Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Current Affairs 31st May-2021

Topics

  • Empowerment of Covid affected Children:
  • Nepal Political Crisis
  • Open Skies Treaty
  • Currency Swap Facility
  • Begum Sultan Jahan

 

 

  1. Empowerment of Covid affected Children:

Context: PM Modi announces aid, free education for Covid orphans.

Key Details:

  • According to Ministry of Women and Child Development, 577 children across the country had been orphaned during the second wave of the pandemic.
  • All children who have lost both parents, the surviving parent, legal guardians or adoptive parents to Covid-19 will receive financial assistance under the PM-CARES for Children’s scheme.
  • The government also extended pension coverage under the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme to all registered dependents of those who died due to Covid-19.

How does it work?

  1. The PM-CARES will contribute through a specially designed scheme to create a corpus of Rs 10 lakh for each child when he or she reaches 18 years of age.
  2. This corpus will be used to give a monthly financial support or stipend, through a fixed deposit in the name of the child, from 18 years of age for the next five years to take care of his or her personal requirements during the period of higher education.
  3. On reaching the age of 23 years, he or she will get the corpus amount as one lump-sum for personal and professional use.
  4. For children under 10 years, the child will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar.
  5. If the child is admitted in a private school, the fees as per the RTE norms will be given from the PM CARES.
  6. The PM-CARES will also pay for expenditure on uniforms, textbooks and notebooks
  7. For children between 11-18 years, the child will be given admission in any Central government residential school such as Sainik School, Navodaya Vidyalaya etc.
  8. The child will be assisted in obtaining education loans for professional courses and higher education in India and interest on this loan will be paid by the PM-CARES.
  9. For children who are not eligible under the existing scholarship schemes, PM-CARES will provide an equivalent scholarship.
  10. All Covid-19 orphans will be enrolled as beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakhs. The premium amount for these children, till the age of 18 years, will be paid by PM-CARES.

Challenges faced by orphan Children:

  • Increased Child Abuse: While there are reports of girls as young as 14 being sexually exploited within their family during the pandemic, there are cases of minor girls as well who are being forced to work for very low wages.
  • Trauma of an Orphan Life Ahead: They are in a very fragile emotional state and they need professional therapy to overcome traumatic events.
  • Break in Education
  • Vulnerable to Illegal adoptions and human trafficking.

Provisions for Protection of Orphan Children:

  • There is a process as per the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, 2015 which needs to be followed with children who have been orphaned.
  • The State takes care of all such children who are in need of care and protection, till they turn 18 years.
  • Once a child is declared legally free for adoption by the CWC, adoption can be done either by Indian prospective adoptive parents or non-resident Indians or foreigners, in that order
  • India has ratified Hague Convention on Inter country Adoptions, 1993.
  • The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), a statutory body of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, is the nodal agency for adoption.
  • It regulates the adoption of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated or recognized agencies.

Way Forward:

  • Recently Supreme court governments to publish data to identify orphaned children and asked district authorities to “immediately take charge of such children and attend to their basic needs without waiting for any further orders”
  • Streamlining the adoption process.
  • Setting up more counselling centres and helpline desks to help them overcome the trauma.

( With an objective of providing psychological and emotional support to children affected during Covid-19 Pandemic, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is providing Tele-Counselling to children through SAMVEDNA (Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance).

 

  1. Nepal Political Crisis

Context: President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Saturday dissolved the parliament, denying claims of both the ruling and opposition parties to form the government.

Background:

  • Nepal is facing its severest political crisis in decades. The country has seen repeated dissolution of Parliament in 2020 and 2021.
  • The move to dissolve the Parliament came after both, caretaker Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, were unable to demonstrate a majority to form the new government by Friday, the deadline set by President Bidya Debi Bhandari.
  • Prime minister Oli’s decision on dissolution of parliament in December 2020 sparked weeks of protests and was reversed by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in February.
  • The president has announced new dates for the mid-term elections in November

