9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 22, 2020

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  • Suitability of International Branch Campuses (IBC) in India’s education system
  • Impact of New Welfarism approach of government on nutrition
  • Need for upgrading India-Europe relations
  • Reasons behind Nepal’s political crisis and India’s stance
  • Mutated’ Covid-19 strain of UK spreads faster
  • Parliamentary Standing Committee recommendation on the management of COVID-19 situation


  • Steps needed to make spectrum Auction successful

9 PM for Preliminary examination


Suitability of International Branch Campuses (IBC) in India’s education system

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Context: Before allowing international branch campuses (IBC) to operate in India, their potential role and suitability in Indian Environment should be analysed .


  • Although National Education Policy 2020 has recommended allowing universities in the top 100 categories of the World University Rankings to operate in India, the inadequate focus has been given to the potential role and suitability of international branch campuses (IBC) in the Indian environment.
  • In India, there is a general perception that there exists only a single IBC model i.e., foreign universities are self-funded and establish campuses on their own without any major support from the host country. But studies suggest otherwise.
  • However, recent studies have shown that there are various other models of IBCs; for example, IBC that is fully or partially funded by the host government or IBC supported by private organizations or an IBC functioning in collaboration with a local partner in the partner’s campus.
  • The example of Australia’s Monash university operating in South Africa from 2001 to 2019, could provide India with useful lessons in this field.

What is an IBC?

  • An IBC is an entity that is owned (completely or partially) and operated by a foreign higher education provider but provides an entire academic program onsite (I.e., In the host country).
  • More than 300 IBCs are functioning in around 80 countries and many of these are operated by universities from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, France and Russia.
  • Indian private institutions also operate IBCs in countries such as Australia, Mauritius, Uzbekistan, Singapore, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
  • Whereas Countries such as China, Malaysia, Qatar, and Singapore host most of them.

Case study on the experience of Monash University in South Africa?

  • SA’s regulatory framework:
    • IBCs there were promoted in parallel with the pre-existing higher education system, on a dual-track approach.
    • The SA’s regulatory framework permits foreign universities to operate as private entities, but they need to legally register themselves as a company. Though IBC’s can offer accredited degrees and diplomas they cannot use the ‘university’ tag.
  • Structural development of Monash University experience:
    • Monash obtained registration in 2001 to operate as an IBC in Johannesburg as ‘Monash South Africa (MSA)’ and currently ranks among top 100 universities in the QS World University Ranking. It operates IBCs in China and Malaysia.
    • In 2013, it started operating as a joint venture with U.S.-based majority owner Laureate Education after selling 75% of its shares.
    • In 2018 both transferred the ownership to a South Africa-based listed company, Independent Institute of Education (IIE), a subsidiary of the ADvTech group.

What India can learn from the Monash University Experience?

  • First, even a university that is among the top 100 could become a local private institution through mergers and acquisitions.
  • Second, it is not necessary that the public nature of a foreign university is also reflected in its branch campus of the host country. Nature may change according to the country.
  • Third, ensuring parity of the programs offered at the host country with the quality of programs offered at the home campus would be a challenge.
  • Fourth, domestic market demand influences course offerings, and there is dependence on contract academic staff.
  • Fifth, there are limitations in substituting existing institutions in a host country.

The above experience illustrates the big gap between the state’s desired objectives and the actual reality that can be offered through IBC’s. Hence, we need to review the various delivery models existing in different national contexts to help us aid in future policy formulation process.

Read also: UPSC Syllabus 2021– IAS Syllabus

Impact of New Welfarism approach of government on nutrition

Source: Indian Express

GS2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context: The New welfarism approach followed by the present government can better explain the reason for the overall rise in stunting rates.


  • The 5th round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) that covers dimensions such as health, nutrition, and the overall quality of lives, has been recently released.
  • It provides reliable and independent evidence to assess micro-development performance under this government.
  • NFHS-5 has highlighted the dismal performance of country in reducing the malnutrition specifically stunting.
  • The findings of NFHS-5 show, how the government policy has consciously adopted the New Welfarism approach providing Tangibles services, instead of providing Intangibles social benefits i.e., improving nutrition level.

What is the New welfarism approach?

  • The New Welfarism approach is more similar to the Basic Needs Approach to development but a very distinctive approach to redistribution and inclusion.
  • It does not prioritize the supply of Intangible public services such as basic health, primary education, and safety security net.
  • Instead, it focuses on tangible essential goods and services, normally provided by the private sector, such as bank accounts, cooking gas, toilets, electricity, housing, water, and cash.

What are the findings that support New Welfarism approach?

