19 May 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

19 May 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
GEOGRAPHY
1. Odisha, West Bengal brace for Amphan
B. GS 2 Related
HEALTH
1. New technique for lung treatment of newborns launched in Jaipur
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Centre notifies Karnataka judge’s appointment
2. J&K notifies rules for domicile certificates
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Are the United States and China entering a new Cold War?
2. Call for WHO probe into virus origin
C. GS 3 Related
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Oxford vaccine fails to shield monkeys from virus
DEFENCE
1. 83 LCA-MK1A deal high priority: IAF chief
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
INFRASTRUCTURE
1. A jolt to national energy security
ECONOMY
1. A matter of relief
HEALTH
1. Preparing for a syndemic
F. Prelims Facts
G. Tidbits
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Centre notifies Karnataka judge’s appointment

Context:

The Ministry of Law and Justice has notified the appointment of P. Krishna Bhat as an additional judge of the Karnataka High Court, almost four years after his name was first recommended by the Supreme Court collegium.

Details:

  • A Law Ministry notification said Mr. Bhat has been appointed for two years. Additional judges are usually appointed two years before being elevated as a permanent judge in the High Court.
  • The Supreme Court collegium had first recommended Mr. Bhat, then a District and Session’s Court judge, in 2016.
  • However, the government did not act on the recommendation as a woman law officer gave a written complaint against him to the then Chief Justice of India (CJI), T.S. Thakur. The complaint was then found to be ‘without any basis’.
  • In October 2019, the Collegium reiterated its recommendation and the government accepted it.

For an in-depth understanding of the Appointment of Judges, read more about the Collegium System.

2. J&K notifies rules for domicile certificates

Context:

The J&K administration has notified the J&K Grant of Domicile Certificate Procedure Rules, 2020 and set a fast-track process in motion to issue the certificates within a stipulated time of 15 days.

Details:

  • Domicile certificates have now been made a basic eligibility condition for appointment to any post under the Union Territory of J&K following the amendments in the previous Act.
  • Under the amended rules, eligible non-locals can also apply for the certificate.

This issue has been covered in 2nd April 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis. Click here to read.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Are the United States and China entering a new Cold War?

Context:

Relations between the U.S. and China have plunged to the lowest point in the recent weeks. The rising tensions between the two superpowers have prompted many experts to warn of a new Cold War.

Background:

  • Relations between the two countries had started deteriorating well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2017, the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy called China as “a revisionist power” seeking “to erode American security and prosperity”.
  • In September 2019, while responding to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State’s comment that the American government was formulating a strategy to address potential “security challenges” by China, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing urged the U.S. to abandon the Cold-War mentality.
  • COVID-19 appears to have aggravated the crisis.

Details:

  • Record high temperatures have been recorded in Sino-U.S. relations in recent years and the pandemic is no exception to this.
  • Competition rules the relationship, and flexibility and mature handling are in short supply on both sides.
  • Uncertainty prevails, whether it is on the question of resolving trade problems, or on the maritime front in the East and South China Seas, on technology, or on mutual mud-slinging on COVID-19-related issues.

Where is the current crisis in relations between the U.S. and China headed? 

  • According to Nirupama Menon Rao, former Foreign Secretary, this situation is unlikely to ease until the U.S. presidential election. Post-election, temperatures could decrease, but a deep-rooted antipathy towards China has gripped the popular and political imagination in the U.S. Therefore, tensions will not go away. In China, the leadership and public opinion are both on a nationalist overdrive and the Trump administration is seen as the prime antagonist.

Does it mean both countries are already in a Cold War? 

  • Experts point out that there are similarities between the current crisis and the Cold War.
  • The political elites of both China and the U.S., like the Soviet Union and the U.S. back then, see each other as their main rivals.
  • However, the kind of proxy conflicts between the U.S. and China which was seen during the Cold War is not to be seen now. Also, the world is not bipolar any more.
  • It is opined that there are third parties such as the EU, Russia, India and Japan. These parties increasingly have a choice whether or not to align with either power as they see fit and on a case by case basis. This leads to a very different kind of international order than during the Cold War.

2. Call for WHO probe into virus origin

Context:

An India-backed draft resolution at the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly which seeks global investigation into the spread of the novel coronavirus has received a big boost with the African group of nations extending support for the motion.

Details:

  • The development came soon after the Assembly convened in Geneva where the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the global body will look into the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The recommendation is part of the text jointly conceived by Australia and the European Union. It aims to evaluate possible food and animal-related sources that could have led to the spread of the deadly pandemic.
  • The language of the motion seeks to delve deep into the origin of the virus.
  • The draft resolution also calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation into the “WHO-coordinated international health response” to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Category: DEFENCE

1. 83 LCA-MK1A deal high priority: IAF chief

Context:

  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) will set up the second squadron of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. The high priority deal for 83 LCA-MK1A jets is expected to be signed.
  • The IAF is also about to place orders for over 200 Astra indigenous Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles.

LCA-MK1A jets:

  • As per Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Tejas MK1A will be capable of mid-air refuel.
  • There will be an updated internal Radar Warning Receiver (RWR).
  • It will have the capability to fire different types of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and close combat air to air missiles.
  • These aircraft according to the Ministry of Defence will be forming the backbone of the IAF.

Read more about LCA Tejas.  

E. Editorials

Category: INFRASTRUCTURE

1. A jolt to national energy security

Context:

  • Finance Minister’s proposal for reform of power tariff policy as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package.

Background:

  • The DISCOMS have been under financial stress and there have been repeated attempts at improving their condition through various initiatives and schemes from the governments.

Rising costs for DISCOMs:

  • The cost of power purchase has risen to 80% of the total costs of State DISCOMs.

Causes:

Two part tariff policy:

  • The two-part tariff policy has been mandated by the Ministry of Power since the 1990s.
  • As more private developers came forward to invest in generation, DISCOMs were required to sign long-term power purchase agreements (PPA), committing to pay a fixed cost to the power generator, irrespective of whether the State draws the power or not, and a variable charge for fuel when it does.

Over optimistic projections:

  • The PPAs signed by DISCOMs were based on over-optimistic projection of power demand estimated by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA).
  • Due to this, DISCOMs locked into long-term contracts end up servicing perpetual fixed costs for power not drawn.
  • Due to the CEA’s overestimates, the all-India plant load factor of coal power plants is only 56%. This leads to underutilization of available capacity and increases the operating cost of the generation plants which invariably leads to higher costs for the electricity.

Renewable energy factor:

  • From 2010, solar and wind power plants were declared as “must-run”, requiring DISCOMs to absorb all renewable power, even in excess of mandatory renewable purchase obligations. The decrease in thermal generation to accommodate all available green power, entailed further idle fixed costs payable on account of two-part tariff PPAs.
  • DISCOMs are having to integrate large volumes of solar and wind energy power at relatively high tariffs (5 Rs./kwh in Karnataka and 6 Rs./kwh in Tamil Nadu for solar power).
  • In 2015 the Centre announced an ambitious target of 175 gigawatts of renewable power by 2022, offering a slew of concessions to renewable energy developers, and aggravating the burden of DISCOMs.

Details:

  • The proposal for reform of power tariff is part of the recent comprehensive proposal to amend the Electricity Act, 2003.
  • Significant changes have been proposed in the Electricity Act, 2020.
    • There is a proposal for sub-franchisees under the DISCOM service areas.
      • This in an attempt to usher in markets in the sector which the government hopes will be more efficient and accountable.
    • The amendment proposes greater concessions to renewable power developers.
      • This is in line with India’s climate action initiatives and to increase India’s energy security by making use of the renewable energy potential of India.
    • There is a proposal to eliminate the cross-subsidies in retail power tariff, which means that each consumer category would be charged what it costs to service that category.
      • This would help reduce the steep cross-subsidies in electricity being borne by the industries which make their goods and services costly in the global market.
      • The elimination of cross subsidy would entail more efficient usage of electricity.
      • The provision for direct transfer of subsidies would reduce leakage losses.
    • State regulators will henceforth be appointed by a central selection committee.
      • This is meant to ensure uniformity in appointment processes across states and also ensure the availability of a larger talent pool from across the country for appointments.
    • Establishment of a centralised Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority.
      • This would help ensure faster resolution of disputes and entail lower pendency and associated costs.

Concerns:

Sub-franchising:

  • The sub-franchisees would invariably be private players. Private sub-franchisees are likely to pick and choose the more profitable segments of the DISCOM’s jurisdiction.
  • The Electricity Bill 2020 does not clarify whether a private sub-franchisee would be required to buy the power from the DISCOM or procure cheaper power directly from power exchanges.
  • DISCOMs will be saddled with costly power purchase from locked-in PPAs and fewer profitable areas from which to recover it, which would further deteriorate their financial health.

Renewable energy concessions:

  • The increased concessions and limits of mandatory renewable energy purchase obligations will have a cascading impact on the DISCOM’s idling fixed charges further impacting the viability of DISCOMs.

Elimination of cross-subsidies:

  • The removal of cross subsidization would result in higher tariffs for rural consumers as the rural consumers require long lines and numerous step-down transformers resulting in higher servicing costs.
  • The proposed amendment envisages State governments directly subsidising selected categories through direct benefit transfers. This would further burden State governments that are already struggling with direct power subsidies, and further deteriorate their financial position.

Increased centralization:

  • The appointment of state regulators by a central selection committee jeopardises regulatory autonomy and independence and the concurrent status of the electricity sector.
  • The establishment of a centralised Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority will transfer the power to adjudicate upon disputes relating to contracts away from State Electricity Regulatory Commissions.
  • The implementation of the proposed reforms will weaken the control of States over an industry supplying a basic human necessity such as electricity and mark an increasing centralisation of control over the sector.

Energy security:

  • The proposed changes could destabilize the functioning of the distribution utilities/companies (DISCOM) and have serious consequences for the country’s energy security.

For more information on related themes, refer to:

CNA dated May 18, 2020

Category: ECONOMY

1. A matter of relief

Context:

  • Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan stimulus package.

