THE HINDU DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS 3RD FEBRUARY 2020

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Q.1 Which of the following was/were the recommendations of Hunter Commission?
1. It recommended transfer of control of primary education to newly set up district and municipal
boards
2. It recommended a system of grants-in-aid to encourage private enterprise.
3. It emphasised that state’s special care is required for extension and improvement of primary
education.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 and 2 only
B. 1, 2 and 3
C. 3 only
D. 1 and 3 only

Q.2 Consider the following statements
1. Raleigh Commission was set up to go into conditions and prospects of universities in India.
2. Saddler University Commission was set up to study and report on problems of Calcutta University.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 Which of the following was/were the features of Wardha Scheme of Education
1. First seven years of schooling to be an integral part of a free and compulsory nationwide education
system.
2. Teaching to be in Hindi from class II to VII and in English only after class VIII.
3. Inclusion of a basic handicraft in the syllabus
Select the correct answer using the code given below
A. 1 and 2 only
B. 2 only
C. 3 only
D. 1, 2 and 3

ANSWERS: D,C,D

CORONA VIRUS

NEWS:

India’s second case of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection was confirmed in Alappuzha, Kerala, after a student, admitted to the isolation ward of the Government Medical College, tested positive on Sunday.

Officials in Kerala said a total of eight suspected cases had been admitted to isolation wards at the Government Medical College Hospital and General Hospital in Alappuzha.

ABOUT CORONA VIRUS

  • Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
  • Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.

Symptoms:

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Transmission:

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

  1. the air by coughing and sneezing.
  2. close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
  3. touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
  4. rarely, fecal contamination

TAX ON NRI

NEWS:

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday scotched fears that provisions introduced in the Budget would bring Indian workers’ income in zero tax jurisdictions, like the UAE, into the Indian tax net.

The Finance Bill has proposed three major changes to prevent tax abuse by citizens who don’t pay taxes anywhere in the world — reducing the number of days that an Indian citizen can be granted non-resident status for tax purposes from 182 to 120; citizens who don’t pay taxes anywhere will be deemed to be a resident; and the definition of ‘not ordinarily resident’ has been tightened.

Alarmed by the possible implications of the new provisions, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, recording the State’s strong disagreement over the provision as it will hurt Indians working in the Middle East, “who toil and bring foreign exchange to the country” through remittances.

ABOUT NRI

  • An Non Resident Indian (NRI) is an Indian Citizen who resides in India for less than one hundred & eighty two days during the course of the preceding financial year, or
  • who has gone out of India or who stays outside India for the purpose of employment, or
  • who has gone out of India or who stays outside India for carrying on business or vocation outside India, or
  • who has gone out of India or who stays outside India for any other purpose indicating his intention to stay outside India for an uncertain period

STUDY ON BAT HUNTERS OF NAGALAND

NEWS:

The report of a government inquiry into a study conducted in Nagaland by researchers from the U.S., China and India on bats and humans carrying antibodies to deadly viruses like Ebola was submitted to the Health Ministry, officials confirmed to The Hindu.

“The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) sent a five-member committee to investigate. The inquiry is complete, and a report has been submitted to the Health Ministry,” a senior government official told The Hindu. The inquiry comes as officials worldwide grapple with the spread of novel coronavirus (nCoV) 2019 from Wuhan in China to over 20 countries.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA

NEWS:

A voter awareness programme organised by the South Delhi district administration at Qutub Minar on February 1 has irked Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials, who say they had allowed cultural activities outside the monument but not the cooking and serving of food at the event.

In a letter on January 31 granting permission for the programme ahead of the February 8 Delhi Assembly polls, the ASI said the competent authority had approved the “proposal for organising a cultural programme outside the premise of Qutb Minar” on February 1 and 2.

The official said the ASI refused to allow this as such activities are not allowed in protected monuments, including the 12th Century Qutub Minar, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well. With the ASI officials refusing permission, the official said the district election authorities returned with an order for taking over the site.

ABOUT ASI

  • The ASI is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the country.
  • The prime objection of ASI is to maintain the archaeological sites, ancient monuments and remains of national importance.
  • Headquarters: New Delhi.
  • Established: 1861 by Alexander Cunningham.
  • It regulates all archaeological activities as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • It functions under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Culture.
  • It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

ABOUT QUTUB MINAR

Qutub-Minar in red and buff sandstone is the highest tower in India.

Built in the 13th century, the magnificent tower stands in the capital, Delhi. It has a diameter of 14.32m at the base and about 2.75m on the top with a height of 72.5m. It is an architectural marvel of ancient India.

The complex has a number of other important monuments such as the gateway built in 1310, the Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque; the tombs of Altamish, Ala-ud-din Khalji and Imam Zamin; the Alai Minar, a 7m high Iron Pillar, etc.

Qutub-ud-Din Aibak of Slave Dynasty laid the foundation of Minar in A.D. 1199 for the use of mu’azzin (crier) to give calls for prayer and raised the first storey, to which were added three more storeys by his successor and son-in-law, Shams-ud-Din Itutmish (A.D. 1211-36). All the storeys are surrounded by a projected balcony encircling the minar and supported by stone brackets, which are decorated with honey-comb design, more conspicuously in the first storey.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, to the north-east of minar was built by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak in A.D. 1198. It is the earliest extant – mosque built by the Delhi Sultans. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with the carved columns and architectural members of 27 Hindu and Jaina temples, which were demolished by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak as recorded in his inscription on the main eastern entrance.

Later, a lofty arched screen was erected and the mosque was enlarged, by Shams-ud- Din Itutmish (A.D. 1210-35) and Ala-ud-Din Khalji.

The Iron Pillar in the courtyard bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of fourth century A.D., according to which the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of god Vishnu) on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra. A deep socket on the top of the ornate capital indicates that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it.

The tomb of Itutmish (A.D. 1211-36) was built in A.D. 1235. It is a plain square chamber of red sandstone, profusely carved with inscriptions, geometrical and arabesque patterns in Saracenic tradition on the entrances and the whole of interior. Some of the motifs viz., the wheel, tassel, etc., are reminiscent of Hindu designs.

Alai- Darwaza, the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was constructed by Ala-ud-Din Khalji in A.H. 710 (A.D. 1311) as recorded in the inscriptions engraved on it. This is the first building employing Islamic principles of construction and ornamentation.

Alai Minar, which stands to the north of Qutub-Minar, was commenced by Ala-ud-Din Khalji, with the intention of making it twice the size of earlier Minar. He could complete only the first storey, which now has an extant height of 25 m. The other remains in the Qutub complex comprise madrasa, graves, tombs, mosque and architectural members.

UNESCO has declared the highest stone tower in India as a world heritage.

RAKHIGARHI

NEWS:

The residents on Sunday welcomed the announcement to develop the Harappan site at Hisar’s Rakhigarhi village, as an iconic site and set up a national museum, in the Union Budget on Saturday.

Spread across 500 hectares, Rakhigarhi is the largest Harappan site in the Indian sub-continent.

Besides Rakhigarhi, Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh, Shivsagar in Assam, Dholavira in Gujarat and Adichanallur in Tamil Nadu will also be developed as iconic sites with national museums.

Rakhigarhi is one of the largest sites of the Harappan civilisation and the major objectives behind the excavation there were to trace its beginnings and to study its gradual evolution from 6000 BCE to 2500 BCE, besides protecting it from encroachment by the locals since the village is settled exactly on top of it.

CHANGE IN PROCUREMENT POLICY

NEWS:

As the debate surrounding the review of open-ended procurement policy has started gaining momentum, following a recommendation by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Price (CACP) to the Centre government, several farmers and farmers’ bodies in Punjab and Haryana have hinted that any move to stop or limit it would be opposed and resisted.

Agri-experts also believe that the current open-ended procurement policy is in the best interest of the country and farmers and any deviation could have negative impact on farmers.

ABOUT CACP

The Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) is an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. It came into existence in January 1965.

Currently, the Commission comprises a Chairman, Member Secretary, one Member (Official) and two Members (Non-Official). The non-official members are representatives of the farming community and usually have an active association with the farming community.

It is mandated to recommend minimum support prices (MSPs) to incentivize the cultivators to adopt modern technology, and raise productivity and overall grain production in line with the emerging demand patterns in the country.

As of now, CACP recommends MSPs of 23 commodities, which comprise 7 cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, barley and ragi), 5 pulses (gram, tur, moong, urad, lentil), 7 oilseeds (groundnut, rapeseed-mustard, soyabean, seasmum, sunflower, safflower, nigerseed), and 4 commercial crops (copra, sugarcane, cotton and raw jute).

CACP submits its recommendations to the government in the form of Price Policy Reports every year, separately for five groups of commodities namely Kharif crops, Rabi crops, Sugarcane, Raw Jute and Copra.

