20 May 2021: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

CNA 20th May 2021:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
GEOGRAPHY
1. Storm likely in Bay of Bengal
B. GS 2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Putin, Xi hail ties at launch of work on nuclear plants in China
2. U.S. to waive sanctions on firm behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2
HEALTH
1. Rajasthan govt. declares mucormycosis an epidemic
C. GS 3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Centre raises subsidy on DAP fertilizers; no hike for farmers
SECURITY
1. Scrap new privacy policy, Centre tells WhatsApp
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Interpretations which impede a just social order
GOVERNANCE
1. A collage of laws that leaves the worker out in the cold
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. A thaw in India-Pakistan trade relations?
F. Prelims Facts
1. 6 UNESCO heritage sites added in India
G. Tidbits
1. China protests U.S. Navy passage via Taiwan Strait
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

2. U.S. to waive sanctions on firm behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2

Context:

The U.S. government is considering waiving sanctions on the company behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe.

Details:

  • It is believed that the administration under President Joe Biden still opposed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline but felt it was important to send a signal about its commitment to ties with Germany, which were badly damaged under former President Donald Trump.

Nord Stream 2 System:

  • The under-construction pipeline will run along the already-completed Nord Stream 1 system, and the two together will supply an aggregate of 110 billion cubic metres of gas to Germany per year.
  • The pipeline falls in German and Danish territory.
  • This would take the Russian gas to Europe via Germany, under the Baltic Sea.

Nord Stream 2

Why is the Pipeline Controversial?

  • Since it was first planned, Nord Stream 2 has drawn criticism from the US.
  • The US believes that the project would increase Europe’s dependence on Russia for natural gas, thus boldening its President Vladimir Putin.
    • Currently, EU countries already rely on Russia for 40% of their gas needs.
  • Ukraine also has issues with the project.
    • Relations between Ukraine and Russia have seriously deteriorated in the aftermath of the Crimean conflict in 2014.
    • There is an existing land pipeline between Russia and Europe that runs through Ukraine, which feels that once Nord Storm 2 is completed, Russia could bypass the Ukrainian pipeline, and deprive the country of lucrative transit fees.

Category: HEALTH

1. Rajasthan govt. declares mucormycosis an epidemic

Context:

Amid the increasing instances of mucormycosis (black fungus), the Rajasthan government has declared it an epidemic and a notifiable disease.

Details:

  • At present, the State has more than 100 black fungus patients.
  • It will be mandatory for the health facilities to report every case of the disease in the State.
  • The declaration of mucormycosis as an epidemic would ensure its “integrated and coordinated” treatment along with the treatment for COVID-19.
  • The notification was issued under the Rajasthan Epidemic Act, 2020.

Mucormycosis:

  • Mucormycosis or black fungus is primarily affecting people recovering from COVID-19.
  • It is a complication caused by a fungal infection.
  • Mucormycosis affects the sinuses, brain, and lungs, and is life-threatening.

Read more on Mucormycosis [Black Fungus]

What is an Epidemic?

  • The epidemic is a term that is often broadly used to describe a problem that has grown out of control. It occurs when a disease spreads rapidly to several people within a country or location.
  • Epidemics are generally highly communicable diseases that spread through the population in a very short time.
  • These diseases could be viral, bacterial or other health events such as obesity.

Note:

Telangana has also declared the “black fungus” spreading in its hospitals an epidemic.

Category: SECURITY

1. Scrap new privacy policy, Centre tells WhatsApp

Context:

The government of India sent a notice to WhatsApp asking it to withdraw the controversial update to its privacy policy.

Details:

  • The MeitY notice directs WhatsApp to withdraw its Privacy Policy 2021 as the changes and the manner of introducing these changes undermine the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice for Indian users and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens.
  • The Ministry highlighted how the new policy violated several provisions of Indian laws.
  • The notice warned the firm that the failure to give a satisfactory response may result in steps in consonance with law.

This issue has been covered in the 20th March 2021 Comprehensive News Analysis.

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. A collage of laws that leaves the worker out in the cold

Background:

Social Security Code 2020:

  • India’s Parliament in September 2020 passed a Social Security Code.
  • The Social Security Code 2020 merges existing social security laws. It amalgamates and rationalizes the provisions of eight existing central labour laws.
  • The code attempts to include informal workers within the ambit of social security administration.

This topic has been discussed in detail in the following article:

Code on Social Security

Impact of the pandemic on the informal workers:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions in India, more so for the low-paid, informal workers, who constitute 91% of the workforce. The loss of jobs and income cuts have pushed this vulnerable section further into debt and poverty.
  • In such a scenario, the lack of a comprehensive social security cover for the informal workers is a major concern.
    • Despite existing social security schemes run by State governments under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, still, a large number of informal workers are outside the ambit of any social security even after 13 years.

Concerns associated with the new Social Security code:

  • The article, analyzing the effectiveness of the new social security code in ensuring the much needed social security for the needy, notes that the code fails to ensure universalization of social security.