Details:

  • An analysis of the COVID-19 relief package brings to light the government’s approach.

Supply side provisions:

  • The major aim of the package involves giving a strong supply-side push by measures such as boosting availability of capital on easy terms and empowering farmers and businesses to produce more.
    • A major aspect is the liquidity support to businesses to help them set the economic cycle back in motion.

Demand side provisions:

  • Demand side measures have been minimal. Income and wage support schemes have been kept to a minimum.
  • There has been a conscious effort to limit the fiscal impact.
    • The fiscal impact of the 20-lakh crore rupees package is estimated by economists at between 2-3% of GDP.

Government’s stand:

  • Given the centre’s current low revenue flow, there are not much resources with the government to spend on a fiscal stimulus.
  • The option of a demand-side stimulus through a resort to deficit financing seems to be reserved for a future date if the infection does not subside or a second wave begins prompting another lockdown.

Concerns with the present approach:

  • The government’s decision to not borrow and spend more on boosting demand seems to neglect the current desperate need for demand stimulus.
  • The increase in supply without proportionate increase in demand would render the approach ineffective and may in fact bring upon a bigger problem down the line.

Way forward:

  • A strategy to drive consumption by increasing the disposable income in the hands of the people, combined with a liquidity boost, may have worked better under the prevailing conditions. A fiscal stimulus could have been fitted into the overall package.
  • The measures needed to increase disposable income in the hands of the people could involve the following measures:
    • Suspending GST for a couple of months or cutting rates temporarily.
    • Lowering direct taxes.
    • Ensuring work for all those seeking jobs through schemes like MGNREGA.
    • Income support to vulnerable sections.

For more information on this topic, refer to:

CNA dated May 18, 2020

Category: HEALTH

1. Preparing for a syndemic

Context:

  • The World Health Organization has announced that COVID-19 is likely to last for an extended frame of time and experts have warned that there will be a second wave of infections.

Details:

  • Given the possibility of diseases like dengue and malaria emerging with the upcoming monsoon season in tropical South Asia, experts have cautioned that COVID-19 could become even more problematic by becoming a syndemic.
    • A syndemic is a situation when two or more epidemics interact synergistically to produce an increased burden of disease in a population.
Previous examples:
  • The 1957 Asian influenza pandemic showed that deaths could be not only due to the primary viral infection, but also due to secondary bacterial infections among influenza patients; in short, they were caused by a viral/bacterial syndemic.
  • Researchers have shown that in Kisumu, Kenya, 5% of HIV infections are due to higher HIV infectiousness of malaria-infected HIV patients.

Concerns:

Increased vulnerability:

  • Medical experts have pointed out the need to watch out for secondary bacterial infection in those with weakened immunity due to COVID-19.

Antibiotic resistance:

  • Given the increasing antibiotic resistance across the world, the medical community needs to be aware of co-morbidities, especially if COVID-19 deepens as a syndemic in populations with antibiotic resistance.

Also read: Antimicrobial Resistance – Definition, Causes & Types

India’s Challenges:

  • With India’s ongoing migrant crisis, there is a possibility of COVID-19 becoming more widespread and intense given the large-scale urban-to-rural chaotic migration.
  • In societies with resource-constrained settings like India, even an economical pooled testing strategy might be difficult to enforce due to financial reasons.
  • Given the lure of speed of entry, there could be quality concerns of the newly introduced products and intellectual property battles.
  • The upcoming dengue and malaria season will add to the burden of the medical sector and increase the complexity of the COVID-19 crisis.

Way forward:

Innovative approach:

  • Along with aggressive population-level PCR and antibody testing, countries need to consider innovations in population health surveillance technology and develop creative business models at a large scale.
    • Smart thermometers could play a crucial role in constantly monitoring temperatures.
    • Monitoring oxygen levels in the brain daily through a pulse oximeter.
      • COVID-19 is found to cause happy hypoxia, where the lack of oxygen in the brain goes undetected till it gets severe.

F. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements with respect to River Galwan:
  1. The River flows through India and Pakistan.
  2. It is an upstream tributary of River Indus.

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
Q2. Consider the following statements:
  1. Saharias of Madhya Pradesh are classified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  2. The highest number of PVTGs are found in Madhya Pradesh.
  3. Some of the PVTGs are distributed in more than one State.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 2 only
  4. 1 and 2 only
See
Answer
Q3. Consider the following statements with respect to National Board for Wildlife 
(NBWL):
  1. NBWL is a statutory organization constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 with an advisory role.
  2. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
  3. The NBWL is chaired by the Environment Minister.

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

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. 2 and 3 only
See
Answer
Q4. Cyclone Amphan is named by:
  1. India
  2. Thailand
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Oman
See
Answer

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. Analyze the reasons for the increasing financial vulnerability of the DISCOMs and evaluate the likely impact of the proposed reforms in the Electricity Act 2020. (15 marks, 250 words)
  2. The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan stimulus package focuses more on supply side provisions than on demand side provisions. Comment. (10 marks, 150 words)

Read the previous CNA here.

19 May 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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