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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 25th AUGUST 2020

  • IASbaba
  • August 25, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


National Council for Transgender Persons constituted 

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-I – Society; GS-II – National Councils 

In News:

  • National Council for Transgender Persons has been recently constituted. 
  • Ministry: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. 

Key takeaways 

  • Council’s chairperson: The Social Justice Minister. 
  • Members
    • Officials from some other Ministries.
    • Five nominated members from the transgender community. 
  • Associated Act: Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. 
  • Functions:
    • Advising the central government on the formulation of policies, with respect to transgender persons
    • Monitoring and evaluating the impact of policies 
    • Reviewing and coordinating the activities of all the departments
    • Redressing grievances of transgender persons
    • Performing other functions as prescribed by the Centre.

Three-day Naval Commanders Conference (NCC) recently held 

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III – Security

In News:

  • A three-day Naval Commanders Conference (NCC) was recently held. 

Key takeaways 

  • According to the Indian Defence Minister, the Navy has effectively carried out Mission Based Deployments (MBD). 
  • They were carried out to protect maritime interests. 
  • Under MBD, ships and aircraft at major and sensitive locations were deployed. 
  • Under MBD concept, Indian ships were Mission Deployed for:
    • Anti-piracy
    • Operation ‘GULFDEP’ in the Persian Gulf
    • Operation ‘CENTDEP’ in the central Indian Ocean Region
    • Operation ‘NORDEP’ in the northern Bay of Bengal
    • Operation ‘MALDEP’ in the Andaman Sea and approaches to the Malacca Strait.

National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE): 2020-2025 released

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – Education; GS-III – RBI

In News:

  • The National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE): 2020-2025 document was released. 
  • Released by: RBI.

Key takeaways 

  • This NSFE is the second one after the 2013-18 NSFE.
  • Prepared by: The National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE) 
  • Consultation by
    • All the Financial Sector Regulators (RBI, SEBI, IRDAI and PFRDA), 
    • Various Indian Central Ministries
    • Stakeholders under the aegis of the Technical Group on Financial Inclusion and Financial Literacy
  • Recommendations
    • Development of relevant content in curriculum in schools, colleges and training establishments
    • Developing capacity among intermediaries involved in providing financial services
    • Leveraging the positive effect of community-led model for financial literacy through appropriate communication strategy
    • Enhancing collaboration among various stakeholders

DNA Bill can be misused: Draft report

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – Legialations; GS-III – Science and Technology

In News:

  • A draft report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has flagged the DNA bill.
  • Headed by: Jairam Ramesh
  • The report is yet to be finalized. 

Key takeaways 

  • According to the Committee: 
    • The bill could be misused for caste or community-based profiling. 
    • DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as pedigree, skin colour, health status and susceptibility to diseases.
    • Disregard to an individual’s privacy and other safeguards is another concern. 
    • Consenting provision can be easily overridden by a magistrate, thereby, making consent perfunctory (no real effort). 
    • No guidance in the Bill as to when the magistrate can override consent.

Important value additions 

DNA Bill

  • It proposes DNA sampling and profiling of Indian citizens accused of crime or reported missing. 
  • It shall store their unique genetic information for administrative purposes. 
  • Nearly 60 countries have enacted similar legislation, with the U.S. bringing in a law in 1994.

China launches warship for Pakistan Navy

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II – International Relations; GS-III – Security challenges

In News:

  • China has launched first of the four advanced naval warships for Pakistan. 
  • The launching ceremony for the first warship was held at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai. 
  • First ship is of Type-054 class frigate. 
  • Equipped with: Latest surface, subsurface, anti-air weapons, combat management system, and sensors. 
  • It will be one of the technologically advanced surface platforms of the Pakistan Navy fleet. 

Miscellaneous 

Thumbimahotsavam 2020

  • First-ever State Dragonfly Festival, named Thumbimahotsavam 2020, shall be held in Kerala. 
  • ‘Pantalu’ is the official mascot for the festival.
  • Organised by: WWF-India (Kerala unit), the Society for Odonate Studies (SOS) and Thumbipuranam 
  • A dragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odonata.

