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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 June 2020 (The call for self-reliance asks for a pragmatic development strategy to capitalise on India’s inherent strengths(Indian Express))



The call for self-reliance asks for a pragmatic development strategy to capitalise on India’s inherent strengths(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:National 
Prelims level: Atmanirbhar Bharat mission
Mains level: Role and objectives of the Atmanirbhar Bharat mission

Context:

  • One of the most disruptive health challenges in recent history, each country is crafting its strategy to cope with the pandemic. 
  • The subtle balance between protecting lives and restarting economic activities is hard to strike. 
  • India is navigating this complex odyssey with great agility, flexibility, sensitivity and tenacity. 
  • The challenge has engendered a spirit of solidarity and unity. It has shown yet again how resilient we can collectively be.

Unlock 1.0:

  • As India looks at opening up after four phases of lockdown, it is seeking to find new doors and windows of opportunity. 
  • It is aiming to discover possibilities for spurring inclusive, equitable growth, to discover new value chains that would create wealth, to harness the untapped human potential and optimally utilise the natural resources. 
  • It is embarking on a mission that would make the country self-reliant. 
  • The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, as it is called, is a mission to galvanise the forces of growth across the country in various sectors of the economy. 
  • It’s a launchpad for fostering entrepreneurship, nurturing innovation and creation of an ecosystem for rural-urban symbiotic development.
  • The decisions taken by the government on June 1 will have a far-reaching impact on the farm and non-farm sectors in rural areas as well as on the development and sustainability of medium, small and micro-enterprises. 
  • It tends to turn the current challenge into an opportunity. If the sound policy intent can be effectively translated into practice, it is bound to have a profound impact on our country’s economy, especially in rural areas.

Intensely interconnected and inter-dependent:

  • The pandemic has created a difficult situation. We had got used to an intensely interconnected and inter-dependent world.
  • As we had to perforce isolate ourselves to break the chain of viral transmission, the global supply chains which we had relied upon have been disrupted, prompting many countries like ours to think of ways to mitigate the negative impact of economic downturn.

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Shortage of health essential elements: 

  • Given the magnitude of the virus’s threat and the size of our population, the hard reality of acute shortage of basic requirements like the masks, ventilators and Personal Protection Equipment came to the fore. 
  • The emergency forced us to scale up the production of essentials needed to fight the virus. 
  • At the same time, medicines made in India like Hydroxychloroquine were in great demand from various nations. India gladly supplied this drug to several countries.

Response to an unprecedented emergency:

  • It was in this context of an effective response to an unprecedented emergency that disrupted most channels of internal and international trade, that Prime Minister gave a clarion call for the country to become self-reliant. 
  • It is not a call for protectionism or isolationism, but for adopting a pragmatic development strategy that would enable the country to recognise and capitalise on its inherent strengths. 
  • It is a trigger for reforms in the policy matrix and charting out the way forward as we reboot and reset our economic trajectory in an uncertain, post-COVID-19 world.
  • As the Prime Minister underscored, “self-reliance also prepares the country for a tough competition in the global supply chain”. 
  • By increasing the efficiency of all our sectors and also ensuring quality, the new thrust on self-reliance is expected to enhance India’s role in the global supply chain. 
  • It is aimed at giving a new boost, a quantum jump to the economic potential of the country by strengthening infrastructure, using modern technologies, enriching human resource, and creating robust supply chains.

Objectives of the self-reliance: 

  • The appeal for self-reliance aims at a serious reflection on whether we are making the best use of our natural, human and technological resources. 
  • It seeks to galvanise our unused and hidden potential.
  • It only underlines the need to be on our own with respect to basic and core necessities based on our ability to meet them with our known available resources and technologies.
  • Our country is blessed with a vast array of natural resources, a huge demographic advantage with over two-thirds of our population under the age of 35 years, a large farming community that indefatigably ensures food security for all of us, dynamic captains of industry who are creating world-class institutions and a set of young, aspirational and entrepreneurial path-breakers.
  • We need to make the connection between these strands to weave the fabric of a new India that not only meets its domestic demand for goods and services but builds global brands that the world will recognise as uniquely Indian.

Provides an opportunity:

  • The new Atmanirbhar Bharat mission provides an opportunity to gradually reduce imports in every sector. 
  • We can convert our demographic advantage into a demographic dividend by providing high-quality technical and vocational training to our youth.
  • We can further simplify procedures for setting up and running businesses.
  • We can focus strategically on the critical bottlenecks that are constricting rapid growth and find solutions to overcome them.
  • We can foster research and innovation, the mission we are embarking on will be able to achieve its transformative potential.

Way ahead:

  • Any mission has to have people at the centre. People must internalise the concept of valuing local products and artefacts and promoting them. 
  • Once the demand is generated and the market expands, the production tries to keep pace and eventually, with a branding effort, the products go global. 
  • Being vocal for “local” can be a stepping stone to a self-reliant India and an India that will add its own unique glow and charm to the vast array of products in the global marketplace.
  • We can certainly chase the dream of transforming “Local” India into a “Glocal” India by using our resources wisely and strategically. 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 June 2020 (Building a better India (Indian Express))



Building a better India (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: MGNREGA
Mains level: Indian economic policy paradigm and key challenges 

Context:

  • India seems, in retrospect, to have gone to lockdown early and come out early. 
  • India may yet find that it has adopted suppression, followed by the herd immunity approach unknowingly.

Challenges to doubling the GDP target: 

  • India was supposed to be set upon doubling its GDP from $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion in the five years 2019 onward. 
  • But, in the post-Covid scenario, it seems impossible. 
  • Output could be down 25-30% before bounce-back begins. 
  • As it was, the economy had been on the downswing of a growth cycle, and the last quarter of the most recent financial year has confirmed the continuing downswing despite the July 2019 Budget.

Indian economic policy paradigm:

  • Covid 19 has exposed fundamental structural and secular (i.e., long run) weaknesses of the Indian economic policy paradigm over the last 70 years. 
  • In India, apart from the 10 good years of 1998-2008, income growth has not been steady or adequate to absorb the available labour power. 

