Current Affairs (2nd February 2021)
- Finance Minister has presented the Union Budget 2021-22 in Parliament.
BUDGET 2021 PROPOSALS
1. Production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme push
(a) The government aims to spend Rs 1.97 lakh crore on various PLI schemesover the next five years, from this fiscal year. This is in addition to the Rs 40,951 crore announced for the PLI for electronic manufacturing schemes.
WHY? To attract global players in the Indian manufacturing sector as the government is planning to offer plug-and-play infrastructure to the companies willing to come to India.
(b) A new central healthcare scheme was announced to strengthen the country’s healthcare infrastructure over the next six years. The Pradhan Mantri Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana, which will operate in addition to the existing National Health Mission, has been allocated around Rs 64,180 crore.
WHY? This scheme is expected to be used to develop capacities of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems as well as existing national institutions over a period of six years.
It would be used towards creating new institutions to cater to the detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.
Investment on health in this budget has increased “substantially”, with a focus on strengthening preventive care, curative and well-being of the population.
2. Power push
The government has decided to create a framework to give consumers alternatives to choose from more than one power distribution company.
Why? It is aimed at offering competition at operator level and more choice to consumers. Targets better efficiency levels in the distribution sector.
3. Divestment push and Bad bank proposal
Strategic disinvestment of companies, including BPCL, Air India, Pawan Hans, IDBI Bank, Container Corporation of India, to be completed in 2021-22.
Bad Bank proposal: The government will set up an Asset Reconstruction and Management Company for Stressed Assets to take over bad loans. Alongside, a Rs 20,000-crore equity infusion has been announced for public sector banks.
Government will take up strategic sale of two public sector banks and one general insurance company along with completing the sale of BPCL, Concor, SCI, IDBI and BEML among others in 2021-22.
WHY? To strengthen the state-owned banks and hasten the process of clean up of their balance sheet. The divestments will help raise revenue for the government and is expected to improve efficiency and provide momentum to privatisation.
It’s more about the principle of separating the good from the bad. It’s about not wasting more good money on bad assets.
4. FDI limit hiked in insurance
Hike the FDI limit in Insurance from 49% to 74%. Majority directors on board and Key management personnels will be Indians.
WHY? To increase capital inflow in insurance companies and enhance their expansion and growth.
5. Development Financial Institution reborn
Due to lack of finance for infrastructure and long gestation projects, Budget has announced the setting up of a Development Financial Institution (DFI). The DFI will have statutory backing and Rs 27,000 crore capital.
WHAT WILL BE ITS FOCUS? The proposed DFI will be used to finance both social and economic infrastructure projects identified under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP).
6. Scrapping policy
The government has introduced the scrapping policy to remove unfit vehicles on a voluntary basis. All private vehicles beyond 20 years and commercial vehicles older than 15 years old will have to undergo a fitness test.
WHY? The proposal is expected to offer a boost to the auto sector, both for commercial and private vehicles.
7. Bad debt resolution
The government plans to further strengthen the NCLT framework and continue with the e-court system for faster resolution of bad debts. A separate framework for MSMEs will also be made by the government.
WHY? With the government-imposed moratorium on admission of new cases likely to end by March 31, a number of MSMEs, which have not been able to earn enough during the fiscal are likely to be taken to insolvency by their creditors. The separate framework may help MSME owners avoid losing their company while continuing to pay the debt.
8. Gas transport
An independent gas transport system operator for booking and coordination to ensure for unbiased allocation of natural gas transportation capacity.
WHY? The government aims to address concerns of bias in the allocation of gas transportation capacity by players such as GAIL involved in both the supply and transportation of natural gas.
9. Ujjawala push
The extension of benefits of the Ujjawala scheme to an additional 1 crore people.
WHY? The scheme, which provides LPG connections with financial assistance from the central government and currently benefits 12 crore households, will be extended further to provide clean cheap cooking fuel.
10. Power sector push
Rs 3.60 lakh crore has been allocated towards launching a “revamped”, reforms-based, result-linked power distribution sector scheme.
A framework will also be put in place to give consumers alternatives to choose from more than one distribution company.
WHY? This comes amid “serious” concerns over the viability of power distribution companies (discoms) in the country. The scheme is expected to provide assistance to discoms for infrastructure creation tied to financial improvements, including prepaid smart metering, feeder separation and upgradation of systems.
Discoms across the country are monopolies, whether government or private. There is a need to provide a choice to the consumer.
11. Relief for gig workers
Social security benefits will be extended to gig and platform workers. Minimum wages will apply to all categories of workers and will be covered under ESIC.
This will impact around 15 million gig workers in India, in addition to online platform providers across sectors such as transportation (Uber and Ola), food delivery (Swiggy and Zomato), and the contract workers in IT and software firms.
IMPORTANCE: The economic survey had noted that India has become one of the largest markets for flexi-staffing in the world due to the wider adoption of e-commerce and online retailing. It had also said that the increasing role of the gig economy was evident through the significant growth of online retail businesses during the lockdown caused by Covid-19 pandemic.
12. Penion relief
- The government has given relief measures for senior citizens by removing the need to file income tax returns for those aged over 75 years.
13. Effective Implementation of NEP
- For the effective implementation of National Education Policy, 15000 schools will be strengthened initially. These schools will mentor and work as a model for the NEP implementation across the country. 100 new Sainik schools will be established in collaboration with NGOs and private organizations.
14. Health and Well Being
- Taking a holistic approach to health. Focus on strengthening three areas, prevention curation, and well being.
- Rs 64,180 crore will be invested over 6 years to improve primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.
- Health outlay to be used to establish critical care units and hospital block
- Finance minister announces outlay of Rs 2.87 lakh crore for Jal Jeevan Mission. Proposes Rs 2,217 crore outlay for 42 urban centers to tackle air pollution
Coup in Myanmar
- The Myanmar military grabbed power in a coup , ahead of a scheduled meeting of the country’s newly elected Parliament.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide win in the 2020 elections, and the de facto leader of the ousted government, has been detained. President Win Myint has also been detained.
- Amid heightened civilian military tensions, and following statements of concern by the UN Secretary General and a group of Myanmar-based western embassies, the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar military, had put out a statement declaring it would protect and abide by the Constitution.
WHAT TRIGGERED THE COUP
- The military has alleged that the general elections held in November 2020 were full of “irregularities” and that therefore, the results are not valid. It has questioned the veracity of some 9 million votes cast in the election.
- The military had demanded that the United Elections Commission (UEC) of Myanmar which oversees elections, or the government, or outgoing parliamentarians prove at a special session before the new parliament convenes on February 1, that the elections were free and fair. The demand had been rejected.
- The government has decided to include 14 new minor forest produce items under the mechanism for marketing of minor forest produce through a minimum support price scheme.
- Newly included items are Tasar Cocoon, elephant apple dry, bamboo shoot, malkangani seed and wild dry mushroom among others.
- Minimum support price scheme: It is for a selected list of minor produce items through mechanism for marketing of Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support price and development of Value Chain of MFP Scheme in 2011.
- It aims to provide a social safety net to these underprivileged forest dwellers, and to aid in their empowerment.
- India delivers 2 cranes for Chabahar as a part of a bilateral contract between India and Iran signed in May 2016 for $85 million to equip and operationalise the port.
- India’s plans to invest further in the port project are seen as an indicator that the government expects some easing up in U.S. sanctions in the upcoming months, once the new Biden administration begins to address its policy on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal.