARES finances ventilators
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

2. China warns risk of naval conflict with U.S.

Context:

The U.S. military is deploying unprecedented numbers to the Asia-Pacific region, raising the risk of an incident with China’s Navy, a senior Chinese official has said.

Details:

  • Tensions between the two have soared on multiple fronts since President Donald Trump took office.
  • According to a report, U.S. has deployed 3,75,000 soldiers and 60% of its warships in the Indo-Pacific region. Three US aircraft carriers have been sent to the region.
  • The United States’ regular “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea — where China and neighbouring countries have competing claims — angers Beijing, and China’s Navy usually warns off the U.S. ships.
  • During former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, the U.S. Navy conducted four freedom of navigation operations while there have been 22 of them under President Trump.
  • Also, Beijing has infuriated other nations by building artificial islands with military installations in parts of the sea.

Way forward:

  • If a crisis were to erupt, the repercussions on bilateral relations would be catastrophic.
  • The document warns that deteriorating military relations would substantially increase the possibility of a dangerous incident, a conflict or even a crisis.
  • As per the report, the two militaries should step up communication in order to prevent strategic misunderstanding and miscalculation.
  • The report says China does not regard the United States as a potential rival or envisage a new cold or hot war with the U.S.

3. Trump suspends H-1B visas till year-end

Context:

The U.S. President has signed an executive order (EO) pausing new H-1B visas effective June 24, 2020 through the end of the year.

Details:

  • H4 visas (H-1B dependents), L visas (intra-company transfers), as well as H-2B (non-agricultural workers) and J visas will be on pause through the year-end.
    • H-1B visa is required to work in a specialty occupation. Requires a higher education degree or its equivalent. Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defence.
    • L1 visas allow companies to transfer highly skilled workers to US for a period of up to seven years.
    • H-2B visas allow food and agricultural workers to seek employment in the US.
  • H-1B, H-2B, J and L visa holders, and their spouses or children already present in the US shall not be impacted by the new worker visa ban.
  • The order was issued ostensibly to protect American jobs during the ongoing pandemic.
  • It has been criticised by the tech industry as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle as damaging to the U.S. economy.

Why did the US suspend non-immigrant worker visas?

  • Since it was started in 1952, the H-1 visa scheme has undergone many changes and revisions to allow or disallow certain categories of skilled workers in the US, depending on the economic situation of the country.
  • The technology boom coupled with the arrival of the internet and low-cost computers in developing nations such as India and China saw a large number of graduates willing to work at relatively low costs in the US, a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee.
  • However, it has since often been criticised for sending low cost workers to the US at the expense of domestic workers.
  • In his executive order extending the ban, Trump said that while under normal circumstances, “properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy,”, the extraordinary economic contraction created due to COVID-19 posed a threat to the US workers.

How does it impact Indian IT companies?

  • Indian IT companies are amongst the biggest beneficiaries of the US H-1B visa regime, and have since the 1990s cornered a lion’s share of the total number of visas issued each year.
  • Indian IT companies also offer subcontracts to Indian nationals already present in the US with valid H-1B visas.
  • As of April 1, 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had received about 2.5 lakh H-1B work visa applications, according to official data.
  • Indians had applied for as many as 1.84 lakh or 67 per cent of the total H-1B work visas for the current financial year ending March 2021.
  • Apart from the suspension of these work visas, the executive order signed by Trump has also made sweeping changes to the H-1B work visa norms, which will no longer be decided by the currently prevalent lottery system.
  • The new norms will now favour highly-skilled workers who are paid the highest wages by their respective companies.
  • This could result in a significant impact on margins and worker wages of Indian IT companies which send thousands of low-cost employees to work on client sites in the US.
  • However, as per research agency ICRA, the move will be mildly negative for the Indian IT services sector considering their high dependence on such visas.

4. U.S. seeks to widen nuclear deal with Russia

Context:

According to a U.S. envoy in talks with Russia on a new accord, the U.S. wants to broaden its nuclear arms control pact with Russia to include all their atomic weapons.

