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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 27 June 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

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

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. The pandemic imposes a steep learning curve.

2. U.N.-75 declaration delayed.

3. ASEAN states warn of  US. China Sea tensions.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Draft EIA notification.

2. Getting out of the ‘guns, germs and steel’ crisis.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. What are Placebos?

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Issues related to education.

The pandemic imposes a steep learning curve

Context:

Across the world, education has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Most instruction has moved online.
  • Higher education has gone digital where possible.

Efforts by Indian government:

Online higher education using MOOCs, or massive open online classrooms, has been encouraged by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for some time now via the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) and SWAYAM platforms. 

But in India’s case, educationists and policy makers advise caution on Online education. Why?

  • Because of contrast in rural versus urban infrastructure, the variable quality of staff, and the diverse types of subjects that are taught.
  • Courses that traditionally need a laboratory or practical component are an obvious example where online classes cannot offer an alternative.
  • The adoption or integration of technology in education also depends on the specific institution and its location: there is a huge digital divide in the country in terms of bandwidth and reliable connectivity, as well as very unequal access to funding.
  • There can been a serious impact on academic research in all disciplines. There is need for close personal interaction and discussion in research supervision.
  • Not all students have equal access to the Internet, and more than half in any class in any institution are simply not able to attend lectures in real time for want of the required combination of hardware and electrical connectivity in their homes.
  • Many online classes are poorly executed video versions of regular classroom lectures. Across the board, teachers recognise this as unsatisfactory.

How can it be improved?

  • This is a chance to re-imagine higher education in India. For long this has been elitist and exclusionary; education has been less about learning and more about acquiring degrees. The pandemic can change that if we let it. Some ways include:
  • Gandhiji’s “Nai Talim” put a high premium on self study and experiential learning, for instance.
  • Digital tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) can be adapted to deliver personalised instruction based on the learning needs for each student.
  • Pedagogic material must be made available in our other national languages; this will extend access, and can help overcome staff shortages that plague remote institutions.
  • The state will have to bear much of the responsibility, both to improve digital infrastructure and to ensure that every needy student has access to a laptop or smartphone.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About NPTEL.
  2. SWAYAM Portal.
  3. What Nai Taleem means?

Mains Link:

Across the world, education has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most instruction has moved online. Discuss issues associated with online learning.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

U.N.-75 declaration delayed

What’s the issue?

Commemorative declaration marking the 75th anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Charter has been delayed.

Why?

Member states could not reach an agreement on phraseology. They have objected to the use of a phrase “shared vision of a common future”.

Because, the phrase, “community with a shared future for mankind” is closely associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and especially Chinese President Xi Jinping as an articulation of the country’s vision for the world.

Who is opposing?

The Five Eyes — the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada — along with India, have objected.

The current impasse comes at a time when China’s relationships with a number of democracies, including India, Australia and the U.S., are strained.

Silence process:

With this objection, the ‘silence’ process (a procedure by which a resolution passes if no formal objections are raised within a stipulated time) has been broken.

However, China, on behalf of itself and Russia, Syria and Pakistan raised objections to the silence being broken.

What the countries demand?

The objecting countries wanted the resolution to read, “We will work together with partners to strengthen coordination and global governance for the common good of present and future generations and to realize our shared vision for a better future as envisaged in the preamble of the UN Charter.”

75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter:

The Charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945 and came into force on October 24, 1945.

It is the foundational treaty of the United Nations.

Objectives: Conceived above all as a means to save future generations from the scourge of war, the Charter calls for the organization to maintain international peace and security; promote social progress and better standards of life; strengthen international law; and promote human rights.

As a charter, it is a constituent treaty, and all members are bound by its articles. Article 103 of the Charter states that obligations to the United Nations prevail over all other treaty obligations.

What is Five Eyes?

It is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.

Origins: It began in 1946 when the United States and the United Kingdom agreed to an open exchange of intelligence on the communications of foreign nations. It was expanded when Canada joined the alliance in 1948, followed by Australia and New Zealand in 1956.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Highlights of the UN Charter.
  2. When it came into force?
  3. Various UN organs.
  4. Meaning of Silence process.
  5. Five eyes.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

ASEAN states warn of U.S. China Sea tensions

What’s the issue?

China has been pushing its presence in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other countries while claimants are preoccupied tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the United States to call on China to stop its “bullying behaviour” there.

  • In April, Beijing unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on islands in the troubled waterways to which Vietnam and the Philippines also have competing claims.
  • In early April, Vietnam said one of its fishing boats was sunk by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel.
  • In January, Chinese boat trespassed into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zoneoff the coast of the northern islands of Natuna.

Because of these incidents, Vietnam and the Philippines have warned of growing insecurity in Southeast Asia.

Besides, the oft mentioned Nine-Dash line that China uses as a basis for its claims in the waters is once again at odds with Indonesia’s claim that the line lacks an international legal basis.

Main Concern now:

One of the fundamental principles of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been to resolve regional disputes by peaceful means. But over the years, the position of ASEAN on the South China Sea disputes has weakened its image internationally and failing to resolve this issue would lead to questions being raised about its credibility as an effective regional organization.

About the dispute:

It is a dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and the Paracels and the Spratlys – two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.

Alongside the fully fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Who Claims What?

  1. China:

claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.

