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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 7 June 2021

Contents

  1. Education Ministry’s Performance Grading Index (PGI)
  2. Tension returns to Assam-Mizoram border
  3. G7 corporate tax deal
  4. H10N3 bird flu
  5. MHA: NPR slips valid for long-term visas

Education Ministry’s Performance Grading Index (PGI)

Context:

Education Ministry’s Performance Grading Index for 2019-20 was released recently showing that Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have all scored quite well.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Education and related Issues, Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2019-20
  2. Highlights of Education Ministry’s PGI for 2019-20
  3. Steps taken to ensure access to education during the COVID Lockdowns
  4. Major Initiatives under National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT)

About Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2019-20

  • The Performance Grading Index (PGI) rates performance in school education based on data drawn from the Unified District Information System for Education Plus, National Achievement Survey, Mid-Day Meal, Public Financial Management System, and the Shagun portal — all maintained by the department of school education.
  • This is the third edition of the index and uses 70 indicators to measure progress.
  • Of these, the 16 indicators related to learning outcomes remain unchanged through all three editions, as they are based on data from the 2017 National Achievement Survey, which tested students in Classes 3, 5, 8 and 10. The next NAS was scheduled to be held in 2020, but was postponed because of the pandemic.

Highlights of Education Ministry’s PGI for 2019-20

Top Performers and Improvements

  • Punjab has recorded the highest score of almost 929 out of a possible 1,000, showing a huge jump from less than 800 in 2018-19.
  • The State topped the charts in terms of equity, infrastructure and governance, and shared the top spot in the domain of access with Kerala.
  • Punjab overtook the Union Territory of Chandigarh, which had topped both previous editions of the index 2017 & 2018, but has now slid to second place.
  • Tamil Nadu also overtook Kerala, largely driven by improvements in the State’s educational governance and management, as well as in terms of infrastructure and facilities.
  • Gujarat, which had the second highest score in the previous edition, dropped to eighth place. It has regressed in the key domain of access, which measures enrolment of students in school and the ability to keep them from dropping out as well as mainstreaming out-of-school students. Its progress in other areas also did not keep pace with other States.

Lowest scores

  • Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh saw a glaring drop in their governance scores, pushing both States to an overall performance that was worse than in the previous 2018-19 edition.
  • The new Union Territory of Ladakh was included separately for the first time in this edition, and had the lowest score of just over 500.
Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Chandigarh top in Performance Grading Index  | Education News,The Indian Express
Punjab, Chandigarh,TN, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kerala top performers  in school education - Times of India

Steps taken to ensure access to education during the COVID Lockdowns

  • Some states have launched innovative mobile apps and portals as means to facilitate remote learning.
  • Many states have had to be creative with low tech forms of teaching and instruction delivery with low or nil requirements of the internet. For instance- In Arunachal Pradesh, primary class students are receiving interesting Radio talks in their mother tongue through All India Radio.
  • Andhra Pradesh has started Toll Free Call Centre and Toll-Free Video call centre for students for understanding critical topics and clearing their doubts.
  • Due to poor mobile connectivity and unavailability of internet services, Chhattisgarh has started Motor iskool.
  • Some of the major digital initiatives by State Governments are SMILE (Social Media Interface for Learning Engagement) in Rajasthan, Project Home Classes in Jammu, Padhai Tunhar duvaar (Education at your doorstep) in Chhattisgarh, Unnayan Initiatives in Bihar through portal and mobile application, Mission Buniyaad in NCT of Delhi, Kerala’s own educational TV channel (Hi-Tech school programme), E-scholar portal as well as free online courses for teachers in Meghalaya.

Major Initiatives under National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT)

  1. SWAYAM: The Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM) is an integrated platform for offering online courses, covering school (9th to 12th) to Postgraduate Level. The online courses are being used not only by the students but also by the teachers and non-student learners, in the form of lifelong learning.
  2. SWAYAM Prabha: It is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on a 24X7 basis.
  3. National Digital Library of India (NDL): It is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. Presently, there are more than 3 crore digital resources available through the NDL.
  4. Spoken Tutorial: They are 10-minute long, audio-video tutorial, on open-source software, to improve employment potential of students. It is created for self-learning, audio dubbed into 22 languages and with the availability of online version.
  5. Free and Open-Source Software for Education (FOSSEE): It is a project promoting the use of open-source software in educational institutions. It does that through instructional material, such as spoken tutorials, documentation, such as textbook companions, awareness programmes, such as conferences, training workshops, and internships.
  6. Virtual Lab: This is a project to develop a fully interactive simulation environment to perform experiments, collect data, and answer questions to assess the understanding of the knowledge acquired. There are about 225 such labs operational, with more than 1800 experiments that benefitted more than 15 lakhs students.
  7. E-Yantra: It is a project for enabling effective education across engineering colleges in India on embedded systems and robotics. More than 275 colleges across India have benefited with this initiative.