After receiving the feed-back from them, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) of the Union government takes a final decision on the level of MSPs and other recommendations made by CACP.

BHIMA KOREGAON

NEWS: 

Even as the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government granted yet another extension to the two-member commission set up to probe the causes behind the Bhima-Koregaon clashes, Ambedkarite outfits like the city-based Republican Yuva Morcha (RYM) have demanded that the State constitute a separate special investigation team (SIT) to probe afresh the riots that rocked Maharashtra on January 1, 2018.

About the Bhima- Koregaon battle:

A battle was fought in Bhima Koregaon, a district in Pune with a strong historical Dalit connection, between the Peshwa forces and the British on January 1, 1818. The British army, which comprised mainly of Dalit soldiers, fought the upper caste-dominated Peshwa army. The British troops defeated the Peshwa army.

 

Outcomes of the battle:

  • The victory was seen as a win against caste-based discrimination and oppression. Peshwas were notorious for their oppression and persecution of Mahar dalits. The victory in the battle over Peshwas gave dalits a moral victory a victory against caste-based discrimination and oppression and sense of identity.
  • However, the divide and rule policy of the British created multiple fissures in Indian society which is even visible today in the way of excessive caste and religious discrimination which needs to be checked keeping in mind the tenets of the Constitution.

Why Bhima Koregaon is seen as a Dalit symbol?

  • The battle has come to be seen as a symbol of Dalit pride because a large number of soldiers in the Company force were the Mahar Dalits. Since the Peshwas, who were Brahmins, were seen as oppressors of Dalits, the victory of the Mahar soldiers over the the Peshwa force is seen as Dalit assertion.
  • On 1 January 1927, B.R. Ambedkar visited the memorial obelisk erected on the spot which bears the names of the dead including nearly two dozen Mahar soldiers. The men who fought in the battle of Koregaon were the Mahars, and the Mahars are Untouchables.

NATIONAL GAMES

NEWS:

The flame-throated bulbul, also called the Rubigula, was chosen as the mascot of the 36th National Games to be held in Goa because it is the State bird, a senior sports department official said on Sunday.

The mascot, which was unveiled by Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju on Friday, has been designed by Goa-based artist Sharmila Coutinho, he said.

The 36th National Games will be held between October 20 and November 4 this year, and 12,000 athletes from 36 States and Union Territories are expected to participate in 37 disciplines across 24 venues in Goa.

SABRIMALA CASE (TEMPLE ENTRY FOR WOMEN)

NEWS:

Rituals, ceremonies, observances and sacrifices performed by devotees, including the self-restraint exercised by the women devotees of the reproductive age in not entering the Sabarimala temple, are integral components of the essential practices associated with the temple since time immemorial, a senior member of the Pandalam royal family argued before a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.

The Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, will assemble on February 3 to frame issues on a series of petitions, including the one on the Sabarimala temple’s prohibition of women of menstruating age. These petitions concerning multiple faiths highlight the tug-of-war between the equal right of women to worship and the right to religious practices.

ARGUMENTS GIVEN IN FAVOR OF TEMPLE ENTRY:

  • Under Article 51A(h) it is the fundamental duty of citizens to develop scientific temper, humanism, spirit of inquiry and reform.
  • Exclusion of menstruating women was akin to treating them as children of lesser god. Exclusion especially based on biological attribute amounted to untouchability an abolished social evil.
  • Discriminates on the ground of sex.
  • Courts can set aside religious practices which violates fundamental rights like dignity of women.

ARGUMENTS GIVEN AGAINST TEMPLE ENTRY:-

  • Article 51A (e) says that it is the fundamental duty of the citizens to promote harmony and spirit of common brotherhood.
  • Exclusion was not based on gender or sex but on religious faith and in character of deity.
  • Tantra Samuchayam does not consider mensuration as impurity and court was misled.
  • Every devotee has fundamental right to worship in a temple in a manner which is in sync with the character of the deity.

ABOUT SABRIMALA TEMPLE

Sabrimala temple is a  Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat region of Pathanamthitta District of Kerala.

The famous pilgirmage is located in the 18 hills.

The shrine at Sabrimala is ancient temple of Ayyappan.

COASTAL REGULATION ZONES

NEWS:

As many as 2,130 backwater islands of Kerala, including Maradu, have been brought under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) regime thereby imposing curbs on development activities.

