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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 30th October 2021

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  • October 30, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Policies and interventions

Context According to its own financial statement, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme shows a negative net balance of Rs. 8,686 crore.

  • The Centre’s flagship rural employment scheme has run out of funds halfway through the financial year, and supplementary budgetary allocations will not come to the rescue for at least another month when the next Parliamentary session begins.

Key takeaways 

  • The scheme’s 2021-22 budget was set at just Rs. 73,000 crore.
  • The Central government argued that the nationwide lockdown was over, and that supplementary budgetary allocations would be available if the money ran out. 
  • However, as on October 29, the total expenditure, including payments due had already reached Rs. 79,810 crore.
  • 21 States show a negative net balance, with Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal faring the worst.

What is Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)?

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was notified in 2005.
  • Goal – To improve the livelihood security of people in rural areas.
  • It is a universal scheme guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a year to every rural household that expresses a demand. 
  • It aims to guarantee the ‘Right to Work’.
  • Every registered household receives a Job Card (JC) to track their work completed.
  • The scheme is implemented by the gram panchayat.
  • The failure of provision for employment within 15 days of the receipt of a job application will result in the payment of unemployment allowance to the job seekers.
  • Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant’s residence
  • Employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement

Sale of toxic crackers

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health and GS-III – Pollution

Context The Supreme Court on Friday said Chief Secretaries and top administrative and police officials will be held personally liable if banned varieties of firecrackers are found to be used in any of the States.

Key takeaways 

  • SC said that Nobody can be permitted to play with the life of others, more particularly that of senior citizens and children.
    • Only those firecrackers are banned which are found to be injurious to health and affecting the health of citizens.
  • Any lapse on the part of the State Governments/ State Agencies and Union Territories shall be viewed very seriously.
  • If it is found that any banned firecrackers are manufactured, sold and used in any particular area, the Chief Secretary of the State(s), the Secretary (Home) of the State(s) and the Commissioner of Police of the area, District Superintendent of Police of the area and the SHO/police officer in-charge of the police station shall be held personally liable.
  • The court had allowed the use of ‘green’ or environment-friendly crackers made without toxic ingredients.

Do you know?

  • Firecrackers use fuel and oxidisers to produce a combustion reaction, and the resulting explosion spreads the material in a superheated state. The metal salts in the explosive mix get ‘excited’ and emit light.
  • Many studies show, the burning of firecrackers is an unusual and peak source of pollution, made up of particles and gases.
  • Pollution from firecrackers affects the health of people and animals, and aggravates the already poor ambient air quality in Indian cities. 
  • This has resulted in court cases calling for a total ban on firecrackers, and court finally deciding to restrict the type of chemicals used as well as their volume.

UIDAI seeks indemnity from Data Bill

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Governance

Context The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asked for exemption from the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Law.

  • In an interaction with the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Data Protection Bill 2019, UIDAI functionaries said the authority is already being governed by the Aadhaar Act and there cannot be duplicity of laws.

About Personal Data Protection (PDP) Law

  • The law is a comprehensive piece of legislation that seeks to give individuals greater control over how their personal data is collected, stored and used. 
  • The Bill also establishes a Data Protection Authority for the same.

Genesis of the Bill 

  • The genesis of this Bill lies in the report prepared by a Committee of Experts headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna.
  • The committee was constituted by the government in the course of hearings before the Supreme Court in the right to privacy case (Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India).

Contentious section 35

  • Section 35, which invokes “sovereignty and integrity of India,” “public order”, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state” to give powers to the Central government to suspend all or any of the provisions of this Act for government agencies.

About UIDAI

  • UIDAI was created with the objective to issue Unique Identification numbers (UID), named as “Aadhaar”, to all residents of India that is:
    • robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities
    • can be verified and authenticated in an easy, cost-effective way.
  • It is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
  • Under the Aadhaar Act 2016, UIDAI is responsible for
    • Aadhaar enrolment and authentication
    • Developing system for issuing Aadhaar numbers 
    • Perform authentication 
    • To ensure the security of identity information 
  • Ministry: Electronics & IT ministry.

Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) drive launched

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health 

Context Union Health Minister launched a nationwide expansion of Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) as a part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

  • It was for the first time in the country that PCV would be available for universal use. 
  • Pneumonia was a leading cause of death among children under five, globally and in India.

About Pneumonia 

  • A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia.
  • Pneumonia caused by pneumococcus is the most common cause of severe pneumonia in children. 
  • Around 16% of deaths in children occur due to pneumonia in India. 
  • The nationwide roll-out of PCV will reduce child mortality by around 60%
  • symptoms of pneumonia: Chest pain when you breathe or cough, changes in mental awareness, Cough, which may produce phlegm, Fatigue, Fever, chills, etc.
  • Treatments include antibiotics, antivirals and anti fungal medications.
  • Healthy diet, hygiene, vaccinations are some of the ways to prevent pneumonia.

Data Disclosure Framework

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – health and GS-III – Linkage of organised crime with Terrorism 

Context The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate have launched Data Disclosure Framework.

  • It is a tool that outlines the practices developed for responding to data requests from foreign criminal justice authorities for counter-terrorism investigations.

About United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

  • It was established in 1997 and was named as a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2002.
  • It acts as the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention by combining the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division of the United Nations Office at Vienna.

(News from PIB)


Mission Samudrayan

  • It is India’s First and Unique Manned Ocean Mission
  • India joins the elite club of nations such as USA, Russia, Japan, France and China to have such underwater vehicles for carrying out subsea activities
  • Will help in carrying out deep ocean exploration of the non-living resources such as polymetallic manganese nodules, gas hydrates, hydro-thermal sulphides and cobalt crusts, located at a depth between 1000 and 5500 meters
  • The underwater vehicles are essential for carrying out subsea activities such as high resolution bathymetry, biodiversity assessment, geo-scientific observation, search activities, salvage operation and engineering support.

15th India-Israel Joint Working Group

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

Context: India-Israel Joint Working Group (JWG) on Bilateral Defence Cooperation has agreed to form a Task Force to formulate a comprehensive Ten-Year Roadmap to identify new areas of cooperation. 

  • Reviewed the progress made in Military to Military engagements including exercises and industry cooperation. 
  • Appraised on the progress made by the Sub Working Groups (SWG) on Defence Procurement & Production and Research & Development. 
  • It was also decided to form a SWG on Defence Industry Cooperation – would enable efficient utilisation of bilateral resources, effective flow of technologies and sharing industrial capabilities

About India-Israel Joint Working Group (JWG): The JWG is the apex body between the Ministry of Defence of India and Israel’s Ministry of Defence to comprehensively review and guide all aspects of Bilateral Defence Cooperation. 

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

  • GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations. 

Myanmar Crisis

Context: Recently, ASEAN excluded Myanmar’s military junta from its annual summit held on October 26-28.

  • It is a major setback for the Generals’ attempts to gain regional legitimacy for their regime.

What is happening in Myanmar?

  • Ever since it seized power by toppling the democratic government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February, the Military junta has unleashed a reign of terror claiming an estimated 1,000 lives.
  • Ms. Suu Kyi, who had been the State Councillor for five years from 2015 heading the quasi-democratic government, has been in detention since the coup.
  • She is facing various charges, including violating the country’s official secrets act, possessing illegal walkie-talkies and publishing information that may “cause fear or alarm”.
  • Months after the seizure of power, the Military junta, led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, is still struggling to restore order

  •  If in the past the National League for Democracy (NLD), Ms. Suu Kyi’s party, had upheld non-violence even in the face of repression, this time, NLD leaders have called for a “revolution”.
  • In cities, protests slid into armed fighting between pro-democracy protesters and security personnel, while in the jungles, anti-junta groups joined hands with rebels for military training. 
  • The situation has become so grave that the UN Special Envoy warned this month that Myanmar had descended into a civil war.
  • Most recent reports suggest that the junta has been systematically torturing political prisoners.
  • Regime violence, political crises and strikes and counter-attacks by protesters have all pushed Myanmar to the brink of collapse.
  •  According to the UN, some three million people are in need of life-saving assistance because of “conflict, food insecurity, natural disasters and COVID-19”. 

