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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 12th March 2020

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  • March 13, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 12th March 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


COVID-19 Now Pandemic: WHO

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Health

In News:

  • WHO noted with concern that 1,18,000 positive cases have been reported globally in 114 countries and more than 90% of cases are in just four countries.
  • OUTBREAK: A sudden rise in cases of a disease in a particular place.
  • EPIDEMIC: A large outbreak, one that spreads among a population or region. The current outbreak of a flu-like illness caused by a new virus in China is considered an epidemic.
  • PANDEMIC: Generally refers to an epidemic that has spread on a more global scale, affecting large numbers of people. A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease.

Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Governance

In News:

  • States have been asked by Centre to invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 by means of which all advisories issued by the Union health ministry and state governments from time to time are enforceable
  • The act was introduced by the British to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that broke out in the then state of Bombay in 1897
  • The then Governor-General of colonial India had conferred special powers upon the local authorities to implement the measures necessary for the control of epidemics
  • Under the act, temporary provisions or regulations can be made to be observed by the public to tackle or prevent the outbreak of a disease.
  • Section 2A of the Act empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic. It allows the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
  • Section 3 provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act
  • Section 4 gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.

Right to Property

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Polity

In News:

  • Supreme Court has stated that forcible dispossession of a person’s property a human right violation
  • SC stated that right to property is both a human right and a constitutional right — the latter under Article 300A of the Constitution.
  • The court noted “some amount of property right is an indispensable safeguard against tyranny and economic oppression of the government.”
  • Article 300A states that – No person shall be deprived of his property save by the authority of law.
  • The 44th constitutional amendment act, 1978 inserts article 300-A.
  • Before this amendment, right to property was the fundamental right, enshrined in article 19 (1) (f) & 31 of the Constitution. 
  • After 44th amendment, article 300-A only prohibits deprivation of the right to property by mere executive order unless that order is made or authorised by some law enacted by the legislature
  • However, the aggrieved person can challenge the legality or fairness of procedure followed for acquisition of land instead of acquisition of land

AT1 Bonds

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III- Economy

In News:

  • YES Bank’s AT-1 bond-holders are said to have invested ₹10,800 crore and RBI’s restructuring plan proposes to completely write off the dues on these bonds
  • AT-1, short for Additional Tier-1 bonds, are a type of unsecured, perpetual bonds that banks issue to shore up their core capital base to meet the Basel-III norms
  • AT-1 bonds have several unusual features like
    • One, these bonds are perpetual and carry no maturity date. Instead, they carry call options that allow banks to redeem them after five or 10 years. 
    • But banks are not obliged to use this call option and can opt to pay only interest on these bonds for eternity
    •  Two, banks issuing AT-1 bonds can skip interest payouts for a particular year or even reduce the bonds’ face value provided their capital ratios fall below certain threshold levels specified in the offer terms
    • Three, if the RBI feels that a bank is tottering on the brink and needs a rescue, RBI can simply ask the bank to cancel its outstanding AT-1 bonds without consulting its investors. 
  • The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) has requested RBI and SEBI for a temporary write down of AT1 Bonds of Yes Bank instead of completely writing it off
  • Why temporary write down?
    • These bonds typically have a call option after five years and hence if the central bank allows a temporary write down, the fund houses may still be able to stem the potential losses if the valuation of the bank improves after restructuring.

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III- Awareness in IT

In News:

  • India has produced just three supercomputers since 2015 under NSM
    • PARAM Shivay installed in IIT-BHU, Varanasi with 837 TeraFlop capacity
    • Second one at IIT-Kharagpur with 1.66 PetaFlop capacity
    • PARAM Brahma at ISER-Pune, has a capacity of 797 TeraFlop
  • NSM envisaged setting up a network of 70 high-performance computing facilities with an aim to connect national academic and R&D institutions across India over a seven-year period at an estimated cost of Rs 4500 Crores.
  • Parent Body: Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) and Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • Nodal Agencies of NSM– Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Did You Know?

  • Just 16.67% of the total budget of Rs 4,500 crore, was disbursed during the last four-and-a-half years to two nodal agencies of NSM 
  • Globally, China continues to lead the supercomputer race. It added eight more supercomputers in the last six months taking its existing numbers to 227.

Divya Kala Shakti

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-I-Society

In News:

  • Divya Kala Shakti is a cultural event which provides a wider and unique platform to showcase the potential of Persons with Differently Abled in the field of performing art, music, dance, acrobatics etc.
  • It is organised by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment 

YuViKa: Yuva Vigyani Karyakram (Young Scientist Programme)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Governance

In News:

  • ISRO has shortlisted 358 high school students from across the country to be part of its second annual ‘catch them young’ programme, YuViKa.
  • This Program by ISRO is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities
  • The programme will be of two weeks’ duration during summer holidays and the schedule will include invited talks, experience sharing by the eminent scientists, facility and lab visits, exclusive sessions for discussions with experts, practical and feedback sessions.
  • 3 students each from each State/ Union Territory will be selected to participate in this programme covering CBSE, ICSE and State syllabus. 5 additional seats are reserved for OCI candidates across the country.

(MAINS FOCUS)


Governance

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

A COVID-19 control plan made simple

The COVID-19 outbreak is not yet an epidemic in India as of March 11th 2020. 

However, a crisis is looming over horizon which may turn out to be disaster of unprecedented proportion if not handled properly

The track record

So far we have stoically confronted all the new and resurgent communicable diseases that appeared in recent decades. 

  • There was surge capacity of crisis management during the 2018 Nipah epidemic in Kerala. 
  • Government handled the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare of 2003 extremely efficiently. 
  • The 2009 pandemic influenza H1N1 was also confronted reasonably well.
  • However, India’s weakness in dealing with seasonal influenza is embarrassing as there is no national policy to control seasonal flu
  • With high flu deaths reported annually, it can be said that India manages short-term crisis very well but fails on long-term disease control 

Existing Administrative Set-up

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – which coordinates with State Health Departments to deal with Health issues of the country
  • National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) – functions well only when smaller problems erupt in various States. 
  • Director General of Health Services (DGHS) – It has limited executive powers and there is no competent public health infrastructure under the Directorate to deal with epidemics
  • Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – whose primary job is on the research of pathogens that cause epidemics but they are not equipped to deal with control of epidemics

Need for dedicated body/operation

  • The Minister for Health is a key person but COVID-19 epidemic is more than a medical problem. 
  • Many ministries such as those of travel, tourism, industry, education, economics, railways and local governments are all being affected.
  •  India needs a dedicated disaster management operation headed by Prime Minister.
  • PM should declare a national emergency and establish a ‘war-machinery’, with a ‘task force’ of the best experts in the country, of proven capability and track record against communicable diseases.
  • The war room should have all necessary facilities and should run a 24-hour control room.
  • The job of the task force ought to have one goal: manage the epidemic, to minimise the spread and damage of the virus, and to mitigate the sufferings of all people everywhere.
  • The terms of reference of the task force must include the design of immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term responses. 
  • Once the task force designs a strategy with tactics, the Ministry of Health as well as all Ministries must implement them. 

Preventive Measures taken by India

  • The Union Home Ministry has transferred some of its power to the Union Health Ministry for tackling the COVID-19 if the outbreak turns out to be a disaster of national proportions.
  • The Indian government has issued a new travel advisory stating that all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, U.N./International Organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April, beginning from 13th March.
  • Visa-free travel facility granted to OCI cardholders is also suspended for the same duration.
  • All incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15th Feb shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
  • International traffic through land borders will be restricted as well.
  • The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued an advisory to take all necessary steps in public transport vehicles to ensure sanitation of seats, handles and bars.
  • India will send a team of doctors to Italy and Iranfor testing its nationals for coronavirus and bring them back

Conclusion

An agency exclusively for managing a constant and continuous watch on all developments — biomedical and sociological — and to recommend remedial and containment measures is essential in order to face this epidemic.

