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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 14 May 2020

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Major stimulus measures.

2. West Bank and issues associated.

3. China- Taiwan relations.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. WEF’s global Energy Transition index.

2. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020.

3. Tour of Duty” (ToD) scheme.

4. Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs).

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Book Haram.

2. Archaeological Survey of India.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Major stimulus measures

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key components and significance.

Context: Economic stimulus measures announced by Finance Minister in the wake of series of lockdowns.

The 15 measures announced include many sops for MSMEs, real estate, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and power distribution companies.

Background:

This is the first tranche of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a ₹20 lakh crore economic package.

That package includes the ongoing Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, meant to support the poorest and most vulnerable communities during the pandemic, as well as several measures taken by the Reserve Bank of India to improve liquidity.

More tranches are expected in the next few days.

Measures announced:

  1. Changed Definition of MSME:
  • Previously, an enterprise with investment up to Rs 25 lakh was called a micro unit. Under the new definition, a firm upto investment of Rs 1 crore is to be called Micro unit, of Rs 10 crore is to be called as small unit and investment greater than Rs 20 crore will be called as medium unit.
  • With the changed definition both investment and turn over is used to define MSMEs. Under the new definition a firm with turn over of Rs 5 crore is to be called a micro unit, of Rs 50 crore will be called as small unit and turn over greater than Rs 100 core is to be called as Medium unit.
  • It is to be noted that for an enterprise to come under the category of MSME it has to fulfill both investment and turn over conditions.
  • Also, under the new definition, the differentiation between the manufacturing and service based MSMEs are being removed.
  1. Collateral free loans to MSMEs:

In a major boost to the MSME sector, collateral free loan of 3 lakh crore rupees has been announced with a moratorium of 12 months. These loans will benefit 45 lakh small and medium units.

  1. For NBFCs:

₹30,000-crore special liquidity scheme for NBFCs. Investment would be made in primary and secondary market transactions in investment grade debt paper of NBFCs, HFCs and MFIs.

Other measures:

  • It also proposes Mandatory sourcing — up to ₹200 crore.
  • Relaxation in project under RERA Act.
  • Power distribution companies will receive a ₹90,000 crore liquidity injection.
  • Contractors will get a six-month extension from all Central agencies, and also get partial bank guarantees to ease their cash flows.
  • Employee Provident Fund (EPF) support, provided to low-income organised workers in small units under the PMGKY is being extended for another three months.
  • Mandatory EPF contributions are also being reduced from 12% to 10%.
  • For salaried workers and taxpayers, some relief was provided in the form of an extended deadline for income tax returns for financial year 2019-20, with the due date now pushed to November 30, 2020.
  • The rates of tax deduction at source (TDS) and tax collection at source (TCS) have been cut by 25% for the next year, while statutory provident fund (PF) payments have been reduced from 12% to 10% for both employers and employees for the next three months.

lockdown_antidote

Significance of these measures:

  • Measures for MSMEs through guarantees, equity infusion and debt support will incentivise bank lending to MSMEs as well as provide critical support to stresses entities in the current situation.
  • Credit guarantee will mean that banks do not have to make any provision for the loans, that is, they do not have to set aside capital in case the account turns non-performing.
  • The special liquidity support to lower-rated NBFCs will mean banks do not have to take credit risk and NBFC papers are likely to be lapped up.
  • Mandatory sourcing — up to ₹200 crore — would insulate local companies from external competition.

Why these measures were necessary?

Banks have been reluctant to lend, which is evident from over ₹8 lakh crore being parked by these lenders with the RBI’s reverse repo window. Besides, a lot of borrowers were not fully drawing up to the sanctioned loan limits due to the lockdown. As a result, banks have no other option but to keep the funds with the RBI.

Is it sufficient?

The package of ₹20-lakh crore announced by PM includes already allocated money of ₹6-lakh crore and monetary policy directives to banks and non-banking financial companies. And the latest announcements by the Finance Minister involve no additional public spending, even though this is urgently required to revive the economy and prevent further contraction.

Besides, the package has nothing for migrants, who are the worst hit and no effort has been done to stimulate the demand in economy.

So, what the government should do immediately in fiscal terms for reviving the economy and supporting livelihoods?

  1. Provide free food and cash transfers to those rendered incomeless.
  2. Employment has to be provided to workers where they are, for which the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) must be expanded greatly and revamped with wage arrears paid immediately.
  3. In urban areas, it is absolutely essential to revive the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Simultaneously, the vast numbers of workers who have stayed on in towns have to be provided with employment and income after the proposed cash transfers run out.
  4. The post-pandemic period must see significant increases in public expenditure on education and health, especially primary and secondary health including for the urban and rural poor.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. New definition of MSMEs?
  2. What are NBFCs?
  3. What is credit guarantee?
  4. Share of MSMEs in India’s GDP.
  5. What is EPF?
  6. Direct vs Indirect taxes?
  7. Overview PM Garib Kalyan Yojana.

