ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) 2018 Summary

The thirteenth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2018) was released on 15 January 2019. After conducting a ‘Beyond Basics’ survey in ASER 2017, ASER looked at the preparedness of 14 – 18 year olds to lead useful and productive lives as adults, in 2018 ASER focused once again on schooling status of  children age 3 to 16 and basic reading and arithmetic of children in the 5 to 16 age group across rural India.

Facilitated by Pratham, ASER is carried out by volunteers from local partner organizations in each rural district.  Every year, ASER finds out whether children in rural India go to school, whether they can read simple text and whether they can do basic arithmetic.

Since the implementation of the RTE Act in 2010, school visits in ASER have included indicators of compliance with those norms and standards specified in the Right to Education Act that are easy to measure. In 2018, ASER visited 15,998 government schools across rural India.

Key ASER 2018 (Rural) findings

ASER 2018 reached 596 districts in rural India. A total of 354,944 households and 546,527 children in the age group 3 to 16 were surveyed.

Schooling levels: enrollment and attendance

  • Overall enrollment (age 6-14): For more than ten years, since 2007, the enrollment of children for the age group 6 to 14 has been above 95%. The proportion of children (age 6-14) who are not enrolled in school has fallen below 3% for the first time and stands at 2.8% in 2018.
  • Girls out of school: In 2006, the all India proportion of girls in the age group 11 to 14 who were out of school stood at 10.3%. In that year, 9 major states had out of school figures for girls (age 11-14) above 10%. In 2018, the overall proportion of girls in the 11 to 14 age group out of school has fallen to 4.1%. This figure is more than 5% in only 4 states.Further, ten years ago in 2008, nationally, more than 20% of girls in the 15 to 16 age group were not enrolled in school. In 2018, this figure has decreased to 13.5%.
  • Private school enrollment: The period 2006 to 2014 saw a year-on-year increase in the proportion of children (age 6-14) enrolled in private school. In 2014, this figure stood at 30.8%. Since then private school enrollment appears to have plateaued for this age group. The percentage of children (age 6-14) enrolled in private school was 30.6% in 2016 and is almost unchanged at 30.9% in 2018. The national average hides changes in private school figures across states. There has been a decline in private school enrollment of more than 2 percentage points over 2016 levels in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala. An increase of more than 2 percentage points over 2016 is visible in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, and Gujarat. Most states in the north-east, other than Mizoram, see an increase in private school enrollment between 2016 and 2018.

Learning levels: foundational skills in reading and arithmetic

  • Reading: The ASER reading test assesses whether a child can read letters, words, a simple paragraph at Std I level of difficulty, or a ‘story’ at Std II level of difficulty. The test is administered one on one to all children in the age group 5 to 16 and the child is marked at the highest level that she or he can reach.
  •  Std III: The percentage of all children in Std III who can read at Std II level has been climbing slowly over the past few years. This figure has increased from 21.6% in 2013 to 23.6% in 2014 to 25.1% in 2016, and finally to 27.2% in 2018. Among children enrolled in Std III in government schools, six states (Punjab, Haryana, Mizoram, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Kerala) show an improvement of more than 5 percentage points over 2016 levels.
  • Std V: Slightly more than half of all children enrolled in Std V can read at least a Std II level text. This figure has inched up from 47.9% in 2016 to 50.3% in 2018. For government school children enrolled in Std V, states showing an increase of 5 percentage points or more from 2016 to 2018 are Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram; with Punjab and Andhra Pradesh close behind.
  •  Std VIII: By Std VIII, the last year of compulsory schooling in India, children are expected not only to have mastered foundational skills but to have proceeded well beyond the basic stage. ASER 2018 data indicates that of all children enrolled in Std VIII in India, about 73% can read at least a Std II level text. This number is unchanged from 2016.
  • Arithmetic: The ASER arithmetic test assesses whether a child can recognize numbers from 1 to 9, recognize numbers from 10 to 99, do a 2-digit numerical subtraction problem with borrowing, or correctly solve a numerical division problem (3- digit by 1-digit). The tasks are administered one on one to all children in the age group 5 to 16 and the child is marked at the highest level that she or he can reach.
  • Std III: The all India figure for children in Std III who are able to do at least subtraction has not changed much, from 27.6% in 2016 to 28.1% in 2018. For government school children, this figure was 20.3% in 2016 and 20.9% in 2018. However, government school children in some states are doing significantly better, with an increase of 3 percentage points or more over 2016. These include Punjab, Haryana, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Kerala.
  •  Std V: The proportion of children in Std V across India who are able to do division has inched up slightly, from 26% in 2016 to 27.8% in 2018. But among government school children, some states have shown significant improvements of 5 percentage points or more over 2016 levels. These include Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
  • Std VIII: The overall performance of Std VIII in basic arithmetic has not changed much over time. Currently about 44% of all children in Std VIII can solve a 3-digit by 1-digit numerical division problem correctly. While this figure has gone down from 2016 to 2018 in many states, government school children in some states show substantial improvements in the last two years: for example, Punjab (from 48% to 58.4%), Uttar Pradesh (from 25.5% to 32%), Maharashtra (from 32.4% to 41.4%), and Tamil Nadu (from 42.6% to 49.6%).

Learning levels: ‘beyond basics’

  • In ASER 2018, children in the age group 14 to 16 were given a few tasks which required calculations to be done in everyday contexts. Children were asked to calculate time, compute how many tablets would be required to purify water (application of unitary method), figure out where to buy books given two different price lists (financial decision making), and compute a discount. Each of these tasks was done one on one. Results are reported for those children in this age group who could do at least subtraction correctly.
  • Gender differences in reading and arithmetic the 14-16 age group: For the age group 14 to 16, the all India figure for the proportion of girls who can read at least a Std II level text is very similar to that of boys. Both are around 77%. However, girls outperform boys in many states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. In basic arithmetic, boys seem to hold a substantial advantage. Nationally, 50% of all boys in the age group 14 to 16 can correctly solve a division problem as compared to 44% of all girls. But in states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, girls in this age group are doing better than boys in arithmetic.
  • ‘Beyond basics’ – bonus tool tasks: Of the 14-16 year olds who could solve a numerical division problem, a little under half could compute the time question correctly, 52% could apply the unitary method to calculate how many tablets were needed to purify a given volume of water, about 37% were able to take the correct decision regarding the purchase of books, and less than 30% could compute the discount correctly. In all cases, fewer girls could solve questions correctly as compared to boys. Further, performance on these everyday tasks was uniformly lower among those in this age group who could do subtraction but not division, as compared to those who could do division.

School observations

  • As part of the ASER survey, one government school with primary sections is visited in each sampled village. Preference is given to a government upper primary school (Std I-VII/VIII) if one exists in the village. In 2018, ASER surveyors visited 15,998 government schools with primary sections. 9,177 were primary schools and 6,821 were upper primary schools. This represented an increase of almost 13.6% over the number of upper primary schools visited in 2016. Large increases in the number of sampled villages with upper primary schools were visible in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and Madhya Pradesh.

Small schools

  • Nationally, in 2018, 4 out of 10 government primary schools visited had less than 60 students enrolled. This number has increased every year over the last decade. It was 26.1% in 2009, 30% in 2011, 33.1% in 2013, 39.8% in 2016, and stands at 43.3% in 2018.
  • This decade-long pattern of year-on-year increase in the proportion of small schools is seen in Himachal Pradesh (from 58.1% in 2009 to 84% in 2018), Chhattisgarh (from 19.3% in 2009 to 40.7% in 2018), and Madhya Pradesh (from 18.1% in 2009 to 49.6% in 2018).

Teacher and student attendance

  •  At the all India level, no major change is seen in students’ and teachers’ attendance. Average teacher attendance has hovered at around 85% and average student attendance at around 72% for the past several years in both primary and upper primary schools.
  • However, states exhibit very different patterns of attendance. States with student attendance of 90% or more in primary schools in 2018 were Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Those with teacher attendance of 90% or more in 2018 were Jharkhand,  Odisha, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
  • In primary schools, student attendance improved by 3 percentage points or more over 2016 levels in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh.

School facilities

  •  The Right to Education Act was implemented in 2010 and the first cohort of students to benefit from its provisions completed 8 years of compulsory schooling in 2018. Nationally, substantial improvements are visible over this 8-year period in the availability of many school facilities mandated by RTE. The fraction of schools with usable girls toilets doubled, reaching 66.4% in 2018. The proportion of schools with boundary walls increased by 13.4 percentage points, standing at 64.4% in 2018. The percentage of schools with a kitchen shed increased from 82.1% to 91%, and the proportion of schools with books other than textbooks available increased from 62.6% to 74.2% over the same period.
  •  However, the national averages hide major variations across states. Deficiencies are particularly marked in Jammu and Kashmir and most of the north-eastern states. In these states, less than 50% of schools had provision for drinking water or girls’ toilets available in 2018. With the exception of Assam, majority of schools in states in the north-east did not have library books available for students in 2018. While elsewhere in the country the mid-day meal was served on the day of the visit in well over 80% of schools, this proportion was less than 50% in many states in this region.

 Physical education and sports facilities

This year, ASER introduced a series of questions on the availability of sports infrastructure in schools.

  •  In 2018, about 8 out of 10 schools had a playground available for students, either within the school premises or close by. A playground was accessible in more than 90% of schools in  imachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Maharashtra. But more than a quarter of all schools in Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand did not have access to a playground.
  • Physical education teachers are scarce in schools across rural India. Only 5.8% of all primary schools and 30.8% of upper primary schools had a physical education teacher available. In majority of schools, another teacher was tasked with supervising physical education activities as well. But in Haryana, Rajasthan and Kerala, the proportion of schools with a physical education teacher is significantly higher than the national average.
  • Sports equipment of some kind was observed in 55.8% of primary schools and 71.5% of upper primary schools. States where significantly higher proportions of schools had sports equipment available included Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.

RSTV Big Picture 2019

Hello Friends, This is a list post about RSTV Big Picture 2019, most people ignore the debates in Rajya Sabha TV, they are very useful they will give lot of Insight in to the topic . We are arranging them date wise so that it will be easy to skim through the important topics and watch selectively .

RSTV Big Picture January 2019

RSTV Big Picture February 2019

AIR news analysis spotlight 2019

Hello friends this is a collection of AIR news analysis 2019 segregated month wise and day wise under each month, All India Radio spotlight news analysis is very useful from mains and developing overall Idea about issues in news.

We will update From Jan to Dec 2019 in this single post, Our previous posts 2014,2015,2016, 2017 and 2018.

AIR spotlight news analysis 2019 month wise

Add folders to your google drive and download in bulk instead of each file or automatically sync each day.

AIR spotlight news analysis 2019 Day Wise

January 2019 AIR news analysis spotlight

  1. Bangladesh Elections and Way Forward
  2. Recent Cabinet Decisions 
  3. Rafale Issue
  4. 04 National Entrepreneurship awards
  5. 05 Development Projects in Jharkhand and Odisha
  6. 06 Science Meet
  7. Interview with Mos I&B (FM radio news)
  8. 08 Sharing FM with Private channels
  9. Khelo India
  10. Raisina Dialogue 2019
  11. GST Council meet 
  12. BJP Meet
  13. SP BSP alliance
  14. India’s contribution to peace in Afghanistan
  15. PM Odisha and Kerala Visit
  16. Real estate and GST 
  17. Vibrant Gujarat
  18. National Museum of Indian Cinema
  19. Defense Industrial Corridor in Trichy, Tamilnadu

Weekly Broadcasts

Public Speak Country wide 

Money Talk

January Money Talk

Current Affairs


DIPP States’ Startup Ranking 2018

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) announced results of the first ever States’ Start-up Ranking 2018 at an event in New Delhi today. DIPP began this exercise from January, 2016. States have been identified as leaders across various categories such as Start-up policy leaders, incubation hubs, seeding innovation, scaling innovation, regulatory change champions, procurement leaders, communication champions, North-Eastern leader, and hill state leader.

The government launched Startup India Action Plan in January to promote budding entrepreneurs in the country. The plan aims to give incentives such as tax holiday and inspector raj-free regime and capital gains tax exemption. On the basis of performance in these categories, the States have been recognised as the Best Performer, Top Performers, Leaders, Aspiring Leaders, Emerging States and Beginners, as follows:

DIPP start up ranking

  • Best Performer


  • Top Performers

Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, and Rajasthan

  • Leaders

Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana

  • Aspiring Leaders

Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal

  • Emerging States

Assam, Delhi, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand

  • Beginners

Chandigarh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim, and Tripura

  •  Fifty-one officers from States and Union Territories have been identified as “Champions”, who have made significant contributions towards developing their State’s Start-up ecosystem.
  •  The key objective of the exercise was to encourage States and Union Territories to take proactive steps towards strengthening the Start-up ecosystems in their states. The methodology has been aimed at creating a healthy competition among States to further learn, share and adopt good practices.
  • The entire exercise was conducted for capacity development and to further the spirit of cooperative federalism. Awareness workshops in all States, knowledge workshops in leading incubators, pairing of States for intensive mentoring, international exposure visits to US and Israel and intensive engagement between the States with Start-up India team, and video conferencing have helped many States initiate effective measures to support Start-ups.
  • DIPP consulted all stakeholders of the Start-up ecosystem and came up with 7 key reform areas as the basis of the States’ Start-up ranking framework.An online portal was launched, which was instrumental in enabling States seamlessly submit their initiatives across these reform areas.
  • A total of 27 States and 3 Union Territories participated in the exercise. Evaluation committee comprising independent experts from the Start-up ecosystem assessed the responses across various parameters. Many parameters involved getting feedback from beneficiaries. More than 40,000 calls were made in 9 different languages to connect with beneficiaries to get a real pulse at the implementation levels.
  •  A comprehensive National Report on the States’ Start-up Ranking 2018 was also released at the event today, detailing the journey of Start-up India, role of Central and State Governments, conceptualisation of the ranking framework, evaluation methodology, capacity development of States, assessment process, feedback from stakeholders, and the results of the exercise along with the impact it created on the states and the future road map.

NITI Aayog SDG India Index: Baseline Report 2018

NITI Aayog SDG India Index: Baseline Report 2018 is intended to provide a holistic view on the social, economic and environmental status of the country and its States and UTs. It has been designed to provide an aggregate assessment of the performance of all Indian States and UTs, and to help leaders and change makers evaluate their performance on social, economic and environmental parameters.

The Index has been constructed spanning across 13 out of 17 SDGs (leaving out Goals 12, 13, 14 and 17). It tracks the progress of all the States and Union Territories (UTs) on a set of 62 National Indicators, measuring their progress on the outcomes of interventions and schemes of the Government of India.

The Index can be useful to States/UTs in assessing their starting point on the SDGs in the following ways:

  • Support States/UTs to benchmark their progress against national targets and performance of their peers to understand reasons for differential performance and devise better strategies to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
  • Support States/UTs to identify priority areas in which they need to invest and improve by enabling them to measure incremental progress.
  • Highlight data gaps related across SDGs for India to develop its statistical systems at the national and State levels.

