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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 31st March 2020

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  • March 31, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 31st March 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Scitech Airon 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Science and technology 

In News: 

  • A technology, titled Scitech Airon, has been developed by an incubatee company of Scitech Park, Pune. 
  • It offers an effective solution for India’s fight against COVID-19. 

Key takeaways:

  • The technology reduces the viral load of infected areas within a room significantly within an hour.  
  • It has been developed under the NIDHI PRAYAS program initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • It helps to control the virus, bacteria, and fungal infections in a closed environment. 
  • It would help in ensuring wellbeing of the staff, doctors, and nurses working in the quarantine facilities by enhancing their disease resistance power and ability to fight the virus. 
  • DST has released Rs 1 crore to manufacture and scale up the product. 
  • The technology has been scientifically tested by various globally renowned labs in different types of closed environments. 

Important value additions:

NIDHI PRAYAS program

  • National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI) is an umbrella programme conceived and developed by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful start-ups.
  • Under this initiative, DST has launched NIDHI- Promoting and Accelerating Young and ASpiring innovators & startups (NIDHI-PRAYAS) program. 
  • The program caters to idea-stage entrepreneurs with a physical product offering. 
  • It would also facilitate the innovators with the Physical infrastructure, Technical Guidance, Business Mentorship etc.

Special Economic zone

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Infrastructure 

In News: 

  • The Department of Commerce has decided to provide suitable relaxations on compliances to be met by units / developers / co‐developers of Special Economic Zones(SEZs) in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Key takeaways:

  • Development Commissioners of SEZs have been directed to ensure that no hardship is caused to Developers / Co‐Developer / Units and 
  • No punitive action must be taken in cases where any compliance is not met during this period impacted by the above disruption.

Important value additions:

Special Economic Zone (SEZ) 

  • It is a specifically delineated duty-free enclave, deemed to be foreign territory for the purposes of trade operations and duties and tariffs. 
  • SEZ units may be set up for manufacture of goods and rendering of services. 
  • Goods and services going into the SEZ area from Domestic Tariff Area (whole India except SEZ) shall be treated as exports and goods coming from the SEZ area into DTA shall be treated as imports. 

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI)

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy

In News: 

  • To address the difficulty faced by the lockdown due to COVID-19, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) amended the CIRP Regulations. 

Key takeaways:

  • The Board provided that the period of lockdown imposed by the Central Government in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak shall not be counted for the purposes of the time-line for any activity that could not be completed due to the lockdown, in relation to a corporate insolvency resolution process. 
  • This would be subject to the overall time-limit provided in the Code.

Important value additions:

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India

  • It was established on 1st October, 2016 under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. 
  • It is a key pillar of the ecosystem.
  • It is responsible for implementation of the Code. 
  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code consolidates and amends the laws relating to reorganization and insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals in a time bound manner. 

Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP)

  • It is a recovery mechanism for creditors. 
  • If a corporate becomes insolvent, a financial creditor, an operational creditor, or the corporate itself may initiate CIRP.
  • The CIRP may include necessary steps to revive the company. 
  • CIRP in a case under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) needs to be completed in 330 days including time taken for litigation.

Government bonds for NRIs

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy

In News: 

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) shall issue certain series of government securities (G-secs) under the “fully accessible route” for Non-resident Indians. 

Key takeaways:

  • These special securities will attract no foreign portfolio investor (FPI) limits
  • These are first step towards Indian G-Secs being listed on global bond indices
  • These shall also attract access cheap liquidity in the overseas markets.
  • This would facilitate the inflow of stable foreign investment in Indian bonds.
  • All new issuances of G-secs of 5-year, 10-year, and 30-year tenors from FY21 will be eligible for investment as specified securities. 
  • The RBI also raised upwards the FPI limits for corporate bonds to 15%, from 9%, for 2020-21. 
  • This scheme shall operate along with the two existing routes – the Medium Term Framework (MTF) and the Voluntary Retention Route (VRR). 

Important value additions:

Foreign portfolio investment

  • Foreign portfolio investment (FPI) consists of securities and other financial assets held by investors in another country. 
  • Along with foreign direct investment (FDI), FPI is one of the common ways to invest in an overseas economy. 
  • FDI and FPI are both important sources of funding for most economies.

The Medium-term Expenditure Framework

  • It is a statement presented to the Parliament under Section 3 of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, 2003 and 
  • It sets forth a three-year rolling target for the expenditure indicators with specification of underlying assumptions and risks involved.

