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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 16 January 2020

INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 16 January 2020

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

1. Women, Business and the Law 2020.

 

GS Paper 2:

1. Centre-state disputes and Article 131.

2. WHO Names Top 13 Global Health Challenges for the New Decade.

3. Henley Passport Index.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. India’s fiscal deficit.

2. HSN Code.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Saksham

2. Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).

 


GS Paper  : 1


 

Topics Covered: Women related issues.

Women, Business and the Law 2020

What to study?

For Prelims: About the index and it’s overview.

For Mains: Significance and challenges highlighted, ways to address them.

Context: Women, Business and the Law 2020, the sixth edition in a series, has been released.

Women, Business and the Law (WBL) is a World Bank Group project collecting unique data on the laws and regulations that restrict women’s economic opportunities.

About the Women, Business and the Law Index:

The index analyzes laws and regulations affecting women’s economic inclusion in 190 economies.

  • It is composed by eight indicators structured around women’s interactions with the law as they begin, progress through and end their careers, aligns different areas of the law with the economic decisions women make at various stages of their lives.

The indicators are:

  • Mobility, Workplace, Pay, Marriage, Parenthood, Entrepreneurship, Assets, and Pension.

How are countries ranked?

  • The study tracked “how laws affect women at different stages in their working lives and focusing on those laws applicable in the main business city”.
  • The Index is based on the countries’ formal laws and regulations that have a bearing on women’s economic participation.

Performance of various countries:

  1. No economy in ‘East Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Europe and Central Asia’, or ‘Latin America and the Caribbean’ were among top reformers, the report claimed.
  2. Only eight economies scored a perfect 100 —Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden. Those countries have ensured equal legal standing to men and women on all the eight indicators of the index.
  3. The global average was 75.2 — a slight increase from 73.9 in the previous index released in 2017.

Performance of India:

  • India is placed 117th among 190 countries.
  • It scored 74.4 on a par with Benin and Gambia and way below least developed countries like Rwanda and Lesotho.

Way ahead:

No country can achieve its full potential without the equal participation of women and men. Achieving gender equality is not only the right thing to do but it is also good for a country’s economic growth and development.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Centre-state disputes and Article 131

What to study?

For Prelims: All about Article 131 and Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

For Mains: Cooperative federalism- need, challenges and concerns.

Context: Kerala has become the first state to challenge the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) before the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution.

Besides, Chhattisgarh government has also filed a suit in the Supreme Court under Article 131, challenging the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act on the ground that it encroaches upon the state’s powers to maintain law and order.

So, What is Article 131?

Under Article 131 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to deal with any dispute between the Centre and a state; the Centre and a state on the one side and another state on the other side; and two or more states.

Criteria:

  • For a dispute to qualify as a dispute under Article 131, it has to necessarily be between states and the Centre, and must involve a question of law or fact on which the existence of a legal right of the state or the Centre depends.
  • In a 1978 judgment, State of Karnataka v Union of India, Justice P N Bhagwati had said that for the Supreme Court to accept a suit under Article 131, the state need not show that its legal right is violated, but only that the dispute involves a legal question.
  • Article 131 cannot be used to settle political differences between state and central governments headed by different parties.

Facts for Prelims:

The Supreme Court has three kinds of jurisdictions: original, appellate and advisory.

  1. Under its advisory jurisdiction, the President has the power to seek an opinion from the apex court under Article 143 of the Constitution.
  2. Under its appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

WHO Names Top 13 Global Health Challenges for the New Decade

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: 13 challenges- concerns and measures needed.

Context: World Health Organization (WHO) has released a list of 13 urgent global health challenges. 

These include:

  1. Climate Crisis: Climate change causes more extreme weather events, exacerbates malnutrition, and fuels the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria. The same emissions that pollute the air and cause global warming are responsible for more than one quarter of deaths from heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory disease.
  2. Delivering Health in Conflict and Crisis: Last year, most disease outbreaks that required the highest level of WHO response occurred in countries with protracted conflict. And the “disturbing” trend in which healthcare workers and facilities are targeted continued. Conflict is also forcing a record number of people out of their own homes, leaving them with little or no access to healthcare, often for years.
  3. Healthcare Equality: “Persistent and growing” socioeconomic gaps that result in major discrepancies in the quality of people’s health is also an urgent challenge. There is not only an 18-year difference in life expectancy between rich and poor countries, but also a marked gap within countries and even within cities.
  4. Expanding Access to Medicines: About one third of the world’s people lack access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tools, and other essential health products. Low access to quality health products threatens health and lives and contributes to drug resistance.
  5. Infectious Diseases: Such as HIV, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, and sexually transmitted infections will take the lives of an estimated four million people in 2020, most of them poor. Meanwhile, vaccine-preventable diseases continue to kill, including measles, which took 140,000 lives in 2019. Polio is also once again a concern, with 156 cases of wild poliovirus last year, the most since 2014.
  6. Preparing for Epidemics: A pandemic of a new, highly infectious, airborne virus — most likely a strain of influenza— to which most people lack immunity is inevitable. And vector-borne diseases like dengue, malaria, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever are spreading as mosquito populations move into new areas, fanned by climate change.
  7. Dangerous Products: Lack of food, unsafe food, and unhealthy diets are to blame for nearly one third of the global disease burden.
  8. Investing in People Who Defend Our Health: Another challenge is the global shortage of healthcare workers. The world will need 18 million more healthcare workers by 2030, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, including nine million nurses and midwives.
  9. Keeping Teens Safe: More than one million adolescents aged 10 to 19 years die every year. The chief causes are road accidents, HIV, suicide, lower respiratory infections, and interpersonal violence. Harmful use of alcohol, tobacco and drug use, lack of physical activity, unprotected sex, and previous exposure to child maltreatment all increase the risks for these causes of death.
  10. Earning Public Trust: Public health is compromised by the uncontrolled dissemination of misinformation in social media, as well as through an erosion of trust in public institutions. The antivaccination movement has been a significant factor in the rise of deaths in preventable diseases.
  11. Harnessing New Technologies: New technologies such as genome editing and artificial intelligence are revolutionizing the ability to prevent, diagnose, and treat many diseases, but raise new questions and challenges for monitoring and regulation.
  12. Antimicrobial Resistance: The rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a persistent and urgent challenge that threatens to send modern medicine back decades to the preantibiotic era.
  13. Clean Water, Sanitation, Hygiene: About one in four health facilities globally lack basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services that are critical to a functioning health system. The lack of these basics in health facilities leads to poor-quality care and an increased chance of infection for patients and health workers.

What next?

The list reflects a “deep concern that leaders are failing to invest enough resources in core health priorities and systems.” This puts lives, livelihoods and economies in jeopardy. None of these issues are simple to address, but they are within reach.

  • All of the challenges on the list “demand a response from more than just the health sector. We face shared threats and we have a shared responsibility to act.
  • Governments, communities, and international agencies must work together to achieve these critical goals. There are no shortcuts to a healthier world.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Henley Passport Index

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Passport Index- features, performance of various countries and significance of the index.

Context: The latest edition of Henley Passport Index has been released.

What is Henley Passport Index (HPI)?

It is a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom for their citizens.

Started in 2006 as Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index (HVRI) and was modified and renamed in January 2018.

How are the countries ranked?

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information, and enhanced by the Henley & Partners Research Department.

The Index lists the world’s passports “according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa”.

The index includes 199 different passports and 227 different travel destinations.

Performance of various Countries:

  1. Japan is at the top. It has been topping the Index for three straight years; according to the 2020 index, its citizens are able to access 191 destinations without having to obtain a visa in advance.
  2. Singapore, in second place (same as in 2019), has a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190.
  3. Germany is No. 3 (same position as in 2019), with access to 189 destinations;
  4. The US and the UK have been falling consistently over successive Indices.

Performance of India:

  1. The Indian passport is closer to the bottom, ranked 84th in the world.
  2. This translates into visa-free access to 58 destinations, including 33 which give Indians visas on arrival.
  3. Twenty of the 58 visa-free access destinations in the 2020 list are in Africa, and 11 each in Asia and the Caribbean. Serbia is the only European country to which Indian passport holders can travel visa-free.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

India’s fiscal deficit

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: FD- meaning, implications, what is off budget spending? Implications.

Context: Former Economic Affairs Secretary S C Garg has stated that the true fiscal deficit for 2018-19 is 4.7%.

According to Garg, for the current financial year, too, the actual fiscal deficit is likely to range between 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent of GDP.

What’s the issue?

Contrary to these views, the Indian government says, the fiscal deficit just 3.4 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018-19. For the current year, the Union Budget presented in July expected the fiscal deficit to be 3.3 per cent of the GDP.

  • For long, it has been suspected that the official figures hide the true fiscal deficit. That’s because some of the government’s expenditure was funded by the so-called “off-budget” items. 
  • As a result, while this extra expenditure did not figure in the official calculations, it did mean that the true fiscal deficit or borrowing by the public sector was higher than the level presented in the Budget.

What is fiscal deficit?

It is the difference between the Revenue Receipts plus Non-debt Capital Receipts (NDCR) and the total expenditure.
In other words, fiscal deficit is “reflective of the total borrowing requirements of Government”.