NITI Aayog has the twin mandate to oversee the implementation of SDGs in the country, and also promote Competitive and Cooperative Federalism among States and UTs. The SDG India Index acts as a bridge between these mandates, aligning the SDGs with the Prime Minister’s clarion call of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, which embodies the five Ps of the global SDG movement – people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace.

The world is now into the third year of the SDG era. The SDGs are ambitious global development goals that address key aspects of universal wellbeing across different socio-economic, cultural, geographical divisions and integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development.

India’s National Development Agenda is mirrored in the SDGs. India’s progress in SDGs is crucial for the world as the country is home to about 17% of the world population.

The SDG India Index tracks progress of all States and UTs on 62 Priority Indicators selected by NITI Aayog, which in turn is guided by MoSPI’s National Indicator Framework comprising 306 indicators and based on multiple-round consultations with Union Ministries/Departments and States/UTs.

The Index spans 13 out of 17 SDGs. Progress on SDGs 12, 13 & 14 could not be measured as relevant State/UT level data were not available and SDG 17 was left out as it focuses on international partnerships.

A composite score was computed between the range of 0-100 for each State and UT based on their aggregate performance across 13 SDGswhich indicates average performance of State/UT towards achieving 13 SDGs & their respective targets.

If a State/UT achieves a score of 100, it signifies that it has achieved the 2030 national targets. The higher the score of a State/UT, the greater the distance to target achieved.

Classification Criteria based on SDG India Index Score is as follows:

      • Aspirant: 0-49
      • Performer: 50-64
      • Front Runner: 65-99
      • Achiever: 100


OVERALLAspirantAssam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh
PerformerAndhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur,
Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep
Front RunnerHimachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh and Puducherry

Download the SDG India Index – Baseline Report 2018 34.72 MB

NITI Aayog Strategy for New India @ 75

The Strategy for New India

The NITI Aayog unveiled Strategy for New India @ 75 its comprehensive national Strategy for New India, which defines clear objectives for 2022-23 in a detailed exposition of forty-one crucial areas, recognizing the progress already made, identifies binding constraints, and suggests the way forward for achieving the stated objectives.

In his foreword the Prime Minister says,“The Strategy for New India @75 put together by NITI Aayog is an attempt to bring innovation, technology, enterprise and efficient management together, at the core of policy formulation and implementation. It will encourage discussion and debate, and invite feedback for further refining our policy approach.We believe that economic transformation cannot happen without public participation. Development must become a Jan Andolan.”

Drafting process: Central Ministries were brought on board for inputs, suggestions and comments, with each draft of individual chapters being circulated for consultations. The draft document was also circulated to all the States and Union Territories from whom valuable suggestions were received and incorporated.Over 800 stakeholders from within the government – central, state and district levels – and about 550 external experts were consulted during the preparation of the document.The overarching focus of the Strategy document is to further improve the policy environment in which private investors and other stakeholders can contribute their fullest towards achieving the goals set out for New India 2022 and propel India towards a USD 5 trillion economy by 2030.

The Strategy for New India @75

The forty-one chapters in the document have been arranged under four sections:

  1. Drivers,
  2. Infrastructure,
  3.  Inclusion and
  4. Governance.

The first section on Drivers

Focuses on the engines of economic performance with chapters on

  1.  Growth
  2.  Employment and Labour Reforms
  3.  Technology and Innovation
  4.  Industry
  5.  Doubling Farmers’ Income (I): Modernizing Agriculture
  6.  Doubling Farmers’ Income (II): Policy & Governance
  7.  Doubling Farmers’ Income (III): Value Chain & Rural Infrastructure
  8.  Financial Inclusion
  9.  Housing for All
  10.  Travel, Tourism and Hospitality
  11.  Minerals

Some of the key recommendations in the section on drivers include:

  • Steadily accelerate the economy to achieve a GDP growth rate of about 8% on average during 2018-23. This will raise the economy’s size in real terms from USD 2.7 trillion in 2017-18 to nearly USD 4 trillion by 2022-23. Increase the investment rate as measured by gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) from the present 29% to 36% of GDP by 2022.
  • In agriculture, shift the emphasis to converting farmers to ‘agripreneurs’ by further expanding e-National Agriculture Markets and replacing the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act with the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act.
  • Give a strong push to ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ techniques that reduce costs,improve land quality and increase farmers’ incomes. This has emerged as a tested method for putting environment carbon back into the land.
  • To ensure maximum employment creation, complete codification of labor laws and a massive effort must be made to upscale and expand apprenticeships.
  • Launch a mission “Explore in India” by revamping minerals exploration and licensing policy.

The second section on Infrastructure

Deals with the physical foundations of growth which are crucial to enhancing the competitiveness of Indian business as also ensuring the citizens’ ease of living.

  • Energy
  • Surface Transport
  • Railways
  • Civil Aviation
  • Ports, Shipping and Inland Waterways
  • Logistics
  • Digital Connectivity
  • Smart Cities for Urban Transformation
  • Swachh Bharat Mission
  • Water Resources
  • Sustainable Environment

Some of the key recommendations in the section on infrastructure include:

  • Expedite the establishment of the Rail Development Authority (RDA), which is already approved. RDAwill advise or make informed decisions on an integrated, transparent and dynamic pricing mechanismfor the railways.
  • Double the share of freight transported by coastal shipping and inland waterways. Initially,viability gap funding will be provided until the infrastructure is fully developed. Develop an IT-enabled platformfor integrating different modes of transport and promoting multi-modal anddigitized mobility.
  • With the completion of the Bharat Net programme in 2019, all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats will be digitallyconnected. Aim to deliver all government services at the state, district, and gram panchayat level digitally by2022-23.

The Third section on Inclusion

Deals with the urgent task of investing in the capabilities of all of India’s citizens. The three themes in this section revolve around the dimensions of health, education and mainstreaming of traditionally marginalized sections of the population.

  1. School Education
  2. Higher Education
  3. Teacher Education and Training
  4.  Skill Development
  5.  Public Health Management and Action
  6.  Comprehensive Primary Health Care
  7.  Human Resources for Health
  8.  Universal Health Coverage
  9.  Nutrition
  10.  Gender
  11.  Senior Citizens, Persons with Disability and Transgender Persons
  12.  Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Other Tribal Groups and Minorities

Some of the key recommendations in the section on inclusion include:

  • Successfully implementing the Ayushman Bharat programme including the establishment of 150,000 health and wellness centres across the country, and rolling out the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan (PM-JAY).
  • Create a focal point for public health at the central level with state counterparts. Promote integrative medicine curriculum.
  • Upgrade the quality of the school education system and skills, including the creation of a new innovation ecosystem at the ground level by establishing at least 10,000 Atal Tinkering Labs by 2020.
  • Conceptualize an electronic national educational registry for tracking each child’s learning outcomes.
  • As already done in rural areas, give a huge push to affordable housing in urban areas to improve workers’ living conditions and ensure equity while providing a strong impetus to economic growth.

The final section on Governance

Delves deep into how the governance structures can be streamlined and processes optimized to achieve better developmental outcomes.

  1. Balanced Regional Development: Transforming Aspirational Districts
  2. The North-East Region
  3. Legal, Judicial and Police Reforms
  4.  Civil Services Reforms
  5.  Modernizing City Governance for Urban Transformation
  6.  Optimizing the Use of Land Resources
  7.  Data Led Governance and Policy Making

Some of the key recommendations in the section on governance include:

  • Implement the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission as a preludeto appointing a successor for designing reforms in the changing context of emerging technologies andgrowing complexity of the economy.
  • Set up a new autonomous body, viz., the Arbitration Council of India to grade arbitralinstitutions and accredit arbitrators to make the arbitration process cost effective and speedy, and to preemptthe need for court intervention.
  • Address the backlog of pending cases – shift part of workload out of regular court system.
  • Expand the scope of Swachh Bharat Mission to cover initiatives for landfills, plastic waste andmunicipal waste and generating wealth from waste.

Download the PDF Strategy for New India @ 75

Anudeep Durishetty AIR 1 Booklist for Prelims

This is a book list for prelims compiled by Anudeep Durishetty All India Rank 1, UPSC CSE 2017. Hope this toppers books list will be helpful for your UPSC prelims 2019 preparation.

The list of books:


  1. Indian Polity by Laxmikanth


  1. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  2. articles
  3. Macroeconomics – NCERT Class XII
  4. Indian Economic Development – NCERT Class XI
  5. Economic Survey (Selective reading from Prelims perspective)
  6. The Hindu
  7. Internet for understanding concepts (Arthapedia, Google, Youtube)

Ancient History of India

  1. Old NCERT by RS Sharma

Medieval History of India

  1. Old NCERT by Satish Chandra (Selective Reading)

Modern History

  1. A Brief history of Modern India- Spectrum Publications
  2. India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Selective Reading)
  3. NCERT by Bipan Chandra (For the period 1700s to 1857)

Indian Art and Culture

  1. An Introduction to Indian Art – Class XI NCERT
  2. Chapters related to culture in Ancient and Medieval India NCERTs
  3. Centre for Cultural Resource and Training (CCRT) material
  4. Heritage Crafts: Living Craft Traditions of India -NCERT

Environment and Biodiversity

  1. Shankar IAS book

General Science

  1. General Science books – IX and X standard
  2. The Hindu (Note down and read about the latest scientific terms, discoveries and inventions frequently mentioned in news)
  3. Google and YouTube


  1. Fundamentals of Physical Geography XI NCERT
  2. India: Physical Environment XI NCERT
  3. Fundamentals of Human Geography XII NCERT
  4. India: People and Economy XII NCERT
  5. Certificate Physical and Human Geography: GC Leong
  6. PMFIAS (Excellent resource for understanding complex topics)
  7. Google and YouTube

Govt Schemes  

  1. Govt schemes compilation by the website Civils Daily

General Trivia (Eg: Global groupings, Reports, Institutions, Rankings etc)

  1. Any coaching material
  2. Google

Current Affairs

  1. The Hindu
  2. Civils Daily
  3. ForumIAS

Via Anudeep Durishetty All India Rank 1, UPSC CSE 2017.

Suggested reading:

Suggested Articles for October 4th 2018

These are Suggested Articles for October 4th 2018 from The Hindu and Indian Express also included in the post are articles from various news papers.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 24-07-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 24-07-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, , telegram: @naylak.

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 24-07-18

Alwar fallout: govt. panel to check cases of mob lynching

  • The government said a high-level committee, headed by Union Home Secretary, had been constituted to check cases of “mob lynching.” The committee will submit its recommendations within four weeks.
  • The government said a Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Union Home Minister will consider the report of the committee and submit its recommendations to Prime Minister.
  • Last week, a dairy farmer, Rakbar Khan from Haryana’s Mewat district, was lynched by a group of seven persons in Alwar when he was transporting two cows and their calves.
  • The government is concerned at the incidents of violence by mobs in some parts of the country. The government has already condemned such incidents, has made its stand clear in Parliament that it is committed to upholding the rule of law and adopting effective measures to curb such incidents.
  • The statement reiterated that, as per the Constitution, ‘Police‘ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects and State governments are responsible for controlling crime, maintaining law and order and protecting the life and property of the citizens. It informed the Rajya Sabha last week that the National Crime Records Bureau does not maintain specific data related with respect to lynching incidents in the country.
  • On July 17, the Supreme Court condemned the recent spate of lynchings as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” and told Parliament to make lynching a separate offence.

At least 16 inmates were raped in Bihar shelter

  • At least 16 girls at a shelter in Muzaffarpur in Bihar were raped, Senior Superintendent of Police told the media. There were 44 girls living in the home run by an NGO under the supervision of the Social Welfare Department.
  • In a social audit report prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in May this year, the inmates had narrated their ordeals of sexual exploitation. Later, based on the 100-page TISS report, the Social Welfare Department filed a police complaint which exposed the plight of the girls.
  • The medical report on 21 of the girls have been submitted to the Muzaffarpur police. It confirms 16 cases of rape.

Medical tourists flocking to India

  • A rare combination of advanced facilities, skilled doctors, and low cost of treatment has made India a popular hub of medical tourism, attracting a large number of foreign patients every year. The total number of such visitors in 2017 was 4.95 lakh.
  • Bangladesh and Afghanistan continued to be the top countries from where the maximum number foreign tourist arrivals (for medical purpose) was seen.
  • Other countries from where large numbers of medical tourists came to India include Iraq, Oman, Maldives, Yemen, Uzbekistan and Sudan.
  • the provisional estimates of the total foreign exchange earned (FEE) through medical tourism during 2015, 2016 and 2017 were Rs. 1,35,193 crore, Rs. 1,54,146 crore, and Rs. 1,77,874 crore, respectively.
  • The NITI Aayog has identified medical value travel as a major source of foreign exchange earnings.

Karnataka sees 300% jump in FDI inflows, T.N. rebounds

  • Karnataka registered the biggest increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) last year, as inflows from overseas jumped 300% in the 12 months ended March 2018.
  • Tamil Nadu too saw a rebound reversing a slowdown in the preceding period, while Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh all saw a drop in FDI inflows, data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) presented in Parliament show.
  • FDI inflows into Gujarat fell almost 38% to $2.09 billion in 2017-18, from $3.37 billion. Andhra Pradesh saw FDI inflows drop 43% to $1.25 billion in 2017/18.
  • There was no way to assess whether the inflows were helping a State in its development efforts.

Centre clears air on grant-giving powers

  • A new and independent body comprising academics and using an ICT-enabled platform will give grants to universities after the University Grants Commission (UGC) is repealed, Human Resource Development Minister  told the Lok Sabha.
  • The Ministry would not shift to itself the power of disbursing grants, seeking to silence criticism in recent days from stakeholders, who fear that the government plans to keep the grant-giving powers hitherto vested in the UGC to itself.
  • The criticism from teachers had followed the recent announcement by the Ministry that the UGC would be replaced by the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), which would have the mandate of ensuring quality of higher education without powers to give grants to universities, something the UGC possesses.

Others wince as Kerala celebrates top slot

  • As Kerala trumped high-profile peers such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana to emerge on top of the Public Affairs Index 2018, celebrations in one place have been matched by excuses in others.
  • The losers have the argument that the checklist of the Public Affairs Centre, the Bengaluru-based think tank, is skewed in favour of Kerala: its focus is on social development and service delivery rather than big ticket investments. With a top ranking in four of the 10 parameters for big States. These include essential infrastructure, support to human development, women and child development and child-friendly approach.
  • The parameters chosen for the study have given an edge for Kerala, a State that has won acclaim for its high human development indices. PAI 2018 comprises 10 broad themes, 30 focus subjects and 100 indicators as well as a special chapter on the children of India. While the theme on essential infrastructure includes power, water, roads and communication and housing, that on support to human development covers education and health.

LS passes Bill on cheque bounce cases

  • The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill that allows a court hearing a cheque bounce case to direct the drawer — the person who wrote the cheque — to pay interim compensation to the person who filed the complaint.
  • The interim compensation, to be paid within 60 days of the court’s order, can be up to 20% of the value of the cheque. The court may direct the payee to repay the interim compensation, with interest, if the drawer is acquitted.