What role is ASEAN playing in this crisis situation?

  • One of the regional groupings with some leverage over the Myanmar’s Military junta is ASEAN. 
  • In April, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was invited to Jakarta for emergency talks with ASEAN members. The bloc asked him to immediately end violence and start the reconciliation process 
  • ASEAN requested Myanmar Military Junta to allow a regional special envoy to meet with all stakeholders, including Ms. Suu Kyi. 
  • A special envoy was appointed as part of the ASEAN plan, but he was not allowed to meet Ms. Suu Kyi.
  • Recent decision of ASEAN to not admit Myanmar Junta during its summit is a reminder that continuing violence could cause regional isolation of the regime, which could worsen the crisis. 

Conclusion

  • Violence might allow Myanmar Military to hold on to power for now, but that is not sustainable.
  • The international community should continue to put pressure on the junta and urgently start a reconciliation process.

Connecting the dots:


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Elections

Political Parties Registration in India

Context: Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced that he will be forming his own political party in Punjab which will be registered with the Election commission.

What is the procedure for registering political parties?

  • According to the Election Commission, any party seeking registration has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation
  • Article 324 of the Indian Constitution and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 has conferred power to the Election Commission to prescribe guidelines for registration of parties.
  • The applicant has to publish a proposed party name in two national daily newspapers and two local daily newspapers. The notice for publication is also displayed on the website of the Election Commission. 
  • To register a political party, an application for registration has to be sent by registered post or presented personally to the Secretary to the Election Commission within 30 days following the date of formation of the party in the format prescribed. 
  • The application must be accompanied by a demand draft for Rs.10,000.
  • It also needs to include a printed copy of the memorandum, rules and regulations or constitution of the Party. It should contain provisions regarding organizational elections at different levels and the periodicity of such elections and terms of office of the office-bearers of the party.
  • It also needs to have the latest electoral rolls in respect of at least 100 members of the party to show that they are registered electors. 
  • The application would also need an affidavit duty signed by the President or General Secretary of the party and sworn before a First Class Magistrate/Oath Commissioner)/ Notary Public. 
  • Individual affidavits from at least 100 members of the party would also be needed to ensure that they are not a member of any other political party registered with the Commission.

Why registering with the EC is important?

  • To be clear, it is not mandatory to register with the Election Commission but registering as a political party with the EC has its advantage in terms of intending to avail itself of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, (relating to registration of political parties).
  • The candidates of registered political party will get preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols vis-à-vis purely independent candidates.
  • These registered political parties can get recognition as a ‘state party’ or a ‘national party’ subject to the fulfilment of the conditions prescribed in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

How EC recognises a political party as a state or national party?

Several conditions are followed by the Election Commission to recognise the parties as a state or national party.

State Party – The registered party has to satisfy any of the 5 conditions.

  • Secure at least 6% of the valid vote & win at least 2 seats in a State Assembly General Election
  • Secure at least 6% of the valid vote & win at least 1 seats in a Lok Sabha General Election
  • Win at least 3% of the seats or at least 3 seats , whichever is more, in a State assembly General Election
  • Win at least 1 out of every 25 seats from a state in a Lok Sabha General Election
  • Secure at least 8% of the total valid vote in a State Assembly or a Lok Sabha General Election
  • There are over 60 regional parties and more than 2,000 registered but unrecognised parties in the country.

National Party – The registered party has to satisfy any of the 3 conditions.

  • Secure at least 6% of the valid vote in an Assembly or a Lok Sabha General Election in any four or more states and win at least 4 seats in a Lok Sabha General Election from any State or States
  • Win at least 2% of the total Lok Sabha seats in a Lok Sabha General Election and these seats have to be won from at least 3 states
  • The party is recognized as a State Party in at least four states.
  • As on 2019, India had seven national parties (All India Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Indian National Congress and Nationalist Congress Party) 
  • These conditions have to be fulfilled by the parties before every Lok Sabha and Assembly elections to make sure they don’t lose their status.

What are the perks of recognition as a state or national party?

