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Aug
10
Mon
2020
Editorial
Aug 10 @ 10:00 am
Editorial

THE HINDU EDITORIALS

10 August 2020  

Safety deficit

The Kozhikode air crash shows that there can be no compromise on airport infrastructure

The tragic crash of an Air India Express ‘Vande Bharat’ relief flight in Kozhikode, in which 18 people, including two crew members, lost their lives and many were left severely injured, is a forceful reminder that there are no acceptable risks in aviation. Although an even bigger disaster was averted by the absence of fire in the aircraft, the crash snuffed out the lives of many returning home from Dubai after a long, traumatic separation from loved ones in the pandemic. Many Indians could not quickly return home from countries where they were employed, studying or travelling, although they desperately sought flights back home since March. For those who took that long-awaited trip on August 7, it ended in disaster. There are clear pointers to the dangerous nature of flight operations at Kozhikode airport in the midst of a strong monsoon, even with the availability of an instrument landing system for the “tabletop” runway carved into undulating terrain. There are problems with visibility, a far shorter safety area at the runway end than optimal, and absence of arrester systems that could stop an overshooting plane from falling off the edge, as it happened with this aircraft. Which of these factors, along with the monsoon impact, led to the disaster will become clear with a professional investigation. The Civil Aviation Ministry should make a full disclosure on the technical evidence gathered, the integrity of which will be scrutinised by safety organisations worldwide.

Apparently anxious to project an image of normalcy, the Ministry allowed the airport to restart flights in a day, while the accident cause was yet to be ascertained. If rainy conditions existed during the landing, as Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said, these may persist during the rest of the monsoon. Each flight must, therefore, be considered for a potential diversion to a safe airport nearby in bad weather. Significantly, the admission by the DGCA that the key recommendation of runway extension at Kozhikode made almost a decade ago was not possible due to land acquisition issues — although the facility could still support wide-bodied aircraft — strengthens the view that corners may have been cut on safety. The instance of an Air India Express plane suffering a tail strike in the same airport last year should have led to a full assessment, following up on the recommendations made after the 2010 crash in Mangaluru. Since the visible cause of Friday’s crash was an overshoot, the runway continues to pose a threat. Bad meteorological conditions such as rain and wind, and runway surface problems such as stagnation of water or rubber deposits that contribute to skidding endanger passengers and crew. Every air safety incident diminishes India’s reputation. The Kozhikode crash should lead to a fresh review of all risky airports. Transparent remedial action must be taken immediately.

Balancing priorities

Development goals must be pursued without breaching environment regulations

Forecasts of ‘good’ or ‘normal’ monsoons are often beguiling and belie the ominous. This year, the annual floods that upend the Brahmaputra Valley have been followed by intense spells along the Konkan coast and Mumbai, and now Kerala, which until the end of last month recorded a slight deficit. The landslip in Idukki, that has so far claimed 22 lives and rendered several homeless, follows from a continuing spell of heavy rains in Kerala. Most districts have received three or four times more rain than what is normal. Last year too, neighbouring Wayanad saw multiple hamlets wiped out and the year before, the devastating floods in the State forced a debate on the need for new models of development. Landslips, or landslides, in the Western Ghats have a history. Following the 2018 floods, data from the Geological Survey of India showed that Kerala had experienced 67 major landslide events and several minor ones from 1961-2013. As part of a National Landslide Susceptibility Mapping (NLSM) programme, the agency mapped several States in the Western Ghats, North-eastern States, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand to assess how vulnerable their districts were. Nearly 13,000 square kilometres were mapped until 2018 and 6,000 were to be covered in 2019-20 in Kerala, according to the programme website. Nearly 13 of the State’s 14 districts were prone to landslides and what made Kerala particularly vulnerable was the high population density — over 800 per square kilometre — compared to other States that also faced high landslide risk.

The objective of the NLSM maps is to help State and district authorities incorporate the risk of landslides into zoning laws. However, just as in the case of earthquake zonation maps, or for that matter, any exercise to scientifically ascertain the risk from natural hazards to a region, these laws are barely implemented in the right spirit. And this is not unique to Kerala. The details might vary but it is now beyond contestation that India is living in a new climate normal. Frequent high intensity bursts of rain will co-exist along with long dry spells. It has emerged from studies of Kerala’s topography that quarrying and the unscientific cutting of slopes into hills aggravates the risk of soil erosion. Operationalising the State’s disaster management apparatus and allocating funds for preparedness are key policy responses, but Kerala also must double down on enforcing regulations and observing zoning laws as well as ensuring that slopes carved into hilly terrain have adequate provisions for draining water. A lack of compliance with such principles is often a key reason why natural hazards end up causing a significant number of avoidable casualties. There is a cost to pursuing development goals without paying attention to environmental constraints.

News (Text)
Aug 10 @ 10:30 am

NEWS

10th August    2020

Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu’ newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims and Mains) compiled by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri.

Sr. No. Topic News
1. GS III- DEFENCE Defence Ministry to impose import embargo on 101 items
2. GSIII- INFRASTRUCTURE Rail corridor to put Gurugram on fast track
3. GS III- ENVIRONMENT- BIODIVERSITY Scientists find 77 new butterfly species in Matheran
4. GS I- CULTURE ‘Design based on temple art’
5. GS III- AGRICULTURE PM launches farm infra scheme
6. GS II- SOCIAL-RELIGION 11 of Pak. Hindu family found dead
7. GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-PAKISTAN ‘LAC complicates India’s options’
8. GS III- DEFENCE Andaman and Nicobar will be a maritime hub: Modi
9. GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-PAKISTAN Amid pandemic, India & Pak. spar over Indus water talks
10. GS II- INTERNATIONAL Lebanese protesters call for sustained uprising

 

GS III- DEFENCE

Defence Ministry to impose import embargo on 101 items

  • The Defence Ministry will “introduce import embargo on 101 items beyond given timeline to boost indigenisation of defence production”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced through a series of tweets.
  • The government intends to reach a turnover of $25 billion through indigenously manufactured defence products and also expects to export products worth $5 billion.
  • “Government has also decided that in any government contract over ₹200 crore, no foreign company can participate in the tendering process… We will help Indian defence manufacturers… This year ₹52,000 crore items [are] to be bought only from Indian companies,” Mr. Singh said in an online interaction.
  • The policy change comes in the wake of Chinese transgressions and the build-up along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. China has refused to pull back from several areas, where it has massed troops since May.
  • He added that almost 260 schemes of such items were contracted by the Tri-Services at an approximate cost of ₹3.5 lakh crore between April 2015 and August 2020. It is estimated that contracts worth almost ₹4 lakh crore will be placed with the domestic industry within the next 6 to 7 years, he said.

GSIII- INFRASTRUCTURE

Rail corridor to put Gurugram on fast track

GS III- ENVIRONMENT- BIODIVERSITY

Scientists find 77 new butterfly species in Matheran

  • After a long gap of 125 years, scientists have found 140 rare species of butterflies, including 77 new ones, in Matheran. The last time butterflies were codified in this eco-sensitive zone was in 1894, when a researcher identified 78 species.
  • The maximum diversity (125) of butterflies was recorded during winter, while the least (80) during monsoon. A high similarity of butterfly species composition was observed between the pairs of sites studied, tending towards perfect nestedness.
  • The paper has listed the species surveyed between 2011 and 2019.
STATES AND THEIR STATE BUTTERFLIES

1.      Maharashtra- Blue Mormon
2.      Uttarakhand- Common peacock
3.      Karnataka- Southern birdwings
4.      Kerala- Malabar banded peacock
5.      Tamil Nadu- Tamil Yeoman
  • The team used a barcode system to denote seasons and the activities of the butterflies.

GS I- CULTURE

‘Design based on temple art’

  • The proposed new Secretariat complex, the design for which was approved by the Telangana Cabinet recently, draws inspiration from a few major temples in the State.
  • The ideas and inspiration of the domes on the façade of the imposing new complex are drawn from major temples — the Neelakanteshwara temple and Hanuman temple at Salangpur, Wanaparthy, and the thousand pillars temple at Hanamkonda.
  • Design has been prepared with architectural styles predominantly of the Deccan Kakatiya style.

Antarvedi is famous for its unique temple known as Neelakanteswara temple. The presiding deity of this temple is Shiva who is also known Neelakanta. Puranas indicate that Brahma has worshipped the idol of Lord Shiva at this temple and is therefore one of the famous Shiva temples in India. The temple is one of the ancient temples of India with devotees thronging to this place during Shiva Ratri Festival.

The temple was constructed by Satakarni II who belonged to the Satavahna dynasty. The architecture and the construction style of the temple closely resemble that of the north Indian temples.

The Thousand Pillar Temple or Rudreshwara Swamy Temple is a historic Hindu temple located in the town of Hanamakonda, Telangana State, India. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Surya.

Thousand Pillar Temple, along with Warangal Fort, Kakatiya Kala Thoranam and Ramappa Temple are added to the tentative list of World Heritage sites recognised by UNESCO.

GS III- AGRICULTURE

PM launches farm infra scheme

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a new financing scheme under the ₹1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund meant for setting up storage and processing facilities, which will help farmers get higher prices for their crops, according to the government statement.
  • He also released the sixth instalment of funds under the PM-KISAN scheme, which amounted to ₹17,000 crore to about 8.5 crore farmers. The first ₹1,000 crore was sanctioned to over 2,280 farmer societies under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund.

GS II- SOCIAL-RELIGION

11 of Pak. Hindu family found dead

  • Eleven members of a family of Pakistan Hindu migrants were found dead at a farm in Jodhpur
  • The family came to India in 2015. They had been living at the village farm for the past six months.

GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-PAKISTAN

‘LAC complicates India’s options’

  • The threat from China is pushing India into closer ties with the U.S. but is unlikely to yield a military ‘alliance’ at present, said experts in Delhi and Washington during a discussion on Indian Foreign Policy. In particular, former National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta felt that India’s common boundary with China and “continental challenge” still complicates its choices, referring to the nearly four-month-long standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

GS III- DEFENCE

Andaman and Nicobar will be a maritime hub: Modi

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Andaman and Nicobar islands region, owing to its strategic importance, was going to be developed as a “maritime and startup hub” and highlighted his government’s development initiatives for it.
  • He said this during a video link with BJP workers from the Union Territory a day before he is to inaugurate a submarine optical fibre cable between Chennai and islands.
  • He said 12 islands of the archipelago have been selected for high-impact projects with an emphasis on boosting trade of sea-based, organic and coconut-based products of the region.
  • He said the proposed transhipment hub in the Andamans will help the group of islands become an important centre of blue economy and a maritime and startup hub.

GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-PAKISTAN

Amid pandemic, India & Pak. spar over Indus water talks

  • India has refused a request by Pakistan to hold a meeting on issues around the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) at the Attari checkpost near the India-Pakistan border
  • The practice at the IWT meetings is that they are led by Indus Water Commissioners from both countries and a range of issues on construction of dams and hydropower projects concerning the Indus river system are discussed.
  • Among the key points on the table was evolving a procedure to solve differences on technical aspects governing the construction of the Ratle run-of-the-river (RoR) project on the Chenab in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • According to the terms of the IWT, India has the right to build RoR projects on the three ‘western’ rivers — the Chenab, Jhelum and Indus — provided it does so without substantially impeding water flow in Pakistan downstream. Pakistan believes that the project’s current design does pose a serious impediment and has told the World Bank that it wants a Court of Arbitration (CoA) set up to decide on the issue. India says this is only a technical issue and mutually solvable. It has agreed to a ‘neutral party’ since a CoA potentially could stall any construction on all Indus projects, the official said.
  • The IWT has been in existence since 1960, and reached a flash point in the aftermath of the Uri attacks in 2016 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that “blood and water couldn’t flow together” and India would utilise the full hydropower capacity of its share of the Indus systems.

GS II- INTERNATIONAL
Lebanese protesters call for sustained uprising

  • Some Lebanese called for a sustained uprising to topple their leaders amid public fury over devastating explosion in Beirut, and the country’s top Christian Maronite cleric said the Cabinet should resign. Meanwhile, hosting an emergency donors conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said world powers must put aside their differences and support the Lebanese people, whose country’s future is at stake.
  • Protesters have called on the government to quit over what they say was negligence that led to
  • About 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs’ Square, which was transformed into a battle zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to Parliament.
Question Bank
Aug 10 @ 11:45 pm
Question Bank

QUESTION BANK

10th AUGUST 2020

                                                                                                                                       (1 Questions)

GS II: BILATERAL- INDIA- U.S.A

Q1. What should be the major factors that structure the India-America relations in the present times.

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-new-direction-for-india-us-ties/article32311136.ece

Ans.                      

  • The United States under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the early 1940s once pressed Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill to free India and co-opt India as a formal ally in World War II. In 1953 after India’s tilt to the Soviet Union and China in the Korean war, the U.S. turned to Pakistan as a possible counterweight in South Asia against the Soviet Union and China. The U.S. made Pakistan a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), and liberally gave aid and armaments.
  • But that is history. The success of our new bonding with the U.S. will first depend on the outcome of the U.S. Presidential elections of 2020. The Democratic party rival and Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has already taken a hostile stand against our government, with the Left wing and liberals in the U.S. highly critical of the Narendra Modi government, such as rubbishing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed by India’s Parliament with a two-thirds majority.
  • In inner U.S. circles our purchase from Russia of the S-400 air defence missile system and the refusal to agree to America’s request to send Indian troops to Afghanistan have mostly browned off U.S. officials. U.S. policy makers know Indians love atmospherics and melas, but not substantive issues which concern the U.S.
  • Therefore, we need to build trust with the U.S. that we will give to the U.S. as good as it gives us, and not give us lectures instead. The U.S. will then respond more than what we concede.
  • Today, the new or fresh paradigm should be on how to structure India-U.S. understanding and which is in sync with common India-U.S. perspectives. For this structuring we must: first realise that India-U.S. relations require give and take on both sides.
  • What India needs to take today is for dealing with the Ladakh confrontation on our side of the Line of Actual Control by China. Obviously, India needs U.S. hardware military equipment. India does not need U.S. troops to fight our battles against China on our border.
  • Third, the U.S. needs India to fight her enemies in the neighbourhood such as in Afghanistan. India should send two divisions gradually to Afghanistan and relieve U.S. troops to go home.
  • India needs the support of the U.S. and its ally, Israel, in cyberwarfare, satellite mappings of China and Pakistan, intercepts of electronic communication, hard intelligence on terrorists, and controlling the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan.
  • India needs the U.S. to completely develop the Andaman & Nicobar, and also the Lakshadweep Islands as a naval and air force base, which the U.S. can share along with its allies such as Indonesia and Japan.
  • India must be firm in two areas which are not amenable to give and take. One is that economic relations must be based on macroeconomic commercial principles. Free, indiscriminate flow of U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) is not in India’s national interest.
  • Thus, India needs technologies such as thorium utilisation, desalination of sea water, and hydrogen fuel cells, but not Walmart and U.S. universities to start campuses in India, as proposed in the new National Education Policy draft.
  • Eighth, the U.S. must allow India’s exports of agricultural products including Bos indicus milk, which are of highly competitive prices in the world.
  • FDI should be allowed into India selectively from abroad, including from the U.S., based on the economic theory of comparative advantage and not on subsidies and gratis.
  • Tenth, tariffs of both India and the U.S. should be lowered, and the Indian rupee should be gradually revalued to ₹35 to a dollar. Later, with the economy picking up, the rupee rate should go below 10 to the dollar.
  • The other firm constraint is that India should not provide the U.S. with our troops to enter Tibet, or be involved in the Hong Kong and Taiwan issues because there is always a possibility of a leadership change in China, as what happened when Deng Xiaoping replaced Mao Zedong’s nominees in 1980. Thus, China’s policy changed very favourably towards India. In the cases of Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, we have made explicit agreements. In the case of Tibet, two formal treaties were signed by Nehru (1954) and A.B. Vajpayee (2003).
Aug
11
Tue
2020
Editorial
Aug 11 @ 10:00 am
Editorial

 

THE HINDU EDITORIALS

11 August 2020  

Hospitals afire

Health-care centres lack fire safety because governments pay lip service to regulation

The shocking deaths of at least 19 people in special facilities for COVID-19 management in Vijayawada and Ahmedabad have exposed the deep rot in regulatory processes for institutional and commercial building safety. While 11 died in the Andhra Pradesh incident, where a hotel had been taken over by a private hospital to run a COVID-19 care centre, nine patients perished in the blaze in a Gujarat hospital intensive care unit (ICU). These ghastly incidents which claimed the lives of those who were getting treatment or recovering from an infection in supposedly secure conditions lay bare the lack of preparedness among States to manage the expanding pandemic, and hasty contracting procedures. In a familiar pattern, civic and fire authorities who were expected to monitor the safety of such buildings have sought to pin responsibility for the carnage on the owners of the properties. They are being held responsible for failure to obtain a no objection certificate or, in the case of the hotel-turned-COVID-19 care centre, carrying out electrical upgrades for safety. This is clearly untenable, as the Supreme Court of India observed about a decade ago in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case in Delhi, pulling up authorities including the Union Home Ministry for abdicating responsibility and passing the buck on to the management of the institution. In the Ahmedabad ICU blaze, patients expected the institution to offer the highest levels of safety, but suffered as it was ill-equipped to fight a fire.

Safety regulation of buildings used for health-care delivery is a subset of the overall need to regulate hospitals, and States should use the recent deadly fires as the occasion to launch much-delayed reform. In the absence of safety systems, many died of fire and smoke inhalation, while those who survived had nothing but luck to count on. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The National Building Code of India, with additional fire safety provisions for hospitals, is the basis for hospital accreditation systems, but these should be made mandatory and enforced in all States. If smoke alarms and sprinkler systems, along with local fire-fighting aids are available, loss of life can be eliminated. All patients should also be covered by substantial life insurance. Evacuation systems for ICU patients need to be part of the building design. Often, hospital buildings are regularised for unapproved constructions by State governments acting thoughtlessly. Schemes introduced to regularise building violations are clearly anti-social in character. The many fires in institutional buildings and their terrible toll should lead to a full inspection of all such facilities for safety, with civil society keeping up the pressure on governments to act.

Misplaced priorities

Aggressive testing and contact tracing alone can contain the virus spread

The extended lockdown might have slowed down the spread of the novel coronavirus in India in the beginning, but in the absence of large-scale testing, tracing and isolation of the infected and their contacts, the virus has been spreading with renewed vitality. If it took 168 days to reach one million cases on July 16, it took just 21 days to double to two million on August 6; deaths too increased from 25,599 on July 16 to 41,641 on August 6. In recent weeks, the number of daily new cases reported across India has been increasing. Similarly, the number of deaths per day has also been rising; it crossed the 1,000 mark on August 9. Till mid-July, the daily fresh cases reported were well under 35,000 but increased to over 50,000 since July 29 and have been staying above 60,000 since August 6. Since August 3, India has been reporting the most cases in the world, surpassing the U.S. That the seven-day average test positivity rate is 9.4% underscores the large number of infected people and the compulsion to increase the tests carried out each day. The low daily testing numbers are also reflected in low tests (over 14,000) per million population. After Delhi, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh too have increased the number of rapid antigen tests done each day. The low sensitivity of this test might help in reducing the test positivity rate, as seen in Delhi, but may not actually help in containment. Particularly so when there is an over-reliance on rapid antigen tests and negative results from them are not validated with the molecular test. If the ICMR shares only the data on the number of tests done each day, neither the States nor the Health Ministry provide a break-up of different tests and the number of positive results through each method, making the data not very useful.

Though Kerala has reported only over 35,500 cases so far, the compulsion to ramp up testing cannot be overemphasised, particularly in districts where community transmission has been documented. Andhra Pradesh (over 2,35,525) and Karnataka (1,78,087), which initially appeared to have contained the spread, have the third and fourth highest number of cases, respectively, in India. Aggressive testing through fever clinics in Chennai helped halve the number of daily fresh cases to 1,100-1,200, and further reduction became possible in the last few days. The renewed commitment to trace contacts, including non-family members, in Chennai since July has helped in knocking down the numbers to below 1,000. After putting up a good show initially, contact tracing has been nearly absent since mid-May in some States, one of the reasons why cases spiked and spread. After the mega cities, a spike is now seen in the smaller cities in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The daily confirmed cases and deaths in Gujarat and Telangana during the pandemic give an impression that the States’ priority is to manage the data. This does not augur well for India.

News (Text)
Aug 11 @ 10:30 am

 

NEWS

11 August 2020

Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu’ newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims and Mains) compiled by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri.

Sr. No. Topic News
1. GS II- SOCIAL- EDUCATION It will not be a ‘zero academic year’, officials tell House panel
2. GS III- INFRASTRUCTURE New undersea cable to boost Net speed in Andaman
3. GS I- CULTURE Pandemic casts its shadow on Janmashtami celebrations
4. GS II- SOCIAL- HEALTH ‘Lockdown hit treatment under PMJAY scheme’
5. GS III- ECONOMY- LABOUR ‘78% of rural India stopped work during lockdown’
6. GS II- GOVERNANCE Naga peace talks hit a road bump
7. GS III- EDUCATION UGC says States can’t cancel exams
8. GS II- GOVERNANCE Initial probe on in NSEL scam: CBI
9. GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-NEPAL Nepal stalled flood works citing COVID-19, says U.P.
10. GS II- INTERNATIONAL China slaps sanctions on U.S. Senators
11. GS III- ECONOMY Balance of payments will be strong this year, says Goyal

GS II- SOCIAL- EDUCATION

It will not be a ‘zero academic year’, officials tell House panel

  • The Centre will not allow this to be a “zero academic year” without any teaching or examinations, Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, according to a member of the panel.
  • According to the sources, the Education Ministry officials told them that the reopening comes under the purview of the State governments, who can take a call after assessing the local spread of the pandemic. Citing an example, the officials said 400 Kendriya Vidyalayas are in red zones.
  • Given that schools have been shut since mid-March, much of the teaching and instruction have been done through digital methods. The Ministry made a presentation on the state of digital education, with a State-wise documentation of the innovative ways being used to reach out to students, such as the integrated voice recording system used in Andhra Pradesh.

GS III- INFRASTRUCTURE

New undersea cable to boost Net speed in Andaman

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an undersea optical fibre cable connecting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the mainland that would provide residents of the Union Territory high-speed Internet connection.
  • The Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone for the 2,300-km-long submarine optical fibre cable project connecting Chennai and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on December 30, 2018.
  • The Andaman & Nicobar Islands had an important role to play in India’s “Act East” policy.
  • Modi said several projects were under way, including enhancement of the capacity of the Port Blair airport; new airports at Diglipur, Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay; and passenger terminals at Swaraj Dweep, Shaheed Dweep and Long Island.
  • The islands would be developed as a hub of “port- led development” as they were located at a competitive distance from many ports.

GS I- CULTURE

Pandemic casts its shadow on Janmashtami celebrations

  • As the COVID-19 pandemic casts its shadow on Janmashtami, businesses associated with the festival in the Mathura-Vrindavan belt are struggling for survival. The worst hit are the artisans who dress up the idols of Lord Krishna.
  • Another group that is affected is that of artistes who perform in Raaslilas and Ramleelas.

GS II- SOCIAL- HEALTH

‘Lockdown hit treatment under PMJAY scheme’

  • The nationwide lockdown had a significant negative impact on inpatient care utilisation under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), with claim volumes falling by more than 50% compared with the months leading up to the lockdown. Wide variation was witnessed across States and procedure types, according to official data.
  • The steepest decline (more than 75%) was registered in Assam, followed by Maharashtra and Bihar, while much smaller declines (about 25% or less) were observed in Uttarakhand, Punjab and Kerala.
  • Of particular concern were significant declines in admissions for child delivery and oncology. There was also a sharp fall in cardiovascular surgeries, according to “PMJAY Policy Brief (8): PM-JAY Under Lockdown: Evidence on Utilisation Trends”.

GS III- ECONOMY- LABOUR

‘78% of rural India stopped work during lockdown’

  • Almost 80% of rural Indians saw their work coming to a standstill during the COVID-19 lockdown, with only 20% getting work under the Centre’s employment guarantee scheme, according to a survey conducted by Gaon Connection Insights and the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies about two months into the lockdown.
  • There was some relief for ration card owning households, with 71% saying they got grains from the government.

GS II- GOVERNANCE

Naga peace talks hit a road bump

  • The Naga peace talks have hit rough weather even as the leadership of NSCN-IM held a detailed meeting with two Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials in New Delhi.
  • The Isaak Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), one of the largest Naga groups with which the Government of India signed a framework agreement on August 3, 2015, is reportedly peeved with interlocutor R.N. Ravi, and has demanded that he be removed from the position.
  • NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in 2001.
  • The official said the security agencies were trying to end the stalemate and find a middle ground so that talks do not collapse.

GS III- EDUCATION

UGC says States can’t cancel exams

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) strongly objected to the Maharashtra and Delhi governments employing the Disaster Management Act to cancel the examinations of students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “sooner this issue is resolved, the better for the students”.
  • The UGC is strongly advocating the conduct of the final year exams by September 30 in compliance with its July 6 guidelines while keeping in mind the safety and health of students.
  • It had said the ‘UGC Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for Universities in view of COVID-19 Pandemic’ was revised on July 6 in consultation with the Prof. K.C. Kuhad expert committee.

GS II- GOVERNANCE
Initial probe on in NSEL scam: CBI

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the Bombay High Court on Monday that it was conducting a preliminary inquiry into a complaint filed against former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and two other bureaucrats for the alleged misuse of power in the National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) scam.
  • The company was founded by industrialist Jignesh Shah, who was also the company’s former chairman. He was arrested on July 12 in connection with the ₹5,600-crore NSEL scam. Over 13,000 investors have allegedly lost money due to alleged malpractices by the directors and promoters of NSEL.

GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-NEPAL

Nepal stalled flood works citing COVID-19, says U.P.

  • Eleven new flood prevention projects worth ₹53.64 crore could not be executed before the current flood season on the India-Nepal border as the neighbouring country did not grant permission for their implementation in its geographical area due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Uttar Pradesh government said.
  • Adityanath informed the PM that every year, flood projects would be built on the Gandak river on the Nepal border with Central funds. However, this year due to COVID-19, Nepal did not allow 11 new approved flood projects in its “area”. Most of the flood-affected districts are in the eastern part of the State, including Ayodhya and Gorakhpur.
  • 15 districts of Purvanchal, and neighbouring Nepal and Uttarakhand got 20% more rain than normal causing the Ghagra, Rapti, Gandak and Sharda rivers to flow above the danger mark.

GS II- INTERNATIONAL

China slaps sanctions on U.S. Senators

  • China sanctioned 11 Americans, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in retaliation for similar U.S. moves prompted by Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kon
  • Washington last week accused 11 officials of suppressing “freedom and democratic processes” in Hong Kong, including city leader Carrie Lam, and announced plans to freeze their U.S. assets.
  • It was the toughest U.S. action yet in response to Beijing’s introduction of a sweeping and controversial new national security law for the territory. Beijing said the measure was a violation of international law and “grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs”.

GS III- ECONOMY

Balance of payments will be strong this year, says Goyal

India’s balance of payments this year is going to be “very very strong” on the back of significant improvement in exports and a fall in imports, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said.

India’s exports fell for the fourth straight month in June as shipments of key segments like petroleum and textiles declined but the country’s trade turned surplus for the first time in 18 years as imports dropped by a steeper 47.59%. The country posted a trade surplus of $0.79 billion in June.

Question Bank
Aug 11 @ 11:45 am
Question Bank

QUESTION BANK

11th AUGUST 2020

                                                                                                                                       (1 Questions)

GS III: INDIAN ECONOMY

Q1. What steps can be taken to help states cope with shortfall in GST collection?

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-new-direction-for-india-us-ties/article32311136.ece

Ans.                      

  • Two weeks ago, the Central government announced that it has released the Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation dues to States for 2019-20. The total compensation was ₹1,65,302 crore while the compensation cess fund collected was ₹95,444 crore. The shortfall was made up by excess collections in earlier years as well as some of the balance of inter-State GST from earlier years.
  • Most economists expect negative real GDP growth this year, and nominal GDP to be close to last year’s level. As indirect taxes are levied on the nominal value of transactions, this is likely to result in significant shortfall for States from the assured tax collection. No one could have foreseen the pandemic and its impact on the economy. There are several possible solutions to this issue.
  • First, the Constitution could be amended to reduce the period of guarantee to three years (thus ending June 2020). This would be difficult to do as most States would be reluctant to agree to this proposal. It could also be seen as going back on the promise made to States when they agreed to subsume their taxes into the GST.
  • Second, the Central government could fund this shortfall from its own revenue. States would be happy with this proposal. However, the Centre’s finances are stretched due to shortfall in its own tax collection combined with extra expenditure to manage the health and economic crisis. It may not be in a position to give further support to States.
  • Third, the Centre could borrow on behalf of the cess fund. The tenure of the cess could be extended beyond five years until the cess collected is sufficient to pay off this debt and interest on it. A compensation cess fund was created from which States would be paid for any shortfall. An additional cess would be imposed on certain items and this cess would be used to pay compensation. The items are pan masala, cigarettes and tobacco products, aerated water, caffeinated beverages, coal and certain passenger motor vehicles. The Act states that the cess collected and “such other amounts as may be recommended by the [GST] Council” would be credited to the fund.
  • The Constitution makes it obligatory for the Centre to make up for shortfall by the States. The cess collected will not be sufficient for this purpose. The GST Council, which is a constitutional body with representation of the Centre and all the States, should find a practical solution.
Aug
12
Wed
2020
Editorial
Aug 12 @ 10:00 am
Editorial

THE HINDU EDITORIALS

12th  August  2020

Rajasthan lessons

If the truce in the Congress is to endure, both factions must mend their ways

The crisis in the Congress in Rajasthan that nearly brought down the government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has blown over. The group led by Sachin Pilot has reiterated its loyalty to the party, though the stand-off cost him the posts of Deputy Chief Minister and State party chief. The truce is an outcome of the realisation on both sides that their positions had become self-destructive and unsustainable. Mr. Gehlot faced the risk of losing the government, while Mr. Pilot stared at the unnerving prospect of a life outside the Congress. The turmoil in Rajasthan has also been yet another occasion to note with deep concern the tendency of the judiciary to overstep its remit set by law, brazen partisanship of the Governor, and misuse of central agencies to tilt the political balance. The crisis was primarily internal to the Congress, but the Bharatiya Janata Party’s maximalist approach to capture power at all costs was evident. The unseemly power struggle had derailed governance in the State in the midst of a pandemic. Now that a settlement has been reached, the Centre and the State, the Bharatiya Janata Party and all sections within the ruling party must come together to combat the pandemic.

The Congress is facing the most severe crisis in its history and it cannot afford any complacency in keeping its house in order. The party is constantly at the receiving end of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s relentless onslaught and in March it lost the government in Madhya Pradesh, which it had won in 2018 along with Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. According to Mr. Gehlot’s own admission, there was no communication between him and Mr. Pilot ever since the formation of the government in 2018. That is a sad commentary on the party. Mr. Pilot has said he resorted to rebellion only after his grievances went unheeded. This brinkmanship might have taught them both, and the party’s central leadership, some lessons for the future. The resolution of the crisis took the intervention of former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who commands the loyalty of both. He could have resolved it earlier or even preempted the crisis altogether. There is no single model for running a political party, but the nature, history and character of the Congress impel it to be consultative and deliberative in its internal and external conduct. As Rajasthan demonstrated, Mr. Gandhi has a role to play in facilitating this. Mr. Gandhi has been focused on building a critique of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its government but such politics will be effective only when reinforced by a strong organisation. He has strong opinions on what the Congress should ideally be, but he has no option but to start with what it currently is.

Just closure

The focus must be on adequate compensation for families of fishermen killed by marines

It may seem pragmatic to keep any pending litigation alive until all dues relating to it are paid and all legal issues are settled. However, it is somewhat puzzling that the Supreme Court of India has said it would keep the Italian marines’ case alive until “hefty” and “adequate” compensation is paid by Italy for the killing of two fishermen by its marines on February 15, 2012. The Court has indicated that it would not allow the closure of the trial until such compensation is paid. And it has ordered that the families of the victims be heard on this matter. Once the Union government has declared that it would abide by the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, which granted immunity to the marines and favoured Italy as the appropriate jurisdiction where they could be tried for the crime, it does not seem proper to delay the process of bringing closure to the matter. For one thing, the PCA, an arbitral tribunal that adjudicates disputes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has itself ruled that India is entitled to compensation for “loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property… and moral harm suffered by” the captain and crew members of St. Antony, the fishing vessel involved, and mandated negotiations on the quantum. Second, it hardly needs emphasis that the pendency of the matter in court should not become a bargaining point that delays the reaching of a fair settlement. Continuing hearings may also be seen as India being reluctant to cease all criminal proceedings against the marines as per the ruling.

The Court’s resolve to obtain adequate and hefty compensation for the families of the victims is welcome, though it would be difficult to have a judicial determination of what quantum would satisfy these requirements. The Centre may have approached the top court for formal permission to close the pending trial proceedings as a matter of abundant caution. But as far as the law goes, it could have approached the trial court itself through the public prosecutor for withdrawal from prosecution under Section 321 of the CrPC. Too many legal tangles have already caused enough diplomatic rupture in the progression of the Enrica Lexie-St. Antony case since 2012. Article 253 of the Constitution, which says Parliament may enact a law to give effect to any international treaty or convention, has been cited to argue that in view of the arbitral court’s finding on jurisdiction being in conflict with the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 that the Union government alone can try the case, a law may be needed before the trial is closed. This is just needless quibbling as the conflict has ceased after India agreed to abide by the tribunal’s ruling in keeping with its obligations under UNCLOS. India’s focus should now be on negotiating for compensation and ensuring a purposive criminal trial in Italy.

News (Text)
Aug 12 @ 10:30 am

NEWS

12th AUGUST 2020

Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu’ newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims and Mains) compiled by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri.

Sr. No. Topic News
1. GS II- SOCIAL- HEALTH PM flags need for more testing, tracing in 10 affected States
2. GS III- S&T- HEALTH Putin declares world’s first COVID-19 shot
3. GS III- GOVERNANCE Former ISRO scientist gets ₹1.3 cr. extra compensation
4. GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-CHINA Army ready for the long haul at LAC: Rawat
5. GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA- AFGHANISTAN Indian, Afghan officials discuss Loya Jirga
6. GS III- DEFENCE IAF to get 106 trainer aircraft
7. GS II- POLITY- JUDICIARY Daughters have equal right to inherit property, says SC
8. GS II- SOCIAL- HEALTH Panel to discuss vaccine logistics
9. GS II- GOVERNANCE NSCN-IM releases details of 2015 pact
10. GS II- INTERNATIONAL- CHINA China extends Hong Kong council’s term
11. GS III- ECONOMY-BANKING Tighter norms to keep bank loan rejig under check: ICRA
12. GS III- ECONOMY-BANKING Debt revamp to prolong banks’ asset quality uncertainty: Fitch

 

GS II- SOCIAL- HEALTH

PM flags need for more testing, tracing in 10 affected States

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the fatality rate from COVID-19 in India has to be pushed below 1%. He stressed that 10 States which account for 81% of the cases and 82% of the fatalities need to step up testing, contact tracing within 72 hours of testing and isolation of those infected.
  • Modi’s observations came during his closing remarks at a video conference with the Chief Ministers of 10 States — West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Punjab — with high COVID-19 levels.
  • The Chief Ministers of the 10 States said more funds from the Central government were required as their coffers were empty because of the loss of economic activity and concomitant revenue.

GS III- S&T- HEALTH

Putin declares world’s first COVID-19 shot

  • President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, a move Moscow likened to its success in the Cold War-era space race.
  • The vaccine, to be called ‘Sputnik V’ in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has, however, not yet completed its final trials.
  • Moscow’s decision to grant approval before then has raised concerns among some experts. Only about 10% of the clinical trials are successful, and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.
  • The Russian business conglomerate Sistema has said it expects to put the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, into mass production by the end of the year. Officials said it would be administered first to medical personnel, and then teachers, on a voluntary basis.

GS III- GOVERNANCE

Former ISRO scientist gets ₹1.3 cr. extra compensation

  • Nambi Narayanan, former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist of the infamous ISRO spy scandal case, was given ₹1.3 crore additional compensation by the governmen
  • A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had, in September 2018, found Mr. Narayanan to be a victim of trumped-up case. It ordered Kerala to pay him ₹50 lakh as compensation for loss of his fundamental right to live with dignity and self-respect.

GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA-CHINA
Army ready for the long haul at LAC: Rawat

  • The stand-off on the border with China in eastern Ladakh is likely to go longer and the Army is prepared for the long haul through the winter, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a defence source said.
  • The PAC meeting was held to discuss issues related to the Siachen glacier.
  • The PAC had met with the agenda to discuss accommodation, clothing and ration for troops on the glacier which was discussed earlier too.

https://image.slidesharecdn.com/pacpptnew-160825173111/95/public-accounts-committee-2-638.jpg?cb=1472146454

GS II- BILATERAL- INDIA- AFGHANISTAN

Indian, Afghan officials discuss Loya Jirga

  • Indian and Afghan officials in Delhi and Kabul discussed the outcome of the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, in Afghanistan that advised the release of 400 Taliban militants convicted of serious crimes.
  • According to officials, the two sides discussed the likelihood of intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar, which have been put off, as well as the hopes for a permanent ceasefire, in a briefing two days after the Jirga’s decision. The intra-Afghan talks could now take place on August 16-17 in Doha, once President Ghani’s government releases all the men, bringing the total number of Taliban fighters released to about 5,500.

GS III- DEFENCE

IAF to get 106 trainer aircraft

  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, approved defence procurements worth ₹8,722.38 crore, including 106 HTT-40 Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Ministry of India (MoD) said.
  • The DAC also approved the procurement of an upgraded version of Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM), which is fitted as the main gun onboard Navy and Coast Guard warships from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL). The upgraded version of SRGM has enhanced capability to perform against fast manoeuvring targets such as missiles and fast attack crafts and increase the maximum engagement range, the statement stated.
  • In addition, the DAC approved procurement of 125 mm APFSDS (Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot) ammunition for the Army as a ‘design and development case’. “The ammunition being procured will have a 70% indigenous content,” it said. The DAC also gave approvals that are likely to speed up the procurement of AK-203 assault rifles from Russia and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle upgrades.

