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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 13 April 2020

Contents:

  1. Bracing for a rapid surge in cases, says government
  2. India talking to U.S. over visa sanctions
  3. Government slow to absorb lockdown impact on the poor
  4. Resume industrial activity in 15 sectors: DPIIT
  5. Stimulus must precede lifting of lockdown
  6. People with disabilities have special issues during virus outbreak

BRACING FOR A RAPID SURGE IN CASES, SAYS GOVERNMENT

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

With the nationwide death toll from COVID-19 touching 273 and the number of positive cases reaching 8,447 on Sunday, the Union Health Ministry said India is preparing for a possible exponential surge in cases.

Details

  • Amid demands for ramping up health surveillance, the Centre said it is expanding the COVID-19 testing capacity in State-run as well as private medical colleges.
  • Health Ministry said that with the average rate of over 4% growth in cases recently, the government is expanding testing capacity in State-run as well as private medical institutions.
  • The government is extra prepared if the number of cases rises exponentially.
  • Fourteen mentor institutes, including the AIIMS and NIMHANS, have been identified to mentor the medical colleges and expand testing capacity.
Coronavirus | Bracing for a rapid surge in cases, says government
India's place on the COVID 19 Curve Apri 11 2020 Cases of Coronavirus Infections country countries graph

Boost to primary care

  • Current Focus is on increasing the capacity of primary medical infrastructure which includes dedicated hospitals, isolation beds, ICU beds, and quarantine facilities.
  • Dedicated hospitals for management of COVID-19 patients have increasingly been set up across the country with various private sector hospitals.
  • Online training modules and webinars for ventilator management, clinical management, infection prevention control, bio-medical waste management, and epidemiology have been organized by these institutions and to prepare the frontline medical workers, mock drills too have been organized.
  • The government is trying to provide door-to-door essential goods in the hotspots in coordination with the civil society.

INDIA TALKING TO U.S. OVER VISA SANCTIONS

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The government is “engaged” in talks with the U.S. administration to reconsider President Donald Trump’s orders to impose visa sanctions on countries that don’t take back illegal “aliens” in the U.S. within a week.

Details

  • The order clashed with New Delhi’s decision to restrict all passengers, including Indian citizens from any other country, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • If Washington refuses to relent on its seven-day deadline, or New Delhi refuses to lift the ban on incoming travel within the week, Indians could face a major cut in U.S. visas granted this year.

U.S. against Indians being granted visas

  • According to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2018 survey, Indians constitute one of the largest groups of illegal aliens in the U.S., numbering an estimated 4,70,000 who had entered by 2015.
  • However, the Trump administration has pushed for India to tighten its controls on emigration, and accept more deportations in the past few years.
  • In October and November 2019, India brought back 150 citizens who had entered the U.S. illegally, and accepted 311 others deported by Mexico who were trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

Current Problem

  • Officials said the pandemic had created a unique situation, making it difficult for India to accept any passengers currently abroad, for fear that they might carry the virus into the country.
  • At present, the Ministry of External Affairs estimates that there are about 25,000 Indians stranded in different parts of the world who roughly fall into three categories: business travellers, tourists and students whose colleges and schools have been shut down owing to the pandemic.
  • Despite several pleas from the stranded Indians as well as requests from the countries they are in, the government has refused to reconsider the travel ban.

GOVERNMENT SLOW TO ABSORB LOCKDOWN IMPACT ON THE POOR

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

A response filed to a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) status report in the Supreme Court accused the Centre of being slow to absorb the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the poor.

Why was such an accusation made?

  • Kerala and Maharashtra have 72% of the total number of relief camps in the country.
  • Kerala alone has nearly 60% of the camps, though the tiny State accounts for 2.6% of India’s population.
  • States such as Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, which have seen the lion’s share of the migrant exodus, have only 12% of relief camps and shelters.
  • Haryana and Delhi account for 51% of the food distribution. 

Issues faced by Migrant Workers

  • Other than food, migrant workers need to be provided money for addressing their other basic needs like healthcare, education of their children, rent and sustenance of their families.
  • Minimum wages are fixed by governments taking into account the cost of living in each State. The government should provide them minimum wages.
  • The financial package under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana is inadequate to deal with the scale of the current crisis and many components of the scheme will not benefit migrant workers.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana

  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016 (PMGKY) is an amnesty scheme launched by the Narendra Modi led Government of India in December 2016 on the lines of the Income declaration scheme, 2016 (IDS) launched earlier – Under this scheme, the government gives people an opportunity to pay interest along with their undisclosed income penalty.
  • Due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in India, Finance Minister announced a ₹1.70 Lakh Crore($24 billion) relief package under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor.
  • Currently 80 crore individuals, i.e., roughly two-thirds of India’s population would be covered under this scheme.
  • Some of the Provisions of the scheme are:
    • 1 kg of Pulses per family, would be provided according to regional preferences, for next three months.
    • A total of 20.40 crores PMJDY women account-holders would be given an ex-gratia of Rs 500 per month for next three months.
    • The first instalment of Rs 2,000 due in 2020-21 will be front-loaded and paid in April 2020 itself under the PM KISAN Yojana.
    • Gas cylinders, free of cost, would be provided to 8 crore poor families for the next three months.
    • Under this scheme  approximately 22 lakh health workers would be provided insurance.

RESUME INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY IN 15 SECTORS: DPIIT

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, GS-III Industry and Infrastructure, Prelims

Why in news?

The Commerce and Industries Ministry has called for far-reaching measures to be taken to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, urging the Home Ministry to allow relaxations of the restrictions on a number of industry sectors.

Recommendations

  • Industrial activity be restarted in at least 15 sectors, including heavy electricals, electronics and telecom equipment, automobiles, steel mills, power looms, defence units, cement, rubber, seeds, agro-chemicals and fertilizers.
  • To begin with, manufacturing should be restarted in single shifts of 20-25% capacity, following proper social distancing and sanitation norms.
  • Companies which are allowed to operate should be allowed to insist on workers returning for duty to avail wages.
  • Export units and construction sector need to be allowed to operate within safeguards, while street vendors and small repairmen should be allowed to provide doorstep services, said the letter.

DPIIT

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is a central government department under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is responsible for formulation and implementation of promotional and developmental measures for growth of the industrial sector, keeping in view the national priorities and socio-economic objectives.
  • The government changed the name of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) in 2019.
  • Established in 1995, DIPP was basically mandated with the overall industrial policy formulation and execution, whereas the individual ministries take care of the specific industries’ production, distribution, development and planning aspects.
  • After Internal Trade was added to the mandate of DIPP, the department was renamed as the DPIIT.

The Broad objectives of the DPIIT are:

  • Accelerating industrial growth by providing financial infrastructural and other support.
  • Facilitating foreign investment in industries and coordinating with different agencies for fasttracking of investment approvals.
  • Facilitating development of industries in North East and other special category states.
  • Improving intellectual property rights regime consistent with the country’s international commitments.
  • Maintaining a sound information base of macroeconomic indicators of industrial production and prices.
  • Initiating measures towards procedural changes to make functioning of the department more transparent and responsive.

STIMULUS MUST PRECEDE LIFTING OF LOCKDOWN

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, GS-III Industry and Infrastructure, Prelims

Why in news?

The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) has said that before the lockdown is lifted, adequate notice should be given and an economic package announced.

Views of the CII

  • The principle should be that we look at opening up in concentric circles around the red zones. The radiating heat map should turn from red in the inside to green on the outside.
  • All facilities that reopen must have health, sanitation and screening systems in place to protect workers.
  • They should also follow thermal check, physical distancing and factory sanitisation. Any enterprise that did not follow these norms on a self-certification basis should be penalised.
  • However, prior to the lifting of the lockdown (which should be decided based on the advice of medical experts), there has to be adequate notice given to all, and along with that, there should be the announcement of an economic package.

Confederation of Indian Industries (CII)

  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is an industry association in India which was founded in 1895.
  • CII is a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization.
  • It has over 9,000 members, from the private as well as public sectors, including SMEs and MNCs.
  • CII works with the Government on policy issues.
  • CII has been a catalyst of change in India’s economic policy reforms. CII played a very important role during economic liberalisation in 1991.
  • CII correlates with Government, NGOs, and civil society to help industry flourish effective programs for social development.
  • The CII Publications include Reports that are widely respected.

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES HAVE SPECIAL ISSUES DURING VIRUS OUTBREAK

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

What are the unique challenges that people with disability face?

  • People with disability have special issues in a situation like the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). People with disability are a diverse group, experiencing different hardships in accessing information on prevention and risk of infection.
  • They may not be eating properly and may experience higher stress because they are unable to understand what is happening all around them on which they have no control.

Examples of problems faced by people with disabilities

  • People with visual impairment and blindness depend upon touch for most of their daily activities. They need to hold the hand of an escort to move around; they cannot read the messages that the rest of the population can see; they cannot practise social distancing unless there are innovative approaches like keeping a safe distance using a white cane.
  • For the hearing impaired, especially those who are not literate, they cannot hear the message or read it. Since many depend on lip-reading, they are compromised when the person giving a message is wearing a mask.

What is the scale of the problem?

  • India is home to nearly 150 million people with some degree of disability. Nearly 25-30 million have severe disability.
  • Most of them live as part of their families and depend on a carer.
  • This adds to another 25-30 million carers. So we are looking at nearly 50 million people who need special support, which is not routinely forthcoming.

How can the public and government help?

  • India has signed up to achieving sustainable development goals of which cornerstone is universal access to health and education and equity.
  • The government and the organisations working with people with disabilities have to make efforts to convert prevention and care messages on COVID into an accessible format.
  • Health facilities should prioritise the needs of people with disabilities over the rest of the population.

What is the current situation?

  • A country’s development is measured by its social support and inclusive policies. We need to set high standards and not succumb to the ‘might is right’ philosophy and abandon people with disability in this crisis.
  • Nobody is addressing the special needs of people with disabilities and making efforts at reaching out to them.
  • We would fail as a human race if we don’t show a humane response in an equitable manner with affirmative action for people with disabilities.
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