• Current Affairs, 25 April 2020



    • The Supreme Court is right in considering cent per cent reservation as anathemato the constitutional scheme of equality even if it is for the laudable objective of providing representation to historically deprived sections. The verdict quashing the reservation of 100% of all teaching posts in ‘Scheduled Areas’ of Andhra Pradesh for local Scheduled Tribes is not against affirmative programmes as such, but a caution against implementing them in a manner detrimental to the rest of society. A five-judge Constitution Bench found that earmarking teacher posts in areas notified under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution adversely affected the interests of other candidates not only from Scheduled Castes and other backward communities but also other ST communities not native to those areas. Of course, what the State government did, in its original orders of 1986, and thereafter, in a subsequent order in 2000, was not without its own rationale. It found that there was chronic absenteeism among teachers who did not belong to those remote areas where the schools were located. However, its solution of drafting only members of the local tribes was not a viable solution. As the Bench noted, it could have come up with other incentives to ensure the attendance of teachers. Another aspect that the court took into account was that Andhra Pradesh has a local area system of recruitment to public services. The President, under Article 371D, has issued orders that a resident of a district/zone cannot apply to another district/zone for appointment. Thus, the 100% quota deprived residents of the Scheduled Areas of any opportunity to apply for teaching posts.
    • Affirmative action loses its meaning if it does not leave the door slightly ajar for open competition. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar observed during the debate in the Constituent Assembly on the equality clause, that any reservation normally ought to be for a “minority of seats”. This is one of the points often urged in favour of the 50% cap imposed by the Court on total reservation, albeit with some allowance for relaxation in special circumstances. It is still a matter of debate whether the ceiling has innate sanctity, but it is clear that wherever it is imperative that the cap be breached, a special case must be made for it. Such a debate should not divert attention from the fact that there is a continuing need for a significant quota for STs, especially those living in areas under the Fifth Schedule special dispensation. In this backdrop, it is somewhat disappointing that courts tend to record obiter dicta advocating a revision of the list of SCs and STs. While the power to amend the lists notified by the President is not in dispute, it is somewhat uncharitable to say that the advanced and “affluent” sections within SCs and STs are cornering all benefits and do not permit any trickle-down. Indian society is still some distance from reaching that point.




    • Colombo: Sri Lankais set to enter into an agreement with the Reserve Bank of India for a currency swap worth USD 400 million to boost the foreign reserves and ensure the financial stability of the country which is badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, a top minister has said.
    • The Cabinet has approved a proposal made by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as the FinanceMinister to enter into an agreement with the RBI for the financing facility to meet short-term international liquidity requirements, Co-Cabinet spokesman Information and Communication Minister Bandula Gunawardena said.
    • Sri Lanka will enter into the agreement with the RBI for a Bilateral Currency Swap Arrangement worth USD 400 million, Gunawardena said, adding the facility from the RBI is aimed at boosting the island nation’s foreign reserves.
    • The swap arrangement is a decision two countries reach while doing trade related payment.
    • Sri Lanka has placed critical economic measures to save the resources hit badly by the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected 373 persons in the country and the death toll reached 7.
    • Addressing the Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Gunawardena said the Cabinet meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa paid special attention to the control of the coronavirus pandemic, its success and the distribution of goods and relief to the people.
    • The minister pointed out that the whole world is now experiencing the economic collapse since World War II resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak and a single country alone cannot find a solution to the crisis.
    • So the Cabinet of Ministers has approved this proposal in order to ensure the financial stability of the country, Gunawardena said.
    • The country has ordered imports restrictions to prevent non-essential imports. This is in view of the local rupee falling to its historical low against the US dollar. The rupee now hovers over 195 to the dollar gaining somewhat from being down to 200 mark.
    • The government has also announced talks with Asian Development Bankand China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. A USD 300 million budgetary support is anticipated from the ADB, officials said.
    • The announcement for getting the USD 400 million financial facility from India came as the rating agency, Fitch on Wednesday warned Sri Lanka to reform its soft-peg and block the ability of its domestic operations department to inject large volumes of cash below the ceiling policy rate to stop monetary instability.
    • Last month, during a video conference of Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with leaders and representatives from SAARCnations, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, “Our economy has taken a severe blow due to the coronavirus, particularly in tourism… Our exports are also adversely affected.”
    • Tourism is the third-largest earner of foreign exchange in Sri Lanka. The decline in tourist arrivals has hit the island nation’s tourism industry in a big way.
    • Largely owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bankrecently forecast Sri Lankan economy to contract by 3 per cent this year as against a 2.4 per cent estimated growth last year, whilst the IMF predicted the global economy to contract by 3 per cent as well.




