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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 9 April 2020

Contents:

  1. Not possible to lift the lockdown in one go, Task force for continuing curbs
  2. Focus shifts to contact tracing, infrastructure
  3. Kerala experts for 3-phased easing of curbs
  4. Virus hits both genders equally, except in 2 nations
  5. Importance of soft power is increasing globally
  6. Poaching, not virus, is the bigger threat, says tiger expert
  7. Centre rolls out steps for women’s safety
  8. ChildLine fielding calls against abuse
  9. Post lockdown, CII for phased reopening
  10. IRDAI permits insurers to grant three months’ moratorium on term loans

NOT POSSIBLE TO LIFT THE LOCKDOWN IN ONE GO, TASK FORCE FOR CONTINUING CURBS

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting with parliamentary floor leaders of both Houses on April 8 said it didn’t seem possible that the countrywide lockdown can be lifted as per the original schedule of April 14, but added that he will consult the Chief Ministers before deciding the exit strategy.

A task force for minimising restrictions in districts where there are no cases or a few cases in Karnataka was set up by the state government.

Details of what was discussed and demanded:

  • The Prime Minister heard everyone’s concerns and spoke about the ongoing lockdown. He said that as per the advice and information that he has been receiving it looks difficult to end the lockdown on April 14.
  • He flagged the urgent need to refinance the industries and ensure cash in the hands of labourers who find themselves out of job because of the lock down.
  • The harvesting season has begun, so the PM was told to ensure that the farmer is not inconvenienced during the lock down and harvesting can go on without any trouble.
  • Central assistance provided to the state of Kerala for COVID relief is ₹157 crore. It’s is only 1.4 per cent of the total ₹11,091 crores allocated nationally, hence  a hike in financial assistance to the State was sought.
  • The rescue package that the government announced is extremely limited and will not help. Most countries have drawn up a package worth at least 10% of the GDP. In case of India by the same calculations it should have been 15-20 lakh crore. So far the government has only announced 2 lakh crores.

Task force set up by Karnataka State Government

The task force set up by the State government to review the COVID-19 lockdown has submitted its report recommending extension of restrictions in hotspot districts in the State where high number of positive cases have been reported.

Highlights of the Report and Task Force’s views

  • The report has said that all schools and colleges should be closed till May-end and thrust should be on online classes.
  • The task force is of the view that inter-State borders should remain closed and no buses, trains, flights or metro trains should be allowed till April 30, while autorickshaws should be allowed to ply.
  • The report said that the government can consider allowing odd and even number registration vehicles to operate on alternate days.
  • The other recommendations of the task force include encouraging online health services, allowing opening of shops without air conditioning, letting IT/BT companies and essential services, government offices, factories to function with only 50% staff.
  • Local shops should be opened for longer duration to avoid crowd, said the report.
  • The report said that these recommendations should be in force between April 15 to April 30 and can later be reviewed.
  • However, the task force has underlined that social distancing should be maintained for the next six months.

FOCUS SHIFTS TO CONTACT TRACING, INFRASTRUCTURE

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

With 32 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, the Union Health Ministry on 8th April 2020 said building hospital infrastructure, aggressive contact tracing and total enforcement of the lockdown with the help of people were the main focus now in the fight against COVID-19.

Views of the Health Ministry

Status check 
Maharashtra had the 
highest number of 
COVID-19 related 
deaths and cases 
as of Wednesday. 
Eighteen States have 
recorded at least one 
death. Table lists 
10 States that have 
reported the most 
deaths 
Maharashtra 
Madhya Pradesh 
Gujarat 
Tela ana 
Delhi 
Pun' b 
Tamil Nadu 
Karnataka 
West Bengal 
Deaths 
23 
11 
8 
Cases 
1,135 
354 
106 
92 
An IAF aircraft 
ferried medicat 
equipment 
from Chennai to 
Bhubaneswar 
on Monday 
for setting up 
COVID.19 testing 
facilities in Odisha.
  • We are speeding up infrastructure-building and grading up our response as the number of cases has shown a rise over the past few days.
  •  the country was facing an unprecedented challenge, in which we are getting cases of both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients acting as carriers.
  • The need of the hour is to break the transmission, and for that, the lockdown is the key, and we seek the cooperation of people.
  • While even a single death is a major cause of concern, the number is relatively fewer in India.
  • The whole situation of hydroxycholoroquine is being monitored at the highest level; it is being ensured that there will be no shortage. Currently, this is being used for a very small section of the population.
  • To prevent hoarding of essentials, the States have been asked to take action under Essential Commodities Act.

KERALA EXPERTS FOR 3-PHASED EASING OF CURBS

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

An expert committee headed by former Chief Secretary K.M. Abraham has recommended a phased relaxation of the lockdown to contain COVID-19 for areas outside the seven hotspot districts in the State from April 15.

What the  Expert Committee said?

  • It should be borne in mind that the phased withdrawal is sustainable only if there is a steady recovery and decline in the number of cases leading to initial flattening of the infection curve and then gradual tapering of the curve to zero infection cases.
  • It has asked the government to advise the people that in the event of a resurgence, they should be ready and willing to undergo the rigours of a complete lockdown once again.
  • The committee has also come up with health-related and non-health-related objectives for the withdrawal strategy and steps for management of hotspots and vulnerable population.

3 Phase Restriction Explained:

Restrictions during 3 phases 
workers, patients 
• No gathering of 
more than 
5 persons 
• No religious 
congregations 
• Attendance at 
marriages, funerals 
to be 10 
Super 
markets, malls, 
cinemas, bars to 
remain closed 
Face mask 
compulsory for 
stepping out 
Ban on those above 65 
with history of comorbidity 
from stepping out 
Govt. offces, banks 
may reopen with 
50% attendance 
PHASE 
Identity card must, Odd-even 
travel purpose to 
be explained 
scheme for 
private vehicles 
No flights, 
train 
services 
Total clampdown on 
vehicle movement 
on Sunday 
No entry of any 
One person per 
house can go 
person from 
outside for 3 hours outside the State 
Hostels, 
residential 
facilities may 
be opened 
PHASE 
Domestic flights for 
essential passengers, 
doctors, health 
Autos, taxis may be allowed, but only 
one and three passengers respectively 
Bus travel for 
Activities under 
short distance 
MGNREGS, micro, 
within city or town 
small and medium 
with one person per seat enterprises begin 
Inter-district 
bus transport 
with two- 
thirds capacity 
IT companies 
to open 
partially 
Bevco may start 
online sale of liquor 
Entry into the 
No religious 
State, should 
congregations, 
large marriages, undergo 
political meetings, 14-day 
conferences 
quarantine 
Attendance at 
marriages and 
funerals to be 20 
Workers at worksite 20 
or 25% of staff strength, 
People may be permitted to walk for 
30 minutes before 7.30 a.m. 
Universities, schools, colleges open for exams

Phase I relaxation

  • For qualifying for Phase 1 relaxation, there has to be not more than one new case in the district for the entire week prior to the date of review on April 14.
  • No increase more than 10% of the number of persons under home surveillance in the district and no hotspots of COVID-19 anywhere in the district as identified by the Health Department are the other criteria fixed.

Criteria for Phase II

  • A district will qualify for Phase II relaxation at the time of second review only if there is no more than one new case for the entire fortnight prior to the date of review.
  • Not more than a 5% increase in the number of persons under home surveillance from the date of the previous review and no infection hotspots are the additional criteria.

Phase III relaxation

  • A district will qualify for Phase III relaxation only if there is no new case of infection in that district for the fortnight prior to the date of review.
  • In addition, a decrease of more than 5% of the number of persons under home surveillance in the district from the date of the previous review and no hotspots anywhere in the district are needed.

VIRUS HITS BOTH GENDERS EQUALLY, EXCEPT IN 2 NATIONS

Focus: GS-II Social Justice, GS-III Disaster Management

Why in news?

  • In a striking contrast with many countries, men in India more than women appear disproportionately likely to test positive for COVID- 19, an analysis of global data shows.
  • This anomaly, experts told could be a statistical reflection of relatively low testing for the disease in India.
  • Last week, the Health Ministry said 76% of the confirmed cases in India were men.

Details

Machine generated alternative text:
Gender skew 
More than 70% 
COVID-19 patients 
in India and Pakistan 
are men. In most 
other nations, the 
difference between 
the number of men 
and women patients 
has remained narrow. 
The graph plots the 
share of male patients 
against that of women 
patients among the 
total cases 
SOURCE: GLOBAL HEALTH 50/50 
60 
50 
40 
20 
40 
South Korea 
China 
Italy 
Iran 
Japan 
Pakistam 
India 
Australia 
50 
70 
60 
CASES (% MALE)
  • Many countries — including the United Kingdom and the United States — while publicising data on cases and death rates don’t have sex-segregated national data.
  • However, data from 40 countries, which do share such data and compiled by GlobalHealth5050, an independent research initiative that tracks gender and health, suggest that the gender-split in all countries is roughly 50-50, barring two exceptions: India and Pakistan.
  • Another unusual exception was South Korea — the country that has conducted the maximum number of tests as a proportion of population — in that more women tested positive than men.
  • However, men in all countries were significantly more likely — almost twice — to die than women, though this data point is available for only 18 countries.
  • India hasn’t yet shared national figures on COVID-19 mortality rates in men and women.