‘CJI’s courtroom can go live first’

  • The government  told the Supreme Court that live-streaming of court proceedings should start with the Chief Justice of India’s courtroom.
  • It said live-streaming should be initially restricted to constitutional issues decided by the top judge.
  • Attorney-General said restricting live-streaming to the CJI’s court would give an opportunity to gauge public response, especially when issues of constitutional significance were heard.
  • In an earlier hearing, the Supreme Court had said it was ready to go live on camera, while the government had mooted a separate TV channel for live-streaming court proceedings.
  • The court had referred to live-streaming as an extension of the “open court” system allowing the public to walk in and watch the court proceedings.
  • Chief Justice Misra had said live-streaming would help litigants conveniently follow the court proceedings and assess their lawyers’ performance. People from far-flung States did not have to travel all the way to the national capital for a day’s hearing.

PM in Africa amid a fall in trade

  • Prime Minister  will encounter challenges of Chinese competition as well as declining Indian trade and investment figures on his three nation, five-day tour to Africa, part of what officials called an “unprecedented engagement” with the continent by his government.
  • Despite the ramping up of high-level visits, various studies and statistics show that Indian interest in the Africa growth story has not kept pace, and even declined through most of the period. The greatest slump appears to have been in investment figures.
  • According to the “World Investment Report for 2018”, issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Indian FDI in Africa in 2016-17 at $14 billion was even lower than it was in 2011-12 at $16 billion.
  • While one of the issues has been the investment climate in African countries itself, which has seen FDI flows drop 21% in 2016-17 according to UNCTAD, India is the only one of the big investors in Africa to have reduced its investment.
  • China, for example, increased from 2011-12, when its investment levels were identical to India’s at $16 billion, to a massive $40 billion in 2016-17.
  • export and import figures fell from $67.84 billion to $51.96 billion. The China-Africa bilateral trade, in comparison, has hovered around the $170 billion mark.
  • One of India’s biggest problems has been its concentration on East African trade and investment opportunities, as well as a dependence on petroleum and LNG, say experts. India’s exports to African countries have also been dominated by petroleum products, and a diversification is needed to broaden economic engagement.

Banks agree to resolve stressed assets quickly

  • Leading lenders of the country  signed an agreement among themselves to grant power to the lead lender of the consortium to draw up a resolution plan for stressed assets. The plan would be implemented in a time-bound manner before bankruptcy proceedings kick in, as was the mandate of the Reserve Bank.
  • The move comes after the banking regulator, in its February 12 circular, dismantled all the existing resolution mechanisms, such as the joint lenders’ forum, and asked lenders to start resolution for the asset even if the default was by one day. It had also mandated that if the resolution plan was not finalised within 180 days, the account had to be referred for bankruptcy proceedings.
  • The agreement, known as Inter-Creditor Agreement (ICA) was framed under the aegis of the Indian Banks’ Association and follows the recommendations of the Sunil Mehta Committee on stressed asset resolution. Lenders including State Bank of India, Bank of India, and Corporation Bank have already signed the pact.
  • The ICA has been executed by 24 lenders, primarily those who have obtained their board approvals, Other lenders are expected to execute the ICA shortly after getting approval from the respective Boards.
  • The ICA is applicable to all corporate borrowers who have availed loans for an amount of Rs. 50 crore or more under consortium lending / multiple banking arrangements, IBA said in a statement. The lender with the highest exposure to a stressed borrower will be authorised to formulate the resolution plan which will be presented to all lenders for their approval.
  • “The decision making shall be by way of approval of ‘majority lenders’ (i.e. the lenders with 66% share in the aggregate exposure). Once a resolution plan is approved by the majority…, it shall be binding on all the lenders that are a party to the ICA.

Changing the order of battle

  • Increasingly, leaders in both democracies and authoritarian regimes are beginning to take a direct role in matters such as foreign policy, even as they preside over the destiny of their nations.
  • Notable among those engaged in summit diplomacy are President Xi Jinping of China, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and President Donald Trump of the U.S.
  • Diplomacy is one of the world’s oldest professions. Summit diplomacy is, however, a comparatively recent phenomenon. In previous centuries, world leaders met occasionally, and it was the advent of World War II that gave a fillip to summit diplomacy.
  • In the immediate post-war years, however, traditional diplomacy seemed to make a comeback — but more recently, given the inability of traditional diplomacy to sort out intractable problems, summit diplomacy has come into its own.
  • Summit styles are personal to each leader. One common feature, however, is that Foreign Office mandarins and ministers in charge of foreign affairs are being pushed into the background.
  • Personal leadership tends to be highly contextual. At times what appears inappropriate could become the norm. Attitudes also change given different situations.
  • Strong leadership and summit diplomacy do not necessarily translate into appropriate responses
  • Useless , in more ways than one , you can skip the following part : 
  • Trump, hardly constrained by diplomatic etiquette, firmly believes in the aphorism, ‘what starts with him changes the world’. He hardly ever debates the question, ‘what will the world look like after you change it?’ He is clearly an advocate of the thesis that ‘a crisis by definition poses problems, but it also presents opportunities’.
  • Putin is less mercurial than Mr. Trump. He is, nevertheless, unflinching in his belief that he has the answers to Russia’s problems, and how to take Russia from the low point of the Yelstin years to future glory.
  • At the opposite end is Mr. Xi of China, who is in the process of establishing a new political orthodoxy? Mr. Xi’s ‘thought’ is being portrayed as the culmination of a century’s historical process and philosophical refinement, produced through an ongoing dialectic of theory and practice, and encapsulating ‘traditions’ of the Qing dynasty, Maoist socialism and Deng’s policies of reform.
  • Relevant again : You can read again from here… 
  • What the world is surprisingly discovering is that with many more countries sporting ‘maximum leaders’ at the helm, summitry can help cut through the Gordian knot of many existing and past shibboleths. It is uncertain at this time whether this is more make-believe than real.
  • The meeting between Mr. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Singapore in mid-June, is a classic example of ‘daredevilry’ at the highest level which could only be attempted by leaders cocooned in their own personal beliefs ignoring past history and current problems.
  • The Trump-Putin meeting held in Helsinki last week, in July, has evoked a similarly negative response from the majority of western countries, especially among the diplomatic and policy-making fraternity. Much of the anger seems directed at the sheer gall of Mr. Trump in rejecting conventional wisdom in the West that Russia is Enemy No.1, and in challenging their beliefs by effecting a meeting with the Russian President.

The Indian way?

  • Indian Prime Ministers have also experimented on occasion with variants of summit diplomacy.
  • Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was in effect his own Minister for External Affairs, conducted policy discussions with a whole range of world leaders, achieving a mixed bag of results. He was successful as the architect of the Non-Aligned Movement, but met with setbacks in his China policy.
  • In 1988, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi ended a 25-year India-China stalemate by personally taking the initiative to reopen talks with Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese leadership.
  • Prime Minister B. Vajpayee achieved a temporary respite from cross-border attacks from Pakistan by engaging with General, later President, Pervez Musharraf.
  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh established a fairly successful ‘back-channel’ with Pakistan, thanks to his brand of summit diplomacy with President Musharraf. In the case of Indian Prime Ministers, what is different is that they did not seek to ‘buck the trend’, but while going with the flow use their personal credibility to achieve results.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is, to all intents and purposes, a firm believer in summit diplomacy. He has, however, made no attempt to effect any systematic change in foreign policy, nor talked of establishing a qualitatively new order in the realm of foreign affairs so as to add gloss to Indian foreign policy.
  • The informal summits held recently with Mr. Xi (in Wuhan) and Mr. Putin (in Sochi) have contributed to improving the ‘fraying’ relations with China and Russia.
  • Summit diplomacy is taking leaders into hitherto uncharted waters, and producing results that traditional diplomacy has struggled for years to achieve — whether they be long-lasting or short-lived. If diplomacy is generally viewed as ‘war by other means’, then summit diplomacy is changing the ‘Order of Battle’ in a bid to succeed where all else has failed. There is no reason why disruption in the area of foreign affairs should not alter staid diplomatic practices that were more relevant to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The art of writing a judgment

  • The fate of the governance of the National Capital Territory of Delhi was decided earlier this month by the Supreme Court.
  • But one had to pore over 500 pages of widely awaited judgment in order to understand the demarcation of powers between the Lieutenant Governor and the elected government.

The need for crisp and on-message judgments for many reasons.

  • First, erroneously drafted judgments that run into pages and which state the same point repeatedly have been called out several times by critics within and outside the judiciary.
  • Second, insensitive comments made in judgments can tarnish the quality of pronouncements. For example, unnecessary remarks have been made on the ‘promiscuous attitude’ and ‘voyeuristic mindset’ of a woman in a bail order of a rape case. The Supreme Court has even frowned on a trial court judgment that rationalised how “wife beating is a normal facet of married life”. Across the judiciary, there are numerous instances of judgments with similar gender-insensitive remarks.
  • Third, several judgments do not record submissions or issues raised by both parties, which often results in a reader being unable to make out the link between the legal provisions used to arrive at a judgment and the facts to which they are applied.
  • Lastly, in most judgments, a uniform structure (recording of facts, issues, submissions and then reaching the decision) is lacking. Judicial decisions are the law of the land and if the law is unclear, it becomes increasingly difficult to follow or enforce them.
  • Solutions: Judicial academies play a significant role in equipping trainee judges to deliver lean, to-the-point judgments. There are now at least four State judicial academies that conduct training. judgment writing is one of the most requisite skills that a judge should possess, there has to be focussed training in this area. Simple, clear and crisp judgments are vital.
  • To eliminate bias, training sessions could have diverse socio-economic scenarios which would also help trainee judges apply theories.
  • Another useful exercise is in re-writing judgments, particularly those that are difficult to understand due to a seeming lack of structure.
  • Issues: The attempt towards improving judgment quality appears to be ineffective as several judgments in lower and higher courts continue to remain verbose.
  • Judicial training must lay emphasis on the need for concise and reasoned judgments.
  • very few States conduct post-training evaluation of judges.
  • Judicial academies must focus on practical-based training. In the interim, higher courts and also the Supreme Court must consider summarising the crux of lengthy decisions into a separate official document. Such summary briefs can be uploaded by the Registry along with the judgment which would help the layperson in understanding the main ideas of the decision.

Stimulus mode

  • The Goods and Services Tax Council has announced a reduction in the tax rates for over 85 goods. The applicable indirect tax rates on consumer durables such as television sets, washing machines and refrigerators, along with a dozen other products, have been slashed from 28% to 18%.
  • The tax rate on environmentally friendly fuel cell vehicles has been reduced from 28% to 12%, and the compensation cess levied on them dropped.
  • This leaves just about 35 products, including tobacco, automobiles and cement, in the highest tax slab of the GST structure.
  • Rakhis without semi-precious stones, as well as sanitary napkins that attracted 12% GST, have been exempted from the tax altogether.
  • Several other products have been placed in lower tax slabs, including those from employment-intensive sectors such as carpets and handicrafts.
  • On the services front, too, there are important tweaks and clarifications.
  • Overall, industry and consumers may consider these rate cuts, largely on products and services of mass use, as a stimulus to drive consumption ahead of the festive season.
  • The GST Council’s 28th meeting has significantly altered the course of the nearly 13-month-old tax regime. Given that GST rates on more than 200 items were already tweaked in past meetings, the original rate structure has been upended to a great extent. The actual impact of these changes on product prices and consumption demand will be visible soon, but the government’s confidence in such a rate reduction gambit indicates it is now comfortable with revenue yields from the GST.
  • If implemented well, the revenue lost could be offset by higher consumption that may lead to more investments over time. Moreover, improvements in compliance can be expected from the Council’s decision to further simplify paperwork for small and medium enterprises.
  • But there are two major concerns. First, since the new rates are to kick in from July 27, companies may not have enough time to rework pricing strategies and replace existing market inventory, failing which they could face anti-profiteering action. Second, members of the Council have for the first time questioned its functioning and alleged that not all of the changes and rate cuts were placed on the agenda.
  • Distrust between the Centre and the States would make further rationalisation difficult. Such friction must be avoided in a system in which the States have so far worked in tandem with the Centre.

Short spells of heavy showers

  • With an increase in heavy rainfall of short durations during the summer monsoon in many places in India, scientists at Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) have coined a new term to define such events — mini-cloud bursts. A mini-cloud burst is defined as rainfall in excess of 50 mm in two consecutive hours.
  • Between 1969 and 2015, the researchers found an average of 200 mini-cloud bursts occurring every year in India. Between 1988 and 2007, there were around 265 mini-cloud bursts.
  • The India Meteorological Department already recognises cloud bursts — heavy rainfall, irrespective of the amount — in the mountainous regions of Himalayas with its steep slopes, which lead to flash floods, and rainfall over 100 mm per hour in other places.
  • Currently, on a 24-hour basis, the IMD classifies rainfall as heavy (over 60.5 mm), very heavy (over 130 mm) and extremely heavy (over 200 mm).
  • IITM explained the rationale for classifying rainfall of over 50 mm in two hours as a mini-cloud burst. While extreme rainfall of over 200 mm translates to only 16 mm of rainfall per hour, the intensity of rainfall is far more in the case of mini-cloud bursts.Also, compared with extreme rainfall, the rate of water accumulation exceeding absorption and the probability of flash floods are three times more in the case of mini-cloud bursts.
  • Over most parts of India, the highest recorded rainfall in two hours is 100-150 mm, and the locations (other than the mountainous regions of Himalayas) that have recorded rainfall of over 150 mm in two hours are those that also experience cloud bursts. So in these locations, the mechanism responsible for heavy rainfall “persists for more than an hour”.
  • The study found that mini-cloud bursts are “very common” in the foothills of the Himalayas. While the west coast records more than three mini-cloud bursts per season, the Indo-Gangetic plains and the Saurashtra region receive two per season. At just one per season, Rajasthan and States to the east of the Western Ghats experience the least number of mini-cloud bursts. For the rest of India, the amount of rainfall per mini-cloud burst is 50-70 mm.