-Source: The Hindu


Tension returns to Assam-Mizoram border

Context:

The police in southern Assam’s Hailakandi district have increased vigil along the interstate boundary following alleged incursion by miscreants from Mizoram.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Inter-State Relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background to the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute
  2. Other Boundary Issues in Northeast

Background to the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute

  • Mizoram borders Assam’s Barak Valley and the boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram is 165 km long. Both states border Bangladesh.
  • The boundary issue between present-day Assam and Mizoram dates back to the colonial era when inner lines were demarcated according to the administrative needs of British Raj.
  • Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950 and lost much of its territory to new states that emerged from within its borders between the early 1960s and the early 1970s.
  • Mizoram was granted statehood in 1987 by the State of Mizoram Act, 1986.
  • The Assam-Mizoram dispute stems from a notification of 1875 that differentiated Lushai Hills (During colonial times, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills) from the plains of Cachar, and another of 1933 that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
  • According to an agreement between the governments of Assam and Mizoram, the status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area.
  • In the Northeast’s complex boundary equations, clashes between Assam and Mizoram residents are less frequent than they are between other neighbouring states of Assam, like with Nagaland.

Other Boundary Issues in Northeast

During British rule, Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya besides Mizoram, which became separate states one by one.

  1. Assam-Nagaland: Nagaland shares a 500-km boundary with Assam and achieved statehood in December 1963 and was formed out of the Naga Hills district of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (then North-East Frontier Agency). Violent clashes and armed conflicts, marked by killings, have occurred on the Assam-Nagaland border since 1965.
  2. Assam-Arunachal Pradesh: Arunachal Pradesh shares a 800-km boundary with Assam and was granted statehood by the State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986 in 1987. Clashes were first reported in 1992 and since then, there have been several accusations of illegal encroachment from both sides, and intermittent clashes.
  3. Assam-Meghalaya: Meghalaya shares a 884-km boundary with Assam and came into existence as an autonomous state within the state of Assam in April 1970 comprising the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Garo Hills districts. In 1972, it got statehood. As per Meghalaya government statements, today there are 12 areas of dispute between the two states.
ARTICLE 244 (A): ITS RELEVANCE FOR ASSAM HILL TRIBES - Legacy IAS Academy

-Source: The Hindu


G7 corporate tax deal

Context:

Advanced economies making up the G7 grouping have reached a “historic” deal on taxing multinational companies. Finance ministers meeting in London agreed to counter tax avoidance through measures to make companies pay in the countries where they do business.

They also agreed in principle to ratify a global minimum corporate tax rate to counter the possibility of countries undercutting each other to attract investments.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions , Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests), GS-III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Group of Seven (G7)
  2. What are the decisions taken by the G7?
  3. Who are the targets minimum corporate tax rate?
  4. What are the problems with the plan?
  5. Where does India stand?

Group of Seven (G7)

  • The Group of Seven (G7) is an international intergovernmental economic organization consisting of the seven largest developed economies (International Monetary Fund IMF- advanced economies) in the world.
  • G-7 Countries are:
    1. Canada,
    2. France,
    3. Germany,
    4. Italy,
    5. Japan,
    6. The United Kingdom and
    7. The United States.
  • The European Union is sometimes considered an eighth member of the G-7, since it holds all the rights and responsibilities of full members except to chair or host the meeting.
  • G7 Summit is an event conducted annually where world leaders from seven powerful economies of the world come together to discuss burning issues happening around the globe.
  • The major purpose of the G-7 is to discuss and deliberate on international economic issues.
  • G7 is capable of setting the global agenda because decisions taken by these major economic powers have a real impact. Thus, decisions taken at the G7 are not legally binding, but exert strong political influence.
  • It sometimes acts in concert to help resolve other global problems, with a special focus on economic issues.

What are the decisions taken by the G7?

  • The first decision that has been ratified is to force multinationals to pay taxes where they operate.
  • The second decision in the agreement commits states to a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15% to avoid countries undercutting each other. The agreement will now be discussed in detail at a meeting of G20 financial ministers and central bank governors in July.
  • The G7 committed to reaching an equitable solution on the allocation of taxing rights, with market countries awarded taxing rights on at least 20% of profit exceeding a 10% margin for the largest and most profitable multinational enterprises.
  • The G7’s decision provides for appropriate coordination between the application of the new international tax rules and the removal of all Digital Services Taxes, and other relevant similar measures, on all companies.

Click Here to read about the Global Minimum Corporate Tax Rate proposal and Trend in Corporate Tax rates globally

Who are the targets minimum corporate tax rate?

  • Apart from low-tax jurisdictions, the proposal for a minimum corporate tax are tailored to address the low effective rates of tax shelled out by some of the world’s biggest corporations, including digital giants such as Apple, Alphabet and Facebook, as well as major corporations such as Nike and Starbucks.
  • These companies typically rely on complex webs of subsidiaries to hoover profits out of major markets into low-tax countries such as Ireland or Caribbean nations such as the British Virgin Islands or the Bahamas, or to central American nations such as Panama.
  • The US Treasury loses nearly $50 billion a year to tax cheats, according to the Tax Justice Network report, with Germany and France also among the top losers.
  • India’s annual tax loss due to corporate tax abuse is estimated at over $10 billion, according to the report.

What are the problems with the plan?