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Socialism and self-sufficiency:

  • Two obsessions have hurt India sorely: socialism and self-sufficiency. 
  • Socialism meant state ownership of ‘commanding heights’ of the economy, protection for domestic goods and domestic bureaucrats. 
  • The state capitalism, benefiting the minority, perhaps 15% of the population, employed in the public-sector enterprises or in the government administrative and political machinery. 
  • The crony capitalists, sustained by the nationalised banks. It is not socialism as welfare state for the poor, but bonanza for the privileged.
  • Self-reliance cost the country slow growth and persistent poverty. 
  • Self-sufficiency meant import substitution, discouragement of modern technology and promotion of small enterprise over large ones, thanks to labour legislation.

Misreading of India’s long run of economic history:

  • These ideologies come from a misreading of India’s long run of economic history. 
  • If India was one of the richest countries up until the 17th century, it was because it was a trading nation with an extensive global trade and finance network. 
  • Until the steam power revolution totally changed productivity of labour on machines compared to handicraft, India was at the forefront of technology as well. 
  • But, in mistaking modern capitalist industry with imperialism, the Indian elite subjected its masses to poverty.

Comparing India with East Asia:

  • Just compare India with East Asia, which neither interpreted self-sufficiency as rejection of trade nor capitalism as an alien Western ideology. 
  • The East Asian state was in the vanguard, but it was a smart and pragmatic state rather than an ideologically-rigid state.
  • Japan set the model by cooperation between its big business and the state. It relied on an export strategy pursued by the business houses backed by the government. South Korea copied the Japanese model. 
  • It also pursued smart land reform and literacy reform. Again, exports were the key. Singapore and Taiwan learnt from that. 
  • Even China followed the Japanese example once it gave up Leninist economics.

Way ahead:

  • There is, yet, a scope for learning from Covid 19, especially on where the weaknesses lie. 
  • Apart from MGNREGA which is currently dealing with nearly 30 crore households in rural areas (swelled by migrants returned home), there is no provision of unemployment benefit for the poor.
  • Strong interest groups such as farmers, dalits, OBCs, regardless of their actual economic status, and more due to caste status, enjoy sporadic benefits from the state.
  • What can be done immediately is to create a national version of MGNREGA for urban workers as well. 
  • Give every man and woman above 18 a guarantee of 100-days-work. That will provide a solid floor level of support. Pay for it by selling off publicly-owned assets.

Conclusion:

  • The misery of the migrant workers must never shame India again. 
  • Then, there has to be a systematic completion of a welfare state covering health, housing and education. Some of these areas were covered under Modi 1.0. Time has come to finish that task.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 June 2020 (Swarms of extremism (The Hindu))



Swarms of extremism (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech
Prelims level: Swarm intelligence
Mains level: Function of Swarm intelligence and its effectiveness in political movements 

Context:

  • Clouds of locusts have overrun western India. 
  • As with COVID-19, country borders and barriers put up by proud sovereign nations have been crossed without difficulty, as the locusts have travelled from Africa to South Asia.

Swarm intelligence

Are locusts intelligent? 

  • Individual locusts are not. However, their swarms are swift, focused, responsive to stimuli and dangerously effective in their depredations. 
  • Biologists call this phenomenon ‘swarm intelligence’, where the individuals that make up a colony of living creatures are singularly unintelligent and are driven by programmed instinct, but their collective actions make their entire colony intelligent as an entity by itself. 
  • Swarm intelligence is common amongst insects; bees, ants and locusts demonstrate it amply. Yet, it is not unknown amongst higher animals as well. 
  • Migrating birds and shoals of fish display high degrees of swarm intelligence too.

How does swarm intelligence work? 

  • An important point to note is that they are leaderless. 
  • A queen bee is not a royal in our human sense; she is just a vast progeny-producing machine.
  • It is fascinating to see how a shoal of fish, without a ‘king or queen’ fish, when attacked at one flank by a predator, almost instantly displays an avoidance reaction. 
  • How did the fish furthest away from the attacked flank know that the shoal was in danger in less than a microsecond and veer away from the predator? 
  • Scientists put it down to the fact that within a swarm, individuals are constantly communicating with each other through actions, signals or otherwise, in a binary manner. 
  • Through binary communication, the fact that the swarm is in danger reaches all individuals in an instant and thereby, the instant response. 

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No biological curiosity:

  • This phenomenon is no biological curiosity. It is the very essence of the logic behind understanding brain function, as also the design of artificial intelligence. 
  • If the human brain was considered a colony of independently alive neuron cells, then it can be imagined that all its nuanced thought emerges from simple, binary synapse mediated conversations between individual neurons.
  • The atomisation of complex thinking as emerging from binary signals also lies at the foundation of computer science.

What does the peculiar effectiveness of extremist political movements?

  • They combine swarm intelligence with the more conventional leadership models shown by higher-level animals. 
  • We see all around us, for example, the resurgence of powerful right-wing movements, all fuelled by leaders who provide the focus of attention, then upscaled by swarms of followers, engaged in binary conversations. 
  • A leader signals something, whether it is the need to distort history, create a false sense of assurance in a faltering economy, fuel hate against somebody, or signal success when strategies fail.
  • From then on, the swarms take over the creating of simple messages, fake news, sloganeering and hate. 
  • Individuals down the ladder, shorn of individual capabilities for critical thinking, share messages, amplify them and make hashtags trend.

Is there any political future for the critical, thinking mind then?

  • At first sight, liberals who are ruggedly individualistic are especially unsuited for being a part of any swarm. 
  • They reject binary communications, and see their proximate supporters as competitors rather than as part of a larger, coordinated order. 
  • Yet leaderless movements are not unknown in the liberal, freedom-loving world either. 
  • Think Hong Kong, the Arab Spring, and you have the elements of swarm intelligence backing the flowering and upscaling of pro-freedom movements.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 June 2020 (Social media needs an independent oversight body (The Hindu))



Social media needs an independent oversight body (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech
Prelims level: Independent oversight body
Mains level: Need of an independent oversight body to look into Social media related issues

Context:

  • The public spat involving Twitter, Facebook, and President Donald Trump has once again exposed Facebook’s double standards when it comes to regulating content on its platform. 
  • Twitter ‘fact-checked’ two of Trump’s tweets and labelled another on George Floyd as glorifying violence. 
  • Twitter also disabled a video by the President’s campaign team citing copyright infringement. Facebook, on the other hand, refused to take down a controversial post by Trump despite protests from its own employees. 