Issue: Reasons for dissolution decisions

  • Political crisis: Oli’s decision of dissolution follows an extended conflict within his ruling Nepal Communist Party, formed in 2018 after the merger of the erstwhile Maoist party and United Marxist Leninist Party.
  • Anticipating a vote of no confidence by the majority of his own party’s legislators, Oli moved to scrap the house and call for early elections amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Prime Minister Oli is currently facing allegations of corruption and undemocratic excesses, and his patronage to close associates.
  • Uncertainity of New Constitution: Dissolution of the House is not new in Nepal, but this is the first such instance after the new Constitution of 2015 that places safeguards against dissolution.
  • The new constitution does not envisage such a step without exploring formation of an alternative government.
  • The 1991 Constitution, scrapped in 2006, had provisions for dissolution of Parliament at the Prime Minister’s prerogative. During the time it was in force, Parliament was dissolved thrice. The first Parliament elected in 1991 was dissolved on the recommendation of Prime Minister G P Koirala after he failed to have a vote on thanks motion by the King passed in the House. The Supreme Court upheld that dissolution.
  • But in 1995, the Supreme Court rejected the dissolution by Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikary after a no-trust motion had been tabled but before the loss of majority was proved. The court held that the executive did not have the right to snatch an issue under consideration of the legislature.
  • The third time, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba dissolved Parliament in 2002 and the Supreme Court upheld it. King Gyanendra revived Parliament in April 2006.
  • The repeated dissolution of Parliament is a dangerous game plan by national and international forces to dismantle the federal republican democratic Constitution and restore the old Hindu monarchical state.
  • With Parliament dissolved and with a President seen as favourable to him, Prime Minister (now caretaker Prime Minister) K.P. Sharma Oli will have the power to rule without being accountable.

India’s position:

  • Unlike on previous occasions, Oli has refrained from blaming India for destabilising his regime. The PM’s ire has been directed at his senior party colleagues for not allowing him to govern smoothly.
  • Continuing bilateral relationship: Energy and trade officials from the two countries have met each other, border talks are on board, and Nepal’s foreign minister is visiting India for the joint commission
  • India has rebooted its diplomatic outreach with a series of high-profile visits to Kathmandu. This has resulted in the resumption of air travel and fast-tracking of the railway line between Kathmandu to Raxaul in Bihar.
  • A fresh popular cry for democracy presents an opportunity for India to showcase its historical partnership in Nepal’s transition to democracy.
  • Ties with Nepal are critical to India for strategic influence in the Himalayas.
  • Thus, India should adopt a strategy of detached pragmatism rather than proactive involvement, given the crisis period in Nepal.
  • On trade and investment issues, India needs to be more accommodative. Nepal sells less than $1billion worth of products to India while importing nearly $8 billion of them. This is unsustainable, despite the fact that trade deficits are governed by the nature of economies. India can and must move to remove structural and procedural impediments to the entry of genuine Nepali goods into Indian market

The China factor:

  • China has been a big factor in Nepal’s internal politics since 2006. It is seen as having lobbied, visible or secret, to prevent the split. China has also invested in crucial sectors like trade and Investment, energy, tourism and post-earthquake reconstruction, and is Nepal’s biggest FDI contributor. It has increased its presence in Nepal because of a perception that India played a crucial role in the 2006 political change.

Way Forward:

  • Nepal should work towards regaining its lost glory and avail its true development potential.
  • It should decline harmful assistance of neighbours involved in geostrategic rivalries.
  • On the domestic front, an increased focus should be on the country itself, instead of leveraging on vulnerabilities and the making of disruptive partnerships.
  • In a functional democracy, statecraft is not supposed to be selfless until it relies on progressive policy and governance with an aim to further the mission of the greater common good.
  • Despite all the flaws, Nepal should protect its democracy that is now at stake because of actions by political opportunists.

 

  1. Open Skies Treaty

Context: US recently Russia that it won’t rejoin Open Skies arms control pact.

Backgound:

  • In November 2020, the United States under the President Donald Trump left the OST after accusing Russia of violating the pact.
  • The USA has blamed Russia for restricting US flyovers in neighbour Georgia and its military enclave in Kaliningrad (Russia).
  • Russia misused its flights over the US and Europe to identify critical infrastructure for potential attack in a time of war.
  • Russia intends to annex the Crimean peninsula and has designated an Open Skies refueling airfield in the region.
  • As a presidential candidate, current President Joe Biden had criticised Trump’s withdrawal as “short-sighted”.
  • Russian officials said they were willing to reconsider their withdrawal if the US did the same.
  • It can be noted that the USA has used the treaty more intensively than Russia.
  • Between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. flew 196 flights over Russia compared to the 71 flights flown by Russia.

What is the Open Skies Treaty?

