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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 17th March 2022

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  • March 17, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Issues plaguing MGNREGS

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy

Context: According to a Parliamentary Standing Committee report submitted to the Lok Sabha, fake job cards, widespread corruption, late uploading of muster rolls, and huge pending payments for wages and materials are among the issues hampering the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme.

  • With regard to the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin, the panel said ground-level observations exposed corruption.

Key takeaways 

  • The Committee were informed of the non-availability of actual labourers working in MGNREGA site while on-paper the number of labourers stayed intact and full.
    • Pending wages amounted to Rs. 4,060 crore.
    • The budget estimates for the scheme for 2022-23 were reduced from the Rs. 78,000 crore sought by the Department of Rural Development, to Rs. 73,000 crore.

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.

About the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana- Gramin (PMAY-G)

  • Launch: To achieve the objective of “Housing for All” by 2022, the erstwhile rural housing scheme Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) was restructured to Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) w.e.f 1st April, 2016.
  • Ministry Involved: Ministry of Rural development.
  • Aim: To provide a pucca house with basic amenities to all rural families, who are homeless or living in kutcha or dilapidated houses by the end of March 2022.
  • Beneficiaries: People belonging to SCs/STs, freed bonded labourers and non-SC/ST categories, widows or next-of-kin of defence personnel killed in action, ex servicemen and retired members of the paramilitary forces, disabled persons and minorities.
  • The cost of unit assistance is shared between Central and State Governments in the ratio 60:40 in plain areas and 90:10 for North Eastern and hilly states.

News Source: TH


Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Environment; Conservation

Context: Recently, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways highlighted that sales of electric vehicles (EVs) were set to rise by 10 times by 2022-end in India.

  • The Union Minister has hailed hydrogen as the “fuel for the future”. 

Electric Vehicles (EVs)

  • An electric vehicle uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion.
  • An electric vehicle may be powered through a self-contained battery, solar panels or an electric generator to convert fuel to electricity.
  • Need for EVs in India
    • Climate change
    • Rapid urbanization
    • Energy security
    • Innovation
    • Employment

The government of India has taken various measures to develop and promote the EV ecosystem in the country such as:

  • The remodeled Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME II) scheme
  • Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) for the supplier side
  • The recently launched PLI scheme for Auto and Automotive Components for manufacturers of electric vehicles.

News Source: TH


No-fly zone

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Defence and security

Context: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking

western nations to consider setting up no-fly zones to protect civilians and also prevent a nuclear accident. 

  • However, NATO nations repeatedly rejected the demand to impose a no-fly zone, because of the dangers of escalation of the war

About No-fly Zone

  • A no-fly zone is an area established by a military power over which unauthorized aircrafts are not allowed to fly.
  • It is also known as no-flight zone (NFZ) or air exclusion zone (AEZ). 
  • No-fly zones are generally established by a nation in an enemy nation’s territory during a conflict or war.
  • No-fly zone aims to prevent the operation of enemy nation’s aircraft in the region. 
  • After the imposition of a no-fly zone by a country, generally, military personnel are deployed to enforce it and also for surveillance purposes. 
  • To prevent violations, a country may even resort to preemptive attacks on aircrafts.
  • No-fly zone was earlier set up during the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq, civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1993-95), and the 2011 Civil war in Libya.
  • However, no-fly zones are not just permitted in the military context. 
  • They can be even established for civilian purposes. For example, it was set up during the Olympic Games held in London in 2012.

News Source: TH


(News from PIB)


National eVidhan Application (NeVA): ‘One Nation – One Application’

  • A Mission Mode Project for Digital Legislatures to make the functioning of all Legislative Houses in the country paperless; to enable them to transact entire Government Business on digital platform including information exchange with the State Government Departments in digital mode. 
  • It stands for bringing far reaching transformation in the governance across the country by making the people well informed & enlighten citizens and thereby strengthening the roots of the democracy in the country.

Indian Standards pertaining to drinking water

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II: Government schemes and policies

Context: The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has made two Indian Standards pertaining to drinking water, namely, 

  • IS 10500:2012 on Drinking Water – Specification and 
  • IS 17482:2020 on Drinking Water Supply Management System – Requirements for Piped Drinking Water Supply.

BIS quality standards are not mandatory for civic agencies engaged in supplying drinking water to houses across the country.