GS II- POLITY- JUDICIARY

Daughters have equal right to inherit property, says SC

  • The Supreme Court held that daughters have an equal birthright with sons to inherit joint Hindu family property. The court decided that the amended Hindu Succession Act, which gives daughters equal rights to ancestral property, will have a retrospective effect.
  • The judgment agreed with lead arguments made by senior advocate Bishwajit Bhattacharya that the substituted Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 confers the status of ‘coparcener’ to a daughter born before or after the amendment in the same manner as a son. Coparcener is a person who has a birthright to parental property.
  • Since the right to coparcenary of a daughter is by birth, it is not necessary that the father should be alive as on September 9, 2005. The court has thus overruled an earlier 2015 decision.
  • It also clarified that an unregistered oral partition, without any contemporaneous public document, cannot be accepted as the statutory recognised mode of partition.

GS II- SOCIAL- HEALTH

Panel to discuss vaccine logistics

  • The Health Ministry said that an expert committee on vaccine administration, under NITI Aayog member V.K. Paul, will meet to consider the logistics and ethical aspects of procurement and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The committee would engage with all stakeholders, including State governments and vaccine manufacturers.

GS II- GOVERNANCE
NSCN-IM releases details of 2015 pact

  • The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM has for the first time released the details of the 2015 framework agreement and has accused interlocutor R.N. Ravi of deleting a key word from the original document and sharing the modified version with other Naga groups.
  • The agreement released by the NSCN-IM stated “sharing the sovereign power” and provide for an “enduring inclusive new relationship of peaceful co-existence of the two entities”.
  • The NSCN-IM, one of the largest Naga groups, signed a framework agreement on August 3, 2015 to end the decades old issue.

GS II- INTERNATIONAL- CHINA

China extends Hong Kong council’s term

  • Chinese lawmakers have extended the term of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council by at least a year in order to deal with the vacuum left by postponing the city’s elections, state media said.
  • Hong Kong’s leader said in late July that local elections planned for September would be postponed because coronavirus cases had surged in the international finance hub, a move which infuriated democracy supporters and drew concern from Western governments.
  • A crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong has gathered pace since China imposed the security law in June, with opposition politicians disqualified and activists arrested for social media posts.

GS III- ECONOMY-BANKING

Tighter norms to keep bank loan rejig under check: ICRA

  • Relatively tighter norms could lead to loan restructuring of only about 5-8% of the overall loan book of banks, credit rating agency ICRA said.
  • Stating that regulations such as eligibility of only SMA-0 (special mention accounts-0) borrowers as on March 1, 2020, independent credit assessment of the resolution plans (RP) and a higher upfront provisioning requirements would come into play, ICRA said the proportion of loans under moratorium is expected to decline to 10-15% of the overall system-wide loans by end of Q2 FY21 from about 10-60% levels across various lenders during moratorium phase II.
  • The system-wide SMA-1 and SMA-2 stood at 6% of the loan book of the banks as on March 31, 2020, and ICRA said a large portion of these loans are expected to be part of the moratorium loan book and will be most vulnerable to slippages in FY21, as the RP under August 6, 2020, circular cannot be implemented on these loans.

GS III- ECONOMY-BANKING

Debt revamp to prolong banks’ asset quality uncertainty: Fitch

  • A one-time debt restructuring allowed by India’s central bank to help lenders and borrowers amid the COVID-19 pandemic will prolong uncertainty about the banking sector’s asset quality, Fitch Ratings.
  • The central bank said last week it will allow restructuring of corporate and personal loans to ease debt strains on companies and lenders.
  • Fitch said it believes that the scheme may be designed to give banks more time to raise capital, which remains challenging in the current environment, to address the impact of the crisis on loan portfolios.
  • The central bank has set up a committee to oversee restructuring plans involving creditors with more than ₹15 billion of debt, but that is likely to leave out lending to retail and small- and medium-sized firms, which Fitch said is likely to account for a substantial portion of future pandemic-linked asset quality stress.
Question Bank
Aug 12 @ 11:45 am
Question Bank

QUESTION BANK

12th AUGUST 2020

                                                                                                                                       (1 Questions)

GS II: SOCIAL- GENDER

Q1. What steps must be taken to check the rising harassment of women on online platforms?

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/from-locker-rooms-to-classrooms/article32329122.ece

Ans.                      

  • Instances of non-consensual sharing of images online to threaten and shame girls and women have raised serious questions about the mindsets of not only boys but of all youngsters, and their use of social media. Public opinion has pointed the finger at the growing and sometimes nefarious influence of technology. A quick fix of deactivating social media handles or deleting so-called provocative photos is often the most common response to such situations. However, this does not address the real problem.
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that women face. The National Commission for Women has reported a surge in domestic violence and cybercrimes, which has made girls and women more vulnerable as they struggle to fight another pandemic of violence and abuse inside their homes and online.
  • Young minds are malleable and therefore a concerted effort must be made to shape positive mindsets at this critical age. As the boundary between the real and the virtual world becomes increasingly blurred, the perceived risks increase. For those looking to prevent and counter cyberbullying, UNESCO’s information booklet, ‘Safe online learning in times of COVID-19’, can also be a useful reference. The booklet, developed in partnership with the National Council of Educational Research and Training, supports the creation of safe digital spaces and addresses nuances of privacy, especially in the current context.
  • We also need to engage with school communities, civil society organisations and governments to define alternatives for pre-existing norms of masculinities.
  • The ground-breaking National Education Policy 2020 provides historic opportunities to shape the educational response to these challenges for decades to come. Ultimately, societies across the world must sensitise children and young women and men towards understanding the repercussion of their choices and guide them towards a more sound actualisation of their own individualities.
  • From Riot Grrrl to #MeToo and other actions, it is fairly evident that the global movements towards gender equality and the eradication of violence against women are here to stay and hopefully to grow. One of the most important lessons to be drawn from these movements is that change can be effected through peaceful means when people come together to confront the dominant social norms. Just as the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis demand interconnectedness, the challenge of gender inequality too is a battle that cannot be fought in silos.
Aug
13
Thu
2020
Editorial
Aug 13 @ 10:00 am
Editorial

THE HINDU EDITORIALS

13th  August  2020

Running mate matters

If the Democratic leaders on the ticket learn from each other, they can find a way to win

Presumptive U.S. Democratic nominee and former Vice-President Joe Biden has picked Kamala Harris, Senator from California of Indian descent, as his vice-presidential running mate, a fillip to his party’s connect with African-Americans, the Indian-American community, women and its core base of mainstream liberals. Ms. Harris — her late mother and cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan hailed from a Chennai-based family, and Jamaican father Donald Harris, a retired Stanford professor — made a name for herself as a tough lawyer, politically ambitious enough to throw her hat in the ring as a Biden challenger in the Democratic primaries. In a close parallel to former President Barack Obama picking his Democratic primaries rival Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, Mr. Biden chose Ms. Harris from amidst a cohort of strong candidates, including former NSA Susan Rice and Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren. In picking Ms. Harris, Mr. Biden has consolidated his position at the helm of the Democratic Party mainstream, ensuring a convergence of views with his vice-presidential nominee on race relations, policing and criminal justice reform, immigration, the health-care insurance industry and education policy. The timing of her selection could not be better — as an outspoken leader on racism and a woman of colour, the symbolism of Mr. Biden picking her will offer hope to many, including ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists.

Ms. Harris will not only bring to the Biden ticket her broad appeal across the Democratic spectrum, but at 55, will help tip the overall age profile of a potential future Democratic White House in the right direction. However, if her 2020 presidential campaign was indicative, she will need to up her game on critical talking points including her record as a prosecutor in her home State, and on specifics regarding the complex question of health-care reform. More broadly, she and Mr. Biden will have to be prepared for an unusual campaign endgame scenario, with less than three months before Election Day and the COVID-19 pandemic slashing a swathe of economic misery. Will they be able to go beyond the standard Democratic campaign playbook and adroitly craft a fresh approach to take on a politically weakened President Trump, who will nevertheless likely come out guns blazing? Have they pondered the deep lessons of Ms. Clinton’s loss to Mr. Trump in 2016 and come up with robust ideas to alleviate the economic pain of working-class Americans perceived to be the result of policies supporting globalisation and immigration? Will she be able to go toe-to-toe with incumbent Vice-President Mike Pence and yet avoid alienating independent and undecided voters? If the two Democratic leaders on the ticket learn from each other, there is a chance that they might arrive at a winning formula.

Mayhem in Minsk

Belarus is at the crossroads after a disputed election triggered protests and violence

Belarus has seen dramatic political developments over the past few days. First, the Election Commission announced that long-term President Alexander Lukashenko was the winner of Sunday’s election. His main rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, rejected the results and called for a recount. Protests broke out in the capital, Minsk, which was met with a violent security crackdown. At least 2,000 people were detained and dozens injured. Then, as the country was slipping into chaos and anarchy, she fled to neighbouring Lithuania, saying she made “a very difficult decision”. But her campaign committee has said that it would continue to support the protests against the “election fraud”. This was the hardest fought election in Belarus, a former Soviet republic, since the USSR’s disintegration. There has been widespread anger against the government over a stagnant economy. Mr. Lukashenko, often touted as Europe’s last dictator, had cracked down on the Opposition even before the election. Ms. Tikhanovskaya entered the race after her husband and a popular YouTuber, Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was to contest against Mr. Lukashenko, was detained and barred from contesting for allegedly inciting unrest. Throughout the campaigning and the election, the Opposition accused the government of intimidation, cracking down on journalists and activists, and prohibiting independent observers. All these raised doubts about the fairness of the election.

It is too early to say if Ms. Tikhanovskaya’s departure would remove the hurdles Mr. Lukashenko faces in extending his term further. If the protests questioning the legitimacy of his presidency continue, at a time of growing economic troubles, it could substantially weaken him. The crisis has already derailed his plans for a strategic realignment in Eastern Europe. In recent years, Belarus, a geopolitical ally of Russia with cultural links, has shown a willingness to work closer with the West. His bet was to raise the strategic profile of his landlocked country at a time when the contest for influence in Eastern Europe between Moscow and Washington was hotting up. But many western countries have condemned the handling of the election and the protests, and called for a peaceful settlement. Moscow immediately sensed an opportunity to cement ties with Belarus, which is an important transit route of Russian gas to Europe as well as a buffer between Russia and European powers. Mr. Lukashenko has nowhere to turn to other than Moscow. He has to decide whether he wants to extend his 26-year reign at any cost or ensure the formation of a legitimate government that could address the country’s vital problems. If he chooses the last, he has to rein in the police, reach out to the Opposition and offer talks to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

 

The Daily Current Affairs News Analysis section for UPSC Current Affairs Preparation is an initiative by A A Shah’s IAS Institute to prepare IAS aspirants in making easy and effective current affairs notes available online FREE for all.

Current Affairs is an integral part of study for IAS UPSC- Civil Services Examinations, not only for Prelims but for Mains as well. UPSC syllabus for General Studies Paper I of Preliminary (Prelims) Examination starts with Current Events of national and international importance.

The important keyword here is “National and international importance”. Thus candidates are required to understand which news is important and relevant for UPSC CSE point of view.

It may further be noted that UPSC doesn’t ask any factual questions, as such candidates are not required to learn or remember factual data.

The issues or news covered is categorized into four general studies papers (GS Paper I, GS Paper II, GS Paper III and GS Paper IV) as per the UPSC Mains syllabus.

Our Daily Current Affairs Analysis is prepared by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri based on The Hindu newspaper and articles and covers every day significant events or issues in the news that is important from UPSC Exam perspective.

IMPORTANCE OF CURRENT AFFAIRS IN UPSC IAS EXAM

Importance of Current-Affairs in UPSC IAS

For UPSC current affairs, the most important thing is to segregate the topics in news as per the IAS Syllabus for Prelims and Mains. For UPSC current affairs related to IAS Prelims, it is still somewhat easier as there is just one GS paper. However, arranging UPSC current affairs notes for IAS Mains is rather challenging because of the comprehensive syllabus and descriptive-essay type questions.

For this reason we have segregated the daily news topic-wise according to GS mains subject papers.

In this section find links to

  • Daily News Headlines from The Hindu newspaper (Videos)
  • Daily News Analysis with proper heading and topics in downloadable PDF format
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IMPORTANT CURRENT AFFAIRS TOPICS FOR UPSC IAS

Among others, news related to following topics are important and relevant:

  • Economic issues
  • Social issues
  • International / Bilateral / Multilateral Relations
  • Legislature / Bill / Act
  • Judiciary
  • Elections
  • Centre – State Relations
  • Inter–state Relations
  • Governance
  • Government schemes
  • Agriculture
  • Environment
  • Science & Technology
  • Internal security
  • Art & culture

UPSC Prelims 2019 Keywords. Culture & History

 

IAS Current Affairs Important Headlines by Mrs Bilquees Khatri

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