12 January, 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • PTS announcement
  • A step back in gender equality (Polity & Governance + Social Issues)
  • HC nod to terminate 28-week pregnancy (Polity & Governance)
  • Reframing India foreign policy priorities (International Relations)
  • Stretched valuations threaten stability - (Indian Economy)
  • Question for the day (Polity & Governance)

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: A step back in gender equality | Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Social Issues

    Sub Theme: Women issues |Gender Equality | UPSC

    Context - The proposal, put forth by Kamal Haasan’s political party, Makkal Needhi Maiam, has generated curiosity and reopened the old but unsettled academic debate. On the face of it, the proposal might appear progressive. However, closer scrutiny suggests otherwise.

    Is the electoral promise of paying women for carrying out domestic work and care work a progressive public policy?

    Paying women for domestic and care work is a recognition of their efforts but may not reduce and redistribute their burden.

    SDG 5.4 focusses on Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family.

    Uneven distribution of Burden of domestic work and care work

    According to the UN women –

    • From cooking and cleaning, to fetching water and firewood or taking care of children and the elderly, women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men. As a result, they have less time to engage in paid labour, or work longer hours, combining paid and unpaid labour.
    • Women’s unpaid work subsidizes the cost of care that sustains families, supports economies and often fills in for the lack of social services. Yet, it is rarely recognized as “work”.
    • Unpaid care and domestic work is valued to be 10 and 39 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and can contribute more to the economy than the manufacturing, commerce or transportation sectors .
    • With the onslaught of climate change, women’s unpaid work in farming, gathering water and fuel is growing even more.

    Time Use Survey

    The National Statistical Office (NSO) has recently conducted the first Time Use Survey for the period January to December 2019. TUS is an important source of information on the time spent in unpaid caregiving activities, volunteer work, unpaid domestic service producing activities of the household members. It also provides information on time spent on learning, socializing, leisure activities, self-care activities, etc., by the household members

    Highlights of the Report

    • 81% of females (six years and above) and 26% of males participate in unpaid domestic work.
    • An average Indian woman spends 243 minutes on household work and domestic chores which is almost ten times the 25 minutes the average man does.
    • An average Indian woman spends 19.5% of her time engaged in either unpaid domestic work or unpaid care-giving services. On the other hand, men spend only 2.5% of their day on these activities.
    • Rural women participate more on paid or unpaid work, whereas urban women participate more in learning, socializing or leisure activities. 

    India has been ranked 112th among 153 countries in the annual Global Gender Gap Index for 2020, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

    The amount of time devoted to unpaid care work is negatively correlated with female labour force participation

    The author poses very pertinent question - What should a progressive policy proposal aim at: paying women a wage for domestic and care work or addressing the huge gender disparity?

    The insights offered by the economist Diane Elson (2017) are important in this regard -  public policy should aim at closing the huge gender gap in unpaid domestic and care work through ‘recognition, reduction and redistribution’ (Triple-R).

    • Paying a wage is a formal recognition of the fact that unpaid domestic and care work are no less important than paid market work. Since it is women who predominantly carry out unpaid domestic and care activities, often at the expense of their employment prospects and health, the monetary reward is a recognition of their contribution to the well-being of the household and the opportunities forgone by women.
    • Will paying women a wage for domestic and care work reduce their disproportionately huge daily burden? Paying monetary benefits carries with it the possible danger of formally endorsing the social norm that domestic and care work are ‘women’s work’, for which they are being paid. The purportedly progressive proposal thus has the risk of furthering the gender disparity in unpaid work within homes.
    • Monetary compensation of care work will also fail to do ‘redistribution’ of the burden of unpaid work. In fact, it might give space for men to claim that women are bound to do these activities as they are being compensated for the time spent or income foregone, and that women can at best expect men only to help but not participate daily in carrying out these activities.

    Women and men’s opportunities and behaviours are determined as much by social institutions, including traditional gender roles and beliefs, as by the conditions of the communities and countries in which they live. Social institutions, such as formal and informal laws, social norms and practices, shape or restrict the decisions, choices and behaviours of groups, communities and individuals. By defining which behaviours are deemed acceptable or unacceptable in a society, social institutions influence gender roles: in most societies, working for pay is considered a masculine task, while unpaid care work is seen as women’s domain.

    Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)

    The SIGI measures discriminatory social institutions using 14 indicators grouped into five sub-indices:

    • Discriminatory Family Code captures restrictions on women’s decision making power within the family;
    • Restricted Physical Integrity refers to restrictions on women’s control over their bodies;
    • Son Bias measures intra-household biases towards sons and the devaluation of daughters;
    • Restricted Resources and Entitlements includes restrictions on access to, control of and entitlement over resources;
    • Restricted Civil Liberties captures restrictions on women’s access to public and political space

    when discrimination against women in social institutions is lower, the distribution of caring responsibilities between genders is more equal. Reducing the level of discrimination in social institutions encourages gender roles to evolve allowing for more opportunities for the share of unpaid care work to be redistributed between the genders. Women are less associated with reproductive and domestic roles. Similarly, social norms open up new opportunities for men assuming domestic and care responsibilities.

    REDUCTION

    Investment in time-saving technology and infrastructure

    • Electrification and improved access to water ease the constraints on women’s time. In 2011, when rural electrification was introduced in South Africa, the time women spent on housework decreased, leading to a 9% increase in the female labour participation.
    • Increasing public and care services - Better access to public services, child care and care for the elderly allows for better work-life balance. NGO Mobile Crèches provide child care services for women employed on public works programmes on construction sites. This support is essential for working mother.
    • Longer school days or expand pre-school hours are alternatives for public day-care. The Kenyan government , expanded its preschool education to four-to-five-years-olds children, increasing female labour participation.

    REDISTRIBUTION

    Family-friendly working policies

    • Maternity leave public subsidies of 14 weeks (ILO standard) improve women’s likelihood of taking leave instead of leaving the labour force entirely.
    • Equal amounts of maternity and paternity leave increase women’s employment by increasing employer incentives to hire woman. In Sweden, for example, a minimum share of available parental leave is reserved to fathers on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis, encouraging an equal sharing of caring responsibilities.
    • Family-friendly working conditions enable parents to balance their working hours and caring responsibilities. A flexible work schedule or teleworking allows women and men to choose working hours that better accommodate their caring responsibilities.

    Tackling discriminatory social institutions

    Tackling entrenched social norms and gender stereotypes can ‘de-feminise’ care-giving and shape gender norms that prevent men from assuming equal caring responsibilities. In Zimbabwe for example, the “Africare’s Male Empowerment Project” seeks to change behavioural trends and challenge existing gender norms by increasing male involvement in home-based care services given to rural people living with AIDS.

    Adopting a care lens across all areas of public policy

    Design suitable fiscal policies to avoid second earners in married couples, typically women, being taxed more heavily than single individuals, discouraging female labour force participation. For instance, in Japan female labour force participation of women would increase by almost 13% if there were high tax incentives to share market work (which ultimately reflects unpaid care work) between spouses.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: HC nod to terminate 28-week pregnancy | Page 02

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Termination of pregnancy | UPSC

    Context:

    • The Delhi High Court on Monday granted permission to a woman to terminate her 28-week pregnancy after AIIMS medical board said her foetus can be aborted as it suffered from anencephaly, a condition where the skull bone is not formed.

    What are current laws currently governing termination of pregnancy?

    Before 1971, abortion was criminalized under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, describing it as intentionally 'causing miscarriage'.

    The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 allows for aborting the pregnancy by medical doctors (with specified specialisation) on certain grounds. 

    • A pregnancy maybe be terminated up to 12 weeks based on the opinion of one doctor, and up to 20 weeks based on the opinion of two doctors.
    • Termination is permitted only when continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, cause grave injury to her mental or physical health (including rape and failure of birth control measures), or in the case of foetal abnormalities.
    • Termination is also allowed at any point during the pregnancy if there is an immediate necessity to save the woman’s life.

    Abortion laws and facts:

    Abortion laws vary across the world. It is learnt that around 60 countries prescribe gestational limits.

    • 52 % including France, the UK, Austria, Ethiopia, Italy, Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and even Nepal, allow for termination beyond 20 weeks on the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities.
    • Some countries go beyond even these limits with laws in 23 countries-Canada, Germany, Vietnam, Denmark, Ghana, and Zambia-allowing for abortion at any time during the pregnancy on the request of the mother.
    • Despite a sustained government push over years, contraceptive use in Indiais not very popular. According to a 2018 study by the Guttmacher Institute, 50% of pregnancies in six of the larger Indian states — Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh — are unintended.
    • Data from the National Family Health Survey 4 show that just 8% of couplesin the country use modern contraceptive methods; only 53% use any method at all.
    • There is an abortion rate of 47 per 1,000 women aged 15-49.
    • A number of foetus abnormalities are detected after the 20th week. Usually, the foetal anomaly scan is done during the 20th-21st week of pregnancy. If there is a delay in doing this scan, and it reveals a lethal anomaly in the foetus, 20 weeks period is limiting.

    The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 2, 2020 and passed on March 17, 2020. 

    • It amends the Act to increase the upper limit for termination from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women, removes this limit in the case of substantial foetal abnormalities, and constitutes Medical Boards at the state-level.
    • The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that several cases have been filed before the Supreme Court and various High Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at stages beyond the 20-weeks limit under the Act, on the grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to rape faced by women.
    • It also states that with the advancement of medical technology, there is a scope to increase the upper limit for terminating pregnancies especially for vulnerable women, and in cases of severe foetal abnormality.

    Time since conception

    Requirement for terminating pregnancy

     

    MTP Act , 1971

    MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2020 

    Up to 12 weeks

    Advice of one doctor

    Advice of one doctor

    12 to 20 weeks

    Advice of two doctors

    Advice of one doctor

    20 to 24 weeks

    Not allowed

    Two doctors for some categories of pregnant women

    More than 24 weeks

    Not allowed

    Medical Board in case of substantial foetal abnormality

    Any time during the pregnancy

    One doctor, if immediately necessary to save pregnant woman's life


    Key Issues and Analysis:

    There are differing opinions with regard to allowing abortions.  One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman, and a part of her reproductive rights.  The other is that the state has an obligation to protect life, and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.  Across the world, countries set varying conditions and time limits for allowing abortions, based on foetal health, and risk to the pregnant woman. 

    Several Writ Petitions have been filed by women seeking permission to abort pregnancies beyond 20-weeks due to foetal abnormalities or rape.  The Bill allows abortion after 24 weeks only in cases where a Medical Board diagnoses substantial foetal abnormalities.  This implies that for a case requiring abortion due to rape, that exceeds 24-weeks, the only recourse remains through a Writ Petition.

    The Bill does not specify the categories of women who may terminate pregnancies between 20-24 weeks and leaves it to be prescribed through Rules.  It may be argued that such matters should be specified by Parliament and not delegated to the government 

    The Act (and the Bill) require abortion to be performed only by doctors with specialisation in gynaecology or obstetrics.  As there is a 75% shortage of such doctors in community health centers in rural areas, pregnant women may continue to find it difficult to access facilities for safe abortions.

    Though Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is a step in the right direction, the government needs to ensure that all norms and standardised protocols in clinical practice to facilitate abortions are followed in health care institutions across the country.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Reframing India’s Foreign Policy Priorities – Lead Article | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Relations | Mains – GS Paper II –  International Relations

    Sub Theme:  International Politics-2021 | Growing China | Isolated India | India’s Foreign Policy | UPSC

    Context: The Article focuses on international politics for the upcoming year 2021 based on past events in 2020 or backwards. Globally speaking China seems to have position itself after an important agreement with United Nations and Iran whereas India seems to be more isolated due to the certain international events and also due to excessive tilt towards United States as part of India’s foreign policy. So, in this Article, let us go through the significant developments in major parts of the world and shift in India’s foreign policy objectives from past as provided by the author (M.K. Narayanan) who is a former National Security Adviser and a former Governor of West Bengal.   

    Major Developments around the World

    Power Shift in United States – US-Europe Relations

    • Leadership change in the United States is unlikely to bring about a major power shift in the international arena. 
    • Despite Biden’s promise to invigorate the U.S.-Europe axis, Europe has turned its back on the U.S. and revived its China links, by ‘concluding in principle the negotiations for an EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).
    • About CAI
    • It will replace the 25 bilateral investment treaties that individual EU members signed with China before 2009.
    • The CAI will ensure that EU investors achieve better access to a fast growing 1.4 billion consumer market, and that they compete on a better level playing field in China. 
    • The CAI goes beyond market access and investment protection to include provisions on environment and labor rights protection.
    • On EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), the author says that any hope of United States or India to isolate China has been shattered by Europe through this deal.
    • Now U.S. and India seems to be isolated rather than China and this is more problematic for India considering border tensions with China on the eastern Ladakh region.
    • Stronger China – (Problem for India)
    • The year 2021 begins on a triumphal note for China and China’s Supreme Leader, Xi Jinping. China is about the only major country which had a positive rate of growth at the end of 2020, and its economy is poised to grow even faster in 2021.
    • Militarily, China has further strengthened itself, and now seeks to dominate the Indo-Pacific Ocean with its announcement of the launch of its third aircraft carrier in 2021. Simultaneously, China is seeking to strengthen its military coordination with Russia.
    • All these developments increase China’s intransigence (refusal to change one’s view) on its domestic (Hong Kong and Uighur) and international issues (Chinese aggression in Ladakh) and China will be ready to apply heavy-handed approach for such matters.
    • News emanating from China is that President Xi will further cement his position, both as Party leader and as President during 2021.
    • China is, hence, unlikely to concede any ground to its opponents across the world in 2021, a fact that India will need to reckon with. India cannot expect any Chinese concessions in Eastern Ladakh.
    1. Economy First for Europe
    • 2021 will be dominated by strong authoritarian leaders like Xi Jinping in China, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey. International politics may not be very different from that in 2020, but it is unlikely that the Compact of Democracy would emerge stronger.
    • Europe, minus Britain following Brexit, and the retirement of Germany’s Angela Merkel, could become even less relevant in world affairs.
    • The China-EU Investment Treaty which saw Europe capitulating to China’s brandishments is an indication that Europe values its economy more than its politics.

    Changes in Eurasia

    • Major changes are afoot in Eurasia and West Asia which could lead to significant shifts.
    • Russia is beginning to display greater interest in the affairs of countries on its periphery and, together with strengthening ties with China and reaching an entente with Turkey.
    • This means reduced interest for countries like India by Russia. This may jeopardise India-Russia relations based on growing Russia-China relations and India-US relations.
    • However, there is certain hope for India due to Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership which is Russia's foreign policy to counter China's BRI.
    • Greater Eurasian Partnership’s main objective is to connect Russia and the EAEU to China’s Belt and Road Initiative & to move beyond China and connect the Eurasian Economic Union Countries with Iran, India, and Southeast Asia.
    • India can use this opportunity to improve its ties with Russia and balance China by integrating at an economic level at EAEU, RIC Trilateral & SCO.

    Changes in West Asia

    • In West Asia, the Abraham Accords, leading to a realignment of forces in the Arab world, have sharpened the division between the Saudi Bloc and Iran-Turkey.
    • Despite the hype surrounding the Abraham Accords (agreement to normalize diplomatic relations of Israel with UAE & Bahrain), risk of confrontation between Iran and Israel has not reduced.
    • This does pose problems for India, since both Iran and Israel have cordial relations with India. Meanwhile, China demonstrates a willingness to play a much larger role in the region, including contemplating a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement with Iran.
    • This signals that China is willing to play a much larger role in West Asian politics by using the theatre to its economic advantage.
    • Saudi Arabia could find the going difficult in 2021, with a Biden Administration taking charge in Washington. The healing of wounds among the Sunni Arab states in the region should be viewed as a pyrrhic victory (victory which inflicts devastating toll on the victor that tantamount to defeat) at best for Saudi Arabia. 
    • The Abraham Accord could further sharpen hostilities between Sunni and Shia states and this flux might be used by Iran to sharpen and increase its sphere of influence by enhancing its nuclear capabilities.
    • Iran may be confident that United States may not be in a position to challenge its nuclear armament at this juncture due to internal problems of United States caused due to Donald Trump’s unwillingness for change in administration despite his defeat in US Presidential elections.

    Problems for an Isolated India

    • No breakthrough in Sino-Indian relations has, or is likely to occur, and the confrontation between Indian and Chinese armed forces is expected to continue. India currently plays no significant role in West Asia.
    • India-Iran relations today lack warmth. In Afghanistan, India has been marginalised as far as the peace process is concerned.
    • While India’s charges against Pakistan of sponsoring terror have had some impact globally, it has further aggravated tensions between the two neighbours. This has overall helped Pakistan to cement its relations with China.
    • While hostility between India and Nepal appears to have reduced lately, relations continue to be strained.
    • Through a series of diplomatic visits, India has made valiant efforts to improve relations with some of its neighbours such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but as of now worthwhile results is not evident. 
    • In case conflict between India and China increase, India’s neighbours may not shy away from picking up a side mainly due to economic ties which China has inculcated with India’s neighbours over a period of years.

    Shift in India’s foreign policy objectives from Past

    India’s foreign policy objectives are to widen its sphere of influence, enhance its role across nations, and make its presence felt as an emerging power in an increasingly disruptive global system and ensure its strategic autonomy. It is a moot point though whether any of these objectives has been achieved. Today, India’s voice and counsel are seldom sought, or listened to and this is a far cry from what used to happen previously. India will serve as the president of the powerful UN Security Council for the month of August, 2021, but if it is to make a real impact, it must be seen to possess substantial weight to shape policies, more so in its traditional areas of influence.

    Problems with India’s Diplomatic Relations

    • Currently, India remains isolated from two important supranational bodies of which it used to be a founding member, viz., the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
    • Efforts to whip up enthusiasm for newer institutions such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), have hardly been successful.
    • India has opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) (a majority of Asian countries are members), and failed to take advantage of the RIC, or the Russia, India and China grouping, even as relations with Russia and China have deteriorated.
    • On the other hand, India’s foreign policy imperatives, across Asia and South Asia in particular, today seem to be a mixture of misplaced confidence, sometimes verging on hubris (as in the case of Nepal), a lack of understanding of the sensitivities of neighbours such as Bangladesh and long-time friends (such as Vietnam and Iran), and according excessive importance to the policy needs and pressures of nations such as the U.S.
    • There is possibly a misplaced perception in much of Asia that the India of today is not unwilling to sacrifice its strategic autonomy under U.S. pressure.

    Way Forward for India’s Diplomatic and International Relations

    What is needed for India is to adopt workable and prudent policies without sacrificing strategic autonomy, pursuit of realistically achievable objectives, and above all, demonstration of continuity of policy, irrespective of changes in the nature of the Administration. The author says that these may be time consuming, but are a surer recipe for success in attaining foreign policy objectives.  

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Financial Stability Report – RBI | Page 14

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy | Mains – GS Paper III –  Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Non-Performing Assets | NPA| Provisioning Coverage Ratio | Capital Adequacy Ratio | UPSC

    The RBI has recently released financial stability Report. This report discusses some of the recent developments that have an impact on the financial stability of India.

    Basic Terms to understand:

    Non-Performing Asset (NPA): A loan is categorized as NPA if it is due for a period of more than 90 days. Depending upon the due period, the NPAs are categorized as under:

    • Sub-Standard Assets: > 90 days and less than 1 year
    • Doubtful Assets: greater than 1 year
    • Lost Assets: loss has been identified by the bank or RBI but the amount has not been written off wholly.

    Provisioning Coverage Ratio (PCR):

    Under the RBI's provisioning norms, the banks are required to set aside certain percentage of their profits in order to cover risk arising from NPAs. It is referred to as "Provisioning Coverage ratio" (PCR). It is defined in terms of percentage of loan amount and depends upon the asset quality. As the asset quality deteriorates, the PCR increases. The PCR for different categories of assets is as shown below:

    • Standard Assets (No Default): 0.40% 
    • Sub-standard Assets (> 90 days and less than 1 year): 15%
    • Doubtful Assets (greater than 1 year): 25%-40%
    • Loss Assets (Identified by Bank or RBI): 100% 

    Gross and Net NPA: Gross NPA refers to the total NPAs of the banks. The Net NPA is calculated as Gross NPA -Provisioning Amount.

    Capital Adequacy ratio (CAR): The CAR has been laid down by the BASEL committee on banking supervision under Bank of International Settlement located in Basel, Switzerland.

    It has been laid down to ensure financial stability and to prevent failure of banks. So far, 3 BASEL Norms have been laid down: Basel I (1998), Basel II (2004), Basel III (2009).

    CAR is the ratio of a bank's capital to its risk. It is also known as the Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR)

    CAR= (Tier-1 Capital + Tier-2 Capital)/ RWAs * 100.

    The Banks in India are required to maintain CAR of 9% (Tier-1 capital: 7% + Tier-2 Capital: 2%) along with Capital Conservation buffer (CCB) of 2.5%.

    Hence, unlike the BASEL III norms, which stipulate capital adequacy of 10.5% (8%-CAR + 2.5% CCB) , the RBI has mandated to maintain capital adequacy of 11.5% (9%-CAR + 2.5%-CCB)

    Highlights of the Report:

    Decrease in GNPA and NNPA: The gross non-performing assets (GNPA) and net NPA (NNPA) ratios continued to decline and stood at 7.5 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively, in September 2020.

    Improvement in Provision Coverage Ratio (PCR): The provision coverage ratio (PCR) of all Banks taken together improved across all bank groups and rose from 66 per cent in March 2020 to 72per cent in September 2020.

    Improvement in capital to risk-weighted assets ratio (CRAR):

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