• Current Affairs, 14 April 2020

    ACCESSING JUSTICE ONLINE

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN POLITY | TOPIC: JUDICIARY IN INDIA: ITS STRUCTURE, ORGANIZATION & FUNCTIONING, JUDGES OF SC & HIGH COURTS, JUDGMENTS AND RELATED ISSUES

    • With Indian courts too under a lockdown for three weeks (and probably more), citizens have severely restricted access to justice for this period. However, the deeper malaise is the complete inability of the conventional court system to deliver timely justice. This shakes the very foundation of the polity on which we rest our constitutional promises. Collectively, the conventional court system appears to have heaved a frustrated sigh and dropped the challenge instead of picking up the gauntlet.
    • Technology, however, now provides us an opportunity to meet the challenge headlong. The Kerala High Court did exactly that on March 30, 2020. It created history by not only conducting proceedings through video conferencing but also live streaming the proceedings. The judges conducted the hearing from their homes. Nearly 30 urgent matters were taken up for hearing, including bail applications and writ petitions, and were disposed of. The advocates concerned and law officers also participated in the proceedings from their respective offices. This is truly epochal. This example must be institutionalised and eternalised.
    • To achieve this, the government must establish an effective task force consisting of judges, technologists, court administrators, skill developers and system analysts to draw up a blueprint for institutionalising online access to justice. Such a task force must be charged with the responsibility of establishing hardware, software and IT systems for courts; examining application of artificial intelligence benefiting from the data base generated through e-courts projects; establishing appropriate e-filing systems and procedures; and creating skill training and recognition for paralegals to understand and to help advocates and others to access the system to file their cases and add to their pleadings and documents as the case moves along. Once the blueprint is ready, the High Courts across the country may refer the same to the Rule Committee of the High Court to frame appropriate rules to operationalise the e-court system.
    • The facility must not only enable access to courts but must provide access to justice through other processes as well. Let us take an example. The government, both at the Centre and the States, has innumerable poverty alleviation and distress eradication schemes. If all these schemes were properly implemented, there would be very little poverty or distress in India. So, why does this not happen? There is scant awareness among st the beneficiaries about these programmes. What is the scheme about? How does one apply? Where does one procure the application forms? What is the next step? Within what time is the authority expected to respond? What is one to do if he or she does not? The answers to these questions remain a mystery to the beneficiaries. They invariably come up against a wall which they are unable to surmount. Now, if all this information is provided comprehensively at the grassroots levels and made available online in as many Indian languages as possible, it could be a huge step in creating awareness. Once this happens, it follows that more and more applications will be generated.
    • So, what does all this have to do with accessing justice? While these schemes look rosy on paper, without implementation and accountability there is no justice to the aggrieved citizens. It is in addressing this problem that the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 and the officers functioning under them all over the country can play a huge role. If there is difficulty in accessing these schemes, a system must be set in place for the applicant to lodge online complaints with the Legal Services Authorities who can then ensure accountability and effective implementation. The local panchayat, municipal or corporation office, or any well-intentioned NGO can assist the complainant to make these online complaints to the Legal Services Authority if the complainant is unable to do so directly. The officers under the Legal Services Authorities Act may then be authorised to hear the complaints online and to direct delivery of redress to the aggrieved complainant in accordance with the law in a time-bound manner.
    • This is just one of the myriad ways in which access to justice can be enhanced exponentially while simultaneously reducing the burden on conventional courts. The other facilities that would help access to justice are online mediation, arbitration, counselling in family court matters, quick settlement of disputed insurance claims, and many more. India is a land where skilled human resource is rarely lacking. If we can pick up the will power to do all of the above, justice will become an accessible concept to everyone.
    • L. Rajah is Senior Advocate, Madras High Court

     

    RE-IMAGINING OUR ECONOMIC CHOICES

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT – DEMOGRAPHIC ECONOMICS & VARIOUS INDEXES