A Law For Children Written by Kailash Satyarthi

  • Millions are oppressed every day in brothels, homes, factories and hell-holes of endless violence against children. After rescuing tens of thousands of children, I can vouch that our children cannot wait any longer. I have heard rescued young girls talking about how they had been sold for a price much less than that of a buffalo. Recently, some children who were freed from a jeans factory in Delhi could barely open their eyes because they had not seen the sun for the last three years. Sitting and working for long hours without proper food had left them crippled.
  • These are not isolated stories and should be looked against the overarching backdrop of a national emergency where eight children go missing every hour; four are sexually abused and two raped.
  • One ray of hope is a strong legal mechanism against trafficking and India is very close to coming up with a legislation that will break the backbone of trafficking.
  • The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 has been introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Bill is a moral victory for the 12 lakh Indians who marched with me in the 12,000-km Bharat Yatra last year declaring a war on child trafficking and the sexual abuse of children.
  • The proposed bill deals a solid blow to the very economics of trafficking as an illicit trade that fuels black money and corruption. Trafficking is the largest illicit trade in the world which is pegged at $150 billion. Every penny earned out of human trafficking is black money.
  • To counter this disturbing and growing phenomenon, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018 stipulates extremely stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape on minor girls. It is appalling to note that the current pendency for disposing of rape cases in some states is as high as 50 to 100 years.
  • Over the last 10 years, India has made phenomenal progress in promulgating and amending several pieces of legislation that will go a long way in upholding the rights of its children — for example, the Right to Education Act (2009), POCSO Act (2012), Juvenile Justice Act (2015), the new child labour law of 2016. In addition, on several occasions during the last decade, the judiciary has delivered landmark judgments related to missing children, the establishment of anti-human trafficking units, recovery of back wages and ensuring compensation for survivors of modern slavery, among others.
  • Let me underline that laws and institutions cannot be perfect instruments of justice in one go. There is always room for improvement in any law, and that is how they evolve. But we cannot keep arguing, hoping for a utopic legislation. Laws are the only tools at our disposal for a just and equitable society. Eventually, all stakeholders have to collectively use their hearts, heads and hands to attain justice. The collective conscience of all my fellow citizens is the only way to protect our children and while these laws are the first step they are only the first step. Society must rise collectively to provide protection to our children.

Value addition:

  • Article 23(1) in The Constitution Of India Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
  • In May 2011, Government of India ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its three protocols. India is one of the five countries in South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and very recently Nepal, to ratify the UNTOC.
  • The UNTOC was adopted by General Assembly in 2000 and came into force in 2003. The Convention is the first comprehensive and global legally binding instrument to fight transnational organized crime. The UNTOC is further supplemented by three Protocols, which target specific forms of organized crime:
    • 1) The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,
    • 2) The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air,
    • 3) The Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition.

The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 has the following features:-

  • Addresses the issue of trafficking from the point of view of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation.
  • Aggravated forms of trafficking, which includes trafficking for the purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a personfor the purpose of early sexual maturity, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage or after marriage etc.
  • Punishment for promoting or facilitating trafficking of person which includes producing, printing, issuing or distributing unissued, tampered or fake certificates, registration or stickers as proof of compliance with Government requirements; orcommits fraudfor procuring or facilitating the acquisition ofclearances and necessary documents from Government agencies.
  • The confidentiality of victims/ witnesses and complainants by not disclosing their identity. Further the confidentiality of the victims is maintained by recording their statement through video conferencing (this also helps in trans-border and inter-State crimes).
  • Time bound trial and repatriation of the victims – within a period of one year from taking into cognizance.
  • Immediate protection of rescued victims and their rehabilitation. The Victims are entitled to interim relief immediately within 30 days to address their physical, mental trauma etc. and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of charge sheet.
  • Rehabilitation of the victim which is not contingent upon criminal proceedings being initiated against the accused or the outcome thereof.Rehabilitation Fund created for the first time. To be used for the physical, psychological and social well-being of the victim including education, skill development, health care/psychological support, legal aid, safe accommodation,etc.
  • Designated courts in each district for the speedy trial of the cases.
  • The Bill creates dedicated institutional mechanisms at District, State and Central Level. These will be responsible for prevention, protection, investigation and rehabilitation work related to trafficking.  National Investigation Agency (NIA) will perform the tasks of Anti-Trafficking Bureau at the national level present under theMHA.
  • Punishment ranges from rigorous minimum 10 years to life and fine not less than Rs. 1 lakh.
  • In order to break the organized nexus, both at the national and international level, the Bill provides for the attachment & forfeiture of property and also the proceeds for crime.
  • The Bill comprehensively addresses the transnational nature of the crime. The National Anti-Trafficking Bureau will perform the functions of international coordination with authorities in foreign countries and international organizations; international assistance in investigation; facilitate inter-State and trans-border transfer of evidence and materials, witnesses and others for expediting prosecution; facilitate inter-state and international video conferencing in judicial proceedings etc.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 23-07-18

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July 30 NRC list only a draft: Rajnath

  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam, to be published on July 30, was only a “draft” list.
  • He added that even after the NRC was finalised, there was no question of putting anyone in detention centres as people could appeal before the Foreigner’s Tribunal.
  • His statement comes amid apprehensions expressed by several groups that the NRC was being used by the government for “religious polarisation” and several residents would end up in detention centres if their names did not figure in the draft list.
  • The NRC is being updated in accordance with the Assam Accord signed on August 15, 1985. The entire process is being carried out as per the directions of the Supreme Court which is constantly monitoring the process.
  • Government wants to make it clear that the NRC is only a draft. After the publication of the draft, adequate opportunity for claims and objections will be available. All claims and objections will be duly examined. Adequate opportunity of being heard will be given before disposal of claims and objections. Only thereafter will the final NRC be published.

What is Assam Accord?

  • The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
  • The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.

Watershed development projects lagging behind badly

  • Irrigation projects of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) may have taken the spotlight in the Prime Minister’s speech during Friday’s no-confidence motion debate in the Lok Sabha.
  • However, a less well-known but vital component of that scheme is watershed development, which is lagging behind badly, according to a Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) report.
  • The report was first tabled last July, not a single one of the 8,214 projects sanctioned between 2009 and 2015 at a cost of Rs. 50,740 crore had been completed, said the Standing Committee on Rural Development.
  • In its response, the Department of Land Resources (DoLR) had updated that 849 projects in 11 States were completed by October 2017, but admitted that 1,257 projects had not even completed the initial step of preparing detailed project reports (DPRs) at that point.
  • The Committee submitted its final report to Parliament last week. Terming the pace of development of the scheme as “lethargic”, the Committee urged the DoLR to “go all out on a war footing scale for the expeditious completion of the remaining projects.”

What exactly is watershed development?

  • It’s all about making running to water stop and standing water to sink inside,” was the succinct definition offered by Dr. Ch Radhika Rani, who heads the Centre for Agrarian Studies at the National Institute for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR), an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • “It is the only option for rainfed areas… for water conservation and recharge, and to prevent soil degradation.” Within the site of a watershed development project, a ridge is identified and structures such as check dams, percolation dams, ponds and channels are built from the ridge to the valley.
  • Projects take four to seven years to complete, according to the scheme’s guidelines. In the long-term, results are impressive a May 2018 evaluation study of MGNREGA’s (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) water and land management projects, a chunk of which are implemented in convergence with the PMKSY’s watershed component. About 78% of beneficiaries saw an increase in the water table, while 66% also reported benefiting from better availability of fodder, thanks to such water conservation works.
  • Despite huge government investments, watershed development benefits are not becoming sustainable in the long-term because, while the physical structures may get built, the governance structures are missing.”
  • She explains that when the groundwater table increases as a result of watershed management projects, farmers in the area go for water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane and drain it again. “The government can implement a project through its agencies or through an NGO, but once they finish, who remains to sustain it?” If local Panchayati Raj leadership and watershed user associations are not strengthened and empowered, any benefits will be cyclical and short-term only.

WCD to move proposal to amend POCSO Act

  • The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry is set to move a proposal before the Cabinet this week for enhanced punishment in cases of sexual assault of male
  • The Law Ministry has cleared the proposal to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, for enhancing punishment in cases of sexual assault against young boys.
  • The move is being seen as an effort to bring in a gender-neutral law while dealing with cases of sexual assaults.
  • Boys who are sexually abused as children spend a lifetime in silence because of the stigma and shame attached to male survivors speaking out.

Restrictions on foreign media in J&K not new

  • Rules for foreign journalists to travel to restricted areas are not new and they were reiterated most recently in December 2016.
  • The comment came following media reports that suggested that foreign correspondents were finding it difficult to visit Kashmir because of newly introduced “rules”.
  • A stern letter from the External Affairs Ministry on May 22 to all foreign media bureaus based in Delhi reminded them of restrictions imposed by the 1958 guidelines for travel of foreigners to parts or all of Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, J&K, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland and Andaman and Nicobar.
  • According to one journalist who travelled to the Kashmir Valley four times last year, requests to travel have now been pending with the External Affairs and Home Ministries for more than a month, which is making it difficult for them to plan coverage of the situation in the State.
  • It is understood that the government has been particularly careful about permitting travel to J&K after the publication of the UN’s Human Rights Council report in June, the first of its kind, that slammed India over alleged violations in J&K as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, advising India to remember its promises on “self-determination” to the population in Kashmir.

Avoid delay in relaying news of detention

  • Administrative laxity should not be the reason for delaying the news of detention of a person under the National Security Act to the State government concerned, the Supreme Court has held.
  • The SC bench said that “Any delay between the date of detention and the date of submitting the report to the State government, must be due to unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the detaining authority and not because of administrative laxity.”

Army to get artillery guns from September

  • From September, the Army will be inducting two types of artillery guns into its arsenal. These will be the first induction of heavy artillery since the Swedish Bofors guns imported in the 1980s.
  • The Army will start taking delivery of the K9 Vajra-T tracked self-propelled artillery guns from South Korea.
  • At the same time, it will also receive four M777 ultra-light howitzers from the S.
  • K9 Vajra-T is a 155-mm, 52-calibre self-propelled artillery gun with a maximum range of 40 km, customised from the original K9 Thunder gun. The fire control system has been customised for desert conditions to the requirements of the Army. The first 10 guns will be imported from South Korea and the rest manufactured by L&T in India.
  • In 2016, India signed a deal for 145 M777 ULHs with the U.S. under the Foreign Military Sales programme at a cost of $737 million. The M777 is a 155-mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun and weighs just four tonnes, making it transportable under slung from helicopters.

Mattis seeks waivers from sanctions

  • S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has sought waivers from sanctions on some countries making a transition from their military dependence on Russia, asserting that it will allow them to build closer security ties with America and strengthen U.S.’ allies in key regions.
  • His statement did not mention India, but for all practical purposes he has been seeking waivers for India from the punitive Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, under which sanctions kick off on countries that purchase significant military equipment from Russia.Though the Act targets Russia, it is having its unintended consequences on India, which is planning to buy five S-400 Triumf air defence systems.
  • Last week, several U.S. lawmakers had said that they were working to get CAATSA waivers for India.

IBC: UN model eyed for cross-border norms

  • The government is looking at the possibility of adopting a United Nations legal model for cross-border insolvency cases as it works on strengthening the insolvency resolution framework.
  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has sections pertaining to cross-border insolvency matters but are yet to be made operational.
  • The Insolvency Law Committee, headed by Corporate Affairs Secretary is studying the feasibility of introducing cross-border insolvency provisions.
  • He also noted the existing Code provides for two sections — 234 and 235 — relating to cross-border insolvency, which allows the Centre to enter into an agreement with a foreign country for enforcing the provisions of the Code, which is considered insufficient and time-taking.
  • An official said in case the UN model is adopted for cross-border insolvency matters, then sections 234 and 235 could be dropped from the Code as they pertain to only bilateral pacts.

An index to determine the value of coal blocks

  • Major changes in the coal block auction system have been suggested by the high-powered committee set up last year to review the current process.
  • The recommendations, submitted this month, rest on four tenets —
    • ensuring transparency and fairness,
    • equity,
    • early development of coal blocks and
    • simplicity of implementation of the recommendations.
  • These suggestions coincide with the opening up of the coal sector for commercial mining.
  • The proposed changes aim at introducing flexibility in the number of bidders, penalties for defaulting on milestones (and revoking bank guarantees), project execution, and relaxation to captive miners to sell some of the coal in the market. The panel has recommended developing a Coal Index for determining the value of blocks and a revenue-sharing model with the States. Currently, the valuation is on the basis of the notified price of Coal India Ltd.
  • The committee has suggested scrapping the current practice of cancelling an auction if the number of bidders drop below three, saying that a single-bid should be accepted if biddings failed to find eligible bidders, provided the offered price was benchmarked to the reserve price.
  • If accepted, the changes would mark a major shift in the current system which was put in place after the cancellation of 204 coal-block allocations and introducing a system of auctioning the mineral blocks.
  • Triggering euphoria and intense competition since their introduction, the e-auctions failed to sustain interest after several blocks were taken at high prices.
  • Even companies which bought the blocks found it cheaper to import coal to meet their requirements rather than developing the mines.There were no takers for subsequent blocks, forcing the Centre to do a rethink.

What is the GDP deflator?

  • The GDP deflator, also called implicit price deflator, is a measure of inflation. It is the ratio of the value of goods and services an economy produces in a particular year at current prices to that of prices that prevailed during the base year.
  • This ratio helps show the extent to which the increase in gross domestic product has happened on account of higher prices rather than increase in output.
  • Since the deflator covers the entire range of goods and services produced in the economy — as against the limited commodity baskets for the wholesale or consumer price indices — it is seen as a more comprehensive measure of inflation.
  • GDP price deflator measures the difference between real GDP and nominal GDP. Nominal GDP differs from real GDP as the former doesn’t include inflation, while the latter does.
  • As a result, nominal GDP will most often be higher than real GDP in an expanding economy.
  • The formula to find the GDP price deflator: GDP price deflator = (nominal GDP ÷ real GDP) x 100
  • Changes in consumption patterns or introduction of goods and services are automatically reflected in the GDP deflator. This allows the GDP deflator to absorb changes to an economy’s consumption or investment patterns. Often, the trends of the GDP deflator will be similar to that of the CPI.
  • Specifically, for the GDP deflator, the ‘basket’ in each year is the set of all goods that were produced domestically, weighted by the market value of the total consumption of each good.
  • Therefore, new expenditure patterns are allowed to show up in the deflator as people respond to changing prices. The theory behind this approach is that the GDP deflator reflects up-to-date expenditure patterns.
  • GDP deflator is available only on a quarterly basis along with GDP estimates, whereas CPI and WPI data are released every month.

Fukushima’s nuclear imprint found in California wine

  • Ever since a huge earthquake off the coast of Japan sent a tsunami crashing into a nuclear plant in Fukushima, setting off one of the world’s worst nuclear crises, scientists have been uncovering the radioactive legacy of the 2011 disaster.
  • The government warned about contaminated seafood around Japan, and toxic water, sludge and rubble. More frighteningly, radioactive wild boars marauded Japanese towns and attacked people.
  • Now a group of French nuclear physicists say they have stumbled on Fukushima’s signature in Northern California wine.
  • Wines made around major nuclear events, including U.S. and Soviet nuclear tests during the Cold War and the Chernobyl accident, should show higher levels of radioactive isotopes, called cesium-137, according to the researchers. The man-made isotope cannot be found in nature and would be present only at certain levels after the nuclear events.
  • Ingesting cesium-137 can result in an elevated risk for cancer, but the level of radioactive material from Fukushima in food and drink in countries outside Japan has been too low to result in a health hazard, according to the World Health Organisation.

