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    Current Affairs – 1st February 2022

    1.   SURVEY PEGS GROWTH AT 8-8.5% IN ’22-23

    • News: India’s GDP is expected to grow by 9.2% this year and 8% to 8.5% in 2022-23, though hardening inflation and energy prices along with tightening of global liquidity pose a challenge, according to the Economic Survey for 2021-22 tabled by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament on Monday.
    • Details:
      • Newly appointed Chief Economic Adviser V. Anantha Nageswaran termed the 8%-8.5% GDP growth estimate for the coming year as a conservative projection.
      • The growth range hinges on assumptions that “there will be no further debilitating pandemic related economic disruption, monsoon will be normal, withdrawal of global liquidity by major central banks will be broadly orderly, oil prices will be in the range of $70-$75/barrel, and global supply chain disruptions will steadily ease over the course of the year”.
      • While last year’s Economic Survey talked of a V-shaped recovery for India’s COVID-hit economy, there is no mention of that aspect or the shape of the recovery in this year’s 442-page document.
      • Responding to queries on the V-shaped recovery, Principal Economic Adviser Sanjeev Sanyal, who steered this Survey, said the sharp contraction after the national lockdown was followed by a sharp revival in the second half of 2020-21 followed by some disruption due to the second COVID wave last April followed by yet another uptick.
      • Doodling a sort of ‘W’ shape in the air, he said it was up to observers to “decide what letter of the alphabet we prefer to use” to depict the recovery.
      • The theme of the Survey was in line with the policies pursued by the government of providing short-term support to vulnerable sectors while keeping an eye on the medium term fiscal health and undertaking process as well as supply side reforms.
      • While the 9.2% growth estimate for 2021-22 suggests a recovery above the pre-pandemic level of 2019-20 by 1.3%, private consumption and segments such as travel, trade and hotels are yet to fully recover, as per the Survey. “The stop-start nature of repeated pandemic waves makes it especially difficult for these sub-sectors to gather momentum,”


    • News: Demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has dropped from the peak of the first lockdown, but is still higher than pre-COVID levels, the Department of Economic Affairs said in its annual Economic Survey, noting that this is “an indicator of rural labour markets”.
    • Details:
      • It cautioned against drawing conclusions about the movement of migrant labour on the basis of MGNREGA employment, noting that the highest demand for work under the scheme was seen in States which are usually the destination of migrant workers, rather than source States.
      • Advocates for rural workers argued that the drop in demand is also due to funding constraints, and urged a significant increase in allocations for the scheme in Tuesday’s Union budget.
      • According to the Survey’s analysis, though demand for work stabilised after the second COVID wave, aggregate MGNREGA employment is still higher than pre-pandemic levels of 2019, after accounting for the seasonality of demand.
      • “The supply side effect of MGNREGA funding skews the picture of demand,”.
      • “There is no doubt that demand went up during the lockdown and when money was available through the increased allocation,”.
      • noting that the Centre had infused ₹40,000 crore worth of additional funding early in the first lockdown, meaning scheme administrators had sufficient money to cope with the hike in demand.
      • In 2021-22, on the other hand, additional funding was not available until late in the year when many States had already run out of money, forcing an artificial suppression in demand on the ground.
      • “For the upcoming 2022-23 financial year, activists have asked for a budget allocation of ₹2.6 lakh crore, which would cover the guaranteed 100 days of work for all active job card holders.
      • But anything less than ₹1.4 lakh crore, which is the amount spent in 2020-21 plus inflation, will be a clear suppression of demand by the government,”.


    • News: India has increased its forest area in the past decade and ranks third globally in average annual net gain in forest area from 2010-2020, the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) said in the annual Economic Survey. India annually added an average 2,66,000 hectares of forest area over the period.
    • Details:
      • Forests covered 24% of India’s geographical area, accounting for 2% of the world’s total forest area in 2020,
      • The top 10 countries account for 66% of the world’s forest area. Brazil (59%), Peru (57%), Democratic Republic of Congo (56%) and Russia (50%) have half or more of their geographical area under forests.
      • “Much of India’s increase in forest cover from 2011-21 is attributed to enhancement in very dense forest cover, which rose by approximately 20%,” the DEA said. “Open forest cover also improved by 7%… Going forward, there is need to further improve forest and tree cover. Social forestry could also play a significant role in this regard,”
      • The latest biennial ‘India: State of Forest Report’ has elicited criticism from independent experts, who have questioned the methodology used to count forests.
      • Officials in the environment ministry, while asserting that India’s definitions of ‘forest’ and ‘tree cover’ were consistent with global definitions, acknowledged that most of the increases had occurred outside areas traditionally marked as ‘forest’ and included plantations and orchards.