    • Colourful silhouettes of people wearing protective face masks against infection
    • The COVID-19 pandemic will reshape all our economic choices. Nations have made a crucial choice in recent weeks, choosing human life over economic growth.Governments including ours have mandated lockdowns to slow the pandemic, relieve the pressure on their hospitals and save lives. On the one hand, there will be massive economic costs. Fitch Ratings have halved their 2020 growth forecast. The volatility is unprecedented. A Forbes assessment started with the pithy disclaimer “Last week’s economic forecast is out of date.” On the other hand, updates land in our phones on a minute-by-minute basis, invoking both our empathy and our fear. Our choice is obvious — human life over economic growth. To choose otherwise would be inhuman. Surely, we have always made the same choice? Hardly.
    • Viral economies: On coronavirus impact
    • For decades, we have chosen profits and growth over human lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.2 million lives are lost annually due to air pollution. These deaths occur in dispersed locations, through varying illnesses and outside our frenzied social media feeds. Therefore, the choice is not as clear to us. It is a choice between 4.2 million lives and the marginal returns from industries choosing polluting vs. non-polluting technologies. This is not a Luddite call to replace our cars with carriages. Cleaner technologies are available, and not only for Prius owners. For instance, through our IFAD programs, low-cost technologies are being developed even for smallholder farmers.
    • Surely, we are finally saving all lives now? The recommendations are clear. Practice social distancing? This is hardly viable for the 2% of the global population who are homeless or the 20% who lack adequate housing. Social distancing will also take a disproportionate economic toll on the informal sector, employing up to 60% of the working population globally and 90% in India. The cure could trigger deep poverty and a food security crisis, actually endangering more lives. In this context, the first ₹1.7 lakh crore relief package was encouraging in its focus on ensuring food security and cash transfers for the vulnerable.
    • Wash your hands? What about the 35% who lack access to sanitation? According to UNICEF, even prior to COVID-19, diseases directly linked to lack of safe water killed 1,400 children under five every day, globally over half a million a year. There has been a renewed focus on sanitation in recent years. More is needed, but long-term measures might expand the fiscal deficit.

     

    RADHAN MANTRI GARIB KALYAN PACKAGE: PROGRESS SO FAR

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATED TO POVERTY, INCLUSION, EMPLOYMENT & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT MINISTRY OF FINANCE

    PRADHAN MANTRI GARIB KALYAN PACKAGE : PROGRESS SO FAR

    • More than 32crore poor people received financial assistance of Rs29,352crore under the Pradhan MantriGaribKalyan Package
    • 29 Crore beneficiaries distributed free ration of food grains under Pradhan MantriGaribKalyan  Ann Yojana
    • 8 Lakh free Ujjwala cylinders delivered
    • 1 Lakh members of EPFO taken benefit of online withdrawal of non-refundable advance from EPFO account amounting toRs 510crore
    • First instalment of PM-KISAN :Rs14,946crore transferred to 7.47crore farmers
    • Rs 9930 crore disbursed to 19.86 crore to Women Jan Dhan account holders
    • Rs 1400 crore disbursed to about 2.82 crore old age persons, widows and disabled persons
    • 17crore Building & Construction workers received financial support amounting to Rs 3071crore.

     

    In order to ensure that weaker sections of the society continue to get the basis amenities and do not get impacted during the lock down period due to COVID 19, Rs1.70 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) was announced by Union Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman on 26th March 2020 to protect such people from the impact of the lockdown.

    As part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package, the Government announced free food grains and cash payment to women and poor senior citizens and farmers. The swift implementation of the package is being continuously monitored by Central and State governments. Finance Ministry, the concerned Ministries, Cabinet Secretariat and PMO are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the relief measures reach the needy swiftly and in line with the intent of the lock down.

    Fintech and digital technology have been employed for swift and efficient transfer to the beneficiary. Direct benefit transfer, i.e. transfer that ensures that the amount is directly credited into the account of the beneficiary, eliminates leakage and improves efficiency has been employed. This has also ensured credit to the beneficiary’s account without the need for the beneficiary to physically go to the branch.

     

    As on 13th April, 2020, 32.32crore beneficiaries have been directly given cash support through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)amounting to Rs29,352crore under the package.

    Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana:

    So far 20.11 Lakh MT of food grains have been lifted by 31 States/UTs out of 40 Lakh MT for April. 2.65 lakh MT has been distributed by 16 States/UT to 5.29Crore beneficiaries covered by 1.19 Crore Ration cards as April 2020 entitlement.3985 MT of Pulses have also been dispatched to various states/UTs.

    Free Gas Cylinders to Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries: –

    Total 1.39 Cr cylinders have been booked under this PMUY scheme so far and 97.8 Lakh PMUY free cylinders already delivered to beneficiaries.

    Non-refundable advance of 75% of outstanding balance or 3 months’ wages, whichever is lower allowed to the members EPFO:-

    2.1 lakh members of EPFOhave availed online withdrawal of Rs. 510 croresso far.

    EPF contribution for 3 Months-Payment of 24 % of Wages as contribution to EPFO members drawing wages below Rs 15000 per months in establishment up to 100 workers.