  • Firstly, Increase in Bank accounts leading to women’s financial inclusion and empowerment: As of 2019, 72 percent of all women had bank or savings accounts that they report as being able to use themselves.
  • Secondly, an increase in electricity connections, sanitation facilities, clean fuel: Ninety-eight percent of all households had access to electricity, nearly 70 percent to improved sanitation, and 60 percent to clean cooking fuel.
  • Third, an increase in beneficiaries: Also, the percentage of households that have gained access to these goods and services each year has accelerated since 2015.
  • Fourth, an increase in child Stunting rates: The improvements towards child stunting, an intangible service has been disappointing as the overall stunting rates are flattening rather than decreasing and urban rates are rising.

Why the New Welfarism approach focuses on tangible goods more than Intangible goods?

  • Ideological dimension: The government believes that Providing tangible goods and services such as bank accounts, cooking gas, toilets, electricity, housing will make a critical difference to the lives of the poor.
  • Strategic dimension: Providing tangible goods and services that are relatively easy to deliver, can be measured and monitored has a high electoral opportunity in it. Whereas, providing intangible services such as primary education is difficult to define and less measured and hence difficult to convert into a political advantage.

Thus, the findings clearly explain that the failure on stunting is mainly due to the shift in government policies towards New welfarism approach where the tangible goods and services are prioritized rather than intangible services such as nutrition, education, child stunting, etc.

Need for upgrading India-Europe relations

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context- Integrating Europe into India’s new strategic calculus must be a serious goal in 2021.

Three latest developments underline Delhi’s altering strategic perceptions of Europe-

  1. India’s assist for France’s membership of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
    • This accession reflects the determination of France, an Indian Ocean rim country, to become more involved in the Indo-Pacific region.
  1. India welcomed Germany and Netherlands in constructing a new geopolitical structure within the Indo-pacific.
  2. Emerging Security cooperation – The plans to work out a decade-long road map to rework the partnership between Delhi and London.

What were the Issues hindering India-Europe relations?

  1. The bipolar Cold War and the growing world versus the developed world dynamics prevented India from increasing cooperation with Europe in the Post-WWII period.
  2. Whereas Europe found China as an attractive commercial partner compared to India, the gap further widened with time.
  3. China also invested heavy political and diplomatic efforts to make its place among European countries.

How geopolitics of the Indo-pacific affect Indian foreign policy?

  1. India is looking beyond the bipolar geopolitical competition between the US and China.
    • This is because of the uncertain political trajectory of the US towards China.
  1. India has begun to shed the postcolonial mental block towards regional security cooperation with Europe.
    • The impact of China’s rise is being felt across the Indo-Pacific and the arising geopolitical instabilities are producing new partnerships between the affected powers.
    • India has now taken European powers as natural partners in constructing a durable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific.

How Europe in the Indo-Pacific can benefit India?

Although, European potential to project army power into the Indo-Pacific is limited. However together with Asian democracies, Europe can definitely make a distinction.

  • It may well mobilize large economic assets for the sustainable development of regional infrastructure.
  • Wield political effect and leverage its important smooth power to form the Indo-pacific discourse.
  • Also, EU can contribute to an increase in India’s national military and diplomatic power.

Therefore, a powerful coalition of Asian and European center powers should now be an indispensable factor of the geopolitics of the Indo-pacific.

Reasons behind Nepal’s political crisis and India’s stance

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS-2 India and its neighborhood- relations

Context: PM Oli’s decision to opt for fresh elections by dissolving the lower house has created a new political crisis in Nepal.

What is the current crisis in Nepal?

  • Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s recommended dissolution of the Lower House of Parliament, approved later by President Bidya Devi Bhandari, to counter the discord within the ruling party. 
  • In effectthe Nepalese Parliament has been dissolved and fresh elections have been scheduled in April-May, next year.  
  • Reason: Immediate reason behind this step was pressure on PM Oli from his own party to take back the ordinance to amend the Constitutional Council Act which would have empowered him to make imp. appointments 
  • Reactions: 
  • The decision has triggered pro-democracy protests. 
  • The local newspapers have described the move as “treachery” and “coup de grace on Parliamentary democracy”. 
  • The Nepalese constitution doesn’t have a clear provision regarding house dissolution. Several petitions challenging the move have been filed in the Supreme Court.  
  • The street protests and anger against the move doubtless creates pressure on the judicial proceedings.  

An adverse decision on the dissolution of Parliament by the Supreme Court and given the loss of credibility in the Constitutional office would create a constitutional chaos further chaos is expected in the days to come. 

Why did the prime minister take such a decision? 

  • Firstly, Oli’s Reluctance to share power with coalition parties, even after winning the elections of 2015 in coalition and agreement on power-sharing among them. 
  • SecondlyOli was of the view that it was his anti-India position in the wake of the 2015 border blockade, that won them elections and he is entitled to impose his decision on the coalition.  
  • Third, there are Fundamental and ideological differences even after the merger of 2 rival parties CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist under NCPnever sorted out 
    • For instance, before the coalition, for several yearsOli had demanded that the Maoists under Pushpa Kamal Dahal be held accountable for war crimes, including the killings of CPN-UML cadres. 
  • Fourth, Misplaced objectives of PM OliThe prime objectives at the formation of the new constitution were to address the concerns of Madhesi groups and strengthen Nepal’s institutions. But the focus was on the consolidation of power gathering support by adopting anti-India postures and cozying up to China. 

 What should be India’s stance in such a situation? 

  • Nepal is organically linked to India’s anti-colonial struggle with leaders such as BP Koirala having spent years in prison with Jagjivan Ram and Rajendra Prasad.  
  • India has rebooted its diplomatic outreach with a series of high-profile visits to Kathmandu. This has resulted in the resumption of air travel and fast-tracking of the railway line between Kathmandu to Raxaul in Bihar. 
  • A fresh popular cry for democracy presents an opportunity for India to showcase its historical partnership in Nepal’s transition to democracy. 
  • Ties with Nepal are critical to India for strategic influence in the Himalayas and to prevent China’s entry there. 
  • Thus, India should adopt a strategy of detached pragmatism rather than proactive involvement, given the crisis period in Nepal. 

Mutated Covid-19 strain of UK spreads faster

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context- New mutated COVID-19 strain discovered in the United Kingdom underlines the need for adherence to Non-pharmaceutical interventions. 

 More in news- 

 A new variant of the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Britain and prompting high levels of concern. 

 Precautionary measures taken by other countries-  

  • The United Kingdom stood shut off from the rest of Europe after several nations decided to close borders over fears of the new coronavirus strain. 
  • India too has joined over two dozen countries in banning inbound travel from the UK.  

What is Mutation?  

  • It is simply a change in the virus’ genome: the set of genetic instructions that contain all the information that the virus needs to function.  
  • When the virus replicates, this set of instructions needs to be copied but errors can creep in during this process.  
  • Depending on where in the genome mistakes occur, they can have a negative or positive impact on the virus’ ability to survive and replicate. Or, as is the case the majority of the time, they may have no impact at all. 

 What is this new strain of coronavirus? 

 Covid-19 mutant strain- It has been named VUI-202012/01 and is defined by a set of 23 changes or mutations. Among the 23 mutations, the two of which are particularly worrisome and specifically N501Y makes is more transmissible. 

  1. 69-70del – leads to the loss of two amino acids in the spike protein and has been found in viruses that eluded the immune response in some immune compromised patients. 
  1. N501Y – Has previously been shown to increase the binding affinity of the virus protein to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor, its entry point into human cells by mutation in Spike Protein. It makes the variant more transmissible.  
    • Spike Protein: Coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2 which causes Covid-19, get their name from the “corona” or crown shape created by the protein “spikes” on their surface. These spike proteins bind with human proteins to initiate the process of infection. 
    • The most likely explanation is the variant has emerged in a patient with a weakened immune system that was unable to beat the virus, instead their body became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate. 

Concern with new strain- 

  • It is about 70% more transmissible- The variant has the potential to increase the number of people a person can infect by over 0.4. 

 Mutations, or genetic changes, arise naturally in all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, as they replicate and circulate among humans. However, these changes, can lead to a quicker spread of Covid-19 between people.  

 Will vaccines work against this new strain of virus? 

According to scientists, Vaccines will be equally effective despite the mutation. So there is no reason to panic. 

  • This is because vaccines are designed to create antibodies targeting the spike protein and mutations itself is found in the spike protein region of the virus.  
  • T-cell immunity also would come into play to clear the virus. 
  • However, as the virus accumulates more changes, vaccines might require little tweaking. 

 What needs to be done? 

  • The emergence of the new variant underlines the compulsion to undertake surveillance following vaccination to track vaccine effectiveness and to look for the appearance of vaccine escape mutants. 
  • Non-pharmaceutical interventions, including quarantine and social distancing have significantly helped in curbing the transmission of coronavirus and should be followed strictly. 


Parliamentary Standing Committee recommendation on the management of COVID-19 situation

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS- 2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

News: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has submitted its report to the Rajya Sabha Chairman on the management of Covid-19 situation.


Key Suggestions given by Panel:

Panel has given suggestion on the four aspects:

  1. the country’s preparedness
  2. Augmentation of health infrastructure
  3. Social impact
  4. Economic impact

The Panel's Suggestions

Source: The Hindu

On Country’s preparedness

  • Separate Wing: A separate wing may be formed in the National Disaster Management Authority that will specialize in handling /managing the Pandemics like COVID-19 in the future.
  • Center-state coordination mechanism: For providing quick response to such crisis, an effective functional institutional mechanism is needed for coordination between the Centre, states, and Union Territories.

