(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Economy
Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Tuesday approved the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for raw jute for the 2022-2023 season.
- According to an official release, the MSP of raw jute has been fixed at Rs. 4,750 a quintal for 2022-2023 season, which is Rs. 250 higher than the previous season.
What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
- Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure farmers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
- MSP is price fixed to protect the farmers against excessive fall in price during bumper production years.
- The MSPs are announced by the Government of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution.
- Government announces minimum support prices (MSPs) for 22 mandated crops and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane.
- These are:
- Cereals (7) – paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi
- Pulses (5) – gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil
- Oilseeds (8) – groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and nigerseed
- Raw cotton
- Raw jute
- De-husked coconut
- Sugarcane (Fair and remunerative price)
- Virginia flu cured (VFC) tobacco
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health
Context: Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya will inaugurate the Step-Up to End TB-World TB Day Summit on the occasion of World TB Day on 24th of March.
- The two days summit will provide a forum to showcase the National TB Elimination Programme’s learnings and successes.
About World TB Day
- It is observed every year on 24th March, to commemorate the anniversary discovery of the TB bacteria by Dr. Robert Koch in 1882.
- Objective: To build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB).
- UN has marked 2030 as a global target to eliminate TB worldwide
- National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis Elimination (2017-2025) by Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare aims to eliminate the prevalence of TB by 2025
- Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY) is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for nutritional support to TB patients rolled out in April 2018 by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- Under the Yojana, financial incentive of Rs.500/month is to be provided for each notified TB patient (registered on NIKSHAY portal) for duration during which the patient is on anti-TB treatment.
- NPY is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under National Health Mission
- ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ Campaign was launched in September 2019 consisting of three pillars – clinical approach, public health component and active community participation – as a part of strategy to eliminate TB by 2025.
What is TB?
- TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, belonging to the Mycobacteriaceae family consisting of about 200 members.
- In humans, TB most commonly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB), but it can also affect other organs (extra-pulmonary TB).
- TB is a treatable and curable disease.
- Transmission: TB is spread from person to person through the air.
- When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
- Common symptoms of active lung TB are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
- Eight countries accounted for two thirds of the new TB cases:
- India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.
- MultiDrug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a strain of TB that cannot be treated with the two most powerful first-line treatment anti-TB drugs.
- Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that are resistant to several of the most effective anti-TB drugs.
- Vaccines used against TB: BCG Vaccine
News Source: Newsonair
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and security
Context: The Russian Ministry of Defence announced that it had used a hypersonic missile for the first time in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
What is a hypersonic missile?
- A hypersonic missile is a weapon system which flies at least at the speed of Mach 5 i.e. five times the speed of sound and is manoeuvrable.
- The manoeuvrability of the hypersonic missile is what sets it apart from a ballistic missile as the latter follows a set course or a ballistic trajectory.
- Thus, unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can be manoeuvred to the intended target.
- The two types of hypersonic weapons systems are Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles.
- The HGV are launched from a rocket before gliding to the intended target while the hypersonic cruise missile is powered by air breathing high speed engines or ‘scramjets’ after acquiring their target.
- The US, Russia and China are in advanced stages of hypersonic missile programmes,
- India, France, Germany, Japan and Australia too are developing hypersonic weapons.
(News from PIB)
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II: Government schemes and policies related to Health
Context: As per WHO’s definition, anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the haemoglobin concentration within red blood cells is lower than normal. As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 data, 67.1% of under five children, 59.1% of adolescent girls and 31.1% of adolescent boys are found to be anaemic.
- Under Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) of National Health Mission (NHM), periodic haemoglobin estimations are carried out by the Mobile Health Teams (MHTs) placed in every block during their visits to Government and Government aided schools.
- Each MHT is provided with Digital Haemoglobinometer for screening of anemia.
- Severe anaemia and Sickle Cell anaemia are the identified health conditions for child health screening and early intervention services under RBSK.
- Children found to be anaemic are provided nutritional counseling by RBSK teams and referred to nearby health facilities for further management.
- Under the Anaemia Mukt Bharat (AMB) strategy, for prevention of anaemia in school children, weekly Iron and Folic acid tablets – IFA pink and IFA blue are provided to children 5-9 years and 10-19 years respectively along with bi-annual deworming, using the school platform.
- Financial support is provided to the States and UTs, under National Health Mission, for effective implementation of interventions under AMB strategy based on proposals submitted through their respective annual Programme Implementation Plan (PIP).
- In order to improve the nutritional status of school children, there is provision of Mid-day school meal/ dry ration for the children of primary and upper primary classes of Government and Government aided schools.
