Weekly Current Affairs Mains (23rd to 29th September, 2018)

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Weekly Current Affairs Mains (23rd to 29th September, 2018)

 

Topic:  Country Partnership Framework

Topic in syllabus: GS II- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

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Why in news:

 The World Bank Group (WBG) Board of Executive Directors has endorsed a new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for India.

Significance:

  • The CPF aims to support India’s transition to a higher middle-income country by addressing some of its key development priorities — resource efficient and inclusive growth, job creation and building its human capital.
  • The India CPF represents the largest country programme of the WBG, reflecting the strong collaboration between India and the Group’s institutions — The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The WBG expects to deliver $25-30 billion during this CPF period, ending in FY22.

Potential:

With a fast growing economy, global stature, and its unique experience of lifting the highest number of poor out of poverty in the past decades, India is well-positioned to become a high middle-income country by 2030.

Need of the hour:

The future of India lies in the States of India. The country’s transition to high middle-income status will be determined in large part by the effectiveness of India’s federal compact. In this context, an important focus of the CPF will be to deepen engagement with India’s States and invest in the institutions and capabilities of the states and local governments to address their development priorities.

What is Country Partnership Framework (CPF)?

The World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework (CPF) aims to make our country-driven model more systematic, evidence-based, selective, and focused on the Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity in a sustainable manner. The CPF replaces the Country Assistance Strategy (CAS). Used in conjunction with a Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD), the CPF guides the World Bank Group’s (WBG) support to a member country.

A Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) informs each new CPF. The aim of the SCD is to identify the most important challenges and opportunities a country faces in advancing towards the twin goals. This is derived from a thorough analysis, and informed by consultations with a range of stakeholders.

Way ahead:

The WBG will focus on three broad areas under the new CPF: 

promoting a resource efficient growth path, particularly in the use of land and water, to remain sustainable; enhancing competitiveness and enabling job creation; and investing in human capital — in health, education, skills — to improve quality and efficiency of service delivery.

Within these, some areas of deeper WBG’s engagement will include addressing the challenge of air pollution, facilitating jobs for women, increasing the resilience of the financial sector and investing in early years of children’s development. Across the sectors, the WBG will invest in harnessing the impact of new technology.

 

Sample question:

Q) What is Country Partnership Framework (CPF)? How will it help India to grow towards high middle income economy?

 


 

Topic: Publishing poll candidate’s propaganda is paid news

Topic in syllabus: GS II- Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

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Why in news: 

Election Commission of India recently told the Supreme Court that repeated publication of propaganda lauding the achievements of a candidate in an election is nothing but “paid news”.

  • The EC has asked the court to declare whether it amounts to “paid news” if widely circulated daily newspapers cover statements issued by, and in the name of, a candidate.

Concerns:

  • Such news are not only laudatory of his or her record and achievements but also are a direct appeal to voters by the candidate. Therefore, politicians cannot say that it is part of their fundamental right to free speech to spew out “motivated propaganda”.
  • If such motivated propaganda is allowed in the name of free speech during the election period, candidates with a strong network of connections will exploit their sphere of influence in society. This will have the unequal advantage of encashing such silent services.

Background:

The commission has moved the court in appeal against a decision of the Delhi High Court to set aside the disqualification of a MP in Madhya Pradesh.

ECI’s National Level Committee on Paid News found that five newspapers, with a wide circulation, had published 42 news items that were biased and one-sided and aimed at furthering the prospects of the leader. Some of the reports were advertisements in favour of him. The committee concluded that the items fitted the definition of “paid news”.

Delhi HC order and why was it challenged?

The Delhi HC order had not only overturned the EC’s order on disqualification, but it also stated that the Commission’s remit is limited to election expenditure incurred by candidates and not content of speech. While the EC does not usually move court on its own, this was seen as a fit case as it was felt that the Delhi HC order had dealt a major blow to the fight against paid news. It was also felt that unless the legal position on the issue was corrected, the EC’s role and power to check paid news in elections will be irreparably undermined. Legal advice taken also weighed in favour of moving the Supreme Court.

Paid news menace:

Over 600 paid news complaints were forwarded by EC to Press Council of India with reference to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the government had informed Parliament. EC has repeatedly been asking the law ministry to treat paid news as a cognisable offence and the 2015 Law Commission reports call for amendments in laws to check the menace. The UPA government had also set up a Group of ministers to examine the issue.

Need of the hour:

The ECI has written to the Union government before, suggesting that paid news be made an electoral offence under the RPA. A Law Commission report from 2015 also recommends amending the RPA to this effect.

 

Sample question

Q) What is paid news? Explain the incidence of paid news in India. Suggest measures to be taken to deal with the menace of paid news.