Details:

  • U.S. special presidential envoy has urged China to join the talks on replacing the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which expires in February 2021.
  • According to a senior U.S. official, the concerns about China’s testing activities supported President Donald Trump’s case for getting China to join the United States and Russia in talks on an arms control accord to replace the 2010 New START treaty.

New START:

  • New START is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.
  • It was signed on 8 April 2010 in Prague, and, after ratification entered into force on 5 February 2011.
  • New START replaced the Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was due to expire in December 2012. Its name is a follow-up to the START I treaty, which expired in December 2009, the proposed START II treaty, which never entered into force, and the START III treaty, for which negotiations were never concluded.

Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

1. SC gives nod to woman to abort foetus

Context:

The Supreme Court has allowed a woman in her 25th week of pregnancy bearing twins to medically terminate one of the foetuses detected with substantial abnormalities.

Details:

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 bars abortion if the foetus has crossed the 20-week mark.
  • An exception to the law is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for the mother.
  • In the present case, a three-judge Bench set aside the Bombay High Court’s rejection.
    • It allowed the woman to go ahead with the “selective foetal reduction” procedure after a medical expert reported that the process would not harm the other normal foetus or the mother.

Read more about the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 and  Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 covered in 31st January 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis.

2. Money supply surge signals uncertainty amid pandemic

Context:

According to RBI data, M3 money supply rose 6.7% in the first five months compared with the same period last year, the highest growth in seven years.

Details:

  • Heightened uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in currency in circulation as people hoard cash or park money in accessible deposits to safeguard themselves against salary cuts or job losses.
  • Currency in circulation, which measures money with the public and in banks, has also surged.
  • However, according to analysts, a rise in money supply usually is seen as a leading indicator of growth in consumption and business investments, but the rise this time is unlikely to bolster either.

Issues:

  • With heightened uncertainty about the duration of pandemic, people have curtailed their discretionary spending as they’re not sure of their permanent income.
  • Gross capital formation, or total investments toward fixed capital, fell 7% in the March quarter, a seven-year low, and analysts expect a further deterioration.
  • Savings and current account deposits have fallen by 8% due to higher withdrawals.

Read more about Measures of Money Supply.

3. Govt. mulls customs levy on solar equipment

Context:

The Government of India is considering levying a basic customs duty (BCD) of about 20% on solar energy equipment to give an edge to domestic manufacturers and discourage imports, especially from China.

Issue:

  • However, solar energy developers say it will be counterproductive in view of India’s ambitious target of achieving 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.
  • Despite making significant progress in solar power generation, India still relies on China for equipment.

This topic has been covered in 6th June 2019 Comprehensive News Analysis. Click here to read.

Category: AGRICULTURE

1. Crop of ironies

Context:

  • Issues being faced by the agricultural sector during the pandemic.

Background:

Challenges during the pandemic:

  • The Indian agriculture sector was impacted by lockdowns across states following the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Migrant farm workers fled the fields en masse depriving the sector of the important labour component.
    • Crippling bottlenecks in the supply chain resulted in prices sky-rocketing in consumer markets, even as farmers, stuck with inventory, started dumping them at throwaway prices.
    • Many remained hungry even as the Food Corporation of India’s godowns overflowed with grain stock at three times the buffer stock norms.

Reforming the agricultural sector:

  • The devastating pandemic has forced the government’s hand for long-overdue agrarian reforms.
    • Amendments have been made to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
    • The Centre has encouraged the State governments to adopt three model laws on contract farming, agricultural land leasing, and marketing.
    • State governments have been urged to dismantle the Agricultural Produce Market Committees. Long-term changes such as fair pricing and e-trading have been made to the agricultural sector.

For more information on this issue, refer to:

CNA dated 17 May, 2020

Challenges:

Environmental pressures:

  • Just as Rabi crops were set to be harvested, unseasonal rain and hail arrived at the beginning of the year leading to crop damage in some parts of the country. Parts of the country also witnessed locust invasions which could have a detrimental impact on the productivity for the year.
  • Climate scientists warn about climate change and its impact on Indian agriculture.