Exclusion of certain benefits for unorganized workers:

  • Even under the new code, employees provident fund, employees state insurance (ESI), maternity benefit, gratuity continue to be entirely for organised sector workers.

Hurdles for informal workers:

  • The lack of awareness among informal workers regarding social security schemes is a critical impediment in the universalization of social security.
  • The legal framework as proposed in the Code and Rules requires the informal workers to register as beneficiaries to receive social security benefits. The informal worker will have to register on the specified online portal to be developed by the central government. This could act as a major impediment for the workers.
    • Online registration poses a significant challenge as most informal workers lack digital literacy and connectivity.
    • Informal workers also find it difficult to furnish documentary papers required as part of the registration process.
      • Given that most informal workers are footloose casual workers on the move from one place to another in search of livelihoods, they may find it difficult to provide address proof.
      • Given the absence of tangible employer-employee relations in informal employments, such workers may find it difficult to provide proof of livelihood and income details.
  • Thus the requirement of registration may deter informal workers from completing the registration and they may continue to remain outside the social security ambit.

Lack of concrete measures:

  • The code proposes that both the central and state governments will formulate schemes for unorganised workers as and when they deem fit. The absence of definite and unambiguous provisions in the present code would further complicate the achievement of universal registration.

Lack of an integrated structure:

  • Despite the footloose nature of unorganised workers, the code does not provide for inter-state arrangement and cooperation. Without an integrated structure, the implications of this code would be too varied across states to be administered and would render the whole process to become complicated and ineffective.
  • Previous attempts at providing holistic social security cover for the unorganised workforce in a simple and effective manner have been lost in the Centre-State labyrinth and jurisdictional or institutional overlap.

Lack of an all inclusive approach:

  • The code fails to imbibe an all inclusive approach by continuing to adopt a labour market classification based social security benefit programmes.
  • It fails to consider the unorganized workforce as one unit.

Thresholds of the number of workers employed:

  • Key benefits like maternity benefit, employees provident fund and gratuity continue to be available for workers in those establishments that have employees above a certain threshold.
  • Hence these critical provisions have not been made universal and continue to remain inaccessible for a vast majority of informal workers.
  • Also such clauses disincentive the employers to formalize the existing workforce, thus depriving the economy of the benefits of formalization.

Conclusion:

  • The universalization of social security remains an unfulfilled aspiration in the new code on social security.
  • There is an urgent need to recognise that India is ageing without social security, and the demographic dividend of the young workforce that could support the ageing ends in 15 years.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. A thaw in India-Pakistan trade relations?

Context:

  • The rejection by the Pakistan government of the recent proposal made to it by the Pakistani Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to import sugar, cotton and cotton yarn from India.

Background:

Restriction in bilateral trade:

  • In 2019, India and Pakistan undertook trade-restrictive measures against each other.
    • After the Pulwama terror attack, India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status of Pakistan and imposed a customs duty hike of 200% on imports.
    • When India revoked the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan suspended bilateral trade with India.

Details:

  • Despite the disappointment with the Pakistan decision, the article expresses a possibility of resumption of trade relations between the two countries in the coming times based on the following reasons.

History of ups and downs:

  • Even though trade curbs have been applied several times in the past, such measures have been reversed to create a trade enhancing environment when the relations stabilized.
  • There have been growing indications of back channel talks between the two neighbours and the recent developments like the extension of the ceasefire agreement between the two nations are indicative of a thaw in their otherwise troubled and strained relationship.

For more information on this development refer to:

UPSC Comprehensive News Analysis of 12th April 2021

Pressure of the pandemic:

  • The Pakistan government had lifted the trade ban on the import of medicines and raw material from India to avert a health crisis.
  • Now there is a demand for the inclusion of more items like sugar, cotton and yarn. These are critical not just for domestic consumption but also for the domestic industries which have had to face the wrath of the pandemic.

Continued trade despite restrictions:

  • The available data indicate that there has been substantial trade between the two countries in the recent past.
    • During 2020-21 (April-February), the recorded bilateral trade was $280 million, of which India’s exports to Pakistan were $278 million and imports were $2 million with even banned items like sugar being exported to Pakistan.
    • A sizeable number of items have been traded between the two countries. This is despite the complete ban on trade by Pakistan on both exports and imports.
  • Thus, even under restrictive trade conditions, there has been unimpeded trade between the two countries.
    • Informal channels for trade have functioned for decades and are a ready option for traders from both countries.

Significance of bilateral trade:

  • The trade in essential agricultural commodities could help stabilise domestic prices and take care of seasonal shortages and food security in the home country.
  • A robust bilateral trade augurs well for several important domestic and export industries in both countries.
  • There are significant costs of non-cooperation on the economic front. Given the interdependencies between India and Pakistan, restrictions on trade only shift trade to informal channels. The informal channels cost more and are not dependable.
  • The increased trade relation and economic interdependence could also play a critical role in easing the strained bilateral relation.