Editorials and Opinions :

Dealing with the Taliban hand

  • Less than a year after U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his new Afghanistan policy, last August, it lies in tatters.
  • His Afghan policy was going to be robust. As he put it, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”
  • He blamed Pakistan for giving safe haven to “agents of chaos” and later cut off security assistance to Taliban’s greatest benefactors and backers.
  • Now the next thing we know, about 17 years after invading Afghanistan to rid it of the Taliban, the white flags are out, and the S. is setting the stage for direct talks with the very enemy it vowed to vanquish. True, we have to weigh this against previous attempts at dialogue with the Taliban which ended in failure. The problem is that this time the U.S. may want the talks to succeed, which means handing Afghanistan over to the Taliban and their chief backers, the Pakistanis, beribboned and gift-wrapped.

Taliban on the rebound

  • The new American move comes at a time when the Taliban ranks have swelled since the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation pulled out in 2014 and they seem to be surging ahead in many parts of the country.
  • It comes after the U.S. stopped releasing figures for the territories or populations under Taliban control, or the numbers of their fighters. It comes at a time where the data and assessments on the strength and the combat capabilities of the Afghan military and police are no longer readily available.
  • It comes when the UN grimly noted — late last year — rising opium production.opium production in Afghanistan had increased by 87% to a record level of 9,000 metric tons in 2017 compared with 2016 levels. The area under opium poppy cultivation had also increased to a record 328,000 hectares in 2017, up 63% from 201,000 hectares in 2016.
  • It comes at a time when a strategy that relies mostly on counter-terrorism operations — the vastly reduced number of troops (less than 15,000).
  • It comes after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani literally sued for peace, saying that he was prepared to recognise the Taliban — previously referred to as terrorists — as a legitimate political group, offered to release Taliban prisoners. and proposed dialogue.
  • Pakistan’s game and India: new Afghanistan policyhas not resulted in many critical primary military and strategic objectives being realised, the denial of safe havens (mostly in Pakistan) to the Taliban, the reduction of their fighting capability, and to effectively dis-incentivise Pakistan’s zeal and ability to nurture the Taliban.
  • It has also helped Pakistan that the American President, no stranger to U-turns, has turned spectacularly fickle so far as Afghanistan is concerned.
  • What matters is this: what the Taliban, and thus more importantly, Pakistan, are able to wrest from the negotiating table. Withdrawal of the remaining international troops will be the main aim.
  • At the end of it, the Taliban and other Pakistani proxies, who have orchestrated a string of deadly attacks on Indian interests with a view to deter New Delhi, will have the run of what passes for a country; a nation that has not yet been built.
  • Where would that leave New Delhi? The American move comes when there is pressure to limit any kind of engagement with Iran, which would have been a logistical pivot for further inroads into Afghanistan. Already, with the exit of Hamid Karzai, the strategic comfort that New Delhi had in Kabul stands diminished, and by extension, the kind of intelligence operations New Delhi may have had the option to conduct with deniability. Pakistan’s aim will be to reverse all the gains India has made at great cost over the years in Afghanistan. With strategic depth in Afghanistan that Pakistan has dreamt of becoming a reality, Islamabad will have more room to incubate and move around the various anti-India groupings, including those active in Kashmir With the prospect of the Taliban slouching towards Kabul to be born again, most of New Delhi’s bets may be off.

Sunlight and shadow

  • The move by the NDA government to amend the far-sighted the Right to Information Act, 2005 aims at eroding the independence of the Information Commissions at the national level and in the States.
  • The proposed amendments show that the Central government seeks control over the tenure, salary and allowances of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at the Centre, and the State Chief Information Commissioners.
  • Such a change would eliminate the parity they currently have with the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners and, therefore, equivalence with a judge of the Supreme Court in matters of pay, allowances and conditions of service. The Centre will also fix the terms for State Information Commissioners.
  • This is an ill-advised move and should be junked without standing on prestige.
  • Need to Strengthen it : If at all, the law needs to be amended only to bring about full compliance by government departments and agencies that receive substantial funding from the exchequer, and to extend its scope to more institutions that have an influence on official policy.
  • The Supreme Court has held the right to information as being integral to the right to free expression under Article 19(1)(a); weakening the transparency law would negate that guarantee.
  • In its rationale for the amendments, the Centre has maintained that unlike the EC, Information Commissions are not constitutional bodies but mere statutory creations under the law. This is a narrow view.
  • Issues with RTI Implementation: A recent public interest petition filed in the Supreme Court by the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information pointed out that the Central Information Commission has over 23,500 pending appeals and complaints, and sought the filling up of vacancies in the body.
  • In many States, the Commissions are either moribund or working at low capacity owing to vacancies, resulting in a pile-up of appeals.
  • The challenges to the working of the law are also increasing, with many State departments ignoring the requirement under Section 4 of the Act to publish information suo motu . The law envisaged that voluntary disclosure would reduce the need to file an application.
  • Since fines are rarely imposed, officers give incomplete, vague or unconnected information to applicants with impunity.
  • Proposals to make it easier to pay the application fee, and develop a reliable online system to apply for information, are missing. These are the serious lacunae.
  • Attempts were made by the UPA government also to weaken the law, including to remove political parties from its purview. Any move to enfeeble the RTI Act will deal a blow to transparency.

Indian Express :

Why the EU is upset with Google

  • The European Commission’s €4.3-billion (around $5 billion) penalty on Google last week may not financially hurt the technology company that is sitting on over $100 billion in cash reserves, but it could bring about changes in the way the Android ecosystem functions, and create a precedent for other antitrust cases against Google.
  • EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said Google has imposed three types of restrictions on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine.
  • One, asking device manufacturers to preload the Google Search app and Chrome browser as a condition for licensing Google’s Play Store. As a result, Google Search and Chrome were installed on practically all Android devices sold. Pre-installation can create a status quo bias… (There is) evidence that the Google Search app is consistently used more on Android devices, where it is pre-installed, than on Windows Mobile devices, where users must download it.
  • Two, the Commission has said that Google “granted significant financial incentives to some of the largest device manufacturers as well as mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed Google Search across their entire portfolio of Android devices”. This significantly reduced their incentives to pre-install rival search apps. However, it said that by 2014, Google had stopped the practice.
  • Three, the antitrust body said, Google had not allowed “forked” versions of Android to pre-install Google’s proprietary apps, including Google Search and Play Store. Android being an open-source operating system, it has its code published by Google online whenever a new version is released.
  • In June 2017, the EU fined Google €2.42 billion for prioritising its own services on the search platform, thus giving itself an advantage over third-party service providers.
  • Closer home, the Competition Commission of India in February fined Google Rs 136 crore for unfair business practices in the Indian online search market. The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal stayed the ruling on Google’s appeal, but asked it to pay 10% of the penalty.
  • Criticism: There is no clear alternative to Android. Had the Commission’s determination been made even five years ago, it would have opened a door of opportunity for others.
  • Insisting that Google allow forked versions of Android, could lead to a deteriorated consumer experience.
  • By maintaining a combination of strict standards over the way the operating systems are designed and providing its own bouquet of basic apps, Google has been able to control the experience of Android users.

Swarajya to Surajya

  • July 23 is a special day as it marks the birth anniversary of two of the most illustrious freedom fighters — Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Chandra Shekhar Azad.
  • Tilak was a passionate patriot who awakened the national consciousness through his speeches, writings and actions. He firmly believed that the lack of unity and national pride were the main reason for India being subjugated by colonial powers.
  • Azad’s life is a saga of total identification with the cause of the country’s freedom and the willingness to make the supreme sacrifice for it.
  • Perhaps the time has come for every Indian, particularly the youth, who comprise the majority of today’s population, to develop the fervour of a fearless revolutionary like Azad and the zeal and commitment of a nationalist like Tilak to meet the challenges the country is facing on various fronts.
  • Millions of selfless Indians participated in the freedom struggle and were led by courageous leaders like Azad and nationalists like Tilak. Azad plunged into the freedom struggle in his teens and daringly told the magistrate at Varanasi when he was arrested along with other boys that his name was “Azad”, father’s name “Swatantra” and that his address was jail. He was given a punishment of 15 lashes. Freedom of the motherland was the sole objective for Azad, who hailed from an indigent family. While he was a revolutionary to the core, Azad led a disciplined life and was unflinchingly upright in terms of his principles and values till the very end.
  • Tilak’s celebrated slogan — “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it” — made him immortal in the annals of history. He was a scholar and social reformer, who stood against dowry, the marriage of girls before the age of 16 and favoured prohibition. He was a strong advocate of swadeshi and used cultural events like the Ganesha festival for political awakening during the freedom struggle. He likened our nation to a tree, of which the original trunk is Swarajya, and its branches, swadeshi and boycott.
  • The painful truth is that 70 long years after attaining Independence, the country is still saddled with the problems of poverty, illiteracy, drinking water, electricity, housing shortage, sanitation, gender discrimination and a glaring urban-rural divide, which, if not bridged at the earliest, will hamper India’s progress. We can no longer afford any full stops in India’s growth story.
  • The country cannot be allowed to be pulled apart by social, communal or regional dissensions, which is what the adversaries of India want.
  • Today, India is the sixth largest economy in the world and has the potential to become a developed nation and one of the top economies in the next 15-20 years. We can achieve the goal if we collectively display the will to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, urban-rural divide, ensure top priority to agriculture, education, health and industry and empower the vulnerable sections.
  • From Swarajya as our birthright, let us move to Surajya as our fundamental right — that will be our real homage to these great freedom fighters.

The limits of MSP

  • Coordination is needed amongst Union ministries that deal with agriculture, food, food processing, fertilisers, water, rural development and trade. This will enable a holistic approach to agriculture and farmers’ incomes. The process can start with the creation of an agri-council/cabinet.
  • The need for such coordination was also echoed in the recently released OECD-ICRIER (2018) report on “Agricultural Policies in India”. This should involve a focus on long overdue agri-marketing reforms and revisiting the Essential Commodity and APMC Acts to “get the markets right”.
  • Getting the markets right will ensure better and stable prices to farmers, as well as consumers, and also augment farmers’ incomes in a sustained manner.
  • Government has increased the MSPs of 14 kharif crops to at least 50 per cent above paid out costs of farmers, including the imputed cost of family labour (Cost A2+FL). There is no economic rationality in fixing MSPs at 50 per cent plus cost A2+FL. This MSP is purely a “political price,” keeping in mind the coming elections.
  • A professional advisory body, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), has toed the government line. It has bypassed its own terms of reference (ToR) that require it to look at demand and supply, domestic and international prices, costs, inter-crop price parity, etc while recommending MSPs.
  • when professional bodies start recommending what the government of the day wants, bypassing their own ToR, two things happen: First, the credibility of the institution takes a hit, pushing it to irrelevance; and second, the government never gets the right professional advice, and in the political cacophony, it becomes prone to making economic blunders. The case of the kharif MSPs is somewhat similar.
  • The  question is whether these MSPs can be effectively prices of most kharif crops are well below the announced MSPs. Ensuring that farmers really get these MSPs will require a major coordination between the Centre and states.
  • Our take on this is that no matter how hard the government tries, it cannot procure even 25 per cent of the production of various kharif crops, except in paddy and cotton, as a robust procurement system does not exist for other crops.
  • Third is the cost of this scheme. In the case of paddy alone, the government will incur an extra food subsidy bill of Rs 12,000-15,000 crore due to increased procurement, which we expect to be anywhere between 38-40 million metric tonnes (MMT).
  • The grain stocks are already brimming and the Food Corporation of India is saddled with 65 MMT as on July 1. This is 58 per cent higher than the current buffer stock norms.
  • It is widely recognised now that higher MSPs are likely to make our rice exports globally uncompetitive, leading to further accumulation of stocks at home, and greater economic inefficiency.
  • Comparison: China also raised MSPs of wheat, rice and corn substantially above world prices, leading to grain stocks piling up — they touched 300 MMT in 2016-17. But China is learning from its mistakes and since 2014, it has been reducing its MSPs for rice and wheat. It has removed corn from price support. On input subsidies, it has moved towards direct income support on a per hectare basis.
  • Wisdom lies in learning from the mistakes of other countries. India needs to recognise that adressing farmers’ woes by raising procurement prices can have a limit imposed by global prices, especially in a situation of surplus production.
  • Time has come for India to devise an income policy (DBT) for farmers. In that context, Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme with direct investment support is interesting. It can be refined and made WTO compatible.
  • The bottom line is switching from price policy to income policy approach to redress farmers’ distress.

A matter of untruth

  • Oxford Dictionaries chose “post-truth” as the Word of the Year 2016. If a choice has now to be made of the term that has captured the public consciousness in the last two years, it would most probably be “fake news”.
  • The term resonating so deeply across the world at a time of grave crisis for democracies due to the loss of credibility of the political class and the media.
  • Today’s Frankenstein monster with its lethal arsenal of entertainment, manipulated news, propaganda and plain rubbish has supplanted the traditional social and cultural institutions as the primary mineral resource for our politics, our prejudices, in fact our world view.
  • Disinformation, distortion, exaggeration and plain falsehoods pervade cyberspace, cable, newsprint and the air waves, mainly sourced from our politicians and media. A frightening new dimension has been added by the ubiquitous social media.
  • People now freely choose news and views that align with their identities and world view, the truth be damned. It would be no exaggeration to state that our country today is a truth-impaired, “fake news” Republic.
  • We are in a dangerous place. The universal liberal values of tolerance, inclusion and equality are under grave threat in the face of a creeping majoritarian impulse that is not only undermining our hard-fought freedoms and values but dividing our people by targeting those who are seen as inimical to the right-wing ideal of a supremacist Hindu Rashtra of Hindutva. A deepening cultural mutation is destroying institutions vital to the democratic project. For Muslims and Christians, the country is a minefield of uncertainty, anxiety and fear.
  • A particularly worrying feature of the present times is that violence against vulnerable sections, In these dark times, we need a fearless, honest and independent media more than ever before, but what we have is a largely submissive fourth estate that has been equivocal and even complicit in its response. Instead of focusing on the real issues of the people, large sections of the media are guilty of acting as conduits for government propaganda and feeding the self-delusion of the powerful.
  • The ubiquitous social media has become a prime instrument of political and cultural power. It has also, unfortunately, been a lethally effective participant in this erosion of social cohesion and solidarity. It is being used with deadly effect to spread the poison of hate and violence.
  • It is true that across the world the cosmopolitan spirit is being throttled by hyper-nationalism, xenophobia and racism. There is a clear tectonic right-wing shift and a deep distrust of the liberal values of tolerance, inclusion and equality as one country after another has become an “illiberal democracy” where a shrill nationalism has subsumed democratic values.
  • Sadly, in our country, there are but a handful of newspapers, TV channels and fact-checking websites ploughing a lonely furrow, dissenting and exposing the undemocratic ways and venality of the political elite and corporate buccaneers. The rest have failed in their responsibility as conscience-keeper and whistle blower of society.
  • The great crisis that the world faces today is the crisis of truth. And it is the media, in tandem with the politicians, that has seriously undermined the value of truth as the quintessential obligation in all human interaction. Stephen Colbert, the American comic, has coined a deeply meaningful term “truthiness” to describe what people think is right and true even if unrelated to facts, essentially falsehood masquerading as truth.
  • Increasingly, “truthiness” has pervaded our thinking. There is now the very real danger that the power of truth has been irreparably diminished by an enveloping “truthiness” engendered by the media and the political class.