Reasons for this skewed proportion

  • Experts told that India’s wide disparity was more likely due to sociological factors.
  • When testing increased and more infections detected the male-female gap would likely narrow.
  • It’s possibly more reflective of employment trends in India. Women are much less likely to be travelling for work internationally from India.

IMPORTANCE OF SOFT POWER IS INCREASING GLOBALLY

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Views of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) president

  • When the ICCR was established- Majorly, it was about scholarships to foreign students, cultural exchanges involving artistes and youths as also establishing some Chairs in some universities etc.
  • Now, we are in a world where every nation wants to influence and occupy the mind space of the global community and thereby add to its prowess.
  • In a way the limitations of military might are now more obvious and hence the importance of soft power is increasing.
  • India enjoys a groundswell of goodwill, but the challenge is to translate this goodwill into understanding of India.
  • ICCR plans to start academic programmes like an Understanding India course, cultural exchange between future leaders, mainstreaming of our traditional artisans through exchange with similar artisans abroad and converting Chairs into full-fledged India Study Centres abroad.
  • Promotion of all languages from India and not just Hindi is something ICCR wants to work for.
  • Since this is a knowledge era and since alumni of Indian institutions form an important segment of India’s soft power, we decided to take initiative and organised the first of its kind national convention on ‘Destination India’ in January 2019 in Pune.
  • Today, India ranks 26th as a destination country whereas we are third as a source country. We have to move up fast to be a leader of the global knowledge society.

What is Soft Power?

  • In politics (and particularly in international politics), soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (contrast hard power).
  • In other words, soft power involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction.
  • A defining feature of soft power is that it is non-coercive; the currency of soft power includes culture, political values, and foreign policies.
  • In international relations, soft power is generated only in part by what the government does through its policies and public diplomacy.
  • The generation of soft power is also affected in positive (and negative) ways by a host of non-state actors within and outside the country.
  • Those actors affect both the general public and governing elites in other countries, and create an enabling or disabling environment for government policies.

What is ICCR?

  • The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India, involved in India’s external cultural relations, through cultural exchange with other countries and their peoples.
  • It was founded on 9 April 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister of independent India.
  • The Council addresses its mandate of cultural diplomacy through a broad range of activities. In addition to organising cultural festivals in India and overseas, the ICCR financially supports a number of cultural institutions across India, and sponsors individual performers in dance, music, photography, theatre, and the visual arts.
  • It also administers the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, established by the Government of India in 1965, whose last award was in 2009.

POACHING, NOT VIRUS, IS THE BIGGER THREAT, SAYS TIGER EXPERT

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology, Prelims

Why in news?

Wildlife scientist cautions that a spurt in poaching during the lockdown period poses a greater threat to wildlife than the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Background

  • A tiger at the Bronx zoo in the U.S. tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
  • The warning came after the advisory issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for immediate preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus from humans to animals and vice-versa in national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves.

Views of Wildlife scientist

  • The issue was being blown out of proportion because of the media focus, although this could be attributed to genuine concern.
  • This specific virus was known to affect domestic cats and it came as no surprise that tigers could get it too.
  • Wild tiger populations had high birth rates and high annual mortality rates and the coronavirus-related threats were highly unlikely to cause population declines.
  • The real threat to tigers was posed by a surge in local poaching of prey species during the lockdown.

Poaching during lockdown

  • With the police busy otherwise, and forest officials facing movement constraints, this emboldens a new wave of poachers.
  • In response to the reported spurt in poaching due to lockdown: there was no known case of poaching in protected areas where fire guards supplemented the field staff and the added staff would deter poachers.

Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in April 1973 by the Government of India.
  • The project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the distribution of tigers in the country.
  • The project’s task force visualized these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests. Funds and commitment were mastered to support the intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project.
  • The government has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.