Initiatives taken so far:

  • Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook, defended his decision by saying that though he did not agree with the President’s views, the social network’s free speech principles warranted that the post could not be taken down. 
  • In sharp contrast, ahead of the general elections in India in 2019, Facebook took down 1,000 pages and accounts for allegedly engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour or spam. Of this, 687 were associated with entities close to the opposition Congress party. 
  • Facebook based its action on user behaviour, without even going into the content they posted. There were no concerns about free speech expressed by the social media platform while taking down the pages then. 

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Challenges to the Facebook oversight board:

  • Lack of consistency could set a dangerous precedent as pages related to political dissent or a social campaign could be taken down, or left untouched, depending on how Facebook perceives the situation or how vulnerable it is to pressure from governments. 
  • The social media platform recently set up an oversight board in a bid to showcase that it can self-regulate. 
  • However, a big drawback of this board is that, with up to 90 days allowed for a decision, it is simply not designed for an era of instantaneous transmission. 
  • A platform which has been accused of not doing enough to prevent users’ data from being leaked to third party entities cannot be trusted to do its own policing. 
  • Neither can it be left to governments to regulate as this could become a potent weapon to control public discourse. 
  • Given the influence social media platforms wield on public opinion, electoral outcomes and consumer behaviour, it is time to set up an independent regulatory oversight mechanism.

Way ahead:

  • In India, social media is both unregulated and vulnerable to government pressure. 
  • While social media has enhanced the free flow of information and supported freedom of speech, it has also led to the rise of hate-mongering.
  • India leads the world in the number of official “take down” orders issued to social media. 
  • Policymakers must put in a framework that brings in transparency in terms of the responsibilities and rights of all stakeholders — users, intermediaries, and the government.

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(Papers) UPSC Recruitment of Enforcement Officer/ Accounts Officer at EPFO Exam Paper General Ability Test (Held on 25 November 2017)



(Papers) UPSC Recruitment of Enforcement Officer/ Accounts Officer at EPFO Exam Paper

General Ability Test (Held on 25 November 2017)



  • Test Booklet
  • Subject : General Ability Test
  • Year : 2017

1. Consider the following Commissions / Committees:
1. First National Commission on Labour
2. Labour Investigation Committee
3. Royal Commission on Labour
4. National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector
Which one of the following is the correct chronology of the above, in ascending order, in terms
of their submission of reports?
(a) 2-4-1-3
(b) 2-1-3-4
(c) 3-2-1-4
(d) 3-4-2-1

2.Family planning became an integral part of labour welfare as per the International Labour
Organization Resolution passed in the year:
(a) 1917
(b) 1927
(c) 1937
(d) 1947

3.Which of the following is / are NOT correct approach with respect to welfare services
undertaken by organizations in the commercial and public organizations?
1. As welfare is provided by the State to all , hence duplication by other organizations is
undesirable
2. Welfare services may be provided for matters concerning employees which may not be
immediately connected with their jobs, though connected with their place of work
3. Welfare services will include special services for retired employees
4. Child care facilities may be provided on a collective basis
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 4
(c) 1 and 2
(d) 3 and 4

4.Which one among the following is the earliest labour law in India?
(a) Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act
(b) Trade Unions Act
(c) Employee’s Compensation Act
(d) Factories Act

5.Which one of the following theories of labour welfare is also called efficiency theory?
(a) Functional theory
(b) Public relations theory
(c) Religious theory
(d) Philanthropic theory

6.Which of the following statements with respect to housing is / are NOT correct?
1. It is a basic requirement for living life with dignity
2. According to the Revised Integrated Housing Scheme 2016 for workers, central assistance for a new house may be released in twelve equal installments
3. House Listing and Housing Census data of 2011 is provided by the Office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3
(d) 3 only

7. Which of the following benefits can be combined under the Employees’ State Insurance Act,1948?
(a) Sickness benefit and maternity benefit
(b) Sickness benefit and disablement benefit for temporary disablement
(c) Maternity benefit and disablement benefit for temporary disablement
(d) Maternity benefit and medical benefit

8.Which one of the following is the total period of maternity leave admissible to a woman employee having two or more than two surviving children under the provisions of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017?
(a) Twenty six weeks
(b) Fourteen weeks
(c) Twelve weeks
(d) Sixteen weeks

9.What is the share of women representatives in the Advisory Committee to be constituted under the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976?
(a) One half of the total members
(b) One third of the total members
(c) One fourth of the total members
(d) Three fourth of the total members

10.The International Labour Organization’s Convention No 102 on ‘Minimum Standards of Social Security’ was adopted in the year:
(a) 1948
(b) 1953
(c) 1952
(d) 1950

11. In case of permanent total disablement, which one of the following is the minimum compensation to be paid under the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923?
(a) Rs. 1,60,000
(b) Rs. 1,40,000
(c) Rs. 1,20,000
(d) Rs. 1,00,000


12.Which of the following statements with regard to Section 1 of the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, is / are NOT correct?
1. The Act shall apply to all factories including factories belonging to the Government
2. The Act shall not apply to a factory under the control of the Government whose employees are in receipt of benefits substantially inferior to the benefits under this Act
3. The Act extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir
4. The applicability of the Act in an establishment ceases if the number of persons employed therein falls below the limit specified under the Act Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 2, 3 and 4

13. As per the doctrine of ‘Added Peril’ as applied to Employee’s Compensation Act, a workman cannot hold his employer liable for the risk if at the time of accident the employee:
(a) undertakes to do something which the employee is not ordinarily required to do and involves extra danger.
(b) remains absent from place where he is supposed to work.
(c) is under the influence of alcohol on duty.
(d) is working on an overtime assignment.

14. Which of the following form part of the principles concerning the Fundamental Rights as per ILO’s Constitution?
1. Elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour
2. Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
3. Effective abolition of child labour
4. Prevention of major industrial accidents
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 2 and 3 only
(b) 1, 2 and 3
(c) 1, 3 and 4
(d) 1 and 2 only

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 29 May 2020 (A sobering comparison(Indian Express))



A sobering comparison(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Health 
Prelims level: Not much 
Mains level: Comparison of India’s Covid 19 situation with its neighbours

Context:

  • A comparison of India’s situation with its neighbours is much more meaningful than the comparisons where India is almost always compared to countries in North America or Europe.
  • It is well known that the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic has varied enormously across countries.
  • While there are no conclusive explanations for this variation yet, age-structure, genetic make-up, universal BCG vaccination, and climate might play important roles.
  • In all these respects, India is similar to its neighbours in South Asia.
  • Hence, a meaningful comparison of India with its largest neighbours — Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — is a much better way to understand the spread of the pandemic and assess the effectiveness of responses to contain it.

Different Times:

  • The pandemic came to south Asian countries at very different times.
  • Sri Lanka was the first to report a COVID-19 case, on January 27.
  • The first case was reported within three days in India, on January 30.
  • Pakistan reported its first case on February 26, and Bangladesh on March 8.
  • The progression of COVID-19 has varied across these four nation-states.
  • Hence, from today’s vantage point, the duration of the pandemic varies in these countries.
  • To assess the pandemic at the same stage of its life cycle, we will identify its beginning in a country on the date total number of cases crossed 50 for the first time.
  • Using this method, we see that, on May 24, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were 54, 75, 69 and 66 days into the pandemic.

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Reported Cases:

  • A first indicator to understand the spread of the pandemic is the total number of reported cases.
  • On the day 54 of the pandemic, the total number of reported cases were 39,980 in India, 32,078 in Bangladesh, 27,474 in Pakistan and 869 in Sri Lanka.
  • These countries are very different in terms of population size. If we look at the total number of reported cases per million population on the 54th day of the pandemic, we get quite a different picture.
  • Bangladesh has 195, Pakistan has 124, Sri Lanka has 41 and India has 29 cases per million population.

Fatality Rate:

  • One of the most direct impacts of the pandemic can be measured in terms of lives lost.
  • Dividing the total number of reported deaths by the total number of reported cases, we get what epidemiologists call the case fatality rate.
  • On the 54th day, the case fatality rate was highest in India, at 3.25 per cent, and lowest in Sri Lanka at 1.04 per cent.
  • Pakistan and Bangladesh fell in between, with 2.25 per cent and 1.41 per cent respectively.
  • In terms of total cases per million population, India has done better than most of its neighbouring countries — especially during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • When we look at the impact of the pandemic in terms of direct deaths, the picture is completely reversed.
  • India has lagged behind its neighbours in reducing the fatal impact of the pandemic on the lives of its citizens.

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Ramping Testing:

  • India, and more so Sri Lanka, have ramped up COVID-19 testing to adequate levels.
  • This is suggested by the fact that the test-positive rate, that is, the number of positive cases per 100 persons tested, has been low and stable over the past several weeks — at around 2 per cent for Sri Lanka and 4 per cent for India.
  • The situation in Bangladesh and Pakistan vis-a-vis COVID-19 testing is very different.
  • Not only do these countries have much higher test positive rates, at over 10 per cent, but it has been increasing over the past weeks.
  • Thus, Bangladesh and Pakistan have yet to reach adequate testing levels.

Relative Magnitudes of Fatality Rates:

  • This has an important implication regarding the relative magnitudes of case fatality rates across these countries.
  • Since Bangladesh and Pakistan are not testing at adequate levels, many positive cases are not being reported in these two countries.
  • If they had been reported, the case fatality rates would have been even lower than what we now see.
  • Hence, the “true” gap of Bangladesh and Pakistan vis-a-vis India, concerning the case fatality rate, is higher than currently reported. 

Conclusion:

  • The daily press briefings of the health ministry paint rosy pictures of the situation in India only because of the largely meaningless comparisons with European and North American countries.
  • Looking at our neighbours will have a much-needed sobering effect.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 29 May 2020 (What is the problem that monetisation is trying to solve? (Indian Express))



What is the problem that monetisation is trying to solve? (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: Open Market Operations
Mains level: Significant implications for India’s economic prospects in the short-term, and indeed in the long-term

Context:

  • In her interview to this newspaper last week, the finance minister said that she is keeping her options open on monetisation of the deficit by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • How the government and the RBI decide on this will have significant implications for India’s economic prospects in the short-term, and indeed in the long-term.

Highlights the Clarifications:

First:

  • Monetisation of the deficit does not mean the government is getting free money from the RBI.
  • If one works through the combined balance sheet of the government and the RBI, it will turn out that the government does not get a free lunch, but it does get a heavily subsidised lunch.
  • That subsidy is forced out of the banks. And, as in the case of all invisible subsidies, they don’t even know.

Second:

  • It is not as if the RBI is not monetising the deficit now; it is doing so, but indirectly by buying government bonds in the secondary market through what are called open market operations (OMO).
  • Note that both monetisation and OMOs involve printing of money by the RBI. But there are important differences between the two options that make shifting over to monetisation a non-trivial decision.

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Historical Context:

  • To understand the issue, some historical context will help. In the pre-reform era, the RBI used to directly monetise the government’s deficit almost automatically.
  • That practice ended in 1997 with a landmark agreement between the government and the RBI.
  • It was agreed that henceforth, the RBI would operate only in the secondary market through the OMO route.
  • The implied understanding also was that the RBI would use the OMO route not so much to support government borrowing but as a liquidity instrument to manage the balance between the policy objectives of supporting growth, checking inflation and preserving financial stability.

Historic Outcomes:

  • In hindsight, the outcomes of that agreement were historic. Since the government started borrowing in the open market, interest rates went up which incentivised saving and thereby spurred investment and growth.
  • Also, the interest rate that the government commanded in the open market acted as a critical market signal of fiscal sustainability.
  • Importantly, the agreement shifted control over money supply, and hence over inflation, from the government’s fiscal policy to the RBI’s monetary policy.
  • The India growth story that unfolded in the years before the global financial crisis in 2008 when the economy clocked growth rates in the range of 9 per cent was at least in part a consequence of the high savings rate and low inflation which in turn were a consequence of this agreement.

Escape Clause:

  • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act as amended in 2017 contains an escape clause which permits monetisation of the deficit under special circumstances.
  • What is the case for invoking this escape clause now even if it means potentially jeopardizing the hard won gains of the government-RBI agreement?
  • The case is made on the grounds that there just aren’t enough savings in the economy to finance government borrowing of such a large size.
  • Bond yields would spike so high that financial stability will be threatened.
  • The RBI must therefore step in and finance the government directly to prevent this from happening.

Bond Yields:

  • But there is no reason to believe that we are anywhere close to that situation. Through its OMOs, the RBI has injected such an extraordinary amount of systemic liquidity that bond yields are still relatively soft.
  • In fact the yield on the benchmark 10 year bond which was ruling at 8 per cent in September last year has since dropped to just around 6 per cent.
  • Even on the day the government announced its additional borrowing to the extent of 2.1 per cent of GDP, the yield settled at 6.17 per cent.
  • That should, if anything, be evidence that the market feels quite comfortable about financing the enhanced government borrowing.

