Newspaper notes for UPSC 18-07-18

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Make lynching a separate offence, SC tells Parliament

  • Asking whether the people of India have lost their tolerance for one another, the Supreme Court condemned the recent spate of lynchings as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” and told Parliament to make lynching a separate offence.
  • The 45-page judgment, by a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, wonders whether the “populace of a great Republic like ours has lost the values of tolerance to sustain a diverse culture?
  • “The recent litany of spiralling mob violence, their horror, the grim and gruesome scenes of lynchings are made worse by the apathy of the bystanders, numbness of mute spectators, inertia of the police and, finally, the grandstanding of the incident by the perpetrators of the crimes on social media,” Chief Justice Misra wrote.
  • Describing lynchings and mob violence as “creeping threats”, the court warned that the rising wave of frenzied mobs — fed by fake news, self-professed morality and false stories — would consume the country like a “typhoon-like monster.”
  • It said the primary obligation of the government is to protect all individuals irrespective of race, caste, class or religion.
  • It directed several preventive, remedial and punitive measures to deal with lynching and mob violence. It ordered the Centre and the States to implement the measures and file compliance reports within the next four weeks. Lynchings cannot become the order of the day.

Lynchings destroy the very majesty of law, says SC

  • The limited role, if any, of a vigilante is to report an incident to the police and not become the law and punisher himself, the Supreme Court observed.
  • A citizen is accountable to the law, which gives him wings to realise his aspirations. In return, the law demands the citizen to pay it obeisance.
  • The court held that it is every person’s duty to protect lives and human rights. No act of a citizen is to be adjudged by any kind of community under the guise of protectors of law.
  • “There cannot be a right higher than the right to live with dignity and further to be treated with humaneness that the law provides.
  • The government cannot allow self-styled vigilantes to take over from law enforcement agencies.
  • Any “external forces” who assume the role of protectors are criminals.

SC: law is practised in courts, not on the streets

  • No individual can target a person and “deal” with him as if he is already guilty.
  • The streets cannot be the scene for investigation, trial and punishment.
  • The law is practised in courts and not on the streets. Citizens have the right to report to the police if they see something they perceive to be a crime; they cannot be the law and the punisher.
  • “When any core group with some kind of idea take the law into its own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder. Eventually, there is an emergence of a violent society,” the Chief Justice wrote.

Crack down on fake news on social media

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Centre and the States to take immediate steps to stop the dissemination of fake news or stories on social media, which has a tendency to whip up a mob frenzy.
  • The court ordered the State governments to have a special task force to procure intelligence on people “likely” to spread hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news in each district.
  • The district-level nodal officers should hold regular meetings with their local intelligence units to identify the existence of the tendencies of vigilantism, mob violence or lynching in the district and take steps to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material on social media.
  • Areas with a five-year history of lynchings should be identified in each district within the next three weeks.
  • The court said the police shall register an FIR under Section 153A (promoting enmity) of the IPC against the suspects. If found guilty, a person faces up to five years of imprisonment. The trial shall be held in a fast-track court on a day-to-day basis and completed in six months. The court said maximum sentence should be granted to the guilty to make an example of them and serve as a deterrent.

The new abnormal | The Indian Express

  • These suggestions should now become the starting point for a wider exercise of consultation and discussion that involves the legislature, central and state governments.
  • Many questions will need to be asked: How is mob violence to be defined? What will be the distinction, overlap or intersection between vigilantism, communal violence and hate crime? What will be the role of the Centre and the state in the framing of the law and its implementation? Can a law, howsoever well-framed, be effective in the absence of political will?
  • It is sobering that in 21st century India the apex court should call for a new law for lynching. It is disquieting that it should be left to the court to draw attention to the crime and the climate of intolerance and impunity it flourishes in, and to connect the dots between the law and order machinery, preservation of the “secular ethos” and the “pluralistic social fabric”.

Accept gay relationships, says SC judge

  • Public acceptance of people in gay relationships will help meet health concerns and control the spread of HIV, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud of the Supreme Court told lawyers who argued in support of criminalising homosexuality.
  • Same sex couples living in denial with no access to medical care were more prone to contracting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases, Justice Chandrachud observed. “All suppression is wrong.”

RTI Bill to be placed in monsoon session

  • The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which proposes to give the Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of State and Central Information Commissioners, will be introduced in the Lok Sabha in the monsoon session.
  • The Bill is being opposed by several Opposition political parties and RTI activists, who warn that the amendments will dilute the RTI law and compromise the independence of the Information Commissions.
  • The current law gives Information Commissioners a tenure of five years and salaries which match those of Election Commissioners.
  • Reason: The functions being carried out by the Election Commission of India and the central and state Information Commissions are totally different.

Activists oppose draft anti-trafficking

  • The proposed anti-trafficking Bill likely to be tabled in Parliament during the Monsoon Session will criminalise sex workers and transgenders, according to activists.
  • They appealed that the Bill should explicitly state that consenting adult workers will not be penalised under the new law.
  • “When a law prescribes life imprisonment for trafficking leading to AIDS or begging or injecting of hormones, it will ultimately lead to criminalisation of trans-identities,” said a LGBTQ rights activist .
  • S. Jana, who was part of a Supreme Court-appointed committee in the Buddhadeb Karmakar Vs State of West Bengal on rehabilitation of sex workers, said the Bill went against the basic tenets of rehabilitation as it did not distinguish between trafficking and sex work and failed to assure dignity to consenting adult sex workers. He said it would also be a roadblock in HIV prevention.
  • The Union Cabinet approved the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018.
  • The trafficking category of crimes carry a jail term of seven to 10 years, the aggravated forms of trafficking carry a punishment of 10 years in jail to life imprisonment. Aggravated offences include trafficking for the purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, or where a survivor contracts HIV.

Background:

  • Trafficking in human beings is the third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. There is.no specific law so far to deal with this crime. Accordingly, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 has been prepared. The Bill addresses one of the most pervasive yet invisible crimes affecting the most vulnerable persons especially women and children.
  • The new law will make India a leader among South Asian countries to combat trafficking. Trafficking is a global concern also affecting a number of South Asian nations. Amongst them, India is now a pioneer in formulating a comprehensive legislation. UNODC and SAARC nations are looking forward to India to take lead by enacting this law.

The Bill broadly has the following features:-

  1. Addresses the issue of trafficking from the point of view of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation.
  2. Aggravated forms of trafficking, which includes trafficking for the purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for 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.
  3. 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; or commits fraud for procuring or facilitating the acquisition of clearances and necessary documents from Government agencies.
  4. 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).
  5. Time bound trial and repatriation of the victims – within a period of one year from taking into cognizance.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Designated courts in each district for the speedy trial of the cases.
  9. 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 the MHA.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

Counter-drone strategy for country’s airports is ready

  • The counter-drone plan prepared by a committee headed by Director General of BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security)  has proposed neutralising drones through a “soft kill” approach which will include entrapping or jamming drones instead of destroying them.The strategy deals with drones operating near aerodromes as the body is mandated to ensure aviation security.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs may prepare a separate plan to deal with drone attacks in sensitive zones such as Parliament.
  • The official added that a “soft kill” approach instead of a hard kill approach has been suggested because destroying a drone with a payload of explosives or biochemical will result in an attack and serve the purpose of their handlers.

Inflation worries

  • The Wholesale Price Index as a measure of price gains is back in the national spotlight. The latest data, which show a sharp surge in wholesale inflation in June, to a 54-month high of 5.77%, are a cause for concern.
  • While the WPI is no longer the primary focus in the Reserve Bank of India’s inflation-targeting approach to monetary policy formulation — having ceded that role to the Consumer Price Index — the gauge remains economically significant nevertheless.
  • The measure of wholesale price gains is the key deflator in computing the Index of Industrial Production and is also used to deflate Gross Domestic Product at current prices.

Closer macro-economic scrutiny

  • Not only have rising crude oil prices persistently fanned inflation they have also led to rapidly accelerating double-digit price gains in the fuel and power group.
  • Inflation in the fuel and power group has quickened every month since February’s 4.55% print, to 16.18% in June.
  • Food articles are another source of worry, especially the prices of vegetables and the politically sensitive duo of potatoes and onions.
  • Manufactured products — the third key group-level constituent of the WPI with the largest weight of 64.2% — are also signalling a worrying wider inflationary trend.
  • But policymakers can ill afford to ease their vigil, especially given the government’s decision to increase the minimum support price for kharif crops and uncertainty about the spatial impact of this year’s monsoon rains on overall agricultural output. After all, a sustained trend of high WPI inflation will not only add pressure on the RBI to raise interest rates, but could also potentially undermine the pace of GDP growth.

Understanding inflation

  • There are two key concerns here: one, that there has been a sustained increase in WPI inflation since the start of the current fiscal, and two, that data released by the government last week showed that retail inflation, too, had risen to a five-month high of 5% in June.
  • Given these trends, the sharper-than-expected uptick in the WPI inflation in June 2018 reinforces expectations of analysts that a repo rate hike is likely at the next meeting of the RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee in August. The worry for policymakers in the surge in WPI numbers, even after discounting for the base effect (a low reading of 0.90% in June 2017, the base for calculating the year-on-year inflation for June 2018), is the cascading effect that it could have on CPI.
  • While both baskets measure inflationary trends (the movement of price signals) within the broader economy, the two indices differ sharply in the manner in which weightages are assigned to food, fuel and manufactured items, as well as at the broken-down level of these segments.
  • So, wholesale inflation, measured by WPI, tracks year-on-year inflation at the producer or factory gate level, and is a marker for price movements in the purchase of bulk inputs by traders. CPI, on the other hand, captures changes in prices levels at the shop end, and is, thereby, reflective of the inflation experienced at the level of consumers. The weightage of food in CPI is far higher (46%) than in WPI (24%). Also, WPI does not capture changes in the prices of services, which CPI does.
  • As in any imperfect market, changes in prices at the producer level get transmitted to consumers, mostly with a lag and, in some cases, not to the full extent of the impact at the producer level. So, while a higher WPI reading can be an aberration at times, a steady upward surge in WPI reading is most certainly an indicator of inflationary pressure entrenching itself within the broader economy and getting eventually reflected in the CPI numbers. In April 2014, the RBI had adopted the CPI as its key measure of inflation. Prior to this, the central bank had given more weightage to the WPI as the key measure of inflation for all policy purposes.
  • The worry is that the revised inflation projection of 4.8%-4.9% issued by the RBI in its June review could be breached in the first half of FY’19 due to rising crude oil prices, according to projections by India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) earlier this month. On Monday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in an update to its World Economic Outlook, said the Indian economy will grow slower than what it had estimated three months ago, because of higher crude prices and faster interest rate hikes. In the fresh update, the IMF trimmed India’s growth projection for 2018-19 by 10 basis points to 7.3%. For 2019-20, IMF cut its projection by a sharper 30 basis points to 7.5%.
  • What toll does inflation take on growth? Based on studies of a wide range of countries over the years, economists have broadly concluded that the threshold values of inflation in developing countries are higher than in developed countries.
  • In the Indian context, a significant paper was Inflation Threshold in India: The empirical results of this study suggested that there exists a “statistically significant structural break” in the relation between output growth and inflation in the 4% to 5.5% inflation range, above which inflation retards growth rate of GDP, and below the threshold level, there is a “statistically significant positive relationship” between inflation rate and growth. The paper concluded that substantial gains can be achieved if inflation is kept below the threshold.
  • After it shifted to the CPI as its main benchmark for mapping policy rates, the RBI has a target to keep consumer-level inflation at 4% (+/- 2%). Any rise in CPI inflation beyond this comfort zone puts pressure on the central bank to hike rates.

Neutral Net critical for India’ Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

  • The Telecom Commission has approved TRAI’s recommendations on net neutrality. What now in terms of implementation and policy?
  • At an institutional level, TRAI is very happy that our recommendations have been accepted in toto by the government. The Internet is an extremely important platform and all the innovations are happening around it.a lot is going to depend on the Internet whether it is health, education or agriculture. They are all going to ride on this platform. Therefore, it is particularly important from a developing country’s perspective that the Internet remains non-discriminatory and innovative.We have created two exceptions — special category of applications for example remote surgery and special situations such as a natural disaster. We have not hard-coded it. We have left it to the government. Even on the enforcement, we did not want to hard-code the methodology. We feel that an industry-led body will be able to do a better job.

A review of Mandela’s legacy

  • Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Nelson Mandela was a man who cherished the ideal of a free society all his life;
  • an ideal that as he proclaimed at his trial in Pretoria, in April 1964, he hoped to live for, but if need be, die for.
  • During his lifetime, Mandela dedicated himself to the freedom struggle of the African people, and in doing so, fought against White and Black domination in South Africa. But more than anything else, he fought for democracy as a plural society in which all races, languages and opinions could live together in harmony, and with equal opportunity.
  • He proclaimed later, “an ordinary man who became a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.” Truly speaking, South Africa’s transition to democracy, under the leadership of Mandela, was a great work of political creativity and moral wisdom.
  • What Mandela understood through his life experience was that freedom cannot be speechless, while violence is incapable of speech.
  • Mandela was born a century ago in a world where outspokenness was not practised among Blacks in South Africa. “We were meant to learn through imitation and emulation, not through asking questions,” he wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom .
  • The young Mandela proved to be a much more inflexible Africanist than many of his colleagues in the Youth League. Mandela observes, in Conversations with Myself , “I must be frank and tell you that when I look back at some of my early writings and speeches I am appalled by their pedantry, artificiality and lack of originality.”
  • In a sense, his political lifestyle and thinking did not really start to evolve before the 1950s. It is after he established a legal practice in 1952, with fellow lawyer and ANC executive member Oliver Tambo, that his self-confidence grew, in turn changing his lifestyle and his political leadership.
  • The  two turning points in his personal life and his political struggle were his marriage with Winnie Madikizela, and the Sharpeville Massacre (1960), when a hundred African demonstrators were killed, and both the ANC and the Pan-African Congress were banned. Mandela decided to go underground and create a new armed wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). In the eyes of Mandela, the choice of turning the ANC into a violent organisation was to acquire the best hope of reconciliation afterwards.
  • In any case, Mandela’s clandestine travels within and outside South African territory ended in his arrest on August 5, 1962 at Howick.
  • At the famous Rivonia trial, Mandela insisted on the ANC’s heritage of non-violence and racial harmony and delivered his historical speech which was received with empathy around the world. On June 12, 1964, Judge de Wet pronounced life imprisonment for Mandela and his fellow prisoners. Mandela spent 27 years and six months in captivity, with more than 17 years of this sentence on Robben Island as the prisoner 466/64. However, as he wrote later, prison gave him plenty of time “to stand back and look at the entire movement from a distance”. He revised his views and values while keeping his moral authority and his capacities for political judgment.
  • Nelson Mandela left Victor Verster prison on February 11, 1990, but his march to freedom was not yet over. The second memorable moment of his life and that of South African nation was when he became, in 1994, South Africa’s first democratic and Black African President. “Madiba”, as Mandela was known by his clan name, accomplished his heroic status by meeting the challenges of his life and those of his time. As an activist, as a prisoner or as a leader in government, he remained intensely conscious of his moral and political responsibilities as a man in search for excellence. Even after his death, on December 5, 2013, he has remained a global figure with a legacy — of a politics of excellence. If we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth today, it is not because we take leave of his time and his struggle but mainly because his politics of excellence and his moral capital are more relevant than ever to all those who continue to believe in the non-violent pursuit of public happiness and in peace-making governance.

Goa’s glass problem

  • There are three key arguments made in favour of the recent proposal to ban beer bottles in Goa. One, most bottlers do not collect empty bottles. Two, shards of glass injure people at beaches; and three, the staff at waste facilities injure themselves.
  • The fact that most bottle-makers do not collect empty bottles is being used as a reason to ban glass bottles. This indicates the government’s unwillingness to force bottlers to do the right thing.
  • The government can induce companies to initiate bottle collection schemes and ask companies to include all types of outlets, and consumers, in such schemes. A refundable deposit should be levied on the outlets and on the customers to encourage return of bottles. The deposit charged on the outlets should be the same as that they charge on customers.
  • Second, if shards of glass are injuring people on the beach, this is a symptom of lack of civic sense and the absence of an effective waste management system.
  • there is need to bring behavioural change and provide better infrastructure to collect waste. A proper policing system should be put in place to deter, sensitise and punish people who litter.
  • Third, there are two major reasons for avoidable but hazardous injuries of staff at waste facilities. The first is that waste is not segregated at source. Unsegregated waste not only hides sharp material but can also be a source of pathogens. On the other hand, waste segregation enhances the potential of the waste material to be reused and recycled.
  • The second reason for injury is inadequate protective equipment for personnel.
  • The question that Goans must ask themselves is whether they are waging a war against waste or battling a mindset. The former seeks easy but unsustainable alternatives that will eventually magnify current problems. The latter seeks a collective solution which could ultimately clear the path to a garbage-free Goa by 2020.

LIC’s IDBI deal may exceed Rs. 20,000 cr.

  • Life Insurance Corporation (LIC)’s proposal to increase its stake in state-run lender IDBI Bank to 51% could come at an investment of more than Rs. 20,000 crore as the insurer has to buy an additional 367 crore shares
  • On Monday, LIC’s board had cleared a proposal to increase the insurer’s stake in IDBI Bank to 51%. At present, LIC has 7.98% stake in IDBI Bank, while the government owns 85.96%. LIC will buy the additional shares via a preferential issue.
  • If there is an open offer, as is mandatory under the existing takeover regulations, LIC’s stake in the bank would increase further.
  • The government’s share holding in IDBI Bank would fall to 44%, once the LIC increases its stake.