No new development activity will be permitted in these islands in an area between the High Tide Line (HTL) and 50 metres towards the landward side, which is the CRZ area of these islands. The HTL is the line on the land up to which the highest water line reaches during the spring tide.

This is for the first time that a list of Kerala islands is being drawn up. It was prepared by the National Centre for Earth Science Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, for the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority. The list will soon be uploaded on the website of the authority.

ABOUT CRZ

  • Coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers, and backwaters were declared as CRZs under coastal zone regulation notification in 1991.
  • CRZs have been classified into 4 zones for the purpose of regulation:
    • CRZ-I:includes ecologically sensitive areas, where no construction is allowed except activities for atomic power plants, defense.
    • CRZ-II:includes designated urban areas that are substantially built up. Construction activities are allowed on the landward side only.
    • CRZ-III:includes relatively undisturbed areas, mainly rural areas. No new construction of buildings allowed in this zone except repairing of the existing ones. However, constructions of dwelling units in the plot area lying between 200-500m of the high tide line is allowed.
    • CRZ-IV:includes the water area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 nautical miles seaward. Except for fishing and related activities, all actions impugning on the sea and tidal water will be regulated in this zone.

BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY

NEWS:

As tens of doctors quit the only government-run super speciality hospital for the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors in 2014-2015, former Supreme Court Judge Faizanuddin wrote: “handing over the hospital to the Government of India has in fact proved to be its burial order.”

After the Bhopal Memorial Trust — the custodian of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) for a decade — was wound up in 2010 by the court, the former Judge had called it “nobody’s child”, before its adoption by the Centre.

On January 22, 13 of the 19 doctors resigned from BMHRC, managed by the Centre’s Department of Health Research, citing lack of promotions and infrastructure, low pay and fearing loss of seniority to new entrants, adding to a “mass exodus” of experts that has afflicted the hospital ever since the Centre became its manager.

ABOUT BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY

The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. It is considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster.

Cause : Methyl Isocynate

PARAQUAT POISONING

NEWS:

VIMSAR, a major public healthcare centre for western Odisha and parts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, has registered 157 deaths, mostly of farmers, since September 2017.

The reason behind these deaths is the consumption of Paraquat — a herbicide used in agricultural fields. The tragedy stirred the conscience of young doctors, forcing them into the role of medical activists.

The constant pressure from the young medicos has forced the State government to withdraw its subsidy and stop the promotion of Paraquat. “I cannot forget the episode when a woman touched my feet, urging me to save her husband who had consumed Paraquat. It forced us to come out of our comfort zone,” said Dr. Shankar Ramachandani, Senior Resident Doctor in VIMSAR, who has spearheaded the movement against use of Paraquat.

 

FIRST EDITORIAL: INTERIM REPORT OF 15TH FINANCE COMMISSION

WHY IN NEWS?

The interim report of the 15th Finance Commission, has been tabled in Parliament on Saturday.

WHAT DIES THE REPORT CONTAINS?

Commission has largely preserved the devolution mathematics of its predecessor, belying concerns of a sizeable cut in States’ share. The commission has recommended a one percentage point reduction in the vertical split of the divisible pool of tax revenues accruing to States to 41%.

WHY 1% CUT IN STATE’S SHARE?

Due to  reorganisation of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. While the former State’s notional share based on the parameters for horizontal devolution would have been about 0.85%, the commission has cited the security and other special needs of the two territories to enhance their aggregate share to 1%, which would be met by the Centre.

As part of an effort to balance the principles of fiscal needs, equity and performance as well as the need to ensure stability and predictability in transfers, the criteria for the horizontal sharing of taxes among States have been rejigged. A crucial new parameter, demographic performance, has been added to the mix.

Human capital outcomes of education and health, it has been assigned a weight of 12.5%.

Among the States, with the exception of Tamil Nadu, all the other four southern States see a reduction in the recommended share of taxes for the year 2020-21. Notably, the suggested devolution to Odisha and Uttar Pradesh have also shrunk in percentage terms.

Urban local bodies, especially municipalities in cities with populations of more than one million, are set to get a larger share of the pie. However, the increase in the percentage of outcome-tied funds to 50%, from 10%, could prove vexing to the last mile providers of basic services in India’s federal and highly fragmented structure of governance.

The commission has also been justifiably critical of the Union and State governments’ tendency to finance spending through off-budget borrowings and via parastatals. It has done well to ask that such extra-budgetary liabilities be clearly earmarked and eliminated in a time-bound manner.

