Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Current Affairs 20th May-2021

Topics

  • ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN
  • INRASTRUCTURE STATUS
  • UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
  • COVAX
  • Digital Transformation of Tribal School

 

1.ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN
Context: RBI’s latest monthly bulletin confirmed a sharp backslide of economic momentum.
Body:
Reasons for Economic slowdown:
I.Demand shock inflicted by second wave of covid 19 pandemic.
II.Loss of mobility
III.Discretionary spending
IV.Increase in unemployment

Indicators of Economic slowdown: Several high frequency indicators have captured the reversal in momentum, like,
I.GST e-way bills, an healthy indicator od domestic trade shows contraction of 17.5%
II.Shrinkage in sales of
Automobile fuel consumption
?Commercial vehicle sales
?Air passenger traffic
?Contraction in demand for two wheelers and tractors shows the loss of momentum in rural sector also.
Outcome of Slowdown:
?Accelerates inflation.
?Reduces overall consumptive capacity
?Might lead to Stagflation

[Inflation: Inflation is defined as a situation where there is sustained, unchecked increase in the general price level and a fall in the purchasing power of money. Thus, inflation is a condition of price rise. The reason for price rise can be classified under two main heads : (1) Increase in demand (2) Reduced supply.

[Stagflation: Stagflation refers to an economy that is experiencing a simultaneous increase in inflation and stagnation of economic output.
Stagflation is characterized by slow economic growth and relatively high unemployment—or economic stagnation—which is at the same time accompanied by rising prices (i.e. inflation). ]

Way forward:

  • Direct cash transfers to boost demand
  • Stimulus package with focus on middle class
  • Focus on Job creation
  • Fiscal stimulus to worst affected industries.
  • Spending more on infrastructure sector which in turn helps to boost employment.
  • Recapitalising banks and encourage them to lend more.
  • Clearing state dues and GST compensation which can enable states to invest more in infrastructure and weaker sections of societyInflation:

1)FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act]
Context: Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to extend the validity of registration certificates for NGOs till September 30, 2021 which will make NGOs eligible to receive foreign contributions under FCRA rules

Body:
The decision has been taken in the wake of petitions filed by NGOs in courts over the delay in implemented amended FCRA.
?After the NGOs and other voluntary organisations filed petitions, the Delhi High Court asked the home ministry to consider if the April 1, 2021 deadline for opening Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) accounts for NGOs — seeking to receive foreign funds — can be extended in view of the second wave of Covid-19.
?The court had noted that the non-receipt of this contribution would lead to the non-rendering of services, especially during the pandemic when there is an enormous need for such services.

What is FCRA?
?The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security. First enacted in 1976, it was amended in 2010.
?It is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs

Key provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010:
?The FCRA is applicable to all associations, groups and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations.
?Under the Act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.
?As per the amended FCRA rules, all NGOs registered or granted prior permission under FCRA are now required to upload details of foreign contributions received and utilized by them every three months on their website or the FCRA website.
?NGOs now need to file their annual returns online, with the hard copy version dispensed with.

Who cannot receive foreign donations?
?Members of the legislature and political parties
?Government officials,
?Judges and media persons

However, in 2017 the MHA, through the Finance Bill route, amended the 1976-repealed FCRA law paving the way for political parties to receive funds from the Indian subsidiary of a foreign company or a foreign company in which an Indian holds 50% or more shares.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020
?Prohibition to accept foreign contribution: The Act bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions.
?Transfer of foreign contribution: The Act prohibits the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person not registered to accept foreign contributions.
?Aadhaar for registration: The Act makes Aadhaar number mandatory for all office bearers, directors or key functionaries of a person receiving foreign contribution, as an identification document.
?FCRA account: The Act states that foreign contribution must be received only in an account designated by the bank as FCRA account in such branches of the State Bank of India, New Delhi.
?Reduction in use of foreign contribution for administrative purposes: The Act proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses. In FCRA 2010 the limit was 50%.
?Surrender of certificate: The Act allows the central government to permit a person to surrender their registration certificate.
?Norms for farmers, students, religious and other groups who are not directly aligned to any political party to receive foreign funds, if the groups are not involved in active politics, has been relaxed.