Constitution Bench starts hearing Sabarimala entry case

  • A Constitution Bench led by the Chief Justice of India  commenced hearing the question whether the fundamental right of women to pray at the Sabarimala temple amounts to discrimination “on a biological factor exclusive to female gender”.
  • The Supreme Court will scrutinise the age-old prohibition on women aged between 10 and 50 — that is, those who are in the menstruating agefrom entering the temple.
  • The Supreme Court had in its reference to the larger Bench in October last year questioned how a temple managed by a statutory board – Travancore Devaswom Board — and financed by the State government “can indulge in practices violating constitutional principles/ morality”.
  • The temple authorities had justified the ban, saying it was an age-old practice founded in tradition.
  • The larger Bench will decide whether the practice of excluding such women constitutes an “essential religious practice“.

Colonialism 2.0

  • For India, the latest numbers are from 2015-16 National Family Health Survey. Over the course of her lifetime, a woman in India has a 4.7 per cent chance of experiencing sexual violence in urban areas and 6.4 per cent in rural areas. That is to say, the lifetime rates in India are a fraction of those in the US. For 2005-06, the same survey found urban rates of 5.9 per cent and rural rates of 9.7 per cent. In other words, there has been a significant drop in sexual violence in India over the last 10 or so years.
  • Therefore, the narrative that seeks to pin onto India, the tag of the world’s most dangerous country in the world for women, and one where violence against women is increasing by the day, is simply not borne out by the data. In fact, the annual as well as the lifetime rates of sexual violence in India are amongst the lowest in the world.
  • It is nobody’s case that horrific sexual violence does not happen in India. The infamous Delhi gang rape was a clear reminder of Byron’s famous dictum that “man to man so often unjust, is always so to women”. Much remains to be done to protect women in India. It is also clear that many areas in India are a challenge for women. But then there are large parts of India where women feel very safe and one must look at the aggregate picture to form a judgement.
  • the systematic attempt by international entities such as the Reuters Foundation, to vilify and willfully defame India and to single it out for condemnation, when the overwhelming mass of data points in exactly the opposite direction, is nothing short of a new form of colonialism. Classic colonialism was the physical occupation of countries. This new colonialism which may be conveniently called Colonialism 2.0, is an attempt to occupy mindspace with the foisting of a prefabricated narrative entirely contrary to the facts.

EVs have the po­ten­tial to fuel In­dia’s growth

  • A re­cent re­port by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­vealed that 14 of the 20 most pol­luted cities in the world are in In­dia. Emis­sions from the trans­porta­tion sec­tor con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to In­dia’s pol­lu­tion lev­els.
  • As per the Union min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment, for­est and cli­mate change’s es­ti­mates, the sec­tor emit­ted about 188 MT of CO2 till 2010; road trans­port alone con­trib­uted to 87% of the emis­sions. This sec­tor is also a large con­sumer of oil. In­dia’s cur­rent oil im­port de­pen­dency is about 80%. Ac­cord­ing to the Petroleum Plan­ning and Anal­y­sis Cell, diesel and petrol con­trib­ute to about 40% and 13% of oil con­sump­tion, re­spec­tively.
  • The cell es­ti­mated, in 2014, that 70% of diesel and 100% of petrol de­mand was from trans­porta­tion.

Given the con­text, elec­tric ve­hi­cles (EVs) prom­ise to be game chang­ers.

  • EVs are at least 3 to 3.5 times more en­ergy ef­fi­cient than the tra­di­tional in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine-based ve­hi­cles for rou­tine oper­a­tions. Also, there is no emis­sion from EVs, hence, no lo­cal pol­lu­tion. Thus, tran­si­tion­ing to EVs can­not only be a sig­nif­i­cant step to­wards re­duc­ing oil im­ports, but can also aid in im­prov­ing lo­cal air qual­ity.
  • Glob­ally, there have been var­i­ous ef­forts (in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial/ non-fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to end users) to pro­mote EVs.
  • Many coun­tries have ral­lied to­wards the EV30@30 cam­paign, which aims for 30% sales share of EVs by 2030. The Nether­lands, Ire­land and Nor­way are lead­ing the way, aim­ing to achieve 100% EV sales in pas­sen­ger light duty ve­hi­cles and buses by 2030.

Indian Scenario :

  • In In­dia, ini­tia­tives such as the Na­tional Elec­tric Mo­bil­ity Mis­sion Plan (NEMMP) and Faster Adop­tion and Man­u­fac­tur­ing of (Hy­brid &) Elec­tric Ve­hi­cles in In­dia (FAME In­dia) are con­certed ef­forts to­wards build­ing an EV mar­ket. The pro­cure­ment of over 500 elec­tric buses by var­i­ous state trans­port util­i­ties is a tes­ta­ment to In­dia’s com­mit­ment.
  • In­dia is also tak­ing steps to­wards build­ing a sus­tain­able EV ecosys­tem. The depart­ment of heavy in­dus­try, Bureau of In­dian Stan­dards, and the Au­to­mo­tive Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia are work­ing to­wards es­tab­lish­ing var­i­ous tech­ni­cal stan­dards for de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing of EVs and elec­tric ve­hi­cle sup­ply equip­ment (EVSE) or charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture.
  • En­abling this ecosys­tem also re­quires poli­cies that en­cour­age do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ing of ve­hi­cles, bat­ter­ies and EVSE. In-house man­u­fac­tur­ing is key to build­ing tech­no­log­i­cal ex­per­tise and pro­vid­ing jobs to sup­port our young de­mo­graphic.

De­spite var­i­ous proac­tive steps, In­dia still has sev­eral sys­temic, tech­no­log­i­cal and ma­te­rial vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

  • Our elec­tric­ity dis­tri­bu­tion grid as­sets are cur­rently un­able to han­dle large-scale EV en­ergy re­quire­ments.
  • On the ma­te­rial front, based on cur­rent knowl­edge, In­dia has very lit­tle known re­serves of lithium; we also im­port nickel, cobalt and bat­tery-grade graphite, which are cru­cial com­po­nents in bat­tery man­u­fac­tur­ing.
  • Un­avail­abil­ity of rare earth ma­te­ri­als used for mak­ing mag­nets for EV mo­tors is an­other con­straint.

Solutions :

  • In­dia should con­sider sign­ing a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with ap­pro­pri­ate coun­tries for a con­tin­u­ous sup­ply of raw ma­te­ri­als.
  • Or­ga­ni­za­tions like the In­ter­na­tional So­lar Al­liance (ISA), ini­ti­ated by In­dia and France, can play a sig­nif­i­cant role in fa­cil­i­tat­ing such trade. For ex­am­ple, ISA mem­ber coun­tries like Aus­tralia, Chile, Brazil, Ghana and Tan­za­nia are rich in lithium re­serves.
  • Sim­i­larly, na­tions such as Congo, Mada­gas­car, and Cuba can part­ner for sup­ply of cobalt; Bu­rundi, Brazil, and Aus­tralia are rich in nickel re­serves.
  • On the tech­no­log­i­cal front, we still lack suf­fi­cient tech­ni­cal know-how in lithium bat­tery man­u­fac­tur­ing. In a wel­come step, the In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion has ex­pressed will­ing­ness to trans­fer its in-house tech­nol­ogy non–ex­clu­sively to qual­i­fied pro­duc­tion agen­cies. Fur­ther, the Cen­tral Elec­tro Chem­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute (Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu) and RAASI So­lar Power Pvt. Ltd are ex­pected to jointly start in-house lithium ion bat­tery man­u­fac­tur­ing soon.
  • Other tech­no­log­i­cal gaps in­clude lack of semi­con­duc­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties and con­troller de­sign ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Th­ese in­dus­tries form the bedrock for man­u­fac­tur­ing elec­tron­ics for EVs; poli­cies should bridge gaps that are hin­der­ing their growth.
  • Way Forward: De­spite th­ese bot­tle­necks, there is merit in be­ing am­bi­tious about EVs. The po­ten­tial ben­e­fits on var­i­ous fronts—from fis­cal to health and em­ploy­ment—could be game-chang­ing.

De­crim­i­nal­is­ing some cor­po­rate of­fences is a wise move

  • The Union Min­istry of Cor­po­rate Af­fairs, or MCA, has an­nounced that a 10-mem­ber com­mit­tee, headed by the min­istry’s sec­re­tary, is be­ing es­tab­lished to ex­am­ine whether the pe­nal pro­vi­sions in the Com­pa­nies Act, 2013, need re­view­ing
  • The min­istry has ex­plic­itly said this is in or­der to de­crim­i­nalise some of­fences that hith­erto have at­tracted crim­i­nal charges. In other words, th­ese of­fences would no longer re­quire a trial in a crim­i­nal court but could be set­tled with the pay­ment of a fine.
  • It is ar­gued that this would per­mit trial courts to con­cen­trate on of­fences of a “more se­ri­ous na­ture”.
  • The com­mit­tee, has also been tasked to lay out the broad con­tours of an in-house ad­ju­di­ca­tory mech­a­nism where “penalty may be levied in a MCA21 sys­tem driven man­ner so that dis­cre­tion is min­imised”.
  • As long as the com­mit­tee sticks to the guid­ing prin­ci­ple of min­imis­ing dis­cre­tion and creat­ing trans­par­ent pro­cesses, there is every rea­son to sup­pose that the out­come of its de­lib­er­a­tions will be a ma­jor im­prove­ment on ex­ist­ing law. Of course, it will then need to go through Par­lia­ment be­cause it in­volves amend­ing the Com­pa­nies Act, 2013.
  • Of­fences that are clearly of a civil na­ture are far too of­ten crim­i­nalised in In­dia. This ten­dency is born of var­i­ous dif­fer­ent im­pulses.
  • First, an in­grained sus­pi­cion of the pri­vate sec­tor leads drafters of law to sup­pose that other penal­ties would be in­suf­fi­cient.
  • Sec­ond, In­dia is in many ways a weak state. Law en­force­ment is lax and spo­radic. This leads to a de­sire to com­pen­sate for poor en­force­ment by in­creas­ing the weight of the pun­ish­ment. How­ever, this re­places firm en­force­ment of an ap­pro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment with ar­bi­trary en­force­ment of heavy pun­ish­ment — which raises risk and has a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the ease of do­ing busi­ness. In ad­di­tion, once an of­fence is crim­i­nalised, it seems to be very dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cally to de­crim­i­nalise it — con­sider, for ex­am­ple, that cheque bounc­ing is still a crim­i­nal of­fence un­der Sec­tion 138 of the Ne­go­tiable In­stru­ments Act.
  • Ac­cord­ing to the Supreme Court, more than 20 per cent of the mat­ters clog­ging up the sub­or­di­nate ju­di­ciary were cheque-bounc­ing cases.
  • It is to be hoped that this ini­tia­tive of the MCA will be fol­lowed up in other spheres and by state gov­ern­ments as well. Sev­eral so­cial mat­ters also re­quire de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion — not just ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, which is cur­rently be­ing ex­am­ined by the Supreme Court, but also, for ex­am­ple, at­tempted sui­cide and beg­ging. In ad­di­tion, there ex­ist good rea­sons for crim­i­nal defama­tion to be taken off the books — it is now noth­ing more than a form of ha­rass­ment and can be eas­ily re­placed by civil pro­ce­dures. The planned de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of some cor­po­rate of­fences is a fine first step, but it must be fol­lowed up with other sim­i­larly pro­gres­sive moves.

MCA 21 Project is a major e-Governance initiative covering all aspects of incorporation and regulation of companies as defined under the Companies Act and Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Act. The project is outcome based and focused on improving the quality of services to various stakeholders concerned with the corporate sector in the country.

Govt to in­fuse Rs  113bn into five PSBs soon

  • The gov­ern­ment has de­cided to in­fuse ~113 bil­lion into five pub­lic sec­tor banks, in­clud­ing Pun­jab Na­tional Bank, to help them meet reg­u­la­tory cap­i­tal re­quire­ments, ac­cord­ing to sources.
  • The cap­i­tal in­fu­sion will be part of the ~2.11-tril­lion re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion plan for pub­lic sec­tor banks an­nounced by the gov­ern­ment last year. It is a re­sult of the banks’ in­abil­ity to fund the in­ter­est pay­ment to bond hold­ers of Ad­di­tional Tier 1 (AT-1) bonds, sources said.
  • AT-1 bonds are per­pet­ual in na­ture and there­fore pro­vide higher in­ter­est rates to in­vestors. A high level of bad loans and widen­ing losses have made it dif­fi­cult for banks to ser­vice th­ese bonds from their own earn­ings.
  • As a re­sult, pub­lic sec­tor banks were fac­ing the risk of breach­ing the reg­u­la­tory cap­i­tal re­quire­ment.The gov­ern­ment will is­sue re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion bonds to in­fuse cap­i­tal into th­ese lenders and have sought reg­u­la­tory ap­provals,
  • The in­fu­sion would be part of the re­main­ing ~650 bil­lion out of the ~2.11-tril­lion cap­i­tal in­fu­sion over two fi­nan­cial years.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 16-07-18

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Peak hour flights may get costlier

  • The government is mulling over a proposal to impose a surcharge on airlines for operating flights during peak hours to enhance airport capacity and to avoid flight delays, according to the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
  • Currently, landing fees paid by airlines are determined by the weight of an aircraft and do not vary according to the time of the day.
  • A government official cited the example of Heathrow Airport to make a case for peak-hour pricing at Indian airports.
  • Heathrow introduced the formula in 1972 to check air traffic congestion, when it was already witnessing 72 movements during peak hours. It also levies a steep penalty on airlines that fail to be punctual.
  • An aviation industry insider with experience at a major airport in the country said the move would help spread demand through the day and, if passengers can pay extra for more comfort and leg room, they would be willing to pay more to fly during popular timings, while leisure travellers looking for cheap fares will still have the option of flying at non-peak hours.
  • Airlines are awarded slots for summer and winter schedules on a first-come-first-served basis as well as on the historicity of slots. An airline is said to maintain historicity of a particular slot if it is able to operate flights during a given slot punctually 80% of the time for a period of six months or the length of an entire season.
  • An airport typically sees four ‘peaks’ in a day. These are approximately between 6 a.m.-8.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m.-noon, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and 7 p.m.-9.30 p.m.
  • Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Terminal and Delhi’s IGIA are two of the most congested airports in the country and see up to 52 and 73 movements per hour (landings and take-offs), respectively, during peak timings.

Golden jackal faces threat in its habitat

  • Destruction of mangrove cover in the Bandar Reserve Forest (BRF), Andhra Pradeshis forcing the golden jackal (Canis aureus) out of its habitat, triggering a conflict with the local communities.
  • We have recorded several golden jackals in the BRF through camera traps. The sighting, out of its habitat, is a sign of its destruction,” said A. Appa Rao, an expert engaged in the restoration of the mangrove cover.
  • The conservation status of the animal is the ‘least concern’ and it preys on wild crab and fish.
  • Amid uproar over the aqua ponds, the Vigilance authorities in 2017 recommended to the State government to hand over the 24,363 acres under the BRF and the BRF extension (I to IV) to the Forest department for protection.

Flying into trouble

  • Harrier birds, a migratory raptor species that regularly visits vast swathes of India, are declining. This may foretell lurking dangers to the country’s grasslands.
  • The “poorly studied” species is the focus of a study by two researchers .
  • Every winter, several species of harrier birds travel thousands of kilometres to escape frigid Central Asia for the grasslands of the subcontinent.
  • At least five species of harriers were recorded in India over the years; India has one of the largest roosting sites in the world for Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers.
  • The researchers focused on six of the 15 major roosting sites in six States, where consistent observations had been made for over five years.
  • While a general declining trend was observed in all the monitored sites, researchers noted the most dramatic changes at the Rollapadu Bustard Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, one of the largest. In the mid-1990s, an estimated 1,000 birds roosted here. By 2016, the number was down to less than 100 birds. In Hessarghatta on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Western Marsh Harriers declined significantly, leaving the area nearly deserted.
  • The importance of area protection can be seen in the number of birds. While there is a median count of 125 harriers in protected areas, it’s less than half that number — 48 — in unprotected areas.
  • The gravest concern is the loss of grasslands, either to urbanisation or to agriculture. In February-March, peak season for the arrival of the birds, farmlands are burnt or over-grazed. Of the 15 roosting sites surveyed, eight no longer exist as grasslands, and only five are protected.
  • Excessive use of pesticides in farms in and around the roosting sites could also be a reason for the lowered population counts. In crops such as cotton, the use of pesticides kills grasshoppers, the harriers’ primary prey, and could lead to mortality of the birds themselves as they are on the top of the food chain.
  • Globally, of the 16 harrier species, only two are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, even though most of them are declining.

Be cautious in shifting to DBT, RBI tells States

  • Acknowledging that problems have been experienced by three Union Territories (UTs) in the implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for food subsidy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has advised States that are planning to shift to cash transfer to be cautious while effecting the migration.
  • In its report on State finances, the Bank referred to problems such as inadequacy of transfers to maintain pre-DBT consumption levels, insufficiency of last-mile delivery mechanisms and a weak grievance redressal system.
  • At present, three UTs — Puducherry, Chandigarh and urban areas of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli — are implementing the mode of cash transfer under which 9.31 lakh beneficiaries receive Rs. 12.82 crore every month through their bank accounts, according to a publication of the Department of Food and Public Distribution in the Union government. The beneficiaries have the choice of buying food grains from the open market.
  • On the question of whether cash transfer is an alternative to the public distribution system (PDS), the RBI has stated that the cash transfer mode reduced the need for large physical movement of food grains. Further, given the wide inter-State and intra-State variations in food consumption habits, the DBT provides “greater autonomy” to beneficiaries to choose their consumption basket, apart from enhancing dietary diversity.
  • Another reason for promoting the concept of DBT is to reduce the leakage in the PDS, as the Central government has to absorb a huge food subsidy bill under the existing system of distribution of food grains in fulfilment of provisions of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
  • As for the processes to be followed by States prior to DBT execution, the RBI has referred to certain pre-conditions mentioned in the Central government’s 2015 food subsidy rules. The pre-conditions include complete digitisation and de-duplication of the beneficiary database, and seeding of bank account details and Aadhaar numbers in the digitised database.

