Current Affairs Analysis

17th & 18th May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Fourth tranche of Economic Package; Fifth tranche of Economic Package; Criticism of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan; Biodegradable Metal implants; Bandipur National Park; Navy to aid Northern theatre command; Statehood Day of Sikkim; History of Sikkim’s Statehood; National Migrant Information System etc.
By IASToppers
May 18, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes and Policies

  • Fourth tranche of Economic Package
  • Fifth tranche of Economic Package
  • Criticism of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

Issues related to Health and Education

  • Biodegradable Metal implants

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Bandipur National Park

Defence & Security Issues

  • Navy to aid Northern theatre command

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Statehood Day of Sikkim
  • National Migrant Information System

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Government Schemes and Policies

Fourth tranche of Economic Package

The Finance Minister has unveiled the fourth tranche of Centre’s ₹20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Major Highlights:

  • Commercial Mining introduced in the Coal Sector.
  • Diversified Opportunities and Liberalised Regime in Coal Sector.
  • Enhancing Private Investments and Policy Reforms in the Mineral Sector.
  • Enhancing Self Reliance and Policy Reforms in Defence Production.
  • Efficient Airspace Management for Civil Aviation.
  • More World-Class Airports through PPP.
  • India to become a global hub for Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO).
  • Tariff Policy Reform in Power Sector; Privatization of Distribution in UTs.
  • Boosting private sector investment through revamped Viability Gap Funding Scheme in the Social Sector.
  • Boosting private participation in space activities.
  • Reforms in the Atomic Energy Sector.
[Ref: PIB]

Fifth tranche of Economic Package

The fifth and the final tranche of Centre’s ₹20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan has been announced recently.

Specific Focus:

  • It consisted of detailed measures for providing employment, support to businesses, Ease of Doing Business, and State Governments as well sectors such as Education and Health.

Major Highlights:

1. Increase in allocation for MGNREGA:

  • The Government will allocate an additional Rs 40,000 crore under MGNREGS.
  • It will help generate nearly 300 crore person days in total addressing the need for more work including returning migrant workers in the Monsoon season as well.

2. Health Reforms & Initiatives:

  • Public Expenditure on Health will be increased by investing in grass root health institutions and ramping up Health and Wellness Centres in rural and urban areas.
  • Setting up of Infectious Diseases Hospital Blocks in all districts and strengthening of lab network and surveillance by Integrated Public Health Labs in all districts & block level Labs & Public Health Unit to manage pandemics.
  • Further, the National Institutional Platform for One health by ICMR will encourage research.

3. Technology Driven Education with Equity post-COVID:

  • PM eVIDYA, a programme for multi-mode access to digital/online education to be launched immediately.
  • Manodarpan, an initiative for psycho-social support for students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional well-being to be launched immediately as well.
  • New National Curriculum and Pedagogical framework for school, early childhood and teachers will also be launched.
  • National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission for ensuring that every child attains Learning levels and outcomes in grade 5 by 2025 will be launched by December 2020.

4. Enhancement of Ease of Doing Business:

  • Minimum threshold to initiate insolvency proceedings has been raised to Rs. 1 crore (from Rs. 1 lakh, which largely insulates MSMEs).
  • Special insolvency resolution framework for MSMEs under Section 240A of the Code will be notified soon.
  • Suspension of fresh initiation of insolvency proceedings up to one year, depending upon the pandemic situation.

5. Decriminalisation of Companies Act defaults:

  • Decriminalisation of Companies Act violations involving minor technical and procedural defaults such as shortcomings in CSR reporting, inadequacies in Board report, filing defaults, delay in holding of AGM.
  • The Amendments will de-clog the criminal courts and NCLT.

6. Ease of Doing Business for Corporates:

  • Direct listing of securities by Indian public companies in permissible foreign jurisdictions.
  • Private companies which list NCDs on stock exchanges not to be regarded as listed companies.
  • Including the provisions of Part IXA (Producer Companies) of Companies Act, 1956 in Companies Act, 2013.
  • Lower penalties for all defaults for Small Companies, One-person Companies, Producer Companies & Start Ups.

7. Public Sector Enterprise Policy for a New, Self-reliant India:

  • List of strategic sectors requiring presence of PSEs in public interest will be notified.
  • In strategic sectors, at least one enterprise will remain in the public sector but private sector will also be allowed.
  • In other sectors, PSEs will be privatized (timing to be based on feasibility etc.)