Reasons for FCRA Regulations:
?The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution are being not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under amended provisions of the FCRA 2010.
?Recently, the Union Home Ministry has suspended licenses of the six (NGOs) who were alleged to have used foreign contributions for religious conversion.
?To ensure that such contributions do not adversely affect the internal security of the country.
?These regulations could enhance transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contributions.

Complaints Related to FCRA:
?Scope not defined: It prohibits the receipt of foreign contributions “for any activities detrimental to the national interest” or the “economic interest of the state”.
?However, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
?Limits Fundamental Rights: The FCRA restrictions have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.

2)Infrastructure status:
Context: The government has expanded the definition of infrastructure to include exhibition-cum-convention centers.

Body:
?A finance ministry notification said convention and exhibition centres had been included in the harmonised master list of infrastructure sub-sectors under the social and commercial and infrastructure subsector.
?To qualify under the category, projects will require a minimum built-up floor area of 100,000 square metres of exclusively exhibition space or convention space.
?This includes primary facilities such as exhibition centres, convention halls, auditoriums, plenary halls, business centres, meeting halls etc.

What is the significance of Infrastructure status?
?Easy Credit – This makes it easier for companies operating within these segments to raise long-term credit from banks and other financial institutions at lower rates.
?Access larger amounts of funds as External Commercial Borrowings (ECB)
?Access longer-tenure funds from insurance companies and pension funds
Be eligible to borrow from India Infrastructure Financing Company Limited (IIFCL)
?It also helps attract foreign investments.
?Inclusion in the list implies access to concessional funds, promotion of projects and continuity of construction for the specified sub-sectors, experts said.
Last August, the government had added affordable rental housing projects to the list of sectors recognised as infrastructure.

Major issues regarding the infrastructure sector in India
?Long gestation period: Large infrastructure projects can take several years—sometimes even decades—to complete and turn profitable.
?Time and cost overruns: Finishing of infrastructure projects is a big challenge. They often run beyond time and budget, especially in sectors like roads, highways, power, railways, and petroleum.
?Financing of infrastructure projects is the biggest issue in India. Banks are often wary of lending to big infrastructure projects.
?The current adverse scenario in India’s banking sector has made financing of projects even more difficult.
?Unrealistic targets: Indian infrastructure-related project announcements have often been criticised are unrealistic and unachievable. Even many existing projects face implementation challenges.
?There are concerns regarding fiscal transparency and accountability of infrastructure projects.
?Little private participation: Though the PPP finance model provides a good alternative, it has not always been a success. Land acquisition delays, weak enforcement of contracts and sundry difficulties in the conduct of business in India have served to dissuade private participation.

Way forward:
?For smooth and fast development, India needs adequate and timely investment in quality infrastructure. Well-developed infrastructure enhances the level of economic activity, creates additional fiscal space by improving the revenue base of the government, and ensures the quality of expenditure focused on productive areas.
?There is a need to develop a robust bond market for infrastructure companies, speedy resolution of infrastructure disputes, optimal risk sharing through better and balanced PPP contracts, and sanctity and enforceability of contracts.
?There is a need to simplify administrative procedures to make them more responsive, yet robust.

 

3)UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
Context: 6 UNESCO world heritage sites added tentative list from India.
Body:
The six picked sites are:
I.The Satpura Tiger Reserve and Bhedaghat of Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh
II.Ganga Ghats in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
III.Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra.
IV.Hire Benkal Magalithic site, Karnataka and
V.Temples of Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu

UNESCO world heritage sites:
?A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO for its special cultural or physical significance.
?The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
?This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
[ United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
?It was founded in 1945 to develop the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” as a means of building lasting peace.
?It is located in Paris, France ]
World heritage sites in India:
India has 38 world heritage sites that include 30 Cultural properties, 7 Natural properties and 1 mixed site.