What is the significance of fiscal deficit?

  1. In the economy, there is a limited pool of investible savings. These savings are used by financial institutions like banks to lend to private businesses (both big and small) and the governments (Centre and state).
  2. If the fiscal deficit ratio is too high, it implies that there is a lesser amount of money left in the market for private entrepreneurs and businesses to borrow.
  3. Lesser amount of this money, in turn, leads to higher rates of interest charged on such lending.
  4. So, simply put, a higher fiscal deficit means higher borrowing by the government, which, in turn, mean higher interest rates in the economy.
  5. A high fiscal deficit and higher interest rates would also mean that the efforts of the Reserve Bank of India to reduce interest rates are undone.

What is the acceptable level of fiscal deficit?

There is no set universal level of fiscal deficit that is considered good.

Typically, for a developing economy, where private enterprises may be weak and governments may be in a better state to invest, fiscal deficit could be higher than in a developed economy.

Here, governments also have to invest in both social and physical infrastructure upfront without having adequate avenues for raising revenues.

 What should the ideal fiscal deficit look like?

In India, the FRBM Act suggests bringing the fiscal deficit down to about 3 percent of the GDP is the ideal target. Unfortunately, successive governments have not been able to achieve this target.

What is off- budget financing?

This refers to expenditure that’s not funded through the budget.

For example;

  1. The government sets up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to construct a bridge.
  2. The SPV will likely borrow money to build the bridge on the strength of a government guarantee. If it’s not a toll bridge, the SPV will need government support to meet interest obligations.
  3. So, even though the borrowing and spending is outside the budget, it has implications for the budget and for all practical reasons should be included in that document.
  4. Since it’s not, this doesn’t reflect on the fiscal deficit number as well.

Concerns and implications:

  • Governments across the world use this to escape budget controls.
  • Off-budget financing by its nature isn’t taken into account when calculating fiscal indicators.
  • But the cost is borne by the budget through some mechanism or the other. Such financing tends to hide the actual extent of government spending, borrowings and debt and increase the interest burden.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

HSN Code

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Meaning, features and significance of HS code.

Context: India not to allow imports without HSN code. This will enable India’s exports to be accepted globally due to the quality of goods and services.

What does the HS code mean?- Harmonised System, or simply ‘HS’:

It is a six-digit identification code. Of the six digits, the first two denote the HS Chapter, the next two give the HS heading, and the last two give the HS subheading.

  • Developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO).
  • Called the “universal economic language” for goods.
  • It is a multipurpose international product nomenclature.
  • The system currently comprises of around 5,000 commodity groups.

HSN:

HS Code is also known as HSN Code in India. Goods are classified into Harmonized System of Nomenclature or HSN. It is used up to 8 digit level.

Application:

HSN classification is widely used for taxation purposes by helping to identify the rate of tax applicable to a specific product in a country that is under review. It can also be used in calculations that involve claiming benefits.

HS code are used by Customs authorities, statistical agencies, and other government regulatory bodies, to monitor and control the import and export of commodities through:

  1. Customs tariffs
  2. Collection of international trade statistics
  3. Rules of origin
  4. Collection of internal taxes
  5. Trade negotiations (e.g., the World Trade Organization schedules of tariff concessions)
  6. Transport tariffs and statistics
  7. Monitoring of controlled goods (e.g., wastes, narcotics, chemical weapons, ozone layer depleting substances, endangered species, wildlife trade)
  8. Areas of Customs controls and procedures, including risk assessment, information technology and compliance.

Need for and significance:

Over 200 countries use the system as a basis for their customs tariffs, gathering international trade statistics, making trade policies, and for monitoring goods.

The system helps in harmonising of customs and trade procedures, thus reducing costs in international trade.

Sources:pib.

 


Facts for Prelims:


 

Saksham

It is a people centric fuel conservation mega campaign of Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA).

Saksham actively involves the Oil & Gas PSUs along with other stakeholders like State Governments:

  1. To create focused attention on fuel conservation through people centric activities and
  2. To sensitize the masses about the conservation and efficient use of petroleum products leading to better health and environment.

About PCRA (established in 1978):

It is a registered society set up under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India.

As a non-profit organization, PCRA is a national government agency engaged in promoting energy efficiency in various sectors of economy.

 

Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA):

Context: Celebrated it’s 5th annual day.

About CARA:

  • CARA is an apex body of Government of India for promoting and facilitating In-country Adoption and is the designated Central Authority for regulating Inter-countryAdoption.
  • CARA was designated as a Statutory Body on 15 Jan 2016, under the provisions of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.