Voluntary Retention Route

  • Under this route, FPIs have been given greater operational flexibility in terms of instrument choices besides exemptions from certain regulatory requirements.

Miscellaneous

Earth Hour 

  • Earth Hour 2020 was held on March 28, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
  • It is a global grassroots movement uniting people to take action on environmental issues and protect the planet.
  • Organized by – World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
  • The annual Earth Hour lights out event is held worldwide toward the end of March to encourage individuals, households, communities and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to the planet.
  • Why is Earth Hour event held in late March?
  • The second-to-last and last weekend of March is around the time of the Spring and Autumn equinoxes in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively, which allows for near coincidental sunset times in both hemispheres, thereby ensuring the greatest visual impact for a global ‘lights out’ event.
  • Earth Hour logo: Earlier it was 60 (60 symbolizes 60 minutes). But since 2011 it is 60+. 
  • Here + represents the commitment to go beyond the earth hour (i.e. switching off non – essential lights in day to day life). 

Sections 269 and 270 of the IPC

  • During the coronavirus outbreak, penal provisions, such as Sections 269 and 270 of the IPC, are being invoked to enforce the lockdown orders. 
  • Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) provides for a jail term of six months and/or fine.
  • Section 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) provides for a jail term of two years and/or fine. In Section 270, the word ‘malignantly’ indicates indicates a deliberate intention on the part of the accused.

Sodium Hypochlorite 

  • Recently, migrant workers travelling to their home states, were sprayed with a disinfectant, apparently to sanitise them.
  • The chemical in the spray was a sodium hypochlorite solution.
  • It is commonly used as a bleaching agent, and also to sanitise swimming pools.
  • It releases chlorine, which is a disinfectant.
  • The World Health Organization, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend homemade bleach solutions of about 2-10% concentration to clean hard surfaces to clear them of any presence of the novel coronavirus.
  • Sodium hypochlorite is corrosive. 
  • A 1% solution can cause damage to the skin of anyone who comes in contact with it. If it gets inside the body, it can cause serious harm to lungs. 

To ponder: Is it justified to use sodium hypochlorite as disinfectant on human beings? 


(MAINS FOCUS)


FEDERALISM/ DISASTER MANAGEMENT

Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure 
  • Disaster and disaster management. 

COVID-19: Centre- State relations

To effectively tide over the crisis created by COVID-19 pandemic there is a need for a robust Centre-State cooperation in sharing of best practices & resources.

Let us have a look at two States which have adopted good measures in their fight against Pandemic:

Kerala

  • Draft policy on dealing with COVID-19 pandemic was ready by January last week showing urgency of preparedness.
  • Declaration of COVID-19 as State disaster on February first week itself indicated a comprehensive response to be taken by authorities
  • Constitution of State response team and District response team– to ensure inter-ministry coordination, quick response & regular monitoring of the actions taken
  • Digital System to maintain data of all people under home quarantine (nearly 1.5 lakh people)
  • Everyday press conference by State Health Minister & CM to educate citizens and quell rumours
  • Shut down of anganwadis and schools was followed up by dry ration supplies to their homes. 
  • Utilizing Community kitchens to provide food for the poor
  • Suspension of Biometric authentication at PDS shops as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of community transmission.
  • Advance payment of social security pensions

Karnataka

  • Multi-pronged strategy that involves Technical strategy, Humanitarian approach and Economic assistance
  • Setting up of high-tech war rooms to exchange information & monitor the spread of disease
  • Tracking the mobile phones of quarantined people through their GPS location and tacking necessary action if they violate the norms
  • Corona Watch app – to inform people about places where infected persons had travelled – helps people to avoid such places
  • Dedicated Helpline, Telegram group and COVID Awareness and Response centre – to spread awareness, respond to people’s queries and fight the menace of rumours/fake news
  • ‘Dasoha line’ (155214) – to handle the demand for food during this crisis
  • Construction labourers and migrant workers –One convention centre or wedding hall in every ward will be taken over by District administration to house them & prevent their migration to home towns

Way Ahead

  • Central government can adopt the best practices followed by some states and scale it up to national level
  • Mission mode implementation of relief package announced by Centre
  • Setting up sector-specific committees to facilitate prompt responses.
  • Centre also 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. 
    • Relaxation of FRBM limits
    • 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)

Connecting the dots:

  • Inter-State Council
  • Governing Council of NITI Aayog

SOCIETY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 1 & 2:

  • Urbanization, their problems and their remedies. 
  • Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections. 