Salient features of the National Food Security Act, 2013

  • Coverage and entitlement under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) : Upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. However, since Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households constitute poorest of the poor, and are presently entitled to 35 kg per household per month, entitlement of existing AAY households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.
  • State-wise coverage : Corresponding to the all India coverage of 75% and 50% in the rural and urban areas, State-wise coverage will be determined by the Central Government. The then Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog) has determined the State-wise coverage by using the NSS Household Consumption Survey data for 2011-12.
  • Subsidised prices under TPDS and their revision : Foodgrains under TPDS will be made available at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act. There after prices will be as fixed by the Central Government from time to time, not exceeding MSP.
  • In case, any State’s allocation under the Act is lower than their current allocation, it will be protected upto the level of average offtake under normal TPDS during last three years, at prices to be determined by the Central Government. Existing prices for APL households i.e. Rs. 6.10 per kg for wheat and Rs 8.30 per kg for rice has been determined as issue prices for the additional allocation to protect the average offtake during last three years.
  • Identification of Households : Within the coverage under TPDS determined for each State, the work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.
  • Nutritional Support to women and children : Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes. Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children upto 6 years of age.
  • Maternity Benefit : Pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
  • Women Empowerment : Eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.
  • Grievance Redressal Mechanism : Grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. States will have the flexibility to use the existing machinery or set up separate mechanism.
  • Cost of intra-State transportation & handling of foodgrains and FPS Dealers’ margin : Central Government will provide assistance to States in meeting the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the State, its handling and FPS dealers’ margin as per norms to be devised for this purpose.
  • Transparency and Accountability : Provisions have been made for disclosure of records relating to PDS, social audits and setting up of Vigilance Committees in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Food Security Allowance : Provision for food security allowance to entitled beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.
  • Penalty : Provision for penalty on public servant or authority, to be imposed by the State Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer.

Rajya Sabha Chairman is a referee, not a player

 

Former Vice-President Hamid Ansari expresses deep concern about the state of India’s institutions and erosion of values in a wide-ranging conversation ahead of the release of his book Dare I Question? Excerpts:

  • As Vice-President, you picked up critical themes that have defined India. What is your idea of India? My idea is the same idea with which this country has lived for seven decades and more, which is an inclusive India. We are a plural society. This society was not created by the Constitution; that has existed for thousands of years. The Constitution-makers took that existential reality as a given and created a structure which gave shape to it and to the aspirations of the public.

A number of cases, of late, have come which involve charges against members of the judiciary. What was your approach in such cases that came before you?

  • Look, there is an Act of Parliament (Judges Inquiry Act 1968), which governs the process. That if a member of the higher judiciary, meaning High Court or Supreme Court Judge, is to be impeached, then a number is prescribed. In the case of Rajya Sabha, it was 50 MPs who had to give notice of a motion that they want impeachment proceedings against X, Y or Z. Now, the first thing when such a notice of a motion comes, the Chairman instructs his secretariat to verify. Whether these 50 names and their signatures are actually those of the signatories or somebody else just put it there. Thereafter, the process kicks in and the Chair doesn’t sit in judgment on the merits of the case because the Act provides for a Committee to be set up.

Crucial week for Section 377 case

  • The Constitution Bench hearing in the challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is entering a crucial second week.
  • Last week, pro-Section 377 lawyers asked why the court was hearing a batch of fresh writ petitions to delete it when the court had twice upheld the penal provision — in December 2013 and in the government’s review petition in January 2014.
  • the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has chosen to decide the new writ petitions filed by choreographer Navtej Singh Johar and others under Article 32 of the Constitution. The petitions seek a declaration that the fundamental right to life under Article 21 includes the right to sexuality, sexual autonomy and choice of sexual partner.
  • Questions have also been raised why the Bench, by hearing these writ petitions, ignored the express prohibition in the Rupa Ashok Hurra judgment of 2002. In this judgment, another five-judge Bench unequivocally held that no Article 32 petitions can be filed against a final judgment of the Supreme Court.
  • The Constitution Bench now hearing the Section 377 petitions has reasoned that the privacy judgment is a “subsequent development” which is not part of the pending curative petitions. Chief Justice Misra has observed that his Constitution Bench has to view the issue of Section 377 in the fresh light thrown upon the issue of Section 377 by the privacy judgment of 2017.

Only farm loan waivers are driving rural growth

  • The green-shoots of demand growth seen in some rural pockets is driven by farm loan waivers and not likely due to real increases in rural incomes and wages, indicative of the fact that the economy is still some time away from a full-fledged rural revival.
  • Noting that rural demand has been on the rise in recent months, the report says the upward trend is visible from the sale of big ticket items like tractors and the latest corporate earnings of consumer goods companies.
  • According to recent Nielsen data, rural growth outpaced urban demand, rising by 13.5% in the March quarter.
  • Many large States have announced farm loan waivers last year, as farmer suicides became a big political tool. Last week, Karnataka became the latest State to join U.P., M.P., Maharashtra and Punjab, among others, to write off farm loans.

Domestic tech security firms

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said in an order that it mandated giving preference in all public procurement to locally produced cybersecurity products where intellectual property rights are owned by companies or start-ups incorporated in India.
  • The notification is based on Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order 2017 which aims to enhance income and employment in the country.
  • Preference will be granted to a firm incorporated and registered in India or to start-up firms that meet the prescribed definition, provided revenue from the product and intellectual property licensing accrues to the firm in India. Though IP registration is not mandatory in the country, a firm claiming benefit should have the right to use and commercialise the product without third party-consents, distribute and modify it, the order said.

In knotty problems

  • The outcry and ban against plastic bags and single-use plastic packaging holds potential for the jute sector. But the more than 100-year-old sector, supporting five million families at the farm and the industry-level, may not be in a position to benefit from this opportunity, right away.
  • The availability of quality raw jute and shrinking acreage on the one-hand and the failure of most jute mills to modernise has left the sector dependent on government-support like packaging reservations.
  • A recent initiative called ‘The Jute Foundation’ (TJF) is trying to address many issues pertaining to the environment-friendly product. It is trying to engage all stakeholders –farmers, workers, mills, research organisations and consumers.
  • Pointing out that while the convenience of a plastic carry bag is “difficult to beat,” TJF said an initiative is being introduced for the industry to develop thin and slim jute shopping bags.
  • However, the industry’s ability to rise to this challenge hinges on the quality of the golden fibre. West Bengal is India’s single largest raw jute cultivator producing almost 75 % of the crop in Nadia, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts.
  • But acreage had stagnated amid low productivity and falling prices of the cash crop.
  • Primitive, labour-intensive cultivation methods and retting (drenching raw jute in water to extract the fibre) — a crucial determinant in raw jute quality — creates problems.
  • The I-CARE programme unveiled by the National Jute Board and the Jute Corporation of India seeks to address this issue by introducing a pilot project on retting technologies aimed at increasing farmers’ returns.

Politics over the Constitution

  • Though the phrase “history is written by the victors” is attributed to Winston Churchill, the origins of the catchphrase are lost in the mists of time.
  • But political parties, which come to power with a majority, take the axiom very seriously indeed. Take the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and their ideological backbone, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Though it engages in double-speak, clearly the right wing intends to rewrite the history of India and of the Constitution, if not today, then tomorrow.
  • The RSS did not participate at all in the history of our freedom struggle which culminated in the making of a Constitution. Therefore, the erasure of history is a must. The right wing is tiresomely predictable, and anyone can foresee that the first casualty of the exercise will be secularism. The second will be democracy.
  • The Indian Constitution is large and unwieldy but it is considered to be one of the finest in the world. The authors of the constitutional draft, especially B.N Rau and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, were known for their mastery of comparative law, history, politics, sociology and the literary idiom. More importantly, the Constitution was the outcome of two major movements in Indian history that shaped each other.
  • One was the series of colonial laws enacted to govern India; notably the Government of India Act, 1935.
  • The second was the freedom struggle that brought together large numbers of Indians in a spectacular anti-imperialist and nationalist project. The historical struggle generated imaginations, aspirations and ideals that were indisputably democratic.
  • As early as 1928, an All-Parties Conference established on May 19 a committee chaired by Motilal Nehru to consider and determine a future constitution for India. Among noteworthy recommendations of the committee was an integrated list of social, economic and political rights, minority rights, and universal adult franchise. The Motilal Nehru Report dismissed the idea that non-literacy could pose a problem for universal adult franchise.
  • The report deeply inspired the Constituent Assembly, which met in the wake of momentous movements for Independence in the 1940s. Introducing the resolution on the aims and objectives of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru acknowledged that the strength of the people was behind the Assembly. He committed that ‘we’ shall go as far as the people, not any party or group, but the people as a whole shall wish us to go.
  • The Assembly also met in the shadow of tremendous violence sparked off by Partition. Despite major destruction of lives and property, the makers of the Constitution continued to hold fast to the values of the freedom struggle: democracy, fundamental rights, minority rights, limited government, rule of law, and an independent judiciary. That is why the Indian Constitution has held a fractious body politic together, when country after country in the post-colonial world has fallen prey to authoritarianism. It has enthused us; it has enabled us to make the transition from subject to citizen. There is cause for celebration.
  • Of course, constitutions can be changed if they prove wanting. But there must be good reasons for doing so. Rewriting a Constitution to obliterate a history that records the non-participation of the religious right in the making of democratic constitutionalism, is hardly reason enough. In any case what would a constitution that reflects ancient Indian culture look like? Dr. Ambedkar had warned in 1948 that no democratic constitution can be modelled on the Hindu tradition of state and village panchayats. What is the village he asked, but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism? Before it begins to speak of constitutionalising the soul of India, the religious right should recollect that this soul is deeply fractured by the indelible tracks of caste and gender.
  • The Indian Constitution also gave voice to democratic aspirations in the Preamble. The Constitution is a normative document, but the values it espouses are universal and ‘thin’. They do not reflect the belief system of one section of the population even if it is in a majority. Nor do these values dismiss the value systems of minority groups. The religious right, however, intends to move to a thick conception of the good: this is what we should believe, this is what we should do.
  • Ambedkar talked of constitutional morality. This is best realised when citizens do not worship but revere the Constitution. It is realised when citizens possess freedom and rights. And it can be realised because the Constitution provides a framework to accommodate rival points of view as well as mechanisms for reconciliation. Only then will the Constitution be as sacred to our opponents as to ourselves. Only a thin conception of the good in the Constitution can hold a plural and diverse people together.
  • But constitutional morality, warned Dr. Ambedkar, has to be cultivated. Our people have yet to learn it, for democracy is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic. His words proved prescient. It is the institutionalisation of constitutional democracy that has changed the way Indians think of themselves in relation to each other, and in relation to the state. The Constitution has managed to inculcate democratic sensibilities and spark yearnings for more democracy, not less.
  • Those who would change the Constitution should reflect on Dr. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly. On December 17, 1946, he reminded the Assembly that power is one thing, wisdom is quite another thing. When deciding the destiny of nations, dignities of people, dignities of leaders and dignities of parties ought to count for nothing. The destiny of the country should count for everything.

What is Constitutional morality ?

 

Constitutional morality means adherence to the core principles of the constitutional democracy. The scope of constitutional morality is not limited only to following the constitutional provisions literally but it is so broad that it includes commitment to inclusive and democratic political process in which both individual and collective interests are satisfied.

 

It encompasses ensuring the Constitutional values like rule of law; social justice; democratic ethos; popular participation in governance;individual freedom; judicial independence; egalitarianism; sovereignty and so on. While it is clear as to what Constitutional morality means, practical percolation of these values in governance and citizen entitlements requires a sensitive State apparatus- Parliament that is representative in a true sense; Executive that is responsive and empathic; and judiciary that is vigilant and empowering.

 

There are many laws made by Parliament that show great moral commitment like Food Security Law; CrPC amendments made in 2013 in favour of women. Similarly, judicial verdicts too. For example the recent verdict in Shreya Singhal case(2015) and various electoral reforms enforced by the apex court since 2013.

 

Preamble to our Constitution contains the most impeccable goals whose realization requires greatest commitment to morality. Corruption-free, transparent and accountable governance will go a long way in making one and all in India realize their potential: the sum and substance of Constitutional morality.

 

Transatlantic rift

  • The summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders in Brussels was expected to be tense, given the widening rift in the Western alliance over the U.S.’s imposition of trade tariffs.
  • But President Donald Trump’s call to member-countries to double their annual defence expenditure to 4% of GDP has the potential for greater harm than his repeated denigration of NATO or his disregard for diplomatic niceties.
  • NATO members were reminded of the unequal burden-sharing within the organisation via letters despatched from the White House ahead of the summit.
  • Trump took aim especially at Germany, highlighting in particular the incongruity between its military spending and huge trade surplus with the U.S.
  • A relatively recent dimension to the diatribe is the attack on Germany’s large imports of gas from Russia, a divisive issue within Europe, particularly after the threats posed by Moscow’s regional ambitions.
  • Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s claims, Europe’s expenditure on defence has been on the rise since 2014, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). One explanation for this shift is the security situation following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
  • IISS data also show that Washington’s commitment to Europe’s security is just over 5% of the total U.S. defence budget. Within that, its contribution to NATO’s common funding is an estimated 22.1%, besides investments in other initiatives.
  • The communiqué issued after the summit reiterates the group’s resolve to meet the 2024 deadline on defence spending. But Mr. Trump seems impatient on achieving the target sooner, without spelling out his reasons.

A helping hand for Indian universities

  • The future of Indian universities (public and private) will significantly depend upon our ability to harness the possibility of individual, institutional and corporate philanthropy for the purposes of higher education.
  • A major legal and policy reform to promote some form of mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) was initiated through the Companies Act, 2013. Path-breaking, it had the potential to transform the relationship between business and society.
  • The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has observed that among the 5,097 companies that have filed annual reports till December 2016 (financial year 2015-16), only 3,118 companies had made some contribution towards CSR expenditure..
  • During FY 2014-15, 3,139 companies had spent 74% of the prescribed CSR expenditure — most were to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
  • There has been very little strategic thinking and innovation in the CSR where corporations can play a leadership role in contributing to society. This also shows that companies in India have generally not understood the larger goals of CSR, viewing it more as a charitable endeavour.
  • the fact is that higher education and universities do need to receive significantly more attention. Every aspect of a university’s growth requires substantial financial resources: hiring of world class faculty; developing research centres; funding research projects; having rewards and incentives for faculty publications; building physical infrastructure, and making available scholarships for students.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development should be working closely with the MCA to have a road map that incentivises CSR funding to be made available for universities.
  • A range of reforms are being promoted in higher education. Recognising that universities in India need to be significantly empowered in order to achieve excellence, the government has initiated five major reforms in the areas of regulation, accreditation, rankings, autonomy and internationalisation. However, the most critical aspect of building world-class universities as well as upgrading existing universities is in relation to funding and the availability of substantial financial resources.
  • The higher education sector can be truly re-energised only by a significant increase in loans, grants and philanthropy. Banks and financial institutions have been rather timid and even indifferent towards funding in higher education. Therefore, there is an urgent need for policy intervention, where universities and related funding should be designated a priority sector. It should be seen as being more important than infrastructure development.
  • Beyond a few examples of philanthropy in higher education in India, contemporary leadership in philanthropy in higher education is limited and almost non-existent.
  • Today, public universities (State universities and other higher education institutions) face serious financial challenges. While the Central universities and institutions of higher education are better situated, complex procedures, incessant delays, regulatory obstacles and a labyrinth of regulations for access to the funds have created many disincentives for universities to have the necessary freedom and flexibility to spend resources as per their needs and priorities.
  • As far as private universities/higher education institutions are concerned, the problem is even more serious. The opening up of the private sector to higher education has ended up creating many mediocre institutions. The privatisation of higher education has not been driven by philanthropy but to a large extent by commercial and for-profit interests that do not have a symbiotic relationship with the vision, values and ethos of a university. Higher education and universities (private or public) by their very nature ought to be not-for-profit and established through philanthropy.
  • The Institute of Eminence (IOE) policy by the government did create hopes and expectations for establishing world class universities in India. Unfortunately, the policy, procedure and the process of selecting IOEs has been marred by a lack of transparency, vision and imagination in institution building. Therefore, there is an urgent need in Indian universities to reflect upon the crisis of leadership and the inability to seek reforms relating to institution building. In this, leadership in philanthropy is central to enabling an institutional vision that will help build the future of higher education in India.

Becoming Pakistan?

  • The response to Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor’s recent reference to the danger of India being turned into a “Hindu Pakistan” has been a concerted attempt at misinterpreting it as maligning Hindus.
  • This is the opposite of what Mr. Tharoor, the author most recently of Why I am a Hindu , intended to do. The ugly word in the term “Hindu Pakistan” is not “Hindu” but “Pakistan”.
  • What Mr. Tharoor was warning about is that if the current political dispensation continues beyond 2019, it will turn India into an intolerant majoritarian state just like Pakistan.
  • Pakistan was created expressly with the idea of perpetuating the dominance of the Muslim majority.
  • The Indian concept of citizenship as enshrined in the Constitution was vastly different. It grants equality of status to all citizens and expressly rejects the identification of the state with any single religion.
  • Tharoor was pointing out the grave danger that this ideal faced with the continuation of the expressly Hindu nationalist BJP in power. The wave of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits on the suspicion that they were eating beef is one symptom of this malaise. What is worse is the governing elite’s condoning of such acts as the recent action of Union Minister Jayant Sinha has demonstrated. The feeling of insecurity and discrimination among the minorities, especially Muslims, is now palpable. Mr. Tharoor was warning that religious divisions and communal violence, especially if endorsed by the powerful, could lead to the decimation of India’s democratic structure. India is likely to become a mirror image of Pakistan if the two distinctive features of the Indian polity, secularism and liberal democracy, are eroded beyond repair.
  • To construe such a warning as an act of treachery is an indication of how low Indian politicians can stoop in their partisan assaults.

Beyond Section 377

  • One of the lowest moments for human rights in India came in 2013 when the Supreme Court reversed the progressive 2009 judgment of the Delhi High Court reading down Section 377.
  • As arguments recently reopened on the curative petition against this 2013 judgment, India’s LGBTQI community is hopeful.
  • The law is not abstract and it’s important to consider how insufficient law impacts the lived experiences of human beings. Instead of focusing on the question of validity alone, the Court also needs to concern itself with how current laws impact the lives of the LGBTQI community.
  • There is also the matter of the Court’s own precedent in another recent ruling — one that found in favour of individual privacy — in the case of Puttaswamy vs Union of India which terms “sexual orientation” an essential attribute of “identity” and “privacy”. It terms discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as deeply offensive to the “dignity and self-worth of the individual”.
  • The Court now needs to concern itself with a broader question: What is freedom in the absence of a formal set of legal rights and protections? It needs to expand the ambit of this discussion to include other issues such as the right to form partnerships, inheritance, employment equality, protection from gender-identity-based discrimination, and so on.
  • Without these rights, sexual minorities will continue to face unequal treatment, abuse, discrimination in workplaces and housing, violence, and denial of recognition.
  • The Court should also consider closely the fact that individual dignity and freedom cannot be achieved without equal rights. Failure to use a rights-based approach also has serious social repercussions. There is sufficient evidence to show that suicide rates are higher among sexual minorities. Moreover, this lack of rights and protections feeds a homophobic culture that overemphasises and empowers patriarchy and masculinity.
  • The Court knows well that Section 377 is inhumane. It is disingenuous to say that its only concern is the law’s constitutional validity. It is time now for the Court to safeguard the human rights of sexual minorities with an open and reassuring discussion of their rights — one that engages every Indian and reinforces ideas of justice, equality and liberty for all.

350 cops in tow, Dalit groom takes his­toric ride in vil­lage

  • Nizam­pur vil­lage of Kas­ganj district, which has been in news for the past six months af­ter the lo­cal Thakur com­mu­nity al­legedly threat­ened to dis­rupt a Dalit wed­ding in the vil­lage, wit­nessed a peace­ful wed­ding on Sun­day in the pres­ence of 350 po­lice per­son­nel as well as Pro­vin­cial Armed Con­stab­u­lary (PAC).
  • For the vil­lagers, it was his­tory in the mak­ing as 27-year old the Dalit groom who hails from the neigh­bour­ing district of Hathras, rode into the vil­lage on a horse­drawn buggy on Sun­day af­ter­noon.
  • The groom beamed through­out the ride. The 18-year-old bride,, was equally ex­cited as she watched the progress of the baraat on news chan­nels.
  • “We fought against all odds to just earn re­spect, dig­nity and equal­ity for our com­mu­nity. Nei­ther my com­mu­nity nor I was against lo­cal Thakurs, but we were against dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of caste,”.

Anudeep Durishetty AIR 1 Mains GS Strategy, Sources and PDF Notes

With 1000 marks spanning across four papers in Mains, GS feels like one giant, insurmountable mountain. The point of this article is to convince you that those fears are unfounded.

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I’ve written this post assuming someone who had already read the foundational books for GS Prelims. If you haven’t read them as yet, you should first read my post on GS Prelims. At the end of this article, I embedded download links to my complete GS notes and answer copies.

As you start reading the books I mention here for GS mains, please keep the following points in mind:

  1. Along with these books, get a printout of the syllabus and read it carefully. Your final aim must be: for each topic mentioned in the syllabus, you should have enough content to write a 250-word answer.
  2. Go through the past five years’ question papers to understand the breadth and depth of questions UPSC usually asks. It’ll give you a good perspective of what’s important and what’s not.
  3. Use the internet extensively, especially for topics like Science and Tech. Your target must be to gain knowledge, be it through books or through the internet.
  4. For all subjects, you have to superimpose current affairs over it, especially for GS-2 and GS-3. For both these papers, current affairs form the nucleus. You will inevitably do a lot of reading on the internet, so use Evernote to organise and highlight content like this.
  5. Give adequate time for revision. Without it, you will not be able to recollect whatever you may have read. So please dedicate enough time to it, whether you are giving a mock test or the actual exam.
  6. Many aspirants commit one fundamental mistake: they read and revise, over and over, but never practise. Remember that the examiner checking your copy will have no idea about the number of books you’ve read or the number of hours you’ve slogged. Your answers are all that he has to judge you. So it makes sense to learn it, practise it and perfect it.
  7. Mains exam demands not only our memory and intelligence but also endurance. If you lack prior practice, writing relentlessly for 6 hours a day and do this for 5 days will cause both mental and physical fatigue. The only way to overcome it is to practice enough before the final exam.
  8. General Studies demands only a peripheral understanding of an expansive set of topics. So it’s important that you try to gain minimum sufficient knowledge over a diverse set of subjects rather than obsessively focussing on one topic. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to read World History for three months at the expense of all other subjects. Always maintain that fine balance between all the topics and don’t get imprisoned in one.
  9. In GS, there will be very few questions where you will have absolutely no clue. Even if you only have a vague idea, write those generic points. For instance, in last year’s GS-1 paper, for the question on Malay peninsula, I knew no specific fact except a vague idea that Singapore had a partition story similar to India. So I just wrote a generic answer comprising of problems such as ethnic strife, insurgency, and economic collapse. The examiner checking my copy might have given 2-3 marks for it, which I am sure any aspirant would gladly take.
  10. You must develop the skill to speed read a committee or an organisation’s report on your computer (reading online saves you a lot of time) and highlight important lines as you read along. In the second reading, this highlighted portion is what you need to revise. It should look something like this.
  11. In GS papers, map of India is your most effective tool for illustration. For example, I drew India maps and labelled relevant parts for questions on river linkage (GS-3), North-East insurgency (GS-3), Inland navigation (GS-1), India’s 18th-century fragmented polity (GS-1) etc. Practise it enough so that you are able to draw and label it under 60 seconds.
  12. If you are taking a test series, please give those tests with all the seriousness of the final UPSC exam. In the mock test, if you take 10-15 additional minutes to finish the paper, you are cheating no one except yourself. Observe strict time limits.
  13. You will never feel content with your Mains preparation and there is always a nagging tendency to just keep reading and procrastinate writing answers or skip an upcoming test. You have to overcome this reluctance through conscious effort. Suppose before a mock test if you were unable to finish the syllabus, you can postpone your test by a day or two, but don’t skip it altogether.
  14. Perfectionism is your enemy. If you keep referring to countless sources to make that “perfect notes”, if you keep postponing your mock tests in order to write “perfect tests”, this mentality will bring you to ruin. Getting a good score in Mains is about attempting all questions to which some answers are excellent, some good and many above average. So instead of waiting for that elusive perfection, start imperfect and then keep improving.
  15. When you are buying coaching material, always ask yourself: “what new is this material adding to my preparation?” If you can’t answer that question convincingly, then the material probably isn’t really useful.
  16. Just because I am AIR-1, it does not mean that my notes are the best or that this book list is the last word. If you have been studying some other material, that’s fine, too. To succeed in this exam, the source of material is not important. What’s important is you to understand the concepts, memorise the facts well and have a firm grip over the entire syllabus.

The list of books for GS Mains:

GS 1

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
  • For someone who is starting just now, this topic can overwhelm them. So I suggest beginners read this section after they get acquainted with other GS topics.
  • In Art and Culture, questions asked by UPSC in recent years are more analytical— which requires both the factual content and good analysis to answer the why and how. You can answer such questions well only when you understand the historical background in which such art was produced. This is why it’s important that you read NCERT XI Ancient India for it gives you that historical context.
  • For instance, don’t just memorise features of say, Sangam literature or Chola architecture, but understand the social, political, religious and economic context in which such grand art was produced. They will form the analysis part and will help you write great answers.
  • Make good use of the internet to watch both visual and performing arts to understand how they actually look in real life. You will be able to recollect such visuals more easily. They will help you write a decent answer for questions which you only have a vague idea about.
  • Wherever relevant, draw diagrams to illustrate your answers. For instance, you can draw a rough sketch to show the features of a Stupa, Dravida, and Nagara style architecture, Paleolithic art, Folk arts such as Warli, Harappan pottery etc. You don’t need to be a Michelangelo for this, but you must ensure that the fundamentals are correct. For example, in Warli art, human bodies are represented by triangles, heads by circles and hands by simple lines. Just get these basics right. Link to download diagrams is given at the end of the article.
  • Art and Culture requires a ton of memorisation and there’s really no shortcut to mastering it except through multiple revisions.

Modern Indian History

  1. A Brief History of Modern India- Spectrum Publications
  2. India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Read selectively for topics not covered in the Spectrum book)
  • Questions on Indian history are something that every serious aspirant will answer well, so you really cannot afford to let go of these questions. If you had done your prelims preparation for this topic well, that is good enough. You just need to practise answer writing.

India’s Post Independence History

  1. India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra
  2. For certain topics, I made notes from this book. Download link is given at the end.

World History

  • I prepared entirely for this topic from this outstanding book: Download
  • Since revising this big book before the exam was difficult, I prepared concise notes from it. I also practised maps to demonstrate major world historical events.
  • Link to download my notes and maps is given at the end of the article.

Geography

  • The study plan is the same as for prelims, which I’ve explained here.

Indian Society

  • This is a generic, nebulous topic with no style or structure. Questions are sometimes vague, philosophical and the challenge we face is not so much in lack of content as in presenting it concisely in 200 odd words. To understand the basics, read NCERT Sociology Std XI and XII. Make concise notes on each topic that includes: a crisp definition, latest statistics, govt schemes, criticism of these schemes; causes of issues such as communalism and regionalism, historical and current examples, their impact on our society, and your suggestions as the way ahead. (you can get these suggestions from the internet or ARC 2 or some committee report). In case if you find good coaching material for these topics, that’ll do as well.
  • For this topic, a generic answer with proper structure and subheadings that cover multiple dimensions is good enough to fetch you marks. You can find my notes at the end of the article.

GS 2

Polity, Governance and Social Justice

Static Portion:

  1. Laxmikanth
  2. Polity Notes (this will provide analytical content. Download link is given at the end of the article)
  3. ARC 2 (One of the best reports ever written for the government. It’s been more than ten years since the reports were published, but the content is still priceless. Read complete reports, memorise only recommendations)

Current Affairs:

  1. The Hindu
  2. The Big Picture on RSTV
  3. CivilsDaily current affairs material
  4. I also referred to Insights/ForumIAS current affairs material for topics not covered well by CivilsDaily
  5. PRS India for latest legislation
  6. All India Radio – Spotlight (used to listen during my commute to the office)
  • Open your answers with Constitutional articles. Question on Governor? Art 153 must be there in the first line. Question on Civil Services? Art 312 is where you begin. If there’s a technical term like ‘Parliamentary Sovereignty’, ‘Political democracy’ or ‘Social Audit’ — define them in your introduction telling the examiner what you understand by those terms.
  • Supreme Court judgements are very important. Make a list of important judgements (both historical and current) and quote them to substantiate your answer. For example, when you are answering a question on Free speech, quoting SC judgement in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India case will add tremendous value to your answers.
  • For a debatable topic, always write both sides of the issue even if not explicitly asked in the question. Example: A question might ask: Do you agree that Civil Services is in need of drastic reforms? For this, explain under a subheading why drastic reforms are needed. And in the next paragraph, counter by saying why drastic reforms are harmful. In the end, you can add the view of ARC 2/Hota/Surendranath committee to convey your view and end on a balanced note.
  • For miscellaneous topics like the comparison of Constitutions, RPA Act, SHG, e-Governance etc refer to any good coaching material to have 200-word worth content. Source latest examples and issues from newspapers and quote them in your answers.
  • Prepare thoroughly on Govt policies and bills. PRS India is an excellent resource for all the latest legislation in the offing and The Hindu for policy criticism. But the newspaper is patently leftist and they publish articles incessantly and nauseatingly ranting on policies they don’t like (Eg: Aadhar). But as someone aspiring to be a civil servant, you need to be more dispassionate. This is why you must actively pursue articles with a contrarian and balanced opinions like this and this.
  • Cram latest statistics pertaining to health, employment, women, education, poverty etc. Also apart from committees, you may quote authentic reports from reputed organisations such as Lancet, Transparency International, UNICEF, FAO etc to substantiate your point. I made notes on important statistics that can be used for all papers of GS and essay. Download link is given at the end of the article.
  • Conclusion: Wherever possible, end with a committee/ commission recommendation or observation. For instance, a question on Centre-State relations should invariably end with Punchhi Commission, a question on death penalty with Law Commission and a question on Indian Constitution with NCRWC. Referring to Sustainable Development Goals, Preamble, DPSP is also another good way to end your answers.

International Relations

  • Any good book that adequately covers the historical aspect of India’s bilateral relations.
  • Current affairs: The Hindu, India’s World on RSTV, CivilsDaily or Insights or ForumIAS depending upon the topic.
  • Questions on IR will be almost, always be about the current happenings in the world. But before you run after the Hindu or some other latest magazine for this section, it’s important that you understand the historical background of India’s relationship with other countries. This is indispensable because every bilateral issue that you see in the news can be traced back to history. Once you understand this historical context, this topic becomes uncomplicated.
  • For example, let’s take India China relations. Don’t merely focus on Doklam crisis and troop positioning, but understand the larger context of our border dispute with China, the agreements we had signed starting with the Simla Accord of 1914. For India-Sri Lanka, don’t just concentrate that India voted for or against Sri Lanka at the UN, but understand how India always championed peace between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, the 1987 accord, its fallout, Sri Lankan civil war and what India did during these times. When you have that bigger picture in mind, each part of the puzzle becomes easier to fit in.
  • For miscellaneous topics like diaspora and international institutions, refer to any good coaching material.
  • Draw map wherever relevant. Example: for India-Iran relations, you can draw a rough map to show how the Chabahar port helps us to bypass Pakistan and reach Afghanistan. Act East policy can be demonstrated with arrows pointing from India and showing our specific relationship with Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and ASEAN, MGC, BIMSTEC etc.,
  • Each bilateral relationship or a global grouping is multi-faceted. To make your answers comprehensive, always write a multidimensional perspective that includes: the strategic dimension, defence co-operation, technology, education, culture, diaspora, trade and investment, co-operation in global fora etc.

GS 3

Economy

Static part:

  1. Standard resources I already mentioned in my prelims post
  2. Budget (any coaching material compilation)
  3. Economic Survey (gist)
  4. Niti 3-year Action Plan report (a good resource for policy recommendations that come in handy while you write conclusion)

Current Affairs:

  1. The Hindu
  2. CivilsDaily
  3. I referred to Insights/ForumIAS current affairs material for topics not covered well by CivilsDaily

Indian Agriculture, Land reforms, PDS, Food Processing, LPG, Infrastructure

  1. Mrunal.org
  2. Vision IAS
  3. The Hindu and CivilsDaily for current affairs
  • You need to remember that for GS-3, questions revolve around current affairs and there is no dearth of material. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the trick is to restrict yourself to material that’s good enough for you to write a 250-word answer for all topics. It’s very important that you don’t get sunk under the heap of current affairs and coaching material.
  • So for each topic mentioned in the syllabus, make concise notes from the resources mentioned above. I also found Niti Aayog’s 3-year Action Plan report really helpful for this paper. And just as I had mentioned for GS-2, statistics and committee reports are very important.

Security

  • Vajiram and Vision IAS material
  • The Hindu and CivilsDaily for current affairs
  • Prepare crisp and clear definitions of technical terms such as cybersecurity, terrorism, organised crime, money laundering, left-wing extremism etc.
  • For questions on border security, draw India map to illustrate.

Disaster Management

  • Fundamental reading: CBSE book
  • Prepare concise notes on NDMA (structure, functions, rules etc), international agreements such as Sendai Framework, latest current affairs from newspapers, internet and coaching material.
  • Draw diagrams to illustrate concepts like river embankment, land zoning, watershed management etc.

Environment and Ecology

  • Shankar IAS book
  • The Hindu and CivilsDaily for current affairs
  • My handwritten notes (Download link given at the end)

Science & Tech

  1. The Hindu
  2. Vision IAS Mains 365
  3. YouTube
  • This topic terrifies many aspirants, and for good reason. There’s no single book or resource to help one navigate this section and it all feels like one big haze. But there’s good news: the questions asked in S&T are mostly from current affairs and you are expected to have only a general understanding of the topics.
  • During my preparation, I used to note down in my book whatever scientific term or technology that’s frequently talked about in news. For instance, these days we repeatedly encounter terms such as Artificial General Intelligence, Blockchain, Machine Learning, Cryptocurrency, CRISPR-CAS9 in news and on the internet.
  • Note down all such scientific concepts that are in news and then scour the internet (especially Youtube) to understand them. There are many explainer videos on Youtube that explain the concept so well that even a school student can understand it. For instance, take this excellent video on blockchain technology. Once you see it, it’s impossible for you to miss a question on blockchain and its practical applications.
  • Apart from the above, you need to learn fundamental terms and technologies used in Space (PSLV, GSLV, Cryo Engine etc), Nanotech, Nuclear Research (Fast breeder reactor, Uranium enrichment, Nuclear fission and fusion etc.), Defence (Cruise missile, Ballistic missile, Stealth Bomber etc), Biotech (Gene editing, Stem Cells, GM food etc), Communication (LIDAR, RADAR, LiFi, 5G etc). Any comprehensive material of a coaching institute will be sufficient for this (I referred to Vajiram printed notes).
  • Whatever S&T topic you are learning, always focus on the concept, why is it in news, practical applications, potential threats, benefits far into the future etc. Just do this and you will easily handle this topic in the final exam.