Financial pressures:

  • Existing loans and their inability to pay could push farmers into poverty.
  • The Reserve Bank of India announced an extension of the moratorium on loan EMIs by three months, but given that many farmers rely on a system of informal borrowing, this negates the intended effect.
  • Though the MSPs of 14 Kharif crops have been increased recently by the government, some experts have argued that this may not offer the intended extent of relief due to a lack of manpower, working capital, machinery and storage.

Food security:

  • India has been witnessing a historic reverse migration. Migrant labourers face the prospect of an endangered food security. While the concept of One Nation, One Ration Card has potential, people are concerned about immediate relief for the hungry which is being provided with the release of fixed quantities of free foodgrains and pulses to the migrants, even to those without ration cards, for the months of June and July. Implementation needs to be seen through. India has always struggled to fill the gap between policy prescriptions and implementation.
    • India has been ranked 102 out of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index.

Steps to be taken:

  • Need to increase government allocations to poor farmers through the PM KISAN scheme by including even those who do not own land.
  • Need to ensure timely availability of seeds and fertilizers for the next season by roping in gram sabhas and Farmer Producer Organisations in the process.
  • Need to redirect supply chains locally which could ensure resilience of the sector.

Conclusion:

  • The resilience of Indian farmers meant that the nation was fed even through multiple lockdowns. Acknowledging the fact that food security and farmer welfare are intertwined, there is a need for enhanced efforts to support the critical agricultural sector.
    • Although agriculture accounts for around 17% of India’s GDP, nearly 50% of the country’s population depends on farm-based income.

For more related information, refer to:

CNA dated May 18, 2020

F. Prelims Facts

1. Arrest the virus of arbitrary power

  • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution deals with protection of life and personal liberty. No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Read more on Article 21 – Right to Life.
  • Article 22 of the Indian Constitution offers protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. It requires that anyone arrested and detained must be informed of the ground for such an arrest and must be brought before a competent legal authority within a prescribed time frame.

Also read: Fundamental Rights

G. Tidbits

1. Russia to speed up defence deals

  • Russia has said that it will accelerate deliveries of some defence contracts with India, according to the Defence Minister.
  • The Defence Minister is in Moscow to attend the Victory Day parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the Second World War.
  • India has been asking Russia to speed up deliveries of the S-400 long range air defence system in addition to spares and support for military hardware.

2. PM CARES finances ventilators

What’s in News?

  • According to a government release, the PM CARES Fund Trust has allocated ₹2,000 crore for the supply of 50,000 “Made-in-India” ventilators to government-run COVID-19 hospitals in all States and Union Territories.
  • Further, ₹1,000 crore has been allocated for the welfare of migrant labourers.
  • The distribution of the fund is based on the formula of 50% weightage for the population as per the 2011 Census, 40% weightage for the number of positive COVID-19 cases and 10% for equal distribution among all the States/UTs.

Read more about PM CARES Fund

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. “New START Treaty” refers to:
  1. A nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation.
  2. A multilateral trade agreement between BRICS nations.
  3. A multilateral treaty aimed at regulating the global arms trade.
  4. Bilateral energy security cooperation between the Russian Federation and the U.S.A.
See
Answer
Q2. Consider the following statements with respect to Government e Marketplace (GeM):
  1. It is a state-of-the-art national public procurement platform of the Ministry of Agriculture.
  2. It facilitates online procurement of common use goods and services required by various Government Departments and Public Sector Undertakings.
  3. It provides e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation tools.

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

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3
See
Answer
Q3. Kunjahammad Haji is associated with which of the following uprisings?
  1. Paika Rebellion
  2. Moplah Rebellion
  3. Faraizi Revolt
  4. Poligar Revolt
See
Answer
Q4. Consider the following statements with respect to India’s renewable energy targets:
  1. India has set a target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022.
  2. It has set a target of 20 GW of solar capacity by 2022.

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

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. There is a need for the acceptance of the importance of air power in what has been till now a significantly land-centric operational philosophy of India across the LAC. Comment in the light of the advantages enjoyed by the Indian Air Force with respect to the Chinese Air force. (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. Discuss the challenges faced by the agricultural sector during the pandemic and evaluate the effectiveness of the recently announced agricultural sector reforms in addressing these concerns. (10 marks, 150 words)

Read the previous CNA here.

24 June 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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