On country’s Health Infrastructure

  • Public Health Act: A comprehensive Public Health Act preferably at the National Level with suitable legal provisions to keep checks and controls over private hospitals in times of a pandemic to
    • curb black marketing of medicines
    • check the malpractices like selling of hospital beds
    • denial of the cashless facility
    • variation in levying charges towards consumables such as PPE kits, gloves etc,
  • Strengthen Public Health care System: The public sector healthcare delivery system needs to be further strengthened in all the states/ UTs and a uniform healthcare system should be established across the country to deal with the pandemic on a sustained basis in the future.

On Social Impacts

  • National Database on migrant workers should be launched at the earliest as it will help in the identification of migrant workers and also in delivering ration and other benefits to them.
  • Inter-state operability of ration cards: It recommended that until the One Nation, One Ration Card is implemented in all states/UTs, inter-state operability of ration cards should be allowed.
  • Mid-Day Meal Scheme: Central government should coordinate with local administration through state governments to ensure rations/ allowances are delivered on time.

On Economic Impacts

  • Awareness Campaigns: The Government should hold awareness campaigns on cheaper and effective repurposed medicines to prevent panic-buying of expensive drugs by the people.
  • Vaccine Authorization: Any vaccine against COVID-19 should be granted emergency use authorisation only after proper consideration and conducting its trials on a sufficient sample size.

Steps needed to make spectrum Auction successful

Source: Click here

Syllabus – GS-3, Economy, Mobilisation of resources

Context: Government should take lessons from 2016 spectrum auction failure and take steps to get the present auction right.

Discuss the parameters on the auction of radio spectrum.

  • A new round of auction has been cleared by government to be held using the methodology of Simultaneous Multiple Round Ascending (SMRA) after 4 years.
  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended the auction spectrum in the sub-GHz bands of 700, 800 and 900 MHz along with mid-band frequencies in bands of 1800, 2100, 2300, and 2500 MHz across the 22 Licensed Service Areas (LSAs) of the country.
  • The total spectrum to be auctioned is about 2,251 MHz. The potential revenue growth to the government at reserve prices is about $50 billion. Total reserve price of spectrum put on auction in 2016 was about $90 billion.

What are the factors that determine the success of spectrum auction?

  • Firstly, the reserve price. Cross country spectrum database shows that the reserve price is positively correlated to the winning bid price. However, a higher reserve price also stops bidders from bidding for more spectrum blocks, resulting in lower amounts of spectrum sold as happened in 2016.
  • Secondly, Factor of VoIP subscribers. Over The Top (OTT) providers are providing substitute goods such as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and are capturing a greater mind share of customers while remaining somewhat invisible to government regulators.
    • The scraping away of the position of telcos in front of OTTs would impact their relationship in the overall digital value network of devices, connectivity and apps, that could result in a lower willingness to pay.
  • Third, allocation of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi shared the load of carrier network and reduces the demand for mobile network capacity. If government want to expand the Wi-Fi facilities, it needs to keep more spectrum unlicensed. The more the unlicensed spectrum allocation, the lower will be the demand for licensed spectrum.
  • Fourth, visibility of spectrum that will be up for auction. The amount of spectrum for 5G auction (namely 3.4-3.6 GHz) that will be made available by the government in late 2021 is not clear. It is creating a confusion among companies, should they acquire the spectrum now, or wait for subsequent auctions.
  • Fifth, reserve prices of different bands for the forthcoming auction as recommended by TRAI indicate that the average price per MHz per population (a common metric used for comparing spectrum prices) is around $3 for sub-GHz band and $1.70 for mid-band.

What are the key steps to get the auction right?

As Spectrum is a perishable scarce resource and lose its value if left unused, it is important for the government to ensure that the spectrum put on the block is sold successfully, unlike 2016. Therefore, following steps are recommended before the auction begins:

  • First, Government should recheck reserve prices and consider reducing it further, especially of the “golden band” or 700 MHz band, which is important for covering the surrounding areas of the country.
  • Secondly, Government should release more unlicensed spectrum in 2.4/5/60 GHz for multiplying Wi-Fi as a suitable supplement to the carrier network. This will increase the placements of the Public Wi-Fi project which got the approval of cabinet recently.
  • Thirdly government should provide clarity about future auctions, especially the major chunks of spectrum that can be put on the block in 3.3/3.6/26/28 GHz.
  • Lastly, government should release guidelines on how they will regulate the auctions and what will be regulated so that the telcos and OTTs can join hands to provide superior and better services for the benefit of the consumers.

9 PM for Preliminary examination

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