Note: 

  • Water Supply is a State subject and it is the responsibility of the State Government/Urban Local Bodies to plan, design, execute, operate and maintain the water supply systems.
  • Since August 2019, the Government of India in partnership with States is implementing Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) – Har Ghar Jal to make provision of potable tap water supply in adequate quantity, of prescribed quality on a regular and long-term basis to every rural household by 2024. 
  • Under Jal Jeevan Mission, as per existing guideline, IS 10500:2012 is to be adopted for ensuring safe drinking water supply and States/ UTs have been advised to carry out testing of drinking water sources once in a year for chemical and physical parameters and twice in a year for bacteriological parameters.

News Source: PIB


Preventive Measures for Manual Scavenging 

Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II: Government schemes and policies

Context: Government has taken the following measures to promote 100% mechanization, specially cleaning of sewers, septic tanks, desilting of drains, garbage lifting, sludge handling, solid and medical waste disposal etc. and for the benefit of sanitation workers (including waste pickers) and their dependants to provide sustainable livelihood:-

  • Under the Swachhta Udyami Yojana (SUY) concessional loans are provided to sanitation workers and their dependants and the urban local bodies for procurement of sanitation related equipments, machines and vehicles costing upto Rs. 50.00 lakh. The Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) has been revised from 2020-21 to provide capital subsidy upto Rs. 5.00 lakh to sanitation workers and their dependants for sanitation related projects.
  • Under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme, free short duration upskilling training is provided to the sanitation workers. The candidates are trained about mechanized cleaning and safety precautions for safe and healthy cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
  • Workshops are organised with officers, engineers, sanitary inspectors, supervisors, contractors and sanitation workers etc. of urban local bodies and authorities responsible for cleaning of sewers and septic tanks. During the workshops the participants are made aware about the provisions under the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013”, the rules framed there under and other provisions for safe and healthy cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE/ SOCIETY

  • GS-2: Fundamental Rights
  • GS-2: Judiciary and its working

Hijab Ban: Karnataka

Context: Karnataka High Court, in Resham vs State of Karnataka, upholds a ban imposed on the use of hijabs by students in classrooms across the Karnataka State.

  • The petitioners have moved the Supreme Court against Karnataka High Court’s judgment in the hijab case.

What did the petitioners argue?

  • The petitioners were a group of Muslim girls barred from wearing the hijab in class in a government college in Karnataka’s Udupi district – they protested, but the college didn’t relent, and the matter ended up in court. 
  • The girls argued that banning the hijab was not only discriminatory, but also impinged on their right to freedom of expression and religion. Their faith, they said, required them to cover their head. 
  • The petitioners further contended that Muslim girls are least educated and least represented in classrooms and if they are shut out in this fashion, it will be detrimental for their educational career. 

Key Highlights of the verdict by Karnataka High Court

  • The court holds that the wearing of a hijab is not essential to the practice of Islam, and, therefore, the petitioners’ right to freedom of religion is not impinged; 
  • The court said that a uniform itself is not discriminatory and, subsequently, it held the government order “per se does not prescribe any uniform but only provides for prescription in a structured way.”
  • Students can’t object to uniform prescribed by educational institutions. Prescription of Uniform for students in an institution falls under the category of reasonable restrictions.
  • The court held that there is no discrimination inter alia under Articles 14 & 15, when the dress code is equally applicable to all the students, regardless of religion, language, gender or the like.
  • Institutional discipline prevails over individual choice.
    • It finds that there is no substantive right to free expression and privacy that can be claimed within the confines of a classroom.
    • It stated that schools are ‘qualified spaces’ and by their very nature it repels the assertion of individual rights to the detriment of their general discipline & decorum
  • The bench had also made it clear that this order is confined to institutions wherein the College Development Committees (CDCs) have prescribed student dress code/uniform.

What are the criticisms of the above judgement? 

  • Some argue that the court should’ve considered the agency argument instead of focusing only on the essentiality test.
    • Constitutional experts and legal scholars have always questioned the essential religious doctrine whereby Courts are entering into theological terrain where lawyers and judges have little knowledge about.
  • The court sidestepped arguments made by the petitioners on the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to equality — dismissing them as “derivative rights” that are lesser rights.
  • The court compared students in schools, which it called “qualified public spaces” with detainees in prison who cannot assert their individual fundamental rights.
  • Wearing a bindi or mangalsutra or having sacred threads around their wrist are also considered by some as religious symbols. Therefore, it is argued that if government implement uniforms, then it should be across the board
  • The court rejected the argument in favour of ‘reasonable accommodation’, by which a pluralist society may allow the classroom to reflect social diversity without undermining the sense of equality among students.
  • Also, there is a fear that the hijab ban will now go national.

Conclusion

  • Freedom of religion is important because freedoms are important, and not because religions are important.