Conclusion:

  • Given the potential benefits of a robust trade relation, India and Pakistan must initiate a process for a gradual deepening of the bilateral trade. This could begin with a positive list for trade, which has to be expanded over the years to move towards complete normalisation.
  • Business organisations and chambers of commerce should play an important role in creating a strong lobby that could help revive the trade dialogue between the two nations.

F. Prelims Facts

1. 6 UNESCO heritage sites added in India

What’s in News?

Six sites have been added to India’s tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

  • Six of the nine sites submitted by the Archaeological Survey of India had been accepted by UNESCO for inclusion in the tentative list.
    • This is a requirement before the final nomination of any site.
  • The sites include the Ganga ghats in Varanasi, temples of Kancheepuram and the Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra, the Hire Benakal megalithic site in Karnataka and Bhedaghat-Lametaghat of Narmada Valley.
    • With the addition of these six sites, UNESCO has 48 proposals in the tentative list of India.

Note:

  • UNESCO has already added 30 of India’s cultural sites, 7 natural, and 1 mixed site in its World Heritage List.
  • Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the nodal department for forwarding the proposals to UNESCO.

Read more on: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

G. Tidbits

1. China protests U.S. Navy passage via Taiwan Strait

What’s in News?

China protested the latest passage by a U.S. Navy ship through the Taiwan Strait, calling it a provocation that undermined peace and stability in the region.

  • According to the US navy, its guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with international law.
  • It asserted that the passage demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Note:

While the Taiwan strait is in international waters, China claims self-governing Taiwan as its own territory and regards the U.S. Navy’s presence in the area as a show of support for the island’s democratic government.

Taiwan Strain

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Which of the following has/have been accorded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag?
  1. Suvarnarekha mango
  2. Banganapalli mango
  3. Gholvad Sapota

Options:

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

Answer: b

Explanation:

  • Gholvad Sapota from Maharashtra, Suvarnarekha mango and Banganapalli mango from Andhra Pradesh have all been accorded the Geographical Indication Tag.
Q2. With reference to President’s Rule, which of the following statements is/are correct?
  1. A proclamation imposing President’s Rule must be approved by both the Houses of Parliament within three months from the date of its issue.
  2. A law made by the Parliament or president or any other specified authority continues to be operative even after the President’s Rule.
  3. Chhattisgarh and Telangana are the only Indian states that have never slipped to President’s rule.

Options:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. None
  4. 2 only
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation:

  • A proclamation imposing President’s Rule must be approved by both the Houses of Parliament within two months from the date of its issue.
  • If approved by both the Houses of Parliament, the President’s rule continues for six months.
  • A law made by the Parliament or president or any other specified authority continues to be operative even after the President’s Rule.
  • This means that the period for which such a law remains in force is not co-terminus with the duration of the proclamation. But it can be repealed or altered or re-enacted by the state legislature.
  • Chhattisgarh and Telangana are the only Indian states that have never slipped to President’s rule.
Q3. Consider the following statements about National Human Rights Commission (NHRC):
  1. A person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court can be the chairperson of the NHRC.
  2. The chairperson and members of the NHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years.

Which of the above statements is/are incorrect?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both
  4. None
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation:

  • A person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court can be the chairperson of the NHRC.
  • The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2019 reduced the tenure of the Chairperson and members of NHRC to three years (earlier five years) or till the age of seventy years.
 Q4. Which of the following statements about Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is/are 
correct?
  1. The CBI functions under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  2. With the nationalisation of the banks in 1969, the Public Sector Banks and their employees also came within the ambit of the CBI.

Options:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both
  4. None
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: b

Explanation:

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India.
  • It operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • It is not a statutory body. It derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • With the nationalisation of the banks in 1969, the Public Sector Banks and their employees also came within the ambit of the CBI.
Q5. With reference to the cultural history of medieval India, consider the following 
statements: (UPSC 2016)
  1. Siddhas (Sittars) of Tamil region were monotheistic and condemned idolatry.
  2. Lingayats of Kannada region questioned the theory of rebirth and rejected the caste hierarchy.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
CHECK ANSWERS:-

Answer: c

Explanation:

  • The Tamil Siddhas are a religious order of mystics (liberated yogis) found in the southern part of India.
  • They were monotheistic and condemned idolatry, as they believed in Nirakara or formless god.
  • Lingayats are the followers of the 12th-century philosopher and poet Basavanna.
  • Lingayats of the Kannada region questioned the theory of rebirth and rejected the caste hierarchy.
  • They challenged the idea of caste and the “pollution” attributed to certain groups by Brahmanas.

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. The universalisation of social security remains an unfulfilled aspiration in the new code on social security. Examine the statement. (250 words; 15 marks) [GS-2, Polity and Governance].
  2. Is a thaw in the India-Pakistan trade relations possible in the current context? Discuss. (250 words; 15 marks) [GS-2, International Relations].

Read the previous CNA here.

CNA 20th May 2021:- Download PDF Here

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