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9 PM for Main examination
- Reviving SAARC to deal with China
- The magnanimity must prevail in ending India-China standoff
- PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar yojana vs MGNREGA
- Digitising Trade across borders
- PCR testing is a double-edged sword
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Reviving SAARC to deal with China
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Context: Analysing the role of SAARC in the backdrop of India-China tensions.
|Background: Hegemonic China is looking towards global expansion to chipping away India’s interest in South Asia.
· China has well known proximity with Pakistan which will increase with CPEC.
· Nepal is moving closer to China for ideational and material reasons.
· China is offering Bangladesh tariff exemption to 97% of Bangladeshi products.
· China has intensified its ties with Sri Lanka through massive investments.
· According to a Brookings India study, most South Asian nations are now largely dependent on China for imports despite geographical proximity to India.
- Isolating Pakistan: India has been trying hard to isolate Pakistan internationally for its role in promoting terrorism in India.
- Alternatives to SAARC:
- India started investing in other regional instruments such as BIMSTEC but it cannot replace SAARC for reasons such as lack of a common identity and history among all BIMSTEC members.
- As BIMSTEC’s focus is on the Bay of Bengal region, it is an inappropriate forum to engage all South Asian nations.
Many foreign policy experts argue that India’s strategic dealing with China has to begin with South Asia.
Infusing life in SAARC by reviving the process of South Asian economic integration:
- South Asia is one of the least integrated regions in the world with intra-regional trade teetering at 5% of total South Asian trade as compared to 25% of intra-regional trade in the ASEAN region.
- Trade treaties:
- While South Asian countries have signed trade treaties, the lack of political will and trust deficit has prevented any meaningful movement.
- India should take the lead and work with its neighbours to slash the tariff and non-tariff barriers.
- There’s a need to rejuvenate the negotiations on a SAARC investment treaty which has been pending since 2007.
- According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, intra-ASEAN investments constitute around 19% of the total investments in the region.
- The SAARC region can likewise benefit from higher intra-SAARC investment flows.
There are certain domestic issues of India in reviving SAARC.
Domestic challenges in revitalising SAARC:
- Ideological reasons:
- There has been an anti-Pakistan and Bangladesh migrant rhetoric due to ideological reasons and to reap political dividends.
- Denting soft power: Majoritarian politics dents India’s soft power of being a liberal and secular democracy which gives moral legitimacy to India’s leadership in the region.
- Complexity in the economic vision:
- There is a lack of clarity on the slogans of atma nirbharta (self-reliance) and ‘vocal for local’ mean.
- Protectionism: The government is stating that India needs to cut down its dependence on imports which signal a return to the obsolete economic philosophy of import substitution. This questions India’s interests in deepening South Asian economic integration.
Deeper regional economic integration will create greater interdependence with India acquiring the central role which would serve India’s strategic interests.
2.The magnanimity must prevail in ending India-China standoff
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2- India and its neighborhood- relations
Context: A bloody hand to hand combat between India and China in Galwan Valley left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
- China has refused to recognise the McMahon line and the demarcation of boundaries done by the British colonial power.
- Agreements between India and China: Pending a final settlement of the boundary.
- They signed the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the LAC in the India-China Border Areas in 1993.
- Another similar agreement (Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC in the India-China Border Areas) signed in 1996 contains a specific clause which does not permit the use of firearms, hazardous chemicals etc. within two kilometers from the LAC.
- Option of war to resolve boundary dispute:
- In post-nuclear times, the only way to resolve disputes is through negotiations as equal powers.
China’s record in boundary disputes:
- Lost opportunity:The Indian PM rejected the proposal by China’s Foreign Minister to settle the boundary dispute in his visit to India in April 1960. It led to tragic consequences including the India-China war in 1962.
- Contemporary China:
- Assertive China: China regards itself as a superpower in the making and is now an ambitious rising power which wants to reorient the global order. It wants the boundary negotiations to happen as per their vision.