Connecting the dots:


GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

India’s draft medical devices policy

Context: The government is proposing a new policy to reduce India’s dependence on import of high-end medical devices.

Do You Know?

  • By 2047, India is expected to be home to 25 billion-dollar medical technology companies and will achieve a 10-12 per cent global market share in the medical devices sector to arrive at a $100-300 billion industry.
  • Globally, the market is expected to reach $433 billion by 2025 and is currently dominated by the US with 40 per cent market share (Europe has 25% and Japan 15% share).
  • In China, the sector is valued at around $96 billion and has been growing at a pace of over 20 per cent for several years.

What is the need for such a policy?

  • Nearly 80 per cent of the medical devices currently sold in the country are imported, particularly high-end devices. 
  • Indian players in the space have so far typically focussed on low-cost and low-tech products, like consumables and disposables, leading to a higher value share going to foreign companies.
  • With the new policy, the government aims to reduce India’s import dependence from 80 per cent to nearly 30 per cent in the next 10 years, and become one of the top five global manufacturing hubs for medical devices by 2047.
  • India’s medical devices sector has so far been regulated as per provisions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, and a specific policy on medical devices has been a long standing demand from the industry.
    • The revelations about faulty hip implants marketed by Johnson & Johnson, exposed the lack of regulatory teeth when it came to medical devices
  • The policy also aims to increase India’s per capita spend on medical devices. India has one of the lowest per capita spend on medical devices at $3, compared to the global average of per capita consumption of $47.
  • India suffers from a considerable cost of manufacturing disability vis-à-vis competing economies, which needs to be rectified so as to achieve self-reliance in the sector.

What are the factors that has led to domestic disability in medical devices sector?

  • Lack of adequate infrastructure
  • Inefficient domestic supply chain and logistics
  • High cost of finance
  • Inadequate availability of power
  • Limited design capabilities
  • Low focus on research and development (R&D) and skill development
  • Cheap imports available from other countries

What are the key focus areas of the draft policy?

  • The key focus areas of the draft policy include incentivising core technology projects and exports through 
    • tax refunds and rebates
    • creating a single-window clearance system for licensing medical devices
    • identifying critical suppliers
    • de-risking and de-carbonising the supply chain
    • promoting local sourcing
    • encouraging cross-industry collaboration
    • creating a central pool of vendors and workers
    • International collaboration 
    • Increasing share of medical technology companies in research and development to around 50 per cent, among other things.
  • It also proposes to allot a dedicated fund for encouraging joint research involving existing industry players, reputed academic institutions and startups. 
  • It will also incorporate a framework for a coherent pricing regulation, to make available quality and effective medical devices to all citizens at affordable prices. The NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) will be empowered for this purpose.
  • The Pharmaceuticals Department will also work with industry to implement a Uniform Code for Medical Device Marketing Practices (UCMDMP). 

Conclusion

  • The medical devices sector in India is an essential and integral constituent of the Indian healthcare sector, particularly for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of all medical conditions, diseases, illnesses, and disabilities

Connecting the dots:

  • Production-linked incentive scheme (PLI scheme) for medical devices industry
  • Government Price control on stents

(ORF: Expert Speak)


March 15: The new US Indo-Pacific Strategy: Balancing continuity with new and evolving environment – https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/the-new-us-indo-pacific-strategy/ 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: India and its neighbourhood

The new US Indo-Pacific Strategy: Balancing continuity with new and evolving environment

Context: The new US Indo-Pacific Strategy released on 22 February 022 has evoked limited interest for a variety of reasons. Key amongst these are—the Russia-Ukraine crisis that turned into an invasion and war on 24 February 2022. However, the US has continued to signal that its engagement and strategy for this region will be enduring, and conflicts or crises in other parts of the world will not have any significant impact on it. The new strategy maintains continuity in the broad direction outlined in the last US Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, which was released on 1 June 2019. However, there are subtle changes in some areas, which may be seen as adaptation to the evolving geostrategic environment.

The New Strategy

Geographic expanse 

  • The previous strategy had indicated the key objective to be “sustaining the US influence to achieve regional objectives”. The new strategy too highlights its objective as “building a balance of influence” in the region. 
  • However, it adds additional text that stresses on managing competition with the PRC responsibly. This lesser provocative stance is likely intended to allay concerns, particularly within the region, about the trajectory of the great power rivalry and competition, and to enable building and strengthening partnerships. 
  • The new strategy considers it to be “from our Pacific coastline to the Indian Ocean”, with focus on North East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, and Oceania—including the Pacific islands. While the western Indian Ocean is not included in both, the limit of the west coast of India has been removed and South Asia included as a whole in the new strategy. By implication, the broader swathe of the Arabian Sea is now considered part of the region by the US.