Image source: The Hindu 


(MAINS FOCUS)


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive 
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies. 
  • Government Budgeting (Fiscal Policy)

India does need a Fiscal Council

Context: The fiscal situation in India has been under severe stress even before COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus pandemic has worsened it.

Fiscal Situation of Union

  • The fiscal deficit of the Centre in 2019-20 as estimated by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) was 4.6%, 0.8 percentage point higher than the revised estimate. 
  • For the 2020-21, even without any additional fiscal stimulus, the deficit is estimated at about 7% of GDP as against 3.5% estimated in the Budget due to a sharp decline in revenues.
  • The consolidated deficit of the Union and States could be as high as 12% of GDP and the overall debt could go up to 85%.

Criticism w.r.t Fiscal Consolidation

  • Unaccounted Liabilities: When off Budget liabilities are considered, the situation looks even more alarming.
  • Transparency: Besides large deficits and debt, there are questions of comprehensiveness, transparency and accountability in the Budgets. 
  • Obscure Actions undertaken to keep the liabilities hidden: These include 
    • Special banking arrangements for covering arrears of fertilizer subsidy
    • Issuing short-term bonds
    • Unsecured loans and borrowing from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) by the Food Corporation of India towards meeting food subsidy and its arrears.
    • Financing irrigation projects from the Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) created by the NABARD 
    • Financing of railway projects through borrowings from the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) 
    • LIC buying out the Industrial Development Bank of India and the Power Finance Corporation buying out the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) and remitting the money to the government as disinvestment proceeds.

To address the above challenges, 14th Finance Commission recommended the establishment of an independent Fiscal Council 

  • This council should be appointed by and reporting to Parliament by inserting a new section in the FRBM Act.

What is the mandate of Fiscal Council?

  • A Fiscal Council is an Independent fiscal institution (IFI) with a mandate to promote stable and sustainable public finances The council assist in calibrating sustainable fiscal policy by making an objective and scientific analysis.
  • The important tasks of these IFIs include: 
    • Independent analysis, review and monitoring and evaluating of government’s fiscal policies and programmes
    • Developing or reviewing macroeconomic and/or budgetary projections
    • Costing of budget and policy proposals and programmes
    • Presenting policy makers with alternative policy options 

Merits of Fiscal Council

  • Watchdog of Public Finance: An unbiased report to Parliament helps to raise the level of debate and brings in greater transparency and accountability. 
  • Reduces Populism: Costing of various policies and programmes can help to promote transparency over the political cycle to discourage populist shifts in fiscal policy and improve accountability.
  • Public Awareness: Scientific estimates of the cost of programmes and assessment of forecasts could help in raising public awareness about their fiscal implications and make people understand the nature of budgetary constraint.
  • Upholds Spirit of Constitution: The Council will work as a conscience keeper in monitoring rule-based policies, and in raising awareness and the level of debate within and outside Parliament.
  • International Trend: According to IMF, there were 36 countries with IFIs in 2014 and more have been established in recent years

How effective have these institutions been? 

  • A study by the IMF (“The Functions and Impact of Fiscal Councils”, July 2013) shows that countries with IFIs tend to have stronger primary balances and more accurate macroeconomic & budgetary forecasts. 
  • In Belgium, the government is legally required to adopt the macroeconomic forecasts of the Federal Planning Bureau and this has significantly helped to reduce bias in these estimates. 
  • In Chile, the existence of two independent bodies on Trend GDP and Reference Copper Price has greatly helped to improve Budget forecasts. 
  • In the U.K., the Office for Budget Responsibility has been important in restoring fiscal sustainability. 
  • Cross-country evidence shows that fiscal councils exert a strong influence on fiscal performances, particularly when they have formal guarantees of independence.

