9 PM Daily Brief – September 28th, 2020

Daily current affairs summaries

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Current affairs brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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9 PM for Mains examination

GS-2

  1. Issues of medical education

GS-3

  1. Growth compulsions, fiscal arithmetic
  2. Farm bills and opposition hypocrisy
  3. Indian Agriculture Reforms
  4. The benefits of a carbon tax

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.Issues of medical education

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2- Education

Context: Confusion over policy for human resource development and economic policy is affecting quality, equity and integrity of medical education.

What is the NEP 2020 and what is its purpose?

  • The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020aims to provide “universal access to quality education” and bridge the “gap between the current state of learning outcomes”.
  • The policy aims to achieve this by undertaking major reformsthat bring the highest quality, equity and integrity into the system, from early childhood care and education through higher education
  • Different from previous policies:The present policy lays an emphasis on quality and holistic learning, in addition to the issues of access and equity.
  • NEP on higher education: It represents the key to more vibrant, socially engaged, cooperative communities and a happier, cohesive, cultured, productive, innovative, progressive, and prosperous nation.
  • NEP on medical education:The aim is to train health care professionals “primarily required for working in primary care and secondary hospitals.”

What was the need to bring private entities in medical education?

  • Lack of workers:In the field of health care, there is a continuing shortage of health-care personnel.
  • Costly setup:The infrastructure required for high-quality modern medical education is expensive.
  • Restrictions on public resources:There is public demand for high-quality medical care and not enough public resources to meet the demand.

How are the private medical colleges performing currently?

The private entities have completely commercialised education.

  • None of the three stated objectives of medical educationhas been achieved by the private sector that is:
  • Providing health-care personnel in all parts of the country
  • Ensuring quality and
  • Improving equity
  • The majority of private medical colleges provide poor quality education at extremely high costs.
  • In medical education, the situation is made far worse by the rent seeking and profiteering of the majority of private medical colleges.

What are the different issues?

  • There have been attempts to regulate fees, sometimes by governments and sometimes by courts but the efforts have not been fruitful.
  • Different conflicts:Some judges wish to ensure quality and equity; others give importance to points of law on the rights of private parties, federalism and such issues.
  • Confusion:The fundamental problem in achieving quality, equity and integrity in education is confusion on the part of successive governments between policy-making for human resource development and economic policy.
    • The Ministry of Human Resources Developmentrepeatedly says that quality and equity are the bases of good education. On the other hand, the economic policies consider education a consumer good which can be sold to the highest bidder.

What is NEET? What are the problems related to it?

  • The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (Undergraduate), or NEET-UG, acts as a single all-India gateway for admission to medical colleges.
  • NEET may have improved the quality of candidates admitted to private institutions to some extent, but it seems to have further worsened equity.
  • Under any scheme of admission, the number of students from government schools who are able to get admission to a medical college is very low. With NEET, the number has become lower.
  • The high fees of private medical collegeshave always been an impossible obstacle for students from government schools, whatever the method used for admission.

Way forward

  • Allowing government medical colleges to admit students based on marks in Standard XII and using NEET scores for admission to private colleges will be more equitable right now.
  • A resolute government is required, determined to ensure that economic policy facilitates quality and equity in education.

2.Growth compulsions, fiscal arithmetic

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Context: Since the economic growth is slowing down, there is need of enhanced government expenditure and the policy challenge is to minimise the growth fall.

What is the current scenario?

  • Falling GDP:India’s growth in the first quarter of 2020-21 at (-) 23.9% showed one of the highest contractions globally.
  • Growth projections:The 2020-21 real GDP growth for India is forecasted in the range of (-) 5.8% (the Reserve Bank of India’s Survey of Professional Forecasters) to (-) 14.8% (Goldman Sachs).
  • Fall in nominal GDP: Even the nominal GDP growth showing a contraction for 2020-21.
  • High inflation:The average CPI inflation during the first five months of 2020-21 is estimated at 6.6%.
  • Overall contraction:As per, OECD’s real GDP growth projection at (-) 10.2% and a deflator-based inflation of about 5%, the implied contraction in nominal GDP is about (-) 5.0% for 2020-21.
  • Contraction in other sectors:As per national income figures for Quarter I of 2020-21, the sector ‘Public Administration, Defence and other Services’ contracted at (-) 10.3%. Key sectors such as agriculture and related sectors, public administration, defence even after performing normally cannot save economy.