Emphasises ‘alliances and partnerships’, with specific reference to the existing regional treaty alliances. 

  • It seeks to modernise and adapt these alliances (Australia, Japan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand), while strengthening emerging partnerships. Amongst partnerships, the Quad finds special emphasis and repeated mention in the strategy. 
  • It seeks to strengthen the Quad, and explore the Quad working with ASEAN.  Unlike in 2019, the new strategy seeks to align approaches with the EU and NATO. This is in part due to the recognition that the EU and US strategies for the region differ in various areas. 
  • It is also noteworthy that the new security partnership between Australia, the UK, and the US (AUKUS) for the region, unveiled on 15 September 2021, finds only a brief mention in the last part that outlines the action plan. Downplaying AUKUS could possibly be because of the concerns expressed by some partners about its likely trajectory, and to ensure that AUKUS does not come in the way of the US developing partnerships and connections within and beyond the region.

Introduces economic and trade partnership agenda, with an ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’ intended to launch in early 2022. 

  • It also includes references to areas like democratic values, technology, digital, climate, environment, and health. This makes the strategy well-rounded, though the main focus continues to be on ‘security’, with special attention to the maritime domain. 
  • The new plan to drive resources to the region stresses on opening of new embassies/consulates, providing security assistance to partners, and expanding the US Coastguard presence in the region. This links to the new emphasis on partnerships, and additional challenges posed by China’s grey zone operations in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Supporting India’s continued rise and regional leadership is indicated as a separate action agenda item, which is also linked to making the Quad more effective. Given India’s neutral position so far on the Russia-Ukraine war, differing views on taking this part of the strategy forward are likely to emerge in the near term.

China’s possible response

The environment, challenges, and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region are significantly different from those in Eastern Europe. Yet, the Russia-Ukraine war and related, ongoing developments are bound to strongly influence the narrative about the Indo-Pacific. Debates on comparisons, justified or otherwise, can be expected. 

  • China and Russia, who are opposed to the concept of the Indo-Pacific Region, started to draw parallels and criticise the US strategies for the region. 
  • China is likely to continue to emphasise that the US and NATO approaches in Eastern Europe are likely to be replicated in the Indo-Pacific, with potential consequences similar to the devastation and suffering seen in Ukraine.
  • The method of war termination, the scope of post-war settlement between Russia and Ukraine, and changes in the European security architecture will influence approaches in other regions, including the Indo-Pacific.
  • China may also be expected to stress the common ground between the Chinese and the EU approaches to the Indo-Pacific, particularly on inclusivity, which is not part of the new US strategy. 
  • It will also seek to limit the adverse fallout on China-Europe cooperation, since China has been seen by the vast majority in Europe to be on the side of Russia. The method of war termination, the scope of post-war settlement between Russia and Ukraine, and changes in the European security architecture will influence approaches in other regions, including the Indo-Pacific.

Conclusion

The new strategy indicates bipartisan support and continuity at the policy level in the US related to the Indo-Pacific. It has been adapted to the current environment with changes from the 2019 strategy, however, it is still more like a statement of intent. 

  • Since it is thin on many details related to its implementation, it leaves many aspects open to varied assessments and estimations regarding its action agenda. 
  • It has sought to expand its scope beyond security, but once again with limited details. 

The US prioritisation of the Indo-Pacific region and the release of this strategy have also been overshadowed by the Russia-Ukraine war, which is the largest conventional military attack since the end of World War II. 

  • The war and the eventual settlement will impact the implementation of strategies in other regions, including the new US strategy for the Indo-Pacific. 

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. The United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy continues to focus on bolstering its security and counterbalancing China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Comment.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Electric Vehicles (EVs):

  1. An electric vehicle uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion.
  2. An electric vehicle may be powered through a self-contained battery, solar panels or an electric generator to convert fuel to electricity.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

Q.2 Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana- Gramin (PMAY-G) comes under which of the following Ministry?

  1. Ministry of Rural development
  2. Ministry of Housing
  3. Ministry of social justice 
  4. Ministry of Environment 

Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding no-fly zone:

  1. A no-fly zone is an area established by a military power over which unauthorized aircrafts are not allowed to fly.
  2. No-fly zones are permitted only in the military context.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

ANSWERS FOR 17th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 A
3 A

Must Read

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Indian Express

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The Hindu

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