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Monetisation and OMOs:

  • Both monetisation and OMOs involve expansion of money supply which can potentially stoke inflation. If so, why should we be so wary of monetisation?
  • Because although they are both potentially inflationary, the inflation risk they carry is different.
  • OMOs are a monetary policy tool with the RBI in the driver’s seat, deciding on how much liquidity to inject and when.
  • In contrast, monetisation is, and is seen, as a way of financing the fiscal deficit with the quantum and timing of money supply determined by the government’s borrowing rather than the RBI’s monetary policy.
  • If RBI is seen as losing control over monetary policy, it will raise concerns about inflation. That can be a more serious problem than it seems.

Inflation Prone:

  • India is inflation prone. Note that after the global financial crisis when inflation “died” everywhere, we were hit with a high and stubborn bout of inflation.
  • In hindsight, it is clear that the RBI, on my watch, failed to tighten policy in good time.
  • Since then we have embraced a monetary policy framework and the RBI has earned credibility for delivering on inflation within the target. Forsaking that credibility can be costly.
  • If, in spite of all this, the government decides to cross the Rubicon, markets will fear that the constraints on fiscal policy are being abandoned and that the government is planning to solve its fiscal problems by inflating away its debt.
  • If that occurs, yields on government bonds will shoot up, the opposite of what is sought to be achieved.

Conclusion:

  • There are cases when monetisation — despite its costs — is inevitable. If the government cannot finance its deficit at reasonable rates, then it really doesn’t have much choice.
  • But right now, it is able to borrow at around the same rate as inflation, implying a real rate of 0 per cent.
  • If in fact bond yields shoot up in real terms, there might be a case for monetisation, strictly as a one-time measure. We are not there yet.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 May 2020 (Experience with GST holds valuable lessons for One Nation One Ration Card(Indian Express))



Experience with GST holds valuable lessons for One Nation One Ration Card(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Governance 
Prelims level: One Nation One Ration Card
Mains level: Significance and Challenges towards implementation of the One Nation One Ration Card Scheme 

Context:

  • The economic crisis precipitated by COVID-19 has focussed the country’s attention on inter-state migrants.
  • Millions of Indians in this diverse, complex group have crossed state borders in search of better economic opportunities.
  • The crisis, however, has highlighted their precarioussocio-economic condition.

Inter-state portability:

  • Historically, governments have made several attempts to bridge the gap.
  • A key part of that roadmap is the idea of portablewelfare benefits, that is, a citizen should be able to access welfare benefits irrespective of where she is in the country.
  • In the case of food rations, the idea was first mooted under the UPA government by a Nandan Nilekani-led task force in 2011.
  • The current government had committed to a national rollout of One Nation, One Ration Card (ON-ORC) by June 2020, and had initiated pilots in 12 states.
  • While intra-state portability of benefits has seen good initial uptake, inter-state portability has lagged.
  • The finance minister has now announced the deadline of March 2021 to roll out ON-ORC.

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Challenges to the roll out ON-ORC:

  • To ensure a smooth rollout, we would benefit from reviewing the challenges thus far.
  • First, the fiscal implications: ON-ORC will affect how the financial burden is shared between states.
  • Second, the larger issues of federalism and inter-state coordination:Many states are not convinced about a “one size fits all” regime because they have customised the PDS through higher subsidies, higher entitlement limits, and supply of additional items.
  • Third, the technology aspect: ON-ORC requires a complex technology backbone that brings over 750 million beneficiaries, 5,33,000 ration shops and 54 million tonnes of food-grain annually on a single platform.
  • These barriers might seem daunting, but the country has previously dealt with an equally complex situation while rolling out the GST, which was widely toutedas “one nation, one tax”.

Drawing comparison between GST and ON-ORC:

  • Just like with ON-ORC, fiscal concerns had troubled GST from the start.
  • States like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat that are “net exporters” were concerned they would lose out on tax revenues to “net consumer” states like UP and Bihar.
  • Finally, the Centre had to step in and provide guaranteed compensation for lost tax revenues for the first five years.
  • The Centre could provide a similar assurance to “net inbound migration” states such as Maharashtra and Kerala that any additional costs on account of migrants will be covered by it for the five years. 

National Council for ON-ORC:

  • GST also saw similar challenges with broader issues of inter-state coordination.
  • In a noteworthy example of cooperative federalism, the central government created a GST council consisting of the finance ministers of the central and state governments to address these issues.
  • The government could consider a similar national council for ON-ORC.
  • To be effective, this council should meet regularly, have specific decision-making authority, and should operate in a problem-solving mode based on consensus building.

PDS Network (PDSN):

  • Finally, GST is supported by a sophisticated tech backbone, housed by the GST Network (GSTN), an entity jointly owned by the Centre and states.
  • A similar system would be needed for ON-ORC.
  • The Nilekani-led task force recommended setting up of a PDS network (PDSN) to track movement of rations, register beneficiaries, issue ration cards, handle grievancesand generate analytics.
  • Since food rations are a crucial lifeline for millions, such a platform should incorporate principles such as inclusion, privacy, security, transparency, and accountability.

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Learning from GST shortcomings:

  • At the same time, we should learn from the shortcomings and challenges of the GST rollout.
  • For example, delay in GST refunds led to cash-flow issues.
  • Similar delays in receiving food rations could be catastrophic.
  • Therefore, ON-ORC should create, publish and adhere to time-bound processes, like right to public services legislation that have been adopted by 15 states, and rapid grievance redress mechanisms.
  • MSMEs also complained about the increase in compliance burden especially for those who had to digitise overnight. Similar challenges could arise in ON-ORC.
  • PDS dealers will need to be brought on board, and not assumed to be compliant.
  • Citizens will need to be shieldedfrom the inevitableteething issues by keeping the system lenientat first, providing different ways of authenticating oneself, and publicising a helpline widely.