8. Support to State Governments:

  • The Centre has decided to increase borrowing limits of States from 3% to 5% for 2020-21 only.
  • This will give States extra resources of Rs. 4.28 lakh crore.
  • Reform linkage will be in four areas: universalisation of ‘One Nation One Ration card’, Ease of Doing Business, Power distribution and Urban Local Body revenues.

All five tranches under the fiscal stimulus summarised:

[Ref: PIB]

Criticism of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

With an aim to revive the Indian economy from recession due to COVID-19, Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan was announced on 12 May, 2020.

Present challenges:

  • With a nationwide lockdown for the better part of April and May, the total quantum of economic activity in the country — measured by the monetary value of all goods and services produced — has sharply curtailed.
  • Given an uncertain future for the rest of the year, most observers estimate that the Indian economy will contract and will produce less in 2020-21 than it did in 2019-20.
  • This means the Gross Value Added across sectors — agriculture, industry and services — will fall.
  • Seeing overall demand fall, businesses which were already not investing, will likely postpone their investments further.
  • The government revenues will take a massive hit. This means that if the government wants to maintain its level of fiscal deficit (the gap between what it earns as revenues and what it spends), it will have to cut its overall expenditure this year.

Criticism:

  • The key criticism is that the government doesn’t seem to be raising its total expenditure — at least not by the quantum required to arrest the sharp decline in GDP.
  • According to an assessment published by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), the way things are going, India’s GVA will contract by a whopping 13% this year under the Base case scenario.
  • The Base case scenario refers to a scenario where governments (both Centre and states) bring down their expenditure in line with their falling revenues to maintain their fiscal deficit target.
  • This means that India’s GDP will decline by 12.5% under the Base case scenario.
  • To lift growth, the governments would have to spend more and counteract the natural downward spiral of the economy.
  • Table 2 shows that only if the government spends 3% of the GDP over and above what it promised to do in the Union Budget 2020-21, will the economic growth stay in the positive territory.
  • Any amount short of that, the Indian economy will contract.
  • Of course, higher public spend will come at the cost of higher levels of fiscal deficits and higher inflation, but a growth contraction will come at the cost of widespread economic ruin, job losses and even deaths.

Lack of Immediate relief:

  • All of India — from the migrant workers to large companies that have seen zero (or close-to-zero) revenue in May — needs short-term immediate relief.
  • There has been a lot of focus on liquidity and creating the right kind of ecosystem (for everything from agriculture to manufacturing), but not enough cash.
  • It scores extremely well when seen in the context of what is needed in the long-term.
  • But it scores poorly when it is evaluated against the immediate needs and concerns of individuals and businesses.

Concerns:

  • At present, there is no sure-shot way of knowing what will be the final level of government spending at the end of this financial year.
  • Most calculations suggest that — far from the promised level of 10% of the GDP — the actual government expenditure in the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan is just 1% of GDP.
[Ref: Indian Express, Hindustan Times]

Issues related to Health and Education

Biodegradable Metal implants

Indian Scientists have developed new generation Iron-Manganese based alloys for biodegradable metal implants for use in humans.

Major Highlights:

  • Researchers at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) and Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences, Thiruvananthapuram have jointly developed  Iron-Manganese based alloys for biodegradable metal implants for use in humans.
  • Iron-Manganese based alloy Fe-Mn (having Mn composition of more than 29% by weight) is a promising biodegradable metallic implant which exhibits single austenitic phase (non-magnetic form of iron) with MRI compatibility.
  • The Fe-Mn alloy produced at ARCI exhibited 99% density with impressive mechanical properties and behaved as a nonmagnetic material even under a strong magnetic field of 20 Tesla.
  • The alloy also showed a degradation rate in the range of 0.14-0.026 mm per year in the simulated body fluid, which means that the Fe-Mn alloy exhibits mechanical integrity for 3-6 months and completely disappears from the body in 12-24 months.

Significance:

  • Biodegradable materials (Fe, Mg, Zn, and polymer) can participate in the healing process and then degrade gradually.
  • They maintain mechanical integrity without leaving any implant residues in the human body.
  • Hence, they are better alternatives to currently used metallic implants which remain permanently in the human body.
  • Metallic implants can cause long-term side effects like systemic toxicity, chronic inflammation, and thrombosis.
[Ref: PIB]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Bandipur National Park

The problem of man-animal conflict occurs recurrently in the Bandipur-Nagarahole-Wayanad- Mudumalai belt.

What is the issue?