    An amount of Rs.1000 crorehas already been released to EPFOfor the Scheme for the month of April, 2020.78.74 lakh beneficiaries and concerned establishments have been informed. A scheme to implement the announcement finalized. FAQ put on the website.

    MNREGA: –

    Increased rate has been notified w.e.f 01-04-2020.In the current financial year, 19.56 lakh person’s man-days of work generated. Further, Rs 7100 crore released to states to liquidate pending dues of both wage and material.

    Insurance Scheme for health workers in Government Hospitals and Health Care Centres:

    The Scheme has been operationalised by New India Assurance covering 22.12 Lakh health workers.

    Support to Farmers:

    Of the total disbursement, Rs 14,946crore has gone towards payment of the first instalment of PM-KISAN. Under the scheme, nearly 7.47crore out of the 8 crore identified beneficiaries got ₹2,000 directly in their account.

    Support to PMJDY Women account holders:

    As large number of household in India are largely managed by the women, under the package, as many as 19.86 crore women Jan Dhan account holders received ₹500 each in their account. As on 13th April,2020, the total disbursement under the head was ₹9,930 crores.

    Support to old age persons, widows and disabled persons

    The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) disbursed about ₹1,400 crores to about 2.82 crore old age persons, widows and disabled persons. Each beneficiary received an ex-gratia cash of Rs 500 under the scheme as the first instalment. Another instalment of Rs 500 each will be paid during next month.

    Support to Building & other Construction workers:

    As many as 2.17croreBuilding &construction workers received financial support from the Building and Construction Workers’ Fund managed by state governments. Under this Rs 3,071crore were given to beneficiaries.

     

    Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package

    Total Direct Benefit Transfer till 13/04/2020

     

    Scheme Number of Beneficiaries Amount
    Support to PMJDY women account holders 19.86 Cr(97%)   9930 Cr
    Support to NSAP (Aged widows, Divyang, Senior citizen) 2.82 Cr (100%)   1405 Cr
    Front-loaded payments to farmers under PM-KISAN 7.47 Cr (out of 8 Cr) 14,946 Cr
    Support to Building & Other Construction workers 2.17 Cr    3071 Cr
    TOTAL 32.32 Cr 29,352 Cr

     

    Floor Test is Governor’s Discretion: SC

    Relevant for: – Indian Polity /Topics :- Role of Governor, State Legislature, Judiciary

    Recently, the Supreme Court of India has held that a Governor can call for a floor test any time he/she objectively feels a government in power has lost the confidence of the House and is on shaky ground.

    • The S.C. held that a Governor can call for a trust vote (confidence motion)if he/she has arrived at a prima facie opinion, based on objective material, that the incumbent State government has lost its majority in the Assembly.
    • However, while directing a trust vote,the Governor should not favour a particular political party.
    • Timing of a trust vote may tilt the balance towards the party possessing a majority at the time the trust vote is directed.
    • Governor’s power to call for a floor test is not restricted only before the inception of a State governmentimmediately after elections, but continues throughout its term.
    • The SC has clarified that the Governor’s power of trust vote does not hamper any disqualification proceedings pending before the Speaker.
    • Governor need not wait for the Speaker’s decisionon the resignation of rebel Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) before calling for a trust vote.

    Trust Vote

    • confidence motionor a vote of confidence or a trust vote, is sought by the government in power on the floor of the House.
    • It enables the elected representatives to determineif the Council of Ministers commanded the confidence of the House.
    • The idea underlying the trust vote is touphold the political accountability of the elected government to the State legislature.

    No-confidence motion:

    • no-confidence motion,or vote of no-confidence, or a no-trust vote, can be sought by any House member to express that they no longer have confidence in the government.

    Floor Test

    • It is a term used for the test of the majority.If there are doubts against the Chief Minister (CM) of a State, he/she can be asked to prove the majority in the House.
    • In case of a coalition government,the CM may be asked to move a vote of confidence and win a majority.
    • In theabsence of a clear majority, when there is more than one individual staking claim to form the government, the Governor may call for a special session to see who has the majority to form the government.
    • Some legislators may be absent or choose not to vote. The numbers are then considered based only on those MLAs who were present to vote.

    Constitutional Provisions Related to Governor

    • Article 163: It talks about the discretionary power of the governor.
    • Article 256: The executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.
    • Article 257: The executive power of the Union shall also extend to the giving of directions to a State as to the construction and maintenance of means of communication declared in the direction to be of national or military importance:
    • Article 355: It entrusts the duty upon the Union to protect the states against “external aggression” and “internal disturbance” to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
    • Article 356: In the event that a state government is unable to function according to constitutional provisions, the Central government can take direct control of the state machinery. The state’s governor issues the proclamation, after obtaining the consent of the President of India.
    • Article 357: It deals with Exercise of legislative powers under Proclamation issued under Article 356 by the central government.