Connecting the dots

  • Impact of epidemic on pharmaceuticals & pesticide sector
  • Health Emergency

Polity

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. 

ECI reform plan: For a level playing field

Even as electoral democracy has taken strong root in India, there are some unhealthy patterns that have emerged some of which are:

  • Candidates and winners in Assembly and Lok Sabha polls have largely been from affluent sections 
  • With elections becoming expensive, most parties have sought to field richer candidates irrespective of their merit in representing public interest.
  • Campaign finance regulations by the Election Commission of India that imposes limits on election expenditure by candidates have not been sufficient deterrents. 
  • Poll results have tended to be a function of either party or leader preference by the voter rather than a statement on the capability of the candidate.
  • In many cases, capable candidates stand no chance against the money power of more affluent candidates. 
  • Increasing number of candidates contesting in elections having criminal cases against them

As a result, ECI is considering certain reforms which is pending with the centre, some of these are:

  1. ECI is considering tightening ways to cap the expenditure of political parties. 
    • But even this can be meaningful only if there is more transparency in campaign finance which suggests that the electoral bonds system, as it is in place now, is untenable.
  2. The ECI has suggested bringing social media and print media under the “silent period” ambit after campaigning ends. 
    • Regulating social media will be difficult and it remains to be seen how the ECI will implement this.
  3. The ECI also plans to introduce new “safe and secure” voting methods. 
    • The use now of the EVM as a standalone, one-time programmable chip-based system, along with administrative safeguards renders it a safe mechanism that is not vulnerable to hacking. 
    • Any other “online” form of voting that is based on networked systems should be avoided
  4. Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage to weed out duplications and misrepresentations from the electoral rolls
    • The idea of an Aadhaar-linked remote voting system that is sought to be built as a prototype could be problematic considering how the unique identity card has excluded genuine beneficiaries when used in welfare schemes
  5. Amendments to Section 20(6) of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1951 to allow the husband of a female officer to be registered as a service voter where she holds office.
  6. Granting powers to ECI to deregister a party
  7. Greater autonomy to ECI
    • Giving Constitutional protection to all members of ECI
    • Charging budget of ECI to Consolidated Fund of India
    • Setting up Independent Secretariat for ECI like those for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha

Two key measures are missing from the recommendations — the need for more teeth for the ECI in its fight against “vote buying” and hate speech. 

  • Increasingly, parties have resorted to bribing voters in the form of money and other commodities in return for votes, and while the ECI has tried to warn outfits or in some cases postponed polls, these have not deterred them.
  • In times when hate speech is used during elections, the ECI lacks power of disqualification of the candidate that would create true deterrence

Conclusion

ECI’s plans to strengthen the electoral process are welcome, but some require scrutiny

Connecting the dots

  • Liberhan Commission recommendations against parties which misuse religion.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note: 

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q 1. Consider the following statements about Article 300A

  1. It was inserted in Constitution by 42th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 
  2. Article 300 A does not confine to land alone but includes intangible property like copyright, intellectual property rights, mortgage, money, any interest in the property, lease, license. 

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q 2. Consider the following statements about AT1 Bonds

  1. They are unsecured and long term bonds with maturity periods like 5 years or 10 years
  2. Banks issue these bonds to shore up their core capital base to meet the Basel-III norms

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q 3. Consider the following statements about National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

  1. It envisaged setting up a network of 70 high-performance computing facilities in the country
  2. The mission is being implemented by the Department of Science and Technology and NITI Aayog

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q 4. Yuva Vigyani Karyakram is an initiative by which body/ministry?

  1. Ministry of Science & Technology
  2. NITI Aayog
  3. ISRO
  4. DRDO

ANSWERS FOR 11 March 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 B
3 A
4 B
5 C

Must Read

About US-Afghanistan deal:

The Hindu

About Economic Uncertainty 

The Hindu

About Mental pressure in Education:

The Indian Express

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