Conclusion:

  • If done well, ON-ORC could lay the foundation of a truly national and portable benefits system that includes other welfare programmes like LPG subsidy and social pensions.
  • It is an opportunity to provide a reliable social protection backbone to migrants, who are the backbone of our economy.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 May 2020 (The missing data (Indian Express))



The missing data (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: Household Consumer Expenditure Survey
Mains level: Highlights of the Household Consumer Expenditure Survey data

Context:

  • For a country already short of recent large sample survey-based data.
  • Nobody knows whether and how much poverty has fallen in the last decade or if consumption of vegetables and protein-rich foods is growing at the same rate as before.

Household Consumer Expenditure (HCE) Survey:

  • The National Statistical Office (NSO) was to undertake its household consumer expenditure (HCE) survey for 2020-21 from July, which is now practically ruled out.
  • The houselisting phase of the Census, crucial for carving out and assigning “blocks” to field enumerators tasked with collecting household/individual-level information, was scheduled during April-September.
  • Its postponing could have a bearing on the main census slated for February-March 2020.
  • Since the houselisting and enumeration blocks are also used for the rural development ministry’s Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), it points to serious data challenges ahead.

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Lacking Justification:

  • The novel coronavirus has, no doubt, created a war-like situation.
  • The census and other surveys being put off by even a year shouldn’t, to that extent, be held against the government.
  • This argument, however, lacks justification when there has been no officially-released HCE survey, normally conducted every five years, after 2011-12.
  • Nor is there a single field survey-based government study capturing the impact of demonetisation, goods and services tax or even programmes such as Mudra and Jan Dhan Yojana on household incomes, consumption and poverty.
  • Contrast this to the 2011-12 period, when there was a surfeitof information from the census, SECC and the NSO’s HCE and employment-and-unemployment surveys.
  • The NSO carried out an HCE survey for 2017-18, but its report was withheld, apparently for showing a decline in real rural consumption on the back of rising farm distress.
  • Any survey now or even in 2021-22 may throw up similar, if not worse, results. Will that, then, act as a deterrentto not release them as well?

Doing large sample surveys:

  • The time has come for the government to move to a continuous mode of doing large sample surveys.
  • Technology and rotational panel sampling design can easily enable this.
  • If a private data analytics company like the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy can, through its Consumer Pyramids Household Surveys, cover over 1.74 lakh households annually, there’s no reason why the NSO cannot.
  • It has, in fact, made a beginning through its periodic labour force surveys from 2017-18.

Conclusion:

  • Informed policymaking requires continuous data generation, for which one shouldn’t wait for a “normal” year that also suits the government.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 May 2020 (Unlocking justice(Indian Express))



Unlocking justice(Indian Express)



  • Mains Paper 2:Polity 
  • Prelims level: Sedition Laws
  • Mains level: Challenges to the use of Sedition Law

Context:

  • Individuals against whom cases of sedition have been filed in recent months, for protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens in particular, may be facing a double injustice, in the justice process.

Denying Justice:

  • As a report in this paper has brought to light, amid a public health emergency in which courts are hearing only “urgent” cases through video-conferencing, bail pleas filed in these cases are not being defined as such.
  • That these people, like 19-year-old Amulya Leona, arrested in February by Bengaluru police under Section 124 of the IPC for raising “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans at an anti-CAA rally, are languishing in custody, their bail pleas unheard, is the second injustice.
  • The first, as another report in this paper underlined in February, predatesthe pandemic:

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Misuse of Sedition Laws:

  • A scrutinyof 25-odd arrests made on charges of sedition in UP, Karnataka and Assam since the anti-CAA protests began, threw up a soberingpattern of police custody granted by courts, no questions asked, no reasons given, or after the most perfunctoryhearings.
  • While the Supreme Court has upheld the colonial-era sedition law, it has also read the provision restrictively, saying only seditious “speech tended to incite public disorder” was punishable.
  • The apex court has emphasised that clear and immediate incitement to violence is necessary for making the offence of sedition.

Courts not acting:

  • The apparent languorof the courts, the evidentlack of rigour or urgency, in cases where it would appear that the government is criminalising acts of protest by slapping serious charges on them, is troubling.
  • It is disquietingif the pandemic becomes a cover to delay or deny the weak and the vulnerable their day in court, their fundamental right to bail.
  • Ever since people’s protests began across the country against the CAA and the proposed NRC, the BJP-led government at the Centre has, deservedly, invited accusations of intolerance of views different from its own.
  • The government did not just turn a deaf ear to the protesters, it also attempted to subdue them, including by wielding the sedition law. This has cast a greater responsibility on the court.

Conclusion:

  • The courts are the time-tested recoursefor upholding and safeguarding constitutional protections for the citizens’ freedom of expression, including and especially the liberty to dissent.
  • They must not show, nor be seen to show, a lack of alacrityin performing their vital role.

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(Download) Old NCERT PDF : Principles of Geography Class-XI (M. H. Quereshi)

(Download) Old NCERT PDF : Principles of Geography Class-XI (M.H. Quereshi)

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Chapter 1.

  • Renewable 

Chapter 2.

  • Resources: Forest and Fish 

Chapter 3.

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Chapter 4.

  • Non-renewable Resources: Minerals 

Chapter 5.

  • Energy Resources 

Chapter 6.

  • Conservation of Natural Resources 

Chapter 7.

  • Utilisation of Natural 

Chapter 8.

  • Resources Major Crops of the World 

Chapter 9.

  • Manufacturing Industries 

Chapter 10.

  • Location of Industries and Major Industries of the World 

Chapter 11.

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Chapter 12.

  • International Trade 

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  • Population 

Chapter 14.

  • Settlements

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 May 2020 (What’s in a NAM? (Indian Express))



What’s in a NAM? (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2: International
Prelims level: Non-aligned movement
Mains level: Reasons behind to renewed the engagement

Context:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s video address to a summit of the non-aligned nations last week has generated criticism as well as commendation. Both sides, however, miss the recent evolution of the Indian thinking on the NAM.

Renewed interest:

  • External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has spoken frequently about India’s stakes in the so-called “Global South”.
  • He was invoking a term that refers to the entire developing world and not just members of the NAM.
  • The minister has talked about consolidating long-standing political equities that Delhi had created in the NAM and the Global South over the last many decades.
  • The new interest is not a throwback to seeing the NAM as an anti-Western ideological crusade.
  • Nor is it a pretence of valuing the movement but treating it as a ritual to be performed every three years.