    RELEASE PRISONERS DUE TO COVID-19

    RELEVANT FOR: -SOCIAL JUSTICE / TOPICS: – JUDICIARY, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS

    Recently, the Supreme Court passed orders in a suo motu hearing on measures taken to decongest prisons, correction homes and detention centres due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

    • Earlier, the Bench had ordered the States and the Union Territories to set up special committees to examine the cases of prisoners and shortlist those who could be granted bail or parole.
    • The SC ordered not to release prisoners on interim bail or parole who test positive for Covid-19.
    • The court ordered to release prisoners or detunes who have been under detention for two years in the foreigners’ detention centres in Assam on account of the Coronavirus pandemic.
    • The court modified its May 2019 order to allow these detenus to furnish a bond of Rs. 5,000 instead of Rs. 1 lakh. The Court also asked them to furnish two Indian citizens as sureties.
    • The central government objected to their release on the grounds that they will mix with the local population again
    • The Court ordered that appropriate tests for Covid-19should be conducted on prisoners scheduled for release.
    • In case a prisoner who has been released is suffering from coronavirus after the release, he/she shall be put in an appropriate quarantine facilityby the concerned authorities.
    • The court directed that transportation of prisoners would be done in full compliance of the rules and norms ofsocial distancing.

    SUPREME COURT ON FREE TESTING OF COVID-19

    RELATED FOR: – SOCIAL JUSTICE / TOPICS :-  HEALTH, POVERTY, GOVERNMENT POLICIES &  INTERVENTIONS

    • The Supreme Court modified its April 8, 2020 order to clarify on free testing for Covid-19.
    • Private labs would continue tocharge the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) rates of up to ₹4,500 for tests from people who can afford to pay.
    • Free testing for Covid-19shall continue to be made available to the poor eligible under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
    • Free testing would also be made available to any other category of economically weaker sections of society as notified by the government from time to time.
    • The Supreme Court directed the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to identify beneficiaries among the weaker sections of society.
    • This includes workers belonging to low income groups in the informal sectors and beneficiaries of Direct Benefit Transfer who can be made eligible for free testing.
    • It also directed the Ministry to issue appropriate guidelinesin this regard within a week.

    Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya

    • PM-JAY offers a sum insured of Rs.5 lakh per family for secondary care (which doesn’t involve a super specialist) as well as tertiary care (which involves a super specialist).
    • It is an entitlement-based scheme that targets the beneficiaries as identified by latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
    • Once identified by the database, the beneficiary is considered insured and can walk into any empanelled hospital.
    • The insurance cost is shared by the centre and the state mostly in the ratio of 60:40.
    • Packaged rates (Rates that include everything so that each product or service is not charged for separately):
    • They also mention the number of average days of hospitalization for a medical procedure and supporting documents that are needed.
    • They are flexible, but they can’t charge the beneficiary once fixed by the hospitals.
    • The scheme also has prescribed a daily limit for medical management.
    • The National Health Agency has been constituted as an autonomous entity under the Society Registration Act, 1860 for effective implementation of PM-JAY in alliance with state governments.
    • The State Health Agency (SHA) is the apex body of the State Government responsible for the implementation of AB PM-JAY in the State.

    SCIENCE OF COVID-19 SPREAD

    RELATED FOR: – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :- HEALTH , SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS &  DISCOVERIES

    The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has already left a large footprint and is still spreading itself. Fighting this pandemic needs an understanding of how it works and spreads and preventive measures to stop it.

    Basic Reproductive Ratio (R0)

    • It tells the average number of people who will catch the disease from one contagious person.
    • It is pronounced as R-nought.
    • Thelarger this number, the more contagious is the disease caused by the virus and the faster it will spread in the community.
    • R-nought can beviewed as the product of three numbers:
    • The number of days an infected person remains infectious (that is, can infect others).
    • The number of susceptible persons available to infect.
    • The chance that a susceptible person gets infected.
    • Theeasiest way to keep R-nought low is by observing social-distancing.
    • However,maintaining distance from those who show symptoms of infection is not sufficient.
    • It is suggested to keep distance fromevery other person as many apparently normal persons may actually be infected without showing symptoms of infection.
    • Therefore, just as R-nought influences the spread of Covid-19human behaviour also influences R-nought.

    How R-naught works?

    • A person infected with SARS-CoV-2 can remain infective for 10-14 days.
    • During the initial phases of spread, there is a large number of uninfected persons to infect.
    • For SARS-CoV-2, R-nought has been estimated to be between 2 and For example:
    • Assuming R-nought to be 2 and the infective period to be 10 days, the first person will infect two others, each of whom will infect two others (22), each of these four persons will infect two others (23) and so on. In 10 days, one infected person will have infected 2,046 persons.
    • Asherd immunity increases in the community, many infected persons stop infecting others. Then, R-nought becomes less than one, on average.
    • Consequently, there are few new cases arisingand existing cases either recover or die, slowing down the disease spread.

    Herd Immunity

    • It happens when so many people in a community become immune to an infectious disease that it stops the disease from spreading.
    • A person who is infected or has recovered cannot be infected again.At least, not in the next several months or even years.
    • An infection activates the immune system which learns to recognize the virus and remembers it. The next time the virus tries to infect a person, her/his immune defenses are able to recognise and protect against further infection.
    • Therefore, with the spread of the infection, there is less and less number of uninfected persons to infect. An increasing number of persons in the community gains immunity from having been infected earlier.
    • However, if there was a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2,it would have helped achieve herd immunity without a large number of persons being infected.
    • A vaccine stimulates the effect of an infection and builds immune resistance to the virus.
    • India has eradicated polioby using vaccines against it.

    Series Interval

    • During an outbreak, people in the community get symptomatically infected one after another. Thelength of time between appearance of two successive persons with symptoms of infection is called the Series Interval.
    • This intervalinforms about the spreadability of the virus.
    • The shorter this interval, the greater the speed of spread through the community.
    • ForSARS-CoV-2, the Series Interval is between 5 and 7 days.
    • For normal influenza, this interval is 1.3 days.
    • However, Covid-19 is spreading through the community slowly and herd immunity will therefore arise slowly which implies a longer duration of the pandemic.

    Herd Community Threshold and Lockdown

    • The proportion of individuals in the country who are immune to the disease is called the herd immunity threshold.
    • It is calculated as 1-(1/R0).
    • For SARS-CoV-2, R0 is 2 or 3.
    • An R0 of 2 would mean a herd immunity threshold of 1-(1/2) or 50%.
    • An R0 of 3 would mean a herd immunity threshold of 1-(1/3) or 67%.
    • Lockdown can be safely lifted if about two-thirds of the population attains immunity to the virus. Then the chances of an infected person finding another person to infect are sufficiently low and the virus stops spreading.
    • However, estimating the number of those who have gained immunity is a tough task.It can be done by testing the citizens randomly and in large numbers through surveillance testing in communities.

    Preventive Measures

    • Contract tracing reduces the likelihood of the infection thereby reducing R-naught in the region.

    Contact tracing:

    • It is the identification and listing of persons in close contact with an infected person, testing to identify infected persons among contacts and isolating them or, if testing of all contacts is infeasible, isolating all contacts and following them up for signs of infection.
    • Identification of most affected geographical regions and extending lockdowns there, intensifying surveillance-testing, more strict monitoring of cases and isolation of infected people is required.
    • There will be an overall reduction of infection in the country if the spread of the infection from these high-intensity regions can be arrested.
    • All large gatherings, including religious and political gatherings, must continue to be banned.
    • Government needs to provide food and basic amenities to the people whose life has come to a halt due to the lockdown.
    • The lockdown needs to be to soften and daily wage earners should be allowed to work.
    • policy should be framed on allowing a minority of citizens to work.However, it should only be done if social distancing is maintained and the net of symptom-monitoring and community-testing is casted more widely.
    • Surveillance-testing and deep monitoring should continue at all levels throughout the country to identify new pockets of high-intensity.

    RETAIL INFLATION DROPPED

    RELATED FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPIC: – GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT, MONETARY POLICY, FISCAL POLICY

    According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO), the retail inflation in March 2020 dropped to 5.91% due to decrease in demand and lowered food prices.

