Current Affairs Analysis

2nd June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Moody’s rating; 1989 Tiananmen Square protests; Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act of 2020; Article 348 (1); Article 348 (2); Section 7 of the Official Languages Act, 1963; Kerala’s data security guidelines; CHAMPIONS Platform to empower MSMEs; Namankit English Medium School scheme; Minor Forest Produce for Minimum Support Price scheme; World No-Tobacco Day; Integrated Management of Public Distribution System; Ultra-Swachh; Meghalaya proposed 100% tap connections; National Career Service project; Increase in the Minimum Support Prices;
By IASToppers
June 02, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Hindi as official language in Haryana courts challenged in SC
  • Kerala govt. issues data security guidelines

Government Schemes and Policies

  • CHAMPIONS Platform to empower MSMEs

Issues related to Health and Education

  • COVID-19 pandemic delays scheme for tribal students

Economy

  • Moody’s downgrades India’s rating
  • Inclusion of additional MFP items in MSP list

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Hong Kong bans Tiananmen protests Anniversary

Key Facts for Prelims

  • World No-Tobacco Day
  • Integrated Management of Public Distribution System
  • Ultra-Swachh
  • Meghalaya proposed 100% tap connections
  • National Career Service project
  • Increase in the Minimum Support Prices

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Polity & Governance

Hindi as official language in Haryana courts challenged in SC

The lawyers of Haryana have challenged a law in Supreme Court which makes Hindi the official language in courts of the state.

Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act of 2020:

  • The Haryana Official Language (Amendment) Act of 2020 made Hindi as the sole official language to be used in lower courts across the State.
  • The petitioners complain that the Act has unconstitutionally and arbitrarily imposed Hindi on the lawyers.
  • The lawyers have argued that English is widely used by advocates and the subordinate judiciary in lower courts in justice administration work.
  • The imposition of Hindi as the sole language would result in an unreasonable classification between lawyers who are fluent in Hindi and those who are not.
  • The petition says the proficiency in language required to argue a case is much more than in the ordinary use of a language.
  • It said the amendment was a violation of the fundamental right to equality, freedom to practice a profession of choice, dignity, and livelihood.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 348(1) stipulates the use of English in the Supreme Court and High Courts as well as for drafting Bills, Acts and Orders.
  • Article 348(2) read with Section (7) of the Official Languages Act 1963 provides for Hindi or other official languages to be used in High Courts in addition to English.
  • Section 7 of the Official Languages Act, 1963 provides that the use of Hindi or official language of a State in addition to the English language may be authorized, with the consent of the President of India, by the Governor of the State for purpose of judgments etc. made by the High Court for that State. .
[Ref: The Hindu, Business Standard]

Kerala govt. issues data security guidelines

The Kerala State government has issued a set of guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information in the wake of the Sprinklr controversy.

Major Highlights:

  • The guidelines insisted that agencies and departments should collect sensitive personal data of citizens only with their legally recorded informed consent.
  • Citizens should be informed about the purpose of the collection and how third parties might use the information.
  • Aggregators should ensure that such data was anonymised and only send in encrypted form to third parties, if at all.
  • The Authorities should store the sensitive data of citizens in the State Data Centre (SDC) to the extent possible.
  • The SDC should examine whether the software or analytic tools they sourced from third parties would compromise the security of the information stored in its repositories.
  • The administration should store data only in cloud servers leased by the government with the approval of the Central government.
  • The IT rules should inform collection, storage and analysis of sensitive data.

Background:

  • The government had contracted Sprinklr, a US firm as an emergency measure to crunch the health data of citizens to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic would behave in Kerala.
  • However, the Opposition had dragged the government to the High Court, accusing it of having used the outbreak as a cover to allow the U.S.-based firm to harvest and monetise the medical information of the State’s population.
  • The Opposition had alleged that most of the data collected by health workers using a smartphone application provided by Sprinklr had gone irretrievably into the cloud servers maintained by the company in the U.S., far beyond Indian jurisdiction.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes and Policies

CHAMPIONS Platform to empower MSMEs

Prime Minister recently launched the CHAMPIONS platform which is a Technology driven Control Room-Cum-Management Information System.

Objectives:

  • To resolve the problems of MSMEs including those of finance, raw materials, labour, regulatory permissions etc particularly in the COVID created difficult situation.
  • To help them capture new opportunities:  including manufacturing of medical equipment and accessories like PPEs, masks, etc and supply them in National and International markets.
  • To identify and encourage the sparks:  i.e. the potential MSMEs who can withstand the current situation and can become national and international champions.

Key Features:

  • CHAMPIONS stand for Creation and Harmonious Application of Modern Processes for Increasing the Output and National Strength.
  • The portal is basically for making the smaller units big by solving their grievances, encouraging, supporting, helping and handholding.
  • It is a real one-stop-shop solution of Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
  • This ICT based system is set up to help the MSMEs in present difficult situation and to handhold them to become national and international champions.
  • It is a technology packed control room-cum-management information system.
  • In addition to ICT tools including telephone, internet and video conference, the system is enabled by Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics and Machine Learning.
  • It is also fully integrated on real time basis with GOI’s main grievances portal Centralized Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) and MSME Ministry’s own other web-based mechanisms.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health and Education

COVID-19 pandemic delays scheme for tribal students

The Maharashtra Tribal Welfare Department has temporarily stayed admission of Adivasi students in reputed English medium schools in Class I as part of economic austerity measures undertaken in view of the COVID-19.

Namankit English Medium School scheme:

  • The Namankit English Medium School scheme was launched in 2010-11.
  • Under the government scheme, Adivasi students get admission in reputed English medium schools in Class I and their education till Class XII is funded by the state.
  • The idea is to provide quality English education with qualified teachers.

Major Highlights:

  • The decision to stop admission of tribal students in reputed English medium schools in Class I this year is temporary and taken as part of economic austerity measures in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The tribal students already enrolled in English medium schools will continue with their education.
  • Once the COVID-19 situation improves and schools reopen, the government would revise its decision and enrol tribal students in the schools.
  • The Tribal ministry ensures good education to tribal children through government ashram (residential) schools, state-aided ashram schools and Eklavya residential public schools, among others.
[Ref: Tribune, The Hindu]

Economy

Moody’s downgrades India’s rating

Investment rating agency Moody’s has downgraded India to the lowest investment grade of ratings and brings the country’s ratings in line with those of S&P and Fitch.

Major Highlights:

  • Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Government of India’s foreign-currency and local-currency long-term issuer ratings to “Baa3” from “Baa2”.
  • It stated that the outlook remained negative.
  • The latest downgrade reduces India to the lowest investment grade of ratings.

Reason for this downgrade:

  • There are four main reasons why Moody’s has taken the decision.
  • Weak implementation of economic reforms since 2017.
  • Relatively low economic growth over a sustained period.
  • A significant deterioration in the fiscal position of governments (central and state).
  • And the rising stress in India’s financial sector.
  • The decision to downgrade India’s ratings reflects Moody’s view that the country’s policymaking institutions will be challenged in enacting and implementing policies which effectively mitigate the risks of a sustained period of relatively low growth, significant further deterioration in the general government fiscal position and stress in the financial sector.

What does “negative” outlook mean?

  • The negative outlook reflects dominant, mutually-reinforcing, downside risks from deeper stresses in the economy and financial system that could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion in fiscal strength than Moody’s currently projects.
  • Moody’s has highlighted persistent structural challenges to fast economic growth such as weak infrastructure, rigidities in labour, land and product markets, and rising financial sector risks.
  • In other words, a negative implies India could be rated down further.
  • According to Moody’s the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies vulnerabilities in India’s credit profile that were present and building prior to the shock, and which motivated the assignment of a negative outlook last year.

Why did the downgrade happen?

  • More than two years ago, in November 2017, Moody’s had upgraded India’s rating to “Baa2” with a “stable” outlook.
  • Since that upgrade in 2017, implementation of reforms has been relatively weak and has not resulted in material credit improvements, indicating limited policy effectiveness.
  • The low effectiveness of policy and the resulting loss of growth momentum is evidenced in the sharp deceleration in India’s GDP growth rates.
  • Each year, the central government has failed to meet its fiscal deficit (essentially the total borrowings from the market) target. This has led to a steady accretion of total government debt.
  • Total government debt (measured as a percentage of GDP) is the debt till the last year and the fiscal deficit of the current year.
  • Even before the coronavirus outbreak India’s general government (combined central and state governments) debt burden was at an estimated 72% of GDP in fiscal 2019.
  • This already high number is expected to go up to 84% of the GDP just within 2020.

Implications of this downgrade:

  • A rating downgrade means that bonds issued by the Indian governments are now “riskier” than before, because weaker economic growth and worsening fiscal health undermine a government’s ability to pay back.
  • Lower risk is better because it allows governments and companies of that country to raise debts at a lower rate of interest.
  • When India’s sovereign rating is downgraded, it becomes costlier for the Indian government as well as all Indian companies to raise funds because now the world sees such debt as a riskier proposition.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Inclusion of additional MFP items in MSP list

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has announced inclusion of 23 additional Minor Forest Produce items in Minimum Support Price list.

Minor Forest Produce for Minimum Support Price scheme:

  • The scheme was launched by the Centre in August 2013 and provides fair price for Minor Forest Produce (MFP) collected by tribals’ through Minimum Support Price.
  • The scheme is designed as a social safety net for improvement of livelihood of MFP gatherers by providing them fair price for the MFPs they collect.
  • The scheme was originally intended to be implemented in the States having Scheduled Areas with Scheduled Tribes population in accordance with the fifth schedule of the constitution.
  • However, the implementation was extended all over India since November 2016.
  • The scheme envisages fixation and declaration of Minimum Support Price for the selected MFP based on the suggestions received from Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation and the States concerned.
  • Procurement and marketing operation at pre-fixed MSP are undertaken by the designated State agencies.