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Attention:

  • But why has a routine speech by the PM on promoting global cooperation in combating the coronavirus gotten so much attention?
  • One reason is its billing as Modi’s first address ever to the NAM.
  • After all, he had skipped the last two NAM summits, at Venezuela in 2016 and Azerbaijan in 2019.
  • Critics of the NDA’s foreign policy convinced themselves that Modi had no real attachment for the non-aligned legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • For the traditionalists, Modi’s engagement with the NAM was a welcome return to roots.
  • For those who see the NAM as a political dinosaur, Delhi’s renewed enthusiasm for it seems like a regression. But a closer look at the Modi government’s foreign policy actions reveals a three-fold rationale for intensifying engagement with the NAM.

New cold war:

  • Those who say the NAM is a relic of the Cold War must also acknowledge that a new Cold War is beginning to unfold, this time between the US and China.
  • As the conflict between the world’s two most important powers envelops all dimensions of international society, India has every reason to try and preserve some political space in between the two .
  • In the last few years, Delhi paid lip-service to the NAM but devoted a lot of diplomatic energy to forums like BRICS.
  • Given the Russian and Chinese leadership of BRICS, Delhi inevitably began to tamely echo the international positions of Moscow and Beijing rather than represent voices of the Global South.

Conclusion:

  • Finally, as a nation seeking to become an independent pole in global affairs, India could do more with forums like the NAM in mobilising support on issues of interest to Delhi.
  • An independent Indian line backed by strong support within the NAM can make a big difference to the outcomes of the impending contentions at the World Health Assembly later this month on reviewing the WHO’s performance during the COVID crisis.

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Prelims Questions:

Q1. With reference to the NLC India Limited, consider the following statements:
1. It is a ‘Maharatna’ Public Enterprise under the Ministry of Coal.
2. It was incorporated in 1956 and is headquartered in Neyveli, Tamil Nadu.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer...................

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Mains Questions:
Q1. What is NAM? What are the reasons behind to renewed the engagement with other countries by India?

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 May 2020 (Coming to terms (The Hindu))



Coming to terms (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Sentinel surveillance
Mains level: Responsibilities for Centre and States to enforce virus containment measures

Context:

  • As early as March 28, the Health Ministry acknowledged that there was “limited community transmission” of the novel coronavirus in India.
  • On April 9, the ICMR and Health Ministry researchers — some of them are national task force members for COVID-19 — in a journal paper, provided evidence suggesting the prevalence of community transmission in 36 districts across 15 States.

Sentinel surveillance:

  • The sentinel surveillance for community transmission undertaken by the task force among patients hospitalised for severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) found 40 of the 102 who tested positive for the virus had no travel history or contact with a known positive case, while data on exposure was not available for another 59 SARI patients.
  • Yet, the ICMR consistently maintained that the virus had not spread to the community.
  • On May 5, even when the total number of nation-wide cases was close to 47,000, the Health Minister said that India’s virus spread had not gone to stage three.

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Compulsion to expand testing:

  • The reluctance is surprising given that the total cases reported so far has already crossed 63,500, and the nature of spread is through droplet transmission and contact with contaminated surfaces.
  • In contrast, is the U.S. On February 26, when the total number of cases was just 60, it confirmed community spread following the detection in California of the first case with no travel history or contact with a known positive case.
  • One reason why India refused to confirm community spread early on could be the compulsion to expand testing when the country did not have the capacity to test huge numbers each day. But there is no reason now to continue being in denial, as that erodes public trust in the government.

Reliable rapid antibody test:

  • Against this background, the latest decision to initiate a study in 75 hotspot districts to confirm community spread and ascertain the proportion of community already exposed to the virus is encouraging.
  • The study had apparently got delayed by about a month due to the non-availability of reliable rapid antibody tests.
  • Due to the unreliability of rapid antibody test, the government will instead use the ELISA test to check for infection.
  • Since the ELISA test detects antibodies to the virus, the survey will be able to pick previously infected people including those who were asymptomatic for the entire duration of the infection.
  • Since it takes one to three weeks for the antibodies to develop, the ELISA test will miss people who have been recently infected.
  • The survey, scheduled to begin later this month in collaboration with the States concerned, will randomly test about 30,000 people in the general population.

Conclusion:

  • Meanwhile, all States should continue with strict containment and mitigation measures, acting on the assumption that the virus has indeed spread in the community.

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Prelims Questions:

Q1. With reference to the Permanent Representative to the United Nations, consider the following statements:
1. India has appointed diplomat T S Tirumurti, currently serving as Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, as its Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
2. India was among the select members of the United Nations that signed the United Nations Declaration at Washington on January 1, 1942.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer..................

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Mains Questions:
Q1. Describe the responsibilities for Centre and States to enforce virus containment measures as well as to assuming the community spread initiatives.

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 May 2020 (Tragedy on the tracks (The Hindu))



Tragedy on the tracks (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Migrant labourers
Mains level: Process to end migrant labour crisis

Context:

  • The tragedy of 16 strewn bodies on a railway track in Maharashtra on Friday morning has been in the making for weeks now.
  • The Centre and several States have been engaged in flip-flops on facilitating the return of migrant workers to their homes.

Centre’s inability:

  • In the present instance, the workers at a company in Jalna in Maharashtra were walking on the track to their families in Madhya Pradesh some 800 km away after the national lockdown since March derailed their livelihoods.
  • The Centre’s inability to clearly communicate to the public and States the purpose and protocol of the lockdown every step of the way has put people through completely avoidable hardship. This governance failure was aggravated by several States, either due to lack of capacity or incompetence.
  • The sight of an endless stream of migrant labourers, some of them carrying toddlers and the infirm, walking towards India’s poorer regions from its economic centres, will remain an indelible memory of this inept and insensitive approach that had not taken their particular circumstances into account.

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Unfolding Pestilence:

  • Though it did not spare any effort to make spectacles out of an unfolding pestilence, each government announcement about the lockdown threw even the educated public into a tailspin, and required numerous clarifications and amendments.
  • To argue that this is a once-in-a-century event that caught even developed countries napping could at best be a tenuous defence. Even after it woke from the slumber and announced special trains to ferry the stranded and starving workforce to their homes, confusion reigned.
  • Onerous paper work and huge costs were heaped on these hapless citizens who manage to barely get by even in the best of times.
  • States acted arbitrarily; courts intervened thoughtlessly. Hunger, humiliation and fear of the disease made thousands of these migrants so desperate that they ventured to walk thousands of kilometres to get home.

