Current Affairs Analysis

23nd April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Benishan; Nutrient Based Subsidy; VidyaDaan; Amendment in Epidemic Diseases Act; Article 254; Initiatives of several cities amid COVID-19; World Press Freedom Index 2020; Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan; Kasowal enclave; NanoBlitz 3D; Anthurium; Noor; World Book Day
By IASToppers
April 23, 2020

Contents

 

Polity & Governance

  • Attacks on health workers to attract up to 7 years in prison
  • Centre, State can fix sugarcane price, says Supreme Court
  • No 100% quota for tribal teachers: Supreme Court

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Cabinet approves fixation of Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates
  • What we can do for the city
  • Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan

Issues related to Health & Education

  • VidyaDaan 2.0

Social Issues

  • IIT Kharagpur among world best for achieving UN goals
  • World Press Freedom Index 2020

Economy

  • Remittances to South Asia to dip 22% in 2020: World Bank
  • Use the oil crash to boost India’s strategic reserves

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Kasowal enclave
  • NanoBlitz 3D
  • Anthurium
  • Benishan
  • Noor
  • World Book Day

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Polity & Governance

Attacks on health workers to attract up to 7 years in prison

Union Cabinet approved the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, to protect healthcare service personnel and property.

Amendment in Epidemic Diseases Act

  • Acts of violence against medical staff will be a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
  • Compensation needs to be provided for injury to healthcare personnel or for damage or loss to property.
  • In cases of attacks on healthcare workers, the investigation will be completed within 30 days and the final decision arrived at within one year.
  • The punishment for such attacks will be 3 months to 5 years and the fine ₹50,000 to ₹2 lakh.  In severe cases, the punishment will be 6 months to 7 years and the fine ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Centre, State can fix sugarcane price, says Supreme Court

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that both the Central and State governments have the power to fix the price of sugarcane under the Concurrent List of the Constitution.

  • The case revolved around a petition by the Western Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association questioning whether the State government had the power to fix a minimum price when a similar price had already been set by a Central legislation.

What did the Supreme court said?

  • The five-judge Bench said that even though a State cannot fix a “minimum price” if the Centre has already fixed it, the State is always welcome to fix the “advised price”.
  • The advised or remunerative price shall always be higher than the minimum price in accordance with the provisions of the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966, issued under Section 16 of the Uttar Pradesh Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Act, 1953.
  • It is only when the advised price fixed by the State government is lower than the minimum price fixed by the Central government, the minimum price fixed by the Central government will prevail.
  • So long as the advised price fixed by the State government is higher than the minimum price fixed by the Central government, the same cannot be said to be void under Article 254 of the Constitution.

Article 254

  • Article 254 of the Indian Constitution deals with the doctrine of repugnancy. Repugnancy is a legal term that means inconsistency between two or more parts of a legal instrument.
  • Article 254(1) says “where the provisions of a Central Act and a State Act in the Concurrent list are fully inconsistent and absolutely irreconcilable, the Central Act will prevail and the State Act will become void in view of the repugnancy.
[Ref: The Hindu]

No 100% quota for tribal teachers: Supreme Court

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held it unconstitutional to provide 100% reservation for tribal teachers in schools located in Scheduled Areas across the country.

  • The five-judge Bench was answering a reference made to it in 2016 on whether 100% reservation is permissible under the Constitution.

What did the court said?

  • The court held that 100% reservation is discriminatory and impermissible. The opportunity of public employment is not the prerogative of few.
  • A 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribes has deprived Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes also of their due representation.
  • The court referred to the Indira Sawhney judgment, which caps reservation at 50%.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

Cabinet approves fixation of Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its approval for fixation of Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) Fertilizers for the year 2020-21.

  • CCEA reduce the subsidy for nitrogen-based fertilizers (₹18.78 per kg), for phosphorous-based fertilizers (₹14.88 per kg), for potash-based fertilizers (₹10.11 per kg) and for sulphur-based fertilisers (₹2.37 per kg).
  • It also approved the inclusion of a complex fertilizer, ammonium phosphate, under the nutrient-based subsidy scheme.

About Nutrient Based Subsidy

  • It is being implemented from April 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.
  • The scheme was set up to ensure the availability of phosphatic and potassic fertilizers to farmers at an affordable price, as the retail prices of such non-urea fertilisers are decontrolled and set by manufacturers.
  • Under this, the government fixes amount of subsidy, decided on an annual basis, is provided on each grade of subsidised phosphatic and potassic (P&K) fertilisers, except for urea, based on the nutrient content present in them.

Background

  • Government provides fertilizers, Urea and 21 grades of P&K fertilizers to farmers at subsidized prices through fertilizer manufacturers/importers.
[Ref: The Hindu, PIB]

What we can do for the city

From using technology to track COVID-19 cases to setting up community kitchens, battle against pandemic has kindled innovation, ways to connect.