  1. Vietnam:

hotly disputes China’s historical account, saying China had never claimed sovereignty over the islands before the 1940s. Vietnam says it has actively ruled over both the Paracels and the Spratlys since the 17th Century – and has the documents to prove it.

  1. Philippines:

both the Philippines and China lay claim to the Scarborough Shoal (known as Huangyan Island in China) – a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from China.

  1. Malaysia and Brunei:

They lay claim to territory in the South China Sea that they say falls within their economic exclusion zones, as defined by UNCLOS – the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Brunei does not claim any of the disputed islands, but Malaysia claims a small number of islands in the Spratlys

malaysia_brunei

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Countries involved in the dispute.
  2. What is nine dash line?
  3. Disputed islands and their locations?
  4. Important straits, passes and seas in the region.
  5. What is UNCLOS?
  6. Locate Taiwan strait and Luzon Strait.

Mains Link:

Write a note on South China Sea dispute.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Draft EIA notification

Why in News?

Student unions from several universities and colleges from across India have petitioned Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to put the draft of the proposed Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2020 on hold.

Background:

Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.

The draft notification is issued under the powers vested in the central government under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to take all such measures for “protecting and improving the quality of the environment.

The key points of dispute with the proposed draft are that:

  1. It shortens the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days.
  2. It reduces from 30 to 20 days the time provided for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
  3. It also allows the declaration of some areas as “economically sensitive areas” without a public hearing or environmental clearance, and several “red” and “orange”-classified toxic industries could now operate as close as 0-5 km from a Protected Area in “callous disregard” for forests.
  4. The increased validity of the environment clearances for mining projects (50 years versus 30 years currently) and river valley projects (15 years versus 10 years currently) raises the risk of irreversible environmental, social and health consequences on account of the project remaining unnoticed for long.

What is EIA?

EIA is an important process for evaluating the likely environmental impact of a proposed project. It is a process whereby people’s views are taken into consideration for granting final approval to any developmental project or activity. It is basically, a decision-making tool to decide whether the project should be approved or not.

The EIA process involves:

Screening: this stage decides which projects need a full or partial assessment study.

Scoping: this stage decides which impacts are necessary to be assessed. This is done based on legal requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge and public engagement. This stage also finds out alternate solutions.

Assessment & evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives: this stage predicts and identifies the environmental impacts of the proposed project and also elaborates on the alternatives.

EIA Report: in this reporting stage, an environmental management plan (EMP) and also a non-technical summary of the project’s impact is prepared for the general public. This report is also called the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Decision making: the decision on whether the project is to be given approval or not and if it is to be given, under what conditions.

Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing: monitoring whether the predicted impacts and the mitigation efforts happen as per the EMP.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. EIA process.
  2. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986- Key provisions,
  3. About the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.
  4. Article 253 of the Constitution.

Mains Link:

Explain the significance of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process in the Indian context. Also highlight the concerns associated with it.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Internal security related issues.

Getting out of the ‘guns, germs and steel’ crisis

Context:

India is said to be going through the ‘guns, germs and steel’ crisis.

(The name is borrowed from the title of Jared Diamond’s classic book on the evolution of societies and nations, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies).

What it represents?

  1. Chinese “guns” on the borders.
  2. Coronavirus “germs” in our bodies.
  3. Steel” makers and other businesses on the verge of bankruptcy.

Why this is worrisome for India?

This is the gravest confluence of military, health and economic crises threatening our nation in more than a generation.

Each of these would qualify as an independent, large crisis by itself, warranting a specific resolution.

  1. The Chinese military threat calls for immediate and strategic action by our defence and foreign affairs establishments.
  2. The COVID-19 health epidemic is here to stay and needs constant monitoring by the Health Ministry and local administration.
  3. The economic collapse is an enormous challenge that needs to be overcome with prudent policy.

Need of the hour:

The common thread across these is that its resolution requires significant financial resources.

Standing up to a military threat by a superpower neighbour will pose an inevitable drain on the finances of the government (Kargil war has proven this).

To face the COVID-19 epidemic, the central government will need additional funds of the equivalent of at least one percentage point of GDP to continue the fight against COVID-19.

The lockdown has affected all the four major drivers of our economy- people’s spending on consumption, government spending, investment and external trade.

What needs to be done now?

The government needs to spend an additional eight percentage points of GDP while revenues will be lower by two percentage points of GDP, a combined gap of 10% of GDP.

Potential new sources of revenue such as a wealth tax or a large capital gains tax are ideas worth exploring for the medium term but will not be of much immediate help.

This will pose a new challenge- junk crisis:

To fulfil its obligation, the government needs is to borrow copiously.

This will lead to a fourth dimension to the “guns, germs and steel crisis”; a “junk” crisis. 

With rising debt levels, international ratings agencies will likely downgrade India’s investment rating to “junk”, which will then trigger panic among foreign investors.

Conclusion:

India thus faces a tough “Dasharatha” dilemma — save the country’s borders, citizens and economy or prevent a “junk” rating.

The government’s choices are either to be bold and embark on a rescue mission, or do nothing and hope the situation resolves itself.

On balance, it seems that the best course of action is to borrow unabashedly to pull India out of the “guns, germs and steel” crisis and deal with the consequences of a potential “junk” nation label.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


What are Placebos?

Placebos are substances that are made to resemble drugs but do not contain an active drug.

A placebo is made to look exactly like a real drug but is made of an inactive substance, such as a starch or sugar.


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