Mains Link:

Discuss the need for and significance of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan announced by PM Modi in the wake COVID 19 Pandemic induces lockdowns.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

West Bank and issues associated

What to study?

For Prelims: Geographical locations of Gaza, Golan Heights, Sinai and Dead Sea.

For Mains: Issues associated, what do international laws say about this? What is the way out?

Context: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, where the two discussed Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Their meeting took place during a day of violent clashes between Israeli troops and people in the occupied territory. One Palestinian teen was reportedly shot and killed.

Where is West Bank?

It is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, bordered by Jordan to the east and by the Green Line separating it and Israel on the south, west and north. The West Bank also contains a significant section of the western Dead Sea shore.

 What is the dispute settlements here? Who lives there?

  • The West Bank was captured by Jordan after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • Israel snatched it back during the Six Day War of 1967, and has occupied it ever since. During this war, the country defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.
  • It has built some 130 formal settlements in the West Bank, and a similar number of smaller, informal settlements have mushroomed over the last 20-25 years.
  • Over 4 lakh Israeli settlers — many of them religious Zionists who claim a Biblical birthright over this land — now live here, along with some 26 lakh Palestinians.
  • The territory is still a point of contention due to a large number of Palestinians who live there and hope to see the land become a part of their future state.
  • When Israel took control of the land in 1967 it allowed Jewish people to move in, but Palestinians consider the West Bank illegally occupied Palestinian land.

Are these settlements illegal?

The United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice have said that the West Bank settlements are violative of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

  • Under the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

Under the Rome Statute that set up the International Criminal Court in 1998, such transfers constitute war crimes, as does the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”.

International views:

USA: In November 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said America no longer considers Israeli settlements to be in violation of international law and claimed the Trump administration believes they are necessary to preserve Israeli security.

  • Trump also revealed his Middle East peace plan in the form of a two-state solution during a press conference at the end of January with Netanyahu and claimed the deal would be a boon to both nations.

sinai

India: India traditionally believes in the 2-state solution and supports the establishment of a sovereign independent and a viable state of Palestine. However, India’s support for Palestine has not deterred its growing relationship with Israel.

What about the Jerusalem?

Under the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, both Israel and the Palestinians agreed that the status of settlements would be decided by negotiations. But the negotiations process has been all but dead for several years now.

Israel walked into East Jerusalem in 1967, and subsequently annexed it. For Israel, Jerusalem is non-negotiable. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Most of the world’s nations look at it as occupied territory.

Fact for prelims:

In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

The Palestinians are seeking to establish an independent state in the occupied parts of the West Bank, along with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip — with East Jerusalem serving as its capital.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Six- day war- countries involved, reasons and the outcome.
  2. Where is Gaza Strip?
  3. What’s there in the Middle East peace plan?
  4. Where is Jerusalem?
  5. Who are Palestinians and what are their demands?
  6. Countries surrounding Israel.

Mains Link:

Does India support the establishment of a sovereign independent state of Palestine? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

China- Taiwan relations

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Taiwan- administration, relations with China, One Nations Two Systems policy, concerns and international support for Taiwan’s independence.

Context: US lawmakers have written to over 60 nations to garner their support towards the inclusion of Taiwan in the World Health Organisation (WHO).

These include Germany, Thailand, Canada, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

What’s the issue?

To this date, Taiwan is not a part of the WHO owing to objections from China which calls the nation a part of its own. However, that has not deterred Taiwan from seeking to join a ministerial meeting of WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA). The meeting is set to be held in the coming days of this month.

China- Taiwan relations- Background:

China has claimed Taiwan through its “one China” policy since the Chinese civil war forced the defeated Kuomintang, or Nationalist, to flee to the island in 1949 and has vowed to bring it under Beijing’s rule, by force if necessary.

  • China is Taiwan’s top trading partner, with trade totaling $226 billion in 2018. Taiwan runs a large trade surplus with China.
  • While Taiwan is self-governed and de facto independent, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
  • Under the “one country, two systems” formula, Taiwan would have the right to run its own affairs; a similar arrangement is used in Hong Kong.
  • Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Asian Development Bank under various names.

One-China policy:

The One China policy is the recognition in the US of the long-held position in Beijing that there is only one China, and Taiwan is part of that.

  • Any country wishing to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing must acknowledge there is only “One China” and sever all formal ties with Taiwan.
  • As a part of the policy, Washington maintains a robust, non-official relationship with Taiwan, including continued arms sales to the island.
  • The One China policy is also different from the “One China principle”, which is the principle that insists both Taiwan and mainland China are inalienable parts of a single “China”.

Indo- Taiwan relations:

Although they do not have formal diplomatic ties, Taiwan and India have been cooperating in various fields.

India has refused to endorse the “one-China” policy since 2010.

china

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Location of Taiwan and its historical background.
  2. Regions being administered by China under One China policy.
  3. Is Taiwan represented at WHO and the United Nations?
  4. Countries in South China Sea.
  5. Qing dynasty.

Mains Link:

Write a note on India- Taiwan bilateral relations.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Infrastructure- energy.

WEF’s global Energy Transition index

What to study?

For Prelims: Index- how are countries ranked, India’s performance and performance of other countries.

For Mains: Key findings, challenges and ways to address them.

Context: World Economic Forum has released its global Energy Transition index.

 What is ETI?

The Energy Transition Index (ETI) is a fact-based ranking intended to enable policy-makers and businesses to plot the course for a successful energy transition.

  • The benchmarking of energy systems is carried out annually across countries. Part of the World Economic Forum’s Fostering Effective Energy Transition initiative, it builds on its predecessor, the Energy Architecture Performance Index. The ETI does not only benchmark countries on their current energy system performance, but also provides a forward‑looking lens as it measures their readiness for the energy transition.

Performance of India:

  • India has moved up two places to rank 74th.
  • It has shown improvements on all key parameters of economic growth, energy security and environmental sustainability.
  • Gains have come from a government-mandated renewable energy expansion programme, now extended to 275 GW by 2027.
  • India has also made significant strides in energy efficiency through bulk procurement of LED bulbs, smart meters, and programs for labelling of appliances.
  • India is one of the few countries in the world to have made consistent year-on-year progress since 2015.
  • India’s improvements have come across all three dimensions of the energy triangle — economic development and growth, energy access and security, and environmental sustainability.

Performance of other countries:

  • Sweden has topped the Energy Transition Index (ETI) for the third consecutive year and is followed by Switzerland and Finland in the top three.
  • The US ranks outside the top 25 per cent for the first time, primarily due to the uncertain regulatory outlook for energy transition.
  • The results for 2020 show that 75 per cent of countries have improved their environmental sustainability. This progress is a result of multifaceted, incremental approaches, including pricing carbon, retiring coal plants ahead of schedule and redesigning electricity markets to integrate renewable energy sources.

COVID-19 has unleashed cascading effects in real time:

  • The erosion of almost a third of global energy demand
  • Unprecedented oil price volatilities and subsequent geopolitical implications
  • Delayed or stalled investments and projects
  • Uncertainties over the employment prospects of millions of energy‑sector workers

What does an effective energy transition look like?

Effective energy transition is timely, inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure. It provides solutions to global energy-related challenges, while creating value for business and society, without compromising the balance of the energy triangle.

Energy_transition_index

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. WEF- structure, objectives and reports.
  2. ETI- top performers and worst performers.
  3. India’s present vs previous rankings.
  4. India’s per capita energy consumption.
  5. Energy production in India- sources.
  6. Renewable vs nor renewable energy sources in India.

Sources: WEF.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020

What to study?

For Prelims: Key findings.

For Mains: Concerns expressed and ways to address them.

Context: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 has been released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The FRA 2020 has examined the status of, and trends in, more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990–2020.

Key findings:

  • Forest area has declined all across the world in the past three decades. The world lost 178 mha of forest since 1990, an area the size of Libya.
  • The rate of forest loss has also declined due to the growth of sustainable management. The rate of forest loss in 2015-2020 declined to an estimated 10 million hectares (mha), down from 12 million hectares (mha) in 2010-2015.
  • The area of naturally regenerating forests worldwide decreased since 1990, but the area of planted forests increased by 123 mha.

Highest loss and highest gains:

Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 mha, followed by South America, at 2.6 mha.

On the other hand, Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe.

Geographical extent:

  • The world’s total forest area was 4.06 billion hectares (bha), which was 31 per cent of the total land area. This area was equivalent to 0.52 ha per person.
  • The largest proportion of the world’s forests were tropical (45 per cent), followed by boreal, temperate and subtropical.
  • More than 54 per cent of the world’s forests were in only five countries — the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.
  • The highest per cent of plantation forests were in South America while the lowest were in Europe.

 InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Plantation cover- the rate of change and countries with highest cover.
  2. Per capita forest cover in world and in India.
  3. Trends In Rate of forest loss and total cover.
  4. FAO- composition, functions and reports.

Mains Link:

Discuss the key findings of Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020.

Sources: down to earth.

 

Topics Covered: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Tour of Duty” (ToD) scheme

What to study?

For Prelims: Features of the scheme, eligibility and benefits.

For Mains: Why such measures are proposed? How it helps save money?

Context: Indian Army is considering to allow common citizens to join the 1.3- million-strong force for a three-year tenure to serve the nation under the ‘Tour of Duty (ToD) or ‘Three Years Short Service’ scheme.