  • A party recognized as a state party gets a reserved symbol within the state wheareas for a national party, the reserved symbol can be used across the country by its contesting candidates.
  • Such parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination.
  • They are entitled to broadcast/telecast facilities over Doordarshan during the general elections.
  • They are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost.
  • There are also other advantages to the recognized parties like subsidized land for party offices etc.

Connecting the dots:


HEALTH/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Human Resources
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Health Insurance for India’s Missing Middle

In News: NITI Aayog recently released a comprehensive report titled Health Insurance for India’s Missing Middle, which brings out the gaps in the health insurance coverage across the Indian population and offers solutions to address the situation.

Key highlights from the Report:

  1. Low Public Expenditure
  • Low government expenditure on health has constrained the capacity and quality of healthcare services in the public sector. 
  • It diverts the majority of individuals—about two-thirds—to seek treatment in the costlier private sector. However, low financial protection leads to high out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE). 
  1. Missing Middle
  • India’s population is vulnerable to catastrophic spending, and impoverishment from expensive trips to hospitals and other health facilities. 
  • Around 20% of the population is covered through social health insurance, and private voluntary health insurance primarily designed for high-income groups. 
  • The remaining 30% of the population, devoid of health insurance, is termed as the “missing middle”. The missing middle contains multiple groups across all expenditure quintiles and is spread across both urban and rural areas.
  • The 30% of the population, or 400 million individuals—called the missing middle in this report—are devoid of any financial protection for health.
  1. Low Insurance Penetration
  • Significant challenges will need to be overcome to increase the penetration of health insurance.
  • The government and the private sector will need to come together in this endeavor.
  • Private sector ingenuity and efficiency is required to reach the missing middle and offer compelling products. 
  • The government has an important role to play in increasing consumer awareness and confidence, modifying regulation for standardized product and consumer protection, and potentially offering a platform to improve operational efficiency.
  • The Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana—a flagship scheme towards Universal Health Coverage, and State Government extension schemes—provides comprehensive hospitalization cover to the bottom 50% of the population.

Way Ahead:

  • There is a need for designing a low-cost comprehensive health insurance product for the missing middle. The government can partially finance or provide health insurance.
  • The government can expand Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) coverage to the poorest segments of the missing middle population, and leverage the scheme’s infrastructure to offer a voluntary contributory enrolment.
  • The government can provide its data and infrastructure as a public good to reduce operational and distribution costs of insurers. For example, it can share government data (after taking consent) which aids identification and outreach to customers. It can also offer PMJAY’s IT platform and network to reduce operational costs. 
  • A combination of implementation pathways—starting with commercial insurers and progressing to leveraging government risk-pooling schemes for voluntary insurance—phased in at different times, will ensure coverage for the missing middle population.
  • The initial thrust and focus should be on expanding private voluntary contributory insurance through commercial insurers.
  • Prepayment through health insurance emerges as an important tool for risk-pooling and safeguarding against catastrophic expenditure from health shocks. Prepaid pooled funds can also improve the efficiency of healthcare provision.
  • In the medium term, once the supply-side and utilization of PMJAY and ESIC is strengthened, their infrastructure can be leveraged to allow voluntary contributions to a PMJAY-plus product offered by NHA, or to ESIC’s existing medical benefits. 
  • The participation of NHA and ESIC will increase competition in the contributory voluntary insurance market, reducing premiums, and improving quality of care provided. In the long-term, once the low-cost, voluntary contributory health insurance market is developed, expansion of PMJAY to the remaining uncovered, poorer segments of the missing middle can be considered.

Connecting the dots:


(ORF: Experts Speak)


Oct 27: Liberalisation of private schools is necessary for all Indian children to be educated – https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/liberalisation-of-private-schools/ 

TOPIC:

  • GS-II: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources.

Liberalisation of Private Schools

Context: India’s development trajectory is critically linked to the investments in social infrastructure, thus, liberalisation of private education will allow higher investments in human capital and inclusive growth.