- Flexing of muscle:
- China has refused to recognise the authority of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- Rejection of China’s claims by PCA: It ruled that China had breached its obligations under the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and Article 94 of UNCLOS concerning maritime safety and violated international obligations.
- South China sea: China has not paid any heed to international opinion that supports unimpeded commerce, freedom of navigation, overflights and peaceful resolution of disputes.
- The same audacity has made China more intolerant of infrastructure built by India while it continues to build its own along that frontier.
There are divisions in policymakers with respect to the measures needed to counter China.
Weighing in the options by India:
- Strengthening military power:
- India needs to increase its strength but it may not be the wisest option when the economy is suffering and COVID-19 is taking its toll.
- Boycotting Chinese imports:
- Moral justification: Sanctions and boycotts are justifiable only when there is strong moral justification.
- For example- Boycott of South Africa during the Apartheid period was justified and it served its purpose in hastening South Africa’s turn to equality and democratic governance.
- Dependence on China: The boycotts of goods will hurt India more and barely make a dent in China’s economic prospects. For example- India is lauded as the pharmacy of the world because it is able to import essential raw materials from China.
- Competitiveness: The world buys Chinese goods because of their compelling quality and price. India should emulate China in its manufacturing practices and agility to adapt to international demand to replace it in future.
The nationalist feelings come to fore aftermath of the unfortunate incidents like the Galwan Valley faceoff which generate problems for people from north-east.
Keeping vigilance on hate against North-eastern people:
- The people from the North-east who have features resembling Chinese are boycotted in some cities.
- India must be on guard not to unleash any kind of hostility against anyone especially resident Chinese nationals.
- The bond between India and China are in terms of aatmiata (soulful intimacy), nikatata (closeness) and bhaichaara (solidarity). There could not be more genuine and sincere affirmation of the spirit of friendship.
- India must learn the hard lesson that pragmatic and shrewd diplomacy can stop hostilities.
3.PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar yojana vs MGNREGA
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – Gs 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Context – PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar yojana has raised several questions about intention of government to provide employment opportunities to vulnerable sections that also benefited under MGNREGA.
PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana –It aims to provide work to migrant workers in 116 selected districts of selected states.
MGNREGA – The mandate of the MGNREGA is to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
Need to strengthen MGNREGA
1.Issues with PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana
- Exclusion of States– States of West Bengal and Chhattisgarh be omitted when reverse migration is particularly high in these States
- Politicisation of scheme– Of the ₹4,794 crore spent between June 20 and June 28, Bihar received more than 50% of the fund which can be attributed to the fact tha Bihar elections are scheduled for later this year.
- Overlapping with MGNREGA– According to the list of 25 kinds of work available under this “scheme” it is clear that almost every single one of them is already covered under the convergence programmes of MGNREGA which leads to wastage of resources and duplication of efforts.
- Crony Capitalism– The nature of the work is manual work, mainly construction and earth work, including work to lay cables, ostensibly to take Internet connections to rural areas. It is unstated but clear that this will benefit private telecom companies.
- Lack of legal right – MGNREGA is a legal right, whereas the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan has no such legal binding on the administration.
2.Lack of work– According to figures available on the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, in this fiscal year, 8.07 crore workers demanded work, but work was provided only to 6.25 crore workers.
3.Insufficient funds– The Central government released ₹38,000 crore for MGNREGA work, of which 70% has already been utilised. With the return of migrant workers to their home States and with substantial numbers having completed the quarantine period, the demand for work is bound to increase. The remaining ₹8,000 crore fund available to the States is clearly insufficient.
Suggested Reforms for MGNREGA
- Household vs Individual– This will require a removal of the restriction of only one person per household to make every individual eligible.
- Increasing number of working days – The cap of 100 days should be removed to expand it to at least 200 days.
- Compensation to all – Unemployment allowance should be guaranteed for all those turned away from work.
Way Forward – MGNREGA should not be diluted in the name of the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan. The potential for MGNREGA to provide relief to the suffering of rural India should be utilised to its fullest capacity especially in times of Corona when unemployment is at its highest.