COVID-19: Challenges faced by Migrant Workers

In the crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic, some of the worse challenges are faced by the inter-state migrant workers. 

Do You Know?

  • The cost of the lockdown is pegged at around $120 billion (nearly ₹9 lakh crore) or 4% of the GDP.
  • The lockdown will effectively put over 45 million migrants, working on daily basis, out of work.

Problems of Inter-State migrant worker 

  • Sudden announcement of lockdown left them unprepared for it.
  • Contrary and uncoordinated government orders caused confusion (Ex: Delhi migrants)
  • Dire situation with no work, money or food
  • Harassment at the hands of house owners
  • Lack of political voice due to their migrant status
  • Anxiety about the survival of their families back home
  • Physical distancing for the unorganised sector is difficult in India given the realities of high density human settlements (Ex: slums)
  • All the above factors lead to their mass exodus from urban areas to their homes often by foot due to suspension of Transport facilities.

Solution

  • Making arrangements for travel to their home towns is not advisable as there is a danger of spread of virus to rural areas where health infrastructure is meagre.
  • People will stay where they are, only if real support is provided.
  • School buildings, community halls and stadiums can serve as temporary shelters for migrants (Karnataka model)
  • Food grains from excessive buffer stocks to be supplied to these centres.
  • Self-managed community kitchens to be set up
  • Adequate safety training and safety gear needs to be provided to those housed in temporary shelters

Conclusion

Thus, there needs to be a plan of action based on compassion and understanding of conditions on the ground. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Other vulnerable sections of society & problems faced due to lockdown
  • Migrants causing the demand for reservation of jobs for local people – legislations passed by State governments like AP, Maharashtra – Critically Analyze

INTERNATIONAL

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate. 

COVID-19: A threat to food security

The economic disruption caused by pandemic & the lockdown is still unfolding (IMF has already declared global recession). Supply chains are disrupted – especially the ones related to food. If not cooperated at global level, this could lead to shortage of food for millions

Do You Know?

  • Currently 113 million people experience acute hunger in the world
  • One in every 9 people in the world is undernourished.
  • Goal 2 of SDGs seeks to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030

Has the pandemic led to food insecurity?

  • No, as of now the countries have sufficient stocks to deal with food needs of people
  • Essentials like milk (Amul Cooperative) and food grains supply chains are working fine
  • However, there has been anecdotal reports of crowded supermarket sieges from some parts of the world

What can be the future problems associated with global food security?

  • Labour shortages may impact the harvest of upcoming produce leading to shortages
  • Shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could also affect agricultural production.
  • Closures of restaurants diminishes the demand for fresh produce and fisheries products, impacting small & marginal farmers that has long term consequences on Urban areas
  • Food processing sector will face difficulties due to shortage of working capital and workers
  • Countries adopt restrictive trade measures to safeguard their own national food security
  • Restricted trade practices will lead serious disruptions in the world food market resulting in increased price volatility & price hikes.
  • Low-income food-deficit countries will be the worst hit in cased of restrictive global food markets, thus precipitating humanitarian crisis (hunger deaths)

Way forward:

  • Avoid restrictive trade practices by National governments
  • Transparency: Information on prices, production, consumption and stocks of food should be made available to all in real time.
  • Ensuring global markets function normally as it is needed for smoothening supply and demand shocks across countries and regions.
  • Proactive role by international organisations like FAO to contain unwarranted panic behaviour in global food markets.

Conclusion

  • Any disruptions to food supply chains will intensify both human suffering and the challenge of reducing hunger around the world
  • Globally coordinated and coherent response is thus needed to prevent this public health crisis from triggering a food crisis in future

Connecting the dots:

  • Democratic nature of International Organisation
  • FAO’s Food Price Index

(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 Scitech Airon:

  1. It has been developed under the NIDHI PRAYAS program. 
  2. It helps to control the viral infections only in a closed environment. 

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 SEZ?

  1. It is set up for manufacture of goods and rendering of services. 
  2. It is free from any duties. 

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:

  1. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code  relates to reorganization and insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals. 
  2. Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process is a recovery mechanism for creditors. 

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. Consider the following statements:

  1. The Reserve Bank of India shall issue certain series of government securities under the fully accessible route for Non-resident Indians only. 
  2. FPI is one of the common ways of funding. 

Which of the above is/are correct?

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

ANSWERS FOR 30th March 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 B
3 B
4 A

Must Read

About measures needed to recover from crisis:

LiveMint

About need to ramp up mask production:

The Indian Express

About COVID-19 testing:

The Hindu

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