    • Retail inflation (or CPI-based inflation) decreased to 5.91%in March 2020 from 6.58% in February 2020.
    • The retail inflation rate was based on 66% of the usual price quotations as the nationwide lockdown to counter Covid-19 pandemic had led to suspension of fieldwork for price collection after March 19,2020.
    • Theinflation rate in March 2020 remained within the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) medium-term target of 4±2% for Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation.
    • This was due to suppressed demand, especially for non-essential items, as the lockdown was imposed towards the end of March,2020.
    • This inflation range (4% within a band of +/- 2%) was recommended by the committee headed by Urjit Patel in 2014.
    • Fuel and Light segment:The inflation rose to 6.59% from 6.36% in February 2020.
    • Food inflation moderated to 8.76%from 10.81% in March 2020.
    • The food price inflation of various items like vegetables, spices, pulses continue to be in double digits.
    • Pressure is expected due to the shortages witnessed in different centres with mandi arrivals being affected due to lockdown.
    • According to economists, inflation is expected to be brought down by low energy prices and subdued economic activity.However, the food price inflation of 8.7% will tend to increase.
    • It is expected that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) undertakes further repo rate cuts, though inflation may not remain the primary deciding factor in view of the other economic impact due to Covid-19.
    • Repo Rate is the rate at which the RBI lends money to commercial banks in the event of any shortfall of funds.
    • When RBI increases the repo rate, this acts as a disincentive for banks to borrow from the central bank. This ultimately reduces the money supply in the economy and thus helps in arresting inflation.
    • The RBI reduces the repo rate in the event of a fall in inflationary pressures. Ideally, a low repo rate should translate into low-cost loans for general masses.

    Inflation

    • Inflation refers to the rise in the prices of most goods and services of daily or common use, such as food, clothing, housing, recreation, transport, consumer staples, etc.
    • Inflation measures the average price change in a basket of commodities and services over time.
    • Inflation is indicative of the decrease in the purchasing power of a unit of a country’s currency. This could ultimately lead to a deceleration in economic growth.
    • However, a moderate level of inflation is required in the economy to ensure that production is promoted.
    • In India, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation measures inflation.
    • In India, inflation is primarily measured by two main indices — WPI (Wholesale Price Index) and CPI (Consumer Price Index) which measure wholesale and retail-level price changes, respectively.
    • The CPI calculates the difference in the price of commodities and services such as food, medical care, education, electronics etc, which Indian consumers buy for use.
    • The CPI has five sub-groups including food and beverages, fuel and light, housing and clothing, bedding and footwear.

    The National Statistical Office

    • NSO is the central statistical agency of the Government mandated under the Statistical Services Act 1980 under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
    • It is responsible for the development of arrangements for providing statistical information services to meet the needs of the Government and other users for information on which to base policy, planning, monitoring and management decisions.
    • The services include collecting, compiling and disseminating official statistical information.
    • All business operations in NSO are done in compliance with international standards, procedures and best practices.

    PETITION DEMANDING WAGES FOR MGNREGA WORKERS

    RELATED FOR:- INDIAN POLITY/ TOPICS :- WELFARE SCHEMES, ISSUES RELATING TO POVERTY & HUNGER, PRESSURE GROUPS

    • A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitionhas been filed in the Supreme Court demanding that the government pay full wages to all active job card holders of MGNREGA during lockdown.
    • According to data, employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)declined to just over 1% of the usual rate in April, 2020 due to the Covid-19

    Points

    • Less than 1.9 lakh familieshave been provided work under the scheme in April 2020, in comparison to almost 1.6 crore households which were provided work in March,2020 and the 1.8 crore households employed under the scheme in February, 2020 before the lockdown began.
    • Chhattisgarh was the highest employment generatorunder the scheme in April, providing work to more than 70,000 families. It was followed by Andhra Pradesh with more than 53,000 households given work.

    Concerns

    • The decline in employment rates under the scheme is despite the fact that migrant workers returning to villages should have increased demand in rural areas.
    • No exceptions from restrictions were provided for the MGNREGA under the lockdown.
    • This was despite States being asked to continue implementing the scheme while following social distancing guidelines.
    • The Ministry of Finance had said MGNREGA daily wages would be increased by ₹20, and would support the 13.6 crore families who hold job cards.
    • This relief is meaningless when most States have closed down MGNREGA worksites to curb the spread of Covid-19.

    Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005

    • The Act aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members (at least 18 years of age) volunteer to do unskilled work.
    • The central government bears the full cost of unskilled labour, and 75% of the cost of material (the rest is borne by the states).
    • It is a demand-driven, social security and labour law that aims to enforce the ‘right to work’.
    • The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Government of India in association with state governments, monitors the implementation of the scheme.
    • Agriculture and allied activities constitute more than 65% of the works taken up under the programme.
    • Social inclusion, gender parity, social security and equitable growth are the founding pillars of MGNREGA.
    • Overall, 7.6 crore families hold active job cards under the scheme, and almost 5.5 crore families found work under the scheme in 2019.