Initiatives of several cities amid COVID-19

  • Surat: Surat Municipal Corporation’s COVID-19 Tracker App, which helps monitor people under home-quarantine and tracks the health status of those with a recent history of foreign travel.
  • Bengaluru: It developed a Coronavirus War Room within 24 hours. This 24×7 war room maps every COVID-19 positive case using GIS, tracks healthcare workers using GPS, and draws up containment plans using heat mapping technologies.
  • Nagpur: It has collaborated with the private sector outfit, HLL Lifecare, to launch a coronavirus app for the benefit of symptomatic citizens. If this app detects COVID-like symptoms in a citizen, it alerts a team of doctors immediately.
  • Agra: E-Doctor Seva, a public-private partnership initiative in Agra, offers tele-video consultation facility.
  • Chennai: Chennai Corporation was developing a mobile app to crowd-source information on operational flaws in existing civic infrastructure. During the lockdown, this app was customised for COVID monitoring.
  • Rajkot: It has leveraged corporate social responsibility to avail support from a company that manufactures agricultural machines, to procure 18 high clearance boom sprayers — used for spraying pesticides on crops.

Several other innovative approaches

  • Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has manufactured “Bhelmister”, a disinfectant sprayer, in four days. The machine uses water mixed with a sanitiser, atomised through a spray nozzle and converted to fine droplets. 
[Ref: Indian Express]

Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan

Amid the lockdown for the coronavirus outbreak, Gujarat government has given its the green signal for the third edition Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan.

  • The scheme, which will continue till June 10.

About Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan:

  • Launched in 2018, the scheme aims to deepen water bodies in the state to increase storage of rainwater to be used during times of scarcity.
  • It involves cleaning and desilting of riverfronts, sprucing up of Irrigation canals. It also involves deepening of lakes, tanks and reservoirs.
  • The drive runs on a Public Private Partnership mode and contribution from the government shall remain 60% of the expenditure of the work while 40% share will be from people’s contribution.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Issues related to Health & Education

VidyaDaan 2.0

The Union Human Resource Development Minister e-launched VidyaDaan 2.0 program for inviting e-learning content contributions.

About VidyaDaan

  • VidyaDaan is conceptualised as a common national program for individuals & organizations across the country to donate/contribute e-learning resources for both school and higher education to ensure continuity of quality learning. 
  • Contributions can be made by educationists, subject experts, schools, Universities, individuals, etc. 
  • VidyaDaan has different types of content (such as, explanation videos, presentations, quizzes etc.), from grade 1 to 12, for any subject as specified by the states/UTs.
  • The content will be used on the DIKSHA app (e-learning platform of union government which offers engaging learning material relevant to school curriculum) to help millions of children to continue their learning. 
[Ref: PIB]

Social Issues

IIT Kharagpur among world best for achieving UN goals

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur has been ranked 57th globally among higher education institutes for its research in areas related to the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

  • The ranking was published by Times Higher Education.
  • Interestingly, the ranking comes days after IIT Kharagpur and seven other IITs decided not to participate in any Times Higher Education (THE) rankings claiming that the methodology is not transparent.

Key Highlights

  • The University of Auckland topped the ranking, followed by the University of Sydney.
  • IIT Kharagpur excelled in achieving fourth in the world for SDG6 (clean water and sanitation), 6th for SDG2 (zero hunger), 13th for SDG13 (climate action), joint 21st for SDG1 (no poverty) and 24th for SDG7 (affordable and clean energy).
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

World Press Freedom Index 2020

The World Press Freedom Index 2020 has been released by the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.

Key Highlights

  • Norway ranks first for the fourth consecutive year and Finland and Denmark in second and third place.
  • The pandemic has allowed governments to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times.
  • United States and Brazil were becoming models of hostility toward the news media.
  • China, Iran and Iraq are criticised for censoring coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

 India’s performance:

  • India has dropped two places to be ranked 142nd.
  • With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved.

About World Press Freedom Index:

  • It is published annually by Reporters Without Borders since 2002.
  • It I measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries.
  • It is based on an evaluation of media freedom that measures pluralism, media independence, the quality of the legal framework and the safety of journalists.
  • It also includes indicators of the level of media freedom violations in each region.
  • It is compiled by means of a questionnaire in 20 languages that is completed by experts all over the world. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.
[Ref: Economic Times]

Economy

Remittances to South Asia to dip 22% in 2020: World Bank

 The World Bank expects remittances to South Asia will drop 22% in 2020, underscoring the economic distress stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key findings

  • Globally, remittances are projected to decline by a record 20% in 2020 from a high of over $714.2 billion in 2019.
  • The projected fall is largely due to a fall in the wages and employment of migrant workers.
  • Remittance flows are expected to fall across all World Bank Group regions, most notably in Europe and Central Asia (27.5 %), followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (23.1 %), South Asia (22.1 %), the Middle East and North Africa (19.6 %), Latin America and the Caribbean (19.3 %), and East Asia and the Pacific (13 %).

South Asia

  • Remittances to South Asia are projected to decline by 22 % in 2020.
  • South Asia had the lowest average remittance costs of any region, at 4.95 %.
  • Banking regulations related to AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) raise the risk profile of remittance service providers and thereby increase costs for some receiving countries such as Afghanistan and sending countries such as Pakistan.