    • Chinese attempts to displace American economic and strategic hegemony in the international system were not going to be without friction. This competition opened up the prospect of what Graham Allison described as the Thucydides Trap — the possibility of deepening tension as one great power seeks to replace another. This tension has now been immeasurably deepened. The Trump administration has been seeking to redefine the terms of the economic relationship with China. And the COVID-19crisis has turned the world public opinion against China in ways that were unimaginable a few months ago. China is being widely held responsible for a cover-up and a delay in the global response to the virus. Country after country is rethinking its economic relationship with China.
    • But when the dynamics of the Thucydides Trap were being analysed, few had imagined that this competition would break out when both the Chinese and the American political systems would be facing deep internal challenges. This opens up the possibility of overlaying what is known as the Tacitus Trap over the Thucydides Trap. The Chinese coined the term, “Tacitus Trap,” in homage to the great Roman historian, Tacitus. This trap describes a condition where a government has lost credibility to the point where it is deemed to be lying, even if it speaks the truth. President Xi Jinping himself used this term as a call to arms to the Chinese government to maintain its credibility. What tactics the Chinese government will adopt to achieve this end is an open question. But even the Chinese coiners of the term could not have imagined that the Tacitus Trap might not just be a challenge facing China. It could become the defining political condition of our time. Authoritarian governments would face a credibility crisis because of their propensity to control information. Many democratic governments face a different credibility crisis: Hyper-partisanship would simply make truth or lies a function of which side was saying it, making sober collective action difficult. The existence of a possible Tacitus Trap exacerbates the risks of the Thucydides Trap.
    • A great power competition is riskier when the political systems of the great powers display greater pathologies than strength. The Chinese and American political systems are by no means equivalent. But their weaknesses seem to be gaining the upper hand. In the US, healthy political competition has been replaced by hyper-partisanship: At the federal level, many of the checks and balances on executive power have been denuded; American federalism which was a shock absorber is now also a potential source of conflict; class conflict is at the deepest it has been for decades. With President Donald Trump there is looming uncertainty over just how much the institutional frame of American politics might get tested. But one surest sign of an internal pathology is when a power gives up the very ideas that gave it deep internal and external legitimacy. America made horrendous mistakes in the conduct of its international affairs. But it was able to absorb the moral costs of those mistakes because of the ideological allure of its model — grounded in openness. The American system has a capacity for renewal. But it will be a long haul.
    • The Chinese regime will face a deeper legitimacy crisis of its own. A legitimacy crisis does not mean a weakening hold on power. It can have the opposite effect — an aggressive and coercive hunkering down of elites. But the signs of a crisis are apparent: The increasing use of coercion, surveillance and repression and the even more insistent control of information orders. The Chinese government might get high marks for its lockdown strategy. But the stigma that it covered up the facts and inflicted needless damage on China and the world will gnaw at its political system. China’s relatively quiet confidence that it would gain global ascendancy in the world system has been replaced over the last few years by a bellicose diplomatic aggressiveness. This is not a sure-footed regime confident of its capabilities and growing external legitimacy.
    • This internal disarray in both superpowers heightens external risks. Domestic political compulsions to take a more aggressive external posture towards the world are heightened. There is little doubt now that the “China Question” will now be one central theme of the American election, and partly understandably so. But the China question will, in some senses, displace, the thornier questions over economic and social policies of both parties. It will be the trope through which internal contradictions are papered over. And in that context, the incentive of both parties will be to outbid each other in the hard line they propose.
    • China is in an even more difficult situation. There is no question that the world will increasingly call China to account for its actions during this crisis. The intention may not necessarily be to censure China. It can be driven by the desire to ensure that there are sufficient levels of transparency and international cooperation to both combat the virus, and to minimise the risks of such events being repeated. But the Chinese regime will not find it easy to accommodate the international community, without in some senses, risking opening up a domestic can of worms. Such openness and transparency would now be inconsistent with the principles by which the regime now secures its internal legitimacy. It will also be hard to do, without a serious loss of face, in the context of the China question now becoming the central axis of American politics. The autonomous dynamic of nationalism in one country can risk reinforcing it in the other.
    • The challenges of dealing with the pandemicor existing interdependencies may yet impose a degree of sobriety on both superpowers. But the demands on internal legitimation are increasingly pointing in a direction where both countries will not find it easy to dial back from ratcheting up tensions, in ways that might make delicate diplomacy more difficult.
    • We are at a transformative moment where almost all the rules of the international order are potentially up for renegotiation, from trade to cybersecurity, from the environment to pandemic risks. The massive economic shock of the COVID crisis is going to occasion deep restructuring of the domestic economies. But for these challenges to occur when the political systems of both superpowers are becoming exaggerated caricatures of themselves does not bode well. We might not just be in G-Zero world, with the two major powers abdicating their international responsibilities; we might be in G-minus-two world, where the internal credibility crises of the governments of the major powers work simultaneously to the detriment of the international system.




    • The government’s (both centre and state) fiscal deficitis expected to shoot up to around 15% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) when the permissible limit is only 6% according to Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM)
    • The possibility of direct monetisation to alleviate the stress is being explored.

    Important points

    Fiscal Deficit :

    • Fiscal deficit is thetotal amount of borrowings required to bridge the gap between government’s spending and revenues.
    • The borrowings can be from the internal sources (public, commercial banks, central bank etc.) or the external sources (foreign governments, international organisations etc.).
    • At this time, for the government to borrow the money, the market should have it as savings.
    • Data show that savings ofdomestic households have been faltering and are not enough to fund the government’s existing borrowing needs.
    • Foreign investors have been pulling outand moving to “safer” economies like the US, and are unwilling to lend in times of such uncertainty.

    Ideal limit for government debt :

    • According to economists developing economies like India should not have debt higher than 80%-90% of the GDP.At present, it is around 70% of GDP in India.
    • The government should commit to a predetermined amount ofadditional borrowing and to reversing the action once the crisis (Covid-19 outbreak) is over.

    Direct monetisation (borrowing from the RBI):

    • In direct monetisation, the government asks RBI to print new currency in return for new bondsthat the government gives to the RBI.
    • In lieu of printing new cash,which is a liability for the RBI (since, every currency note has the RBI Governor promising to pay the bearer the designated sum of rupees), it gets government bonds, which are an asset for the RBI since such bonds carry the government’s promise to pay back the designated sum at a specified date.
    • Now, the government would have the cash to spend and alleviate the stressin the economy via direct benefit transfers to the poor or starting construction of a hospital or providing wage subsidy to workers of small and medium enterprises etc.
    • This is different from the“indirect” monetisation that RBI does when it conducts the Open Market Operations (OMOs) and/ or purchases bonds in the secondary market.

    Direct Monetisation by other countries in the wake of Covid-19:

    • In the United Kingdom (UK) on April 9, 2020 the Bank of England extended direct monetisation facility to the UK government.

