28 Mar 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

CNA 28th March 2020:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Concerns over privacy as details of air travellers are leaked online
HEALTH
1. India to join WHO drug trial
C. GS 3 Related
ECONOMY
1. RBI cuts rates, allows loan moratorium
2. World is now in recession: IMF
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
SOCIAL JUSTICE
1. Shift to upscaling food rationing now
ECONOMY
1. It’s also a fight against punitive measures
F. Prelims Facts
1. After ossification test, court grants minor bail
G. Tidbits
1. Moody’s cuts India GDP growth forecast to 2.5%
2. Major news publishers unite to tackle misinformation
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

E. Editorials

Category: SOCIAL JUSTICE

1. Shift to upscaling food rationing now

Context:

The Finance Minister has announced a ₹1.7-lakh crore package of social security measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in the period of the 21-day lockdown.

Details:

The topic has been comprehensively covered in 27th March 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis. Click here to read.

Issues:

  • The burden of the current lockdown is borne disproportionately by the large unorganised workforce, comprising hundreds of millions of casual daily wage-workers and self-employed workers.
  • India already holds the record for the largest number of malnourished persons in the world. As their ability to purchase food diminishes, a growing population of working people and their families will soon enter a phase of hunger and undernourishment.
  • In respect of food security, the package falls far short of what is needed.

Lessons provided by the experience of other countries in using rationing in times of scarcity:

United Kingdom:

  • In the 1940s, in the United Kingdom, rationing or a policy of “fair shares” was introduced in a period of war and scarcity. Starting in 1939, each and every person was issued a ration book, with a weekly entitlement that could be collected at a local grocery store.
  • A remarkable outcome of the war years was, as Amartya Sen has demonstrated, a significant improvement in vital statistics including a rise in life expectancy and a decline in the mortality rate.
  • Despite heavy war casualties and a decline in consumer expenditure per capita, life expectancy actually improved.
  • In the first six decades of the 20th century, the decade from 1941 to 1950 saw the largest increase in life expectancy in England and Wales.

China’s current strategy:

  • In China, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a planning body, was the key coordinator along with the Ministry of Commerce in ensuring supplies of basic foods and price stability to the poor, especially in Wuhan province, the epicentre of the current pandemic.
  • The Chinese strategy had multiple components, which included public corporations and ministries, 300 large private companies, 200,000 private stores, and local government institutions. State-owned companies supplied key commodities to Wuhan.
  • Special delivery trucks for transport of vegetables were arranged, and the local government organised open-air markets.

India’s timeline:

  • In India, the British introduced rationing in six cities in 1942, mainly to supply industrial workers with adequate food.
    • Following demands from a strong political movement, Malabar became the first rural area to implement rationing in 1943.
  • In the mid-1960s, the system of rationing or the Public Distribution System (PDS) was made a national universal programme, which steadily expanded till 1991.
  • In the 1990s, the policies of liberalisation led to the withdrawal of universal rationing and its replacement by a policy of narrow targeting. Differential entitlements were provided for BPL (Below Poverty Line) and APL (Above Poverty Line) households.
  • In 2013, the landmark National Food Security Act (NFSA), ensured legal entitlement to rations and other food-based schemes (such as mid-day meals in schools).
    • Around 75% of rural households, and 50% of urban households, that is, a total of two-thirds of all households, were eligible for inclusion (now termed priority households) in the NFSA.
    • The implementation of the NFSA — notably the PDS, the Mid-day Meal Scheme, and the Integrated Child Development Services scheme — varies significantly across States; nevertheless, the infrastructure for distribution of food is in place in all parts of the country.
  • In the on-going pandemic situation, Kerala is the first State in India to have announced a package with income support measures and in-kind measures including free rations of 15 kg (grain) and provision of cheap meals.
  • The government of Tamil Nadu announced free rations of rice, sugar, cooking oil and dal to all ration card holders. The supply of rations for unorganised workers is to be through Amma canteens.
  • The Delhi government will give 1.5 times existing entitlements at no cost to all ration card holders.

 

Way forward:

  • To ensure that all people have access to adequate food in the midst of this unprecedented health and economic crisis with potentially high levels of mortality, the need of the hour is to expand the food security system.
  • The answer to this looming and very real scenario of food insecurity lies in a massive programme of food rationing.
  • It is argued that there is a need to immediately ensure universal rationing with an expanded food basket, and special measures for cooked food in urban areas for the vulnerable population.
  • In India a system of expanded rations must have the following components:
  1. For all rural households, free rations of rice and wheat at double the normal entitlement must be distributed.
    • The current entitlement is about half the quantity of daily cereal intake recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
    • The new quantities should be the actual minimum requirement per person per day.
  2. The provision of rations must be universal: this is not the time to demarcate households by type of ration card or whether they have a ration card or by any form of biometrics.
    • The system of identification of priority households is not error-proof, and no household wrongly excluded should be outside the ambit of rationing today.
  3. For all rural households, additional rations of cooking oil, sugar, salt and lentils should be provided on a regular basis.
    • Supplies have to be arranged, the distribution could be weekly or fortnightly in order to ensure smooth availability.
  1. If milk, eggs and vegetables (or one or more of them) can be supplied, we can not only ensure basic food security at the time of a major health crisis, but actually address the burden of malnutrition.
    • For urban areas, there is a need for combination of provision of dry goods and of cooked food. All households with ration cards can be given the same entitlements as proposed for rural households.
    • For the vast numbers of workers and migrants in towns and cities, however, arrangements for preparation and delivery of cooked food must be set up.
    • The large numbers of closed community kitchens (schools and colleges, company and office canteens, for example) and restaurant workers now sitting idle or laid off can be brought together to undertake a massive programme of provision of cooked meals at subsidised rates.
      • This will require careful planning and technology to distribute food while ensuring physical distancing.
  • All the measures proposed must continue for at least three months, and be reviewed afterwards.
  • An imaginative massive exercise of expanded rations could not only provide aid in this pandemic but also bring in a policy shift that will help sustain a nourished and healthy population.

Category: ECONOMY

1. It’s also a fight against punitive measures

The editorial explains how the requirement of massive resources following the pandemic may be an occasion to lift global economic sanctions.

Economic Sanctions:

  • Many international sanctions imposed on the basis of political and economic decisions and taken as a part of diplomatic efforts by countries, multilateral or regional organisations against states or organisations exist around the world.
    • These were meant either to ‘protect national security interests, or to protect international law, and defend against threats to international peace and security.
    • These measures include the temporary imposition on a target of economic, trade, diplomatic, cultural or other restrictions’ and can be lifted only through a long process of ascertaining whether their objectives were met.
  • The UN Security Council has a ‘mandate by the international community to apply sanctions that are binding on all UN member states.
    • They serve as the international community’s most powerful peaceful means to prevent threats to international peace and security or to settle them’.
    • The sanctions often lie dormant for technical reasons even if their original intent and purpose have lost their relevance.
    • The victims of these sanctions suffer in silence or engage in negotiations to get relief.
  • Apart from UN sanctions, there are ‘unilateral sanctions that are imposed by individual countries in furtherance of their strategic objectives.
    • Typically intended as strong economic coercion, measures applied under unilateral sanctions can range between coercive diplomatic efforts, economic warfare, or a threat of war.
    • These take the form of economic, diplomatic, military and sport sanctions.
  • There are many more cases of sanctions against many countries still in existence. Temporary sanctions in protest against the policies of countries often result in expulsion or withdrawal of diplomatic personnel.
  • The unilateral sanctions are naturally not mandatory to any other state, but the United States has often stipulated, like in the case of Iran, that those countries which do not apply sanctions to Iran would be debarred from doing business with the U.S., a Hobson’s choice (a free choice in which only one thing is offered) in many cases.
    • The U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iran deal has now resulted in Iran facing crippling sanctions.
    • Perhaps, the impact of COVID-19 was severe in Iran on account of the sanctions and the resultant economic crisis in the country.
  • The politics of sanctions entered a new era when U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that grouped together sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.
    • Currently, the U.S. alone, or together with other countries has sanctions against Belarus, Myanmar, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe and several other countries.
    • The wide network of sanctions is comprehensively monitored by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury which enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes and related entities and individuals.