  • The OST is an accord with over 30 countries being part of it.
  • It allows participants to fly unarmed reconnaissance flights over any part of their fellow member states.
  • It was first proposed in 1955 by former US President Dwight Eisenhower as a means to deescalate tensions during the Cold War.
  • The treaty was eventually signed in 1992 between NATO members and former Warsaw Pact countries following the demise of the Soviet Union.
  • It went into effect in 2002 and had 35 signatories, including key players US and Russia, along with one non-ratifying member (Kyrgyzstan).
  • India is not a member of this treaty.

Implications of US pullout:

  • The failure of the Open Skies Treaty follows the demise of another significant arms control accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Both the US and Russia left it in 2019.
  • This decision means only one major arms control treaty between the nuclear powers — the New START treaty — will remain in place, which was extended for 5 years by President Joe Biden administration.
  • It would erode global security by making it more difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations, particularly amid heightened Russia-West tensions over myriad issues, including Ukraine, cyber malfeasance.

New START Treaty:

  • The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is a treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
  • It was initially signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It entered into force on 5th February, 2011.
  • The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
  • The USA has been worried that extending New Start would negatively impact an arms deal with China and Russia.
  • It is concerned that China’s nuclear stockpile could be doubled if the New Start Treaty continued as is, without including China.
  • The New Start Treaty also suffered from verification inadequacies and that the U.S. intended to establish a new arms control regime which would include China.

 

  1. Currency Swap Facility

Context: Recently, Bangladesh’s central bank has approved a $200 million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka.

Key Points:

  • The word swap means exchange. A currency swap between the two countries is an agreement or contract to exchange currencies with predetermined terms and conditions.
  • In the present context, a currency swap is effectively a loan that Bangladesh will give to Sri Lanka in dollars, with an agreement that the debt will be repaid with interest in Sri Lankan rupees.
  • For Sri Lanka, this is cheaper than borrowing from the market. The period of the currency swap will be specified in the agreement.
  • These swap operations carry no exchange rate or other market risks as transaction terms are set in advance.
  • Exchange rate risk, also known as currency risk, is the financial risk arising from fluctuations in the value of a base currency against a foreign currency in which a company or individual has assets or obligations.
  • Both sides have to formalise an agreement to operationalise the facility approved by Bangladesh Bank. It will help Colombo tide over its foreign exchange crisis.
  • It is also the first time that Sri Lanka is borrowing from a SAARC country other than India.
  • This may be the first time that Bangladesh is extending a helping hand to another country, so this is a landmark of sorts.

Why is it a landmark move for Bangladesh?

  • Bangladesh has not been viewed so far as a provider of financial assistance to other countries. It has been among the most impoverished countries of the world, and still receives billions of dollars in financial aid.
  • But over the last two decades, Bangladesh has managed to elevate its economy itself majorly, and in 2020, was the fastest growing in South Asia.
  • Bangladesh’s forex reserves in May were a healthy $45 billion. In 2020, despite fears that the pandemic would hit remittances, Bangladeshis living abroad sent over $21 billion.

Need of currency swap for Sri Lanka:

  • Sri Lanka is struggling to maintain adequate forex reserves even as repayment of its external debts looms.
  • Sri Lanka, staring at an external debt repayment schedule of $4.05 million this year, is in urgent need of foreign exchange. Its own foreign exchange reserves in March year stood at $4 million.
  • The tourism industry destroyed since the 2019 Easter attacks, Sri Lanka had lost one of its top foreign exchange pullers even before the pandemic.
  • The tea and garment industries have also been hit by the pandemic affecting exports. Remittances increased in 2020, but are not sufficient to pull Sri Lanka out of its crisis.
  • The country is already deep in debt to China. In April, Beijing gave Sri Lanka a $1.5 billion currency swap facility. Separately, China, which had extended a $1 billion loan to Sri Lanka last year, extended the second $500 million tranches of that loan.
  • Sri Lanka also inked a $500 million loan agreement with the EXIM Bank of Korea.

Why didn’t Sri Lanka approach India?

  • Sri Lanka in 2020 requested for a $1 billion credit swap, and separately, a moratorium on debts that the country has to repay to India. But India-Sri Lanka relations have been tense over Colombo’s decision to cancel a valued container terminal project at Colombo Port. India is yet to respond to the request.
  • In July 2020, the Reserve Bank of India did extend a $400 million credit swap facility to Sri Lanka, which Central Bank of Sri Lanka settled in February. The arrangement was not extended.
  • The Currency Swap Agreement in the case of Sri Lanka is a reconfirmation of India’s Adherence to the Gujral Doctrine while dealing with neighbours as well as a rule-based currency regime.
  • The RBI also offers similar swap lines to central banks in the SAARC region within a total corpus of $2 billion which came into operation on 15th November, 2012.