Initially, 100 officers and 1,000 men are being considered for recruitment as part of test bedding of the project.

What is it?

It will be a voluntary engagement.

The Army’s plan is to attract the best talent into the force and bring the civil society closer to the force by giving them an opportunity to experience military life.

It is for youths who “do not want to make defence services their permanent vocation, but still want to experience the thrill and adventure of military professionalism”.

  • The proposal is a shift from the concept of permanent service/job in the Armed Forces, towards ‘internship’/temporary experience for three years.
  • For this, it proposes that the individual’s earnings for the three-year period could be made tax-free, and he/she could be given preference in public sector jobs as well as post-graduate courses.
  • “Tour of Duty (ToD)” tenure is for both officers and jawans.
  • It will bring in savings from salaries and pensions, and “decrease the frustration” of officers who are released after 10-14 years of short service, when they are in their mid-30s.

Benefits for the government:

There are immense financial benefits to the organisation due to reduction in pay and gratuity payouts.

  • The cost of a three-year service per officer will be a fraction of the cost incurred on Short Service Commission (SSC) officers.
  • The cost incurred on an officer, who leaves after 10 or 14 years, is Rs 5 crore-Rs 6.8 crore, which includes the cost of pre-commission training, pay, allowances, gratuity, leave encashment among others.
  • The corresponding cost for a three-year service will be Rs 80 lakh-85 lakh.
  • SSC officers have the option to join the service permanently, which further increases the cost incurred, including pension bills.
  • For soldiers, who usually serve for 17 years, the Army has calculated a lifetime savings of Rs 11.5 crore per person, as compared to a three-year service.

Benefits for citizens and the country:

  • It will help to “channelise the youth energy into positive utilisation of their potential”.
  • Rigorous military training and habits inculcated will lead to healthy citizenry.
  • The entire nation will benefit from “trained, disciplined, confident, diligent and committed” young men or women who have done the three-year service.
  • An “initial survey” has indicated that the corporate sector will prefer to hire such youths rather than fresh graduates.

Need for:

The Army’s pay and pension bill has been increasingly steeply over the years, accounting for 60% of its budget allocation.

  • In the last five years, though the growth in the defence budget has been 68%, and for defence salaries 75%, defence pensions have increased by a staggering 146%.

According to a report of Standing Committee of Defence, 2019, the deficiency in officer cadre of Indian Army stood at approximate 14 per cent.

  • The Army had 42,253 officers and 11.94 lakh jawans according to the report.
  • The Indian Navy had 10,000 officers 57,310 and personnel.

Advocates of this scheme also cite “resurgence of nationalism and patriotism”, and the fact that “unemployment in our country is a reality”.

Other reforms necessary:

Short Service Commission should be made more attractive for the youth.

Retirement age of Army jawans and Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy personnel should be increased. A trained Army jawan retires after 15 years of service in the force, which results in a massive loss of trained manpower.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. SSC vs Permanent Commission in armed forces.
  2. How can civilians be recruited into armed forces?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of Tour of Duty” (ToD) scheme.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics covered: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs)

What to study?

For prelims and mains: IBGs- features, composition, need for and significance.

Context: Integrated Battle Groups will soon be operational.

What are IBGs?

IBGs are brigade-sized, agile, self-sufficient combat formations, which can swiftly launch strikes against adversary in case of hostilities.

Each IBG would be tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three Ts.

 Their structure:

  • They need to be light so they will be low on logistics and they will be able to mobilise within 12-48 hrs based on the location.
  • An IBG operating in a desert needs to be constituted differently from an IBG operating in the mountains.
  • The IBGs will also be defensive and offensive. While the offensive IBGs would quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes, defensive IBGs would hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected. The composition of the IBGs would also depend on this.

Significance:

This is one of the major reorganization plans of the Indian Army with the aim of enhancing command efficiency and the capacities for rapid response and coordinated operations.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


Boko Haram:

Who are they? Boko Haram is a violent Islamist insurgent group that has spread from northeast Nigeria to neighbouring West African nations of Niger, Chad and Cameroon in the Lake Chad Basin.

Emergence: In the 2000s, Boko Haram emerged in Nigeria as a small Sunni Islamic sect advocating a strict interpretation and implementation of Islamic law. The group, officially called Jama’a Ahl as-Sunna Li-da’wa wa-al Jihad, is more commonly known as Boko Haram, a nickname given by the country’s local Hausa-speaking population, because of the group’s call for rejection of Western education and culture that it viewed as un-Islamic—haram or forbidden—guided by Salafism, a conservative interpretation of Islam.

Archaeological Survey of India:

It is an Indian government agency attached to the Ministry of Culture that is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country. It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.

Important publications:

  1. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum.
  2. Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy.
  3. Epigraphia Indica.
  4. Ancient India.