 


 

Topic: Prison reforms

Topic in syllabus: GS II -Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

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Why in news: 

The Supreme Court has constituted a three-member committee to look into the problems of jails in India and suggest reform measures. The committee headed by former SC judge Justice Amitava Roy will look into the aspect of jail reforms across the country and suggest measures to deal with them.

Terms of reference:

  • The committee’s duties will include looking into the problems of jails across the country including overcrowding in prisons, issue of human rights of prisoners and issues concerning women prisoners languishing in cells for years.
  • After studying the problems, the committee would be required to suggest measures to deal with them.

Background:

The Supreme Court had said on August 8, 2018 that it would constitute a committee under the chairmanship of its retired judge to look into the problems in jails, on a day-to-day basis and suggest measures to tackle the problems. The SC had expressed its displeasure saying that the government had collected a huge amount under the orders of the apex court but the funds were not being utilised properly.

Need for reforms:

  • NHRC figures show that prisoners cut off from family and friends had a 50% more chance of committing suicide than those outside. The average suicide rate among the general public for this period is 11 (per 100,000) whereas the average suicide rate in prison is 16.9 (per 100,000). In other words, the average suicide rate in prisons is over 50% more than in normal conditions.
  • Indian prisons face three long-standing structural constraints: overcrowding, thanks to a high percentage of undertrials in the prison population, understaffing and underfunding. The inevitable outcome is sub-human living conditions, poor hygiene, and violent clashes between the inmates and jail authorities.
  • Besides, while 33% of the total requirement of prison officials still lies vacant, almost 36% of vacancy for supervising officers is still unfulfilled. In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.

Way ahead:

Indian jails have often been dubbed as a university for grooming criminals due to pathetic and inhumane conditions. In the absence of a robust Whistleblower Protection Act and structural changes to address the issues of overcrowding and understaffing, India’s prisons will continue to be heaven for politically connected criminals and hell for socio-economically disadvantaged undertrials, some regular media uproars notwithstanding.

Fundamental rights of prisoners cannot be placed in the back-burner and the Centre and the states need to be more pro-active in sensitising staff about the need to treat prisoners as humanely as possible.

 

Sample question:

Q) Supreme Court has recently constituted a three-member committee to look into the problems of jails in India and suggest reform measures. Discuss the need for prison reforms and suggest some measures to improve conditions of prisoners in Indian jails.

 


 

Topic: Study on spending on education and health care by various countries

Topic in syllabus: GS II- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

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Why in news: 

A study on spending on education and health care by various countries by various countries has been released. The study is based on analysis of data from sources, including government agencies, schools, and health care systems.

  • The study was conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the request of the World Bank.
  • It is the first of its kind to measure and compare the strength of countries’ “human capital”.
  • The study underscores that when a country’s human capital score increases, its economy grows.

India’s relative performance:

  • India ranks 158thin the world for its investments in education and health care. The nation is placed behind Sudan (ranked 157th) and ahead of Namibia (ranked 159th) in the list.
  • South Asian countries ranking below India in this report include Pakistan (164), Bangladesh (161) and Afghanistan (188).
  • Countries in the region that have fared better than India in terms of human capital include Sri Lanka (102), Nepal (156), Bhutan (133) and Maldives (116).

Concerns:

India has improved its performance from its position of 162 in 1990. However, India is falling behind in terms of health and education of its workforce, which could potentially have long-term negative effects on the Indian economy.

Global performance:

  • The study places Finland at the top.
  • The U.S. is ranked 27th, while China is at 44th and Pakistan at 164th.
  • Turkey showed the most dramatic increase in human capital between 1990 and 2016.
  • Asian countries with notable improvement include China, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam.
  • Within Latin America, Brazil stands out for improvement.
  • All these countries have had faster economic growth over this period than peer countries with lower levels of human capital improvement.
  • In addition, the greatest increase among sub-Saharan African countries was in Equatorial Guinea.

Significance of human capital:

The findings show the association between investments in education and health and improved human capital and GDP which policy-makers ignore at their own peril. As the world economy grows increasingly dependent on digital technology, from agriculture to manufacturing to the service industry, human capital grows increasingly important for stimulating local and national economies.

 

 Sample question

Q) India’s investment in health and education sector remains far below the countries such as US and China. Being one of the world’s fastest growing economies, do you think the country needs to focus more on social sector and utilise human capital in more effective manner? Explain with suitable examples.

 


 

Topic : Global Media Compact to raise awareness of SDGs

Topic in syllabus: GS II Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

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Context: 

UN has announced Global Media Compact to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. India’s ministry of information and broadcasting is part of it.

