29 Mar 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

CNA 29th March 2020:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. PM sets up new fund to fight virus
HEALTH
1. Govt. shifts focus to hotspots as fresh COVID-19 cases rise to 185
C. GS 3 Related
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Strike at the spike and win the war
2. Plasma transfusion for COVID-19 shows promising results in study
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
HEALTH
1. Can drugs for Ebola be used to treat COVID-19?
ECONOMY
1. Why has Kerala sought a relaxation of FRBM rules?
F. Prelims Facts
G. Tidbits
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

E. Editorials

Category: HEALTH

1. Can drugs for Ebola be used to treat COVID-19?

Context:

  • Medical research towards the development of drugs and vaccines against the coronavirus infection – COVID 19.

Background:

  • The virus, SARS-CoV-2, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), has caused the world’s largest pandemic. Over six lakh are infected and nearly 29,000 dead globally.
  • In India, the number of cases is growing despite the unprecedented measures put in place by the Central and State governments.

Details:

Medical strategy:

  • Given the long gestation period in the development of a vaccine and WHO observations that it would take over 18 months to be ready for use, “vaccination” as an immediate solution has been ruled out.
  • 15% of COVID-19 needs hospitalized care and of these 5% need ICU care. Now with time running out rapidly for the entire world, re-purposed drugs are being aimed at to contain the problem, reducing hospital load, freeing critical hospital beds and allowing people to swiftly return to normal work.
  • WHO and other health agencies are re-looking at the efficacy of known therapies and drugs to treat COVID-19. They are considering re-purposed drugs.
  • Recently, India has approved the use of the anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, as a preventive medication for people at high risk, such as health workers and immediate contacts of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

WHO-led Solidarity trials:

  • WHO Director-General, recently announced the launch of ‘Solidarity’, a giant multinational trial for testing therapies that researchers have suggested may be effective against COVID-19.
  • This coordinated push would help generate robust, high-quality scientific evidence from across the world in a short frame of time.
  • India too has joined the study after staying away due to its small sample size.

Potential drugs:

  • WHO is considering some of the most promising therapies including the following drugs:
    • A combination of two HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir.
      • The combination drug, ritonavir/lopinavir, was introduced two decades ago to treat HIV infections.
      • Doctors in Wuhan, China have used this combination.
      • Although the drug is generally safe it may interact with drugs usually given to severely ill patients, and doctors have warned it could cause significant liver damage.
    • Anti-malaria medications, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
      • Hydroxychloroquine is being looked at in India and the ICMR has said that it is currently studying the drug action in the Indian population with respect to COVID-19.
      • Its usage in some patients has shown a significantly reduced viral load in nasal swabs.
      • Hydroxychloroquine, in particular, is known to have a variety of side-effects, and can in some cases harm the heart.
    • An experimental antiviral compound called remdesivir.
      • This drug was developed to treat Ebola and related viruses.
      • It works by shutting down the viral replication.
      • Studies have pointed out that the drug shows that it can be used in high doses without causing toxicities.
  • Another combination under testing is interferon-beta, which WHO has cautioned might be risky.
  • Agencies are also looking at unapproved drugs that have performed well in animal studies with the other two deadly coronaviruses, which cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Given the fact that the novel coronavirus hails from a family on which extensive research work has already been done worldwide after SARS and MERS is a significant advantage.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Why has Kerala sought a relaxation of FRBM rules?

Context:

  • Kerala is seeking relaxation from the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.

Background:

Kerala Economic package:

  • Kerala had announced an economic package of 20,000 crore rupees to mitigate the impact on livelihoods and overall economic activity from the steps taken to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To help fund the emergency relief package, Kerala proposes to borrow as much as 12,500 crore rupees from the market.

Details:

Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act:

  • The FRBM Act was enacted in August 2003.
  • The FRBM Act is aimed at making the Central government responsible for ensuring inter-generational equity in fiscal management and long-term macro-economic stability.
  • The Act envisages the setting of limits on the Central government’s debt and deficits as well as mandating greater transparency in fiscal operations of the Central government and the conduct of fiscal policy in a medium-term framework.
    • Every Budget of the Union government includes a Medium-Term Fiscal Policy Statement that specifies the annual revenue and fiscal deficit goals over a three-year horizon.
    • The act envisages a longer-term glide path to achieve the key objective of reducing the fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP within a specified time frame. Currently, the government has set a deadline of March 2023 for ensuring a fiscal deficit target of 3.1%.
  • To ensure that the States too are financially prudent, the 12th Finance Commission’s recommendations in 2004 linked debt relief to States with their enactment of similar FRBM acts.
    • The States have since enacted their own respective Financial Responsibility Legislation, which sets the same 3% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) cap on their annual budget deficits.