  • Apart from the challenges of getting all major nations on the same page, especially since this impinges on the right of the sovereign to decide a nation’s tax policy, the proposal has other pitfalls.
  • A global minimum rate would essentially take away a tool that countries use to push policies that suit them.
  • For instance, in the backdrop of the pandemic, IMF and World Bank data suggest that developing countries with less ability to offer mega stimulus packages may experience a longer economic hangover than developed nations.
  • A lower tax rate is a tool they can use to alternatively push economic activity. Also, a global minimum tax rate will do little to tackle tax evasion.

Where does India stand?

  • In a bid to revive investment activity, Indian Finance Minister in 2019 announced a sharp cut in corporate taxes for domestic companies to 22% and for new domestic manufacturing companies to 15%.
  • The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019 resulted in the Income-Tax Act, 1961 to provide for the concessional tax rate of 22% for existing domestic companies subject to certain conditions including that they do not avail of any specified incentive or deductions.
  • Also, existing domestic companies opting for the concessional taxation regime will not be required to pay any Minimum Alternate Tax.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


H10N3 bird flu

Context:

China has confirmed the first instance of human infection from H10N3, a rare strain of a virus that normally infects poultry.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: Social Justice (Health Related Issues), GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About H10N3
  2. About Bird Flu

About H10N3

  • H10N3 is a subtype of the Influenza A virus which is commonly known as the bird flu virus.
  • It is a low pathogenic, or relatively less severe, strain of the virus in poultry and the risk of it spreading on a large scale is very low.
  • Among animals, it can spread through respiratory droplets, similar to flu and Covid-19.
  • The strain is not a very common virus, only about 160 isolates of the virus have been reported in the past 40 years (till 2018), that too, mostly in wild birds or waterfowl in Asia and some parts of North America.
  • There are many different strains of avian influenza in China and some sporadically infect people, generally those working with poultry.

About Bird Flu

  • Bird flu, also known as Avian influenza (AI), is a highly contagious viral disease affecting several species of food-producing birds (chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, etc.) as well as pet birds and wild birds.
  • Occasionally mammals, including humans, may contract avian influenza.
  • Avian Influenza outbreaks can lead to devastating consequences for the country, particularly the poultry industry.
  • Farmers might experience a high level of mortality in their flocks, with rates often around 50%.
  • Strict biosecurity measures and good hygiene are essential in protecting against disease outbreaks.
  • If the infection is detected in animals, a policy of culling infected and contact animals is normally used in an effort to rapidly contain, control and eradicate the disease.

-Source: The Hindu


MHA: NPR slips valid for long-term visas

Context:

Migrants belonging to the six non-Muslim minority communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, while applying for long-term visas (LTVs), can also produce National Population Register (NPR) enrolment slips as proof of duration of their stay in India, according to a Union Home Ministry manual.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Citizenship)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the National Population Register (NPR)?
  2. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA)
  3. Criticisms of the CAA
  4. Recent Home Ministry notification regarding NPR slips

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a database of usual residents in the country who have stayed in a local area for the past six months or more and who intend to remain in the same place for the next six months or more.
  • The NPR is individual and identity specific unlike the Census which only provides information on the status of the residents of India and population swings.
  • The NPR database was first created in 2010.
  • The data collection is done under the aegis of the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.
  • The NPR is undertaken under the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • The NPR was last updated, except in Assam and Meghalaya, in 2015-16.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA)

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) was notified in December 2019 and came into force from January 2020, amending the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The Citizenship Act,1955 provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired: providing for citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and by incorporation of the territory into India.
  • The objective of the CAA is to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities — Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
  • Those from these communities who had come to India till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution in their respective countries, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
  • The Act provides that the central government may cancel the registration of OCIs on certain grounds.
  • The Act does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of being included in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Also, areas that fall under the Inner Limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, will also be outside the Act’s purview.

Criticisms of the CAA

  • It violates the basic tenets of the Constitution. Illegal immigrants are distinguished on the basis of religion.
  • It is perceived to be a demographic threat to indigenous communities.
  • It makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality.
  • It attempts to naturalise the citizenship of illegal immigrants in the region.
  • It allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences.

Recent Home Ministry notification regarding NPR slips

  • The NPR number is part of an illustrative list of more than ten documents that could be provided to apply for a LTV, which is a precursor to acquiring Indian citizenship either by naturalisation or registration under Section 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 for the six communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from the three countries.
  • The special provision of LTVs for Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan and Afghanistan was first made in 2011.
  • The Citizenship Rules framed in 2003 says that NPR is the first step towards compilation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or NRC.
  • The next phase of the NPR, expected to include contentious questions on date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue was to be simultaneously updated with the 2021 House Listing and Housing Census that has been indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19.
  • According to detailed guidelines issued by the Home Ministry on documents that can be produced to prove the date of entry of the minority community migrants currently in India, the “slip issued by the Census enumerators” while conducting survey for preparation of the NPR prior to December 31, 2014 can be provided.
  • The migrants who can apply for LTVs will have to produce any document issued by the governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan “clearly showing the religion of the applicant like school certificate etc. to establish that the applicant is from a minority community,” the guidelines said.

-Source: The Hindu

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