    INTEROPERABLE SET TOP BOXES: TRAI

    REALTED FOR:- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY TOPICS:- INFRASTRUCTURE, TECHNOLOGY, MISSIONS

    • Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that all Set Top Boxes (STBs) in the country must be made interoperable.
    • It means that consumers should be able to use the same STB across different DTH (direct-to-home) or cable TV providers.

    Points

    • STBsdeployed in the cable TV networks are non-interoperable. STBs in the DTH players comply with licence conditions to support common interface module based interoperability. So, in practice, they are also not readily interoperable.
    • Issuesdue to the lack of interoperability:
    • It deprives the customer of the freedom to change her/his service provider.
    • Creates a hindrance to technological innovation and improvement in service quality.
    • Hampers the overall sector growth.
    • Universal STB has technical and commercial constraints so the interoperability should be platform-specific.
    • Interoperable STBs within the cable TV segment and similarly within the DTH segment should be developed.
    • The Ministry of Information and Broadcastinghas been suggested to make the required amendments in licensing and registration conditions to make interoperability mandatory.
    • It has also been recommended to set up acoordination committee to steer implementation of revised STB standards for both the DTH and the cable TV segments.
    • The committee may maintain continuous oversight for setting up of the digital TV standardsby Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

    Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

    • It was established by an Act of Parliament (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997) to regulate telecom services, including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services.
    • It provides a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition.
    • The TRAI Act was amended to establish a Telecommunications Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
    • TDSAT was set up to adjudicate any dispute between a licensor and a licensee, between two or more service providers, between a service provider and a group of consumers, and to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction, decision or order of TRAI.

    DR B. R. AMBEDKAR’S 129TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY

    RELATED FOR:- INDIAN HISTORY/TOPICS:- IMPORTANT PERSONALITIES

    Dr. B R Ambedkar’s Birth Anniversary is observed every year on 14th April.

    Points

    • B.R. Ambedkar was born in 1891 in Mhow, Central Province (now Madhya Pradesh).
    • He is known as the Father of the Indian Constitution and was India’s first Law Minister.
    • He was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee for the new Constitution.
    • Ambedkar was a social reformer, jurist, economist, author, polyglot (knowing or using several languages) orator, a scholar and thinker of comparative religions.
    • He led the Mahad Satyagraha in March 1927 against Hindus who were opposing the decision of the Municipal Board.
    • In 1926, Municipal Board of Mahad (Maharashtra) passed an order to throw open the tank to all communities. Earlier, the untouchables were not allowed to use water from the Mahad tank.
    • He participated in all three Round Table Conferences.
    • In 1932 Dr. Ambedkar signed the Poona pact with Mahatma Gandhi, which abandoned the idea of separate electorates for the depressed classes (Communal Award).
    • However, the seats reserved for the depressed classes were increased from 71 to 147 in provincial legislatures and to 18% of the total in the Central Legislature.
    • His ideas before the Hilton Young Commission served as the foundation of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
    • In 1936, he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly as a legislator (MLA).
    • He was appointed to the Executive Council of Viceroy as a Labour member in 1942.
    • In 1947, Dr. Ambedkar accepted PM Nehru’s invitation to become Minister of Law in the first Cabinet of independent India.
    • He resigned from the cabinet in 1951, over differences on the Hindu Code Bill.
    • He converted to Buddhism. He passed away on 6th December 1956. Chaitya Bhoomi is a memorial to B. R. Ambedkar, located in Mumbai.

    Contributions of Dr. Ambedkar

    Journals: Dr. Ambedkar launched various journals like:

    • Mooknayak (1920)
    • Bahishkrit Bharat (1927)
    • Samatha (1929)
    • Janata (1930)

    Books:

    • Annihilation of Caste
    • Buddha or Karl Marx
    • The Untouchable: Who are They and Why They Have Become Untouchables
    • Buddha and His Dhamma
    • The Rise and Fall of Hindu Women

    Organisations:

    • Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha (1923)
    • Independent Labor Party (1936)
    • Scheduled Castes Federation (1942)

    JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE

    RELATED FOR:- INDIAN HISTORY

    • The Prime Minister of India paid tributes to the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919.
    • 13th April, 2020 marks the 101 years of the incident.

    Points

    • Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also called Massacre of Amritsarwas an incident on April 13, 1919, in which British troops fired on a large crowd of unarmed Indians in an open space known as the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in Punjab.
    • The Jallianwala Bagh site in Amritsar is now a national monument.
    • It killed several hundred people and wounded many hundreds more. It marked a turning point in India’s modern history,in that it left a permanent scar on Indo-British relations and was the precursor to Mahatma Gandhi’s full commitment to the cause of Indian nationalism and independence from Britain.

