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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 1 August 2020

Contents

  1. Core sector output shrinks, Fiscal deficit at 83% of target
  2. Mapping education inequalities
  3. Eurozone and U.S. see record economy contraction
  4. ICARUS: When science cares about wildlife
  5. Forced decoupling will hurt India and China: Chinese envoy
  6. Indian bid for Sylhet airport too high: Dhaka

CORE SECTOR OUTPUT SHRINKS, FISCAL DEFICIT AT 83% OF TARGET

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The output of eight core sector industries shrank for the fourth straight month.

The Centre’s fiscal deficit for the first three months of fiscal 2020-21 is 83% of the budgeted target for the year.

Core Industries Index (CII)

  • The CII showed that the output for the month of June had shrank by 15%, which shows recovery compared to 22% fall in May.
  • Of the eight core sectors, the fertilizer industry was the only one which saw actual growth; however, it is lower than the May 2020 growth – reflects the positive outlook in the agriculture sector where a normal monsoon is leading to expectations of a bumper kharif crop.
  • The remaining industries showed contraction, with the steel sector continuing to remain the worst performer.
  • The energy sectors also showed negative growth, with coal, crude oil and natural gas production falling.

FY21 fiscal deficit

  • Given the government’s additional borrowing plans, both to meet stimulus spending and bridge the revenue shortfall as a result of the pandemic, the fiscal deficit may end up as high as 8% of GDP, far exceeding the budget’s goal of 3.5%.
  • The Union government has received less than 7% of budget estimates for the full year.
  • The Centre’s total expenditure for the quarter was almost 27% of budget estimates for the year, according to the report published by the Controller General of Accounts.
  • The Centre has already announced plans for additional borrowing that amounts to about 5.7% of GDP, and then on top of that, some more stimulus spending may be undertaken in the latter part of the fiscal year.
  • Looking at data for the last 20 years, year-on-year percentage growth for the first quarter – this year’s 40% growth in the first quarter capital expenditure is the highest

-Source: The Hindu


MAPPING EDUCATION INEQUALITIES

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

  • The government released the New Education Policy after a gap of 34 years.
  • Among other things the NEP seeks to encourage school education in mother tongue.
  • Data from a recently released National Statistical Office (NSO) survey on education, which was conducted in 2017-18 shows that India’s education landscape has massive inequalities.

Imparting English Medium Education

  • There is a deep aspiration for imparting English medium education to children, access to which continues to remain unequal.
  • Those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are more likely to be studying humanities than a professional course.
  • Those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are also much less likely to have access to English medium education.
  • Girls are less likely to be getting English medium education than boys, and more women take up humanities than men in India.
  • Differences in geographical location can increase or decrease these inequalities.
  • The commonly held belief that most Muslims send their children to Madrasas (religious seminaries) and not proper schools is a myth which is NOT supported by data.
  • In 10 out of 20 large states, the number of Muslims attending English-medium schools, expressed as a proportion of all Muslims attending schools is higher than the corresponding proportion for Hindus.
  • Interestingly, even India’s poorest and socially most deprived parents are doing all they can, including spending beyond their means, to send their children to English-medium schools.
  • There is a very high aspiration for English-medium education, even among the poorest.

India’s education landscape is extremely unequal

  • Students from the richest 20% of the society are seventeen times more likely to be studying law than those from the poorest 20%.
  • And a student who does not belong to another backward class (OBC), scheduled class (SC) or scheduled tribe (ST) is six times more likely to be studying management than a Scheduled Tribe (ST) student in India.
  • To be sure, both humanities and non-English medium education are the most common among Indian students.

Across States

  • Just 6% students were receiving English medium education in Bihar. This number is 63% in Telangana and 95% in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, has the highest prevalence of English medium education in the country.

-Source: Hindustan Times


EUROZONE AND U.S. SEE RECORD ECONOMY CONTRACTION

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • The economy of the 19-country eurozone shrank by a devastating 12.1% in the April-June period which is the largest drop on record.
  • The coronavirus pandemic sent the U.S. economy plunging by a record-shattering 32.9% annual rate last quarter and is still inflicting damage across the country.

Details

  • Spain, which along with Italy was among the first to get hit hard by the spread of the virus, suffered the region’s heaviest drop at 18.5%.
  • France, Italy and Portugal also endured steep declines, but no country escaped the impact of the pandemic.
  • European governments are countering the recession with massive stimulus measures.
  • The drop in U.S. is because the virus has taken square aim at the engine of the American economy — consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of activity.

-Source: The Hindu, Tribune


ICARUS: WHEN SCIENCE CARES ABOUT WILDLIFE

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology, Prelims

Why in news?

The International Space Station, orbiting some 240 miles above the planet, is about to join the effort to monitor the world’s wildlife — and revolutionise the science of animal tracking.

ICARUS – Details

  • A large antenna and other equipment aboard the orbiting outpost, installed by spacewalking Russian astronauts in 2018, are being tested.
  • This will assist scientists and conservationists and provide more detailed information on the health of the world’s ecosystems.
  • The new approach, known as ICARUS — International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space — will be able to track animals across far larger areas.
  • ICARUS has also shrunk the size of the transmitters the animals wear.
  • These changes will allow researchers to track flocks of birds as they migrate over long distances instead of monitoring only one or two birds at a time

Significance

  • ICARUS combines off-theshelf technology, which includes solar and GPS units, and new technology specifically designed for tracking small animals.
  • Researchers will attach solar-powered bio-loggers to animals.
  • Far smaller than other technology, these sensors can hitch a ride on an array of animals and insects, like locusts, songbirds and baby tortoises.
  • Most tracking technologies can’t be attached to creatures that weigh less than 100 grams.

-Source: Times of India


FORCED DECOUPLING WILL HURT INDIA AND CHINA: CHINESE ENVOY

Focus: GS-II International relations

Why in news?

As India reassesses its trade relations with China and considers a range of moves to reduce dependencies, China has called for ‘equal’ treatment for its firms and described ‘forced decoupling’ between the two economies as being harmful to both.

Details

  • India has rolled out moves to more tightly regulate Chinese investment and to dilute the presence of Chinese companies in certain sectors.
  • The Chinese envoy, speaking at an event hosted by the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) on Thursday, said “forced decoupling of the Chinese and Indian economies is against the trend and will only lead to a lose-lose outcome.”
  • The envoy said that the Chinese and Indian economies are interwoven and interdependent citing statistics showing that 92% of Indian computers, 82% of TVs, 80% of optical fibre, 85% of motorcycle components are imported from China.
  • Beijing has hit out strongly at both the banning of 59 Chinese apps and at moves by India to impose restrictions on Chinese firms participating in highway projects and exporting power equipment.
  • India has also long complained of a lack of reciprocal treatment in China, with Indian firms in China facing market access issues and a range of non-tariff barriers, particularly in the pharmaceuticals and information technology sectors.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIAN BID FOR SYLHET AIRPORT TOO HIGH: DHAKA

Focus: GS-I Geography, GS-II International relations

Why in news?

Bangladesh Foreign Minister said the contract for building an airport terminal at Sylhet was not awarded to an Indian firm because of a high bid and therefore, went to a Chinese firm.

Details

  • The construction of a new terminal at MAG Osmani International Airport at Sylhet had gone to BUCG (Beijing Urban Construction Group).
  • The proximity of Sylhet to India’s northeast and a possible concentration of Chinese workers in the area has given rise to security concerns.

-Source: The Hindu

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