GS 4

  • 2nd ARC reports: Ethics in Governance, Promoting E-gov, RTI, Citizen-centric Administration, Personnel Administration. Read all ARC reports completely, memorise only recommendations.
  • For moral thinkers, Google them to read about their major contributions and for misc topics such as corporate governance, I referred to Vajiram printed material. I also prepared some notes for certain topics (download link at the end of the article)
  • I went through the syllabus and tried to define each term in clear words and simple sentences. I found this exercise very useful because these definitions inevitably formed the introduction to most of my answers. For all of ethics paper, the essence can be distilled as just this: a clear and simple definition of the term and a real-life example to illustrate the concept. You can draw flowcharts and schematics wherever apt.
  • It’s important to understand that each question is an opportunity to display your ethics. This will be best demonstrated by the actions you did or some other personalised/ real-life examples you quote. Reflect on your childhood, school life, college time, professional career etc and glean examples that are simple, unpretentious and at the same time bring out your ethical values clearly. For some questions, you can also quote historical examples from the lives of great leaders.
  • For case studies, my aim was not so much in writing ingenious, extraordinary solutions, but to write something that’s realistic and practicable and finish the paper no matter what.
  • I always started with Q1 and not with case studies because I could not see how one mark in Section B (case studies) is superior to one mark in Section A. I gave equal importance and dedicated equal time to both the sections.
  • Rest of the GS papers have 20 questions each, Ethics has only 14. But don’t let that number 14 fool you. I’ve always found GS-4 to be the lengthiest paper of all. Every question in Section A has many subparts that drain an inordinate amount of your time. In fact, if we go by the absolute numbers, we write more words in GS-4 than in other papers. So to manage your time well: Abide by the rule that you must complete at least 80 marks worth of questions in each hour, irrespective of whether you start with Section A or Section B.
  • Just before GS-4, you would have had written three stressful GS papers that would put your body condition under severe mental and physical strain. But it’s important to stay mentally tough during this crucial period and push your endurance limits so as to survive another 3 hours of relentless writing. Remember that it’s all in the mind— it can be your biggest enemy or your greatest strength.

My Notes

GS 1

GS 2

GS 3

GS 4

Misc

Essay

 

My GS Answer Copies

GS 2

GS 3

GS 4

Essay

GS may look insurmountable at first, but remember that it’s always the small steps towards the summit that count. Through effective planning and adequate practice, anyone can conquer it.

My best wishes.

Until next time,
Anudeep.

Via How to conquer GS in UPSC Mains, Explained .  Re-posted in full instead of Linking. Wanted here in full for a benchmark. Our links are auto updated and not provided in original post.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 13-07-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 13-07-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, kalyan@iksa.in , telegram: @naylak .

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 13-07-18

Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian views on various issues

  • The compensation payable to the States for revenue loss arising due to GST is just Rs. 5,000 crore, far lower than was estimated, according to Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian.
  • Lateral entry: The outgoing CEA also batted for the lateral entry of talent into the government, saying that it was a “no brainer” in a situation where demand for talent outstripped the supply within the government.You have to get the right people and then you have to create the conditions for that person to be able to work with the bureaucracy and be effective. That I think is the next challenge.
  • He added that while it is difficult to ascertain its exact contribution, demonetisation “certainly did” contribute to the deceleration in the economy.
    About Trade wars:  India stood to be negatively affected by the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing. It’s not just the size of the economy, but also how integrated we are with the global economy. Our exports to GDP is not that huge, our imports are still not crucial in that sense.
  • Overall, I feel if trade wars and currency wars take place, the global economy declines, growth declines, risk premia go up, capital flows out, and all of these things create uncertainty in all emerging markets.
  • US Sanctions: The costs of not adhering to the U.S. are quite stiff. Essentially what it means is that you can’t be part of the dollar based international system and almost everything takes place in the dollar… It’s the role of the dollar that is so all-permeating, not just in trade but as a payment mechanism and an instrument of finance that makes the cost of non-compliance very high.

Justice Indu Malhotra makes a strong case against IPC Section 377

  • Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court hearing the fight against Section 377 of the IPC, made a strong case against criminalisation of homosexuality.
  • She said homosexuality is only a variation and not an aberration. But the prejudice and stigma piled on the LGBTQ community has denied it even basic medical care in the country.The community is so inhibited by societal scorn that it prefers to forego medical care, especially in rural and semi-urban parts of the country.
  • She spoke of the pressure on homosexual people from within the home. They succumb to marry the opposite sex, leading to a life of mental trauma and bi-sexuality.
  • The judge spoke of how homosexuality is not against the order of nature and is nature itself.

SC defends govt. stand on Sec. 377

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday quickly came to the rescue of the government when it came under attack for not contesting the challenge to Section 377 IPC, which criminalises homosexuality.
  • The court reasoned that a subsequent “development” in the form of a nine-judge Bench upholding privacy as a fundamental right in 2017, may have prompted the Centre to leave the fate of the colonial provision entirely in the hands of the apex court.

Inflation now at a 5-month high of 5%

  • Retail inflation spiked to a five-month high of 5% in June on costlier fuel, despite easing food prices, bolstering the chances of more interest rate increases by the RBI.
  • The retail inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index, stood at 4.87% in May.

Ladakh’s connectivity conundrum

  • At a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister to discuss issues in the implementation of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP), an official from Jammu and Kashmir said connectivity was a major issue in the Ladakh region. In areas bordering China, only Chinese telecom services were available, not those of Indian operators.
  • Under the BADP, the Union government plans to develop villages located 0-10 km from the international borders and make them “self-sustainable.” A Home Ministry spokesperson said 61 villages were identified for being developed as ‘model villages,’ with health centres, schools and drinking water supply.
  • The BADP covers 111 border districts in 17 States to meet the needs of people living within 50 km of the international border.
  • The governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal highlighted their achievements under the BADP, and the steps taken to improve the quality of life for the people in the border areas.

Industrial growth dips to 7-month low

  • Industrial production growth slipped to a seven-month low of 3.2% in May mainly on sluggish performance of manufacturing and power sectors coupled with poor offtake of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).
  • Factory output growth, measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), was revised down to 4.8% in April from previous estimates of 4.9%, according to the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

RBI flags States’ fiscal stress

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has pointed to the fiscal stress that States are facing due to several factors including farm loan waivers, and said higher borrowing by them could crowd out private investment.
  • In a report ‘State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2017-18 and 2018-19,’ the central bank noted that States’ consolidated gross fiscal deficit (GFD) overshot the budget estimates in 2017-18 due to shortfalls in own tax revenues and higher revenue expenditure.
  • While States budgeted a gross fiscal deficit to gross domestic product (GFD-GDP) ratio of 2.7% in 2017-18, revised estimates reveal GFD-GDP ratio of 3.1%.
  • Since the combined GFP to GDP was at 6.4% as compared with the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Committee’s (FRBM) medium-term target of 5%, there is a risk that private investment gets crowded out of the finite pool of financial resources.
  • While States together have projected a revenue surplus and a lower consolidated GFD of 2.6% of GDP in 2018-19, 11 States have budgeted for fiscal deficits above the threshold of 3% of GDP.

Editorials and Opinions:

Moon shine

  • That South Korean President Moon Jae-in undertook a four-day visit to India this week, when there is hectic diplomacy over the Korean peninsula, speaks of his commitment to improving bilateral ties.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has often said he sees South Korea as a significant partner for India, and had travelled to Seoul.
  • But despite the personal touch, and ambitions to align India’s Act East policy with Korea’s New Southern Policy, ties have drifted for lack of focus.
  • Trade, at $20 billion, is a fraction of the potential, given that India and South Korea are Asia’s third and fourth largest economies.
  • This figure has been a cause for worry, as the two countries had hit the $20-billion mark in 2011 after the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
  • The large trade deficit in South Korea’s favour has led India to be wary of further opening up. In turn, Korean companies cite problems in doing business in India, despite a special “Korea Plus” desk set up by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2015.
  • On Mr. Moon’s watch, this may change. Both Mr. Modi and he exuded a sense of purpose and there is a clear road map on converging interests. Agreement to invoke the “early harvest” clause in the 2010 CEPA will allow both to do away with tariffs in 11 areas, benefiting Indian seafood exporters and food processing units, as well as South Korean petrochemical companies.
  • The inauguration of Samsung’s biggest mobile factory in Noida will bring investment and create jobs in India. More Korean companies should be persuaded to invest, by projecting a counter-narrative to the failed bid by the steel company Posco to set up its plant in Odisha.
  • Much will depend on negotiations on the regional free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. On the strategic front, India has asserted its place as a “stakeholder” in the Korean peace process, while South Korea has for the first time shown an interest in talking about an Indo-Pacific policy.
  • At a time when U.S. foreign policy is capricious and unpredictable, and China’s is making purposeful moves towards global domination, it is important that the South Korea-India partnership grows and consolidates, to contribute to stability in the region.

377 and beyond

  • There is finally good reason to believe that consensual gay sex may once again be decriminalised. The ongoing hearing before a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court indicates that there is now a better appreciation of the need for equal constitutional protection to all individuals without any discrimination than was the case in 2013, when a two-member Bench declined to read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as homosexuals constituted only a “minuscule minority”.
  • The Union government is cautiously supporting the cause, but it has stopped short of taking a categorical position.
  • By leaving it to the Supreme Court’s wisdom to decide on the constitutionality of Section 377, the Centre has signalled it is not opposed to the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships as long as these are limited to consensual acts between adults in private.
  • Observations by the judges of the Bench, including the Chief Justice of India, indicate that it is now focusing only on Section 377. However, at least one judge has observed that the question involved was not only one relating to sex, but the right to life and the right to privacy of those in such relationships.
  • The current hearing is taking place against the backdrop of a nine-member Bench’s verdict last year in Justice S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India , which said “the right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution”. In other words, a whole gamut of rights flowing from the decriminalisation of homosexual relationships must be examined, if not now, then at least as and when they arise.
  • Obviously worried about the reaction of some religious and conservative sections if homosexuality is decriminalised, the Centre has sought to dissuade the court from going into other related rights. Its apprehension, perhaps, is that once homosexuality is no more an offence, it may lead to demands to legalise same-sex marriages and inheritance by survivorship among gay partners.
  • While the current focus is on the urgent need to overturn the retrograde judgment of 2013 in Suresh Kumar Koushal , the extension of constitutional rights to citizens, irrespective of gender and sexual orientation, is long overdue.

Towards a culture of moral responsibility

Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi is the founder of Global March against Child Labour and Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation

  • Twenty people have been killed by raging mobs, on the suspicion of being child-lifters, across the country in the last few weeks. The trigger for the fears in these violent incidents was undoubtedly WhatsApp rumours that were unfounded.
  • Eight children go missing every hour in India to remain untraced and four are sexually abuse. Aren’t these figures enough to cause fear among the masses?

collective frustration:

  • Can we say with confidence that our children are safe in homes, schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, shelter homes, or even inside the places of worship and faith institutions?
  • Can we guarantee that our children will not be abused by a family member or friend?
  • Can we totally trust our state institutions to bring the perpetrators to justice?
  • Fears triggered by such insecurities quickly take the form of collective frustration. Mob action, condemnable no doubt, is the most violent expression of such frustration.

Regulations and checks?

  • It is necessary to point to the apathy among our institutions toward child safety.
  • Reports on incidents like the sale of a baby by the Missionaries of Charity home; the rape of minor girls by a self-styled godman in Delhi; and the rape of a nine-year-old girl by a Maulana in a madrassa raise a basic question:
  • Why are many of these residential religious institutions allowed to run without stringent regulations and checks?
  • The government has information on 1.4 lakh missing children on one hand and on the other, has a database of three lakh children staying in state and NGO-run children’s homes.
  • Why can’t it effectively use simple technological solutions like facial recognition software and try to reunite missing children with their families?
  • Further, what stops the largest democracy in the world from passing more stringent laws against child trafficking and child pornography?
  • Demanding capital punishment for the perpetrators of child rape is the easiest way to show social media heroism. The government’s response, which includes setting up an enquiry or bringing an ordinance, is equally convenient.
  • However, I have never come across an incident where an individual or institution ever took moral responsibility for such a pathetic situation on child safety. Therefore, I argue for a culture of moral responsibility and accountability among our institutions, as opposed to the prevalent culture of superficial, convenient responses.
  • Moral responsibility is an individual decision and moral accountability is a culture.
  • Mahatma Gandhi called off the Non-Cooperation Movement against the British because some of his supporters turned violent in Chauri Chaura.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly called for compassion and hope despite facing vicious racist insults.
  • Nelson Mandela adopted the approach of reconciliation to bring about justice, despite being a brutalised victim of apartheid.
  • A culture of accountability can be created if the society and the state are guided by a moral compass.

A list of questionable eminence

  • The government’s list of ‘Institutes of Eminence’ (IoEs) was awaited for the simple reason that finding a place in it would help an educational institution avoid the clutches of a dreaded regulator.
  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has, over more than half a century, micromanaged this space, leading to a large number of publicly funded universities, producing low-level ‘knowledge’, which have shattered the aspirations of our youth.
  • Governments in the past decade have tried to revamp the regulatory environment for higher education. The latest offering is in the form of a proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The intention is to leave the HECI to focus on quality while leaving funding of public institutions to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  • One can only pressure government to be impartial and accountable in its actions. In higher education, one would imagine that this accountability would be manifested in enabling the pursuit of excellence.
  • It is not as if excellence is difficult to identify, even if it may be impossible to measure. In the world of ideas, excellence lies in the ability to participate as an equal in the global knowledge commons. The emphasis here must be on engagement;
  • However, even as we wonder if the HECI is going to be more than just old wine in a new bottle, we have an inkling of where it could go wrong. The government has chosen a total of six institutions — three public and three private — for the IOE status.
  • The public institutions are: the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru; and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) at Delhi and Mumbai.
  • The private ones are: the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani; the Jio Institute; and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education.
  • The list suffers from a serious lack of credibility as the most obvious question that arises is: Where are the universities?
  • Ignoring the universities Universities by definition embody knowledge across a wide range of disciplines. The emphasis was on depth of knowledge across a broad horizon. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have lost this breadth and come to revel in a landscape dominated by engineering schools. These engineering schools, notably the IITs, have done us proud but cannot be equated with the great universities of the world for the simple reason that they are focussed on a narrow domain.
  • Also, if the idea behind preparing a list of the IoEs is giving them greater autonomy and enhanced financial support, it must be acknowledged that until very recently, the IITs were not meddled with; neither were they starved of resources.
  • Assuming that an IoE list is needed, the absence of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) from the present list striking. If, as I mentioned earlier, the possibility offered by a university for engagement with global ideas is accepted as a criterion, the JNU would count as among India’s eminent educational institutions.Its research work in various disciplines, ranging from history to economics, is top-quality. Its faculty have brought many of the world’s leading ideas to Indian students and also come close to building a new school of thought.
  • So where does this leave us? Even before the HECI is a reality, we can get an overview of what to expect when such a limited approach to education guides the hand of the state. While there may be no political partisanship involved in the matter of finding eminence only in engineering schools, the choices do reflect short-sightedness when the social sciences and the humanities are completely ignored.
  • It is indeed conceivable that the politicians who govern us have little time to bother with the constitution of committees. But then, we do maintain a machinery of government, at considerable expense, to advise the Cabinet.
  • In this episode of drawing up a list of IoEs, we are able to see what will determine whether the HECI can make a difference. Its membership will matter more than the institutional architecture governing higher education in India.

Is planting saplings a solution to the felling of trees?

YES:

hy Urbanization is important and Inevitable.

  • City clusters are economic growth engines. In India, the world’s fastest growing economy, the urban population (nearly 32%) contributes over 60% to the GDP and is projected to contribute around 75% in the next few years.
  • Globally too, megacities (a megacity contains more than 10 million inhabitants) have played a significant role in the economic growth of nations.
  • Delhi is projected to become the most populous city in the world by 2028, according to the United Nations.
  • With the inevitability of migration to urban areas, the share of agriculture and allied services in GDP has shrunk to around 15% even as the sector continues to engage around 70% of our working age population.
  • On the contrary, the GDP contribution of megacities and metropolitan regions is disproportionately high.
  • With large-scale migration to the cities, we must focus on making our cities economically viable and environmentally sustainable so that they remain economic growth engines that provide employment.

But is it possible to create large-scale urban infrastructure to support the burgeoning urban population and provide high economic growth while ensuring environmental sustainability?

  • The high economic growth and prosperity of China came at a huge environmental cost, which the country is trying to address now. In Indian cities, there is lack of basic infrastructure and a deteriorating quality of life.
  • It is not an easy task but we have to work hard to ensure that our urban infrastructure causes least harm to the environment and has a net positive impact on our quality of life.
  • A net environment impact assessment must be conducted to justify the felling of trees and harm to water bodies. While the immediate direct environmental impact of cutting trees is obvious, there is a need to inform the stakeholders about the long-term positive impact of these urban infrastructure projects to justify their necessity.
  • Environmental pollution caused by daily hour-long traffic jams on a 10-km stretch will do more harm to the environment and to people’s health than felling 1,000 trees to build a metro line or an elevated corridor. This data needs to be compiled and shared on public forums to educate people.
  • Large-scale compensatory afforestation should be provided in the immediate vicinity, to the extent possible. But not creating essential urban infrastructure will only lead to a deteriorating quality of life. The line between development and environment is a fine one. We must tread it carefully.

NO :

  • Compensatory afforestation (CA) is not new in India. Several national- and State-level laws permit change in use of forest land or cutting of trees as long as the damage can be offset. This is done by bringing more land under forest area, or planting more trees than what would be lost, or both.
  • CA is seen as a compromise between ecological requirements and developmental aspirations.
  • Can we continue to lose the large number of trees and expect the damage to be offset through plantations?
  • There are three reasons why the policy of CA should be rejected.
  • First, growing trees is not a substitute for altering shared habitats. Urban green spaces, like forests, support a variety of life including birds and animals. In cities they are important public spaces for shelter and recreation , these spaces perform critical ecological functions including water recharge. The value of such ecologies cannot be substituted by plantations.
  • Second, discussions in the Supreme Court since the late 1990s and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) have identified four reasons why CA has not worked,
    • the foremost being the availability of land where plantations can be raised without encumbrances.
    • Further diversion of these CA lands for other uses is a challenge.
    • Audits have also indicated delays in fund disbursements by agencies seeking change in land use,
    • and poor utilisation of funds by the forest department that is tasked with ensuring plantations.
  • Third, the afforestation overdrive by government departments is done in floodplains, grasslands and other ecosystems that are often not suitable for tree cover.
  • Laws like the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 and the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act of 1994 were enacted with the objective of conserving and preserving trees, and preventing forest loss. However, using the route of compensatory afforestation, these laws have legitimised the loss of an average of 35,000 hectares of forests annually to development projects. Over ₹400 billion has been collected as funds by systematically allowing for loss of forests and felling of old growth trees.
  • In effect, forest and tree conservation laws have fuelled more ecological loss and destruction by relying on offsets like compensatory afforestation.

It’s Complicated |

  • Tree felling for urban development inspires opposing positions. Those who want development projects are convinced that trees are a necessary casualty for urban living, while conservationists and activists opposed to tree felling are accused of being anti-development.
  • Indian cities are estimated to add 300 million new urban residents by 2050. To accommodate people at this scale, we have to build at scale. Sadly, the only land available in most cities is wooded land — urban forests, parks, tree-lined streets. Cutting trees is an inevitable sacrifice for development, according to the urban pragmatist.
  • Urban trees reduce air pollution, cool cities, and increase ground water infiltration. Our research in Bengaluru shows that street trees reduce PM10 levels by 75%, reduce atmospheric temperature by 3-5°C and road asphalt temperatures by 23-25°C.
  • Most urban development projects provide grandiose claims of replacing each mature tree felled with 2-10 saplings. But a mature, decades-old tree has an incredible capacity for pollution control, biodiversity support and cooling.
  • Large trees can absorb and sequester as much carbon as 90 small trees. Trees in cities are 4-6 times more useful in removing carbon from the air compared to rural trees, because urban air is overloaded with carbon emissions. Saplings will take decades to provide the same scale of environmental services.
  • Planners seek to compensate for the loss of these trees by selecting fast-growing species.  Many popular fast-growing species used for urban afforestation, such as Eucalyptus and Acacia auriculiformis, deplete groundwater and affect soil quality. They cannot replace the environmental services provided by a giant native peepal, mango or tamarind.
  • The location of compensatory plantation poses another challenge , trees that were public resources are compensated by saplings that are inaccessible to the citizenry.
  • The fault lies in the planning process. Typically, designs for redevelopment, road widening, or metro construction are developed by engineers with no background in ecology and with little interest in it. With coordination between municipal engineering and forest departments, and genuine public consultation, designs can be innovatively modified to save a number of trees. Widened roads can accommodate large trees in the median, and can be curved to accommodate a heritage tree at the corner or centre. Similarly, if metro planning was truly consultative, routes could be altered to spare old tree-lined boulevards and historic parks.
  • CA, when needed, must be done locally, using the right species. These species should be watered and protected to ensure long-term survival. Reducing the tree and sapling question to a yes and no debate between development pragmatists and environmental romantics is meant to misrepresent.

India needs to focus on water efficiency

  • Over the past few months, concern and awareness about water resources have reached an unprecedented high.
  • Two successive events have led to such a watershed change in discussion on water resources.
  • First, the news came in that Shimla is running out of water and was forced to turn away tourists that drive the city’s economy during summer.The unfortunate event gave the country an early glimpse of what may happen if we continue to recklessly waste water.
  • Second, NITI Aayog released the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) in June. The CWMI is a pioneering exercise that seeks to identify, target and improve key water resources-related indicators.
  • This index highlighted the current plight, showing how low-performing states house approximately 50% of India’s population, and how 21 major cities may run out of ground water by 2021. By changing the public discourse, the index has begun to achieve its purpose.
  • The next goal, however, is to identify a set of realistic, actionable and specific policies which states can adopt to move ahead on water conservation, which will also be indicated in their ranking on the CWMI.
  • According to the report of the National Commission on Integrated Water Resources Development, the projected demand for water by 2050 is likely to reach 1,180 billion cubic metres (BCM), which will outstrip the availability of 1,137 BCM.
  • Presently, irrigation water use accounts for 80% of the available water, i.e. 700 BCM. However, within the limited availability of 1,137 BCM we need to cater to the growing demand of the population, including domestic water requirement, industrial requirement, ecology sustenance, and power generation requirement, among others.
  • It is estimated that irrigation requirement has to be lowered to the level of 68% of the total demand by 2050. The domestic and industry sectors are likely to take up, respectively, 9% and 7% of the demand.
  • Moreover, the present level of irrigation efficiency for surface and ground water is 30% and 55%, respectively. It is desired that the efficiency level of surface and ground water irrigation by 2025 should reach 60% and 75%, respectively.

The following measures are some of the key policies which will help states achieve quick and significant gains on water use efficiency, which will help in better resource management.

  • First, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana and other water-deficient states should promptly move towards micro-irrigation systems.
  • The total potential for micro-irrigation in the country is around 69 million hectares. Conventional surface irrigation provides 60-70% efficiency, whereas, higher efficiency of up to 70-80% with sprinkler and 90% with drip irrigation systems can be achieved.
  • Second, the states should continue to focus on command area development (CAD). This is now part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) which focuses on “more crop per drop”.In addition, CAD will play a critical role in bridging the gap between irrigation potential created (IPC) and irrigation potential utilized (IPU).
  • Third, the cropping patterns in the states should be changed as per the agro-climatic zones. Improper cropping patterns affect both crop productivity and irrigation efficiency. One such example of improper cropping pattern is the sugarcane production in western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra—regions suffering from severe water crisis.
  • Fourth, we need to address the issue of fragmentation in farming. This matter has been studied from various aspects of income and productivity, but it holds immense value for increasing water-use efficiency. There are two measures to tackle this issue.
    • First, states can expedite the adoption of the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016,which can lead to consolidation of small farms.
    • Second, creating and ramping up farmer producer organizations (FPO). FPOs provide a sense of ownership to farmers and encourage community-level involvement with lower transaction costs. Almost 70% farmers in India are marginal farmers and the average farm size is 1.15 hectares. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity in forming the FPOs. This will lead to economies of scale on farm produce, water-usage and cost of production.
  • The above measures have huge scope for changing the landscape of water efficiency in the irrigation sector, which accounts for the majority of water resource consumption in India.
  • Doubling farmers income by 2022 is a noble vision, but preserving water resources for the sustainable growth of India is as critical. Both goals are not divergent. On the contrary, they perfectly complement each other.

Equality before internet

  • The Telecom Commission’s acceptance of net neutrality rules will have far-reaching implications for the future of the internet in India.
  • It will remain an open platform and internet service providers (ISPs) will be prohibited from practices such as blocking content, degrading speeds, slowing specific content, or granting differential speeds or treatment.
  • A net-neutral regime, therefore, allows smaller businesses and individuals to create and disseminate content without fear that their offerings will be swamped by larger competitors, or throttled by ISPs.
  • In that sense, net neutrality helps to promote innovation across the entire digital ecosystem. The necessity to ensure net neutrality is especially high in regions where there are few ISPs.
  • This decision, which comes within a month of the US nullifying its own net neutrality rules, reiterates India’s firm commitment to a non-discriminatory net regime. In technical terms, it will require both monitoring of compliance as well as a willingness to accept consumer complaints and penalise operators who violate the rules.
  • However, a net-neutral regime does certainly restrict the freedom of telecom service providers to offer favourable terms to specific content providers, or app-developers, and it does cut down the potential for creating new revenue streams. Given India’s hyper-competitive market, where telecom service providers have been struggling to generate enough revenues to service debts, tight net neutrality could be considered a restrictive approach.
  • They also cannot favour their own digital payment banks over those of competitors. Nor is it possible to launch something such as Facebook’s Free Basics, where the social media giant partnered various telecom service providers to offer free access to the Facebook ecosystem.
  • Another key element about the net neutrality regime is that certain critical services may be exempt from it. It is up to the government now to decide on services that deserve exceptional treatment by regulators.
  • The exceptions may be justifiable in some cases. For example, emergency remote diagnostic and telemedical services may need to be fast-tracked. The same may also be necessary for disaster management or during crowd management situations such as pilgrimages. Critical high-tech services like the management of smart power grids could also require priority, and there may be new applications such as autonomous car communications or drone operations, which might merit priority.
  • On the whole, this policy should boost innovation by helping to maintain a level-playing field across the digital landscape. That will enable everyone from small businesses to artists to create and offer content without fear of being stifled.(Read if you have time) Indian express and Livemint

The uniform code

  • The recent ‘Status of Policing in India Report, 2018’ published by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and the NGO Common Cause offers a comprehensive survey of the performance and perceptions of the Indian police.
  • The focus here is on one aspect: The relation between Indian Muslims and the police. According to the report, while all minorities fear the police more than Hindus, the apprehension is more acute in the case of Muslims: Sixty-four per cent of them are “highly” or “somewhat” fearful of the police.
  • The main reason for this fear appears to be the fact that “police often implicates Muslims under false terrorism charges”. Indeed, there are many cases of young Muslims who have been to jail and even spent years behind the bars for this “reason”, before the judiciary, at long last, released them.
  • This may be partly explained by the social profile of the policemen. The database we have compiled shows that Muslims are dramatically under-represented in the Indian Police Service (IPS). It has always been the case: Their share was already lower than 5 per cent in the 1950s,  less than half the proportion of Muslims in Indian society according to the 1951 census.
  • While the share of Muslims in the population subsequently rose, reaching 25 per cent in 2011, the proportion of Muslims in the IPS dwindled, falling beneath the 3 per cent mark in 2016, and even as low as 2.5 per cent of the whole service if Jammu and Kashmir is excluded from the calculation.
  • For a long time, Muslims were able to take advantage of the parallel track offered at the state level, through which police officers recruited by the state administration could join the IPS. But this recruitment channel has dried up: While 7 per cent were to be promoted in 2006, the number of Muslims fell to 3.8 per cent in 2016.In 2013 Muslims made up 6.27 per cent of policemen in India.
  • The national character of a nation-state is inevitably affected by the quasi-absence of the largest minority in a key institution like the police.
  • But there are other uniforms, in the army, that Muslims do not wear in large numbers either.
  • In the army, Muslims made up 2.5 per cent of the people in uniform in 1990-2000, particularly thanks to the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and other companies such as the Rajput Regiment. Similar figures are found in the navy (1.9 per cent of Muslims in the higher ranking categories and 3.2 per cent in the others) and the air force (3.1 per cent of Muslims, including 0.9 per cent senior officers)
  • Figures for so-called “paramilitary” forces, which form an intermediary category between the police and the army, are in the same range  except, of course, when Muslims are simply barred from them, as is the case of National Security Guards in charge of combating terrorists. The Assam Rifles had 2.5 per cent Muslims in 1995-96, the Border Security Force, 4.5 per cent, the Central Industrial Security Force, 3.7 per cent, the Central Reserve Police Force, 5.5 per cent, the Indo-Tibetan Force, 1.8 per cent and the Rapid Action Force, 6.9 per cent.
  • That Muslims are not wearing the police uniform increases their vulnerability By excluding the largest minority from the institution in charge of defending the nation, the state has undermined the project of a multicultural India enshrined in the Constitution and prepared the ground for the saffronisation of the public sphere. The infiltration of the institutions in charge of law and order and security by Hindu nationalists should probably be factored in too.

Spirit Of Sendai

  • No other region in the world illustrates the now chronic nature of displacement caused by extreme weather events and climate change more than Asia and the Pacific.
  • This year has not started well for the region with reports suggesting that a million people have been displaced by heavy monsoon rains, floods and landslides in India and Bangladesh, where the cyclone season also threatens.
  • Despite successes in reducing loss of life in recent years, thanks to early warning systems and improved preparedness, Asia still accounted for almost 50 per cent of the worldwide loss of life from disasters last year.
  • Economic losses were in the region of $34 billion, a loss which many developing countries can ill afford if they are to succeed in eradicating poverty.
  • This formed the backdrop to the discussions at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, early July.
  • The focus of the discussions was on the clear need for accelerated implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global plan to reduce disaster losses that was adopted in Japan three years ago. It sets out seven targets for reduction in loss of life, numbers of people affected, economic losses and damage to infrastructure through enhanced international cooperation, better risk information and early warning systems.
  • That plan also sets a deadline of 2020 for a substantial increase in the number of countries with national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction.
  • These strategies are a golden opportunity to get many things right, which will help not only to reduce the scale of unnecessary losses but also achieve key sustainable development goals such as the eradication of poverty, the creation of resilient cities and action on climate change.
  • Both India and Mongolia have adopted national strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework’s priorities.
  • It is also at the local level that most progress can be made on ensuring an inclusive approach to disaster risk management, one which includes the insights and experiences of those who may be marginalised and disproportionately affected by disaster events. Women, girls, youth, older persons, persons living with disabilities and indigenous people should be actively recruited as agents of change in their communities.
  • More than anything, it is the human cost of disasters that is the most compelling argument for action. Real progress will bring down the numbers of families and people internally displaced by disasters.

Hollowing out a promise

  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is going through a deep crisis of delayed and failed wage payments. The problem is not new, but it is more serious than ever and threatens to undermine the entire programme.
  • The crisis has at least four manifestations: Delayed payments, rejected payments, diverted payments and locked payments.
  • Delays in wage payments have plagued NREGA ever since bank payments were introduced about 10 years ago. The system hides the second-step delays  the delays that occur when bank transfers themselves are held up. In a recent analysis of NREGA wage payments in 10 states, it was found that second-step delays were as long as two months on average in 2016-17.
  • One reason why delays have persisted for so long is that the payment system is constantly being re-designed. First it was cash payments, then post-office payments, then bank payments, then specific banks, then various avatars of what is now called the National electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS), and now the Aadhaar Payments Bridge System (APBS).
  • None of these innovations, so far, has been able to ensure payment within 15 days of the work being done, as prescribed under NREGA.
  • The latest payment systems are largely responsible for rejected payments, diverted payments and locked payments. Rejected payments were not unknown earlier but they have become endemic ever since the linking of NREGA wage payments with Aadhaar.
  • Linking the bank accounts of NREGA workers with Aadhaar may seem like a trivial matter but in practice it creates endless problems, associated for instance with inconsistencies between different databases — job cards, bank accounts and Aadhaar. Today, “e-KYC” (biometric authentication of Aadhaar-linked accounts) is compulsory for NREGA workers, if not in theory then certainly in practice.
  • According to the NREGA’s management and information system (MIS), nearly Rs 500 crore of wage payments were rejected in 2017-18 alone.
  • Diverted payments is a pathology of the Aadhaar Payments Bridge System (APBS), Under APBS, Aadhaar effectively becomes a financial address and wages are automatically paid into the worker’s last Aadhaar-linked account. Most workers, of course, are unaware of this rule, so they often look for their money in the wrong account.
  • Last but not least, many NREGA workers today are unable to withdraw their wages from their bank accounts even after their wages have been paid — this is the problem of “locked payments”. Workers are locked out of their bank account when the bank treats it as “dormant” or “frozen” because it does not meet the current norms. One of these norms is e-KYC, a major hurdle on its own for NREGA workers, but there are others. For instance, if a worker does not use his or her accounts for a specified number of months, the account is often frozen.
  • Three further remarks are due. First, many of these pathologies are associated with brazen flouting of consent principles and norms. For instance, moving an account to the APBS system is not supposed to happen without informed consent.
  • Second, the lack of grievance redressal facilities aggravates all these problems. Even as NREGA workers run from pillar to post to find out whether they have been paid, where their money is, or why their account has been frozen, there is no one around to inform or assist them.
  • Third, aside from causing enormous hardship to NREGA workers, delayed and failed payments are a major source of corruption. When workers lose interest, corrupt middlemen step in and take advantage of the lack of vigilance to siphon off NREGA funds by fudging the records.
  • Having said this, the worst part of the payments crisis is the damage it does to NREGA itself. NREGA is a demand-driven programme and if the demand vanishes because wages are low and uncertain, nothing will be able to save it. Averting this requires a reliable payment system, higher wages, compensation for delays, effective grievance redressal and — last but not least — stopping the constant redesign of payment systems. If that means staying one step behind in the financial technology race, so be it.

A weak state problem, not a WhatsApp problem

  • Messaging app WhatsApp has responded to the horrific lynching in Maharastra’s Dhule district with a media blitz and a new feature that marks forwarded messages clearly. The former was inevitable given that the Centre has put it under the pump for the spate of recent lynchings fuelled by rumours spread via the app.
  • These will not, however, solve the problem. For that, the state will have to address the cause of the lynchings. WhatsApp is not it.
  • It would be a mistake to look at the recent lynchings associated with child abduction scares and conclude that India has a WhatsApp problem. What it has is a weak state problem.
  • For the state to maintain a monopoly on violence, the political elite must show the will to make it happen. They will do so if there are structural incentives for them.
  • khap panchayats had plenty of defenders among politicians in states where they could deliver rural votes. It takes a brazen political appetite to compare them to non-governmental organizations with a straight face, as then Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda did back in 2014, after all. It is the same reason that led Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria to blame the victim after the Pehlu Khan lynching last year by saying: “It is illegal to transport cows, but people ignore it and cow protectors are trying to stop such people from trafficking them.”
  • These perverse incentives, as well as fiscal constraints and simple apathy, have led to the erosion of police effectiveness. Committees and reports recommending police reforms have been routinely ignored, going back at least to 1977’s National Police Commission. Consequently, transparency and accountability in police functioning as well as insulation from political pressure are often absent. India’s poor police-to-population ratio also means that states lack the capacity to keep up with evolving police models.
  • For instance, community policing—forging bonds with local populations, partnerships with community organizations, increased visibility, and communication to boost familiarity—has been adopted in a number of countries.
  • Poor state capacity and inability to enforce law and order, National Crime Records Bureau numbers show a rapid rise in the rate of child abductions nationally—and lack of political will make for a volatile mix. The lynchings should come as no surprise.
  • But WhatsApp is, ultimately, just the medium. Stuff it to the gills with fact-checking options and there is still no certainty people won’t fall prey to rumours.

Iran sanctions: A need to look beyond the US

  • In addition to reimposing economic sanctions, Trump has warned that anyone doing business with Iran risks severe consequences. This implies that any entity, including Indian, doing business with Iran can also be subjected to economic sanctions in the near future.
  • There were some conversations along predictable lines as to whether India would stand up or give in to US pressure. However, it should be noted that it is not just the US—other Gulf countries are also keen that India should scale down its economic engagement with Iran. India now has to carefully balance its interests in Shia-dominant Iran with its interests in Sunni-dominant Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • From an Indian perspective, Iran, in addition to its energy resources, is critical for operationalizing connectivity projects with Afghanistan. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and the UAE host about six million overseas Indians and account for an estimated 36% of total remittances to India. Remittances from Iran to India are negligible.
  • While the US has been piling up diplomatic pressure, its allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are enticing India with the promise of greater investments.
  • Additionally, India needs to factor in the China angle. There is a concern that owing to the current economic sanctions, Iran is moving increasingly towards China.
  • Immediately after the economic sanctions were lifted in 2016, Iran started scaling up its three-pronged strategy of improving defence relations with Russia, working on infrastructure projects with China and adopting the euro in its external economic engagement.
  • Prior to the nuclear deal, Iran was selling oil in many currencies, including the Chinese renminbi (RMB) and the Indian rupee. After the deal, to blunt the sharp edges of a possible US punitive measure in future, Iran insisted that payments for oil purchases be made in euros instead of dollars.
  • China made an unsuccessful offer to directly purchase a 5% stake in Saudi Aramco. A stake in Saudi Aramco would have added significant impetus to Beijing’s efforts to further internationalize its currency. China had already reached agreements with Russia to make oil payments in RMB. For China, which accounted for 11.5% of the total global merchandise trade in 2017, greater international use of RMB is not only convenient, but also a strategic necessity. If big oil-producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, accept RMB payments for energy sales, then the RMB will emerge as a strong international reserve currency. However, renewed sanctions on Iran have repaired the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US. For the moment, Riyadh’s movement towards Beijing seems to have slowed down and the possibility of a petro-yuan/RMB has been pushed a little further into the future.
  • Given this backdrop, India needs to count in two critical variables in crafting its response to the evolving security dynamics in the Gulf: first, the larger presence of the diaspora and the considerable remittances from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE; and second, Chinese efforts to facilitate the rise of petro-yuan/RMB to internationalize its currency.
  • Therefore, framing the debate on the Iran issue in terms of “standing up or yielding to the US” is not a prudent way forward.

India’s whimsical police force

  • When the intriguing news of 119 of 122 IPS probationers failing exams in the National Police Academy – the alma mater that trains IPS officers – broke, it became a talking point not only for the public but even within the IPS fraternity.
  • Many, including non-IPS ranks in the department, are curious what were these exams that failed the ‘to-be police leaders’.
  • Of the 10 lakh people who apply for UPSC civil services exam about 400-1,500 people make it. Of these the IPS officers are about 30-150, and they have higher ranks than those getting other services.
  • IPS training has grown from a handful of subjects into a mega curriculum with almost everything conceivable added to it over the years, with the thought that a police officer must be prepared for any given circumstance. Probationers are trained from assembling/ dismantling weapons (all the latest guns included) to firing, rock climbing, scuba diving, horse riding and gymnastic physical training.
  • why do IPS officers bend and falter in the field despite this training? Why aren’t they able to stand up against illegal orders of political masters, the corruption and nepotism that ails the country? How are the brilliant, physically and mentally fit probationers rendered ineffectual in the field?
  • That is because despite clear cut laws and rules telling the police what to do, policing in India is largely officer-centric and not system-centric. Depending on the officer who heads the district or a city commissionerate, priorities of policing change.
  • National Police Academy is not an exception. I remember one director placing emphasis on drill with all its variants – foot drill, arms drill, lathi drill – and increasing the drill periods considerably. His belief was that drill was the best way to inculcate ‘discipline’ – the mainstay of the police force; the IPS ought to know the nuances of every drill movement like the salute, the march, etc. His successor who didn’t see good in it, reversed it. Impact evaluation of different subjects taught in the academy, methodology of teaching, number of hours dedicated to that subject and finally its relevance to field policing is the utmost need of the hour. But this is realised only by those who have an open mind.
  • Over the years, thousands of IPS officers have visited developed countries at government expense. They have witnessed how in the US, UK and elsewhere police have done away with the superfluous ostentation of raw power. But the Indian police are stuck in time where the British left us. Many in this country join police simply because of the raw power of a colonial/ feudal type that it confers on one vis-a-vis the powerless common man. Some policemen suggest with pride that in this country their survival would have been difficult had they not been in police! If this is the mindset and motivation to join the police, then God save the police.
  • A normal police meeting is one where the boss speaks 90% of the time and juniors only 10%, that too to nod in agreement or pitch thoughts in conformity with the boss’s ideas. Any other idea is unwelcome and looked down upon as a sign of indiscipline. When IPS officers get together their favourite topic is not policing but comparing their lot with IAS and whining about it. Victimisation of police at the hands of media, human rights commissions, judiciary, social activists, RTI activists is another hot topic at the informal forums. They embrace a defeatist attitude, rationalising that unless society changes, the police cannot change.
  • But whatsoever might be the truth behind the narrative of victimisation of police and deplorable working conditions, that still cannot be the pretext for not embracing reforms. It is time the IPS gave up double standards and began to look within.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 12-07-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 12-07-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, kalyan@iksa.in , telegram: @naylak .

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Govt. leaves decision on Section 377 to the court

  • The government chose not to take sides on the question of the legality of Section 377 IPC, a provision which criminalises homosexuality, leaving the decision entirely to the Supreme Court.
  • The government’s decision to not contest writ petitions against Section 377 however came with a rider that the court should specify that the freedom to choose a partner does not extend to perversions like
  • CJI said the court was not confining its ambit merely to LGBTQ or sexual orientation. It is examining the aspect of two consenting adults who should not be liable for criminal action for their relationship.

Fall of Sec. 377 will embolden LGBTQ people: CJI

  • Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra indicated that collapse of the citadel of Section 377 IPC will open the gates for people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community to come to court to overcome discrimination and claim their individual rights.
  • A declaration from the court will remove the ancillary disqualifications for people joining services, contesting elections. It will no longer be seen as moral turpitude.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said any law criminalising a community for their sexuality was an example of “social disdain.”
  • The court was reacting to arguments made on the branding and ostracisation suffered by the transgender community from both law and society. Laws like the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Eunuchs Act still criminalised transgender persons.Section 36A of the Karnataka Police Act of 1963, which was amended only in 2016, saw transgender persons as a criminal class.
  • These Acts were identical to the notorious Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, which branded a number of marginalised population groups like transgenders as “innately criminal”. The Criminal Tribes Act was repealed in 1949 but Section 377 continues to survive in the statute book.

Background: Here’s what you need to know about Section 377 of IPC:

  • Section 377 of the IPC states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal inter­course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or with impris­onment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.” This archaic British law dates back to 1861 and criminalises sexual activities against the order of nature and the ambit of this law extends to any sexual union involving penile insertion.
  • In 2009, in a landmark judgment, the Delhi High Court described Section 377 as a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Following this, religious groups moved the Supreme Court for a direction against the verdict.
  • The Supreme Court in 2013 overruled the Delhi High Court’s order and reinforced criminalisation of homosexuality stating that Parliament’s job was to scrap laws. This judgment by the apex court was highly criticised by the LGBTQ community in India and was seen as a setback for human rights.
  • In January 2018, the Supreme Court said a larger group of judges would re-consider the previous judgment and examine Section 377’s constitutional validity.

Adultery must remain a punishable offence

  • A petition filed by Joseph Shine seeks to drop Section 497 as a criminal offence from the statute book. The petitioner has said Section 497 IPC was unconstitutional as it discriminated against men and violated Article 14, 15 and 21. “When the sexual intercourse takes place with the consent of both the parties, there is no good reason for excluding one party from the liability,”.
  • In an 11-page affidavit which will be taken up before a Constitution Bench, the Centre said the provision punishing adultery — Section 497 of IPC — “supports, safeguards and protects the institution of marriage” considering the “unique structure and culture of Indian society.” The government agreed to the thought that “stability of a marriage is not an ideal to be scorned” and striking down Section 497 would destroy the fabric of society itself.
  • The Constitution Bench is scheduled to decide on whether the pre-Independence provision of adultery in the IPC treats a married woman as her husband’s “subordinate” and violates the constitutional concepts of gender equality and sensitivity.
  • The Constitution Bench to be headed by Chief Justice Misra is likely to consider whether Section 497 treats the man as the adulterer and the married woman as a victim.
  • The larger Bench may also examine why the offence of adultery ceases the moment it is established that the husband connived with or consented to the adulterous act. So, is a married woman the “property” of her husband or a passive object without a mind of her own?.

Background:

  • Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code states that “whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery”. The offence of adultery entails punishment of up to five years or with fine or with both. However, in such cases, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.
  • However, it must be mentioned that only sexual intercourse with a married woman would amount to adultery. Sexual relations with a widow, sex worker or an unmarried woman does not attract this section. This has been confirmed by the Delhi High Court in the case of Brij Lal Bishnoi v/s State (1996).
  • Suggested reading:  Gender-based laws: a double-edged sword.

Centre upholds Net neutrality proposals

  • The government has approved the principle of net neutrality. This means that telecom and Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, platform, or application. They cannot engage in practices such as blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to any content.
  • This principle, would apply to any discriminatory treatment based on the sender or receiver, the network protocols, or the user equipment, but not to specialised services or other exclusions. It had also said that these would not apply to “reasonable traffic management practices” by the service provider.
  • To implement Net neutrality, the regulator had recommended that the terms of licence agreements that govern the provision of Internet services in India be amended “to incorporate the principles of non-discriminatory treatment of content along with the appropriate exclusions and exceptions.”
  • The regulator has recommended establishing a multi-stakeholder not-for-profit body for the monitoring and enforcement of the principles.
  • The Telecom Commission also gave its approval to the new digital communications policy 2018 (new telecom policy), which will now be sent for Cabinet approval.
  • The Telecom Commission (TC) — which is the highest decision-making body in the Department of Telecom, on Wednesday approved the recommendation made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the subject eight months ago.
  • However,  certain emerging and critical services will be kept out of the purview of these norms. A separate committee has been set up under the Department of Telecom (DoT) to examine what these critical services will be. These may include autonomous vehicles, digital healthcare services or disaster management.

SC decries pathetic state of Taj

  • The Supreme Court  condemned the apathy shown by authorities to the cause of protecting the iconic Taj Mahal, saying the preservation of the monument may be a “hopeless cause.”
  • The Green Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta was miffed to find out that the authority in charge of the Taj Trapezium Zone was still entertaining applications from industrialists to expand their factories into the protected zone despite a long-standing moratorium from the Supreme Court.
  • In May, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said unwashed socks worn by visitors and rampant algae seem to turn the Taj Mahal from its natural white to yellow, brown and green.

What is Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ)

  • Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) is a defined area of 10,400 sq km around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution. The Supreme Court of India delivered a ruling on December 30, 1996 regarding industries covered under the TTZ, in response to a PIL seeking to protect the Taj Mahal from environmental pollution.
  • It banned the use of coal/ coke in industries located in the TTZ with a mandate for switching over from coal/ coke to natural gas, and relocating them outside the TTZ or shutting down.
  • The TTZ comprises over 40 protected monuments including three World Heritage Sites the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. TTZ is so named since it is located around the Taj Mahal and is shaped like a trapezoid.
  • Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631.

Aadhaar must for health mission cover

  • The government has mandated the use of Aadhaar card for administering its massive Ayushman Bharat, or National Health Mission, that assures a Rs. 5 lakh health cover to 10 crore families.
  • While possessing an Aadhaar card isn’t mandatory to avail services, a proof of enrolment, or request for enrolment, is mandatory.

Volkswagen’s affidavit sought on emission

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Volkswagen to file an affidavit on the status of proceedings against the company in other countries pertaining to the usage of “cheat devices” in vehicles to manipulate emission levels.
  • A Bench,  directed the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises to file a response to the report submitted by the company on the recall of vehicles in the country.
  • The company had in 2015 recalled over three lakh vehicles in India following tests conducted by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) that found emission levels to be higher than permissible levels.

Promotion quota case for 7-judge Bench?

  • The Supreme Court  indicated that a seven-judge Bench may be constituted to examine whether a 2006 judgment by a five-judge Bench of the court interrupted the grant of quota in promotions.
  • The oral observation was in reaction to submissions made by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal that lakhs of promotions across government departments have been put on hold because of the Nagaraj judgment of 2006.
  • The Bench refused to pass interim directions contrary to the Nagaraj judgment. As of now, the freeze in reservation for promotions would continue.
  • The five-judge Bench in the Nagaraj case had held that the creamy layer concept should be excluded from reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs. It had directed the upper limit of quota at 50%.
  • The Bench had also held that the State would have to justify in each case the compelling reasons – namely backwardness and inadequacy of representation — for providing reservation “keeping in mind the overall efficiency of State administration.”

Internet benefiting rural China

  • Internet is playing a big role in rural transformation with over 55 million students in rural schools getting access to live streaming classes.
  • According to the China Internet Report 2018 ,  local governments in China spend 8% of their annual budgets on digitisation of education.
  • Nearly 78 million rural users read news from three primary news apps at least once a month and 50% of China’s poor villages will be equipped with e-commerce capabilities by 2020.
  • China’s Internet penetration is just over 50%, much lower than the 89% penetration in the U.S., but the country’s sheer size and scale of Internet use has meant that there are three times the number of smartphone users and 11 times the number of mobile payment gateway users in China than in the U.S. With a user base of roughly 210 million, China is discovering the value of internet in the development of e-commerce, education and media in the rural expanses.

Iran softens stand

  • A day after threatening to cut special privileges for India, Iran toned down its rhetoric and said that it “understands” the challenges Delhi is facing on the energy front.
  • An official statement from the Embassy of Iran conveyed that Tehran has always welcomed Indian initiatives in the port of Chabahar and urged Delhi to fast-track investments in the connectivity project.
  • India is a sovereign nation and taking into account many criteria including its friendly relations with supplier countries, market factors, geopolitical and geo-economical considerations and potentials and reliability of the oil suppliers, chooses its energy partners,” the statement said.
  • The statement attempted to portray cordial bilateral relations.

Climate change threatens Nilgiri tahr

  • These endangered wild mountain goats  found only in high altitudes in India’s Western Ghatscould be losing their footing with increasing climate change. Even under moderate scenarios of future climate change, tahrs could lose approximately 60% of their habitats from the 2030s on.
  • Scientists tried to predict how climate change can affect tahr habitat in the Ghats by mapping tahr distribution (using existing information and field surveys) and then using climatic factors of these locations to see where tahrs would be able to survive, given current and future climate change scenarios.
  • There are only around 2,500 tahrs left in the wild and their population — “small and isolated, making them vulnerable to local extinction” — shows a “decreasing” trend, as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Editorials and Opinions :

High on rhetoric

  • Punjab Chief Minister launched his much-anticipated war on drugs  on July 4 by ordering mandatory drug tests for all government employees, including the police.
  • While this is welcome,  it is a very small and insubstantial measure towards curbing the pervasive drug menace.
  • The conduct of annual drug tests on some 3.25 lakh employees is a piece of tokenism. More steps are needed; less missteps, too ( like the decision of the Punjab Cabinet to recommend the death penalty to drug-peddlers).
  • Capital punishment is abhorrent. Given that there is evidence that suggests it is also no guarantee of deterring crime, this is more of an empty signal.
  • What is required is a comprehensive war on drugs fought on several fronts, including interventions in the community to spread awareness and foster a culture against the use of drugs.
  • The challenges faced by the State are huge. Estimates vary but by some accounts as many as two-thirds of all households in Punjab have a drug addict in their midst.
  • Punjab’s prisons are overcrowded with drug-users and peddlers, and its streets and farms witness the easy availability of narcotics and opiates.
  • The sheer extent of the problem suggests it is more than just a few profiteers that have been responsible for causing this menace or helping to sustain it. Something of this scale required a wide network, a well-oiled and smoothly run machinery that has the secret support and collaboration of at least a few of those who work in government.
  • Given the geography, the drugs, whether it is opium or heroin, make an easy and assisted entrance into Punjab from the Golden Crescent (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan), and synthetic drugs are thought to come in via Himachal Pradesh. That means those guarding Punjab’s 553-km border with Pakistan must take serious steps to plug the inflow.
  • Security-planners in New Delhi have to make sure that the border is properly barred to the flow of narcotic substances. This is a national problem as a substantial portion of the drugs that land in Punjab make their way to the rest of the country. Given the links between drugs and terror, this poses a national security threat.
  • The political class has a critical role to play in winning the war on drugs.They need to put the State and the nation above self-serving political ends and agree that this battle must be fought in concrete ways, going beyond photo-ops and sound-bites.