    Events Before the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

    • During World War I (1914–18)the British government of India enacted a series of repressive emergency powers that were intended to combat subversive activities.
    • By the war’s end, expectations were high among the Indian populace that those measures would be eased and that India would be given more political autonomy. The Montagu-Chelmsford Report,presented to the British Parliament in 1918, did in fact recommend limited local self-government.
    • Further, the then government of India passed what became known as the Rowlatt Actsin early 1919, which essentially extended the repressive wartime measures. The acts were met by widespread anger and discontent among Indians, notably in the Punjab region. Gandhi in early April called for a one-day general strike (Rowlatt Satyagraha) throughout the country.
    • In Amritsar the news that prominent Indian leaders (Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew) had been arrestedand banished from that city sparked violent protests on April 10, in which soldiers fired upon civilians and angry mobs killed several foreign nationals.
    • A force of several dozen troops commanded by  Gen. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was given the task of restoring order.Among the measures taken was a ban on public gatherings.

    On the Date of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

    • On the afternoon April 13, a crowd of at least 10,000 men, women, and children gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh, which was nearly completely enclosed by walls and had only one exit.
    • It is not clear how many people there were protesters who were defying the ban on public meetings and how many had come to the city from the surrounding region to celebrate Baisakhi, a spring festival.
    • Dyer and his soldiers arrived and sealed off the exit. Without warning, the troops opened fire on the crowd, reportedly shooting hundreds of rounds until they ran out of ammunition.

    After the Incident

    • TheBengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore renounced the knighthood that he had received in 1915. Gandhi soon began organizing his first large-scale and sustained nonviolent protest (satyagraha) campaign, the Non Cooperation Movement (1920–22).
    • The then government of India ordered an investigation of the incident (the Hunter Commission), which in 1920 censured Dyer for his actions and ordered him to resign from the military.

    IMF CANCELS DEBT PAYMENTS

    RELATED FOR:- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

    Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $500 million grant to cancel six months of debt payments for 25 of the world’s most impoverished countries.

    Points

    • This will provide grants to the poorest and most vulnerable member countries of the IMF to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Many of these 25 countries have less than 50 critical care unit beds per country. They will be able to channel more of their scarce financial resources towards vital emergency medical and other relief efforts.
    • The money will come from the IMFs revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT)which will use recent pledges of 185 million from the United Kingdom and 100 million from Japan.
    • The IMF urged other donors to help replenish the trusts resources.
    • The IMF approved the immediate debt service relief for 19 African countries including Afghanistan, Haiti, Nepal, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan and Yemen.

    Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT)

    • The CCRT allows the IMF to provide grants for debt relief for the poorest and most vulnerable countries hit by catastrophic natural disasters orpublic health disasters.
    • The relief on debt service payments frees up additional resources to meet exceptional balance of payments needs created by the disaster and for containment and recovery.
    • It was established in February 2015 during the Ebola outbreak and modified in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    US APPROVES SALE OF MILITARY HARDWARE

    RELATED FOR: – INTERNAL SECURITY/TOPICS: –  VARIOUS SECURITY FORCES & AGENCIES & THEIR MANDATE

    • The US State Department has approved the sale of missiles and torpedoes worth $155 million to India.
    • The sale of 10 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II air launched missilesis estimated to cost USD 92 million.
    • The sale of 16 MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight Torpedoesand 3 MK 54 Exercise Torpedoes are estimated to cost $63 million.
    • Indian Government has requested the US for these military hardware.

    Points

    • India intends to utilize MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes on its P-8I aircraft.
    • The MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo would provide the capability to conduct anti-submarine warfare missions.
    • The Harpoon missile system would be integrated into the P-8I aircraft to conduct anti-surface warfare missionsin defense of critical sea lanes.
    • This will also enhance interoperability with the United States and other allied forces.

    Harpoon Block II Missile

    • It is capable of executing both land-strike and anti-ship missions.
    • To strike targets on land and ships in port, the missile uses GPS-aided inertial navigation to hit a designated target aimpoint.
    • It can be used against a wide variety of land-based targets,including coastal defense sites, surface-to-air missile sites, exposed aircraft, port/industrial facilities and ships in port.

    MK 54 Torpedoes

    • Torpedo is a cigar-shaped, self-propelled underwater missile, launched from a submarine, surface vessel, or airplane and designed for exploding upon contact with the hulls of surface vessels and submarines.
    • The MK 54 uses sophisticated processing algorithms to analyze the information, edit out false targets or countermeasures, and then pursue identified threats.

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