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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – March 19, 2021

Good evening dear reader

Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC 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.

About Factly- The Factly initiative covers all the daily news articles regarding Preliminary examination. This will be provided at the end of the 9 PM Brief.

Dear Aspirants,

We know for a fact that learning without evaluation is a wasted effort. Therefore, we request you to please go through both our initiatives i.e 9PM Briefs and Factly, then evaluate yourself through the 10PM Current Affairs Quiz.

We plan to integrate all our free daily initiatives to comprehensively support your success journey.
Happy Learning!

 

Expectations from U.S-China Alaska meet

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Synopsis: The world leaders are looking at U.S-China Alaska meet as a starting point to restore normalcy between the two countries. Their relationship reached its lowest level since the Nixon era. It is primarily due to rising assertiveness and mistrust between the countries. 

Background:

  • Recently, the US held meetings with South Korea and Japan, followed by the QUAD summit. The outcomes included a commitment for an American pushback to China and the maintenance of a free Indo-Pacific. 
  • The country is now focusing on improving its relationship with China by conducting a meeting of foreign ministers in Alaska, U.S. 
  • The relationship between the two had declined during the Trump era. This decline was the result of trade tariffs, tech espionage, Chinese maritime actions, U.S. sanctions on China, and other issues.

Expectations from Meeting:

  • The US will discuss critical issues like:
    • China’s crackdown in Xinjiang and Hong Kong 
    • Chinese aggression against U.S. allies and partners including
      • Pressure on Australia over trade bans 
      • Aggression against Japan in the Senkaku islands
      • Chinese intrusion in India along LAC
  • China would be focusing on reversing trump era policies which include:
    • Removal of US trade sanctions and visa bans
    • Removal of restrictions on American firms manufacturing in China
    • Reopening of its consulate in Houston, U.S
  • A future meeting of country heads can also be scheduled. 

Significance of meeting:

  • The expectation of any major breakthrough from the meeting is very low. However, the occurrence of the meeting itself showcases a will to resolve differences in the future.
  • The cooperation could end the Cold War between the two which can help tackle global issues like Climate Change and COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The U.S.-China tariff war could cost the world $600 billion as per World Economic Forum’s estimate. The collaboration can ensure a swift global economic recovery.

The meeting could help in resolving the Afghanistan puzzle by encouraging proactive communication among the Troika (U.S, China, Russia) in future.


Flaws in design of lateral entry policy

Source: Click Here   

Syllabus: GS 2 – Role of civil services in a democracy

Synopsis: The government has approved the policy of Lateral entry in civil services. However, it has some flaws over entry requirements, job assignments, number of personnel, and training. This calls for reforming the policy for lateral entrants.

Background:

  • The government has often complained about the problems associated with the permanent structure of bureaucracy. Recently the PM talked about the overreach of the elite IAS cadre.
  • Realising this, the government has been encouraging lateral entry at middle and senior positions.
    • Eight professionals were recruited for joint secretary-level positions in various ministries. 
    • UPSC has also advertised some other positions at the joint secretary and director-level.
  • However, the lateral entry policy lacks on multiple fronts that might reduce the efficacy of a lateral entrant.

Issues with Lateral Entry:

  • Age Ceiling: The age of the lateral entrant is capped as per the seniority rule. For instance, an IAS officer becomes a joint secretary at 45 years of age, so a lateral entrant below 45 years is not allowed.
    • This discourages the attraction of the best talent. At this age, a person can reach top positions in the private sector (CEO, CFO, etc.) and would be unwilling to join the government sector.
  • Portfolio Assignment: There is no provision to restrict lateral entrants to important portfolios. Providing an unimportant portfolio discourages the work potential and urges him/her to resign.
    • It is alleged that one lateral entrant amongst the eight appointed joint secretaries had resigned due to this.
  • Control over decision-making: The small number of lateral entrants can’t disregard the decision of permanent bureaucracy who easily outnumber them. This hinders their work.
  • Training: The current policy doesn’t provide sufficient training to lateral entrants for understanding and working with the “permanent” establishment. By the time networks are built, it is time to move on.

Way Forward:

  • The government should appoint more lateral entrants at all levels in ministries to enhance their decision-making. 
  • Further sufficient tenure and training must be given to better assimilate with the permanent bureaucracy.
    • A recent lateral entrant like Parameswaran Iyer succeeded because he was a former IAS officer who understood the system well.
  • The age ceiling for joint secretary-level can be relaxed to 35 years. Similar relaxation should be done at other levels for attracting the best talents. 
    • This was seen in the case of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Bimal Jalan, and Vijay Kelkar. They were joint secretaries in their mid-30s and secretaries by their late 40s or by 50.
  • The government can also reform the permanent system in order to reduce the unwelcoming behavior of senior bureaucrats towards lateral entrants. 
    • The first step could be a reconsideration of the seniority principle that allows promotion solely on seniority

Why Nationalisation of Banks was a Right Step?

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 3

Synopsis: Privatisation of PSBs will not be a solution for India’s banking sector distresses. The nationalization of Banks proved to be fruitful at the time of need, it requires reforms, not privatization. 

Introduction 

The Union government announced that they want to privatize Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in the recent budget. The government believes that this move will improve efficiency. However, it is not clear whether privatization brings efficiency or reduces associated risks.

The notion that only private banks are efficient is not correct. Many private banks failed around the world. Private corporate entities also have such large volumes of NPAs.

Moreover, Bank nationalization helped in a revolution of India’s banking sector.

How the nationalisation of banks helped in a revolution for india’s banking sector?

The nationalization of 14 private banks in 1969, followed by six more in 1980, transformed the banking sector. It created jobs, extended credit to the agriculture sector, and benefitted the poor.

  1. Firstly, nationalization of banks helped in promoting more equitable regional growth, which is quite evident from RBI data. In 1969, rural areas had only 1,833 bank branches. It increased to 33,004 by 1995 and continued to grow further in the next decades. 
  2. Secondly, this resulted in reduced dependence on moneylenders in rural regions. Nationalized banking also improved the working conditions of employees in the banking sector. This happened because the state ensured higher wages, the security of services, and other fringe benefits.
  3. Thirdly, the Public Sector Banks played a huge role in making the country self-sufficient by supporting the green, blue, and dairy revolutions. They have also contributed considerably to infrastructural development.
  4. Fourthly, public sector banks in India are presently earning significant operating profits. The profits were ₹1,74,390 crore in 2019-20 and ₹1,49,603 crore in 2018-19.

What should be done instead of privatising the public sector banks?

PSBs handled by the private sector could result in denial of convenient and economical banking services to the common man. The risks of monopoly will only complicate the issue.

  1. Firstly, giving such a huge network of assets to private enterprises or corporates may turn out to be an irrational move. The government should strengthen the PSBs instead.
  2. Secondly, it would be unfair to blame Public Sector Banks alone for the alarming rise of NPAs. Strict actions are required to recover large corporate stressed assets, which is a key concern for the entire banking sector.
  3. Thirdly, the actions must include strong recovery laws and taking criminal action against wilful defaulters. The government has not shown a firm willingness to implement these measures till now. 
  4. Fourthly, there is an urgent and vital need to bring in a suitable statutory framework to consider wilful defaults on bank loans a criminal offense. 
  5. Lastly, a system to examine top executives of Public Sector Banks across the country will also help in improving accountability. But privatization of PSBs is not the ultimate remedy for the problems of the banking sector in India.

The conclusion 

Defaults by large corporate borrowers, imposed through the impractical Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, have resulted in a pile of write-offs, putting a big dent on the balance sheets of PSBs. This has not only affected the profitability of the banks but has also become an excuse to declare inefficiency.


Flaws in New AICTE rules

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Synopsis: The new AICTE rules allow non-Physics and Non-Maths students to pursue engineering. It will impact students’ prospects in education.

Background

  • Recently, All India council for technical education (AICTE) brought changes to the entry-level qualification for undergraduate engineering programmes.
  • According to the new changes, students who haven’t studied either physics or mathematics (or both) in Classes 11 and 12, will be eligible for admission in undergraduate engineering programs.
  • Earlier, an engineering aspirant was required to pass high school with physics and mathematics as compulsory subjects.
  • Under the new norms, a candidate is expected to have scored at least 45% in any three subjects out of a list of 14 subjects. It gives choice for students to pursue engineering without opting Physics, mathematics from the listed 14 subjects.

AICTE’s rationale behind the move

  • AICTE stated that the new changes are in line with the new National Education Policy’s multidisciplinary approach.
  • Further, they have decided to supplement the student’s lack of knowledge in Physics and maths through a bridge course.
  • This new decision by AICTE attracted criticism from Niti Aayog member and Scientific Advisor Scientist V K Saraswat.

What are the issues with the new AICTE rules?

  • First, according to V K Saraswat, developing strong basics in mathematics and physics is easier during the school period. Most of the Engineering subjects require depth knowledge in physics and maths. It will be difficult for non -background students to develop these logics in a short period.
  • Second, offering bridge courses to cope with Maths and physics concepts will reduce the student’s ability to excel in graduation. For example, a non-background student needs at least 2 semesters to study physics and maths through a bridge course. It will be difficult for him to cope up with both graduation subject and bridge courses simultaneously.
  • Third, worldwide there has been a renewed focus on STEM subjects. Nowadays, every subject even MMBS doctors are using mathematics. In this scenario, neglecting sciences and maths at the school level will limit students’ opportunities.

Colleges need to complete bridge courses before starting formal classes so that students will be pre-equipped with knowledge of Science and maths.


Public trust is key to successful vaccination programmes

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis- Transparency and timely data sharing are needed to build public trust in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Introduction-

  • Major European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, halted the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is followed by the warnings of harmful blood clots in some recipients.
  • However, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency have ruled out any correlation between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and blood clots.

Data on Blood Clot:

According to a study based on the U.S. population, about 1,000 to 2,000 blood clots occurs every single day in the human body.

In the recent AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine case, there are only 40 blood clot cases reported due to that.

But the people are reluctant to get vaccinated due to these type of events. Further, this type of events would have a negative effect on the vaccination push.

What are the reasons behind impediments to vaccination programmes?

  1. No proper vaccine efficacy data available – There are uncertainty and suspicion about the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • The risks associated with COVID-19 vaccines has not been fully investigated as these vaccines were issued under Emergency Use Authorizations.
    • The National Committee on Adverse Events Following Immunization has no proper details about the serious adverse events following immunization.
  2. Transparency and prompt data sharing: The lack of transparency and data sharing in vaccination programmes. This could lead to a lack of trust in the vaccine.

Suggestions to improve vaccination programmes

  • Transparency, timely data sharing about the vaccine and open public health communication will win public trust and faith in vaccines.
  • Like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, India also has to create data on adverse vaccine effects.
  • Vaccine hesitancy is the main obstruction in the smooth vaccination drive, and it has to be resolved.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 19, 2021

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