    Problems with direct monetisation of government deficit:

    High Inflation

    • Ideally, the direct monetisation provides an opportunity for the government to boost overall demand at the time when private demand has fallen.
    • Thus, it fuels inflation.A little increase in inflation is healthy as it encourages business activity.
    • However, higher inflation and higher government debtprovide grounds for macroeconomic instability.
    • Inefficient Spending:The governments are considered inefficient and corrupt in their spending choices— for example, whom to help and to what extent.
    • Crisis in the Past:Earlier, the direct monetisation led to the balance of payments crisis in 1991, and a near-crisis in 2013.
    • Until 1997, the RBI “automatically” monetised the government’s deficit.
    • In 1994, Manmohan Singh (then Finance Minister) and C Rangarajan, then RBI Governor, decided to end this facility by 1997.



    • Recently, cybercrime officials in India have been tracking certain apps and websites that produce nude photographs of innocent people using Artificial Intelligence(AI) algorithms.

    Important Points

    Deep Fake:

    • Deep fakes or deep nudes are computer-generated images and videos.Cybercriminals use AI softwares to superimpose a digital composite (assembling multiple media files to make a final one) onto an existing video, photo or audio.
    • Using AI algorithms, a person’s words, head movements and expressions are transferred onto another person in such a seamless way that it becomes difficult to tell that it is a deep fake, unless one closely observes the media file.
    • Deep fakes first came into notice in 2017when a Reddit user posted explicit videos of celebrities. After that several instances have been reported.


    • The technology becomesvulnerable because deep fake images, audio and videos are very realistic and can be used by cybercriminals to spread misinformation to intimidate or blackmail people, seek revenge or commit fraud on social networking and dating sites.
    • It has becomeone of the modern frauds of cyberspace, along with fake news, spam/phishing attacks, social engineering fraud, catfishing and academic fraud.
    • It can be used to create fake pornographic videosand to make politicians appear to say things they did not, so the potential for damage to individuals, organisations and societies is vast.
    • With the improvement in technology,deep fakes are also getting better.
    • Initially,an individual with advanced knowledge of machine learning and access to the victim’s publicly-available social media profile could only make deep fakes.
    • Development of apps and websites capableof such editing became more frequent and easily accessible to an average user.


    • In the US, the legality of deep fakes is An affected person may claim defamation but removing such content could be considered censorship.
    • Then, it will be a violation of the First Amendmentwhich guarantees Americans the freedom concerning religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition.
    • Also, 46 states in the US have revenge porn laws.
    • Revenge pornrefers to the creation of sexually explicit videos or images that are posted on the Internet without the consent of the subject as a way to harass them.
    • However, theRight to be Forgotten, allows a user to request companies such as Facebook and Google, that have collected his/her data to take it down.


    • Ensuring strict privacy settings on social media platformsbecause keeping track of who downloads and misuses a user’s pictures is impossible.
    • Using freely available reverse image search toolsto find images that are similar to users in case it is feared that someone is using the original user’s pictures.
    • Staying mindful of virtual interactionsand checking other user’s profiles to help determine if the person is genuine or not.



    • According to the data published by theNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), aerosol levels in northern India at the beginning of April were significantly below the normal for this time of year.
    • The levels were the lowest in 20 years of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) observations.
    • MODIS is a key instrument on NASA’s satellites designed to monitor the Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and land surface. Data provided by it assists policymakers in making sound decisions concerning the protection of the environment.


    • Aerosols are defined as a combination of liquid or solid particles suspended in a gaseous or liquid environment.
    • In the atmosphere, these particles are mainly situated in the low layers of the atmosphere (< 1.5 km) since aerosol sources are located on the terrestrial surface.
    • However, certain aerosols can still be found in the stratosphere, especially volcanic aerosols ejected into the high altitude layers.
    • The origin of atmospheric aerosols is either natural or the result of anthropogenic activities.
    • Natural sources of aerosols include sea salt generated from breaking waves, mineral dust blown from the surface by wind, and volcanoes.
    • Anthropogenic aerosols include sulfate, nitrate, and carbonaceous aerosols, and are mainly from fossil fuel combustion sources.

    Effects of aerosols:

    • They affect the atmospheric chemical composition.
    • They can reduce visibility.
    • They have important impacts on air quality and human health (e.g. aerosols can cause damage to heart and lungs).
    • They serve as nuclei for cloud droplets or ice crystals in ice clouds.

    Important points

    • Use of Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) :The data published with maps show Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) in 2020 compared to the average for 2016-2019. On the day of the lockdown on March 25, 2020, it was 0.3 over north India. The AOD fell to 0.2 around April 1 and was found to be 0.1 on April 5.
    • Aerosol optical depth is a measure ofhow light is absorbed or reflected by airborne particles as it travels through the atmosphere.
    • If aerosols are concentrated near the surface, an optical depth of 1 or aboveindicates very hazy conditions.
    • An optical depth, or thickness, of less than 0.1over the entire atmospheric vertical column is considered clean.
    • The findings are in line with the analysis of the government’s air monitoring service, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR),which also found significant reduction in PM10, PM2.5 and nitrogen oxides levels in major cities, including the national capital, after the lockdown was imposed.
    • Impact of lockdown
    • Every year, aerosols from anthropogenic (human-made) sources contribute to unhealthy levels of air pollutionin many Indian cities.
    • Human activities — driving vehicles, operating coal-fired power plants and factories, etc — produce nitrates and sulphates that contribute to heavy concentration of aerosolsacross the Indo-Gangetic Plains, every year.
    • On March 25,2020 the Indian government placed its 1.3 billion citizens under a strict lockdown to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
    • The countrywide mandate decreased activity at factories and severely reduced car, bus, truck and airplane traffic.This has contributed to the decreased levels of aerosols.
    • Similar conditions are not there in southern India:
    • Satellite data show aerosol levels have not yet decreased to the same extent. In fact, levels seem to be slightly higher than in the past four years.
    • The reasons are unclear but could be related to recent weather patterns, agricultural fires, winds or other factors.



    • Recently, the Prime Minister addressed sarpanches from across the country through a video conference on National Panchayati Raj Day.

    Important Points

    • The first National Panchayati Raj Day was celebrated in 2010. Since then, the National Panchayati Raj Day is celebrated on April 24 every year in India.

    Prime Minister Launched two programmes:

    • e-GramSwaraj:For monitoring of rural infrastructure works and e-governance.
    • Swamitva programme:It involves mapping of rural housing and land holdings via technology including drones.
    • The Swamitva programme would help rural India leverage property for institutional credit and other benefits.

    Panchayati Raj

    • After the Constitution came into force, Article 40made a mention o f panchayats and Article 246 empowered the state legislature to legislate with respect to any subject relating to local self-government.
    • Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI)was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 to build democracy at the grass roots level and was entrusted with the task of rural development in the country.
    • PRIis a system of rural local self-government in India.
    • Local Self Government is the management of local affairs by such local bodies who have beenelected by the local people.

    Salient Features of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment

    • The 73rd Constitutional Amendment added Part IX titled “The Panchayats” to the Constitution.
    • Basic unit of democratic system-Gram Sabhas (villages) comprising all the adult members registered as voters.
    • Three-tier system of panchayats at village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal and district levels except in States with population is below 20 lakhs (Article 243B).
    • Seats at all levels to be filled by direct elections Article 243C (2).

    Reservation of seats:

    • Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the chairpersons of the Panchayats at all levels also shall be reserved for SCs and STs in proportion to their population.
    • One-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women.
    • One-third offices of chairpersons at all levels reserved for women (Article 243D).


    • Uniform five year term and elections to constitute new bodies to be completed before the expiry of the term.
    • In the event of dissolution, elections compulsorily within six months (Article 243E).
    • Independent Election Commission in each State for superintendence, direction and control of the electoral rolls (Article 243K).
    • Power of Panchayats: Panchayats have been authorised to prepare plans for economic development and social justice in respect of subjects illustrated in Eleventh Schedule (Article 243G).
    • Source of Revenue (Article 243H): State legislature may authorise the Panchayats with
    • Budgetary allocation from State Revenue.
    • Share of revenue of certain taxes.
    • Collection and retention of the revenue it raises.
    • Establish a Finance Commission in each State to determine the principles on the basis of which adequate financial resources would be ensured for panchayats and municipalities (Article 243I).
    • The following areas have been exempted from the operation of the Act because of the socio-cultural and administrative considerations:
    • Scheduled areas listed under the V Schedule in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Rajasthan.
    • The states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
    • The hill areas of the district of Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
    • However, an Act called the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 passed by the Government of India.



    • It is 90 years for Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre.
    • Qissa Khwani bazar was the site of a massacre perpetrated by British soldiers against non-violent protesters of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement on April 23, 1930.

    Important points

    Khudai Khidmatgar Movement

    • The Khudai Khidmatgar was a non-violent movementagainst British occupation of the Indian subcontinent led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a Pashtun freedom fighter, in the North-West Frontier Province.
    • Over time, the movement turned political,leading to the British taking notice of its growing prominence in the region.
    • Following the arrest of Khan and other leaders in 1929, the movement formally joined the Indian National Congressafter they failed to receive support from the All-India Muslim League.
    • Members of the Khudai Khidmatgar were organised and the men stood out because of the bright red shirts they wore as uniforms,while the women wore black garments.
    • The Khudai Khidtmatgar opposed Partition, a stance that many interpreted as the movement not being in favour of thecreation of the independent nation of Pakistan.

    Reasons for Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre:

    • Abdul Ghaffar Khan and other leaders of the Khudai Khidmatgar were arrested on April 23, 1930by British police after he gave a speech at a gathering in the town of Utmanzai in the North-West Frontier Province.
    • Protests spilled into the Qissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawaron the day of Khan’s arrest.
    • British soldiers entered the market areato disperse crowds that had refused to leave and the British army vehicles drove into the crowds, killing several protesters and bystanders.



    • TheUS President has been requested to suspend the foreign workers programme, including H-1B as a huge number of Americans have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Important Points

    • A lawmaker in the US has sought suspension of the H-1B, H4, L1, B1, B2, Optional Practical Training Program and guest worker admissions.
    • The Congressional Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis has also been urged to take action to protect medical professionals holding H-1B visasbecause they are essential to confront and combat the current crisis.
    • Due to the loss of revenues,many health centres are closing down which will impact H-1B visa holders currently practicing medicine at these facilities.

    Indians and H-1B Visa

    • Indiansare the largest beneficiaries of the H1B visas and held three out of four H1B visas as of 2018, data from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) shows.
    • Indians held 309,986 H1B visas as of 2018, which was 73.9% of the total H1B visas issued.
    • Indians comprised 68% of H1B registrations for Financial Year 2020-21, followed by China, which accounted for 13.2%.
    • The latest move will hamper Indians who are working in the US on such visas by decreasing the chances of employment.
    • Earlier, the US temporarily suspended approval of some Green Cards.
    • This step ensures the policy of America First.

    Green Card

    • It is officially known as a Permanent Resident Card.
    • It is issued to immigrants to the US under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 1952.
    • It allows a person to live and work permanently in the US.

    H-1B Visa

    • It is a non-immigrant visathat allows US companies to employ graduate level foreign workers in specialty occupations. Speciality occupations requires:
    • Theoretical or technical expertisein specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.
    • Any professional level jobthat usually requires a bachelor’s degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations.
    • The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations.H-1B has an option of green card application.
    • H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under 21 yearsof age to the US under the H4 Visa category as dependents.
    • An H4 Visa holder is allowed to remain in the US as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status.
    • While an H4 visa holder isnot eligible to work in the US, they may attend school, obtain a driver’s license and open a bank account while in the US.

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