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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 2 February 2021

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. STARS project to develop education.

2. Military seizes power in Myanmar coup.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. What is Budget?

2. Govt. hopes to cut fiscal deficit to 4.5% by FY26.

3. What is Stardust 1.0, the first rocket to run on biofuel?

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. No Indian role in developing ECT in Colombo.

2. Central varsity to come up in Ladakh.

3. Prabuddha Bharata.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Military seizes power in Myanmar coup:


Context:

Myanmar’s military has seized power in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

  • The Army said it had carried out the detentions in response to “election fraud”.

Implications for India:

For India, the return to military rule by Myanmar’s Tatmadaw (Army) and the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and the political leadership of the National League of Democracy (NLD) are a repeat of events 30 years ago.

What lies ahead for India?

India’s reaction is likely to be different this time. India does care about democracy in Myanmar, but that’s a luxury it knows it will not be able to afford for the time being. Why? Because,

  1. India’s security relationship with the Myanmar military has become extremely close, and it would be difficult to “burn bridges” with them given their assistance in securing the North East frontiers from insurgent groups.
  2. Changed image of Ms. Suu Kyi herself: Her image as a democracy icon and Nobel peace laureate has been damaged by her time in office, where she failed to push back the military, and even defended the Army’s pogrom against Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2015.
  3. Benefits for China: A harsh reaction from India, on the lines of that from the U.S., which has threatened action against those responsible for the “coup” unless they revoke the military’s takeover, would only benefit China.
  4. Apart from strategic concerns, India has cultivated several infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar, which it sees as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries (For example: India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport network, as well as a plan for a Special Economic Zone at the Sittwe deep-water port).
  5. Besides, India still hopes to help resolve the issue of Rohingya refugees that fled to Bangladesh, while some still live in India, and will want to continue to engage the Myanmar government on that.

Myanmar’s military Constitution:

It was the military that drafted the 2008 Constitution, and put it to a questionable referendum in April that year.

  • The Constitution was the military’s “roadmap to democracy”, which it had been forced to adopt under increasing pressure from the west.
  • It was also due to its own realisation that opening up Myanmar to the outside world was now no longer an option but a dire economic necessity.
  • But the military made sure to safeguard in the Constitution its own role and supremacy in national affairs.
  • Under its provisions, the military reserves for itself 25 per cent of seats in both Houses of Parliament, to which it appoints serving military officials.
  • Also, a political party which is a proxy for the military contests elections.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About Myanmar.
  2. Its constitution.
  3. Comparison with Indian Constitution.

Mains Link:

Discuss India’s policy towards its neighbours.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Issues related to Education.

STARS project to develop education:


Context:

Ministry of Education, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), and World Bank have signed an agreement for the financial support worth Rs 5718 crore towards the implementation of the Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project.

About the Project:

STARS stands for Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States Program (STARS).

STARS project would be implemented as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education.

It is a project to improve the quality and governance of school education in six Indian states.

  • Six states are- Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan.
  • Some 250 million students (between the age of 6 and 17) in 1.5 million schools, and over 10 million teachers will benefit from the program.

Reform initiatives under the project include:

  1. Focusing more directly on the delivery of education services at the state, district and sub district levels by providing customized local-level solutions towards school improvement.
  2. Addressing demands from stakeholders, especially parents, for greater accountability and inclusion by producing better data to assess the quality of learning; giving special attention to students from vulnerable section.
  3. Equipping teachers to manage this transformation by recognizing that teachers are central to achieving better learning outcomes.
  4. Investing more in developing India’s human capital needs by strengthening foundational learning for children in classes 1 to 3 and preparing them with the cognitive, socio-behavioural and language skills to meet future labour market needs.

Unique components of the project:

Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC):

The project includes a Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) under the National Component which would enable it to be more responsive to any natural, man-made and health disasters.

  • It will help the government respond to situations leading to loss of learning such as school closures/infrastructure damage, inadequate facilities and use technology for facilitating remote learning etc.
  • The CERC component would facilitate the rapid re-categorization of financing and the utilization of streamlined financing request procedures.

 PARAKH:

A major component of the project is the establishment of PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) as a National Assessment Centre.