About SDG Media Compact:

  • SDG Media Compact is an initiative marking a new drive to advance awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were unanimously adopted by all world leaders at the United Nations in 2015.
  • The Compact seeks to inspire media and entertainment companies around the world to leverage their resources and creative talent to advance the Goals.
  • The Compact is an initiative of the United Nations, in collaboration with the UN Foundation and with the support of FleishmanHillard.

Significance:

The SDG Media Compact is inclusive and aims to embrace media companies from all regions and all platforms. Participating organizations will have the opportunity to create content partnerships with the United Nations, whereby the organization will increase its efforts to source and share high-value media content and newsworthy opportunities relating to the SDGs. Regular monitoring and review meetings will gauge engagement.

Collectively, the founding members of the SDG Media Compact already comprise an audience in the billions spanning over 80 countries on 4 continents and many more companies are expected to join.

About the SDGs:

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by world leaders at the historic Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. Encompassing everything from health, to gender equality, and education, the Goals will mobilize efforts around the world to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

 

Sample question:

Q) What are Sustainable Development goals? Explain their significance for improving quality of life in India. Discuss the need and measures for spreading awareness on SDGs.

 


 

Topic: Think big: on import duty hike

TOPIC in syllabus: General Studies 3

  • Indian economy, macroeconomic issues
  • Policies and issues arising out of their design and implementation

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Introduction

  • The government released a list of categories of items on which it would be hiking import duties.
  • This includes white goods such as air-conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines as well as non-essential items such as gems, travel bags and aviation turbine fuel (ATF).
  • The Centre’s decision to increase customs duty on imports of 19 “non-essential” items amounts to tinkering at the margins to address a structural macro-economic issue.
  • Using tariffs to curb imports of these items will not have a significant impact on narrowing the current account deficit (CAD), which is the Centre’s stated objective.

Current account deficit

  • The current account measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country.
  • We run into a deficit if the value of the goods and services we import exceeds the value of those we export.
  • The current account includes net income, including interest and dividends, and transfers, like foreign aid.
  • India’s current account deficit (CAD) is pegged at $13 billion or 1.9% of the GDP in Q4 of 2017-18, which increased from $2.6 billion or 0.4% of the GDP in Q4 of 2016-17.
  • However, the CAD moderated marginally from $13.7 billion (2.1% of GDP) in the preceding quarter.
  • The Reserve Bank of India attributed the widening of the CAD to a higher trade deficit ($41.6 billion) brought about by a larger increase in merchandise imports related to exports.
  • The central bank wants to see the current account gap within 2.5% of the GDP, which is seen as crucial for currency stability.
  • For example, the CAD touched a high of 4.8% of the GDP in 2012-13 on rising gold and oil imports, which also impacted the rupee that depreciated rapidly.

Why import duties will not have sufficient impact on CAD?

  • The aggregate value of these imported items was just ₹86,000 crore, constitution a little less than 3% of the country’s merchandise import bill in 2017-18.
  • With the first six months of the current fiscal having elapsed, the impact of this tariff increase in paring the import bill and thus containing the CAD is at best going to be short-term and marginal.
  • On the other hand, the decision to double import duties on a clutch of consumer durables to 20% could dampen consumption of these products, especially at a time when the rupee’s slide against the dollar is already likely to have made these goods costlier.
  • Here, it would be interesting to see if the government’s move turns into a psychological ‘tipping point’ that ends up altering consumption behavior towards this category of imported merchandise.
  • If it does, that could have the salutary effect of fostering greater investment in the domestic production of some of these goods.
  • The tariff on aviation turbine fuel — which will now attract 5% customs duty instead of nil — may add to the stress of domestic airline operators, the rupee and rising oil prices having already hurt their wafer-thin margins.

Way forward

  • A more robust approach in addressing the widening CAD would be to institute wide-ranging measures to boost exports and simultaneously reduce the import-intensity of the economy.
  • Policymakers must renew efforts to ensure that export growth starts outpacing the expansion in merchandise imports.
  • This includes expediting the refunds on GST to exporters — smaller exporters have been badly hit by working capital shortfalls.
  • Also to working to woo some of the labour-intensive supply chains that are moving out of China to countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh.
  • On import substitution, it is an irony that despite the abundance of coal reserves, thermal coal is one of India’s fastest-growing imports.
  • This is a consequence of under-investment in modernising the entire coal production and utilisation chain and must be addressed expeditiously.
  • With global crude oil prices showing no signs of reversing their upward trajectory, and the sanctions on Iran that may force India to look for other suppliers looming, the government will need to act post-haste to address structural imbalances to keep the CAD from widening close to or even exceeding the 3% of GDP level.

 

Sample question

Q) What is Current Account Deficit (CAD)? Critically analyse the recent fall in rupee value and subsequent rise in CAD.