A good score, but… Scrap­ping ‘no de­ten­tion’ in schools is just the be­gin­ning

  • Last week, the Lok Sabha ap­proved an amend­ment to the Right to Ed­u­ca­tion (RTE) Act, which man­dates free and com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren be­tween six and 14 years. The amend­ment scrapped the so-called “no de­ten­tion” pol­icy, which en­sured that no stu­dent could be held back (or failed) in a class un­til the end of el­e­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion (that is Stan­dard 8th).
  • The lat­est amend­ment was a sig­nif­i­cant change since the no de­ten­tion pol­icy was one of the fun­da­men­tal pil­lars of the RTE Act when it came into ef­fect al­most a decade ago. The idea be­hind pol­icy was to curb the sharp dropout rates in el­e­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion. It was ar­gued that stu­dents drop out of school be­cause of sheer de­mo­ti­va­tion when they fail in a class and that they should not be pe­nalised for the fail­ures of their teach­ers and lack of ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties in schools.
  • The scrap­ping of no de­ten­tion makes em­i­nent sense. While dropout rates un­der the ear­lier sys­tem did fall, it led to fall­ing stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment. This re­flected in sur­veys con­ducted by in­sti­tu­tions such as the Pratham Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion. The An­nual State of Ed­u­ca­tion Re­port (ASER) showed that read­ing lev­els for class V stu­dents were un­changed be­tween 2011 — two years af­ter the pas­sage of the RTE Act — and 2016.
  • For stu­dents of class VIII, the same met­ric wit­nessed a small de­cline over the same pe­riod. Though en­rol­ment was high, at over 96 per cent, stu­dent did not learn much.
  • The ill ef­fects of the no de­ten­tion pol­icy were not lim­ited to just class VIII. It was found, as the ASER 2017 showed, that the lack of ed­u­ca­tion at­tain­ment meant that stu­dents in the age group of 14 to 18 strug­gled with foun­da­tional skills such as read­ing a text in their own lan­guage or solv­ing a sim­ple arith­metic di­vi­sion.
  • This poor un­der­stand­ing among stu­dents, in turn, led to a sharp spike in dropout rates in classes IX and X. The gen­eral con­clu­sion that emerged is that in the ab­sence of de­ten­tion, stu­dents had no real mo­ti­va­tion to learn any­thing, nor did the teach­ers have any rea­son to make stu­dents un­der­stand.
  • The hope now is that such a trend would be re­versed and both stu­dents and teach­ers would have a rea­son to fo­cus on im­prove­ment. How­ever, as it hap­pened with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the no de­ten­tion pol­icy, the re­ver­sal of it, too, faces the same set of long-stand­ing sys­temic lim­i­ta­tions.
  • These in­clude poor teach­ing stan­dards, in­ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­ture fa­cil­i­ties, lack of mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nisms, skewed pupil-teacher ra­tio, etc. If a crit­i­cal mass of good teach­ers has to be built, the only way out is to make sweep­ing changes to the way In­dia se­lects and trains teach­ers.
  • For ex­am­ple, a math­e­mat­ics test con­ducted on teach­ers showed that most of them could not even do sim­ple maths; and 64 per cent could not give a cor­rect ti­tle to a para­graph in a lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion test. Another re­port said over 99 per cent of Bach­e­lor of Ed­u­ca­tion (BEd) grad­u­ates failed to clear the Cen­tral Teacher El­i­gi­bil­ity Test.
  • Un­less these as­pects are ad­dressed, merely hold­ing ex­ams at the end of the year and de­tain­ing ill-pre­pared stu­dents will serve only a lim­ited pur­pose.

IndAS109 norms

  • The ac­count­ing stan­dard IndAS109 which sets out the ac­count­ing treat­ment for fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments will need to be ap­plied for the ac­counts be­gin­ning April 1, 2019, which is less than a year away. It is the equiv­a­lent of IFRS9 which was adopted in­ter­na­tion­ally a year ear­lier from Jan­uary 2018. That means that In­dian com­pa­nies have a year more still to get ready and that they can see some­thing of the im­pact else­where be­fore­hand.
  • It is fair to say that the im­pact on banks will be great­est and most sig­nif­i­cant, given the pre­dom­i­nance and scale of the fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments in their bal­ance sheets. How­ever, ev­ery com­pany us­ing IndAS will be af­fected to some ex­tent, be­cause the def­i­ni­tion of fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments is very wide and cov­ers trade debtors and cred­i­tors, cash, loans and in­vest­ments for ex­am­ple.
  • For banks the big­gest im­pact of IndAS109 is likely to be the change in the cal­cu­la­tion of pro­vi­sions against loan loss and the higher level of them. IndAS109 uses an ex­pected loss model which in­evitably in­cludes more for­ward­look­ing in­for­ma­tion.
  • All loans have to in­clude both those losses which have al­ready oc­curred plus the ef­fect of events ex­pected over the next 12 months. If there has been sig­nif­i­cant credit de­te­ri­o­ra­tion then the full life-time losses have to be pro­vided for right away.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 19-07-18

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Lok Sabha to debate TDP’s no-trust motion tomorrow

  • Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan accepted a notice for a no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government on the first day of the monsoon session of Parliament on Wednesday. Ms. Mahajan fixed Friday as the day when the Lower House will debate the motion.
  • This is the first time that the Modi government will face such a motion.
  • A notice for a no-confidence motion against a government is accepted only if at least 50 members of the Lower House support it. The Speaker then fixes a date for discussion, followed by a vote. If the government loses it, it falls.
  • Sources in the BJP said there were 10 vacancies in the Lok Sabha at the moment due to various reasons, making 534 the effective strength of the House (excluding Speaker Mahajan).
  • Refer Laxmikanth for the details about no-confidence motion.
  • The last no-confidence motion moved in Parliament was in 2003 when a Congress-led Opposition was defeated by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government in a trust vote. That time the issue was related to the re-induction of defence minister George Fernandes in the Union Cabinet over corruption charges.
  • Further up in history, Vajpayee had lost a no-confidence motion in 1999 by a single vote, the narrowest so far, after the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK withdrew its support. It led to fresh elections.

Sabarimala temple bar unreasonable: SC

  • Tagging a woman’s right to enter the famous Sabarimala temple with her menstrual cycle is unreasonable, the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench observed.
  • The Bench, led by Chief Justice of India , asked whether the exclusion of women aged between 10 and 50 from entering a temple because they are considered ‘impure’ amounts to the practice of untouchability, a social evil abolished by law.
  • The CJI said there is no concept of “private mandirs (temples).” Once a temple is opened, everybody can go and offer prayers. Nobody can be excluded. The Chief Justice noted that the Sabarimala temple drew funds from the Consolidated Fund, had people coming from all over the world and thus, qualified to be called a “public place of worship.”
  • Views of the Bench: In a public place of worship, a woman can enter, where a man can go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman,” Chief Justice observed  in the Sabarimala temple entry case.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said women and their physiological phenomena are creations of God. If not God, of nature.
  • “A woman is a creation of God, if you don’t believe in God, then of nature. Why should this (menstruation) be a reason for exclusion for employment or worship or anything,” he said.
  • He quoted Article 25 (1) which mandates freedom of conscience and right to practise religion. “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion…”
  • “This means your right as a woman to pray is not even dependent on a legislation. It is your constitutional right. Nobody has an exclusionary right of entry to a temple,” Justice Chandrachud observed.
  • Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 allows a “religious denomination” to ban entry of women between the age of 10 to 50.The discrimination was a violation of the rights to equality and gender justice.
  • The Kerala government’s various flip-flops in the Supreme Court since 2007, in support and against the ban on allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple, were mentioned by the court on Wednesday.
  • The Kerala government pointed out to the Bench that the State supported entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. In 2016, the State had opposed it in the Supreme Court.

‘Consolidated Fund of India’

  • This term derives its origin from the Constitution of India.
  • Under Article 266 (1) of the Constitution of India, all revenues ( example tax revenue from personal income tax, corporate income tax, customs and excise duties as well as non-tax revenue such as licence fees, dividends and profits from public sector undertakings etc. ) received by the Union government as well as all loans raised by issue of treasury bills, internal and external loans and all moneys received by the Union Government in repayment of loans shall form a consolidated fund entitled the ‘Consolidated Fund of India’ for the Union Government.
  • Similarly, under Article 266 (1) of the Constitution of India, a Consolidated Fund Of State ( a separate fund for each state) has been established.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India audits these Funds and reports to the Union/State legislatures when proper accounting procedures have not been followed.

LS clears detention policy

  • A Bill to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to abolish the ‘no detention policy’ in schools was passed in the Lok Sabha.
  • Replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha on The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (second amendment) Bill, 2017, Union Human Resource Development Minister  said that it would be at the discretion of the States whether to continue with no detention or not.
  • Under the current provisions of the RTE Act, no student can be detained till class 8 and all students are promoted to the next grade.

Bill on death penalty for child rape to be tabled

  • The Bill to award the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament, the Cabinet decided.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, once approved by Parliament, will replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on April 21 following an outcry over the rape and murder of a minor girl at Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the rape of a woman at Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Bill stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 12.A provision for the death penalty has been provided for rapists of girls aged under 12.
  • The minimum punishment in the case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10.
  • Under the Bill, in case of the rape of a girl aged under 16 and above 12, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20.
  • The punishment for gang rape of a girl aged below 16 and above 12 will be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict, the official said.
  • Correcting an anomaly: While punishments for crimes against girls was enhanced through amendment to the IPC, there was no mention of crimes against boys. The government will seek to correct that anomaly as well.
  • POCSO amendment for enhanced punishment for sexual assaults on young boys has been approved by the Law Ministry.

The Ordinance:

  • Punishment for the crime of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been  increased from 10 years to 20 years, which can be extended to imprisonment for the  rest of life.
  • Minimum punishment for rape of women has also been increased from rigorous  imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, which can be extended to life imprisonment.
  • It provides for speedy investigation and trial, which must be completed in two months.
  • There will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape  of a girl under 16 years.
  • New Fast Track Courts will be set up in consultation with states/UTs and High Courts.
  • Special forensic kits for rape cases to all police stations and hospitals and labs to be  setup.
  • Database: National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile  of sexual offenders. This data will be regularly shared with States/UTs for tracking,  monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents by police.

Will death penalty help?

  • The Justice Verma Committee, which was constituted in the aftermath of December  2012 gangrape in Delhi to recommend legal reforms to curb sexual assault crimes, in its  report said introduction of death penalty for rape may not have a deterrent effect and  recommended enhanced sentence of jail for the remainder of life.

Facts and criticism:

  • As per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data for 2016, 94.6% of total crimes  against children under the POCSO Act as well as Section 376 are committed by either  relatives or acquaintances.
  • conviction rate under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is as low as 18%.
  • sexual assaults against boys have been left unaddressed by the ordinance.

Two-constituency norm reasonable: govt. tells SC

  • The government objected to a plea to stop candidates from contesting from two different constituencies, saying such a limitation infringes on a person’s right to contest the polls and curtails the polity’s choice of candidates.
  • The government told the Supreme Court that one-candidate-one-constituency restriction would require a legislative amendment.
  • The government supported Section 33 (7) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 which restricts candidates to contesting from two constituencies. Before the amendment, candidates could contest from any number of constituencies.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India is hearing the petition  seeking a declaration that Section 33(7) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, which allows candidates to contest from two constituencies at a time, as invalid and unconstitutional.
  • Election Commission informed the Supreme Court that it had proposed the amendment of Section 33(7) way back in July 2004. It was one of the 22 “urgent electoral reforms” the Election Commission had suggested to a Rajya Sabha Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • The poll body had pointed out that “there have been cases where a person contests election from two constituencies, and wins from both. In such a situation he vacates the seat in one of the two constituencies. The consequence is that a by-election would be required from one constituency involving avoidable labour and expenditure on the conduct of that by-election.”
  • The EC concluded that the “law should be amended to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time.”
  • The poll body suggested that a candidate should deposit an amount of Rs. 5 lakh for contesting in two constituencies in an Assembly election or Rs. 10 lakh in a general election. This would be used to conduct a by-election in the eventuality that he or she is victorious in both constituencies and has to relinquish one.

WTO to hear India plea from today

  • The government has once again expressed its concern at the imposition of import duties by the U.S. on aluminium and steel.
  • Its appeal in the WTO Appellate Disputes Settlement Committee will be heard on July 19 and 20, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry  informed the Rajya Sabha.
  • China, Japan and several other countries have done the same.
  • S. President Donald Trump signed into effect import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium in March this year. It sparked off a trade war involving the U.S., EU, China, and India.
  • India also increased import tariffs on 29 items originating from the U.S. by 10-20%,These will come into effect from August 4.

Law panel reviewing sedition legislation

  • The government told the Rajya Sabha that the Law Commission was considering the “scope and ambit” of the law on sedition and suggest amendments, if any.
  • The government’s reply to Parliament said that during 2014-15, as many as 112 cases of sedition were registered across India and 36 persons were chargesheeted. During the period, the police secured conviction in only two cases.
  • Home Ministry had written to the Law and Justice Ministry to request the Law Commission of India to study the usage of the provisions of Section 124 A (Sedition) of the Indian Penal Code and suggest amendments, if any.

Cane price gets bittersweet response

  • The Centre has raised the fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugar cane for the next season to Rs. 275 a quintal at a 10% recovery rate. This is the minimum price that mills must pay farmers from October. It represents an effective increase of a little over Rs. 6.50 a quintal from the current price.
  • The decision was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs at its meeting chaired by Prime Minister.
  • The production cost is Rs. 155 a quintal. Thus, the FRP is higher than costs by more than 77% .
  • Most northern States set their own much higher minimum prices for cane; in Uttar Pradesh this year, the price is set at Rs. 325 per quintal.
  • The recovery rate for sugar represents the amount of sugar that can be extracted from cane; thus, if 10 kg of sugar is produced from 100 kg of cane, it has a 10% recovery rate.

Expect more PSU banks to receive capital, says ICRA

  • The Centre’s decision to infuse Rs. 11,336 crore capital in five public sector banks (PSBs) is critical for servicing their debt instruments such as Additional Tier 1 bonds (AT-1), Upper Tier 2 and Innovative Perpetual Debt instruments, rating agency ICRA said.
  • On Tuesday, the finance ministry approved capital infusion in five banks — Punjab National Bank (Rs. 2,816 crore), Indian Overseas bank (Rs. 2,157 crore), Andhra Bank (Rs. 2,019 crore), Corporation Bank (Rs. 2,555 crore), and Allahabad bank (Rs. 1,790 crore).
  • As per our estimates, adjusted for deferred losses and early recall of AT1 bonds, the Tier 1 ratio of 8 PSBs was lower than the regulatory requirements of 7% hence constraining their ability to meet a CRAR of 9%
  • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is the ratio of a bank’s capital in relation to its risk weighted assets and current liabilities. It is decided by central banks and bank regulators to prevent commercial banks from taking excess leverage and becoming insolvent in the process.The risk weighted assets take into account credit risk, market risk and operational risk.
  • The Basel III norms stipulated a capital to risk weighted assets of 8%. However, as per RBI norms, Indian scheduled commercial banks are required to maintain a CAR of 9% while Indian public sector banks are emphasized to maintain a CAR of 12%.