Project Tiger’s main aims are to:

  • Reduce factors that lead to the depletion of tiger habitats and to mitigate them by suitable management. The damages done to the habitat shall be rectified so to facilitate the recovery of the ecosystem to the maximum possible extent.
  • Ensure a viable tiger population for economic, scientific, cultural, aesthetic and ecological values.
Machine generated alternative text:
AFGHANIST 
PAKISTAN 
SEA 
ouoHWA 
SAW Y 
SATPURAZPEN H 
TAOOBA. AN OMAR 
Mu D U GALAM 
SANOlpuR 
TIGER RESERVES 
IN INDIA 
CHINA 
BHUTAN 
BANGLADESH 
w PSI 
*AVE RI 
MYANMAR 
KALAKAD U

Project Tiger Reserves of India

The Project Tiger Reserves of India is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Project Tiger Reserves Located State
Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Kawal Andhra Pradesh
Namdapha Pakhui/Pakke Arunachal Pradesh
Kaziranga Manas Nameri Assam
Valmiki Nagar Bihar
Achanakmar Indravati Udanti and Sitanadi Chhattisgarh
Palamau Jharkhand
Bandipur Bhadra Dandeli-Anshi Nagarhole B.R Hills Karnataka
Parambikulam Periyar Kerala
Bandhavgarh Kanha Panna Pench Sanjay Dubri Satpura Madhya Pradesh
Melghat Pench ShahyadriTabola-Andhari Maharashtra
Dampa Mizoram
Satkosia Simplipal Orissa
Mukunda Hills Sariska Ranthambore Rajasthan
Annamalai Kalakad-Mundathurai Mudumalai Sathyamangalam Tamil Nadu
Katerniaghat Extension Dudhwa Uttar Pradesh
Corbett Uttarakhand
Buxa Sunderban West Bengal

Tiger Census in India

  • Every 4 years the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) conducts a tiger census across India.
  • The first was conducted in 2006, followed by 2010 and in 2014.
  • The Census (2014) had reported 2,226 tigers in the country, up from 1,706 in 2010.
  • The fourth tiger census (All India Tiger Estimation 2018-19) estimated to be released in May 2019.
  • This 2018 tiger census uses a mobile app named “MSTrIPES” for the very first time to store information of the counting.
  • One of the Primary focus of the tiger census 2018 is to cover the northeast India that was not included in the previous census.
  • For the very first time three neighbouring countries Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh are helping in counting the number of tigers all across India, especially in the region with mutual borders.

CENTRE ROLLS OUT STEPS FOR WOMEN’S SAFETY

Focus: GS-II Social Justice, Prelims

Why in news?

Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani sought to send the message that “The government and its machinery are working for women who seek protection” through a video-conference on 8th April 2020.

Why was this needed?

  • The appeal comes at a time gender rights activists and the U.N. have called for the need to boost helplines, psycho-social support and online counselling as well as demanded that these be declared essential services so that women in distress can continue to access help.
  • The National Commission of Women has recorded a more than two-fold rise in domestic violence and sexual assaults and a three-fold increase in cases of police apathy in the first week of lockdown since March 24.

What is the Women and Child Development Ministry doing about it?

  • Officils were instructed to ensure that One Stop Centres, which provide legal and psycho-social help to survivors of gender-based violence, are linked with local medical teams, police and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) so that their services are not impacted due to restrictions on movement.
  • One Stop Centre teams must also be linked with NIMHANS to equip counsellors across the country to deal with the unique problems faced by women.
  • Under lockdown, we must use digital governance to ensure safety of women which must be replicated at the State-level and with NGOs so that there is no deficit of either information or help.
  • NGOs were also urged to try to ensure that every individual calls at least 10 women every day so that “women know that they are not alone”.

National Commission for Women

  • The National Commission for Women (NCW) is the statutory body of the Government of India – Established under provisions of the 1990 National Commission for Women Act.
  • NCW is generally concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women.
  • The objective of the NCW is to represent the rights of women in India and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns.
  • The subjects of their campaigns have included dowry, politics, religion, equal representation for women in jobs, and the exploitation of women for labour.
  • They have also discussed police abuses against women.
  • The commission regularly publishes a monthly newsletter, Rashtra Mahila, in both Hindi and English.

CHILDLINE FIELDING CALLS AGAINST ABUSE

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

One in every three calls made to the emergency helpline for children, ChildLine 1098, days before and during the nation-wide lockdown sought protection from abuse and sexual violence, according to a presentation made on 7th April 2020.

Details

  • Between March 20 and March 31, the helpline recorded a total of 4.3 lakh calls — 50% more than the average.
  • Nearly 30% reported instances of abuse and violence, either experienced first hand or on behalf of a child survivor, as lockdown leaves children confined to their homes, rendering them vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, a majority of which take place within homes and families.
  • Significantly, many who called the helpline also sought information related to availability of food and shelter.
  • These calls were made for missing and runaway children, children stranded due to the lockdown as well as children of unemployed and migrant labourers who found themselves displaced.

