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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 27th March 2020

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  • March 27, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 27th March 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan package 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Governance; Welfare schemes

In News: 

  • The Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan (PMGK) package was recently unveiled amidst COVID-19 pandemic and the 21-day associated lockdown to combat the disease.
  • It mainly targets poor people and people working in unorganised sector of the country.
  • It consists of a range of measures that the Government of India will take to alleviate the economic, health, and food-related distress.

Key takeaways:

  • Reliefs/Schemes under PMGK package:
  • For farmers  
    • Rs 2,000 per farmer will be provided under the PM-KISAN scheme.
  • For pensioners – 
    • An additional Rs 1,000 per month pension for the next 3 months for those receiving old age, widow or disability pensions
  • For women – 
    • Rs 500 per month will be transferred for the next 3 months to women holding a Jan Dhan bank account.
    • Registered beneficiaries under Ujjwala Yojana will get one LPG cylinder per month free of cost for the next three months. 
    • Women Self Help Groups can now take collateral-free loans up to Rs 20 lakh instead of the existing limit of Rs 10 lakh under National Rural Livelihood Mission.
  • For labourers – 
    • Wages paid for manual labour under MGNREGA have been increased from Rs 180 per day to Rs 202 per day. 
  • For BPL families – 
    • Over the next 3 months, each person who is covered under the National Food Security Act would get an additional five kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised food grains already provided through the Public Distribution System (PDS). 
    • One kg of pulse per household would also be provided for free.
  • For companies – 
    • For small companies with 100 employees or less, of whom 90% earn less than Rs. 15,000 a month, the Centre will bear the cost of both employer and employee contribution to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for the next three months. 
    • The scheme’s regulations will also be amended to allow non-refundable advance of 75% of the amount standing to the credit of the EPF member, or 3 months’ worth of wages, whichever is lower.
  • For construction workers – 
    • The Centre also directed the States to use the Rs. 31,000 crore available under Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards to provide support to the workers registered under the scheme.
    • The money already available in the “district (-level) mineral fund” to pay for medical testing and screening for the coronavirus shall also be utilised under PMGK package.

G20 virtual summit

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Global groupings

In News: 

  • Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, G20 summit was held through video conferencing, recently.

Key takeaways:

  • G20 nations pledged a united front in the fight against coronavirus.
  • They also committed to inject $5 trillion into the global economy to ensure the situation of deep recession doesn’t arise.
  • G20 leaders also pledged to work with bodies such as the International Monetary Fund to deploy a robust financial package to support the developing nations which do not have access to capital markets or adequate health facilities.
  • Other affected countries also joined the virtual summit including Spain, Jordan, Singapore and Switzerland.
  • Leaders also agreed to contribute to the WHO-led COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund on a voluntary basis.
  • G20 was criticised recently for being slow to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Important value additions:

COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund 

  • It is a global fund for supporting the work of the World Health Organization in containing the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic. 
  • It was launched in Geneva, Switzerland.

International Monetary Fund

  • It is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • It works to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.

Humanoid robot tested

Part of: GS Prelims and GS III – Disaster Management; Science and Technology

In News: 

  • A series of trials were conducted on a humanoid robot at a government hospital in Jaipur.

Key takeaways:

  • The trials were carried out to check if robot could be used for delivering medicines and food to the COVID-19 patients admitted there.
  • If approved, the robot would help in keeping the doctors and nursing staff at a safe distance to protect them against the dreaded coronavirus.
  • The medicos and paramedical staff are at higher risk of being infected with the virus despite wearing protective gear.
  • It is battery-operated humanoid robot with a lifespan of four to five years
  • It uses artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT).
  • It can navigate its own way without the instructions to follow lines on the floor.
  • The robots could also be easily disinfected and used multiple times inside the high-risk isolation ward.

Important value additions:

Humanoid robot

  • It is a robot with its body shape built to resemble the human body. 
  • The design may be for functional purposes.

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Global groupings

In News: 

  • The UNICEF recently appealed to the governments worldwide to not to ignore life-saving health interventions such as immunisation in their efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Key takeaways:

  • The children from the poorest families in countries affected by conflicts and natural disasters will be at the greatest risk.
  • It is also feared that critical life-saving services, including immunisation may be disrupted, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East where they are essentially needed. 
  • The UNICEF also announced that it would increase support to all countries so that children continue their learning despite schools being shut. 
  • Initial sum of $9 million had already been allocated to help governments and education partners develop plans for alternative learning programmes and ensure access to remote learning. 

Important value additions:

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

  • It is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide.
  • It is among the most widespread and recognizable social welfare organizations in the world.
  • UNICEF’s activities include:
    • Immunizations and disease prevention
    • Administering treatment for children and mothers with HIV
    • Enhancing childhood and maternal nutrition
    • Improving sanitation
    • Promoting education
    • Providing emergency relief in response to disasters
  • UNICEF relies entirely on contributions from governments and private donors.
  • Its Headquarter is in New York City, US.

Pandemics of the world

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Health; GS III – Economy; Disaster Management

In News: 

  • COVID-19 is the most recent disease which was declared as pandemic by the World Health Organization.

A glimpse through major pandemics of the world which caused huge loss to life:

The Plague of Justinian
  • It killed between 30 million and 50 million people.
  • The cause of the Plague of Justinian was infectious fever caused by Yersinia pestis.
Black death
  • Between 1347 and 1351, it spread throughout Europe, killing approximately 25 million people
  • It is believed to have been the result of plague – an infectious fever caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis
  • It was likely transmitted from rodents to humans by the bite of infected fleas.
Smallpox (15th – 17th centuries)
  • Smallpox claimed the lives of approximately 20 million people, close to 90% of the population, in the Americas. 
  • The pandemic helped Europeans colonize and develop the newly vacated areas.
  • Smallpox is caused by infection with the variola virus transmitted through various ways.
Cholera (1817 – 1823)
    • The first cholera pandemic began in Jessore, India.
  • It was the first of 7 major cholera pandemics that have killed millions of people. 
  • The World Health Organization has called cholera “the forgotten pandemic”.
  • Its seventh outbreak, which began in 1961, continues to this day.
  • It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholera.
Spanish Flu or H1N1 (1918 – 1919)
  • It is caused due to H1N1 virus.
  • It infected around 500 million people, or a third of the world’s population, of that time. 
  • The pandemic was responsible for killing over 50 million people globally.
Hong Kong Flu or H3N2 (1968 – 1970)
  • Global fatalities were around one million.
  • It was caused by an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus.
  • It is believed that the virus responsible for the Asian flu evolved and re-emerged 10 years later into this so-called “Hong Kong flu”.
  • H3N2 was exceptionally contagious.
HIV/AIDS (1981 – present)
  • Since 1981, 75 million people have had the HIV virus and approximately 32 million have died as a result.
  • HIV/AIDS is a persistent epidemic that continues to impact millions of people every year. 
  • The HIV infection is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • The virus can be transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids.
SARS (2002 – 2003)
  • SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is an illness caused by one of the 7 coronaviruses that can infect humans. 
  • In 2003, an outbreak that originated in the Guangdong province of China became a global pandemic.
  • It infected around 8,000 people and killing 774 of them.
  • The consequences of the 2003 SARS pandemic were largely limited due to an intense public health response by global authorities.
Swine Flu or H1N1 (2009 – 2010)
  • It was a new form of the influenza virus which emerged in 2009.
  • It infected approximately millions of people with global deaths in the range of 151,700 to 575,400
  • It is called the “swine flu” because it appeared to cross over from pigs to humans in transmission.
  • 80% of the virus-related deaths occured in people younger than 65.
Ebola (2014 – 2016)
  • It began in a small village in Guinea in 2014 and spread to a handful of neighbouring countries in West Africa.
  • It is caused by infection with a virus of the Filoviridae family, genus Ebolavirus.
  • The virus killed 11,325 of the 28,600 infected people, with most cases occurring in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Coronavirus, or COVID-19 (2019 – present)
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
  • Worldwide cases have surpassed 500,000 with more than 24,000 deaths globally. 
  • It is believed to be transmitted from animals to humans.
  • The vast majority of cases are reported from USA now. 
  • On March 11, the WHO characterized the outbreak as a pandemic.
  • Estimates indicate that Coronavirus could eventually infect 40% to 70% of the global population.
  • Practicing social distancing is recommended.
  • The damage to the world economy threaten the worst recession since the Great Depression or the “panics” of the 1800s, depending on the scale of government responses.

(MAINS FOCUS)


WELFARE/ECONOMY

Topic: General Studies 2 and 3:

  • Government Schemes and policies
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY)- India’s relief package for COVID-19

The ₹1.7 Lakh Crore relief package – named PMGKY- was announced by Union government to alleviate the distress caused by COVID-19 pandemic.

Do You Know?

  • The cost of the COVID-19 lockdown in India is pegged at nearly ₹9 lakh crore
  • This is the third shock that the informal economy faces, after demonetisation and GST.
  • US announced 2 trillion USD (Rs 148 Lakh crore) stimulus package to fight COVID-19

The Key features of PMGKY are:

  • Healthcare Workers: Insurance cover of ₹50 lakh
  • Food grains to Poor: 80 crore poor people under National Food Security Act will receive five extra kg of wheat or rice and 1 kg of pulses
  • MGNREGA workers (13.63 crore): Wage increased from ₹182/day to ₹202/day
  • Jan Dhan Women Account holders (20.4 crore): DBT of ₹500/ month for next three months 
  • Senior Citizens, disabled & Poor widows (3 crore): Ex-gratia of ₹1000 (through existing pension schemes)
  • Farmers (8.7 crore): Front loading of ₹2000 to them under existing PM Kisan Yojana
  • Ujjwala Beneficiaries (8.3 crore): Free cylinders for next three months
  • Wage earners: Those earning below ₹15000/month in firms having less than 100 workers will receive 24% of their monthly wages into their PF accounts for next three months
  • Construction workers: Centre has directed States to use Construction worker’s welfare fund to give relief to 3.5 crore registered workers

Is there a specific strategy used by government in this relief package?

  1. Government has followed two-pronged approach
    • Ensuring a steady supply of food and cooking gas to poor people
    • Easing cash woes of the vulnerable sections of society
  2. Fiscally prudent: By utilizing existing schemes funding for the package is kept within the budget so as to retain control over the deficit 
  3. Preserving Financial resources -Given the uncertainty over the length of crisis – government may announce future relief packages to adapt with changing situation

Challenges:

  • Modest cash transfer might not be enough given the drying up of incomes for the vulnerable sections of society
  • Implementation issues: People may face difficulties to draw money from their accounts during the lockdown
  • Migrant labourers may find difficulties to access the extra food grain announced
  • Package does not address the challenges being faced by Informal MSMEs and other hard-hit sectors.

Way ahead:

  • Intervention by RBI like providing regulatory forbearance, moratorium on interest payments, changing classification norms, and ensuring easy access to credit. 
  • Centre needs to enhance the resources of State through measures like
    • Releasing all the pending dues owed to the state governments on account of GST compensation. 
    • Assist states in raising finances from markets (by giving sovereign guarantees)
    • Sharing bonanza from fall in Crude Oil Prices
    • Consult States to ensure that supply chain, spread across multiple states, of essential commodities is not disrupted
    • Harvest time – may lead to price fall or wastage due to disruption caused by lockdown – States to be financially supported (agriculture is a State subject)
  • Civil Society and Corporates needs to pitch in during this crisis with their financial and human resources

Connecting the dots:

  • Compassionate Capitalism
  • What all needs to be included in the relief package- II which would be focused on middle class & corporate sector?
  • N. K. Singh Panel recommendations on fiscal deficit range 

INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
  • India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Terrorism and Afghanistan

Context: The terrorist attack on a gurudwara in Kabul, claimed by Islamic State (IS), has killed 25 people, mostly members of Afghanistan’s persecuted Sikh minority.

Afghanistan is notorious for violence against its minority communities. 

  • The Hazara Shias were brutally attacked during the Taliban regime in 1996-2001. 
  • Most Hindus and Sikhs, once spread across the country in hundreds of thousands, have fled the country in past three decades

Do You Know?

  • Post 9/11 attacks, US invaded Afghanistan with the aim to destroy Al-Qaeda terrorist group.
  • For past two decades, there is a Civil War going on in Afghanistan between Taliban (Fundamentalist group supported by Pakistan) and the Afghan government (supported by USA).
  • US and Taliban signed a peace deal in March 2020
  • One of the provisions of peace deal was that the Taliban had committed themselves to eliminating the Islamic State from Afghanistan

Why Islamic State (IS) has attacked now?

  • To send a message to its rivals that it continues to be a potent force
  • Increasing influence of Taliban (reflected through peace deal with US) is clashing with IS’s own interest to control vast territory & spread its own ideology
  • Hence, it wants to revive its own importance vis-à-vis Taliban
  • IS wants to exploit the clashes between Taliban and Afghan government – unable to finalize on the prisoner swap part of the peace deal – to increase its own influence
  • Division in Afghan Political leadership –Afghanistan now has two Presidents – meaning weak coordinated response on the perpetuators of attack

What are the consequences of the attack?

  • Less focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan – Iran (epicentre of the pandemic) borders the country => dangers of Afghanistan becoming a new epicentre.
  • Abandonment of minorities in the country may lead to refugee crisis
  • Derails the peace deal signed between Taliban and USA
  • Increased instability in the region

What is the Impact on India?

  • Internationalization of Kashmir Issue: IS has stated that it had carried out the attack in revenge for Kashmir.
  • Doubts over Pakistan’s involvement in this attack shows that there is increased security threat to Indians (workers & Officials) in Afghanistan
  • Increased terrorism in the region is not in the Economic & Strategic interest of India

Conclusion

  • Afghanistan faces two contagions, new and old — COVID-19 and the relentless violence. 
  • A united effort has to be made for the ceasefire of violence so as to enable humanitarian assistance to deal with the pandemic

Connecting the dots:

  • Who were all the part of coalition forces which defeated Islamic State in Iraq & Syria (ISIS)?
  • Who is the Haqqani group and how is it related to Taliban?

(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 regarding UNICEF:

  1. UNICEF relies partially on contributions from governments and private donors.
  2. Its headquarter is in Geneva, Switzerland.

Which of the 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 regarding Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan package:

  1. Rs 2,000 per farmer will be provided under the PM-KISAN scheme.
  2. Rs 500 per month will be transferred for the next 3 months to women holding a Jan Dhan bank account.

Which of the 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 regarding recently held G20 summit:

  1. It has committed to inject $10 trillion into the global economy to ensure the situation of deep recession doesn’t arise.
  2. Leaders also agreed to contribute to the WHO-led COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund on a voluntary basis.

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

Q 4. Which of the following disease is caused by Coronavirus?

  1. SARS
  2. Ebola
  3. COVID-19
  4. Both (a) and (c)

ANSWERS FOR 26th March 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 D
3 A
4 C

Must Read

How Indian can contain the economic impact of COVID-19:

The Hindu

About Kerala’s relief package to fight COVID-19:

The Hindu

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