25 November 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Question

1) Consider the following statements:

  1. Nehru called her ‘Daughter of the hills’.
  2. She demanded a separate Zeliangrong area within the Union of India.
  3. She was awarded with the Tamra Patra in 1972 and the Padma Bhushan in 1982.

Which of the following personalities is being referred to in the statements given above?

  1. Gaidinliu
  2. Chennamma
  3. Abbakka
  4. Velu Nachiyar

2) With reference to Igla-S, consider the following statements:

  1. It is a Man-Portable Very Short Range Air Defence System.
  2. It is manufactured by Israel.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Igla-S missile

  • Developed by Russia
  • It is a man-portable air defence system (MANPADS)
  • It has won bid for Indian Army’s Very Short Range Air Defence deal.
  • It offers superior performance over earlier supplied SA-18 missiles to India.
  • It is designed for use against visible aerial targets at short range such as tactical aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs), cruise missile, head-on or receding, in presence of natural (background) clutter and countermeasures.
  • As per requirements of Indian Army, it will have maximum range of 6 km, altitude of 3 km along with all-weather capability.
  • Igla-S missile system will replace the existing Igla in service which is in urgent need of replacement.

3) The Global State of Democracy report is published by?

  1. Global Public Policy Institute
  2. Network of Democracy Research Institutes
  3. Centre for Strategic and International Studies
  4. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance

Important News Items of the Day

1) Centre’s free foodgrain scheme on till March

Acknowledging that poor families still need food security support in the middle of a recovering economy, the Centre has decided to extend its free ration scheme, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), for another four months, until March 2022.

In its other major decision, the Cabinet approved the extension of the PMGKAY which provides more than 80 crore ration card holders with five kg each of rice or wheat a month free of cost, in addition to the five kg which they are eligible for on a subsidized basis under the National Food Security Act.

National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013

  • Notified on: 10th September, 2013.
  • Objective: To provide for food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantities of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • Coverage: 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
    • Overall, NFSA caters to 67% of the total population.
  • Eligibility: Priority Households to be covered under TPDS, according to guidelines by the State government.Households covered under existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana.

Provisions:

  • 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.
  • The existing AAY household will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
  • Meal and maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000 to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth.
  • Meals for children upto 14 years of age.
  • Food security allowance to beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.
  • Setting up of grievance redressal mechanisms at the district and state level.

2) More hospital births, but limited gains in childhood nutrition: NFHS

The Union health ministry released the summary findings of the fifth round of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-5), conducted in two phases between 2019 and 2021, on November 24. NFHS is the most comprehensive survey on socio-economic and health indicators in the country. While the results of the first phase were released in December last year, country-level statistics were released only on Wednesday. The previous four rounds of the NFHS were conducted in 1992-93, 1998-99, 2005-06 and 2015-16.

Women outnumber men, fertility has decreased, and India is getting older

NFHS-5 data shows that there were 1,020 women for 1000 men in the country in 2019-2021. This is the highest sex ratio for any NFHS survey as well as since the first modern synchronous census conducted in 1881.

The improved sex ratio is not the only big demographic transition that the latest round of NFHS has revealed. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has also come down below the threshold at which the population is expected to replace itself from one generation to next. TFR was 2 in 2019-2021, just below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1. To be sure, in rural areas, the TFR is still 2.1. In urban areas, TFR had gone below the replacement fertility rate in the 2015-16 NFHS itself.

A decline in TFR, which implies that lower number of children are being born, also entails that India’s population would become older. Sure enough, the survey shows that the share of under-15 population in the country has therefore further declined from 28.6% in 2015-16 to 26.5% in 2019-21.

The share of stunted (low height for age), wasted (low weight for height), and underweight (low weight for age) children have all come down since the last NFHS conducted in 2015-16. However, the share of severely wasted children has not, nor has the share of overweight (high weight for height) or anaemic children. The share of overweight children has increased from 2.1% to 3.4%. The share of anaemic children has increased from 58.6% to 67.1%. Another cause of worry for children’s nutrition is that the pace at which the share of stunted and underweight children decreased in the latest NFHS was less than the pace at which it did between the 2005-06 and 2015-16 surveys. The share of stunted children decreased by 20% between NFHS-3 and NFHS-4, but only by 7.6% between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5. The corresponding numbers for underweight children are 15.8% decline between NFHS-3 and NFHS-4 and 10.3% decline in the latest round. A similar challenge remains in reducing mortality rates of children. All such indicators suggest a declining rate of mortality, but the pace at which it declined in the last round has come down.

3) Andersson becomes first woman Prime Minister of Sweden

Sweden’s Parliament elected Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson as the country’s first woman Prime Minister, hours after she clinched a last-minute deal that gave her victory by the slimmest of possible margins.

4) NITI Aayog for full-stack digital banks

Government think-tank NITI Aayog proposed setting up of full-stack ‘digital banks’, which would principally rely on the Internet and other proximate channels to offer their services and not physical branches, to mitigate the financial deepening challenges being faced in the country.

“In other words, these entities will issue deposits, make loans and offer the full suite of services that the Banking Regulation Act empowers them to. As the name suggests, however, DBs will principally rely on the Internet and other proximate channels to offer their services,” it said in a discussion paper.

 About NITI AAYOG

NITI AAYOG stands for NATIONAL INSTITUTION FOR TRANSFORMING INDIA. Its function is to foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation.

What is the difference between the NITI Aayog and the Planning Commission?

NITI Aayog replaced the Planning Commission of India. It is basically a think-tank or an advisory body. The Planning Commission designed Five Years Plans in India. Read in detail the difference between Niti Ayog and Planning Commission of India in the linked article.

Which type of body is NITI Aayog?

NITI Aayog is an executive body. In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Planning Commission’s abolition and created NITI Aayog through an executive resolution. It is neither a constitutional body nor a statutory body. Get the list of constitutional bodies in the linked article.

What are the achievements of NITI Aayog?

NITI Aayog has identified 117 Aspirational districts for transformation through development of education, health & nutrition, agriculture & water resources, skill development, financial inclusion and basic infrastructure.

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 1 – Pointers that India is witnessing a K-shaped recovery

Context – The pointers are indicating that India is witnessing a K shaped recovery more than V-shaped with various groups and industries recovering much more rapidly than their counterparts.

K shaped recovery vs V shaped recovery in India

What is a K-shaped recovery?

  • A K-shaped recovery is a post-recession scenario in which one segment of the economy begins to climb back upward while another segment continues to suffer.
  • If illustrated, the economic growth would roughly resemble the two diverging diagonal lines of the letter “K” – hence the name.
  • This is quite unusual. Traditionally, when the economy dips, it’s felt throughout every industry and demographic, and vice-versa when the economy eventually recovers. Of course, the impact is often greater on some than on others. But overall, nations and people all experience economic or business cycle changes as one entity.

What is a V-shaped recovery?

  • A V-shaped recovery means that the economy bounces back quickly to its baseline before the crisis, with no hiccups along the way.
  • Growth continues at the same rate as before. This is one of the most optimistic recovery patterns because it implies that the downturn did not cause any lasting damage to the economy.

What indicates that the economy is witnessing K shaped recovery?

  • Signs from industry – 
    • The effects of this K-shaped recovery can be observed through the growth and consumption in specific industries.
    • A report by CRISIL indicates that in the year 2021, two-wheeler sales are set to decline by 3%-6% year-over-year on top of a lower base in the year 2020.
    • The sales of two-wheelers are the second-lowest it has been in seven years and the festival season was unable to rectify this phenomenon.
    • On the other hand, premium cars and premium motorcycles have been resistant to the pandemic slowdown.
  • Impact of taxation – 
    • The taxation policy of the Government insists on maintaining indirect taxes on fuel and consumer products while lowering corporate taxes.
    • While inflation soars, the incomes of the middle and lower-middle-class have at best remained constant leading to a sustained loss in disposable income.
  • On jobs – 
    • Over five million people lost their jobs in October, according to a Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report.
    • Unemployment coupled with the high food and fuel prices push families into poverty.
  • On NREGA – 
    • There is a greater demand now for MGNREGA jobs than in the pre-COVID-19 era.
    • But, in 2021-2022, the Government had cut its budget allocation towards MGNREGA by 34% for its inability to compensate workers in time and fairly.
    • People who are looking for MGNREGA work cannot afford to be unpaid for such long durations and this again ties back to placing upward pressure on unemployment figures.
  • Stimulus and growth – 
    • The recovery in the stock market and other such financial assets over the past year has been phenomenal but only less than 5% of India directly benefited from the said recovery.
    • The lower middle class which does not invest in such assets has no guard against inflation and their only hedge against inflation is their income.
    • The disproportional benefit of the asset price inflation favouring the upper-middle-class further displays the inherent K-shape of the recovery.

Way forward:

We can observe how the financial situation got worsened due to the rising prices of essential goods affecting the lives of the majority of the population. Therefore, the right economic policies coupled with social security measures will lead to such a recovery which will not benefit only a fraction of the society but the masses and make these V vs K-shaped recovery debates insignificant.

Editorial 2 – The need for a proper Pre- Legislative Consultation Policy

The story so far: The Union Government has listed 29 Bills (26 new and three pending) to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament. In 2014, the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy was adopted, mandating a host of rules, including that whenever the Government makes any law, it must place a draft version of it in the public domain for at least 30 days. Since the inception of the policy, 227 of the 301 bills introduced in Parliament have been presented without any prior consultation. Of the 74 placed in public domain for comment, at least 40 did not adhere to the 30-day deadline.

What is the policy?

The Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP) 2014 mandates that whenever the Government makes any laws (bills, rules, regulations etc.), it must place a draft version of it in the public domain for at least 30 days. The policy also says that along with the draft, a note explaining the law in simple language and justifying the proposal, its financial implication, impact on the environment and fundamental rights, a study on the social and financial costs of the bill, etc. should be uploaded. The respective departments should also upload the summary of all the feedback that they receive on the circulated draft.

The PLCP was formulated based on the broad recommendations of the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi (2013) and the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2002). It aimed to create an institutionalised space for public participation in lawmaking processes.

Why is it important?

This policy provides a forum for citizens and relevant stakeholders to interact with the policymakers in the executive during the initial stages of lawmaking. Protests in the recent past over laws such as the farm laws, the RTI Amendment Act, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, etc. have all highlighted that there is discontent among relevant stakeholders and the public at large since they were not looped in while framing such laws. Public consultations enhance transparency, increase accountability and could result in the building of an informed Government where citizens are treated as partners and not as subjects.

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