Safety measures undertaken

  • The video-conference on 7th April was to sensitise Child Welfare Committees, Child Care Institutions and District Child Protection Units, which primarily deal with orphaned, abandoned and missing children.
  • NGOs were urged to share information about adolescent girls in temporary shelters provided for migrant labourers with District Collectors and Superintendents of Police to ensure safety and health measures, such as provision of sanitary napkins.
  • Women and Child Development Ministry would work with the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure district authorities were sensitised to the needs of adolescent girls who have been displaced due to the lockdown.

POST LOCKDOWN, CII FOR PHASED REOPENING

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, Industry and Infrastructure, Prelims

Why in news?

Amid talks over over extending the 21-day nationwide lockdown, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has suggested to the government to follow a phased reopening plan with sectors such as manufacturing and construction, that provide mass employment, re-started first

Details:

  • The CII also sought a fiscal support package for FY21 limited to 2% of the GDP to support the lowest strata and the informal sector and ₹2 lakh crore be transferred to JAM account holders.
  • For lifting the lockdown, the industry body has pitched for a “re-start calendar” across cities and States, based on a dashboard that can monitor curves of various key cities and States.

Phases of lockdown by CII:

  • In phase 1, it said sectors where work-from-home is difficult and which provide mass employment could be re-started to protect low-wage employment. They include manufacturing and transport.
  • In phase 2, which could start 2-3 weeks after phase 1, other sectors could be allowed to start. 
  • Truck drivers and migrant workers willing to come back should be facilitated, dhabas on highways petrol/diesel stations and repair shops on highways should be opened, adding logistics service providers must extend insurance cover of about ₹10-15 lakh for a period of three months to the workers and their families.
  • To get back migrant workers, the CII suggested a COVID-19 insurance scheme for three months for which part cost could be borne by the government and part by the industry, besides an aggressive ‘messaging’ campaign.

Background:

About CII:

  • Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization, playing a proactive role in India’s development process. Founded in 1895 and celebrating 125 years in 2020,
  • It works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, partnering industry, Government, and civil society, through advisory and consultative processes. One of the major functions of CII is to strengthen industry’s role in the economic development of the country.

Functions of CII

  • To identify and strengthen industry’s role in the economic development of the country
  • To act as a catalyst in bringing about the growth and development of Indian Industry
  • To reinforce industry’s commitment to society
  • To provide up-to-date information and data to industry and government
  • To create awareness and support industry’s efforts on quality, environment, energy management, and consumer protection
  • To identify and address the special needs of the small sector to make it more competitive
  • To promote cooperation with counterpart organisations
  • To work towards the globalisation of Indian industry and integration into the world economy

Extra notes:

  • Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has launched a Fiscal Performance Index (FPI) to assess state and central budgets.
  • The Index incorporates qualitative assessments of revenue expenditure, capital expenditure, revenues, fiscal prudence and the level of public debt.

IRDAI PERMITS INSURERS TO GRANT THREE MONTHS’ MORATORIUM ON TERM LOANS

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, Prelims, Statutory Bodies

Why in news?

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has permitted insurers to grant a moratorium of three months on repayment of term loans sanctioned by them.

Details:

  • Considering the cash flow problems faced by the borrowers and in line with the recent directions of the RBI on moratorium on term loans, insurers are permitted to grant a moratorium of three months towards payment of instalments falling due between March 1 and May 31
  • The rescheduling of payments, including interest, will not qualify as a default for the purpose of reporting of non-performing assets (NPAs).

Background:

About IRDAI:

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India or the IRDAI is the apex body responsible for regulating and developing the insurance industry in India.
  • It is an autonomous body. It was established by an act of Parliament known as the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999. Hence, it is a statutory body.
  • The IRDAI is headquartered in Hyderabad in Telangana. Prior to 2001, it was headquartered in New Delhi. 

Functions of IRDA

The functions of the IRDA are listed below:

  • Its primary purpose is to protect the rights of the policyholders in India. 
  • It gives the registration certificate to insurance companies in the country.
  • It also engages in the renewal, modification, cancellation, etc. of this registration.
  • It also creates regulations to protect policyholders’ interests in India.

Composition of IRDA

The Section 4 of the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) Act, 1999 specifies the composition of authority which consists of 10 member team appointed by the government of India which includes.

  • One chairman
  • Five whole time members
  • Four part time members
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