  • Included in the National Education Policy 2020, this autonomous institution under the Union Education Ministry will set norms for student assessment and evaluation for all school boards across the country, most of which currently follow norms set by State governments.
  • It will also guide standardised testing to monitor learning outcomes at the State and national levels, according to the NEP.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. States covered under the STARS project.
  2. About World Bank and its funding.
  3. Institutions of World Bank.
  4. World Bank Group.
  5. What is open data initiative?
  6. What is PARAKH?

Mains Link:

Write a note on World Bank’s STARS project.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Government Budgeting.

What is Budget?


Context:

Nirmala Sitharaman presents first-ever paperless Budget.

What is Budget?

According to Article 112 of the Indian Constitution, the Union Budget of a year is referred to as the Annual Financial Statement (AFS).

It is a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Government in a financial year. In addition to it, the Budget contains:

  1. Estimates of revenue and capital receipts,
  2. Ways and means to raise the revenue,
  3. Estimates of expenditure,
  4. Details of the actual receipts and expenditure of the closing financial year and the reasons for any deficit or surplus in that year, and
  5. The economic and financial policy of the coming year, i.e., taxation proposals, prospects of revenue, spending programme and introduction of new schemes/projects.

The Budget goes through six stages:

  1. Presentation of Budget.
  2. General discussion.
  3. Scrutiny by Departmental Committees.
  4. Voting on Demands for Grants.
  5. Passing of Appropriation Bill.
  6. Passing of Finance Bill.

List of Important Schemes in the latest Union Budget:

Health and well being:

  1. PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana: To be launched to develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems, strengthen existing health systems and support future health interventions with an outlay of about 64,180 crores over 6 years.
  2. Mission Poshan 2.0 to be launched to improve nutritional outcomes across 112 aspirational districts.
  3. Jal Jivan Urban Mission: To be implemented over five years with an outlay of Rs 2.87 lakh crore.
  4. Voluntary Vehicle Scrapping Policy to phase out old vehicles and reduce vehicular pollution: vehicles will undergo fitness tests after 20 years in private vehicles, 15 years in case of commercial vehicles.
  5. Pneumococcal vaccine rollout: The pneumococcal vaccine, which is limited to only 5 states at present, will be rolled out across the country.
  6. Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) 2.0 would be implemented over five years — from 2021 to 2026 — on an outlay of ₹1.41 lakh crore.

Infrastructure:

  1. Mega Investment Textile Parks- 7 textile parks will be added in the next three years.
  2. Proposal to set up Development Finance Institution at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore.
  3. A national monetising pipeline will be launched and a dashboard will be created to overlook the progress.
  4. The Indian Railways has prepared a National Rail Plan for India 2030. The plan is to create a future-ready railways system by 2030.
  5. New scheme to be launched to support augmentation of public bus service.
  6. MetroLite and MetroNeo to be introduced in Tier 2 cities and peripheral areas of Tier 1 cities.
  7. A framework to allow consumers of electricity alternatives to choose from more than one distribution company.
  8. National Hydrogen Mission for generating hydrogen from green power sources.
  9. The major ports will be moved from operating services on their own and they can enter into public-private partnership to get private players to operate and manage it for them.
  10. Ujjwala scheme, which has benefited 8 crore households so far, will be extended to cover 1 crore more beneficiaries.
  11. Gas pipeline network to be taken up in J&K union territory and City Gas Distribution (CGD) programme will be extended to 100 districts in next three years.

Financial:

  1. Single securities market code: Centre to consolidate the provisions of the Sebi Act, Depositories Act and two other laws, into a Unified Securities Market Code.
  2. Investor Charter: Investor Charter to be introduced as a right for all investors in all financial products to enable investor protection.

Agriculture:

  1. Operation Green Scheme to be enlarged to cover 22 perishable crops.
  2. 1000 more mandis to be integrated with E-NAM market place.
  3. Agricultural Infrastructure funds will be made available to APMCs for augmenting their infrastructure.
  4. Five major fishing harbours to be developed into fishing hubs for economic activity including Chennai, Kochi, Paradip, Petuaghat and Visakhapatnam.
  5. Seaweed farming to be promoted -Multipurpose seaweed park to be established in Tamil Nadu.
  6. An Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC) on select items such as petrol, diesel, apples and alcohol.

Science and technology:

National Research Foundation (NRF) — an umbrella body that is expected to fund research across a range of disciplines, from science and technology to humanities. The NRF would be an autonomous body and represented by all major research and education bodies.