What is a Currency Swap?                      

  • The Currency Swap Agreement means the contract for the exchange of Currencies at predetermined Terms and Conditions.
  • It is like an open-ended Credit Line from one country to another
  • The Interest rates are charged as per standard benchmarks like LIBOR, etc

Benefits:

  • It helps to meet short term foreign exchange liquidity requirements.
  • It also ensures adequate foreign currency to avoid the Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis till longer arrangements can be made.

About SAARC Currency Swap Facility:

  • RBI has a framework under which it can offer credit swap facilities to SAARC countries within an overall corpus of $2 billion.
  • According to RBI, the SAARC currency swap facility came into operation in November 2012 with the aim of providing to smaller countries in the region “a backstop line of funding for short-term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or balance of payment crisis till longer-term arrangements are made
  • The Drawals can be made in US Dollar, Euro or Indian Rupee.
  • If swap currency is in Indian Rupees, certain concessions may be extended.
  • The currency swap facility will be available to all SAARC member countries, subject to their signing the bilateral swap agreements.

 

  1. Begum Sultan Jahan:

Context: Recently, the death anniversary of Begum Sultan Jahan was observed.
About:

  • Born in 1858, Begum Sultan Jahan ascended the throne in 1901and ruled till 1926.
  • She was the fourth female ruler of Bhopal.
  • In the absence of male successors, women of Bhopal’s princely estate initiated a matrilineal reign from 1819, which continued till 1926. These rulers are often referred to as the Begums of Bhopal.
  • During this era, they ruled with authority, dignity and bold reforms — disrupting the patriarchal system that had been laid down centuries before them.
  • The last Begum of Bhopal was Begum Sultan Jahan.
  • She was a Philanthropist, Prolific writer, Feminist, Symbol of Women Empowerment.
  • Gauhar-e-Iqbal: Written by Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum, the book describes the major events between the 1st and 7th years of her regime. The book also focuses on the socio-political conditions of Bhopal at that time.
  • She died on May 12, 1930, at the age of 71.

Contributions:

  1. Municipality system: When she took over as Queen, She decided to tour her kingdom and interact with the people. After learning their concerns, she set up the municipality system and even introduced municipal elections.
  2. She also constructed a walled city and a palace for herself. She took steps for improving public health, sanitation, and water supply in the walled city and implemented widespread vaccination drives for its residents.
  3. Progressive policies: Her progressive policies for women, at a time when they were shackled by the forces of patriarchy, have made her a feminist icon even today.
  4. Meeting hall for women: She laid the foundation stone for a meeting hall in Lahore in 1913 recognising that women needed a space exclusively for them to assemble and discuss ideas, In a time when it was rare for women to venture out due to a strict purdah system.
  5. Exhibition: She organised an exhibition called ‘Numaish-e-Masnuaat-Hind’ in Bhopal to encourage women and promote handicrafts where she displayed her creations.
  6. She established the Ladies Club in Bhopal intending to involve more women in her mission.
  7. Authored books: She was a pioneer in the field of education and even authored a book, Dars-e-Hayat, about the education and parenting of young girls.
  8. She authored 41 books, many of which were distributed for free. She also translated several English books into Urdu
  9. Set up several educational institutes: There was a time when almost every city of the country had one or more educational institutes for girls which were funded by Begum Sultan Jahan.
  10. Despite being a small princely estate, Bhopal had an education budget of one lakh rupees.
  11. She was the first female Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, which she had nurtured during its nascent stage, when it was still known as the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College.
  12. She set up several schools to encourage parents to educate their daughters,
  13. Revamped the syllabus: She revamped the syllabus and added subjects such as English, Urdu, Arithmetic, Home Science and crafts.
  14. She famously founded the Barjeesiya Kanya Pathshala’ and even instituted a scholarship for the underprivileged students of Jain Shwetambar Paathshala.
  15. In 1910 During her visit to Aligarh she donated Rs 50,000 for the construction of the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference, which still exists today and is known as Sultan Jahan Manzil.
  16. Institutions such as Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi and some renowned colleges in Bombay and Calcutta received generous grants from her.

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