News Source: PIB
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II: Government schemes and policies
Context: Launched by Department of Social Justice and Empowerment during 2020-21 to impart skill development training to the youth (age between 18-45 years) belonging to Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes/Economically Backward Classes/De-notified Tribes and Safai karamcharis including Waste pickers.
- The training is free of cost and is implemented through three Corporations viz. National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC), National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC) catering to the respective target groups.
- The main objective of the scheme is to increase the skill levels of the targetted youth by providing for long term and short term skills, followed by settlement in employment/self-employment.
News Source: PIB
- GS-2: India and its neighbourhood
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Context: Sri Lanka is in the grips of one of its worst economic meltdowns in history.
Why factors have led to the crisis?
- Pandemic led to job losses and reduced incomes. All key foreign exchange earning sectors, such as exports and remittances, along with tourism, were brutally hit.
- Declining Foreign Reserves: Fears of a sovereign default rose by the end of 2021, with the country’s foreign reserves decreasing to $1.6 billion. But Sri Lanka managed to keep its unblemished foreign debt servicing record.
- Government Inaction: The lack of a comprehensive strategy to respond to the crisis then, coupled with certain policy decisions— including the government’s abrupt switch to organic farming —widely deemed “ill-advised”, further aggravated the problem.
- In August 2021, the government declared emergency regulations for the distribution of essential food items along with import restrictions to save dollars. However, these measures led to market irregularities, and hoarding.
What is happening on the ground?
- Falling Currency: The Sri Lankan rupee, that authorities floated this month, has fallen to nearly 265 against the U.S. dollar.
- Consumer Price inflation is at 16.8%
- Spiralling Debt: Sri Lanka must repay foreign debt totalling nearly $7 billion this year and continue importing essentials from its dwindling dollar account.
- Trade deficit: President Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka will incur an import bill of $22 billion this year, resulting in a trade deficit of $10 billion.
- For citizens, the life has become difficult
- There are long queues to buy fuel
- Price of cooking gas spiked to LKR 4,199 (roughly ₹1,150) and price of the widely used milk powder shot up by LKR 600 a kg, translating to cutting down on consumption of these products.
- Prolonged power cuts in many localities.
- Struggles to find medicines for patients.
- Due to a shortage of paper, authorities were forced to cancel school examinations for millions of students.
Is there resistance?
- Yes, both citizens and different segments of the political opposition are taking to the streets, demanding that President Rajapaksa resign.
- Many media houses are criticising the government, while social media pages are rife with sharp commentary on the government.
What is the government’s response?
- Sri Lankan Government tried to deflect the criticism by pointing towards the distress caused by Pandemic hiding its own mishandling of the deteriorating situation.
- Government was initially reluctant to seek support of IMF to tide over the crisis but now the government is in talks with the IMF.
- It remains to be seen how the IMF will support Sri Lanka at this juncture, and to what extent its support might help the country cope with the crisis.
- Sri Lankan government has also sought support from various bilateral partners, including India, by way of loans, currency swaps, and credit lines for import of essentials.
How is India helping?
- Beginning January 2022, India has extended assistance totalling $ 2.4 billion — including an
- $400 million RBI currency swap
- $500 million loan deferment
- Credit lines for importing food, fuel, and medicines. Of this, a billion-dollar credit line was finalised recently.
- Meanwhile, China is considering Sri Lanka’s recent request for further $2.5 billion assistance, in addition to the $2.8 billion Beijing has extended since the outbreak of the pandemic.
How is India’s assistance being viewed in Sri Lanka?
- Increasing scepticism: The leadership has thanked India for the timely assistance, but there is growing scepticism in Sri Lankan media and some sections, over Indian assistance “being tied” to India inking key infrastructure projects in country like —
- Strategic Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm project
- National Thermal Power Corporation’s recent agreement with Ceylon Electricity Board to set up a solar power plant in Sampur, in Sri Lanka’s eastern Trincomalee district
- Two renewable energy projects in northern Sri Lanka, with investment from India’s Adani Group. The political opposition has accused the Adani Group of entering Sri Lanka through the “back door”, avoiding competitive bids and due process.
- There are also criticisms that India was resorting to “diplomatic blackmail” to increase its footprint in the island nation. Cartoonists have depicted Sri Lankan leaders trading crucial energy projects for emergency financial assistance from India.
Connecting the dots:
- India-Sri Lanka Fisherman Issues
- Charting a New Trajectory in India-Sri Lanka Relations
- India- Sri Lanka Colombo Port
- GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Education
Context: From the academic session 2022-23, admission to undergraduate programmes in all 45 central universities in the country will take place through a common entrance test.
