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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 25 April 2020

Contents

  1. Plasma therapy to begin in Karnataka
  2. No plan to ease fiscal deficit targets
  3. Foodgrain stock will last till next March: FCI
  4. NBWL nod for coal mining in Assam elephant reserve
  5. ICMR nod for coronavirus detection assay
  6. South Asia needs a humanitarian response

PLASMA THERAPY TO BEGIN IN KARNATAKA

Focus: GS-II Science and Technology

Why in news?

The first plasma therapy in Karnataka for COVID-19 patients will begin on 25th April 2020, and will be carried out jointly by the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMRCI) and the HCG Hospital.

Read about Plasma therapy here:

https://www.legacyias.com/increase-rate-in-covid-19-positive-cases-plasma-therapy-in-kerala-odisha-lockdown/


NO PLAN TO EASE FISCAL DEFICIT TARGETS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, Prelims

Why in news?

  • Despite the strain on government finances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no credible proposal to amend the legislation meant to control the fiscal deficit, Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission said.
  • Speaking to presspersons after a two-day meeting of the Commission’s Economic Advisory Council said the government was currently looking to see how to ameliorate economic hardship while staying within the broad framework of the existing law.

Background

  • While presenting the Union Budget in February 2020, the Finance Minister had invoked the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act’s escape clause to relax the fiscal deficit target for 2020-21 by 0.5% percentage points to 3.5% of the GDP.
  • If the government wishes to increase spending further in light of the current crisis, as many economists have recommended, it may need to amend the Act.
  • The State governments have been demanding that their own 3% fiscal deficit targets be relaxed to 4% or even 5%, to give them elbow room in dealing with the impact of the lockdown.

Need for new law

  • Economic Advisory Council members felt that options need to be considered for financing the additional deficit.
  • It is important to ensure that the State governments get access to adequate funds to undertake their fight against the pandemic, they said, adding that different States may come out of the pandemic’s impact in different stages.
  • Council members all felt that earlier projections of real GDP growth will need to be revised downwards considerably.
  • Noting that the lockdown’s impact on public finances will be significant, with a large shortfall in tax and other revenues, the Council recommended a nuanced fiscal response, with a focus not just on the size but the design of any stimulus package.
  • A support mechanism for cash-starved small enterprises needs to be a top priority, along with partial loan guarantees and other measures to protect non-banking financial companies, the Council said.

What is fiscal deficit?

It is the difference between the Revenue Receipts plus Non-debt Capital Receipts (NDCR) and the total expenditure.

In other words, fiscal deficit is “reflective of the total borrowing requirements of Government”.

What is the significance of fiscal deficit?

  • In the economy, there is a limited pool of investible savings. These savings are used by financial institutions like banks to lend to private businesses (both big and small) and the governments (Centre and state).
  • If the fiscal deficit ratio is too high, it implies that there is a lesser amount of money left in the market for private entrepreneurs and businesses to borrow.
  • Lesser amount of this money, in turn, leads to higher rates of interest charged on such lending.
  • So, simply put, a higher fiscal deficit means higher borrowing by the government, which, in turn, mean higher interest rates in the economy.
  • A high fiscal deficit and higher interest rates would also mean that the efforts of the Reserve Bank of India to reduce interest rates are undone.

FOODGRAIN STOCK WILL LAST TILL NEXT MARCH: FCI

Focus: GS-II Social Justice, GS-III Agriculture

Why in news?

The stock of foodgrains available with the Food Corporation of India is “comfortable” to manage the situation till March 2021, but it would be an exaggeration to hold that the stock is “far in excess” of the buffer stock requirement, which should include additional allocation, according to the Chairman and Managing Director of the FCI.

Additional allocation

  • A pandemic, as we are witnessing today, is a different situation and it may demand a revision of the existing norms in view of the additional allocation of foodgrains at 5 kg a person, as being done under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) for three months (April to June this year in the light of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • In essence, the buffer norms now need to take into account the additional allocation too.
  • In the remaining period of April, May and June, it is expected that there will be an outflow of 200 lakh tonnes for the regular NFSA scheme, 5 kg free for each NFSA beneficiaries given under PMGKAY and the new schemes introduced for non-NFSA cardholders and NGOs.

Kharif procurement

  • As the Kharif procurement season for rice is approaching an end and wheat procurement has just started, the stock position at our warehouses will naturally be high on July 1.
  • Wheat being once a year crop, it has to be stocked from July for almost a year to meet the year-long demand by the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) till the arrival of the next crop.
  • Similarly, we will have to wait at least for six months to start receiving the inflow of Kharif rice.

Food Corporation of India (FCI)

  • Food Corporation of India (FCI) is a Public Sector Undertaking, under the Department of Food & Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, GOI.
  • It is a statutory body set up in 1965 under the Food Corporations Act, 1964.
  • It was established against the backdrop of major grains shortage, especially of wheat.

Objectives of FCI

  • To provide farmers remunerative prices
  • To make food grains available at reasonable prices, particularly to vulnerable sections of society
  • To maintain buffer stocks for food security
  • To intervene in market for price stabilization

Read More about Kharif and Rabi Crops at:

https://www.legacyias.com/pre-monsoon-crop-cultivation-takes-a-hit/


NBWL NOD FOR COAL MINING IN ASSAM ELEPHANT RESERVE

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology, Prelims

Why in news?