LEAD ARTICLE: EVALUATION OF BUDGET 2020-21

WHAT WERE THE EXPECTATIONS FROM THE BUDGET?

There were many expectations from the Union Budget 2020: that it would reverse the falling growth rate, reduce unemployment and rekindle the animal spirits needed to revive private investment.

Does the Budget really hold out the promise on these counts?

To answer the question, the Budget can be judged in terms of its effect on rural demand, investment and private sentiments — all critical elements for recovery.

LACK OF FUND FOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT

Of the Finance Minister’s own accord, there is a huge, unmet demand for teachers, paramedical staff and caregivers, and skilled workers.

Quality education and skills both elude India’s youth due to the poor quality of education and lack of opportunities to acquire practical skills. Still, the Finance Minister has allocated a paltry ₹3,000 crore for skill development.

Skilling will require massive investment and concerted efforts.

NOT ENOUGH STEPS TO BOOST DEMAND

The Budget falls well short of expectations when it comes to boosting demand. Budgetary allocations for the Pradhan Mantri KIsan SAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) are disappointing. The MGNREGA is allocated ₹61,500 crore, which is less than ₹71,000 crore for the current fiscal year. Going by the last year, disbursement under the PM-KISAN will also be less than budgeted, unless the beneficiary base is expanded.

Higher disbursement under these schemes would have benefited most sectors of the economy. Budgetary allocations for health and education are also well below what is needed.

Rural roads, cold storage, and logistical chains are crucial for the growth of income and employment in rural India, as the multiplier effects of rural infrastructure investment on growth and employment are large and extensive.

ALLOCATION FOR INFRASTRUCTURE

The allocation of ₹1.7 lakh crore for transportation infrastructure is also a welcome step. But a lot will depend on whether the money actually gets invested or remains unspent as it has happened in the current fiscal year.

Getting private investment

The Budget’s main growth plank is the hope for a deluge of private infrastructure investment through public-private partnership (PPP) and external sovereign wealth funds that have been given 100% tax exceptions in the Budget. But private investment depends on the cost of capital along with the certainty of returns.

FOR START UPS

Some relief on the tax they have to pay and on taxation of the Employee Stock Option Plans is welcome but the reluctance to abolish the angel tax that results in harassment of start-ups and their investors is unfathomable.

FOR MSME’S

To reduce the compliance burden on small retailers, traders and shopkeepers who comprise the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) sector, the threshold for audit of the accounts has been increased from ₹1 crore to ₹5 crore for those entities that carry out less than 5% of their business transactions in cash. It is also good that the Finance Minister has extended the window for restructuring of loans for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises till March 31, 2021.

CONCLUSION

Everything considered, the future of the economy will turn on whether the government walks the talk in terms of public investment and the promises made to different sections of society including the taxpayer and companies. When it comes to reviving private sentiments, actions will speak much louder than the budgetary promises.

.

SECOND ARTICLE: NEGLECT OF SOCIAL SECTOR IN BUDGET

Author highlights that three major theme of Budget 2020-21 were  aspirational India, economic development for all and building a caring society.

Achieving any of these would require extraordinary efforts on the social sector front starting with allocating additional resources for health, education, nutrition, employment guarantee, and social security schemes.

WHAT BUDGET COULD HAVE DONE?

Given the current state of the economy, with decelerating growth, a slump in rural demand and stagnant real wages in rural areas, an expansionary budget with a focus on the social sector would have also made economic sense.

Unfortunately, the allocations for the social sector this year once again fail to deliver for the country’s poor and marginalised. And this is the situation across the board.

CUT IN SOCIAL SECTOR SCHEMES: MGNREGS AND PDS

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the Public Distribution System (PDS) are two important lifelines for the rural poor: providing employment and food during times when the market fails them.

The allocation in this Budget for MGNREGA is ₹61,500 crore which is ₹10,000 crore less than the revised estimate (RE) for the current year (₹71,000 crore for 2019-20) and, in real terms, even less than what was allocated last year (₹60,000 crore).

It is obvious that in current times when the levels of unemployment are at their peak, the demand for employment will only increase. But MGNREGA is failing to fully play the role of filling the gap because of poor implementation and inadequate funds. There is also a need to revise the MGNREGA wages to bring them on a par with minimum wages.

On the food front, excess food stocks to the tune of almost 60 million tonnes, high food inflation in recent months and reports of hunger from across the country warranted some announcement expanding the PDS.