How many students are enrolled at the undergraduate level in India?
- Enrolment has been growing over the years. At undergraduate level, it has risen from 2.74 crore in 2015-16 to 3.06 crore in 2019-20
- According to the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, out of 3.85 crore students enrolled in all levels of higher education in India
- 3.06 crore, or 79.5%, were at the undergraduate level, followed by postgraduate, with 43.1 lakh students or 11.2%.
- Course wise break up in 2019-20
- 96.56 lakh students (47.1% male and 52.9% female) were in BA
- 47.55 lakh students (48.7% male, 51.3% female) were in BSc
- 41.6 lakh (51.2% male, 48.8% female) in BCom
- 37.27 lakh (70.8% male, 29.2% female) in Engineering and technology
- 13.5 lakh (41.5% male, 59.5% female) in Medical courses
- Diversity/ Equity in Higher Education Institutes (2019-20 AISHE report)
- 14.7% belongs to SC
- 5.6% to the Scheduled Tribes
- 37% to Other Backward Classes.
- 5.5% were Muslims while 2.3% belonged to other minority groups.
- The number of class 12 candidates each year is over 1 crore.
Situation in Central Universities
- 7.2 lakh students are studying in 48 central universities in 2019-20 out of which 5.4 lakh were pursuing undergraduate programmes
- Equity in Central Universities
- 13.73% belonged to the SCs
- 4.5% to the STs
- 17.9% to the OBCs
- 8.41% were Muslims
- Out of 19,366 sanctioned faculty positions in the central universities, 6,558 are vacant.
Is CUCET new?
- CUET is not new. It had been launched as the Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET) in 2010 under the UPA-II government
- However, it had failed to gather steam since only 14 central universities had adopted it until 2021.
- CUET is a revamped version of CUCET and it’s now compulsory for all 45 central universities to adopt it.
- CUCET has come after the announcement of the new National Education Policy (NEP), which advocates the need for an entrance test for university admissions.
Who will conduct CUET and what will be the pattern of exam?
- The National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts entrance tests such as JEE (Main) and UGC-NET, will also conduct CUET for all central universities in the first week of July.
- It is a three-and-a-half-hour computer-based test that will be held in two shifts and can be taken in 13 languages
- It will only have multiple choice questions based on the content of NCERT textbooks.
- CUET will essentially have three parts.
- First part tests language which will consist reading comprehension, questions on vocabulary.
- Second part of CUET is focused on testing a candidate’s domain-specific knowledge (27 domains on offer, student chooses at least one and max of six)
- The third part will be a general test with questions on general knowledge, current affairs, general mental ability, numerical ability, quantitative reasoning. A candidate will appear only if its desired by the University of choice.
- Even state, private and deemed-to-be universities are free to adopt the CUET
- For now, admissions to postgraduate courses are not mandated to be held under any common entrance.
- But unlike JEE (Main), there will be no common counselling for admission to central universities based on the CUET score. Each university is free to define its admission process based on the merit list prepared by the NTA.
- However, UGC chairman did not rule out joint counselling in future.
Why a common entrance test?
- To replace multiple entrance tests with a single one so as to reduce the burden on higher education aspirants.
- Students can opt to write the CUET in any of 13 languages, which levels the field significantly
- Sky-high cut-off marks will now be history which was the case with certain reputable universities like Delhi University.
- A student’s Board marks will have no role in determining her admission to a college or a programme. It will be based only on her CUET score. This flattens out the differences in assessment practices across various boards.
- At best, colleges affiliated to central university can use Board marks as the minimum eligibility criteria for admission.
- For skill-based courses that have major practical components, such as music, painting, sculpture and theatre, universities will be allowed to conduct practical exams or interviews along with CUET.
- For professional programmes such as engineering and MBBS, central universities will admit through the entrance exams JEE (Main) and NEET respectively.
What are the concerns?
- A lot will rest on the structure of the test, and the goals with which it is designed.
- National Education Policy had suggested Common Entrance Test that checks conceptual understanding and the ability to apply knowledge and shall aim to eliminate the need for taking coaching for these exams. However, there are apprehensions that CUCET can be gamed by coaching industry.
- The unreasonable cut-off must not be replaced by another test score.
- Also, 12 years of schooling should not be completely disregarded in the admission process. The government and the school boards must find a way to give weightage to a child’s schooling career.
- Finally, a single piece of reform must not obscure the larger, structural reasons for the crisis i.e. addressing the challenge of equality and quality in higher education.