Kerala seeking flexibility under the FRBM:

  • Kerala’s current fiscal position means that it can borrow about ₹25,000 crores during the financial year 2020-21.
  • Given that Kerala proposes to raise ₹12,500 crore through borrowings in April 2020 itself, it could be severely constrained in its borrowing and spending ability over the remaining 11 months of the financial year, due to the stringent borrowing cap under the fiscal responsibility laws.
  • This could affect the State’s socio-economic programs as well as the post-pandemic recovery apart from undermining the state’s continued mitigation efforts against COVID-19.
  • Kerala has urged the Centre to provide Kerala with flexibility under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.

Relaxation under the FRBM act:

  • The FRBM act does contain provisions for relaxation from FRBM clauses. This is commonly referred to as an ‘escape clause’.
  • Under Section 4(2) of the Act, the Centre can exceed the annual fiscal deficit target citing grounds that include:
    • National security,
    • War,
    • National calamity,
    • Collapse of agriculture,
    • Structural reforms and
    • A decline in real output growth of a quarter by at least three percentage points below the average of the previous four quarters.

Past precedents of relaxing FRBM norms:

  • There have been several instances of the FRBM goals being reset.
    • Recently, the Budget for 2020-21 had cited the recent reductions in corporate tax as structural reforms, triggering the escape clause.
      • This enabled the government to recalibrate the fiscal deficit target for 2019-20 to 3.8%, from the budgeted 3.3%. It also changed the deficit target goal for 2020-21 from 3% to 3.5%.
    • The most significant FRBM deviation happened in 2008-09, in the wake of the global financial crisis, with the Centre resorting to a fiscal stimulus.
      • Tax relief was provided to boost demand
      • Public expenditure was increased to create employment and public assets, to counter the fallout of the global slowdown.
      • This led to the fiscal deficit climbing to 6.2%, from a budgeted goal of 2.7%.
      • Simultaneously, the deficit goals for the States too were relaxed.

Arguments in favor of suspending Fiscal targets:

  • The following two aspects could be used for suspending both the Centre’s and States’ fiscal deficit targets.
    • Given the extraordinary circumstances, COVID-19 pandemic could be considered as a national calamity.
    • The ongoing pandemic in conjunction with the ongoing lockdown will cause a severe contraction in economic output.
  • This would allow both the Union government and States including Kerala to undertake the much-needed increases in expenditure to meet the extraordinary circumstances.
  • Given the past precedents and the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and its devastating impact on the global economy, another significant deviation from the FRBM norms is very likely in the current and next fiscal years.

F. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Which of the following statement/s is/are correct?
  1. Tamil Nadu has the highest number of major ports among the states.
  2. Port Blair port is the newest addition to the list of major ports of India.
  3. Kamarajar Port is the only corporatized major port in India.

Options:

a. 1 only
b. 1 and 2 only
c. 2 and 3 only
d. 1,2 and 3

See
Answer

 

Q2.  The Diksha portal is associated with which of the following ministeries?

a. Ministry of Home affairs
b. Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment
c. Ministry of Human Resource Development
d. Ministry of Women and Child Development

See
Answer
Q3.  Which of the following statement/s is/are correct?
  1. The State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) can be used by the State governments for responses to only notified disasters.
  2. The Centre contributes 75% of the SDRF allocation for general category States and Union Territories and 90% for special category States

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 incorrect?
  1. The Prime Minister National relief fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support.
  2. The Prime Minister National relief fund is operated under the Ministry of Home affairs.

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. Given the advanced stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increasing need for medical interventions in the fight against COVID-19. Discuss the alternatives currently available and the global efforts in this direction. (15 marks, 250 words)
  2. Discuss the major provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act of India and the ‘escape clause’ provisions under it. (10 marks, 150 words)

 

CNA 29th March 2020:- Download PDF Here

Read the previous CNA here.

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