Cabinet relaxes NELP, pre-NELP pact rules

  • The Union Cabinet approved the policy framework to streamline production sharing contracts signed in the pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and NELP periods.
  • Based on recommendations in ‘Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for North East’, government has extended timelines for exploration and appraisal period in operational blocks of north eastern region of India considering geographical, environmental and logistical challenges.
  • The exploration period has been increased by two years and appraisal period by one year.
  • The government has created an enabling framework for sharing of statutory levies including royalty and cess in proportion to the participating interest of the contractor in Pre-NELP Exploration Blocks.

Three in five HIV-carriers now have access to drugs: UN

  • Almost three in five people infected with HIV, or 21.7 million globally, took antiretroviral therapy in 2017 — a new record for anti-AIDS drug access, the UNAIDS said.
  • There were 36.9 million people living with the immune system-attacking virus in 2017, of whom 15.2 million were not getting the drugs they need — the lowest number since the epidemic exploded.
  • Hailing progress in curbing new infections and deaths, the agency nevertheless lamented the mounting human toll: almost 80 million infections and 35.4 million lives lost since the first cases became known in the early 1980s.
  • “We are short by $7 billion per year to maintain our results and to achieve our objectives for 2020,” UNAIDS executive director said.
  • In 2017, about $20.6 billion was available for AIDS programmes in low-and middle-income countries which funded about 56% from their own budgets, said the report.
  • Under Donald Trump, the U.S. administration — a major funder of AIDS programmes historically, has threatened to cut spending.
  • Prelims: The UN goal is for 90% of all HIV-positive people to know their status by 2020. Of these, at least 90% must receive ART, and the HIV virus be suppressed in 90% of those.
  • Assessing progress towards the target, UNAIDS said 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2017.
  • ART inhibits the virus and can limit its spread between people — mainly through sex — but does not kill it.
  • UNAIDS reported large variation between world regions in the battle against the killer virus.

Google hit with record € 4.34 bn EU fine over ‘illegal’ Android strategy

  • The EU said Wednesday it had slapped a record € 4.34-billion ($5.04 billion) antitrust fine on Google for illegally using its Android operating system to strengthen the dominance of its search engine.
  • This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.
  • The decision, which follows a three-year investigation, comes as fears of a transatlantic trade war mount due to President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminium exports.
  • Google shut out rivals by forcing major phone makers including South Korea’s Samsung and China’s Huawei to pre-install its search engine and Google Chrome browser, thereby freezing out rivals.
  • They were also made to set Google Search as the default, as a condition of licensing some Google apps. Google Search and Chrome are as a result pre-installed on the “significant majority” of devices sold in the EU, the European Commission says.
  • An EU complaint formally lodged in April also accuses Google of preventing manufacturers from selling smartphones that run on rival operating systems based on the Android open source code.
  • Google also gave “financial incentives” to manufacturers and mobile network operators if they pre-installed Google Search on their devices, the commission said.
  • Under EU rules Google could have been fined up to 10 percent of parent company Alphabet’s annual revenue, which hit $110.9 billion in 2017.

Editorial and Opinion :


Getting the language count right

  • The death of a language is literally shrouded in silence. Because of its nature, a language is not visible and fails to move anyone except its very last speaker who nurtures an unrequited hope of a response. When a language disappears it goes forever, taking with it knowledge gathered over centuries. With it goes a unique world view. This too is a form of violence.
  • Large parts of culture get exterminated through slight shifts in policy instruments than through armed conflicts. Just as nature’s creations do not require a tsunami to destroy them, the destruction of culture can be caused by something as small as a bureaucrat’s benign decision. Even a well-intentioned language census can do much damage.
  • Over the last many decades, successive governments have carried out a decadal census. The 1931 Census was a landmark as it held up a mirror to the country about the composition of caste and community.
  • It was during the 1961 census that languages in the country were enumerated in full. India learnt that a a total of 1,652 mother tongues were being spoken. Using ill-founded logic, this figure was pegged at only 109, in the 1971 Census. The logic was that a language deserving respectability should not have less than 10,000 speakers. This had no scientific basis nor was it a fair decision but it has stuck and the practice continues to be followed.
  • The language enumeration takes place in the first year of every decade. The findings are made public about seven years later as the processing of language data is far more time consuming than handling economic or scientific data. Early this month, the Census of India made public the language data based on the 2011 Census, which took into account 120 crore speakers of a very large number of languages. The Language division of the Census office deserves praise but the data presented leaves behind a trail of questions.
  • During the census, citizens submitted 19,569 names of mother tongues — technically called “raw returns”. Based on previous linguistic and sociological information, the authorities decided that of these, 18,200 did not match “logically” with known information. A total of 1,369 names — technically called “labels” — were picked as “being names of languages”. The “raw returns” left out represent nearly 60 lakh citizens.
  • In addition to the 1,369 “mother tongue” names shortlisted, there were 1,474 other mother tongue names. These were placed under the generic label “Others”. As far as the Census is concerned, these linguistic “Others” are not seen to be of any concern. But the fact is that they have languages of their own. The classification system has not been able to identify what or which languages these are and so they have been silenced by having an innocuous label slapped on them.
  • The 1,369 have been grouped further under a total of 121 “group labels”, which have been presented as “Languages”. Of these, 22 are languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, called “Scheduled Languages”. The remainder, 99, are “Non-scheduled Languages”. An analysis shows that most of the groupings are forced.
  • For instance, under the heading “Hindi”, there are nearly 50 other languages. Bhojpuri (spoken by more than 5 crore people, and with its own cinema, theatre, literature, vocabulary and style) comes under “Hindi”. Under Hindi too is the nearly 3 crore population from Rajasthan with its own independent languages. The Powari/Pawri of tribals in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh too has been added. Even the Kumauni of Uttarakhand has been yoked to Hindi. While the report shows 52,83,47,193 individuals speaking Hindi as their mother tongue, this is not so.
  • There is a similar and inflated figure for Sanskrit by counting the returns against the question about a person’s “second language”.
  • As against this, the use of English is not seen through the perspective of a second language. Counting for this is restricted to the “mother tongue” category — in effect bringing down the figure substantially. So the Census informs us that a total of 2,59,678 Indians speak English as their “mother tongue” — numerically accurate and semantically disastrous.
  • From time to time, UNESCO tries to highlight the key role that language plays in widening access to education, protecting livelihoods and preserving culture and knowledge traditions. In 1999/2000, it proclaimed and observed February 21 as International Mother Language Day, while in 2001 the ‘Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity’ accepted the principle of “Safeguarding the linguistic heritage of humanity and giving support to expression, creation and dissemination in the greatest possible number of languages.” In pursuit of these, UNESCO has launched a linguistic diversity network and supported research. It has also brought out an Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, which highlights the central place of language in the world’s heritage. Is our language census consistent with these ideas and principles?
  • One expects that the Census in India should adequately reflect the linguistic composition of the country. It is not good practice when data helps neither educators nor policy makers or the speakers of languages themselves. The Census, a massive exercise that consumes so much time and energy, needs to see how it can help in a greater inclusion of the marginal communities, how our intangible heritage can be preserved, and how India’s linguistic diversity can become an integral part of our national pride.

The tough road to academic excellence

  • The winners of the “excellence contest” of the Institutions of Eminence (IoE) have been announced by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • While 10 institutions were supposed to have been chosen, apparently only six were affordable — a telling reality, especially since only three will receive any government funds.
  • And none of the winners is actually a public university — a multidisciplinary institution at the heart of any academic system.
  • The increased funding will help the institutions with innovations or perhaps the ability to raise academic salaries to better compete internationally but will not permit fundamental changes.
  • “Greenfield” experiments are always risky but in fact almost all of India’s top academic institutions are the result of such initiatives. The first few Indian Institutes of Technology were established in the 1950s.
  • Both BITS Pilani (1964) and Manipal (1953), private start-ups, were greenfield efforts at the time. So, the Jio initiative is not unusual in the Indian context.
  • How does it plan to differentiate itself from other universities in India and abroad, and at the same time match up to the best academic practices elsewhere?
  • The cost of creating a competitive world-class university is daunting especially when starting from scratch. For example, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Saudi Arabia, established in 2009, spent $1.5 billion on its facilities and has an endowment of $10 billion for a current enrolment of 900 master’s and doctoral students.
  • While each world class university is unique there are three essential ingredients: talent, resources, and favourable governance. These will of course be necessary for all the IoEs.
  • Faculty are at the heart of any university, affecting every aspect of realising and implementing the university mission. In the case of rankings ambition, research output is a key metric.
  • The real challenge would be in attracting international students. International student decision-making process is complex, with many global choices available to the best students.
  • A positive element of the IoE programme is the high degree of autonomy and freedom from government policy and regulatory constraints. However, Jio (and the others chosen for IoE) need to have creative ideas for the organisation and governance of the institution.
  • Building world-class universities is a resource-intensive and highly creative endeavour which will be a test of patience and persistence. Indian higher education is in dire need of exemplars of excellence. We await the specific ideas and programmes necessary to realise these ambitions from Jio, and the others.

Rocky summit

  • A summit between the leaders of the world’s strongest nuclear powers, which fought the Cold War for decades, is an opportunity to discuss areas of shared interest, find ways to dial down mutual tensions and work together to address global issues.
  • The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is set to expire in 2021 and Russia has shown interest in extending it. For a consensus, high-level talks between the U.S. and Russia are needed. From the crisis in Ukraine to the civil war in Syria, Russia-U.S. cooperation is vital to finding lasting solutions.
  • The Iran nuclear deal, for which Mr. Putin and Barack Obama worked together despite differences, is in a shambles.
  • Most of these issues, including the threat posed by nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, were discussed at the summit. But it’s not clear whether the talks will lead to any significant change in policies.
  • Since the Ukraine crisis, the West has tried different methods, including sanctions and pressure tactics, to isolate Russia and change its behaviour. But those methods have proved largely unsuccessful as Russia is now a far more ambitious foreign policy power with an enhanced presence in Eastern Europe and West Asia — even if its sanctions-hit economy is struggling.
  • The Western alliance should junk its Cold War mentality and engage with Russia; Russia, in turn, will have to shed its rogue attitude and be more open and stable in its dealings.

A fishy matter

  • Reports of traces of the chemical formaldehyde in fish in several States highlight both the uncertainties of science, and the importance of clear risk-communication.
  • In June, the Kerala government found formaldehyde-laced fish being transported into the State.
  • A study revealed around 5-20 ppm of the chemical in freshwater and marine fish in two of the city’s markets. Next, Goa reported similar findings. But its Food and Drugs Administration later said the levels in Goan samples were on a par with “naturally occurring” formaldehyde in marine fish.
  • This triggered suspicions among residents, who accused the government of playing down the health risk. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has banned formaldehyde in fresh fish, while the International Agency for Research on Cancer labelled the chemical a carcinogen in 2004.
  • The evidence the IARC relied on mainly consists of studies on workers in industries such as printing, textiles and embalming. Such workers inhale formaldehyde fumes, and the studies show high rates of nasopharyngeal and other cancers among them.
  • But there is little evidence that formaldehyde causes cancer when ingested orally. A 1990 study by U.S. researchers estimated that humans consume 11 mg of the chemical through dietary sources every day.
  • So, why is formaldehyde in fish a problem? For one thing, fresh fish should not have preservatives, and the presence of formaldehyde points to unscrupulous vendors trying to pass off stale catch as recent. Two, the lack of evidence linking ingested formaldehyde with cancer doesn’t necessarily make the chemical safe. At high doses, it causes gastric irritation.
  • The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  • Third complication. When certain marine fish are improperly frozen during transit, formaldehyde forms in them naturally.But this formaldehyde binds to the tissue, unlike added formaldehyde, which remains free.
  • So, measuring free formaldehyde versus bound formaldehyde can be one way of distinguishing a contaminant from a naturally occurring chemical.
  • Did the Goan FDA measure free formaldehyde or bound formaldehyde? If it measured the sum of both, on what basis did it conclude that the chemical came from natural sources? Some formaldehyde consumption may be unavoidable for fish- lovers, and it may not be a health risk either. But the line between safe and unsafe consumption should be drawn by experts, in a transparent manner.

Something fishy on the table

  • Goa Chief Minister  Wednesday announced a 15-day ban on the entry of fish from other states, and ordered border checks to stop trucks bearing fish from outside.
  • on July 13, officials from the state Food and Drug Administration raided markets in South and North Goa, and picked up samples from 17 trucks carrying fish from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.
  • The FDA, however, issued a statement in the evening, saying the seized fish did indeed contain formalin — though “within permissible limits”.
  • An FSSAI advisory clarified that “formaldehyde, the laboratory name for formalin, is not permitted for use in foods as per Food Safety and Standards Regulation, 2011”.
  • Formalin is a preservative mostly used in forensic museums and morgues where autopsies are conducted ,It tightens the cellular architecture, and is used in forensic museums. In morgues, we use formalin to ensure the specimen doesn’t decompose.

Restoring faith in EVMs

  • On July 17, several Opposition parties decided to discuss the issue of malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the current Monsoon Session of Parliament and place a joint demand to the Election Commission (EC) to use ballot papers in the upcoming Assembly elections and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
  • In a recent interview, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O.P. Rawat ruled out the option of reverting to ballot papers. EVMs are being made a “scapegoat” because they “cannot speak”, he said.
  • One of the main reasons the functioning of EVMs is being questioned is, ironically, the EC itself.
  • The Narendra Modi government has been accused of undermining various constitutional institutions including the EC. In contrast to the time when T.N. Seshan as CEC firmly established the EC as an independent authority by rigorously bringing in revolutionary reforms, the body has lost some sheen in the last few years.
  • Examples:Former Gujarat Chief Secretary Achal Kumar Jyoti was appointed the CEC in July 2017, months before the crucial Gujarat elections. In a peculiar decision, the EC chose not to announce dates for the Gujarat elections but announced dates for the Himachal Pradesh elections which were to be held at the same time. This conveniently allowed the Prime Minister to announce some new sops and schemes for Gujarat which he would not have been able to do if the dates had been announced.
  • The intermittent reports of malfunctioning EVMs have intensified the gloom. For instance, data obtained under the RTI revealed that votes cast for an Independent candidate went to the BJP candidate in the February 2017 polls to the Buldhana zilla parishad in Maharashtra.
  • In a democracy, there is perhaps nothing more important than the credibility of the electoral process. Many Opposition parties have asked for a return to the ballot paper.
  • EVMs have brought a certain structure that did not exist during the ballot paper days when a large number of invalid votes would often be higher than the margin of victory.
  • Solutions: A couple of procedural changes will bring in credibility to the voting process. The EC has already operationalised the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) with an attached printer that will provide a paper trail for those who have cast their votes. At present, after casting the vote in EVMs, the printed paper is directly dropped in the box (the voter only has seven seconds to see this). Instead, the paper should be given to the voter who should then drop it in the ballot box.
  • The ECI should introduce a new procedure wherein the manual counting of the printed ballots has to be done before announcing the result if the difference between the winner and the loser is less than, say, 10%, and the loser demands a recount.
  • Way forward: In a democracy, elections should not only be fair but should be seen to be fair. By shoring up its image and bringing in some more transparent reforms, the EC can restore faith in elections.

The mob that hates

  • It is true that lynching is not officially a crime in India.
  • But, in fact, if state administrations choose to clamp down, the Indian Penal Code already punishes all the criminalities perpetrated by lynch mobs. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure also enables a group of people involved in the same offence to be tried together.
  • What the Supreme Court judgment does not squarely address is that lynching is not just “mobocracy”; it is collective hate crime. Lynching may be sparked variously by disputes over allegations of cow smuggling or slaughter, or wild rumours of cattle theft or child kidnapping, or something even as trivial as a seat in an unreserved train compartment. Whatever the ostensible trigger, murderous mobs gather to lynch people of hated identities with gratuitous cruelty.
  • What is significant, also, is who the principal targets of these mob attacks are. IndiaSpend found that 86 per cent of persons killed in cow-related lynching were Muslim, and 8 per cent Dalit. The recent spate of mob killings on rumours of child kidnapping target strangers and mentally challenged persons.
  • The police in almost every case, instead, registers crimes against the victims. Those who are killed are dubbed as cow thieves or cow smugglers, and those who are injured and survive have a battery of crimes registered against them. State home ministers, sometimes chief ministers, and senior police officials publicly denounce not the members of the lynch mobs but the victims and survivors.
  • For people in political authority, uniform and magistrates to take sides in hate battles is a profound crime against humanity. Yet this still is recognised at best as a moral failure, not a punishable crime.
  • But no law — already on the statute books or a new statute — will in itself ensure an end to this malign mass affliction of hate lynching, which if unchecked can tear us apart as a people. The challenge, I am convinced, ultimately, is not of law, but of our collective morality and our collective humanity.

On crime against women, bad questions, poor answers

  • The debate around the new survey has only proved that India is asking all the wrong questions about sexual crime, and still misunderstanding all the answers, six years after it had something of its own #MeToo moment.
  • Recently, the Thomson Reuters Foundation put out the results of its 2018 The World’s Most Dangerous Countries for Women survey. The Foundation said that it surveyed “548 experts focused on women’s issues including aid and development professionals, academics. and policymakers”. The questions centred on five key areas: Healthcare, economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence and harassment, non-sexual violence and human trafficking. India, fourth most dangerous in 2011, was now the world’s most dangerous, it said.
  • What has not evolved is India’s use and misunderstanding of data on sexual crime. Much of the debate over the Reuters Foundation data hinged on whether official statistics capture the full extent of sexual crime in India. They do not, but the problem is two-fold: There is the part that official data is not capturing, and the part that it is erroneously capturing.
  • On the first, it is fair to expect that in a deeply patriarchal and often violent country, women might fear speaking out about sexual crime, and also fear reporting it to the police.
  • The Delhi gang-rape led to months of daily frontpage news coverage for the first time and sexual crime reported to the police spiked in the years after. However, police officials and women rights activists told me that this was a clear result of increased awareness, and better responsiveness on the part of the police, and the spike soon tapered off.
  • There is no doubt that there is under-reporting of sexual crime. Researcher Aashish Gupta showed that less than 1 per cent of sexual violence was reported to the police. But here’s the rub: Nearly all (98 per cent) sexual violence that women told surveyors they had experienced was by their husbands, even while marital rape is not recognised as a crime in India.
  • Second, there is all that the official data captures that isn’t necessarily about crime.
  • I analysed all rape cases decided by Delhi’s local courts in a calender year — nearly 600 in all. I found that the largest share of these were cases involving consensual sex between sometimes inter-religious or inter-caste couples, matches set by the couples themselves often to their families’ disapproval. In case after case, adult couples had been detained by a cooperative, often paternalistic police force, after the woman’s father or uncle filed rape charges against her lover or chosen husband. The women were detained in “shelter homes” and the men tossed into jail as they waited years for their case to be heard. In a majority of such cases, the judges acquitted the men, often after the impassioned testimony of the wife.
  • Then the enduring issue of some men being charged with rape after a “breach of promise to marry”, yet another example of the price on a woman’s “chastity” — have had the opposite effect of under-reporting; it inflated the number of rape cases to an unspecifiable extent.
  • None of this adds up to a particularly positive image. If there is some “over-reporting” of rape in India, it stems from the deep discomfort the country continues to have over women’s sexual autonomy.
  • But the question to ask is not whether India’s women are safe. It is whether India’s women are free.

A course correction

  • THE government has done well to decide to drop the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill in the face of criticism regarding some of the provisions in the proposed law which had stoked fears among deposit holders, leading to anxiety and panic withdrawal of deposits.
  • Clause 52 in the bill on “bail in”, which said that in the event of a failure or insolvency in a bank, depositors would also have to bear part of the burden of resolution, had sparked off protests.
  • The issue then, still valid now, is whether the G-20 Stability Forum’s recommendations that various jurisdictions should have legal provisions for resolution of financial firms should be implemented in India. The compelling reason for that policy approach in many countries which form part of this rich country grouping was the huge bail-out of many banks in the West using public funds.
  • Some countries have excluded deposits from the purview of bail-in provisions, making it easier to build a case for jettisoning this clause. What may have also weighed on the government is the suggestion of the the Financial Stability and Development Council, which has representation of the government and financial sector regulators, to exclude this clause when it comes to bank deposits.
  • What also matters is timing. A dozen state-owned banks are now under what is known as the Prompt Corrective Action framework of the RBI which imposes severe restrictions on their operational business after having piled up a mountain of bad loans.

Towards digital security

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai’s) recommendations on data ownership, privacy and purpose limitation have clearly been inspired by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The ‘Right to be forgotten’ is being introduced as a concept for the first time in India as is the idea of ‘privacy by design’, along with granular end-user license agreements.
  • As working principles for crafting a framework for data protection and privacy, these guidelines appear unexceptionable. However, the release of these recommendations will cause confusion in the legislative domain. This is because the suggestions are not binding on the Department of Telecommunications, or private players in the digital and telecom services spaces. Also, a committee chaired by Justice Srikrishna is already looking at framing an overarching privacy legislation.
  • The Trai guidelines are important because they do offer a comprehensive framework for the future of digital data protection. There are important commercial implications because most apps are not compliant with these recommendations and the new concept of ‘privacy by design’ would affect the way future apps are designed.
  • The telecom service providers carry out stringent KYC checks, collecting significant amount of personal information. There is location data generated about all mobile subscribers, 24×7. An increasing number of subscribers is using smartphones to surf the web, carry out financial transactions, as well as social media interactions and to avail web-driven instant messaging services, besides consuming news and entertainment.
  • In addition, a large number of users are linked to their respective Aadhaar accounts, which means that digital information could leak from all sorts of sensitive areas, including health records, children’s birth and school records, among others.
  • Plus, there’s meta-data — that is the data generated about data which allows artificial intelligence (AI)-driven programs to guess with a high degree of accuracy what somebody is doing by looking at their actions online.
  • The Trai wishes to secure the data and metadata generated by users by a combination of methods. The user should be transparently informed if there is a breach of privacy. End-user licence agreements (EULA) should be written in simple language and data collection must be for specific purposes. If required, there should be multiple EULAs within the same app, for specific purposes.
  • The user should also have the right to delete pre-installed apps and demand the deletion of any data held by a digital service provider. Meta-data usage should either be banned, or stringently controlled for specific purposes. Apps should be designed keeping these concepts in minds, offering privacy by design.

Protecting privacy

  • As India becomes one of the top bandwidth consuming nations in the world it is important to put in place laws that ensures basic rights to users of data. Access to data is knowledge and knowledge is power. There are many players — both legitimate and unscrupulous — who want to lay their hands on this enormous power.
  • Even harmless looking mobile applications are able to collect large quantities of data from a user’s device. This includes information, such as the user’s contact list, messages, camera, location, which may not have any direct correlation with the underlying service being offered by the app. The TRAI has done the right thing by banning such practices.
  • But policy makers should also be aware of the unintended consequences of strong data protection rules as companies will have to spend billions to ensure compliance of the laws. In many cases, business models will have to be redone and many data gathering technologies may become illegal. Future technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning depend heavily on collecting user data. Then there are government agencies that use data analytics to keep tab on people for national security purposes.
  • The Supreme Court has clarified that the right to privacy is not absolute and that the state can place reasonable restrictions on it in the interest of fulfilling objectives such as protecting national security, preventing and investigating crime, encouraging innovation, and preventing the dissipation of social welfare benefits.

India set to break WTO rules, get protectionist tag

  • Despite multiple import duty hikes by New Delhi in the first half of 2018 that attracted criticism from the United States and China as being examples of ‘protectionism’, India hasn’t broken the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) yet.
  • As soon as New Delhi’s higher import duties against the US kick in on August 4 – effectively breaching WTO mandated ‘bound rates’ for the first time – India will enter a long list of nations that have broken their commitments to WTO.
  • The bound tariff rate is the customs duty rate committed by a country to all other members under the most favoured nation
  • This global trade law for the 164 WTO members prohibits discrimination on the basis of tariffs.

Lessons learnt from bank nationalisation

  • As the country enters the golden jubilee year of bank nationalisation today, banks themselves have little to celebrate about.
  • So how has the banking sector fared in these five decades of nationalisation?
  • During the first decade, to bring about a change in the mindset and meet the goals of bank nationalisation, the government and the RBI set up nearly 50 study groups and working committees.
  • The second decade saw a spurt in social lending, project finance for agriculture, with many a small and marginal farmers benefiting, and more lending to small scale industries. Directed lending came under attack with several borrowers defaulting.
  • The late Rajiv Gandhi, in a public meeting then, mentioned that only 16 paise of every rupee lent was going to the beneficiaries of government- sponsored schemes.
  • The third decade changed the texture of banking in India. The Narasimham Committee in the wake of the liberalisation of the economy, had recommended more space for private banks to usher in a spirit of competitiveness among PSBs . IRAC norms were introduced and balance sheets built on accrued income basis were given a go-by.
  • Banks’ profitability and viability came to the fore front. Banks started viewing their rural lending portfolio and rural branches as being unviable. This period also witnessed the resurgence of private banking with the ICICI reverse merger, HDFC Bank, UTI Bank etc.
  • Retail banking and housing finance gained prominence in the lending portfolio. Micro finance institutions also made an aggressive push in the finance space.
  • The fourth decade saw a surge in arm-chair lending and template-based lending. Systems started replacing humans in intelligent appraisal of loans. Asset reconstruction companies were born following the enactment of SARFAESI Act 2002.
  • The Indian financial sector also proved its resilience during the 2008 global crisis. Net banking made banks close the time gaps in serving customers, though these were largely urban based and computer savvy. The number of ATMs also grew exponentially.
  • The fifth decade saw the progressive downfall of the banking system. CDR, and the RBI’s Asset Quality Review, dubious lending to the corporate entities, poor surveillance, unconcerned boards, and poor governance led to the ₹10-trillion bad loans mess. This decade also the likes of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi taking the banking system for a ride and thereby exposing the gaps in regulation.
  • Demonetisation exposed the infrastructural inadequacies in the banking system. Banks, to retain profits, started fleecing the customers with high service charges.
  • Banks today are also increasingly facing trust issues with their customers. Today, banks do more non-banking business with hefty commissions.

So what is the road ahead for policy-makers?

  • One: deal with the problems comprehensively and address them through collective and well-informed wisdom;Two: trust in innovation and assess the innovation of its capacity to offer solutions material to the sector;Three: Improve governance: create a pool of independent directors for the regulator to chose from Four: Banks must not be left without a Managing Director even for a week;Five: Make sure banks focus on their core activities and not sell insurance policies, mutual funds and other third party products that could also include laddus and medallions at pilgrim centres.

Reform agriculture marketing systems

The recent increase in the minimum support prices (MSP) for major kharif crops has reignited the debate about food price policy.Why do we need an agricultural price policy at all? And, most importantly, what does it all mean for the hapless farmer?

  • The question of why we need a food price policy is the one most easily answered. Foodgrains are basic necessities. Any sharp increase in their prices can be extremely stressful, especially for low income and poor households, leading in turn to heightened political tension. Conversely, any sharp drop in crop prices can cause widespread distress among the millions of small farmers for whom the proceeds of their marketed produce is the main source of their livelihood. Hence, the policy of maintaining relatively stable and reasonable prices has a long history going back to the Great Bengal Famine of 1943.
  • The present food policy regime—consisting of the
    • Food Corporation of India (FCI), which procures rice and wheat, along with some state agencies,
    • the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which recommends procurement prices,
    • and the public distribution system (PDS), which distributes foodgrains and a few other essential items at subsidized prices—
  • was established following two consecutive drought years that led to severe food shortages in the mid- 1960s.

Next, are the recently announced kharif procurement prices too high or too low?

  • The government has in principle adopted the policy of fixing procurement prices at least 50% over what CACP calls cost A2 + FL. A2 includes the actual or imputed cost of all purchased or own inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, manure, bullock or machine labour + actual rent on leased in land + actual interest on working capital. FL is the imputed value of family labour.
  • Thus A2 + FL excludes the imputed value of owned fixed capital, such as farm machinery, and the rental value of own land. Adding these components would give us cost C2, the cost on which the Swaminathan Commission had recommended a 50% markup for procurement prices.
  • The debate over different concepts of cost of production is largely an academic matter. Cost of production is only one of several considerations factored into the determination of MSPs, such as the estimated demand-supply balance, global prices, etc.
  • Besides, announcing an MSP means nothing unless it is supported by public procurement at the announced MSP. Among food crops, FCI only procures wheat and rice along with some state agencies and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) has now started procuring pulses.

Way forward: Clearly, reform of agricultural marketing systems to squeeze if not altogether eliminate the 300% traders’ markup could provide far more remunerative prices for distressed farmers, freeing them from the clutches of money lenders, while at the same time making farm produce available to consumers at affordable prices. However, distressed farmers need not depend on the government to recover their viability. The Amul Dairy Cooperative is an outstanding example of how farmers empowered themselves through cooperation. There are more recent success stories in the Kudumbashree programme in Kerala, the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty in Andhra, and embryonic cases in other states of such cooperation led by women’s self-help groups, initially for mobilizing credit and later for other activities. These examples point to the power of aggregation and collective action in activities ranging from marketing and purchasing of inputs and machinery to land pooling, water management, organic agriculture, dairy, fishery and even some non-farm activities.