Amid the countrywide lockdown, the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) has recommended coal mining in a part of an elephant reserve in Assam.

The NBWL’s Standing Committee had on April 7 discussed a proposal for use of 98.59 hectares of land from the Saleki proposed reserve forest land for a coal mining project by North-Easter Coal Field (NECF), a unit of Coal India Limited.

Panel Recommendations

  • 57.20 ha of hilly forestland had already been broken up by the user agency (NECF) and the remaining 41.39 ha was unbroken.
  • Panel recommended a “cautious approach” for preserving the “basic integrity of this forested hill slope” that is a part of the elephant reserve in Assam adjoining Arunachal Pradesh’s Deomali Elephant Reserve with “a sizeable population of elephants.”
  • Panel recommended for approval” the proposal for mining in the broken-up area after the user agency submits a rectified site-specific mine reclamation plan in consultation with the Assam Forest Department.

National Board for Wildlife

  • NBWL was constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Hence, NBWL is a Statutory body.
  • NBWL has 47 members, with the Prime Minister as the Chairman.
  • NBWL is “advisory” in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
  • Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  • It serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  • It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  • All the changes or alterations of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries require NBWL’s approval.

Deomali

  • Deomali is a census town in Tirap district in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India.
  • Nocte are the principal tribe in Deomali and its nearby villages, some small population of Wancho, Tutsa, Adi, Nyishi, Galo, Assamese, Bengali and Bihari are also found here.

Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts of Assam.
  • It is part of the Assam valley tropical wet evergreen forest and consists of three parts: Jeypore, upper Dihing River and Dirok rainforest.
  • It was declared a sanctuary on 13 June 2004. This sanctuary is also a part of Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve.
  • A part of the forest was declared as a wildlife sanctuary by the Government of Assam, while another part falls under the Dibru-Deomali Elephant Reserve.
  • The forest further spreads over in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Dehing Patkai forms the largest stretch of tropical lowland rainforests in India.
  • The forest is often referred to as “The Amazon of the east” owing to its large area and thick forests.

ICMR NOD FOR CORONAVIRUS DETECTION ASSAY

Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims

Why in news?

IIT Delhi said it has got the approval from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for a probe-free coronavirus detection assay developed by it.

The institute, in a statement on Thursday, said the assay had been validated at ICMR with a sensitivity and specificity of 100%, making IIT-D the first academic institute to have obtained ICMR approval for a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based diagnostic assay.

Read More about the Assay and its Approval in the Today’s PIB Summary (24th April) at:

https://www.legacyias.com/april-17th-static-quiz-on-economy/


SOUTH ASIA NEEDS A HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE

Focus: GS-II International Relations, Prelims

Why in news?

The SAARC Secretariat should play an active role in the region’s response to COVID-19, along with “someone in-charge”, according to Sri Lanka’s former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Greater regional cooperation – how can it help?

  • We must treat the COVID-19 crisis as a humanitarian issue and come up with a regional response.
  • Why SAARC? Because the ASEAN countries are already working out a programme. That would take two other BIMSTEC countries out. So, within SAARC it should work.
  • There has to be a common centre. The SAARC Secretariat and someone who is in-charge. As far as the Secretariat is concerned, the advantage is that the ambassadors accredited to SAARC are there.
  • The most advance medical knowledge in SAARC is with India, Pakistan. Sri Lanka also have some, Bangladesh has some, we have to work together.
  • If there is a big natural disaster in India, whatever the problems are, Pakistan will speak. When there is one in Pakistan, India will speak. Look at this as a humanitarian crisis.
  • SAARC will have to decide where exactly it has to be, it is not something to fight over, it is a matter of convenience.
  • We have to look at issues pertaining not only to health, but also to our economies. Like the problem of debt, which is heavy for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.’
  • We need to work on regional tourism, we can keep moving around and encouraging that. People aren’t going to come from a distance. Europeans may not come.
  • Testing is what we all have to do. If governments get into testing, that is a big opportunity to create employment – while addressing the need for medical equipment, the demand for hand sanitisers.
  • The free markets have to flow. But some of the countries that are doing well in their COVID-19 response have a more social market economy – because they put in so much into health and education – the response has been good.

What did Sri Lanka’s Former Prime Minister tell about India and Sri Lanka’s Recent Relations?

  • Sri Lanka’s Former Prime Minister told that the ambulance service that Prime Minister Modi gave at his request – “we have to thank him for that, without that it would have been much more difficult.”
  • The India-funded hospital in Dickoya [Central Province] has made a vast difference to areas without any access to medical service.
  • The India-aided infrastructure projects – the houses in Jaffna, in the hill country – all that helps in this situation.
  • The Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA) [proposed between Sri Lanka and India] should come in.
  • India should reconsider coming into the RCEP (The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).

Read more about ‘SAARC countries uniting to combat COVID-19’ at:

https://www.legacyias.com/22nd-april-current-affairs/

(First Article of 22nd April 2020 Current Affairs)

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