In LMIC

  • The decline in flows is likely to have an adverse impact on remittance-dependent countries and low and middle-income countries (LMIC) where remittances are a crucial financing lifeline for many vulnerable household.
  • Remittance flows are expected to become even more important as a source of external financing for LMICs as the fall in foreign direct investment (FDI) is expected to be sharper. In 2019, remittance flows to LMICs exceeded FDI.

Key Facts

  • India is the world’s biggest recipient of remittances, which bolster the country’s foreign exchange reserves and help fund its current account deficit.
[Ref: Economic Times]

Use the oil crash to boost India’s strategic reserves

With the movement of people severely curbed, and economic activity coming to a halt, as lockdowns are instituted in cities and countries worldwide, the demand for oil has nearly vanished.

Background

  • Recently, the price of West Texas Intermediate, one of the world’s most popular benchmarks for crude oil prices, went into negative.

What does the low oil price mean for India?

  • A fall in oil prices is usually a good sign in India for the consumer, the government, and the economy.
  • Oil prices can contribute a lot directly and indirectly to the general price levels in India, and so, apart from being able to fill up their vehicles at lower prices, the Indian consumer benefits from general lowered prices. 
  • The government wins as lower prices lead to higher demand and, therefore, higher tax collections. 
  • More important though, the amount it has to spend on fuel subsidy decreases, leaving it larger fiscal space for other government programmes.
  • Finally, since India imports nearly 80% of its oil requirements, lower global oil prices imply a fall in the country’s overall import bill and stability for the rupee.

Opportunity to fill up strategic petroleum reserves

  • One area in which India can definitely use the lower oil prices to its advantage is to stock up on the commodity for future use.
  • Like many other countries, India maintains strategic petroleum reserves (SPR), which is an inventory of oil for emergency purposes.
  • To mitigate supply-side risks and cover for vulnerability to external oil shocks, India holds an emergency oil stockpile in underground salt caverns, which can provide around 4.5 days of import cover.
  • There is additional capacity for five days of oil import cover, which must be filled up at this time when oil prices are at historic lows. Indian petroleum refineries hold an additional 65 days of import cover.
  • To its credit, the government has directed State refineries to place their excess crude supplies in these caverns for which they will be reimbursed. However, India has been delaying the start of phase two of its SPR plans, which was to add another 12 days of oil storage capacity. This was to be done in partnership with either ADNOC (Abu Dhabi) or Saudi Arabia’s Aramco. It is probably the right time now to get this off the drawing board.

Options outside India

  • India could persuade the Sri Lanka government to kick-start the utilisation of oil storage facilities at Trincomalee. This could be done in a mutually beneficial manner.
  • India could also shop around for storage space in Oman (Ras Markaz) or the United Arab Emirates (Fujairah).
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Key Facts for Prelims

Kasowal enclave

  • Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has opened a new permanent bridge on the river Ravi connecting Kasowal enclave in Punjab to the rest of the country.

NanoBlitz 3D

  • Scientists from International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) India in collaboration with Nanomechanics Inc., USA have jointly developed an NanoBlitz 3D for mapping nano-mechanical properties of materials like multi-phase alloys, composites, and multi-layered coatings.
  • The high-speed mapping capabilities of the tool can also be used to quickly establish structure-property linkages, which can aid in development of hierarchical materials. This, in turn, expedites the development of high-performance novel materials under an Integrated Computational Material Engineering (ICME) approach.

Anthurium

  • A women innovator from Kerala, has developed ten varieties of Anthurium, a flower with high market value, by cross-pollination.
  • Anthurium (Anthurium spp.) is a vast group of blooming plants available in a wide range of colors. The plants of the varieties are having high demands due to its use as indoor decorative plants.
  • They also purify the surrounding air and remove harmful airborne chemicals like formaldehyde, ammonia etc.
  • The National Innovation Foundation-India (NIF) facilitated validation trials of her varieties.
  • NIF has also facilitated mass multiplication and large scale production of the varieties —Dora, George, JV Pink and JV Red which have significant market value through tissue culture technique at Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Bangalore.

Benishan

  • The ‘Benishan’ or Banganapalli variety of mango, which is widely grown       in Jagtial district, is witnessing a slump in sales due to the nationwide lockdown.
  • Marketed as “Jagtial mango Telangana” – in Delhi, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Gwalior and Srinagar, the mangoes are popular for their quality, taste and long shelf life.

Noor

  • The satellite, named Nur (Light), was recently launced by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
  • They use Qased or Messenger satellite carrier to launch Noor. 
  • But US has said Iran had violated a UN resolution and needed “to be held accountable”.
  • Also, US has warned that the technology used to launch satellites could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

World Book Day

  • On April 23, UNESCO celebrated the 25th edition of World Book and Copyright Day.
  • Also known as World Book and Copyright Day, or International Day of the Book, it is an annual event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing, and copyright.
  • It was first celebrated on 23 April 1995.

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