What are the implications of slowdown?

  • Revenue erosion: The policy challenge is to minimise sharp contractionary momentum in real and nominal growth.
  • Negative buoyancy: In the first quarter of 2020-21, the Centre’s gross tax revenues contracted by (-) 32.6% and the CAG-based data pertaining to 19 States show a contraction of (-) 45% in their own tax revenues.
  • Fall in non-tax revenue: As per estimates the tax and non-tax revenue and non-debt capital receipts in the current fiscal may fall well short of the budget estimates by an amount higher than Rs. 5-lakh crore.
  • Increased fiscal deficit: To maintain the level of budgeted expenditure and to provide for additional stimulus, fiscal deficit has to be increased to an estimated 8.8% of GDP. The combined fiscal deficit (Centre and states) amounts to 13.8% of GDP.
  • Additional borrowing:states need to borrow because of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation issue and there are no adequate resources to support fiscal deficit. The Centre’s fiscal during the first four months of 2020-21 as a per cent of annual budgeted target was at 103.1%.

What is the way forward?

  • Debt monetisation by the RBI: But India has moved away from the automatic monetisationof debt. The RBI can take government debt indirectly. The indirect method is preferable as the market still sends out the signals on interest rate.
  • Enhanced government expenditure: It is needed as the fiscal deficit will go beyond the mandated level.
  • Put a limit to monetisation of debt:To guard against high inflation.
  • Slowly bring down fiscal deficit:the best course of action would be to keep the combined fiscal deficit at around 14% of GDP in the current year and find ways to finance it.

3.Farm bills and opposition hypocrisy

Source – The Indian Express

Syllabus – GS 3- Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, – different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

Context– The government claims that the new farm bills are a historic step taken in the interest of farmers, giving them the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country and to any one they want.

What are the new Farm Bills?

Three Farm Bills that are bond for contention-

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020– The FPTC breaks the monopolistic powers of the APMC markets.
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020- FAPAFs allows contract faming.
  • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020- ECA remove stocking limits on traders for a large number of commodities, with some caveats still in place.

What are the pros of farm bills 2020?

  1. Increment in farmer’s income– According to the government, the bills would transform the agriculture sector which will raise the farmers’ income. It also promises to double farmers’ income by 2022 and the Centre said that the Bills will make the farmer independent of government-controlled markets and fetch them a better price for their produce.
  2. Creating healthy competition – These bills provide greater choice and freedom to farmers to sell their produce and to buyers to buy and store, thereby creating competition in agricultural marketing.
  • Opens up agriculture sale and marketing outside the notified APMC mandis for farmers.
  • Removes barriers to inter-state trade.
  1. Efficient value chain– This competition is expected to help build more efficient value chains in agriculture by reducing marketing costs, enabling better price discovery, improving price realization for farmers and, at the same time, reducing the price paid by consumers.
  2. Modernization-The farm bill 2020 aims to enable farmers to engage with agri-business companies, retailers, exporters for service, and sale of produce while giving the farmer access to modern technology.
  3. Promotes Farmer Production Organization (FPO)– These bills promote the creation of FPO on a large scale and will help in creating a farmer-friendly environment for contract farming where small players can benefit.

Way forward-

It is high time to get agriculture market right and these farm bills are steps in that direction. Centre need to create Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and invest in marketing infrastructure. NABARD must get its act together, take professional advice and work with implementing agencies in the private sector, including various foundations already working with farmers.

4.Indian Agriculture Reforms

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 3 – Land reforms in India.

Context- Farmers and state governments across India don’t want APMCs.

How many farmers are there in India?

  1. Based on the self- declaration- Almost 111 million farmers are registered for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PM-Kisan). The eligibility criteria for this scheme are-
  • Registration requires the family to hold cultivable land, duly registered.
  • If a family member is relatively privileged (MP/MLA, pension exceeding Rs 10,000, an income-tax payer, or a professional), one can’t opt for the PM-Kisan benefits.
  • For any false declaration there are penalties also.

Therefore, 111 million is a lower bound figure. Other than some categories being barred from PM-Kisan benefits, not every eligible farmer has necessarily registered for PM-Kisan.

  1. Based on Agriculture Census- In India, in every five years people have an agriculture census.
  • 2010-11 – There was 138 million holdings.
  • 2015-16 – It gave 146 million holdings which is a result of further fragmentation.

If the agricultural landholding is conditional on being a farmer, apart from a possible further increase since 2015-16, 146 million is possibly the upper bound.

  1. Based on various acts-

Every definition of “farmer” is not contingent on the ownership of land.

For Example-

  • The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001– Where status as a farmer depends on cultivating land (or supervising cultivation), not owning it.
  • Draft National Policy for Farmers, 2006That issue was also flagged by the National Commission on Farmers, such as in the Draft National Policy for Farmers (2006), where “farmers” included agricultural labourers, sharecroppers and tenants and so on. When talking and generalising about farmers, it is necessary to specify which set one has in mind.

What is the quality of land records in various states when land is a prerequisite for defining someone as a farmer?

  1. The Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms, 2009-
  • Absence of land holding data – The last extensive survey and settlement in India was conducted two to three decades prior to Independence which means in the 1920s.
  1. Department of Land Resources has a Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) –
  • DILRMP is often about digitising/modernising existing land records.
  • The DILRMP dashboard tells that digitisation of land records have been completed in only 11.5 per cent of villages.

For Example- Gujarat, West Bengal and Tripura score high on this (over 90 per cent). Punjab’s track record is 0 per cent.

What is 2015-16 Agricultural Census report?

According to the Agricultural Census report 2015-16 –

  1. Highest operated areas-The highest operated areas are in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, UP and MP, in that order. 86.1 per cent of holdings are small and marginal (less than 2 hectares) and only 0.6 per cent is large (more than 10 hectares).
  2. FCI procurement-There is increasing FCI procurement of rice from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha and of wheat from MP, UP and Rajasthan.
  3. E-NAM(National Agricultural Market) has more coverage from MP, UP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat than from Punjab or Haryana.

Way Forward

The face of Indian agriculture has changed and is no longer what it was in the Green Revolution days, centred on Punjab, Haryana and western UP. With realistic input costs, that form of agriculture is no longer viable in those Green Revolution tracts.

5.The benefits of a carbon tax

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS3: Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Context: China has recently announced that it would balance out its carbon emissions with measures to offset them before 2060.

Why is there need to tax carbon?

  • Rising extreme events: Record heat waves in Delhi, floods in southwest China, and catastrophic forest fires in California this year are indicative of the existential danger from global warming.
  • Climate change induced disasters: India ranks fifth in the Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Between 1998 and 2017, disaster-hit countries reported $2.9 trillion in direct economic losses, with 77% resulting from climate change, according to a United Nations report.
  • Carbon dioxide is the major contributor to global warming: It was 414 parts per million in August 2020 because of past accumulation. One half of it comes from the three top carbon emitters. They need to drive de-carbonisation.
  • National interest: It is needed to take stronger action before 2030, leading to no net carbon increase by 2050. India has committed to 40% of electricity capacity being from non-fossil fuels by 2030, and lowering the ratio of emissions to GDP by one-third from 2005 levels.

What is the significance of carbon tax?

  • Earn revenue: Price the carbon content of domestic production and imports. The International Monetary Fund has endorsed the European Union’s plan to impose carbon levies on imports.
  • Encourage non-renewable energy:  India can be among the first movers in the developing world in taxing and switching from carbon-intensive fuels (like coal).
  • Fiscal gain: A carbon tax at $35 per tonne of CO2 emissions in India is estimated to be capable of generating some 2% of GDP through 2030.
  • Reduce GHG emissions: Carbon tax can reduce greenhouse gas pollution by between 80 and 90 million tonnes by 2022.

What is the way forward?

  • Pricing carbon: build on small steps such as plans by  large companies to price carbon, government incentives for electric vehicles, and an environmental tax in the 2020-21 budget.
  • Emission trading: setting a maximum amount of allowable effluents from industries, and permitting those with low emissions to sell their extra space. For instance, carbon trading in China and EU and the regional greenhouse gas initiative in the U.S. northeast.
  • Put a carbon tax on economic activities: for example, on the use of fossil fuels like coal. For example, Canada imposes a carbon tax at $50 per tonne of CO2 emissions.
  • Imposing a carbon tariff: Reducing the domestic carbon content of production alone would not avert the harm if imports remain carbon-intensive.
  • Diplomatic multilateral engagements: Big economies like India should also use their global monopsony, diplomacy and financial capabilities to forge a climate coalition.

The time has come to introduce a market-oriented approach to tax & trade carbon domestically and also induce similar action by others through international trade and diplomacy.


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