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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 15 September 2020

Contents

  1. No data available on migrants’ deaths
  2. Pandemic and Reconsidering 42% devolution
  3. Fossil fuel use to plunge for the first time
  4. Retail inflation eases to 6.69% in August
  5. No regulation needed for communication apps

NO DATA AVAILABLE ON MIGRANTS’ DEATHS

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

  • The Centre informed the Parliament that no data was available on the deaths of migrant workers caused due to the sudden nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country this year.
  • Additionally, the government said that it had also not kept track of the job losses amid the pandemic.

Details

  • According a World Bank report in April this year, the nationwide lockdown has impacted the livelihood of nearly 40 million internal migrants.
  • Small traders, hawkers and daily wage labourers were the worst hit by the lockdown in April, comprising more than 90 million of the jobs lost from the total loss of 120+ million in April 2020.
  • Large numbers of these people lost their source of livelihood so quickly because their employment is almost entirely informal.
  • Data from the states where nearly 63+ lakh stranded migrants reached on Shramik Specials indicate that the 110-odd deaths were caused by a variety of reasons, including pre-existing illness and Covid-19.

-Source: Indian Express, The Hindu


PANDEMIC AND RECONSIDERING 42% DEVOLUTION

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The Fifteenth Finance Commission (FFC) will submit its report containing recommendations on the sharing of tax revenues between the Centre and States for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26 to the President on October 31, 2020.

Details

  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission (XV-FC) is of the view that 2020 cannot be treated as a non-year and setting back the base to 2019-20 is not an option.
  • Whatever award the XV-FC had to give for 2020-21 that was already in the report submitted to the President for 2020-21, and it was accepted by the government and also placed in Parliament with Action Taken Report on recommendations.
  • Therefore, 2020-21 doesn’t matter from the point of view of the award, but it is relevant because of the need to make projections.

The Impact

  • Unlike in the past, the XV-FC may not have the luxury of assuming constant rates of growth throughout the period — both in nominal and real GDP numbers, hence, a judgement call will be necessary.
  • The XV-FC will have to adopt tax buoyancy numbers which may vary during the award period due to the variability in the revenue assumptions.
  • On the issue of fiscal numbers and the path of fiscal consolidation and the path of debt — for the Central Government, the State Government, as well as both the governments in general – The XV-FC will have to select a path which recognises the fact the arrangement which earlier existed may have to be re-adapted taking into account the issue of the pandemic.
  • Under the Terms of Reference (ToR), the XV-FC will have to look at the issue of performance-based criterion and in appropriate cases sector-specific considerations.

On Devolution

  • Almost all the States have emphasised that 41 or 42% was too low; the sharing should be on the basis of fifty-fifty.
  • Not only on account of the States’ own normal committed liabilities and committed revenue expenditure but more so on account of the shortfall of revenues triggered both by the decline in the State GST (Goods & Services Tax) and by the fact that other sources of State revenues are proving to be somewhat inelastic.
  • Their revenue numbers have fallen. The central government’s own revenue projections are below expectations in the BE (Budget Estimates) and the medium-term policy framework document which accompanies every Budget.

-Source: The Hindu


FOSSIL FUEL USE TO PLUNGE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure

Why in news?

Fossil fuel consumption is set to shrink for the first time in modern history as climate policies boost renewable energy while the coronavirus pandemic leaves a lasting effect on global energy demand, BP said in a forecast.

Details

  • London-based BP expects global economic activity to only partially recover from the epidemic over the next few years as travel restrictions ease.
  • But some “scarring effects” such as work from home will lead to slower growth in energy consumption.
  • BP this year extended its outlook into 2050 to align it with the company’s strategy to slash the carbon emissions from its operations to net zero by the middle of the century.
  • It includes three scenarios that assume different levels of government policies aimed at meeting the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

Scenarios

  • In its two aggressive scenarios, Covid-19 accelerates the slowdown in oil consumption, leading to it peaking last year. In the third scenario, oil demand peaks at around 2030.
  • In the longer term, demand for coal, oil and natural gas is set to slow dramatically.
  • The share of fossil fuels is set to decline from 85% of total primary energy demand in 2018 to between 20% and 65% by 2050 in the three scenarios.
  • At the same time, the share of renewables is set to grow from 5% in 2018 to up to 60% by 2050.

-Source: Hindustan Times


RETAIL INFLATION EASES TO 6.69% IN AUGUST

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Retail inflation softened slightly to 6.69% in August 2020, even as food prices continued to rule high, official data showed.

Details

  • The government has revised downwards the retail inflation for July to 6.73% from the earlier estimate of 6.93%.
  • Food inflation during the month stood at 9.62%.
  • Food inflation in August fell marginally to 9.05%, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data.
  • The retail inflation, mainly taken into account by the RBI to arrive at its policy decisions, has been above the regulator’s comfort level.
  • The government has mandated the central bank to restrict the inflation at 4% (+/- 2%).

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) tracks the change in retail prices of goods and services which households purchase for their daily consumption.
  • To measure inflation, we estimate how much CPI has increased in terms of percentage change over the same period the previous year.
  • The Central Bank (RBI) pays very close attention to this figure in its role of maintaining price stability in the economy.
  • Generally, CPI is used as a macroeconomic indicator of inflation, as a tool by the central bank and government for inflation targeting and for inspecting price stability, and as deflator in the national accounts.
  • CPI also helps understand the real value of salaries, wages, and pensions, the purchasing power of the nation’s currency, and regulating rates.

-Source: The Hindu


NO REGULATION NEEDED FOR COMMUNICATION APPS

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

In key recommendations regarding operations of global communication apps in India, telecom regulator TRAI has said services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple FaceTime, Google Chat, Skype, Telegram and even newer players such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and Zoom should not be bound by a regulatory regime as of now and there should not be specific rules that would mandate them to intercept user calls and messaging.

Details

  • Making interception mandatory (such as prescribed for telecom companies) may weaken the protective architecture of the communication apps or expose them to “unlawful actors”, TRAI said in views that were immediately criticised by mobile operators’ grouping COAI.
  • Accusing the regulator of going against level-playing field, COAI alleged the OTT players “remain a threat to national security” in the absence of such scrutiny.
  • TRAI’s much-awaited recommendations run in complete variance to the strong stand taken by telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who has time and again argued for greater control and scrutiny.

-Source: Times of India

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