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April 17, 2020
20 April Current Affairs
April 20, 2020
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18 April Current Affairs

NGOs to Update on Covid-19 Fight Every Month

In News:

Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked all Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) with foreign contribution licences to update the government on their efforts towards containing the Covid-19 outbreak every month.

Key Points:

NGOs receiving funds from overseas under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, have to report their Covid-19 related activities by the 15th of every month.

This was the MHA’s second request to NGOs in controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Earlier MHA had requested NGOs to aid and supplement the efforts of the government and local administration in fighting the spread of Covid-19.

The MHA had indicated the broad areas in which the NGOs could offer support, which included setting up community kitchens for migrants and the homeless, and providing shelter to homeless daily wage workers and the unemployed poor.

The request for assistance from NGOs comes after a concerted government crackdown on the social sector, which led to significant fall in overseas funding for NGOs.

Over the last five years, the MHA has deregistered as many as 14,500 NGOs, and has, over the last three years, cancelled the foreign contribution licences of over 6,600 nonprofits for violations of the provisions of the FCRA.

According to the government, FCRA-registered NGOs had received a total Rs 2,244.77 crore in 2018-19 (as on November 28) as compared to Rs 16,902.41 crore in 2017-18.

Non-Governmental Organisations:

Worldwide, the term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business organisation.

NGOs are groups of ordinary citizens that are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests.

NGOs are helpful in implementing government schemes at the grassroots.

In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act, 1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.

India has possibly the largest number of active NGOs in the world, a study commissioned by the government put the number of NGOs in 2009 at 33 lakh.

Undertrials Freed to Decongest Jails

In News:

According to the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), around 11,077 undertrials have been released from prisons nationwide as part of the mission to decongest jails following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key Points :-

NALSA has been providing assistance to prisoners who are eligible to be released on parole or interim bail under the relaxed norms, through its panel of lawyers.

The Supreme Court has ordered all States and Union Territories to set up high-level panels which would consider releasing all convicts who have been jailed for upto seven years on parole to decongest jails in an attempt to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Bench suggested that undertrials awaiting for offences entailing maximum sentence of seven years also be extended a similar benefit.

Local legal services authorities are actively assisting the high-level panels for identifying undertrials who could be released on bail during the present scenario.

Till now, responses received from 232 districts reflect that around 11,077 undertrials and 5,981 convicts have been released.

National Legal Services Authority :-

Statutory Body: It has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats (an alternative dispute redressal mechanism) for amicable settlement of disputes.

Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 prescribes the criteria for giving legal services to the eligible persons.

Rupee Slips Due to Covid-19

In News:

The rupee slipped 17 paise against the dollar on 15th April, 2020, amid heightened uncertainty over the economy as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread.

Key Points :-

The rupee closed at a record low of 76.44 against the dollar on 15th April, 2020. Rupee was 76.27 against dollar on the previous day.

However, the dollar index was trading 0.3% higher at 99.19. The U.S. Dollar Index (USDX) is an index (or measure) of the value of the United States dollar relative to a basket of foreign currencies.

It can be noted that the rupee has weakened about 7% against the dollar in 2020 and has hit a record intraday low of 76.55.

This implies that the rupee has become less valuable with respect to the dollar, implying depreciation of the rupee.

According to some experts, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not intervened strongly in the market to stop rupee depreciation.

They expect the RBI to intervene once the rupee breaches the 77 to a dollar.

In its macroeconomic review , RBI had said if the rupee depreciates 5% from the baseline (i.e. Rs 75 per dollar), inflation could rise by 20 basis points (bps) while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth could be higher by about 15 bps via increased net exports.

US Halts its WHO Funding

In News:

The United States (US) has decided to cut off US payments to the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key Points :-

Reasons : The US has accused WHO for failing to curb the early spread of the coronavirus.

It has been claimed by the US that the outbreak could have been contained at its source and lives could have been saved if the United Nations (UN) health agency (i.e. WHO) has done a better job.

The US has criticised the WHO for being China-centric and has alleged that earlier WHO had criticized US’s ban on travel from and to China.

This comes when the global case load approaches 2 million, including over 1 lakh deaths. The US has seen the most cases (over 6 lakh) and deaths (over 26,000) despite being the highest contributor (almost 15%) to the WHO.

However, the US has made it clear that it would continue to engage with the WHO in pursuit of meaningful reforms.

Other Criticisms : Most countries closed down air travel at the first stage but the WHO took a stand against travel and trade restrictions on China.

The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee urged countries to be prepared, but did not recommend any travel or trade restriction.

According to the National Centre for Disease Control, WHO officials rejected Indian concerns saying that there was no human to human transmission.

Impact : For the WHO, the loss of about 15% of its total funding is bound to have an impact the world over.

However, unless other countries do the same as the US, the move may not severely hamper WHO operations.

Criticism of US Stand: The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has held that WHO is absolutely critical in the global fight to combat Covid-19 and this is not the time to end support and reduce resources for the operations.

India’s Stand: India has reacted cautiously to this announcement, avoiding an official response and maintaining the country’s focus now is containment and management of the outbreak.

WHO’s Involvement in India:

India became a party to the WHO Constitution on 12th January, 1948 and the first session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia was held on 4th-5th October 1948, in India.

The WHO India Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) 2019-2023 has been developed jointly by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the WHO India country office.

The CCS’s strategic priorities are to accelerate progress on Universal Health Coverage, promote health and wellness by addressing determinants of health, better protect the population against health emergencies and enhance India’s global leadership in health.

On the ground, WHO has been a key partner in the immunisation programme (Mission Indradhanush),  tackling Tuberculosis (TB) and neglected diseases such as leprosy and kala azar and nutrition programmes across states.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

In News:

Over 1.51 Crore free LPG cylinders distributed so far to the PMUY beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) in this month.

Background:

Under the PMGKY, several relief measures have been announced by the central Government for the welfare of poor, and one of the important component of the Yojana is to provide 3 LPG cylinders (14.2 kg) free to over 8 crore beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana(PMUY) over the period of April to June 2020. The Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are distributing 50 to 60 lakh cylinders per day, which includes about 18 lakh free cylinders to PMUY beneficiaries.

Key features of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

Aim: To provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households.

Goal: A deposit-free LPG connection is given to eligible with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Applicant must a woman above the age of 18 and a citizen of India.
  • Applicant should belong to a BPL (Below Poverty Line) household.
  • No one in the applicant’s household should own an LPG connection.
  • The household income of the family, per month, must not exceed a certain limit as defined by the government of the Union Territories and State Government.
  • The name of the applicant must be in the list of SECC-2011 data and should match with the information available in the BPL database that Oil Marketing Companies have.
  • Applicant must not be a recipient of other similar schemes provided by the government.

Objectives of the scheme are:

  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.

 

International Monetary and Finance Committee (IMFC)

In News:

Union Minister of Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman recently attended through video-conference the Plenary Meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee.

Details:

The discussions at the meeting were based on IMF Managing Director’s Global Policy Agenda titled, “Exceptional Times – Exceptional Action”.

The members of the IMFC updated the committee on the actions and measures taken by member countries to combat COVID-19, and also remarked on IMF’s crisis-response package to address global liquidity and members’ financing needs.

About IMFC:

Composition: The IMFC has 24 members, drawn from the pool of 187 governors. Its structure mirrors that of the Executive Board and its 24 constituencies. As such, the IMFC represents all the member countries of the Fund.

Functions: The IMFC meets twice a year, during the Spring and Annual Meetings. The Committee discusses matters of common concern affecting the global economy and also advises the IMF on the direction its work.

At the end of the Meetings, the Committee issues a joint communiqué summarizing its views. These communiqués provide guidance for the IMF’s work program during the six months leading up to the next Spring or Annual Meetings. There is no formal voting at the IMFC, which operates by consensus.

Significance:

The IMFC advises and reports to the IMF Board of Governors on the supervision and management of the international monetary and financial system, including on responses to unfolding events that may disrupt the system.

It also considers proposals by the Executive Board to amend the Articles of Agreement and advises on any other matters that may be referred to it by the Board of Governors.

Although the IMFC has no formal decision-making powers, in practice, it has become a key instrument for providing strategic direction to the work and policies of the Fund.