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27th October Current Affairs

India’s Public Debt Ratio

In News:

As per the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s public debt ratio is projected to jump by 17 percentage points to almost 90% because of an increase in public spending due to Covid-19.

Details:

India’s public debt ratio has remained stable at about 70% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 1991.

Key Points:

Increase in Public Debt Ratio:

The increase in public spending, in response to Covid-19, and the fall in tax revenue and economic activity, will make the public debt ratio jump by 17 percentage points.

The ratio is projected to stabilise in 2021, before slowly declining up to the end of the projection period, in 2025.

The pattern of public debt in India is close to the norm around the world.

This debt-to-GDP ratio is the metric comparing a country’s public debt to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is often expressed as a percentage.

By comparing what a country owes (debt) with what it produces (GDP), the debt-to-GDP ratio reliably indicates a particular country’s ability to pay back its debts.

A country with a high debt-to-GDP ratio typically has trouble paying off public debts.

Assessment of Fiscal situation (relating to taxation, public spending, or public debt):

India has been an important source of growth in the world since the 1991 economic liberalisation reforms.

Real GDP growth averaged 6.5% between 1991 to 2019, and real GDP per capita was multiplied by four over that period.

Real GDP is calculated in a way such that the goods and services are evaluated at some constant set of prices. Nominal GDP, on the other hand, is simply the value of GDP at the current prevailing prices.

This impressive growth performance helped lift millions of people out of extreme poverty.

The extreme poverty rate, measured as the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.90 a day at purchasing power parity (the international poverty line), fell from 45% in 1993 to 13% by 2015.

India achieved the millennium development goal of halving poverty by 2015 (from its 1990 level).

India has made astonishing progress in other areas. Education enrollment is nearly universal for primary school. Infant mortality rates have been halved since 2000. Access to water and sanitation, electricity, and roads has been greatly improved.

Way Forward:

In the near-term, additional fiscal action should be deployed as needed to support the poor and the vulnerable. This should be accompanied by a credible medium-term fiscal consolidation plan that can reinforce market confidence and structural reforms that boost India’s growth potential.

The effects of Covid-19 on health, education, poverty and nutrition render progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals even more urgent. Macroeconomic and financial stability are important necessary conditions for sustainable development.

Pakistan Re-elected to the UNHRC

In News:

Pakistan is currently serving on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) since 1st January, 2018. With its re-election, Pakistan will continue as a member for another three-year term commencing on 1st January, 2021.

Details:

A total of Fifteen countries were elected to the 47-nation council. Russia and Cuba were elected unopposed. Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Nepal and China were elected from the Asia-Pacific region.

Key Points:

Pakistan has been re-elected despite opposition from activist groups over its abysmal human rights records. This is the fifth time that Pakistan has been elected to the UNHRC.

Acoording to the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report titled ‘Human Rights and Democracy’, there were serious human rights concerns and violations in Pakistan in 2019, including restrictions on civic space and freedom of expression, intolerance and direct and open discrimination towards minorities.

Concerns:

Countries with Dubious Record: With a number of countries with questionable rights records being elected, the current system of entry to UNHRC is in serious need of reform.

The election of states such as China and Russia “damages the reputation of the HRC, its standing within the international human rights committee and beyond”.

Non-competitive Elections: Problem of election without opposition.

For example, the Eastern European group had two available seats but only two countries were nominated to fill those positions, meaning there was no competition for the spots.

Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council was decided in advance because all the other regional groups had unopposed states.

The Other View: Electing nations with dubious human rights records has some positives.

There is a silver lining to repressive countries being elected to the council – their position as the supposed guardian of human rights makes it far more difficult for them to hide their own human rights abuses.

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC):

It was established in 2006.

Headquarter: Geneva, Switzerland

Aim: Promoting and protecting human rights around the globe, as well as investigating alleged human rights violations.

Features: The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis from 5 groups.

Membership: To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UN General Assembly (an absolute majority).

According to Resolution 60/251, which created the council, members are elected directly by secret ballot by the majority of the UN General Assembly. Membership has to be equally distributed geographically.

Five regional groups for membership: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.

The members are elected for a period of three years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.

Sessions: The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September.

The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states, which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.

Way Forward:

The USA withdrew from the UNHRC in 2018 citing its ineffectiveness and bias. For India it is a testing time as Pakistan got re-elected despite dubious status regarding human rights.

However, India’s commitment towards respecting institutions of global governance mandates to have a critical voice against some events instead of quitting the membership without reasons backed by principles.

DAY-NRLM Special Package for J&K and Ladakh

In News:

Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved a special package worth Rs. 520 crore in the Union Territories (UTs) of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh for a period of five years under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM).

Key Points:

The decision is in line with Centre’s aim to universalise all centrally sponsored beneficiary-oriented schemes in J&K and Ladakh in a time-bound manner.

The package has been approved for a period of five years till the financial year 2023-24 and it has been decided to ensure funding on a demand-driven basis without linking allocation with poverty ratio during the extended period.

Around two-third rural women from the UTs will be covered and 10.58 lakh women will get the benefit from the special package.

The step was based on the outcomes of an evaluation pointing to the potential of the Mission to improve the quality of life of rural households and women empowerment under the changed circumstances in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.

Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission:

It is a centrally sponsored programme, launched by the Ministry of Rural Development in June 2011.

Aim:

To eliminate rural poverty through the promotion of multiple livelihoods and improved access to financial services for the rural poor households across the country.

To reach out to all rural poor households and impact their livelihoods.

Functioning:

It involves working with community institutions through community professionals in the spirit of self-help which is a unique proposition of DAY-NRLM.

It impacts the livelihoods through universal social mobilization by inter alia organising one-woman member from each rural poor household into Self Help Groups (SHGs), their training and capacity building, facilitating their micro-livelihoods plans, and enabling them to implement their livelihoods plans through accessing financial resources from their own institutions and the banks.

Implementation:

It is implemented in a Mission mode by special purpose vehicles (autonomous state societies) with dedicated implementation support units at the national, state, district and block levels, using professional human resources in order to provide continuous and long-term handholding support to each rural poor family.

Support Provided:

There were 63 lakh SHGs comprising seven crore women members in the country which had been granted Rs. 3 lakh crore in loans and the non-performing assets (NPA) amounted to only 2.3%.

The outstanding loans were to the tune of Rs. 1 lakh crore.

The government plans to take the scheme to 10 crore women.