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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

A time for extraordinary action

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Stimulus package on the lines of package declared by developed countries is necessary for Indian economy to deal with the pandemic.

Context

The lockdown and other movement restrictions, backed by scientific and political consensus on their inevitability, have directly led to a dramatic slowdown in economic activity across the board. What is its impact on the Indian economy? This question calls for an urgent answer.

The methodology used to estimate the impact

  • We provide an initial, quantitative response, using a methodology that is based on the technique of input-output (IO) models, first elaborated by the economist Wassily Leontief.
  • How the model works: Such models provide detailed sector-wise information of output and consumption in different sectors of the economy and their inter-linkages, along with the sum total of wages, profits, savings, and expenditures in each sector and by each section of final consumers (households, government, etc.).
  • Crucially, it pays attention to intermediate consumption, namely consumption by some sectors of the output of other sectors (as well as consumption within their own sector).
  • Advantage of the model: The key advantage of such a model is that it allows the calculation of the impact of any change in any sector in both direct and indirect terms, which has made this model somewhat ubiquitous in the computation of the economic impact of disasters.
  • This also renders it well-suited to estimating the economic consequences of COVID-19.
  • Regrettably, the last officially published IO table for India was for the year 2007-2008.
  • In our estimates, we use the IO tables for India published by the World Input-Output Database for the year 2014 that updates the IO tables for individual countries using time series of national income statistics.
  • To calculate the impact of the lockdown, there are four different scenarios of the number of workdays lost in different sectors.
  • How daily output loss is calculated? Assuming that the estimated annual output is distributed uniformly across the year, it is possible to calculate the daily output and therefore the daily output loss.
  • The direct and indirect impacts of the lockdown are then estimated using IO multipliers which are assumed to be constant.
  • We then calculate the percentage decline in the national gross domestic product (GDP) of 2019-2020 that this impact amounts to.

What is the impact on various sectors?

  • Loss at 7% to 33% of GDP: Model (see table) shows that the loss of GDP ranges from ₹17 lakh crore (7% of GDP) in the most conservative scenario, where the average number of output days lost is only 13, to ₹73 lakh crore (33% of GDP) in the most impactful scenario, where the number of days of lost output averages 67.
  • In intermediate scenarios of 27 and 47 days of lost output, the GDP decline is ₹29 lakh crore (13% of GDP) and ₹51 lakh crore (23% of GDP), respectively.
  • OECD estimate: These estimates also accord well with other estimates, such as those of the OECD that suggest a 20% loss to GDP for India.
  • Impact of varying lockdown period: Even assuming that sectors will have varying lockdown periods, all sectors face serious losses due to their
  • If we take the scenario where a prolonged lockdown happens, averaging about 47 days across sectors, we find that the mining sector faces the largest drop of 42% in value-added despite that sector itself being shut down for, say, 35 days.
  • The electricity sector sees a 29% fall in value-added, even though it faces no shut down per se.
  • Losses are expected across all sectors in terms of both wage compensation and the availability of working capital.

Incorporation of feedback effect in estimates

  • The linear character of our estimates, intrinsic to IO analysis, does not allow incorporation of feedback effects and assumes that output commences where it left off without further constraints.
  • An attempt has been made to correct for this by using a varying number of days of output loss across sectors, but this is quite possibly inadequate to capture the continuing economic impact.
  • We are faced today with a unique situation where both supply and demand have collapsed in several sectors.
  • Impact on agriculture: In some sectors such as agriculture, the impact may manifest in the delayed fashion, if the anti-COVID-19 measures, or the pandemic itself, affects agricultural operations in the next the kharif season, even if, as reports suggest, much of this year’s rabi has been successfully harvested.
  • The shortfall in export not accounted for: Given the database, we are using and the initial character of our analyses we have also not explicitly accounted for possible shortfalls in exports due to lack of demand elsewhere in the world, as well as the unavailability of intermediate imported goods that are crucial for the Indian economy.
  • Nor are we able to adequately separate the impact on the informal sector, that is partially aggregated with the formal sector in the database that we are using and partially unaccounted for due to lack of data.

Need for the huge stimulus package

  • The most striking feature of even this simple calculation is the all-round pervasive impact on the economy of the anti-COVID-19 measures that we are currently undertaking and that are likely to continue in modified form for a short period.
  • Measures such as debt relief, postponement of revenue and tax collections, immediate relief in cash and kind to the poor, and revamping and scaling up public distribution are all undoubtedly necessary but far from sufficient.
  • Our numbers suggest that the resort to huge stimulus packages that developed countries have already started putting in place is by no means mistaken.

Way forward

  • Package for all the sectors of the economy: We need to compensate and pump cash into the hands of not only wage workers in the formal and informal sectors, and also into the livelihood activities of the informal sector.
  • But businesses too need to be primed with handouts in the case of small and medium enterprises, and with a variety of concessions even in the case of larger businesses.
  • It is critical to preserve the productive capacities of the Indian economy across the board. The annual budget of the current year, already passed, clearly cannot cope with such a massive effort and needs to be revisited by suitable parliamentary measures.
  • Caring too much about fiscal deficit will not be helpful: Redistributing expenditure, seeking to keep the fiscal deficit “under control” as it were, through measures such as cutting back on government salaries, are unlikely to be helpful.
  • Apart from sending the wrong signal to private sector employers, who have so far been exhorted to maintain salaries and wages during the lockdown, it is quite likely to lead to further reduction in demand since the government is the biggest employer in the country.
  • Ensure the key role of the state: Finally, one must note that the current crisis is not a transformatory moment for the Indian economy, even if the scale of the impact and recovery process will undoubtedly push the economy in new directions.
  • But “greening” the economy or more radical transformative measures are not particularly relevant in its current state.
  • What is needed is ensuring the key role of the state to lift up an economy that is in danger of being brought to its knees, and to restore some semblance of its normal rhythm, by an unprecedented scale of state investment.

Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

The law cannot fall silent

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-In fight against covid-19 epidemic we must follow the principles of international laws and treaty obligations.

Context

Amid the many developments in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic one of the facets that is also discussed is-How to read international law in the context of the pointers to the future?

Constitutional duty regarding international laws

  • Respect for the norms and standards of international law is among the paramount constitutional duties of the state under Article 51 of the Constitution.
  • The duty is regardless of the quibbles on whether the language here refers only to treaty/obligations or also to customary international law.
  • International norms remain relevant: Despite US President Donald Trump’s recent threat of actions against the WHO, international norms, standards, and doctrines remain relevant to making national policy and law.

Possibility of discussion over pandemic at UNSC

  • The difference between the United Nations as a site of normative discursivity and as a site of doing global power politics is sadly manifest even now in the accelerated pace of the pandemic.
  • Discussion extremely unlikely: President Trump’s insistence on calling it a “Chinese virus” renders it extremely unlikely that the pandemic will be discussed during the current monthly presidency of the UN Security Council by China.
  • Possibility of veto: The threat of veto by China and Russia will always loom large whenever the matter is placed for discussion.

Role of the UN in the codification of law

  • The UN is also a site of systems of norm enunciation.
  • Along with the International Law Commission, it is responsible for the progressive codification of law.
  • The UN system has developed lawmaking and framework treaties as well as provided auspices for systems of “soft” law that may eventually become the binding law.
  • There are three types of international laws which are described below.

1. The fundamental overriding principle of international laws

  • Jus cogens: Some of the norms of international law are robust and deeply relevant. For example, the peremptory jus cogens — a few fundamental, overriding principles of international law such as crimes against humanity, genocide, and human trafficking apply to all states.
  • And Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties goes so far as to declare that a “treaty is void if, at the time of its conclusion, it conflicts with a peremptory norm of general international law”.
  • And even when ingredients of genocide remain difficult to prove, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has held, in 2007, that states have a duty to prevent and punish acts and omissions that eventually furnish elements for the commission of crime of genocide.
  • Erga omnes: There also exist erga omnes rules prescribing specifically-determined obligations which states owe to the international community as a whole.
  • This was enunciated by the ICJ in 1970 for four situations — the outlawing of acts of aggression; the outlawing of genocide; protection from slavery; and protection from racial discrimination.
  • A great significance of this judicial dictum is that it lays down obligations which transcend consensual relations among states.
  • In addition, there are three other sets of international law obligations.
  • These are primarily derived from the no-harm principles crystallised in the International Law Commission’s 2001 Draft Articles on the Prevention of Transboundary Harm (DAPTH) and the Paris Framework Agreement on Climate Change, 2015.
  • The DAPTH has carefully developed norms of due diligence, stressing all the way that these may be adapted to contextual exigencies.
  • But due diligence obligations certainly extend beyond local and national boundaries, especially because the environmental problems have a transboundary impact.
  • Each state is obliged to observe these standards in the fight against COVID-19 as a matter of international law.

2. International laws dealing with core human right measures

  • No law or policy to combat epidemics or pandemic can go against the rights of migrant workers, internally displaced peoples, and refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Respect for the inherent dignity of individuals in combating COVID-19 and for the rights of equal health for all, non-discrimination, and the norms of human dignity further reinforce accountability and the transparency of state and other social actors.
  • Panicky and sadist policing, including shoot-a- sight orders in collective exodus situations, and militaristic responses to food riots de-justify health lockouts and curfews.

3. International humanitarian law

  • The third set of obligations arises out of international humanitarian law. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) is pertinent here.
  • India did not subscribe to any conspiracy or racist theory about the origins of COVID-19 — in fact, India’s foreign minister rightly affirmed the BTWC obligations on March 26 (on the 40th anniversary of that Convention).
  • Surely, this global and non-discriminatory disarmament convention deserves applause because it outlaws a whole range of weapons of mass destruction.
  • India has, and rightly so, called for “high priority” to “full and effective implementation by all states parties”.

Conclusion

The starting point of a determined fight against COVID-19 has to be a full-throated repudiation of an ancient Latin maxim, inter arma enim silent leges (in times of war, the law falls silent). Combating this fearsome pandemic calls for re-dedication to nested international law obligations and frameworks.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Armed Forces: their role during crisis, procedures for requisition

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Recquisition of Armed forces for crisis management

As the Army moves in to take over the COVID-19 quarantine facility in Delhi, the procedure for calling the armed forces to help the civil administration is in the spotlight.

Requisition the Army

  • The regulations permit civil authorities to requisition the Army for controlling law and order, maintaining essential services, assisting during natural calamities such as earthquakes, and any other type of help that may be needed by the civil authorities.
  • The procedure for requisitioning armed forces is governed under several guidelines including:
  1. ‘Aid to Civil Authorities’ under the guidelines laid in Instructions on Aid to the Civil Authorities by the Armed Forces, 1970;
  2. Regulations for the Army, Chapter VII, Paragraphs 301 to 327 and
  3. Manual of Indian Military Law, Chapter VII

How is Army invited?

  • Civil administration requests the Local Military Authority for assistance, for the maintenance of law and order, maintenance of essential services, disaster relief and other types of assistance.
  • Armed forces can be asked to provide troops and equipment for a flag march, rescue and relief, evacuation, and immediate aid.
  • The current case of checking the spread of COVID-19 is different, as the medical aspect is predominant.
  • These resources are being controlled centrally and judiciously, because of the requirement of doctors, equipment and facilities.

Why need Armed forces in such situations?

  • Besides the specialised medical resources, which are centrally controlled, the local units are prepared for maintenance of law and order, crowd control, curfew in sensitive areas etc.
  • Moreover provision of essential supply of electricity and water, restoration of essential services, emergency feeding and shelter, prevention of panic, prevention of theft and loot are other areas of concerns.
  • During such multi-faceted challenges, local authorities have shortfall to perform all such functions.

In such situations, what happens to the armed forces’ primary role?

  • Providing aid to civil authorities, as and when called upon to do so, is a secondary task for the armed forces.
  • It cannot replace the primary role of ensuring external security and operational preparedness.

Is there a ceiling on such deployment?

  • No, there is no such ceiling either of a duration of deployment or on the number of armed forces personnel that can be deployed to aid civil authority.
  • The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by the cabinet secretary, is the final authority.

Are there any templates or instances from the past that are applicable here?

  • The current situation is different from earlier cases such as tsunami or super-cyclone, which were natural disasters.
  • The major difference is that specialists are the key in the current situation, and their tasks cannot be performed by general duty soldiers.

Who pays for the costs incurred?

  • The civil administration is responsible for the costs incurred by the armed forces in these roles.
  • The cost of assistance provided by the Armed Forces is recovered in accordance with the instructions contained in ‘Instructions on Aid to Civil Authorities by the Armed Forces 1970’.

What is the role of the National Disaster Management Authority?

  • NDMA is involved in secondary follow-ups by the Home Ministry and is not very actively involved in the current case.
  • The roles of the Ministries of Health, Home, Civil Aviation and Defence are predominant in this case.
  • The armed forces are aligned with them at the apex level viz NCMC.
  • The directions are followed by execution-level coordination which is done by respective secretaries in the government.

Human Rights Issues

OPCW blames Syria for chemical attacks

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OPCW

Mains level : Usual turmoil in Syria

The global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has for the first time explicitly blamed Syria for chemical attacks.

What did the report say?

  • President Bashar al-Assad’s air force used the nerve gas sarin and chlorine three times in 2017.
  • The findings came in the first report from a new investigative team set up by the OPCW to identify the perpetrators of attacks in Syria’s ongoing nine-year-long civil war.

About OPCW

  • The OPCW is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997.
  • The organisation is not an agency of the United Nations but cooperates both on policy and practical issues.
  • The OPCW, with its 193 member states, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, and oversees the global endeavour for the permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons.
  • It promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction.
  • It won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its work in Syria and says it has eliminated 97 per cent of the world’s chemical weapons.
  • The OPCW has the power to say whether chemical weapons were used in an attack it has investigated. In June 2018, it granted itself new powers to assign blame for attacks.

Back2Basics: Syrian Crisis

  • The Syrian civil war is an ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria fought between the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic led by Bashar al-Assad and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government.
  • Even before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom under Assad.
  • In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighbouring countries.
  • When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president’s resignation erupted nationwide. The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified.
  • Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. Assad vowed to crush what he called “foreign-backed terrorism”.
  • The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war.

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

TB diagnostic kit ‘Truenat’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TrueNat

Mains level : Not Much

‘Truenat’, a diagnostic machine used to test drug-resistant TB has now been approved by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting Covid-19 tests.

Truenat

  • The Truenat TB test is a new molecular test that can diagnosis TB in one hour as well as testing for resistance to the drug rifampicin.
  • This test for TB uses a sputum sample taken from each patient.
  • It is a small battery operated device which requires minimal training and is usable even in smaller settings such as the Primary Health Centre.
  • It uses a chip-based technology and takes just up to 60 minutes for a test, screening or confirmatory.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign

Mains level : Not Much

Union HRD Ministry has launched a week-long ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign for Crowdsourcing of Ideas for Improving Online Education ecosystem of India.

‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign

  • Students and teachers are the main target audience of this campaign.
  • Students who are currently studying in schools or higher educational institutions are the ones engaging with the existing digital platforms offering various courses etc. on a daily basis.
  • They can share what is lacking in the existing online platforms and how it can be made more engaging.
  • The educators across the country can also come forward to contribute with their expertise and experience in the field of education.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Assamese Gamosa 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Assamese Gamosa

Mains level : Not Much

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Assamese gamosa, a decorative cotton towel, evolve from memento to mask.

Gamosa

  • The Gamosa is an article of significance for the people of Assam.
  • It is generally a white rectangular piece of cloth with primarily a red border on three sides and red woven motifs on the fourth (in addition to red, other colors are also used).
  • Although cotton yarn is the most common material for making/weaving gamosas, there are special occasion ones made from Pat silk.

Types

  • Assam has traditionally had two types of gamosas the uka and the phulam.
  • The uka or plain kind is used to wipe sweat or dry the body after a bath.
  • The phulam is decorated with floral motifs to be gifted as a memento or during festivals such as Bihu.

Significance

  • Cultural historians say the gamosa came to symbolise Assamese nationalism in 1916 when the Asom Chatra Sanmilan, a students’ organisation was formed, followed by the Assam Sahitya Sabha, a literary body.
  • Wearing the phulam gamosa around the neck became a standard for cultural identity.
  • Thegamosa’s graph as a symbol of protest rose during the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation from 1979 to 1985.
  • The gamosa staged a comeback as a political statement with the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act from mid-December 2019.