Daily Current Affairs : 14th and 15th October 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. IMF Report
  2. SAFAR
  3. Recognition of Marriages of Same Sex Couples
  4. STARS Project
  5. Election to Human Rights Council
  6. International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC)
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 .World Economic Outlook


Context :With the country and world reeling under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian economy is expected to grow at -10.3 % ( i.e., a contraction) in 2020 as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Global growth is projected to be -4.4% ( i.e., a contraction in output of 4.4%) for this year , the IMF said with the release of its World Economic Outlook October 2020 report titled, “A Long and Difficult Ascent”.

About the Report

  • World Economic Outlook is a Survey by the IMF staff usually published twice a year ( April and October). An update is also provided to the Report in January and June.
  • It presents IMF staff economists’ analyses of global economic developments during the near and medium term.
  • Chapters give an overview as well as more detailed analysis of the world economy; consider issues affecting industrial countries, developing countries, and economies in transition to market; and address topics of pressing current interest.

Detail of the Report

  • The 2020 projection for India is a downgrade of -5.8 percentage points from the IMF’s June projection for the country. India is expected to rebound in 2021 with 8.8 percent growth – an upgrade of 2.8 percentage points relative to the June update.Revisions to the forecast are particularly large for India, where GDP contracted much more severely than expected in the second quarter,” the report said. Consumer prices in India are expected to grow at 4.9% this year and 3.7% in 2021. The current account balance is projected to grow by 0.3% this year and -0.9% (i.e., a contraction) next year.
  • For the world as a whole, the 2020 growth projection has been revised upwards by 0.8 percentage points relative to June– a result of a less dire second quarter and signs of a stronger recovery in the third quarter, partly offset by downgrades in certain developing countries and emerging economies (except China).
  • The Fund projects that close to 90 million people could fall below the $ 1.90/day extreme poverty threshold (the World Bank last week projected that there could be up to 150 million additional extreme poor in 2020, 2021).

Recommendations provided in the Report

  • First, is a need for greater international collaboration on tests, treatments and vaccines. If these are made available faster than accounted for in the IMF mode’s baseline scenario, it could mean an increase in global cumulative income by $ 9 trillion by the end of 2025.
  • Second, policies should “aggressively” seek to limit persistent economic damage. Governments should support incomes by well targeted cash transfers, wage subsidies and unemployment insurance. For firms that are viable but vulnerable IMF report recommended support such as tax deferrals, debt servicing moratoria, equity-like injections.
  • Third, policies should aid workers’ transition to growing sectors (e.g. e-commerce) and away from sectors like travel which are likely to shrink.
  • Other measures include support to governments via institutional grants, concession financing and debt relief “in some cases” so these governments can prioritize critical spending for health and transfers to the poor.
  • Along with the necessary easing of monetary policy across the world, measures to prevent the buildup of financial risks over the medium should be pursued and “central bank independence should be safeguarded at all costs.

2 . SAFAR


Context : The air quality of Delhi and Gurugram deteriorated and nearly touched the ‘very poor’ category. According to government-run monitoring agency SAFAR, the air quality of Delhi is likely to be in the ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ category for the next two days.

About Air Quality Index

  • Air Quality Index (AQI) is a tool for effective dissemination of air quality information to people.
  • There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. 
  • The AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
  • Based on the measured ambient concentrations, corresponding standards and likely health impact, a sub-index is calculated for each of these pollutants. The worst sub-index reflects overall AQI.
  • Associated likely health impacts for different AQI categories and pollutants have been also been suggested, with primary inputs from the medical expert members of the group.

State-of-the-Art Air Quality and Weather Forecast System (SAFAR)

  • System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research known as “SAFAR” provides location specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for greater metropolitan cities of India
  • The SAFAR system is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with ESSO partner institutions namely India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
  • The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.
  • The system will be an integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi and will strengthen the existing air quality network of SAFAR, Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
  • In addition to regular air quality parameters like PM2.5, PM10, Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, the system will also monitor the existence of Benzene, Toluene and Xylene.