This could have been done by universalising ration entitlements in the poorest districts, increasing quantity given per individual, including pulses.

However, what is seen in the Budget is an allocation which is not even enough to support the existing PDS under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The food subsidy allocated for 2020-21 is only ₹1.11 lakh crore, which, once again, is slightly higher than the previous year’s RE of ₹1.08 lakh crore.

This is much less than the budget estimate (BE) of last year, of ₹1.8 lakh crore, which is closer to the actual subsidy required for meeting the costs of the grain distributed through the PDS and other welfare schemes.

NEGLECT OF HEALTH AND EDUCATION

Health and education also did not see any significant increases in allocations this year. The BE for the much publicised Ayushman Bharat Yojana/Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana stays at ₹6,400 crore, the same as last year (RE was 50% lower at ₹3,200 crore). The budget for the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition, or POSHAN Abhiyaan, another flagship scheme of this government, sees a meagre increase of ₹300 crore (from ₹3,400 crore to ₹3,700 crore).

The funds allocated for the maternity entitlement scheme, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana remains the same as last year — ₹2,500 crore. There is an overall increase of ₹5,000 crore-₹6000 crore each in the overall education and health budgets which are hardly sufficient to cover for inflation.

CONCLUSION

It is clear that the agenda of the present government for the social sector is for greater privatisation and withdrawal of the state. This is reflected not just in the low allocations but also policy pronouncements such as introducing the public-private partnership model for medical colleges and district hospitals or the push, in the Economic Survey, for narrowing the coverage under the PDS. This would be a worrying direction in the current context.

SECOND EDITORIAL: DECLARATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY BY WHO DUE TO CORONA VIRUS

WHY IN NEWS?

The Emergency Committee convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30 has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak in China as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’

WHY IT HAS BEEN DECLARED?

The virus, that has been infecting hundreds and killing several each day in China, is now being reported in at least 23 other countries — nearly 14,380 cases as on Sunday — since the committee last met on January 22-23.

The critical factor that prompted WHO’s emergency declaration is the virus’s human-to-human spread in other countries.

WHAT COULD BE DONE?

Besides isolating those who exhibit overt symptoms and conducting contact tracing, there is an urgent need to raise public awareness. This is essential so that they report to a hospital when symptoms show up later or in case of contact with a person who has travelled to China recently.

Time-tested measures which include handwashing and hand hygiene, wearing protective gear while attending to sick people and covering one’s mouth and nose properly when coughing or sneezing will drastically reduce the infection risk.

 

OP-ED PAGE

THIRD ARTICLE: WHY SAHEEN BAGH PROTESTS MUST END?

The protesters at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi have made their point. The picketers, primarily Muslim women of the area, have demonstrated their resolve to stand up not just for the rights of the Muslim minority but, more importantly, for the secular spirit of the Constitution.

WHY IT MUST END?

The principal reason for this conclusion is that with the Delhi Assembly elections around the corner, they have increasingly become pawns in the electoral game being played in the national capital.

It was a fundamental mistake on the part of the protest’s organisers to allow leaders of political parties to use their platform to make speeches that not only served partisan ends but also were unnecessarily provocative and sometimes uncivil.

This combined with extremist pronouncements by some of the people, such as Sharjeel Imam, associated with the protests have sent the wrong message that the protests were not only undertaken for partisan reasons but had also fallen into the hands of extremist elements.

The shutting down of one of the main roads in the area for a long time added to the negative image of the protests around Delhi.

With the U.P. Chief Minister’s entry into the Delhi electoral fray and his incendiary speeches, and the Hindu Sena’s threat that it will clear Shaheen Bagh by force, the situation is becoming volatile. The Shaheen Bagh protesters will be blamed if this escalating inflammatory rhetoric leads to a communal riot.

The protesters must recognise that all this serves the interests of both the Congress and the BJP. For the Congress, which is in the doldrums in Delhi, the protest is an invaluable stick to beat both the BJP, which is adamant that the CAA must be implemented, and the Aam Aadmi Party, which has been talking out of both sides of its mouth regarding the Shaheen Bagh protests and the CAA. But the greatest beneficiary of the continuing protests is the BJP. The protests help the party consolidate the Hindu vote behind it and allow it to paint the AAP and the Congress as anti-Hindu. This is why the Central government has allowed the protests to continue without interference by the Delhi police.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

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