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Prelims Booster

29th October – Prelims Booster

Secularism in France

French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks about Islam have pitted France against several countries in the Islamic world.

Why are many Islamic countries angry with France?

  • France has a long and complex relationship with Islam, and its 5 million Muslim citizens (just under 9 per cent of its population).
  • On October 16, when an 18-year-old Chechen refugee in France beheaded schoolteacher Samuel Paty, 47, days after he had shown caricatures of Prophet Mohammed to his students, President Macron said: “We will continue… We will defend the freedom that you taught so well and we will bring secularism.” He said France would “not give up cartoons, drawings, even if others back down”.
  • Days before Paty’s killing, Macron had made a controversial speech. He declared that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the world”, “plagued by radical temptations and by a yearning for a reinvented jihad which is the destruction of the other”.
  • The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the Republic,” Macron had said.
  • He spoke of an “Islamist separatism” within the country, and the need to counter it through the rules and values of the Republic, to build a French version of Islam, an “Islam of Enlightenment” that would integrate French Muslim citizens better with the French way of life.

French definition of ‘secularism’ –

  • Macron’s remarks brought to the fore the difficulties that France has faced in reconciling its strictly interpreted secularism with the increasing assertion of religious identity by its Muslim citizens, and how France itself has changed in the way it view Islam.
  • French secularism, or laicite, sees no place for religion in the public sphere. In this way, it is the opposite of how India has practised its secularism. Over the years, laicite has been in confrontation with the religious practices of many immigrant groups in France, including the Sikhs. But the biggest confrontations have been to do with its Muslim citizens, who form the largest group of Muslims in Europe, ahead of four million Turkish Muslims in Germany.
  • Most French Muslims of today were born in France, descendants of first-generation immigrants from former French colonies in north Africa. The French constitution demands that those seeking citizenship must commit themselves to integration. But this has proved elusive.

What does France intend to do now?

President Macron has announced a controversial “anti-separatism” bill to crack down on Islamic radicalism that is to be introduced in Parliament in December. It envisages a range of measures, including school education reforms to ensure Muslim children do not drop out, stricter controls on mosques and preachers, and has caused concern among Muslims in France.

COVID-19 effect on state finances

If the Reserve Bank of India’s study on state governments’ finances is any indication, gross fiscal deficits (GFDs) of state governments are set to double in 2020-21 as the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the financial position of states hard and the next few years are going to be challenging.

Where are gross fiscal deficits of states headed?

  • In 2020-21, about half of the states have budgeted the GFD to gross state domestic product (GSDP) ratio at or above the 3 per cent threshold although most of these budgets were presented prior to the onset of Covid-19, the RBI said.
  • The direction of possible revision is evident from the fact that the average for states presenting their budget before the outbreak of the pandemic is 2.4 per cent, while the average for the balance number of states that made post-outbreak budget presentation is 4.6 per cent of GSDP.
  • Thus, states are grappling with the pandemic with constrained fiscal space. In terms of primary balances, states are clearly in an unfavourable position, with most states incurring primary deficits in 2019-20, as against primary surpluses at the onset of the global financial crisis, the RBI study said.

Will it continue?

  • The crisis literature focuses on the operation of the scissor effects — loss of revenues due to demand slowdown, coupled with higher expenditure associated with the pandemic.
  • The duration of stress on state finances will likely be contingent upon factors like tenure of lockdown and risks of renewed waves of infections, all of which make traditional backward-looking tax buoyancy forecasting models unreliable, according to the RBI study on state finances.
  • The quality of spending and the credibility of state budgets will assume critical importance. The next few years are going to be challenging for the states, it said.

Past experiences –

  • An event study analysis using four pandemic outbreaks in India — the 1896 plague, the 1918 Spanish flu, the 1957 Asian flu and the 1974 smallpox — shows that all episodes were associated with a contraction/ deceleration in GDP, with the 1918 flu registering the sharpest downturn of about 13 per cent.
  • Interestingly, the recovery pattern is quite similar — a sharp rebound in the immediate subsequent year because of favourable base effects, followed by contraction again, with the GDP growth rate finally subsiding back to pre-pandemic years in about 3-4 years.
  • These severe disease outbreaks have also depressed per capita economic output in the economy, albeit with varied magnitudes. The recovery, however, is observed to be swift and complete within two years of the outbreak, except in the case of the 1918 flu when GDP per capita was restored to pre-outbreak levels only in 1922, the RBI said.

Buying land in J&K

People, including investors outside Jammu and Kashmir can now purchase land in the Union Territory as the Centre has notified new land laws for the region, ending the exclusive rights enjoyed by the local population over land under the now-diluted Article 370.

What are the changes now?

  • Under the new J&K Development Act, the Centre has omitted the term “permanent resident of the State”, paving the way for investors outside J&K to invest in the Union Territory.
  • According to amendments made to the Jammu & Kashmir Land Revenue Act, Samvat, 1996”, only agriculturists of J&K can purchase agricultural land. “No sale, gift, exchange, or mortgage of the land shall be valid in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist,” it reads. No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector.
  • The Act enables transfer of land “in favour of a person or an institution for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or senior secondary or higher or specialised education in J&K”.
  • An Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” for operational and training requirements of the armed forces.

Bangladesh’s economic progress

The IMF’s recent per capita GDP projections for South Asian countries show that Bangladesh, which has been doing better than both India and Pakistan on social and human development indicators for several years now, is also beginning to march ahead on the economic front.

How did Bangladesh manage to progress this far?

Following some turbulence in the years after independence due to famine and natural disasters, overall progress since the 1990s has been good. Consider –

  • Average GDP growth for Bangladesh has been higher than the world’s average GDP growth over the last three decades; it has been higher than the average growth rate of South Asia since 2010. Bangladesh’s average economic growth has steadily increased in each decade since 1980. In 2018, Bangladesh emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
  • The contribution of agriculture in Bangladesh’s GDP has declined steadily, while that of manufacturing and services has increased. In 1980, agriculture accounted for almost a third of the GDP; industry for less than a fifth. In 2018, the contribution of agriculture to GDP had fallen to less than 15%, and industry now accounts for more than a third. The contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP has doubled since 1980.
  • Exports have been buoyant since the 1990s. They have risen from less than US $2 billion in FY92 to more than US $40 billion in FY19 – growth by a factor of (approximately) 20 in 37 years.
  • Remittances have risen fast after FY91, from approximately US $764 million to more than US $16.4 billion in FY19. Bangladesh is among the world’s top 10 remittance receiving countries, even though the difference in remittance earnings of Bangladesh and countries with far smaller populations (such as Philippines) is very large — which underlines that Bangladeshi remittances come from low-wage labour. Despite such weaknesses, Bangladesh has received more than $18 billion in remittances this year, which has helped stabilise the aggregate demand shock from the pandemic induced lockdown.

MCQs

1. Which of the following statement(s) correctly describes Indian form of secularism?

  1. It follows the model of ‘equal respect for all religions’.
  2. It allows for principled disrespect to some aspects of religion.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – B

Explanation – Indian secularism follows the principle of ‘equal respect for all religions’ but it also allows for principled disrespect to some aspects of religion. Such intervention betrays disrespect to some aspects of every religion. For example, religiously sanctioned caste-hierarchies are not acceptable within Indian secularism. The secular state does not have to treat every aspect of every religion with equal respect. It allows equal disrespect for some aspects of organised religions.

2. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct?

  1. Indian form of secularism provides room for state-supported religious reform.
  2. Indian form of secularism deals with not just individual but community religious rights.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – C

Explanation – Indian secularism deals not only with religious freedom of individuals but also with religious freedom of minority communities. Within it, an individual has the right to profess the religion of his or her choice. Likewise, religious minorities also have a right to exist and to maintain their own culture and educational institutions. Since a secular state must be concerned equally with intra-religious domination, Indian secularism has made room for and is compatible with the idea of state-supported religious reform. Thus, the Indian Constitution bans untouchability.

3. The French term ‘laicite’ has been in news recently, it means –

  1. Liberty
  2. Equality
  3. Fraternity
  4. Secularism

Answer – D

Explanation –  French secularism, or laicite, sees no place for religion in the public sphere. In this way, it is the opposite of how India has practised its secularism. Over the years, laicite has been in confrontation with the religious practices of many immigrant groups in France.

4. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct with respect to the recent changes with respect to the buying/selling of land in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir?

  1. Anyone from any state of India can buy agricultural land and use the same for agricultural purposes as well as non-agricultural purposes (only with the prior consent of district collector).
  2. Anyone from any state of India can set up any kind of healthcare and educational institutions in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – D

Explanation – Under the new J&K Development Act, the Centre has omitted the term “permanent resident of the State”, paving the way for investors outside J&K to invest in the Union Territory. According to amendments made to the Jammu & Kashmir Land Revenue Act, Samvat, 1996”, only agriculturists of J&K can purchase agricultural land. “No sale, gift, exchange, or mortgage of the land shall be valid in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist,” it reads. No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector. The Act enables transfer of land “in favour of a person or an institution for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or senior secondary or higher or specialised education in J&K”. An Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” for operational and training requirements of the armed forces.

5. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the recent economic progress of Bangladesh?

  1. Bangladesh has been witnessing the highest GDP growth in the South Asian region since the year 2010.
  2. The contribution of manufacturing and services in Bangladesh’s GDP has increased with that of the agriculture declined steadily over the last few decades.
  3. Bangladesh has received the second highest remittances in the world after India in the year 2019.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 2 only
  4. 2 and 3 only

Answer – C

ExplanationAverage GDP growth for Bangladesh has been higher than the world’s average GDP growth over the last three decades; it has been higher than the average growth rate of South Asia since 2010. Bangladesh’s average economic growth has steadily increased in each decade since 1980. In 2018, Bangladesh emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The contribution of agriculture in Bangladesh’s GDP has declined steadily, while that of manufacturing and services has increased. In 1980, agriculture accounted for almost a third of the GDP; industry for less than a fifth. In 2018, the contribution of agriculture to GDP had fallen to less than 15%, and industry now accounts for more than a third. The contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP has doubled since 1980. Exports have been buoyant since the 1990s. They have risen from less than US $2 billion in FY92 to more than US $40 billion in FY19 – growth by a factor of (approximately) 20 in 37 years. Remittances have risen fast after FY91, from approximately US $764 million to more than US $16.4 billion in FY19. Bangladesh is among the world’s top 10 remittance receiving countries, even though the difference in remittance earnings of Bangladesh and countries with far smaller populations (such as Philippines) is very large — which underlines that Bangladeshi remittances come from low-wage labour. Despite such weaknesses, Bangladesh has received more than $18 billion in remittances this year, which has helped stabilise the aggregate demand shock from the pandemic induced lockdown.

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