4.Digitising Trade across borders
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 3 – Infrastructure – Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc
Context – Pandemic has made it necessary to digitise procedures and lower human intervention to facilitate trade across borders.
Importance of digitised trade
Challenges in attaining digitisation in trade
- Functioning of digitised trading systems– Shortcomings in the functionality of the system and technical glitches result in limited use of the system or parallel use of hard copy. For example, the absence of a shipping line delivery order in customs and terminal systems results in usage of hard copy for cargo movement.
- Multiple stakeholders – Lack of connectivity/message exchanges between different stakeholders’ systems results in delayed cargo clearance.
- Capacity building in stakeholders– There are many issues with respect to training and capacity building amongst the users, restricting the optimal utilisation of digital platforms.
- High upfront costs of digitisation – Trade ecosystem including customs brokers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, transport operators, port custodians, container freight stations and border management authorities have been restricted. This indicates the need to further augment the digital infrastructure in the trade ecosystem which involves high upfront cost.
Steps taken by government to digitise cross border trading
Post India’s ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization in April 2016, following reforms focused on infrastructural upgradation, digitisation and automation.
- Direct Port Entry and Direct Port Delivery
- Radio Frequency Identification system and Single Window Interface
- The Port Community System – It is aimed at seamlessly integrating all maritime trade-related stakeholders on a single platform.
- e-SANCHIT (e-Storage and computerised handling of indirect tax documents) – Aimed at reducing human intervention.
Way Forward – With trade volumes contracting and economic indicators shrinking, the present crisis present an opportunity to develop new systems and enhance existing platforms while at the same time changing the attitude of stakeholders on the ground.
5.PCR testing is a double-edged sword
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-3 Science and Technology
Context: The government has allowed SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing in many government and private laboratories.
Different types of Tests used for Covid-19 diagnosis
There are mainly two types of tests being used for Covid-19 diagnosis
- Genetic test/Molecular Test: This test is done using the conventional real-time Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.It is a method of testing by taking a nasal/throat swab from a patient. It involves extracting ribonucleic acid or RNA, which is the genetic material of the virus. If it shares the same genetic sequence as SARS-CoV-2 virus, then it is deemed positive.
- Serological Test/Antibody Testing: It is a blood/serum/plasma test to detect the presence of antibodies against a microorganism. In the case of Covid-19 these antibodies are usually IgM (the first antibody that the body makes) and IgG antibodies. These antibodies when detected in the strip give a coloured response. The symptomatic individual then can be confirmed using the molecular test.
- ELISA Test: ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunoassay. It is a commonly used laboratory test to detect antibodies in the blood.
· It is a procedure where individual specimens (e.g., urine or blood) are combined into a common pool.
· If the pooled test turns out to be positive, individual samples are tested. If there’s no positive result, all individual samples in the pool are regarded as negative.
· This type of testing helps to reduce the cost of screening many individuals for infectious diseases and can help in tracing asymptomatic cases of the disease, thereby tracking community transmission.
Issues with RT-PCR Tests
- It can only identify infections that are active and thus cannot detect and trace past infections.
- It is expensive compared to serological tests.
- It cannot be administered on-site and do not provide quick results.
- It accurately detects the presence of virus but it is also prone to false negative and false positive results because of very nature of PCR. The viral load is lower in the throat than in the nasopharynx. Hence throat swabs are falsely negative in 60% of tests and nasopharyngeal swabs in 30%.
- False PCR results underestimates the real extent of spread and mislead government thus augmenting the epidemic.
Steps to be taken
- Cross-contamination should be avoided when samples are handled in a laboratory. A laboratory technician’s proficiency is integral to quality assurance.
- Doctors should not be misled by false negative tests when COVID-19 is clinically diagnosed with specific criteria. The patient must be treated as COVID-19, and the PCR repeated.
- Laboratories should be checked for compliance with protocols and record-keeping.
- In order to avoid blind reliance on the PCR test result, clinical diagnosis by specific criteria, should be popularised among doctors.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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