Connecting the dots:
- Common Eligibility Test
- NEET and Tamil Nadu’s objection to it
- Medical Education: Over-centralisation is harsh (Criticism of NEET)
- National Medical Commission
(Down to Earth: Economy)
March 17: A just, robust economy needs upskilling and reskilling of women
- GS-1: Women
Context: India has a strong demographic dividend but the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report, 2020 ranked it among the five worst countries vis-a-vis economic participation and opportunity metric.
- The rate of participation of women in the labour force dropped to 20.33 per cent in 2020 from 30 per cent in the 1990s, vis-a-vis other emerging south Asian economies like Bangladesh which have similar levels of gender gap.
In the changing world order, opportunities are on the rise. Methods to improve the participation gap exist. These include upskilling women from their current technical, managerial and other skill sets, and coming to terms with the needs of the emerging digital and industrial world. The overall willingness to work or the intent to learn is not missing. As economic activities go back to normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic and employment opportunities increase, around 91 per cent women want to come back to work.
- A majority of them cite outdated skills as a major impediment.
- Around 34 per cent cited reskilling as a necessity, 36 per cent were looking for technical upskilling and a recent survey showed that 61 per cent do find better opportunities after upskilling.
- The share of women in the total number of people enrolling for courses on the e-learning platform Coursera increased to 45 per cent in 2020 from 38 per cent in 2018, according to the company’s Global Skills Report, 2021.
- The emergence of e-learning and upskilling platforms has made it easy for urban women to upgrade technical skills in their domain, avoid furloughs or lay-offs, and have a strong professional track record that can help their employers stay ahead in the market.
Opportunities for women from disadvantaged groups have been on the rise.
The growth has been driven by:
- Increase in participation from multinational companies to establish global capability centres in India
- Corporate and government initiatives
- Entry of various online aggregators platforms that help get economic remuneration for gig workers
- Rise of entrepreneurship in the female workforce (though there are impediments to their growth like less bargaining power, reach, scalability)
How can we make it easier for women to upskill themselves & join back?
- There can be various barriers in upskilling despite opportunity. These can be removed by increased use of podcasts, radio-based shows and mobile-based courses (similar to the Diksha app by the Government of India’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan).
- Women are constantly burdened with unpaid caregiving work at home; so, support from the family is essential to bridge the gender gap.
- While we see an uptick in the employment of rural women throughout the year, it is mostly for those without high school education or daily wage earners. Women find it increasingly difficult to shift towards a stable career and hence, decentralised and flexible learning systems from formal places of education, like a university or on-the-job learning, can prove a major booster for upskilling in order to break economic barriers.
- Lack of hands-on skills and a low level of confidence can be solved by internships or apprenticeships. Many women are forced to do low-skilled jobs and undergo disguised employment (that don’t accord women the protection mandated by law) because of a lack of relevant skill set.
- There are around 84 million indigenous people in India (8.6 per cent of the country’s population), according to the World Bank report of 2016. Proper marketing of traditional cultural products by the indigenous women will ensure participation. This can be attained through leveraging their traditional knowledge, self-determination and skill development for livelihood generation, with vocational training for scaling and channeling into demand-driven products.
- A lack of willing trainers and, more important, the lack of ability in trainers are often overlooked. After passing the basic hurdles of skill-mapping and gap-identification, the optimal mode of delivery, and a positive feedback loop for reskilling and assessment, the major problem faced by rural women is increasing de-urbanisation during and after the pandemic. Important human factors like proximity to home, availability of housing and health factors have been a major deterrent. This can be solved by delocalisation of production and processing at a regional level. The culture of working from home can help make this possible.
Reskilling and upskilling women will give them the independence they need and deserve, and also lead the country towards a more just, inclusive, forward-looking and robust economy.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Gender gap at workplace is starker in India than even comparable south Asian economies. Comment.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Hypersonic missile:
- A hypersonic missile is a weapon system which flies at least at the speed of Mach 5 i.e. five times the speed of sound.
- Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can be manoeuvred to the intended target.
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Which of the following is not true regarding Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
- MSP is price fixed to protect the farmers against excessive fall in price during bumper production years.
- The MSPs are announced by the Governments of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- Government announces minimum support prices (MSPs) for 22 mandated crops and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for raw Jute.
- Recently, MSP was increased for raw Jute.
Q.3 Tuberculosis is caused by which of the following type of microorganism?
ANSWERS FOR 23rd March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On WTO IPR waiver for COVID vaccines:
On need for Indian Legislative Service:
On all woman police stations: