Monsoon has covered country at fastest pace since 2013: IMD

Paper: I

Mains: General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

Why in News:

The southwest monsoon has galloped to cover the entire country at a pace not seen since 2013, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The normal date for the monsoon to span the whole country is July 8. This year, the monsoon set in early on its appointed date of June 1 and was only briefly stalled due to the impact of cyclone Nisarga that struck Maharashtra on June 2.

Background:

  • In 2020, the monsoon set in on its expected date of 1st June and was briefly stalled due to the impact of Cyclone Nisarga that struck Maharashtra on 2nd June.

Key Details:

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has stated that the southwest monsoon has covered the entire country at the fastest pace since 2013.
  • Considering onset and advance of the southwest monsoon over the country as a whole, there has been normal progress over south and east India, about a week delay in advance over northeast India and about 7-12 days early advance over central and northwest India.
  • The normal date for the monsoon to span the whole country is July 8.
  • The early advance over central & northwest India was facilitated by formation of a low-pressure area over Bay of Bengal and another cyclonic circulation over central India.
  • The monsoon’s advent into northwest India has not translated into significant rainfall in the region. The IMD says that most of the rainfall will be towards India’s northeast.
  • Usually the monsoon trough see-saws, in that heavy rain in the north-east translates to little rain over the rest of the country and when rains wane over the Himalayan foothills and the east, it starts to pick up in the rest of the country.
  • So far, the monsoon rainfall in June has been 21% more than what is normal for this time of the month.

Centre rolls out anti-drug plan in 272 vulnerable districts

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

  • An annual anti-drug action plan for 272 vulnerable districts was launched by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on Friday, the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
  • The ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat’, or drug-free India campaign will focus not just on institutional support but also on community outreach programmes in the districts identified in coordination with the Narcotics Control Bureau, R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, said at the e-launch.

Key Details:

  • The new action plan envisages a change in the strategy against drugs. So far, there has been a focus on institutions, but now there is a need to move the focus to working in the society at large because the problem is not at the institutional level but at the level of society.
  • The ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat’, or drug-free India campaign will focus not just on institutional support but also on community outreach programmes in the districts identified in coordination with the Narcotics Control Bureau.
  • While the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment would ramp up funding for institutions, it would also launch campaigns in schools and colleges to prevent drug abuse among youth.
  • It is important to sensitise parents, and involve schools in, prevention of drug abuse.

ASEAN states warn of S. China Sea tensions

PAPER: II

MAINS: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

  • Vietnam and the Philippines warned of growing insecurity in Southeast Asia at a regional summit on Friday amid concerns that China was stepping up its activity in the disputed South China Sea during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Both Hanoi and Manila lodged protests with China in April after Beijing unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on islands in the troubled waterways to which Vietnam and the Philippines also have competing claims.

Background:

  • China has been pushing its presence in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other countries while claimant countries have been preoccupied in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • China has been stepping up its activity in the disputed South China Sea during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Vietnam and the Philippines had raised protests with China in April 2020 after China unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on islands in the South China Sea to which Vietnam and the Philippines also have competing claims.
  • In early April 2020, Vietnam claimed that one of its fishing boats was sunk by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel.

Key Details:

  • Leaders of Vietnam and the Philippines argued that international institutions and international law had been seriously challenged during the global crisis.

Auto, pharma unready to wean off China

PAPER: III

MAINS: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

Days after a border clash with China this month in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, New Delhi told firms to find ways to cut imports from China. But two big industries, automobiles and pharmaceuticals, say this is easier said than done.

Background:

Bilateral trade:

  • India imported about $70.3 billion of goods from China in the fiscal year to March 2019, and exported just $16.7 billion — its widest trade deficit with any country.
  • In the light of the increasing border tensions along the LAC, the Indian government has asked Indian firms to find ways to cut imports from China and lessen India’s dependence on Chinese supplies.
  • The government is consulting with companies on tightening curbs on 1,173 non-essential products. They include toys, plastics, steel items, electronics and specific auto components used in vehicle manufacturing.
  • There is also the plan to raise trade barriers and import duties on about 300 products from China, as part of a self-reliance campaign.
  • In April 2020, India tightened rules for investments from neighbouring countries, including China, to prevent opportunistic takeovers after the pandemic.

Concerns:

  • India relies on China for products such as electronic components and drug ingredients because currently it cannot make them or source them from elsewhere, as cheaply. Thus, any moves to curb imports or make them costlier without developing alternatives will hurt local businesses.
  • Over a quarter of India’s auto-part imports valued at around $4.2 billion came from China in 2019.
  • This includes critical components like engine and transmission parts which are hard to source from elsewhere immediately.
  • Chinese supplies have also been a key factor in India’s booming drug industry, which exports cheap generic medicines.
  • India gets about 70% of its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) from China.

Conclusion:

  • Industry leaders have opined that since Indian industries depend heavily on Chinese supplies, India becoming more self-reliant will take time.

To attract companies to produce locally, business opportunities need to be competitive and there is a need to lower production costs as compared to other countries.


‘Economy in deep trouble, to shrink 5%’

PAPER: III

MAINS: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

The pandemic caused a sudden stop in activity and to prevent a collapse, policymakers, helped by banks, have provided extraordinary financial support to firms and households.

Key Details:

  • In its report titled ‘Asia-Pacific losses near $3 trillion as balance sheet recession looms,’ S&P projected the region’s economy to shrink by 1.3% in 2020, but grow by 6.9% in 2021. This implies a loss nearing $3 trillion in output over these two years.
  • The report notes that Asia-Pacific has been comparatively successful in containing COVID-19 and has also responded with effective macroeconomic policies.
  • S&P Global Ratings has stated that the Indian economy is in deep trouble with growth expected to contract by 5% in the current fiscal.

Concerns:

  • The report notes that the challenges brought forth by the pandemic along with the underlying vulnerabilities, especially across the financial sector in India may result in growth falling by 5% in the current fiscal year before rebounding in 2021.
  • The report notes that the economic recovery may be weighed down by indebted balance sheets. The report argues that there is a looming threat of a ‘balance sheet recession’ in which at least one important sector of the economy — the government, firms, or households — tries to bolster its weak financial position by saving more, paying down debt and spending less.
  • Banks may lend less than they normally would in a recovery.
  • Private firms may prefer to stabilise debt rather than ramp up spending on new investments, even though demand is improving.
  • This would mean less investment, slower recovery, and a permanent hit to the economy that will last even after a vaccine is found.

Focus on revival, not debt, says Finance panel

PAPER: III

MAINS: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

  • In the light of the pandemic, there is acute pressure on the finances of both the Central and State governments given the much lower growth number and revenue receipts.
  • The central government has increased its borrowings from the Reserve Bank and the State governments are also going to borrow more.
  • The fiscal numbers for the current year look to be way out of what was targeted.

Key Details:

  • 15th Finance Commission Chairman N. K. Singh has stated that the government need not, at present, focus on fiscal consolidation and increased public debt, but should rather concentrate on fast revival of the economy through enhanced public expenditure
  • Vietnam and the Philippines have warned of growing insecurity and instability in Southeast Asia and have called upon countries to refrain from escalating tensions and abide by responsibilities under international law.