Coverage:

  • MFP comprises all non-timber forest produce of plant origin such as bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers, etc. according to the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
  • The latest edition in June 2020 include Van Tulsi seeds, Van Jeera, Mushroom, Black Rice and Johar Rice among others.
  • The decision enhancing the coverage from 50 to 73 items comes in view of the COVID-19 pandemic so that much needed support could be provided to the tribal MFP gatherers.

Significance

  • According to the Tribal Affairs ministry almost 60-70 per cent income of forest dwellers depends on collection and sale of MFP.
  • Recent estimates by Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation indicated that the trade value was approximately Rs 20,000 crore for 55 economically important MFPs.
  • It provides them critical subsistence during the lean seasons, particularly for primitive tribal groups such as hunter gatherers, and the landless.
  • This activity has strong linkage to women’s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used/sold by women.
  • MFP sector has the potential to create about 10 million workdays annually in the country.
[Ref: AIR, Down To Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

Hong Kong bans Tiananmen protests Anniversary

Hong Kong police has banned an upcoming vigil marking the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

1989 Tiananmen Square protests:

  • The 31st anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests will be observed on June 4, 2020.
  • On this day in 1989, the Chinese troops had violently retaken the Tiananmen Square in Beijing from the pro-democracy protesters.
  • Tiananmen Square in Beijing is known for three major protests viz. 1919, 1976 and 1989 in recent Chinese history.
  • The 1989 prodemocracy protests started in April that year and were suppressed on June 4 after the military crackdown.
  • The China’s leaders sent tanks and troops to quell student protesters calling for democracy and an end to corruption.
  • At the end of June 1989, the Chinese government said 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel had died.
  • Other estimates have ranged from hundreds to many thousands.
  • This event is also known as June Fourth Incident in modern Chinese history.
[Ref: BBC, The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

World No-Tobacco Day

  • World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on 31 May.
  • This yearly celebration informs on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.
  • The Member States of the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.
  • The negative health effects of Tobacco currently lead to more than 8 million deaths each year worldwide, including 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Theme 2020: #TobaccoExposed.

Integrated Management of Public Distribution System

  • The Union Minister of Consumer Affairs announced the inclusion of three more states namely – Odisha, Sikkim and Mizoram in the scheme on ‘Integrated Management of Public Distribution System’.
  • Under this system nation-wide portability of the benefits under NFSA through One Nation One Ration Card plan is implemented.
  • It enables the NFSA ration card holders to lift their entitled quota of subsidised food grains from any e-POS (electronic-Point of Scale)enabled Fair Price Shop of their choice anywhere in the country, by using the existing/same ration card after Aadhaar authentication on ePoS device.
  • The facility so far is enabled in 17 States/UTs namely – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh.

Ultra-Swachh

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation has developed a disinfection unit named Ultra Swachh to disinfect a wide range of materials, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), electronics items, fabrics, etc.
  • Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Allied Sciences, the Delhi based laboratory of DRDO has developed this product with industry partner M/s Gel Craft Healthcare Private Ltd, Ghaziabad.
  • The system uses an advanced oxidative process comprising of multiple barrier disruption approach using Ozonated Space Technology for disinfection.

Meghalaya proposed 100% tap connections

  • Meghalaya proposed 100% tap connections to all the households by December 2022. 
  • Jal Jeevan Mission launched by Central Government 2019 aims to provide Functional Household Tap Connection to every rural household by 2024.
  • Being implemented in partnership with States, the Mission aims to enable every rural household has assured availability of potable water at a service level of 55 litres per capita per day on regular and long-term basis.

National Career Service project

  • Ministry of Labour and Employment under its National Career Service projecthas started offering free online Career Skills Training for its registered jobseekers.
  • This course on soft skills assists the learners in enhancing personality development with modules on corporate etiquette, improving interpersonal skills, making impactful presentation including other necessary soft skills demanded by the industry at present.
  • The Ministry is implementing the NCS Project for transformation of the National Employment Service to provide a variety of employment related services like job search, career counselling, information on skill development courses, apprenticeship, and internships through an on-line portal of NCS.

Increase in the Minimum Support Prices

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for all mandated Kharif crops for marketing season 2020-21.
  • The highest increase in MSP is proposed for Niger seed (Rs 755 per quintal) followed by sesamum (Rs 370 per quintal), Urad (Rs 300 per quintal) and cotton (long staple) (Rs 275 per quintal).
  • The differential remuneration is aimed at encouraging crop diversification.
  • The increase in MSP for Kharif Crops for marketing season 2020-21 is in line with the Union Budget 2018-19 announcement of fixing the MSPs at a level of at least 1.5 times of the All-India weighted average Cost of Production (CoP), aiming at reasonably fair remuneration for the farmers.
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