  • The Bandipur-Nagarahole-Wayanad-Mudumalai belt has one of the highest tiger densities in the world as per the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) reports.
  • Experts opine that an increase in tiger numbers could be forcing some of them to carve out new territories and hence are forced to stray into human landscape.
  • But conflict situation has also been aided by shrinking forest cover, increasing anthropogenic pressure resulting in habitat fragmentation and disturbance, roadworks through protected etc. leading to conflict.

About Bandipur National Park:

  • Bandipur National Park is located in Karnataka and has been upgraded to Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
  • It is one of the oldest tiger reserves in India and was brought under Project Tiger in 1973.
  • It is part of interconnected forests that include:
    • Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu)
    • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala)
    • Nagarhole National Park (Karnataka)
  • It was once a hunting reserve for the Maharaja of Mysore.
  • It is flanked by the Kabini river in the north and Moyar river in the south while the Nugu river runs through the park.
  • It has a variety of biomes including dry deciduous forests, moist deciduous forests and shrublands.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Defence & Security Issues

Navy to aid Northern theatre command

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat has said to include a small Navy element in the proposed Northern theatre command along the border with China.

Major Highlights:

  • He also said that the naval fighter aircraft can be deployed in the Western sector in the desert areas when not required at sea to effectively utilise existing resources.
  • Theatre commands (Land) will mainly be between the Army and the IAF.
  • Saying the naval fighter jets can operate in deserts and the IAF jets there can move to the other borders.
  • Earlier the capabilities of the Navy’s P-8I long range maritime surveillance aircraft were used for observing the Chinese movements during the Doklam standoff in 2017.

Integrated Northern Theatre Command:

  • It faces Pakistan and China in the mountainous regions of J&K and Ladakh.
  • It has under its command all Army & Air Force formations covering the Area of responsibility of existing Northern Command.

Need:

1. Lack of a True Joint Warfighting Capability:

  • A full spectrum high intensity war covering land, sea, air, space, information and cyber domain is likely to be the future battlefield milieu over the coming decades.
  • To achieve victory in this milieu, integrated theatre operations would be imperative.

2. Lack of Integrated Functioning:

  • India’s Ministry of Defence is an entirely separate entity from the Service Headquarters and is staffed exclusively by civil servants.
  • In 1961, three services ceased to be a part of the Ministry of Defence and became attached offices.
  • All are examining issues in isolation of each other, resulting in triplication of efforts and causing waste in terms of finance, talent and time.

3. Lack of a Single Point Military Advice:

  • The true jointness and integration among the three services can only be achieved through the military advice offered by a single leader called Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS).
[Ref: The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

Statehood Day of Sikkim

Sikkim celebrated its 45th statehood day on 16 May, 2020.

History of Sikkim’s Statehood:

  • Sikkim was a protectorate of the British by the Treaty of Tumlong of 1861.
  • After Indian Independence in 1947, Sikkim remained an independent nation till 1975.
  • Sikkim had a monarchical regime with a king known as a Chogyal or dharma king.
  • In 1950, a treaty was agreed between India and Sikkim which gave Sikkim the status of an Indian protectorate.
  • This meant that India controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications.
  • Anti-royalist riots took place in front of the Chogyal’s palace in 1973.
  • The Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to India to become a state of India in 1975.
  • Thereafter, a referendum was held for abolishing the monarchy, effectively approving Sikkim’s union with India.
  • On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union and the monarchy was abolished.
  • The 36th Amendment Act, 1975 made Sikkim a full-fledged Indian state and added its name to the First Schedule of the Constitution.

Key Facts about Sikkim:

  • Sikkim is nested in Himalayan Mountains, bordered by Nepal in the west, Bhutan in the East, Tibet Autonomous Region (China) to the North.
  • The predominant religions in the state are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism.
  • One-third of the state is heavily forested and is rich in biodiversity.
  • Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain peak of the world is in Sikkim.
  • Sikkim is the only State in India where most of the people have their origin from a different country i.e. Nepal.
  • The other major ethnic groups in Sikkim are Lepcha and Bhutia.
  • Sikkim became the first fully organic state in India and also in the world in 2016.
[Ref: PIB]

National Migrant Information System

  • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has developed an online Dashboard – National Migrant Information System (NMIS) to capture the information regarding movement of migrants and facilitate the smooth movement of stranded persons across States.
  • The online portal would maintain a central repository of migrant workers and help in speedy inter-State communication/coordination to facilitate their smooth movement to native places.
  • It has additional advantages like contact tracing, which may be useful in overall COVID-19 response work.
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