Conclusion

A Fiscal Council is an important institution needed to complement the rule-based fiscal policy. Of course, it is not a ‘silver bullet’; if there is no political will, the institution would be less effective

Connecting the dots:


HEALTH / GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Reversing health sector neglect

Context: The pandemic has highlighted the need for effective universal health coverage (UHC) 

What steps have been taken by government to achieve UHC?

  • The government is poised to employ Ayushman Bharat–Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PM-JAY) health insurance as the tool for achieving UHC.
  • Plans are reportedly under way to extend coverage to the non-poor population under AB-PM-JAY, which currently covers the bottom 40% of the population. 

Challenges/Criticism of Government’s approach on achieving UHC

  • Private Sector Prioritised: Taking the health insurance route to UHC driven by private players, rather than strengthening the public provisioning of health care, is reflective of the non-negotiability of private health care in India. 
  • Urban Bias in Private Health Services: There is stark maldistribution of private health-care facilities -almost two-thirds of corporate hospitals concentrated in major cities 
  • Coverage doesn’t ensure access: Low budgetary appropriations for insurance could mean that universal insurance does not translate to universal access to services, much akin to what was seen under the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. 
  • Experience points to different direction: Insurance-based incentives to drive private players into the rural countryside have been largely unsuccessful, and experience suggests that the public sector could be the only effective alternative. 
  • Little homework before expansion: Envisaging universal health insurance without enough regulatory robustness to handle everything from malpractices to monopolistic tendencies, will only lead to distorted results. 
  • Need for Legislations: Government should enact ‘Clinical Establishments Act’ for effective monitoring & compliance, before embarking on a universal scheme involving large-scale public-private collaboration
  • Path-dependent resistance to reform: The bigger and deeper the reform, the more the resistance. Covering the remaining population under the AB-PM-JAY presents massive fiscal and design challenges.
  • Fiscal Challenges: Meeting requirements of Universalisation through general revenue financing would greatly strain the exchequer and looks very unlikely especially in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.
  • Administrative Challenges: Turning AB-PM-JAY into a contributory scheme based on premium collections would be a costly and daunting undertaking, given the huge informal sector and possible adverse selection problems.
  • Technical Challenges: Harmonising benefits and entitlements among various beneficiary groups, and a formalisation and consolidation of practices in a likely situation of covering outpatient care, are formidable additional challenges
  • Challenges with National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) that complements the UHC Scheme
    • Integration and improved management of patient and health facility information are very welcome. 
    • However, in the absence of robust ground-level documentation practices and its prerequisites, it would do little more than helping some private players and adding to administrative complexity and costs like the electronic health records did under the US ACA.

Way Ahead

  • While upheavals offer windows for pushing reform, a protracted presence of the pandemic in the country could undermine its gravity and the perceived urgency for major reform.
  • Civil society would need to utilise this opening to generate widespread public consensus and pressure for health-care reform
  • At the same time, politics would need to recognise the unprecedented populist significance of health and marshal enough will to negotiate organised opposition to change.

Connecting the dots

  • Ayushman Bharat–Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PM-JAY)

(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 First-ever State dragonfly festival is going to be held in which of the following state of India?

  1. Kerala
  2. Himachal Pradesh
  3. Rajasthan
  4. Delhi

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding National Strategy for Financial Education (2020-2025):

  1. It is released by NCERT.
  2. It is prepared by RBI.

Which of the above is/are correct? 

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

Q.3 Under Mission Based Deployment by Indian Navy, Indian ships were mission deployed for which of the following?

  1. Operation GULFDEP for Persian Gulf.
  2. Operation CENTDEP for Central Pacific region
  3. Operation MALDEP for Maldives.

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Q.4 Consider the following statements regarding National Council for Transgender Persons:

  1. The Social Justice Minister will be its Chairman.
  2. The Council is formed under Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
  3. It shall advise the Government on the formulation of policies related to the transgender community.

Which of the above is/are correct? 

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

ANSWERS FOR 24th August 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 D
2 B
3 A

Must Read

About Pakistan’s move to tackle terrorism:

The Hindu

About resumption of Political activity in J&K:

The Hindu

About India’s Strategic Autonomy:

The Indian Express

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