Conclusion:

  • All of this could have been managed better had the Centre worked with States to map out a strategy to support those who wanted to stay where they were, and organised the return of those who chose to do so in an orderly manner.
  • A huge cost has already been paid in lives and suffering, but even now there can be measures to mitigate the situation.
  • It must have a more open and honest communication with State governments, and citizens. Tough measures may be essential but caring ones are just as vital.
  • This unfolding tragedy must be stopped in its tracks.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 May 2020 (Slow, but steady: On COVID-19 spread in India (The Hindu))



Slow, but steady: On COVID-19 spread in India (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: Health 
Prelims level: COVID-19
Mains level: Increasing the testing process of COVID 19

Context:

  • With 52,469 confirmed cases and 1,771 fatalities as on May 6, 2020, India entered the list of the top 15 countries with the highest number of people infected by the novel coronavirus. 
  • The infection count in India accounted for only 1.41% of the overall COVID-19 cases the world over, but this proportion has increased from 0.13% (536 cases) on March 24, the day when lockdown measures were announced, to 0.58% (11,487 cases) when the lockdown was extended to what it is currently. 

Doubling time for cases:

  • The number of infections continues to surge in the U.S., where as on May 6 there were more than 1.2 million cases, nearly a third (32.7%) of the world’s total.
  • While severely affected countries such as Italy, Spain, the U.K., France, Germany, Turkey and Iran finally seem to be experiencing a relative slowdown in the growth of new cases, emerging economies such as Brazil and Russia have shown no flattening of the curve as cases continue to exponentially increase in these countries. 
  • This is indicated by the doubling time for cases in the last week: seven and nine days, respectively, for these two countries. Brazil has also registered 7,921 deaths due to the virus, much higher than in India (1,771) and Russia (1,451). 

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Early contact tracing and testing: 

  • The fact that despite two extensions to one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world, India has not managed to flatten the curve suggests that the lockdown might have been necessary but it is not sufficient. 
  • The common theme among countries that have substantially arrested the spread of the virus has been early contact tracing and testing during the outbreak. 
  • Some countries such as South Korea have managed to flatten the curve simply by community testing and surveillance. 
  • It was always going to be difficult to test at such high rates in India, but even within the limited testing protocols, a closely monitored testing and surveillance strategy has paid dividends for States such as Kerala. 

Testing rates across the states: 

  • Other States that have registered a sudden increase in COVID-19 cases, such as Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana, must continue to ramp up testing and isolation of positive cases for the lockdown strategy to work. 
  • Fortunately, these States have had only a few fatalities unlike Maharashtra, Gujarat (which have tested more samples per day than the national average) and West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh (which continue to test at a rate lower than the national average). 

Conclusion: 

  • The country cannot afford to lock down its activities indefinitely. Ramping up testing and public health infrastructure, besides protecting the vulnerable, remains the best way for India.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 May 2020 (A war-like state and a bond to the rescue (The Hindu))



A war-like state and a bond to the rescue (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3: Economy 
Prelims level: Consol bond
Mains level: Government budgeting system and raising funds 

Context:

  • As India’s ominous COVID-19 curve stretches further, urgent attention needs to be paid to an economy that is teetering on the edge. 
  • Several economists, former Finance Ministers and central bank Governors have made the clarion call for a large stimulus to pull the economy back from the brink. 
  • There are a few who seem to believe that there are ways and means to provide this stimulus without breaking the bank as it were. 
  • As we spend more time in a national lockdown or quasi-lockdown situation, we believe that austerity measures and reallocations notwithstanding.
  • We will definitely need to go beyond current revenue receipts to fund the complete stimulus.

A gathering financial storm:

  • In the Budget before the pandemic, India projected a deficit of ₹7.96-lakh crore. 
  • However, even then there were concerns around off balance sheet borrowings of 1% of GDP and an overly excessive target of ₹2.1 lakh crore through disinvestments. 

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Need for stimulus package and measures taken by the central bank:

  • In addition to the expenditure that was planned, the government has to spend anywhere between ₹5-lakh crore and ₹6-lakh crore as stimulus. 
  • The insipid stimulus provided by the government so far and recent announcements by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) only serve to highlight how out of touch with reality they are. 
  • All the RBI’s schemes are contingent on the availability of risk capital, the market for which has completely collapsed. 
  • The two have tried several times over the last year to nudge banks into lending to below investment grade micro, small and medium enterprises, but have come up short each time. 
  • Furthermore, while the 60% increase in ways and means limits for States is a welcome move, many States have already asked for double the limits due to the shortages in indirect taxation collections from Goods and Services Tax, fuel and liquor. 
  • The government and the central bank need to understand that half measures will do more harm than good. 
  • It will only lull us into a false sense of security, much like a lockdown without adequate testing.

Echo from the past:

  • Politicians and epidemiologists across the world have used the word “war” to describe the situation the world is currently in. 
  • As we wage a united war against this virus, it would be interesting for us to look at war-time methods of raising financing. 
  • One such method that has been used as early as the First World War is the Consol Bond. 
  • In 2014, the British government, a century after the start of the First World War, paid out 10% of the total outstanding Consol bond debt. 

What is a consol bond? 

  • A perpetual bond, also known as a "consol bond" or "prep," is a fixed income security with no maturity date. 
  • This type of bond is often considered a type of equity, rather than debt. One major drawback to these types of bonds is that they are not redeemable. 
  • However, the major benefit of them is that they pay a steady stream of interest payments forever.The bonds, which paid out an interest of 5%, were issued in 1917 as the government sought to raise more money to finance the ongoing cost of the First World War. 

Why it is a better option?

  • There is no denying the fact that the traditional option of monetising the deficit by having the central bank buy government bonds is one worth pursuing. 
  • However, given an as yet hesitant (to raise debt) Prime Minister’s penchant for making citizens active participants to his missions, he might view a Consol Bond as a more compelling alternative. 
  • Furthermore, with the fall of real estate and given the lack of safe havens outside of gold, the bond would offer a dual benefit as a risk free investment for retail investors. 
  • When instrumented, it would be issued by the central government on a perpetual basis with a right to call it back when it seems fit. 
  • An attractive coupon rate for the bond or tax rebates could also be an incentive for investors. 

Conclusion: 

  • The government can consider a phased redemption of these bonds after the economy is put back on a path of high growth — a process that might take that much longer for every day we extend this lockdown.

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