 

4)COVAX
Context: Unites states of America to work with COVAX to allocate 80 million vaccine doses.
Body:
?The U.S. is working with the COVID19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) programme as well as its partners to decide how to allocate the 80 million doses of vaccine it is sending to other countries over the next six weeks.
?India is expected to receive a significant shares of these vaccines.
What is COVAX?
?The COVAX program is led by the vaccine alliance GAVI, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in partnership with UNICEF, vaccine manufacturers and the World Bank, among others.
?The aim is to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally.
?The program wants to vaccinate roughly 20 per cent of the population in the 92 Advance Market Commitment (AMC) countries, which include middle and lower-income nations that cannot afford to pay for COVID-19 vaccines.
?This means countries with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of less than US $4000 and some other countries which are eligible under the World Bank International Development Association (IDA).
?As vaccines receive approval, they will be bought by the COVAX facility, which will then try to provide the doses for an average of 20 per cent of each of the eligible country’s population free of cost.
?The funding is partly coming from high and middle-income countries that will also receive a share of the vaccines produced for COVAX.
?In 2021, the programme expects to vaccinate nearly 550 million, the equivalent of roughly 8.52 per cent of India’s population.
?Ghana was the first country in the world to receive a shipment of coronavirus vaccines under the COVAX program.
Which vaccines are included in COVAX programme?
?Oxford-AstraZeneca became the first vaccine manufacturer to sign up under the programme in June 2020, and has guaranteed to supply 300 million doses.
?In January, COVAX announced that it had signed an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech
?Johnson and Johnson,single-dose vaccine, which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared to be safe and effective recently.
?COVAX also has existing agreements with Serum Institute of India for 200 million doses.

 

5)Digital Transformation of Tribal Schools
Context:
Recently, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA) inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft to support the digital transformation of schools such as Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) and Ashram Schools with an aim to build an inclusive, skills-based economy.

About the MoU:
?Artificial Intelligence curriculum will be made available to skill educators and students in next-generation technologies.
?EMRS schools have been adopted by Microsoft, out of which 50 EMRS schools will be given intensive training and 500 master trainers would be trained in the first phase.
?Teachers across states in India will be trained in a phased manner for using productivity technologies like Office 365 and AI applications in teaching.
?The program will also offer opportunities for teachers to earn professional e-badges and e-certificates from the Microsoft Education Centre.

Outcome:
?This program will ensure that tribal students get a chance to change their future, their environment, their village, and overall community.
?The initiative will also enable the professional development of educators, enabling them to use technology in classrooms.
?It will help in the success of digital India Mission.
?It will be able to bridge the gap between the tribal students and others.

Other Educational Schemes for Tribals:
?Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship Scheme (RGNF): To encourage the students belonging to the ST community to pursue higher education.
?Vocational Training Center in Tribal Areas: To develop the skill of ST students depending on their qualification and present market trends.
?National Overseas Scholarship Scheme: It provides financial assistance to 20 students selected for pursuing higher studies abroad for PhD and postdoctoral studies.

Ashram Schools
?Ashram schools are residential schools, in which free boarding and lodging along with other facilities and incentives are provided to the students.
?Apart from formal education, there is emphasis put upon physical activities, meditation, sight-seeing, play, sports, games, and other.
?The Ministry of Tribal Affairs provides construction costs and the State Government is responsible for running and overall maintenance of these Ashram schools including selection of medium of instruction.

Eklavya Model Residential Schools
?The objective of EMRS is to provide quality middle and high level education to ST students in remote areas, not only to enable them to avail of reservation in high and professional educational courses and as jobs in government and public and private sectors but also to have access to the best opportunities in education at par with the non ST population.
?These are being set up by grants provided under Article 275(1) of the Constitution.
?These are funded by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
?In order to give further impetus to EMRS, it has been decided that by the year 2022, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons, will have an EMRS.

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