Defence:

Major recommendations of the 15th FC that were incorporated into the Union budget include:

  1. Boost in health spending.
  2. Higher borrowing limits for states.
  3. A consolidation of Centrally-sponsored schemes or public programmes implemented by states but largely funded by the Union government.
  4. Creation of a non-lapsable defence and internal security fund either through allocation from the divisible pool of funds shared by the Centre and states or through a cess.

Taxation:

  1. To extend tax holiday for start-ups until March-end next year
  2. To extend the capital gains exemption for investment in start-ups by another year to encourage funding in the sector.
  3. To incentivise one-person companies (OPCs) by allowing them to grow without any restrictions on paid-up capital and turnover.

Sources: PIB.

 

Topics Covered: Government Budgeting.

Govt. hopes to cut fiscal deficit to 4.5% by FY26:


Context:

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has pegged the fiscal deficit for 2021-22 at 6.8% of the GDP and aims to bring it back below the 4.5% mark by 2025-26.

The original fiscal deficit target for 2020-21 was 3.5%. However, in reality, the deficit has shot up to a high of 9.5% of the GDP due to:

  1. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Low revenue flows due to the lockdown.
  3. Negative economic growth clubbed with high government spending to provide relief to vulnerable sections of society.

What next?

Finance minister has also proposed to introduce amendments to the FRBM Act to make necessary change in the fiscal consolidation roadmap.

What is the 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”.

Impact of high fiscal deficit:

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).

  • 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.
  • Lesser amount of this money, in turn, leads to higher rates of interest charged on such lending.
  • 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 for a developing economy?

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.
  • 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 the FRBM Act?

The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM Act), 2003, establishes financial discipline to reduce fiscal deficit.

What are the objectives of the FRBM Act?

  1. The FRBM Act aims to introduce transparency in India’s fiscal management systems.
  2. The Act’s long-term objective is for India to achieve fiscal stability and to give the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) flexibility to deal with inflation in India.
  3. The Act was enacted to introduce more equitable distribution of India’s debt over the years.

Key features of the FRBM Act:

The FRBM Act made it mandatory for the government to place the following along with the Union Budget documents in Parliament annually:

  1. Medium Term Fiscal Policy Statement.
  2. Macroeconomic Framework Statement.
  3. Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is fiscal deficit?
  2. What is revenue deficit?
  3. What is capital budget?
  4. What is effective revenue deficit?
  5. What is frbm act?

Sources: PIB.

 

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

What is Stardust 1.0, the first rocket to run on biofuel?


Context:

Stardust 1.0 was launched on Jan 31st from Loring Commerce Centre in Maine, US.

  • It has become the first commercial space launch powered by biofuel, which is non-toxic for the environment as opposed to traditionally used rocket fuels.
  • Stardust 1.0 is a launch vehicle suited for student and budget payloads.

What are Biofuels?

Any hydrocarbon fuel that is produced from an organic matter (living or once living material) in a short period of time (days, weeks, or even months) is considered a biofuel.

Biofuels may be solid, liquid or gaseous in nature.

  1. Solid: Wood, dried plant material, and manure.
  2. Liquid: Bioethanol and Biodiesel.
  3. Gaseous: Biogas.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is a biofuel?
  2. Categorisation of biofuels.
  3. Overview of National Policy on Biofuels.
  4. What is ethanol? How is it produced?
  5. About Stardust 1.0.

Mains Link:

Discuss the importance of biofuels for India? Critically examine whether the national policy on biofuels will help India unlock it’s biofuel potential?

Sources: Indian Express.

 


Facts for Prelims:


No Indian role in developing ECT in Colombo:

Sri Lanka has denied selling, leasing out or coming into any sort of an agreement with a foreign country over the Eastern Container Terminal.

  • This move is against the ECT trilateral agreement that Sri Lanka had signed with India and Japan.
  • It comes amid mounting pressure from Port union workers against any foreign role or investment in the ECT project, where nearly 70% of the transhipment business is linked to India.
  • The Sri Lankan government has said that it would instead offer the West Container Terminal to India for possible investments.

Central University to come up in Ladakh:

  • With Ladakh now being recognised as a separate Union Territory, the Centre proposes to set up a new Central university in Leh.
  • The government in this regard will introduce the Central University of Ladakh Bill.

Prabuddha Bharata:

  • 125th anniversary was celebrated of ‘Prabuddha Bharata’,
  • It is a monthly journal of the Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda.

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