Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 31-03-2021

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Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 31-03-2021

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    • SECTION 1 - TEN NEWS HEADLINES
  1. Indian Economy - India's 2021 economic output may remain below 2019 level - India's 2021 economic output is expected to remain below the 2019 level despite COVID-19 vaccine's roll-out, according to a UN report. India is estimated to record an economic growth of 7% in 2021-22, over a contraction of 7.7% witnessed in the previous fiscal, it said. Asia-Pacific economies are expected to grow by 5.9% in 2021. The year 2021-22 is a recovery year for India, where a contracted GDP (in absolute terms) will swing towards a positive growth value. The real growth story begins 2022-23 onwards, when it will be essential for India to maintain a steady growth of 7% per annum, or more, for many years, to reach the aspirational GDP goal of $ 5 trillion. (But, the World Bank has raised its projection for India's economic growth in 2021-22 to 10.1% from its January estimate of 5.4%, as it expects the country's vaccination drive to spur activity in contact-intensive sectors.)
  2. Indian Economy - Gig economy will save us - A report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that the gig economy in India can support 90 million jobs in non-farm sectors and potentially add 1.25% to the country's GDP in the long term. The report also estimated the total transaction value in volume of work at over $250 billion and the creation of 24 million jobs in three-four years. The gig economy, where workers get hired typically for short durations, can lead to transactions of over USD 250 billion over the long term, the report said. It said gig economy is not a new concept but has seen greater adoption following the advent of technology. When concerns are raised about a ‘jobless’ growth, the government has always pointed to the growth in gig economy jobs. In the short-to-medium term, nearly 24 million jobs in skilled, semi-skilled and shared services roles could be delivered via gig economy, including nearly 3 million shared services roles and around 8.5 million roles meeting household demand, as per this report. However, serious concerns remain about the work conditions in such jobs, and the lack of nearly any form of social security.
  3. Constitution and Law - Judicial Review - A public interest litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court by Wasim Rizvi seeking declaration of 26 verses of the Quran as unconstitutional, non-effective and non-functional on the ground that these promote extremism and terrorism. Under Indian law, only a “law” can be challenged as unconstitutional. Article 13(3) defines law, which includes any ordinance, order, by-law, rule, regulations, notification, custom or usage having in the territory the force of law. “Laws in force” on the commencement of the Constitution include laws enacted by a legislature or other competent authority. This definition certain does not cover any religious scripture including the Quran. Similarly, neither the Vedas nor the Gita, nor the Bible, nor the Guru Granth Sahib can be said to be “law” under Article 13 and thus challenged in a court of law. The divine books can be sources of law but not law in themselves. Thus, Quran in itself is not “law” for the purposes of Article 13. It is the paramount source of Islamic law and Muslim jurists extract laws from it through interpretation and also taking into account other sources of law such as Hadees (Prophet’s sayings), Ijma (juristic consensus), Qiyas (analogical deductions), Urf ( customs), Istihsan (juristic preference) and Istisilah (public interest).
  4. Science and Technology - Another crash for SpaceX - Elon Musk's SpaceX conducted a high-altitude test flight of its Starship prototype spacecraft on 30-03-2021, where the rocket was destroyed during a landing attempt in foggy weather. The SN11 prototype was lost during its final descent and reports suggested there was a large explosion that scattered debris around the landing site. The failed landing resulted in a crater. Like all the flight testing and construction of Starship prototypes, this one also had taken off from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas development facility — a location recently renamed “Starbase” by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. At this point in the program, SpaceX’s aim is to fly Starship to a high altitude (roughly 32,000 – 40,000 feet), execute a “belly flop” maneuver and then bring it back to Earth with a controlled re-orientation to vertical, followed by a soft landing on its feet. Before today, SpaceX has made progress toward that goal, with the first two attempts exploding on a harder-than-landing impact, and the third landing vertically, before also exploding just under 10 minutes later after resting apparently secure before that.
  5. Governance and Institutions - ULPIN Scheme - The Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) scheme has been launched in 10 States in 2021, and will be rolled out across the country by March 2022, the Department of Land Resources told the Standing Committee on Rural Development. The Centre plans to issue a 14-digit identification number to every plot of land in the country within a year. It will subsequently integrate its land records database with revenue court records and bank records, as well as Aadhaar numbers on a voluntary basis, according to a parliamentary standing committee report submitted to the Lok Sabha. An official, who did not wish to be named, described it as “the Aadhaar for land” — a number that would uniquely identify every surveyed parcel of land and prevent land fraud, especially in rural India, where land records are outdated and disputed. The identification will be based on the longitude and latitude of the land parcel, and is dependent on detailed surveys and geo-referenced cadastral maps. This is the next step in the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP), which began in 2008 and has been extended several times as its scope grew. The Department has taken new initiatives under the programme like NGDRS [or the National Generic Document Registration System], ULPIN, linking of court to land records, integration of consent based Aadhaar number with land records etc. which necessitated its further extension beyond 2020-21 till 2023-24.  
  6. World Economy - American payments major PayPal on 30-03-2021 announced that it has started allowing US consumers to use their cryptocurrency holdings to pay its online merchants globally. The new 'Checkout with Crypto' feature will let users convert their Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash to US dollars. Merchants will not incur any additional integrations or fees, the company said. This reflected in a spike in CC prices in market.
  7. Governance and Institutions -  RTI rejections - The Centre has only rejected 4.3% of all Right to Information (RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate, according to the Central Information Commission’s annual report. However, almost 40% of these rejections did not include any valid reason, as they did not invoke one of the permissible exemption clauses in the RTI Act, according to an analysis of report data by RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak. This includes 90% of rejections by the Prime Minister’s Office. Public authorities under the Central government received 13.7 lakh RTI requests in 2019-20, out of which 58,634 were rejected for various reasons. Rejection rates have fallen since the 13.9% rate in 2005-06 and have been steadily trending downwards since the 8.4% spike in 2014-15. In 2019-20, they hit their lowest level so far. The Home Ministry had the highest rate of rejections, as it rejected 20% of all RTIs received. The Agriculture Ministry’s rejection rate doubled from 2% in 2018-19 to 4% in 2019-20. The Delhi Police and the Army also saw increases in rejection rates.  
  8. Indian Politics - Charges, counter-charges fly thick - While campaigning in Assam's Chirang ahead of the state Assembly elections, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that "Black Mountain" Badruddin Ajmal can't be Assam's identity. "Rahul Gandhi says Badruddin Ajmal is Assam's identity...tell me if Ajmal is Assam's identity or Bhupen Hazarika, Upendra Nath and Shankar Dev," he added. "Rahul Baba...in Assam as a tourist nowadays," Shah stated. Meanwhile, DMK chief MK Stalin's son, Udhayanidhi Stalin, accused PM Narendra Modi of sidelining many senior BJP leaders to become the Prime Minister. His statement came after PM Modi alleged that many senior DMK leaders were sidelined due to Stalin's son's entry into the party fold. Earlier, Udhayanidhi had criticised PM Modi by calling him "NRI Prime Minister". BJP National President JP Nadda alleged that the Congress party is suffering from "mental bankruptcy" as it has aligned with political parties on religious lines in the current round of polls in various states. Addressing a poll rally in Assam, Nadda further criticised the Congress for asking for votes from the people as former PM Manmohan Singh had represented them.
  9. Governance and Institutions - RBI control on payment firms - Amid rising cases of cyber-security breach, RBI has tightened its supervision norms guiding payment companies that store customer data. The Economic Times reported that from April 1, all licensed payment system operators (PSOs) will have to submit detailed “compliance certificates” to RBI twice a year confirming adherence to RBI norms around security and storage of payment data. The payment companies were then asked to submit a one-time compliance report with data localisation norms which mandate the data relating to payments in India will be stored in a server physically present in the country, by December of 2018. "In addition to these requirements, it is hereby advised that a compliance certificate duly signed by the CEO/MD/chairman, shall be submitted on an ongoing basis at half-yearly basis…" the letter issued by the central bank said.
  10. World Politics - Japan to Fund Projects in India - Japan has finalised loans and a grant totalling around 233 billion yen for several key infrastructure projects in India, including for a project in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. A grant of 4.01 billion yen for a project for the improvement of power supply in strategically located Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The grant would be used to procure 15MWh batteries as well as power system stabilisers to allow better utilisation of solar power generated in South Andaman. This grant is Japan's first ever Official Development Assistance (ODA) to a project in the A&N islands. ODA is defined as government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Loans and credits for military purposes are excluded. India has been the top recipient of the Japanese government's financial aid under the ODA. Japan’s Aid for Other Projects -  For Delhi Metro’s fourth phase. For Metro lines under Namma Metro’s second phase in Bengaluru. For crop diversification in Himachal Pradesh. For mitigating fluorosis in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu and Barmer districts.
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    • SECTION 2 - DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
World Bank raises India's FY22 GDP forecast to 10.1% from 5.4% earlier
  • The story: The World Bank (WB) raised its forecast of India’s FY22 growth to 10.1%, substantially higher than the 5.4% it had projected in January 2021, according to its South Asia Economic Focus Spring update report.  (FY 22 means 2021-22)
  • In a range: Reflecting the uncertainty on account of the pandemic, the WB chose to provide a range for its FY22 prediction of 7.5-12.5% due to “significant uncertainty at this stage about both epidemiological and policy developments”, the report said. The improvements came on the back of the country’s vaccination drive, which was likely to spur activity in contact-intensive sectors and the government’s infrastructure push in the budget, the report titled, ‘South Asia Vaccinates’ said.
  1. With regard to the range, the report said growth would depend on the progress of the vaccinations, whether new restrictions to mobility would be required, and how quickly the world economy recovers.
  2. Acknowledging that the wide range was not normal, Hans Timmer, chief South Asia economist at the WB, said it also reflected the difficulty in measuring gross domestic product (GDP) due to the impact of the pandemic on the informal economy.
  • Risks: The main risks to the outlook included the “materialisation of financial sector risks, that could compromise a recovery in private investment, and new waves of Covid-19 infections”. While India's second wave posed a risk, the spike in Covid-19 cases would not imply a repeat of the first lockdown as the current approach was much more targeted. The International Monetary Fund had a more optimistic outlook, pegging India’s growth at 11.5% in FY22.
  • Tempering the outlook: The WB also tempered its estimate of India’s FY21 GDP contraction to 8.5% from -9.6% earlier as the recovery accelerated in the July-December period with private consumption and investment showing a sharp rebound. The report projected growth for the South Asian region at 7.2% for 2021 and 4.4% for the next year, with India making up for 80% of the region's GDP.
  • Vaccine rollout: India could stand to gain $356.5 billion upon achieving herd immunity after vaccinating 70% of the population, the WB said. Further, the report estimated that ending the pandemic a half to one-and-a-half years earlier by accelerating the vaccine drive could avoid output loss ranging between 5.5-16.4% of GDP for India. While the country had vaccinated about 63 million people as of Wednesday, according to government data, the average monthly vaccinations would have to be ramped up to 80 million in order to vaccinate 70% of the population by the end of 2022, the report said. The vaccination drive was likely to get more difficult later on as issues of procurement and the willingness of people to take the jabs falter, Timmer said. Depending on different cost scenarios, the WB projected the cost of vaccinating 70% of the population to range between $8.2 million to $15 million.
Govt not interested in footing Rs 8,000-cr moratorium bill for banks
  • A new outflow: Banks have requested the government to foot the bill of about Rs 8,000 crore that they will have to return to the customers on account of moratorium interest, but the finance ministry seems to be not interested. Govt is of the view that the onus of reimbursing compound interest charged to customers does not fall on entirely on itself.
  • IBA to govt.: The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) on March 26 wrote a letter to the government seeking representation for enhancing the scope of “ex-Gracia scheme to cover the additional refund out of the Supreme Court Order.” The stance has been taken now as the penal interest also has to be refunded.
  • Situation different earlier: Bankers said that "Last time, only the compound interest or interest on interest was waived off. Interest on interest is around Rs 8,000 crore for the whole system. For penal interest, we do not have an estimate as of now. We charge penal interest for various reasons such as non-compliance of certain conditions, non-submission of certain statements.” According to the S.C. judgment, adjustment of penal interest is to be done in the next installment in April 2021.
  • Not keen: The government seems to be clear that they are not going to take on the extra burden. A final decision will be taken at the highest level. The government is yet to receive any proposal from banks.
  • SC order: The Supreme Court on March 23, 2021, had ruled that banks cannot charge interest on interest for accounts that sought moratorium relief during the pandemic period last year and the amount so collected must be refunded in the next installment of the loan account. The cut-off for such moratorium, the apex court ruled, would be August 31, 2020, beyond which all loans that had not been repaid as per schedule can be declared as non-performing assets (NPA). Rejecting the pleas to extend the six-month loan moratorium period, the court said a complete waiver of interest during the moratorium cannot be granted either.

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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
Greater One-Horned Rhino
  1. Environment becomes an election issue: The claims by different political parties over significant reduction in poaching of Greater One-Horned Rhino has become an issue in Assam Assembly Elections. As per Assam Forest Department, poaching has reduced by 86% in the last three years.
  • Points to note: The Greater One-Horned Rhino is one among the five different species of Rhino. The other four are (i) Black Rhino: Smaller of the two African species; (ii) White Rhino: Recently, researchers have created an embryo of the northern white rhino by using In vitro Fertilization (IVF) process; (iii) Javan Rhino: Critically endangered in IUCN Red List; and (iv) Sumatran Rhino: Recently gone extinct in Malaysia.  
  1. There are three species of rhino in Asia—Greater one-horned (Rhinoceros unicornis), Javan and Sumatran. Only the Great One-Horned Rhino is found in India. Also known as Indian rhino, it is the largest of the rhino species.
  2. It is identified by a single black horn and a grey-brown hide with skin folds. They primarily graze, with a diet consisting almost entirely of grasses as well as leaves, branches of shrubs and trees, fruit, and aquatic plants.
  3. The species is restricted to small habitats in Indo-Nepal terai and northern West Bengal and Assam. In India, rhinos are mainly found in Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Assam has an estimated 2,640 rhinos in four protected areas, i.e. Pabitora Wildlife Reserve, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park, and Manas National Park. About 2,400 of them are in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR)
  • Protection Status:
  1. IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
  2. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I (Threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance for scientific research).
  3. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I.
  • Threats : There are many including poaching for the horns, habitat loss, population density, decreasing Genetic diversity, etc. The various conservation efforts made by India include
  1. Five rhino range nations (India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia) signing a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
  2. The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) began a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.
  3. National Rhino Conservation Strategy: It was launched in 2019 to conserve the greater one-horned rhinoceros.
  4. Indian Rhino Vision 2020: Launched in 2005, it is an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
  • Kaziranga National Park: It is located in the State of Assam and covers 42,996 Hectare (ha). It is the single largest undisturbed and representative area in the Brahmaputra Valley floodplain. It was declared as a National Park in 1974, and a tiger reserve since 2007. It has a total tiger reserve area of 1,030 sq km with a core area of 430 sq. km. It was als declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.
  • Important species: Much of the focus of conservation efforts in Kaziranga are focused on the 'big four' species— Rhino, Elephant, Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo. As per the figures of tiger census conducted in 2018, Kaziranga had an estimated 104 tigers, the fourth highest population in India after Jim Corbett National Park (231) in Uttarakhand, Nagarhole National Park (127) and Bandipur National Park (126) in Karnataka. Kaziranga is also home to 9 of the 14 species of primates found in the Indian subcontinent.

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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

Japan funding projects in India
  • An old friend, stepping up: Japan has finalised loans and a grant totalling around 233 billion yen for several key infrastructure projects in India, including for a project in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
  • Points to note:
  1. Grant for Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) - A grant of 4.01 billion yen for a project for the improvement of power supply in strategically located Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It would be used to procure 15MWh batteries as well as power system stabilisers to allow better utilisation of solar power generated in South Andaman. This is Japan's first ever Official Development Assistance (ODA) to a project in the A&N islands.
  2. About Official Development Assistance (ODA) - ODA is defined as government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Loans and credits for military purposes are excluded. India has been the top recipient of the Japanese government's financial aid under the ODA.
  3. Japan’s Aid for Other Projects - For Delhi Metro’s fourth phase / For Metro lines under Namma Metro’s second phase in Bengaluru / For crop diversification in Himachal Pradesh / For mitigating fluorosis in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu and Barmer districts etc.
  • Other developments: The first summit of the leaders' of the QUAD (Quadrilateral Framework) was held virtually. QUAD is a four-nation alliance of India, Australia, USA and Japan. In 2020, India and Japan signed a logistics agreement that will allow armed forces of both sides to coordinate closely in services and supplies. The agreement is known as the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). In 2019, India and Japan held the first-ever ministerial-level 2+2 dialogue. This dialogue involved the Defence and Foreign Ministers on both sides and is seen as an endorsement of the special strategic partnership between India and Japan. A “India-Japan Digital Partnership (I-JDP)” was launched during the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Japan in October 2018, furthering existing areas of cooperation as well as new initiatives within the scope of cooperation in S&T/ICT, focusing more on “Digital ICT Technologies”. In 2014, India and Japan upgraded their relationship to 'Special Strategic and Global Partnership'. The India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that came into force in August 2011 covers trade in goods, services, movement of natural persons, investments, Intellectual Property Rights, custom procedures and other trade related issues. India and Japan defence forces organize a series of bilateral exercises namely, JIMEX (naval), SHINYUU Maitri (Air Force), and Dharma Guardian (Army). Both countries also participate in Malabar exercise (Naval Exercise) with the USA.
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) are located at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. It is a group of 572 islands, which straddles some of the busiest trade routes in the world. The ANI spans 450 nautical miles in a roughly north-south configuration adjacent to the western entrance to the Malacca Strait, which is itself a major Indian Ocean chokepoint. Geopolitically, the ANI connects South Asia with South-East Asia. While the northernmost point of the archipelago is only 22 nautical miles from Myanmar, the southernmost point, Indira Point, is a mere 90 nautical miles from Indonesia.
  1. The islands dominate the Bay of Bengal, the Six Degree and the Ten Degree Channels that more than sixty thousand commercial vessels traverse each year.
  2. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands constitute just 0.2% of India’s landmass but provide near 30% of its Exclusive Economic Zone. Due to the presence of ANI in the Bay of Bengal, India has a better position to play a vital role in Indo-Pacific. The Prime Minister has declared that the ANI will be developed as a "maritime and startup hub".
  • Summary: India needs sophisticated technology from Japan, so more collaboration and cooperation can prove beneficial to both nations. There is a huge potential with respect to Make in India. Joint ventures could be created by merging Japanese digital technology with Indian raw materials and labour. Close cooperation is the best measure to combat China’s growing role in Asia and Indo-Pacific, in physical as well as digital space.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. India Japan relations - Exchange between Japan and India is said to have begun in the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. Indian culture, filtered through Buddhism, has had a great impact on Japanese culture, and this is the source of the Japanese people's sense of closeness to India. After World War II, in 1949, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru donated an Indian elephant to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. Japan and India signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations on 28th April, 1952. This treaty was one of the first peace treaties Japan signed after World War II. Ever since, the two have enjoyed cordial relations. In the post World War II period, India's iron ore helped a great deal Japan's recovery from the devastation. Following Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi's visit to India in 1957, Japan started providing yen loans to India in 1958, as the first yen loan aid extended by Japanese government. India has been the largest recipient of Japanese ODA Loan for the past decades. Delhi Metro is a successful example.
  2. Bilateral treaties - Treaty of Peace (1952)
  3. Agreement for Air Service (1956)
  4. Cultural Agreement (1957)
  5. Agreement of Commerce (1958)
  6. Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation (1960)
  7. Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Science and Technology (1985)
  8. Japan-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (2011)
  9. Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India Concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology (2015)
  10. Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India Concerning Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Military Information (2015)
  11. Agreement between Japan and the Republic of India on Social Security (2016)
  12. Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (2017)

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    • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

Shifting health to the Concurrent List
  • More centralisation is the norm: The Fifteenth Finance Commission Chairman N.K. Singh said that health should be shifted to the Concurrent list under the Constitution. Presently, ‘Health’ is under the State List. He also pitched for a Developmental Finance Institution (DFI) dedicated to healthcare investments.
  • Points to note: India is a vast and diverse land, and the founder fathers (creators of the constitution) had envisaged decentralisation in some of the most crucial areas, including health. But in today's times, more and more centralisation is being attempted, often with not so good results.
  1. Arguments for shifting ‘Health’ to the Concurrent List - It will give the Centre greater flexibility to enact regulatory changes and reinforce the obligation of all stakeholders towards providing better healthcare.  It will help in rationalisation and streamlining of multiple Acts. There is a multiplicity of Acts, rules and regulations, and mushrooming institutions, yet the regulation of the sector is far from adequate. With the health in the concurrent list, uniformity of acts can be ensured. The Central government is also technically better equipped to come up with the health schemes because it has the assistance of multiple research bodies and departments dedicated to the management of public health. States do not have the technical expertise to independently design comprehensive public health policies.
  2. Arguments against shifting ‘Health’ to the Concurrent List - This move will not be necessary nor sufficient to guarantee the provision of accessible, affordable and adequate healthcare for all. The right to health is already provided for by the Constitution’s Article 21 that guarantees protection of life and liberty. This move will challenges the federal structure of India. Shifting ever more subjects from the states to the Centre would erode India’s federal nature and impair efficiency by abandoning the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that any task should be left to the level of government best placed to do it. The centre must direct its energies to designing policy that would help states deliver on their constitutional mandate to provide adequate, accessible and affordable healthcare for all, rather than trying to concentrate power, when it is burdened with multiple tasks already.
  • Funding issue: The Centre devolves 41% of the taxes it collects to the states. The Centre should encourage the states to do what they are supposed to do, while the Centre optimises use of its own resources, focusing on its obligations. Health being a state subject does not preclude the Centre offering constructive support.
  • Index: The NITI Aayog’s Health Index, financial assistance through the insurance-based programme Ayushman Bharat, improved regulatory environment for healthcare providers and medical education are examples of such support that can nudge states in the right direction.
  • Developmental Finance Institution (DFI) for healthcare: A health sector-specific DFI is much needed on the same lines as that of DFIs for other sectors like National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development -NABARD (agriculture), National Housing Bank- NHB (Housing) and Tourism Finance Corporation of India Ltd. - TFCI (tourism). Such a DFI would increase health care access in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and also come with technical assistance that ensures proper usage of funds.
  • Other suggestions by N.K. Singh:
  1. Increase the government spending on health to 2.5% of GDP by 2025
  2. Primary healthcare should be a fundamental commitment of all States in particular and should be allocated at least two-thirds of health spending
  3. To have a standardisation of health care codes for both the Centre and states
  4. Forming an All India Medical and Health Service
  5. Given the inter-state disparity in the availability of medical doctors, it is essential to constitute the Service as is envisaged under Section 2A of the All-India Services Act, 1951
  • Need for Universalisation of Healthcare Insurance: Existing coverage in the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) covers the bottom two income quintiles and commercial insurance largely covers top-income quintiles, thereby creating a ‘missing middle’ class in between. This 'Missing Middle' refers to people in the middle two income quintiles, where the population is not rich enough to afford commercial insurance and not poor enough to be covered under government-sponsored health insurance schemes.
  • Concurrent List: The subject-wise distribution of legislative power is given in the three lists of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution - (i) List-I- the Union List; (ii) List-II- the State List; (iii) List-III- the Concurrent List. Both the Parliament and state legislature can make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List. It includes the matters on which uniformity of legislation throughout the country is desirable but not essential. But State legislation operates to the extent that it is not in conflict with the Central legislation. At times, the very presence of a central legislation can negate the state’s ability to legislate. This list has at present 52 subjects (originally 47) like criminal law and procedure, civil procedure, marriage and divorce, population control and family planning, electricity, labour welfare,economic and social planning, drugs, newspapers, books and printing press, and others. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 transferred five subjects to Concurrent List from State List i.e education, forests, weights and measures, protection of wild animals and birds, and administration of justice; constitution and organisation of all courts except the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

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    • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
Mission Karmayogi : National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building
  • What it is: The “National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building” (NPCSCB) was approved by the Government on 2nd September, 2020, providing an Institutional Framework for civil service capacity building.
  • Framework: It is a vast structure, comprising the following -
  1. Prime Minister’s Public Human Resource Council (PMHRC);
  2. Cabinet Secretariat Coordination Unit;
  3. Capacity Building Commission;
  4. Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV);  and
  5. Programme Management Unit (PMU) to provide program management and support services.
  • Game started: The Technical digital learning platform of Mission Karmayogi has become functional in pre-production (experimental) stage on which various types of learning courses are being uploaded by the Central and other training institutions. Ministries and Departments implementing important National flagships programs and projects have been requested to develop ‘e-content’ in respect of their programs and projects.
  1. To provide strategic direction to civil service reforms and capacity building;
  2. Preparation of annual capacity building plans;
  3. To strengthen functional supervision over training institutions;
  4. To provide a digital learning platform providing best in class learning content.
  5. Improved availability of trained workforce for effective citizen centric delivery;
  6. Enabling data-driven decisions for training personnel management
  7. Increased transparency and accountability in governance.
  • More initiatives: Besides the NPCSCB, the Government is currently implementing following schemes namely-
  1. Training for All Scheme  with an objective of capacity building of all government officials at National and State level.
  2. Domestic Funding of Foreign Training (DFFT) scheme provides for short term and long-term training courses abroad through training courses at the best international institutions.
  3. Funding and supporting Foundational & Mid-Career training of civil servants through Central Training Institutions.
The idea of 'Constitutional Morality'
  • What it is: As per Dr. Ambedkar, Constitutional morality would mean effective coordination between conflicting interests of different people and the administrative cooperation to resolve them amicably without any confrontation amongst the various groups working for the realization of their ends at any cost. Constitutional morality provides a principled understanding for unfolding the work of governance. It specifies norms for institutions to survive and an expectation of behaviour that will meet not just the text but the soul of the Constitution. It also makes the governing institutions and representatives accountable.
  • Written: Constitutional Morality is scarcely a new concept. It is written largely in the Constitution itself like in the section of Fundamental Rights (Article 12 to 35), Directive Principle of State Policy (Article 36 to 51), Preamble and Fundamental duties.
  • Elements of constitutional morality: The Supreme Court said that constitutional morality is not limited only to following the constitutional provisions literally but is based on values like individual autonomy and liberty; equality without discrimination; recognition of identity with dignity; the right to privacy. It also means adherence to the core principles of constitutional democracy.
  1. In Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict religious freedom, gender equality and the right of women to worship guaranteed under Article 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution was reinstated which struck down the practice of banning entry of women of a certain age to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala as unconstitutional.
  2. Constitutional morality here went against social morality that discriminates against women based on biological reasons like menstruation.
  3. Other Judgments by the Supreme Court defining Constitutional Morality: (i) In Kesavananda Bharati Case, the Supreme Court restricted the power of the Parliament to violate the Basic Structure of the Constitution. (ii) In the Naz Foundation case, the Supreme Court opined that only Constitutional Morality and not Public Morality should prevail. (iii) In Lt Governor of Delhi case, SC proclaimed constitutional morality as a governing ideas that "highlight the need to preserve the trust of people in the institution of democracy. (iv) In Sabarimala case, the Supreme Court bypassed the “doctrine of essentiality” to uphold the Constitutional morality
  • Importance: Constitutional morality ensures the establishment of rule of law in the land while integrating the changing aspirations and ideals of the society. Constitutional morality as a governing ideal that highlights the need to preserve the trust of the people in institutions of democracy. As such an ideal, it allows people to cooperate and coordinate to pursue constitutional aspirations that cannot be achieved single-handedly. It can use laws and forms to impact and change the persisting social morality. For example, by abolishing the practice of Sati by legislation, the right to dignity and life was passed on to the widows which later on affected the perception of the practice in the society. Constitutional morality recognises plurality and diversity in society and tries to make individuals and communities in the society more inclusive in their functioning by constantly providing the scope for improvement and reforms. For example in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the SC provided a framework to reaffirm the rights of LGBTQ and all gender non-conforming people to their dignity, life, liberty, and identity.
  • Problems: The term has not been clearly defined by the SC, which leaves the scope of its subjective interpretation by the individual judges. This top-down approach to morality can affect the possibility of organic emergence of the solutions to the persisting ethical problems in society. It establishes judicial supremacy over parliamentary supremacy. Against the very principle of democratic government. It is claimed that the application of this doctrine amounts to judicial overreach and are thereby pitting “constitutional morality” against “societal/popular morality”
  • Need to uphold Constitutional Morality: The central elements of constitutional morality are freedom and self-restraint. Self-restraint was a precondition for maintaining freedom under a proper constitutional government. To uphold constitutional morality, the constitutional methods must be used for achieving social and economic objectives.
  • Conclusion: 'Constitutional Morality' is a sentiment to be cultivated in the minds of a responsible citizen. Upholding constitutional morality is not just the duty of Judiciary or state but also of individuals. The preamble of the constitution explicitly mentions the type of society we wish to establish; it is only through constitutional morality it can become reality. The progressive and monumental precedents have been set-up by the judiciary in the past few years, where this doctrine has been applied especially in relation to the cases of gender-justice, institutional propriety, social uplift, checking majoritarianism and other such evils.

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    • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
 Aircraft-carriers take to the air
  • Huge but vulnerable: The giant aircraft-carriers are actually nice targets. Like medieval castles in the age of the powerful cannon, technological advance threatens to make them redundant. Satellites and over-the-horizon radars mean pinpointing their locations is easier. And a single well-aimed, well-armed missile may be enough to render a carrier useless, even if one shot does not sink it outright.
  • US and China: American naval planners are particularly worried about China’s DF-26. This weapon, which came into service in 2018, is a so-called manoeuvring ballistic missile (meaning it can vary its final approach path, rather than being subject solely to the laws of gravity) that has been dubbed a “carrier killer”. The DF-26 can be launched from a lorry, and can carry either a conventional or a nuclear warhead. This threat is fearsome enough to keep American carriers at least 1,600 km from China’s coast, much farther than the range of a carrier’s warplanes unless they can be refuelled in-flight. So, the US is now looking for a workaround. One idea is to turn a suitable plane into an aerial aircraft-carrier capable of launching and recovering uncrewed drones in flight.
  • Castles in the sky: To that end DARPA, the US defence department’s advanced research projects agency, is running a programme called Gremlins, a name that also applies to the individual drones themselves.
  1. A Gremlin drone weighs 680kg and has a wingspan of nearly 3.5 metres. Once it has been dropped, deployed its wings and fired up its turbofan engine, it can fly to an area up to 500km away and in the words of Scott Wierzbanowski, the Gremlin programme’s head, “go in and create havoc”. That done, it would then return to its aerial mothership.
  2. Gremlins would operate in fleets, under ultimate human control. In this, they are similar to the “loyal wingman” idea of drone squadrons accompanying a crewed fighter aircraft into battle. Loyal wingmen, however, would take off from and land on terra firma, or possibly a conventional, naval, aircraft-carrier. Operational Gremlins need never touch the ground.
  3. Gremlins’ principal jobs would be intercepting communications, jamming signals and hunting for things to be destroyed, thus softening up the defences in contested airspace to make it safer for crewed aircraft. Such drones could also be armed with small missiles or explosives for a kamikaze attack. And they would both share data and co-operate among themselves, and pass reconnaissance and targeting information back to warships and aircraft able to fire bigger missiles than they could carry.
  4. Gremlin swarms would no doubt suffer losses. But drawing enemy fire would actually be an objective. This way, Gremlins would flush out the position of any hostile missile battery that switched on its targeting radar, marking it for subsequent destruction.
  • Utility of Gremlins: In the calculus of combat, sacrificing a drone or two to knock out an enemy air-defence battery makes for a nice swap. Gremlins should therefore be thought of as “tradable” for systems of greater value. The better to fool the foe, military planners also envisage air-launched drones that mimic the radar and heat signatures of bigger fighter jets and bombers. This would be done by using shapes and materials that reflect rather than absorbing radar pings, and by leaving an engine’s heat signature unmasked. The illusion could be enhanced by flying drones at speeds and in patterns indicative of larger aircraft.
  • Costing: To that end, costs must be kept low. The US defence department plans to pay less than $800,000 a unit for Gremlins, though that would be for an order of 1,000 of them. Each Gremlin will fly a maximum of about 20 missions. This means they can be made from less durable, and therefore cheaper materials and components. The aerial aircraft-carrier of choice for the Gremlin project is a modified C-130 cargo plane, which could carry up to four of the drones in bomb racks slung under its wings. When a Gremlin flies back to the mothership, the cargo ramp opens and the recovery system lowers a boom out of it. A successful capture shuts off the Gremlin’s engine. A winch then hoists the drone on board. This arrangement should be able to pull eight Gremlins an hour out of the air.
  • Army in the game: The American army plans to use helicopters fitted with drone-launching pneumatic tubes as motherships. These drones, which, like Gremlins, unfold their wings after launch, have a wingspan of 2.5 metres. In a test six such drones launched in flight were recovered in the air, albeit not by the Black Hawk from which they had emanated. Rather, they were snared by a quadcopter drone dangling a cord that snagged hooks on the target drones’ wings. As with Gremlins and Sparrowhawks, the army’s push for what it calls “air-launched effects” is driven by America’s shift from counterinsurgency to potential war with a foreign power.
  • Problems: Aerial aircraft-carriers of these sorts do have drawbacks. Snatching drones from midair eats up precious time. That and the manoeuvring required could make it easier for an enemy to shoot down a mothership. But drones that can be reused 20 times offer advantages, not least of cost, over expendable single-shot alternatives. Castle builders of yore solved the problems brought by cannons by redesigning fortresses to be low, thick-walled and protected by bastions. That worked well. Whether launching aircraft-carriers into the sky will be an equally successful response to technological advance remains to be seen.

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    • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
World Food Programme (WFP)
  • What it is: The World Food Programme (WFP) is the leading humanitarian organization saving lives and changing lives, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. It was founded in 1961 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with its headquarters in Rome, Italy.
  • Details: It is also a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), a coalition of UN agencies and organizations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The international community has committed to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition by 2030. The WFP assists 88 countries, and has assisted 97 million people (in 2019) which is the largest number since 2012.
  • Objectives: The WFP focuses on emergency assistance as well as rehabilitation and development aid. Two-thirds of its work is in conflict-affected countries, where people are three times more likely to be undernourished than elsewhere. It works closely with the other two Rome-based UN agencies: (i) The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which helps countries draw up policy and change legislation to support sustainable agriculture, and (ii) The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which finances projects in poor rural areas. To end hunger by protecting access to food. Improving nutrition and achieving food security. Supporting the SDG implementation and partnering for its results.
  • WFP’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2021:  It was adopted just over a year after the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It aligns the organization’s work to the 2030 Agenda’s global call to action, which prioritizes efforts to end poverty, hunger and inequality, encompassing humanitarian as well as development efforts.
  1. The Strategic Plan is guided by the SDGs set forth in the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 2 on ending hunger and SDG 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for implementation of the SDGs.
  2. It ushers in a new planning and operational structure, including the implementation of results-based country portfolios that will maximize WFP’s contribution to governments’ efforts towards achieving the SDGs.
  3. Responding to emergencies and saving lives and livelihoods – either through direct assistance, or by strengthening country capacities – remains at the heart of WFP’s operations, especially as humanitarian needs become increasingly complex and protracted.
  4. WFP will support countries in ensuring no one is left behind by continuing to build resilience for food security and nutrition and addressing the growing challenges posed by climate change and rising inequality.
  • Funding: The WFP has no independent source of funds, it is funded entirely by voluntary donations. Its principal donors are governments, but the organization also receives donations from the private sector and individuals. Governments are the principal source of funding for WFP; the organization receives no dues or portions of the UN assessed contributions. On average, over 60 governments underwrite the humanitarian and development projects of WFP
  1. Through corporate-giving programmes, individual companies make vital contributions to fighting hunger. Donations from private and not-for-profit entities have included frontline support to several emergency operations; expertise to enhance WFP's logistics and fundraising capacities; and critical cash for school feeding. Individual contributions can make a difference in the lives of the hungry.
  2. A personal donation can provide:
  3. Emergency food rations during a crisis
  4. Special food for hungry children in schools.
  5. Food incentives to encourage poor families to send their girls to school.
  6. Food as payment for people to rebuild schools, roads and other infrastructure in the wake of conflicts and natural disasters.
  • Share the Meal: It is an initiative where donations from the ShareTheMeal app support various WFP operations ranging from resilience building and school feeding programmes to providing food assistance in emergencies. The app was launched in 2015 and since then, it has helped provide aid to some of the largest food crises in the world including Yemen, Syria and Nigeria.
  • WFP and India: WFP has been working in India since 1963, with work transitioning from food distribution to technical assistance since the country achieved self-sufficiency in cereal production. The areas in which WFP mainly assists in India are: Transforming the targeted public distribution system: WFP is working to improve the efficiency, accountability and transparency of India’s own subsidized food distribution system, which brings supplies of wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene oil to around 800 million poor people across the country. Fortification of government distributed food: To boost the nutritional value of the Government’s Midday Meal school feeding programme, WFP is pioneering the multi-micronutrient fortification of school meals. The pilot project saw rice fortified with iron, which was distributed in a single district, resulting in a 20 percent drop in anaemia. It has also helped tackle malnutrition by fortifying food given to babies and young children in Kerala State. Mapping and monitoring of food insecurity: WFP has used Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping softwares to identify India’s most food insecure areas, which allows policy and relief work to be targeted appropriately. WFP is also supporting the government’s Poverty and Human Development Monitoring Agency in establishing a State-level Food Security Analysis Unit, working towards the goal of achieving Zero Hunger.
  • Report released by WFP: The 'Global Report on Food Crises' describes the scale of acute hunger in the world. It provides an analysis of the drivers that are contributing to food crises across the globe. It is produced by the Global Network against Food Crises, an international alliance working to address the root causes of extreme hunger. The WFP has been awarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace 2020 for its efforts to combat hunger, bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and preventing the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.

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    • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant
  • The story: India made a deal with Bangladesh where Indian companies will develop the transmission lines of Bangladesh Rooppur Nuclear power plant.
  • Details of Roop-pur: It is an under-construction 2.4 GWe nuclear power plant in Bangladesh, being constructed at Rooppur (Rupppur) in the Pabna District of Bangladesh, on the bank of Padma River. There are two units of plants which are expected to be completed in 2022 and 2024 respectively. Each will produce 1200MW of electricity. It has significance as it will be the Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant. The Rooppur project is the first initiative under the Indo-Russian deal to undertake atomic energy projects in third countries.
  • MoU: A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in March 2018, was signed at Moscow, Russia between Russia, Bangladesh and India for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Project. It is to be built by the Russian Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. In June 2018, Infrastructure major, Hindustan Construction Company Ltd. (HCC) was given contract for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. The Russian side is making the project on “turnkey” basis which says, the contractor will be liable for any problems that arise in the plant. It will be for the first time when any Indian company will be involved in any nuclear project out of the country. Since India is not a Nuclear Supplier group (NSG) member, it cannot participate directly in construction of Atomic power reactors.
Global Wind Report-2021
  1. The story: The Global Wind Report 2021 was published by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) on March 25, 2021.
  2. Points to note: Though 2020 was a record year for global wind power industry, but this report warns that there is a need to install new wind power capacity three times faster by next decade in order to achieve global climate targets & limit global warming to below 2°C above the pre-industrial levels. In the year 2020, 93 GW of new capacity were installed, a 53% year-on-year increase. But this was not sufficient to ensure that world will achieve net zero emission target by 2050.
  3. Key findings: As per the report, total global wind power capacity is up to 743GW now. This is helping the globe to avoid over 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 annually. It is equal to annual carbon emissions of South America. The Report warns that world needs to install a minimum of 280 GW of new wind energy per year in a bid to avoid worst impacts of climate change. Thus, industry & policymakers need to act fast to accelerate deployment. Governments across the globe must work with ‘climate emergency’ approach to eliminate red tape and planning delays. Government must expand grid infrastructure to scale-up wind power at the required pace.
  4. RE: Wind power is a cornerstone to achieve net zero emission target and power a green recovery because it is cost-competitive and a resilient power source which is having most decarbonisation potential per MW. Technology innovations and economies of scale has quadrupled the global wind power market in size in past decade. Growth in 2020 was driven by installations on large scale in China and US which are the two largest wind power markets of world. Both the countries have over half of total wind power capacity and they accounted for 75% of new installations in 2020.
  5. Climate Emergency approach: The GWEC has called the policymakers to take ‘climate emergency’ approach to eliminate red tape and reform administrative structures to speed up and streamline licensing and permits for projects. It has also asked to increase investments in grid, ports and other infrastructure which are required to ramp up installations.
U.P announces Affordable Rental Housing Scheme for students, urban migrants
  1. The story: The Uttar Pradesh government has announced on March 26, 2021 to start an affordable rental housing scheme for students, urban migrants and poor people living in cities. Uttar Pradesh cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath proposed for Affordable Rental Housing and Complexes (ARHC) scheme.
  2. Affordable Rental Housing and Complexes (ARHC): Under state government’s ARHC scheme, beneficiaries include poor migrants, students, urban migrants, low-income groups including factory workers, people from economically weaker section (EWS) and people associated with hospitality. Preference will be given to people from widows, working women & minorities, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes. Preference will be subject to provisions made by state government. This scheme will be implemented under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) to promote participation of private and public institutions to construct, operate and maintain rental housing complexes for the beneficiaries.
  3. Implementation: The ARHC scheme will be implemented in two models. First model will convert vacant houses funded by central or state government into an Affordable Rental Housing and Complexes through an agreement. While, under the second model, public or private entities will build, operate and maintain the ARHC on their available vacant land.
  4. Provision of penalty: All projects under this scheme will be used as rental accommodation for a minimum of 25 years. If it is used for any purpose action will be taken against the concerned agency by competent authority.
Norway to construct World’s First Ship Tunnel
  1. The story: The world’s first ship tunnel is set to be constructed in Norway. Construction on the project will start in 2022 and it will be completed by 2025-2026.
  2. Details: Norway has planned to construct Ship tunnel underneath the mountains in Stadhavet peninsula of Norway. The tunnel will be 37 meters high, 1,700 metres long and 26.5 metres wide. A total of $315 million would be spent in constructing ship tunnel. Tunnel will burrow through narrowest point of Stadhavet peninsula. Conventional blasting will be employed to build tunnel. It will also use underground drilling rigs and pallet rigs. Tunnel was included in the National Transport Plan for the first time in 2013. Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications approved for preparations to start in March 2021.
  3. Importance: The Ship Tunnel Project has been designed to help in navigation of ships through rough and treacherous Stadhavet Sea in north western Norway. Currently, ships have to wait for few days so that harsh weather conditions and rough tides conditions in Stadhavet Sea is improved before transiting the area. The Stadlandet peninsula lies in Stad Municipality in north western part of Nordfjord district in Norway. It is considered as the dividing point between Norwegian Sea and the North Sea. It is a 500-metre-high mountain plateau comprising of a 645-metre-tall Tarvaldsegga peak. It plunges into sea in a 497-metre-tall cliff at Kjerringa.

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