3 . Recognition of Marriages of Same Sex Couples


Context : The Delhi High Court asked the Centre to respond to two separate petitions by same-sex couples seeking to declare that the Special Marriage Act (SMA) and Foreign Marriage Act (FMA) ought to apply to all couples regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Background of the Issue

  • Currently same-sex marriages are not legally recognised in India. In June 2020, the Uttarakhand High Court acknowledged that while same-sex marriage may not be legal, cohabitation and live-in relationships are protected by the law.
  • Both the statutes Special Marriages Act and Foreign Marriages Act doesnt recognise same-sex marriages

About the Petition

  • One of the petitions filed by two women said they had been a couple for eight years, lived together and shared the highs, the lows and the joys and sorrows of life. They sought a direction to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate Kalkaji here to register their marriage under the SMA.
  • The other plea has been moved by two men, who got married in the United States, but their marriage registration was denied under the FMA as it excluded same-sex marriages
  • Multiple judgments of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court had said that sexual orientation could not be grounds for discrimination.
  • Petitioners were challenging the constitutionality of the reading of the statutes as SMA prohibited “who cannot enter into a marriage”, including age restrictions.
  • The two women in their petition stated that the lack of a legal structure around their relationship became increasingly stark when they tried to bring each other on as nominees in insurance and financial plans, just as a married couples did. “The petitioners’ relationship is not recognised when they need to apply for address verification of their passport, or apply for a joint bank account, or co-own assets,” their plea stated. Additionally, the couple could not take medical decisions for each other if the other partner was unable to consent to a medical procedure or take end-of-life decisions, their plea contended.
  • “The petitioners wish to have the protection of the bundle of rights that a marriage provides, so that they are not trying to get authorities to acknowledge their relationship for every entitlement or right that married couples would get automatically
  • The two men in their petition sought for the legal recognition of their status as a married couple, and to be able to secure the rights, privileges, and benefits for each other appurtenant to the legal recognition of marriage in India. They claimed that their plea for registration of marriage was rejected by the Indian consulate at New York on the ground that they were of the same sex.
  • They argued that the right to marry a person of one’s choice had been expressly recognised as being a facet of the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

 4 . Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project 


Context : The Union Cabinet has approved a project partially funded by the World Bank to carry out a reform agenda in the governance of school education, and improve data and assessment systems at the national level, as well as teaching and learning outcomes in six States, especially for early childhood and vocational education.

About STARS Project

  • The STARS project seeks to support the states in developing, implementing, evaluating and improving interventions with direct linkages to improved education outcomes and school to work transition strategies for improved labour market outcomes.
  • The overall focus and components of the STARS project are aligned with the objectives of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of Quality Based Learning Outcomes.
  • The Project envisions improving the overall monitoring and measurement activities in the Indian School Education System through interventions in selected states.
  • The project shifts focus from the provision of inputs and maintaining of outputs to actual outcomes by linking the receipt and disbursement of funds to these outcomes. 
  • STARS project would be implemented as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education. (MOE)
  • Setting up and support to the National Assessment Centre, PARAKH as an independent and autonomous institution under Department of School Education and Literacy, MOE.
  • Implementation of the Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project with a total project cost of Rs 5718 crore with the financial support of World Bank amounting to US $ 500 million (approximately Rs. 3700 crore).
  • The project covers 6 States namely Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha. The identified States will be supported tor various interventions for improving the quality of education. Besides this project, it is also envisaged to implement a similar ADB funded project in 5 states namely Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Assam. All states will partner with one other state for sharing their experiences and best practices.

Focus of the STARS Project

  • The STARS project also aims to focus on initiatives of PM e-Vidya, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission and National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Measurable outcomes

  • Some of the measurable outcomes of the project are :
    • Increase in students achieving minimum proficiency in grade 3 language in selected states, Improvement in secondary school completion rate, Improvement in governance index scores, Strengthened learning assessment systems, Partnerships developed to facilitate cross-learning between states, and improvement in the State level service delivery such as Strengthening planning and management capacities for decentralized management by training of BRCs and CRCs, Strengthened school management by training of Head Teachers and Principals for improved education service delivery.

Components

  • At the national level, the project envisages the following interventions which will benefit all states and UTs:
    • To strengthen MOE’s national data systems to capture robust and authentic data on retention, transition and completion rates of students.
    • To support MOE in improving states PGI scores by incentivizing states governance reform agenda through SIG (State Incentive Grants).
    • To support the strengthening of learning assessment systems.
    • To support MOE’s efforts to establish a National Assessment Center (PARAKH).  Among the tasks of such a center would be to leverage the experiences of states selected for the operation by collecting, curating and sharing these experiences with other states through online portals (e.g. Shagun and DIKSHA), social and other media engagement, technical workshops, state visits and conferences.
    • STARS project includes a Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) under the National Component which would enable it to be more responsive to any natural, man-made and health disasters. It will help the government respond to situations leading to loss of learning such as school closures/infrastructure damage, inadequate facilities and use technology for facilitating remote learning etc.  The CERC component would facilitate the rapid re-categorization of financing and the utilization of streamlined financing request procedures.
  • At the State level, the project envisages:
    • Strengthening Early Childhood Education and Foundational Learning
    • Improving Learning Assessment Systems
    • Strengthening classroom instruction and remediation through teacher development and school leadership
    • Governance and Decentralized Management for Improved Service Delivery.
    • Strengthening Vocational education in schools through mainstreaming, career guidance and counselling, internships and coverage of out of school children

5 . Election to Human Rights Council


Context : In a secret-ballot voting in the 193-member UN General Assembly on that race, Pakistan secured 169 votes, Uzbekistan received 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia lost the race with just 90 votes.

About the News

  • Under the Human Rights Council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.
  • Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council was all but decided in advance because all the other regional groups had uncontested slates.
  • Pakistan is currently serving on the HRC since January 1, 2018. With its re-election, Pakistan will continue as a member for another three-year term commencing on January 1, 2021.
  • Since the HRC’s establishment in 2006, this is the fifth time that Pakistan has been elected to the United Nations’ premier body on human rights.

Election Process

  • In accordance with paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 the Council shall consist of 47 Member States, which shall be elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly.
  • The membership shall be based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats shall be distributed as follows among regional groups:
    • Group of African States (13)
    • Group of Asia-Pacific States (13)
    • Group of Eastern European States (6)
    • Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (8)
    • Group of Western European and other States (7)
  • The members of the Council shall serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.
  • With membership on the Council comes a responsibility to uphold high human rights standards, a criteria insisted on by States themselves when creating the Council.

AboutUNHRC


6 . International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC)


Context : After the incident at the Line of Actual Control in Galwan in Ladakh in June, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese soldiers, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) approached both the Indian and Chinese governments and asked that they observe the Geneva Conventions to which both countries are signatories, 

About Geneva Convention

  • 1949 Geneva Conventions are a set of four international treaties that ensure that in a conflict, warring parties conduct themselves in a humane way with non-combatants such as civilians and medical personnel, as well as with combatants no longer actively engaged in fighting, such as prisoners of war, and wounded or sick soldiers.
  • Both India and China have acceded to the Geneva Convention
  • Three protocols were added in later years. India has signed off on one of the protocols, China on two.
  • The ICRC, an international humanitarian organisation, has the mandate to monitor that signatories follow the rules in situations of conflict.

About ICRC

  • The work of the ICRC is based on the Geneva Conventions of 1949, their Additional Protocols, its Statutes – and those of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – and the resolutions of the International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
  • The ICRC is an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. It takes action in response to emergencies and at the same time promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law.
  • It was on the ICRC’s initiative that States adopted the original Geneva Convention of 1864. Since then, the ICRC, with the support of the entire Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has constantly urged governments to adapt international humanitarian law to changing circumstances, in particular to modern developments in the means and methods of warfare, so as to provide more effective protection and assistance for conflict victims.
  • Today, all States are bound by the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 which, in times of armed conflict, protect wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces, prisoners of war and civilians.
  • Over three-quarters of all States are currently party to the two 1977 Protocols additional to the Conventions.
    • Protocol I protects the victims of international armed conflicts
    • Protocol II the victims of non-international armed conflicts. In particular, these treaties have codified the rules protecting the civilian population against the effects of hostilities.
    • Additional Protocol III of 2005 allows for the use of an additional emblem – the Red Crystal – by national societies in the Movemen

The legal bases of any action undertaken by the ICRC are as follows:

  • The four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I confer on the ICRC a specific mandate to act in the event of international armed conflict. In particular, the ICRC has the right to visit prisoners of war and civilian internees. The Conventions also give the ICRC a broad right of initiative.
  • In non-international armed conflicts, the ICRC enjoys a right of humanitarian initiative recognized by the international community and enshrined in Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions.
  • In the event of internal disturbances and tensions, and in any other situation that warrants humanitarian action, the ICRC also enjoys a right of initiative, which is recognized in the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Thus, wherever international humanitarian law does not apply, the ICRC may offer its services to governments without that offer constituting interference in the internal affairs of the State concerned.

7 . Facts for Prelims


eVIN network

  • The eVIN network, which can track the latest vaccine stock position; temperature at storage facility; geo-tag health centres; and maintain facility-level dashboard, is being repurposed for the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine

 Debt-to-GDP Ratio?

  • The debt-to-GDP ratio is the metric comparing a country’s public debt to its gross domestic product (GDP). By comparing what a country owes with what it produces, the debt-to-GDP ratio reliably indicates that particular country’s ability to pay back its debts.
  • Often expressed as a percentage, this ratio can also be interpreted as the number of years needed to pay back debt, if GDP is dedicated entirely to debt repayment.

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