Issue:

  • Any global cataclysm affects poor countries more than the rich ones as the former do not have the resources to meet the unexpected economic challenge.
  • While the developed countries and their groups provide economic packages to themselves and their partners, developing countries can only hope to receive handouts from the international financial institutions or some generous rich allies.

 

Dealing with the emergency – Way forward:

  • One way of dealing with the emergency in an emergency mode is to consider lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and individual countries on developing countries.
  • There is no estimate of the losses sustained by these countries on account of these sanctions. But these countries will be much relieved if these restrictions are removed.
  • The present global pandemic and the requirement of massive resources may be an occasion to lift these sanctions. The countries which have imposed these sanctions will not have to make any financial outlay to assist these countries at this time of a humanitarian emergency.
  • The G20 Chairman, the King of Saudi Arabia, on a suggestion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had convened a video conference of G20 leaders. As a follow up of that meeting, the G20 could consider proposing the lifting of multilateral and bilateral sanctions. As Winston Churchill said, “ Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
  • It is largely opined that a global pandemic demands game-changing actions by all nations in order to halt its global spread, provide relief in terms of medical supplies and to rebuild shattered lives. The global community has the responsibility to rise to the occasion.

F. Prelims Facts

1. After ossification test, court grants minor bail

  • Ossification test is one of the primary test for age determination in India.
  • Human bones are remodelled evey year and new layer of bone material is laid by a process called ossification (or osteogenesis).
  • Based upon this phenomenon, ossification test is carried out.

G. Tidbits

1. Moody’s cuts India GDP growth forecast to 2.5%

  • Moody’s Investors Service has reduced its GDP growth forecast for India to 2.5% in 2020. This marks a sharp drop from the earlier projection of 5.3%, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown.
  • India grew at 5% in 2019.
  • The ratings agency expects the country’s economy to recover in 2021, estimating a growth rate of 5.8%.
  • Moody’s Global Macro Outlook 2020-21 projects that the G20 countries are likely to see an overall contraction of GDP by 0.5% in the light of the ‘unprecedented shock’ in the world economy.

2. Major news publishers unite to tackle misinformation

  • The BBC’s global Trusted News Initiative will be extending its efforts to identifying false and potentially harmful information on the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The initiative will have in place a system in which partners in the initiative will be able to alert each other about misinformation with respect to COVID-19. This will enable partner platforms such as Facebook and Google to review promptly and the publishers in the network can ensure that the information is not republished.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Which of the following statement/s is/are correct?
  1. Chloroquine is a medication primarily used to prevent and treat malaria.
  2. Indian Council for Medical Research has recommended hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication for high risk population against COVID-19.

Options:

a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

See
Answer

 

Q2. Which of the following are the likely measures to increase liquidity with the banks?
  1. Reduction in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR)
  2. Increase the cap under the Marginal Standing Facility (MSF)
  3. Increase in Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR)
  4. Decrease the rate for Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) funds.
  5. Increase in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR)
  6. Decrease in Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR)

Options:

a. 1,2,4 and 6
b. 5,2,4 and 6
c. 1,3 and 4
d. 1,4 and 6

See
Answer
Q3.  Which of the following statement/s is/are incorrect?
  1. Marginal Standing Facility is meant for long term loans taken by the banks from the Reserve Bank of India.
  2. The Marginal Standing Facility rates are always below the repo rates.

Options:

a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

See
Answer
 Q4. Which of the following statement/s is/are correct?
  1. Corona Kavach app has been developed by the Ministry of health and family welfare.
  2. Corona Kavach app is designed to track the location of COVID-19 infected people and alert subscribers when they come near their location.

Options:

a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

See
Answer

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. The Reserve Bank of India has announced measures to stabilize the financial system of India amidst the crisis brought out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Analyze how those measures will provide adequate liquidity in the system, bring down the cost of capital and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. (15 marks, 250 words)
  2. The government’s efforts to monitor people advised quarantine for the COVID-19 pandemic has run into several privacy issues. Discuss, how relevant are privacy concerns over public health concerns, in the light of the unprecedented crisis the world finds itself in. Suggest suitable safeguards necessary. (10 marks, 150 words)

CNA 28th March 2020:- Download PDF Here

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