Issues:

  • Nearly 12 crore of the 25 crore Indian children study in private schools. Of these 12 crore children, 70 percent of the students study in private schools that charge less than INR 1,000 per month. 
  • Yet, the narrative on India’s private schools is centered around a few elite schools instead of the low budget schools where most private school students actually study.
  • For all Indian children to be well educated in a way that they are prepared for 21st century jobs and challenges, not only do children need to have great foundational learning but they also need to learn skills that will help them succeed. However, learning outcomes in budget private schools are only slightly better than those in government schools.
  • The National Education Policy 2020 
    • Doesn’t address the weak state capacity to deliver quality education in public schools, and it doesn’t liberate private schools from the philanthropic mandate. 
    • The policy recognises the “severe learning crisis” in public schools but fails to address the accountability issue that’s at the centre of the severe learning crisis in public and budget private schools.
    • For private schools, the policy does recommend that the norms to regulate private schools should change from input-based ones to outcome-based ones. However, the policy fails to recognise that this alone will not be enough to allow low-cost schools to deliver high-quality 21st-century education to 8.4 cr children.

However, irrespective of where these students study, learning outcomes that were poor to begin with, have fallen rapidly due to the pandemic. Also, there is very little evidence that either public schools or lowbudget private schools, under the current regulatory setup, have the capability to deliver high-quality education at the scale that India needs.

The Case being – The ideological imperative that being a noble cause, education must remain not-for-profit is especially bewildering when compared to the evergreen coaching industry and the more recent EdTech sector. The huge influx of capital and people that’s seen in these two sectors is a clear indication of the huge latent demand for quality education in schools as well.

Liberalisation of India’s private schools 

It has to include both a rationalisation of the regulations as well as the removal of the philanthropic mandate

  • The plethora of regulations currently imposed by state and the centre need to be rationalised into a regulatory framework that focuses mainly on learning outcomes and essential safety norms rather than inputs such as infrastructure requirements, teacher qualifications, and fee caps. 
  • Additionally, schools can be required to publish information regarding other important matters including admission process, fees structure, teacher quality without being required to meet norms which impose prohibitory costs on school owners. 
  • To ensure that parents are well aware of a school’s performance, standardised census assessments of learning outcomes should be published for all schools, both private and public. 
  • As the NEP proposes, an independent regulator separate from state bodies that manage public schools should be set up at each state level to ensure compliance to the limited regulation to act as an ombudsman.
  • Removing the philanthropic mandate means allowing schools to operate for profit with autonomy on all matters. Currently state and central boards of education require schools to be non-profit entities such as a Trust, Society, or Section 25 Company to affiliate with them. This requirement should be removed, allowing schools to make a choice. 
  • Schools run by philanthropic organisations can continue to operate with their current legal status. However, schools wanting to move to a profit status may do so by declaring their intent.
  • One major objection against this will be that this will allow schools to raise their fees indiscriminately. While in the long run, competition is the only force that can keep prices genuinely low while keeping the quality high, in the short term, schools may not charge more than say 10-12 percent increment—which most fee regulation acts anyway allow for—to any existing parent. Schools can, however, charge any fees to new parents by declaring the fees for as long as the student can be in school (for the next 12-15 years).
  • India already spends an average of INR 30,000 per annum per student in public schools where accountability is poor in general. If this sum, or a significant part of it, were to be made available to parents directly through education vouchers or direct benefit transfers, it would spur a huge supplyside response by spurring huge investment into schools of all kinds.

Conclusion

  • The 21st century requires not just literacy but much higher-quality education and higher-order skills than being able to read, write, or add alone. 
  • India can’t afford to make incremental safe changes and expect radically different outcomes. Radical changes are necessary. 
  • The only realistic way that all Indian students can get education that actually prepares them for the 21st century is to liberalise India’s private schools and fund students directly.

Must Read: Japanese education spells holistic development


 (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.

Q.1 Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) comes under which of the following Ministry/agencies?

  1. Ministry of rural development 
  2. Ministry of Electronics and IT
  3. NITI Aayog
  4. DRDO 

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme:

  1. The failure of provision for employment within 15 days of the receipt of a job application will result in the payment of unemployment allowance to the job seekers.
  2. Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant’s residence
  3. Employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

Q.3 Pneumonia is caused by Which of the following? 

  1. Bacteria
  2. Virus
  3. Fungus
  4. All of the above

ANSWERS FOR 29th Oct 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 B
3 C

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