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Note:  The following Current affairs has been selected from AIR, PIB, PRS, BBC, The Hindu, IDSA (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses), Live mint, Indian Express, Quora.com, Hindustan Times, Telegraph, The Times , WTO, New Indian express , The Guardian and is highly recommended for UPSC Prelims and Mains Examination


News Analysis: 23-01-2019

National News


General Studies-II : Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Sabarimala review hearing awaits Justice Malhotra’s return

  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday told petitioners seeking a review of the court’s September 28 judgment revoking the bar on women of menstrual age from entering the Sabarimala temple that a date for hearing their petitions would be fixed after consulting Justice Indu Malhotra, a member of the Bench who is now on medical leave.

  • A five-judge Bench led by the Chief Justice, which was earlier scheduled to hear the review petitions on Tuesday, did not assemble as Justice Malhotra was on leave.

  • Justice Malhotra had delivered the lone dissent in the five-judge Constitution Bench’s majority judgment on September 28.

  • The judgment had declared the exclusion, based solely on the menstrual status of women, a smear on individual dignity. It said the bar amounted to “treating women as the children of a lesser God.”

  • Justice Malhotra had declared the prohibition on women aged between 10 and 50 an “essential practice.” The judge had held that imposing the court’s morality on a religion would negate the freedom to practise religion according to one’s faith and beliefs. The dissenting judgment has since then become a rallying point for the review petitioners.

  • Review petitions were filed by a range of persons, from the Sabarimala temple’s chief priest to individuals and Ayyappa organisations, including women devotees’ bodies.

  • They contend that ‘reform’ cannot mean rendering a religious practice out of existence on the basis of a PIL petition filed by “third parties” lacking belief in the Sabarimala deity.

  • Justice Malhotra’s rationale that courts should not allow “interlopers” to file PIL petitions challenging religious practices is a common thread in the review petitions.

  • The review petitioners have argued that the right to move the Supreme Court for violation of fundamental rights must be reserved for those whose personal rights to worship have been violated.

  • Entertaining PIL petitions on religious practices by third parties may invite “perils even graver for religious minorities,” some of them contend.

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-II : Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


States put on high alert as swine flu cases spike across the country

  • With 49 swine flu deaths and 1,694 cases reported in just one fortnight from January 1-13 as per data released by the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), several States are on alert.

  • Rajasthan alone has reported 31 deaths in this period with other instances being reported from Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Prdaesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

  • While the Rajasthan health department has reported that the number of cases in the State has crossed 1,000 with more than 200 people having died in the past 13 months, the Union Health Ministry has said that there is no cause for panic and that the situation is being closely monitored.

  • H1N1 influenza (or swine flu) is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs.

  • Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in people with direct exposure to pigs (e.g., children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). However, there have been cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu.

  • All State governments have been asked to create awareness about the spread, testing and prevention of swine flu and we have also asked them to ensure that there are enough beds and medicines to treat any cases that are being reported

  • According to Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s IDSP, 14,992 people contracted swine flu in 2018., while 1,103 people died. In 2017, 38,811 people tested positive with 2,270 deaths.

  • Children younger than five years old and adults who are 65 years and above, patients with chronic pulmonary condition (including asthma), , neurological, neuromuscular or metabolic disorders (including diabetes), obese adults and pregnant women are in the high risk group

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-III : Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Inflation conundrum

  • A weak performance and low inflation may persuade the RBI to go for an interest rate cut

  • The multi-month low retail and wholesale inflation prints for December pose an interesting challenge for policymakers and the central bank.

  • Inflation in Consumer Price Index (CPI), at 2.19% in December, is at an 18-month low, while the WPI, at 3.8%, is at an eight-month low.

  • The Reserve Bank appears to have been blindsided by the CPI number, which is way below projections made during its last few monetary policy pronouncements.

  • The RBI has maintained a CPI projection of 4.4-4.8% for the second half of fiscal 2019.

  • Even in the October policy announcement, the bank projected 3.8-4.5% retail inflation in the second half with upside risk, and even changed its policy stance to “calibrated tightening” from “neutral”.

  • The MPC and the RBI may well want to reassess the robustness of their inflation projection mechanism in light of the data coming in.

  • When the new Governor, Shaktikanta Das, sits down with the monetary policy committee (MPC) in early February he may well have to return to a “neutral” stance given the soft trends in headline CPI.

  • There may even be pressure on him to look at a rate cut, especially given the weak economic data coming in — factory output growth was a low 0.5% in November with manufacturing showing a contraction.

  • The automobile industry, the first to feel the effect of an economic slowdown, has seen sales falling over the last two months.

  • The inflation data have also thrown a curveball at policymakers in that their different components show divergent trends.

  • So, while headline CPI inflation is trending lower, core inflation is still sticky at close to 6%.

  • Again, there is a divergence between core rural and urban inflation — the former is trending higher at 6.34% while the latter is heading downward at 5.26% in December.

  • Curiously, rural health and education index numbers are high. The point with all this divergence in data is that monetary policymaking is a challenge.

  • Governor Das alluded to this in a recent speech where he pointed to the divergences and volatility in different sub-groups as a major challenge in inflation assessment and projection.

  • But the broader question is whether the interest rate structure is lagging behind the big structural change in inflation in the last few years.

  • According to Mr. Das, headline CPI inflation has moderated from around 10% in 2012-13 to 3.6% in 2017-18 and 3.7% in April-December this fiscal.

  • Yet the nominal interest rate structure has not changed significantly, leading to rather high real interest rates.

  • Prominent policymakers, including principal economic adviser Sanjeev Sanyal, have called for the RBI to take a re-look at the interest rate structure. It will be interesting to watch how the RBI under the new Governor reacts to these calls.

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-III : Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Centre’s debt-to-GDP falls, States’ rises

  • While the Centre is moving in the right direction in terms of meeting the N.K. Singh Committee recommendations on public debt, the States are moving in the opposite direction, data released by the government show.

  • According to the Status Paper on Government Debt for 2017-18, the Centre’s total debt as a percentage of GDP reduced to 46.5% in 2017-18 from 47.5% as of March 31, 2014.

  • The total debt of the States, however, has been rising over this period, to 24% in 2017-18, and is estimated to be 24.3% in 2018-19.

  • In absolute terms, the Centre’s total debt increased from ₹56,69,429 crore at the end of March 2014 to ₹82,35,178 crore in 2017-18, representing a 45% increase.

  • The total debt of the States increased from ₹24,71,270 crore to ₹40,22,090 crore over the same period, an increase of almost 63%.

  • The N.K. Singh-headed FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) Review Committee report had recommended the ratio to be 40% for the Centre and 20% for the States, respectively, by 2023.

  • It said that the 60% consolidated Central and State debt limit was consistent with international best practices, and was an essential parameter to attract a better rating from the credit ratings agencies.

  • The increase in the debt stock at the State level is worrying because they don’t have the wherewithal to service the debt if it goes beyond a certain point. They could then start getting into a debt trap situation

  • Outstanding liabilities of States have increased sharply during 2015-16 and 2016-17, following the issuance of UDAY bonds in these two years, which was reflected in an increase in liability-GDP ratio from 21.7% at end-March 2015 to 23.4% at end-March 2016 and further to 23.8% at end-March 2017

  • The total outstanding liabilities as a percentage of GDP stood at 24% as at end-March 2018 and is expected to move upward to 24.3% at end-March 2019.”

  • This, combined with the fact that ratings agencies have predicted that the combined fiscal deficit of the States to be 3.2% of GDP in financial year 2020 (higher than the prescribed 3%), and it begins to look increasingly unlikely that the States will meet their 20% debt-GDP ratio target by 2023.

  • The report, however, says that the States do have some fiscal space to reduce their borrowing in the coming years due to the large cash surpluses they hold.

  • State governments as a group have exhibited a tendency to hold large cash surpluses/investments in Cash Balance Investment Account on a consistent basis while at the same time resorting to market borrowings to finance their GFD (Gross Fiscal Deficit)

  • This indicates scope for reducing the quantum of market borrowings by State governments in case they bring down their cash surpluses (parked as investment in treasury bills of the Central government)


Source: The Hindu


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