Traffickers, peddlers, mules or users?

  • At a Cabinet meeting on July 2, the Punjab government recommended to the Union government the death penalty for first time offenders convicted for drug trafficking and smuggling. But the assumption that harsher measures can help deal with the State’s drug problem is flawed.
  • Deterrence by harsh punishments has consistently failed, especially in the context of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act).
  • The law on drugs is covered by the NDPS Act. The Act’s primary objective is to deter drug trafficking.
  • It uses every trick in the book to achieve this: strict liability offences, mandatory minimum sentences, even the death penalty for certain repeat offences, to name a few.
  • The system has responded to the law by maintaining a high rate of conviction and imprisonment. In 2015, 41.7% of all prisoners in Punjab were in jail for various offences related to this law. The conviction rate recorded for NDPS cases in Patiala for the same year was 90.7%. The comparative conviction rate under the Indian Penal Code was 30.7%. But Punjab continues to be plagued by drug-related deaths.
  • The death penalty was introduced in the Act in 1989, to deter narco-terrorism. The legislators even at that time believed that the only way to tackle the growing drug menace was to incorporate the harshest possible punishments in the law.
  • An executive notification passed by the Department of Revenue in 2009 led to a major change in how commercial quantities under the Act were determined, creating a situation where many offences involving commercial quantity were, in fact, not trafficking offences at all. This notification assigns punishment based on the weight of the whole drug and not just pure content. As a result, sentencing in pharmaceutical drug cases changed drastically across Punjab.  Thus, given how the law in interpreted, it is hard to say whether the people imprisoned are traffickers, peddlers, mules or users.
  • The law also seeks deterrence through strict liability provisions. Under the law, proving possession alone is sufficient, the prosecution does not have to prove intent to lead to conviction. Since intent is harder to prove than a criminal act alone, strict liability ensures higher convictions.The Cabinet’s proposal to make the law even harsher is an attempt to play to the gallery. It may alleviate people’s concerns for the time being, but it will not yield the results the state as well as its people so desperately seek.
  • To begin with, to ensure that traffickers are caught instead of users, the law must make intent an ingredient of offences under the NDPS Act. The burden of proof should be on the prosecution to prove that the accused possessed the drug for a particular purpose. Possession alone should not be sufficient to constitute an offence under the Act.
  • The Act is also blatantly unforgiving of anyone found in possession of any drug. Section 27 of the Act makes consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance a criminal offence. Criminalising addiction stigmatises it, which automatically inhibits addicts from coming forward for treatment.

Way forward:

  • The state should consider decriminalising addiction and developing an effective treatment strategy by consulting experts, partner agencies and users, and allocating adequate resources. The Punjab government must assess its infrastructural needs and ensure that they are met.
  • VA: The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, commonly referred to as the NDPS Act, is an Act of the Parliament of India that prohibits a person to produce/manufacture/cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, and/or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.

A clean cooking strategy

  • Energy use, a key indicator of living standards across the world, is also instrumental in raising it. The choice of cooking fuel in households (especially rural) has a huge impact on living conditions especially for women and children.
  • On an average in India, household spending on cooking fuel accounts for around 5-6% of its total expenditure.
  • Factors such as socio-economic (availability and easy access, also determined by household income and price of fuel, education and awareness), culture or lifestyle, and, to a large extent, government policies also influence cooking fuel choice.
  • Affordable, reliable and clean energy for cooking is essential not only for reducing health and environmental impacts but also helping women to do more productive work and developing the rural economy.
  • Among the various fuel options available (firewood, pellet, biogas, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas or LPG, piped natural gas or PNG) biogas accounts for the lowest effective greenhouse gas emission; PNG and then LPG are next. Prelims
  • An assessment of annual life cycle emissions of various fuels ,cost of various fuels (non-taxed and not subsidised), annual life cycle emission per household (kg/CO2 equivalent) and extent of in-house air pollution for various cooking fuels suggests that biogas and PNG are the best cooking energy options.
  • Cooking fuels emit substantial amounts of toxic pollutants (respirable particles, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, benzene, formaldehyde and polyaromatic compounds) which contribute to indoor air pollution. In households with limited ventilation — common in rural household and semi-urban areas — these pollutants could lead to severe health problems.
  • National level programmes to ensure that most switch to clean cooking fuels have been initiated since the 1980s, the National Project on Biogas Development (NPBD) being an example. But the programme has been hampered by mala fide practices, poor construction material, a lack of maintenance, misrepresentation of achievements and a lack of accountability and follow-up services.
  • Once again, in order to ensure access to clean energy —a key focus area for poverty alleviation —the government launched a flagship programme, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in May 2016. with a cumulative target of providing LPG connections to more than eight crore families.
  • preference for LPG: However, since conventionally, governments have been subsidising LPG and as such a consumption-based subsidy is not available for biogas and PNG, it has led to a preference for LPG over other cleaner, safer, more cost effective and locally available options (biogas in rural areas). Further, LPG import along with large subsidies are a drain on government resources which hamper the focus on other social development programmes.
  • To promote biogas in rural and semi-urban areas, adopting the service-based enterprise model with suitable resource availability offers a sustainable approach.Such models can also generation employment significantly at the grass-root level an important additional benefit of running a biogas programme. However, there is a need to provide financial support and facilitate capacity building in order to promote enterprise-based models for community-level plants.
  • PNG needs to be promoted in urban areas beginning with the densely populated Tier-I and Tier-II/III cities, making LPG just one of the options to choose from rather than it having an edge over others.
  • To further enable a consumer to freely make cooking fuel choices, consumption-based subsidies need to be replaced with a functional subsidy that is provided on the basis of household income levels and local variables.
  • As India takes a long-term view on sustainability and energy security, it is important to create an environment where its citizens are aware of the options and make their energy choices based on the nature of the fuel and not because of socio-economic constraints.

The problems with the HECI draft Bill

  • The draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill, 2018 (HECI), aims to replace a historical statutory body, the UGC; push for more government control; and stifle critical thinking on campuses.
  • The UGC, it is argued, is preoccupied with disbursing funds and is unable to concentrate on mentoring higher education institutes, focus on research, and implement other quality measures required in the education sector. So, the HECI will focus solely on academic matters while grants will be issued by the Ministry.
  • The argument is perplexing as what is expected of the higher education system as envisaged by Mr. Javadekar can very well be done by the UGC. To do so, the UGC needs to be restructured in a manner that will ensure that its autonomy is strengthened without any scope for patronage politics and political interference.
  • However, no such restructuring has been attempted, taking into account the UGC’s founding goals, achievements, shortcomings and the reasons for such shortcomings.

Six concerns

  • One, Mr. Javadekar tweeted that the transformation of the regulatory set-up is based on the principles of minimum government and maximum governance, separation of grant functions, the end of inspection raj,and focus on academic quality. This is clearly a case of doublespeak. The nature of the structure of the commission and its advisory council shows that they are bound to have more “government” in decision-making processes rather than academics.
  • Two, sweeping powers render the HECI more authoritative than the collective strength of campus authorities. The powers and functions of the HECI trivialise the concept of autonomy.Also, under the new terms of engagement, universities will have to take the concurrence of the HECI before offering a course. This restricts the freedom of a university’s Board of Studies.
  • Three, with its mandate of improving academic standards with a specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, and training of teachers, the HECI is likely to overregulate and micromanage universities.
  • Four, the proposal to empower the Centre to remove the HECI’s chairperson and vice-chairperson for reasons including “moral turpitude” will again curtail the regulator’s autonomy.
  • Five, instead of allowing institutions to evolve over time based on their specific needs, focussing on homogeneous, one-size-fits-all administrative models will go against the ethos of academic freedom, diversity, and knowledge production, and will help attempts to corporatise the education sector.
  • Six, the move to replace the UGC with the HECI points to the Centre’s aim to restrict the role of the States in matters relating to education.

The bigger concern for India is that despite being a country with a huge young population,

  • One, Higher education remains a privilege; many do not yet have access to it, mainly because it is not affordable. Also, those who do have access attend universities to further their life chances; aiming to get their university in the world’s top 500 list is not their priority.
  • Two, education is a continuum from lower to higher. The quality of higher education is determined by the quality of lower education, which is extremely poor, and that should be our focus.
  • Three, despite the Modi government’s slogan, ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, the fact is that the number of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims who have access to even basic education, let alone higher education, remains abysmal.

Access to Education

  • The Prime Minister should concentrate his energies on improving this dismal scenario rather than lamenting about India not figuring in the world’s top universities list.
  • Even the poorest child in India should have access to the best education that will benefit and improve his or her future.
  • Education must serve as ladder for those in the lower rungs of society. In India there is no such ladder, and many children continue to lead a poor quality life with no access to education.

Staying vigilant on Nipah

  • A swift and unexpected outbreak of the Nipah virus in Kerala has finally ended, with the government declaring Kozhikode and Malappuram Nipah-free on July 1.
  • Also, last week, the National Institute of Virology found the Nipah virus in Kozhikode’s fruit bats, suggesting that the virus had travelled to humans from bats.
  • But the outbreak ought to put healthcare surveillance officials across India on guard. It confirms that the virus could be circulating in regions of India without our knowledge.
  • Will such outbreaks happen again? Even though West Bengal and Kerala are the only States that have seen Nipah outbreaks, the virus and antibodies have been detected in bats in Assam and Haryana too.
  • The transmission of a virus to humans, or zoonotic spillover, is a rare event for Nipah. The virus was found in countries which never saw an outbreak, such as Thailand, and the only known outbreaks so far have been in Malaysia, Bangladesh and India. A number of factors must come together for spillover to occur. First, the bats must carry a lot of the virus (whereas the viral load is frequently low in these mammals). Second, bats must come in close contact with humans. This is happening more frequently with deforestation and urbanisation.
  • Why the global interest in a local outbreak? Nipah virus can potentially trigger global pandemics. At present, the virus transmits inefficiently, through respiratory droplets, to people within a metre of sick patients. If the microbe mutates to become airborne, or evolves to transmit via patients who are asymptomatic, it will be hard to control. Sadly, every outbreak gives the virus the chance to mutate. With a fatality rate of over 80%, the virus could become a big killer.

Mercenary conservation

  • Karnataka recently drafted Private Conservancy Rules in a bid to increase forest area through private land. Under the rules, anyone who has a minimum of 100 acres of land bordering a national park can convert it to a “Wildlife Private Conservancy”. Of this land, 5% can be used to construct buildings for ecotourism; the rest has to be kept for flora and fauna.
  • Though policies are different in India and South Africa, there has been much talk about how we are going down the Africa way with this new approach. In South Africa, agricultural land can be converted into wildlife reserves. The government specifies how much land is required for each animal, purchases are then made, and wildlife is introduced.
  • Some game reserves allow hunting, which is legal. Hunting rights for specific animals are auctioned regularly. The highest bidder may gun down the animal and carry its head as a “trophy”. Each species has a minimum bid with the Big Five — namely, the cape buffalo, rhino, elephant, leopard and lion — being the most expensive. The locals wholeheartedly support hunting as it brings in foreign exchange and thus motivates the management to run the game reserve better, in turn leading to more hunting bids.
  • Though these wildlife spaces are massive, they are private and hence fenced. This constantly challenges and changes the natural behaviour of wildlife. Some reserves have two sections: one with lions and one without. However, predators ensure survival of the fittest, and as a corollary, their absence leads to overgrazing and excess population. There is also a territorial issue: in enclosed spaces, an alpha cannot be established easily as the non-alphas are unable to find new ground. This leads to more infighting and behavioural disturbances.

Maternity benefits or jobs

  • Will the government’s efforts to extend paid maternity leave in the formal sector benefit women, or cause a backlash from employers, further undermining Indian women’s job prospects? Is a trade-off inevitable or is there another path? And what about informal sector workers?
  • The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 increases women’s leave entitlements from 12 to 26 weeks. Of these, up to eight weeks can be taken pre-delivery. Enterprises with 50 or more employees must also provide crèches and allow the mother four crèche visits, daily. Women with two or more children get reduced entitlements. The costs of these benefits are to be borne solely by employers.
  • A recent report by TeamLease, based on interviews with 300 employers across 10 sectors, found a negative or mixed response from all but the IT and e-commerce companies. In net terms, the Report projects some 11 to 18 lakh job losses for women in 2018-19 alone for the 10 sectors studied, and up to 1.2 crore job losses across all sectors.
  • In the UK, when the law firm, Slater & Gordon, surveyed 500 managers in 2013, one-third admitted they would prefer to hire a young man rather than a young woman due to the high costs of maternity leave, and 40 per cent were wary of hiring women of childbearing age.
  • A study of 22 OECD countries found that although generous parental leave makes it easier for women to combine work and family care, it can lead employers to discriminate against women in jobs that lead to higher-level positions and require fulltime career commitments.
  • In India, where barely 6.5 per cent of women are in the formal sector, it will be disastrous if extended maternity leave further deters employers from hiring women. We need more jobs precisely in this sector, as more young educated women join the workforce. Already, we have falling female labour participation, especially due to inadequate jobs for women. Can we afford a further decline? What is the way out?

Comprehensive and gender-balanced measures

  • First, childcare should not be treated solely as women’s responsibility. Some 55 per cent countries recognise the father’s role and give parental leave or paternity leave in varying degrees.
  • A second issue is cost. Companies are less likely to discriminate against women if the government pitches in. The 2018 ILO report on Care Work and Care Jobs emphasises the need for government support up to at least two-thirds of the costs of maternity benefits, under ILO Convention 183.

Informal sector:

  • However, much of this relates largely to the formal sector. What about the 93.5 per cent Indian women workers in the informal sector?
  • The 2017 Act does not apply to them, nor is it clear how it can realistically cover women working on family farms, doing home-based work, the urban self-employed, or casual workers on contract.Even existing minimal benefits, such as Rs 6,000 over six months for all pregnant women under the National Food Security Act 2013, are not fully implemented.
  • Third, even in the formal sector, the child will need care after six months of maternity leave. The one measure that would benefit women across all sectors, formal and informal, is providing good crèches and childcare centres.In Japan, the government’s expansion of high quality childcare centres has significantly increased women’s work participation. In India, at the very least, childcare centres should be the joint responsibility of government and private employers.
  • Fourth, flexible work time for both sexes can additionally help with work-life balance. Notably, in the TeamLease Report, large companies in IT and e-commerce were the main ones supporting extended maternity leave

Way Forward:

  • The issue of maternity benefits thus needs a comprehensive approach and not just a one-sided Act. To ensure that extended maternity leave does not backfire on women’s jobs, we need equivalent paternity leave, government sharing of costs with employers, high quality crèches and childcare centres, and serious efforts, including media campaigns, to change social norms favouring childcare by fathers.
  • “Children are public goods”, as one feminist economist put it. It is surely a joint social responsibility (and not just the mother’s) to ensure that children do not turn out to be public bads!

Spiritual dimension of ‘Act East’ policy

  • India’s eastern neighbourhood unfortunately received relatively little bilateral diplomatic attention in the years immediately following Independence.
  • With New Delhi choosing to adopt a path of “self-reliance” and “import substitution”, the prospects of playing any meaningful role in foreign investments and trade, were sharply limited. There was a relatively limited Indian contribution, in security and economic development, across its eastern shores.
  • Things changed significantly in the 1990s after the end of the ‘Cold War’. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao set India on a path of renewing ancient trade and economic links with countries across its eastern shores, with a new “Look East” policy.
  • He realised that our eastern neighbourhood, extending beyond Malacca to Vietnam, Japan, China and South Korea, was becoming the economically fastest growing region globally.
  • Increasing integration Over the last three decades, our economy has been increasingly integrated with economies across our entire eastern neighbourhood, including the 10 members of ASEAN, apart from South Korea and Japan. Trade and investment ties and regional connectivity are expanding. Three partners in South Asia — Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh — are an integral part of this process, through the
  • These developments are only natural, as trade with India’s eastern neighbours from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand to Srivijaya (Indonesia) and beyond, had flourished for centuries, before colonial rule.
  • But, these ties can and should be made enduring, by reinforcing trade and investment, with a spiritual dimension, arising from the huge influence in our eastern neighbourhood, of the teachings and message of Lord Gautama Buddha.
  • The message of Lord Buddha spread beyond India’s borders, particularly eastwards, through Sri Lanka to Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
  • The abiding impact of the message of Lord Buddha is evident from the fact that the estimated population of Buddhists worldwide in 2010 was around 480 million.
  • India has never seriously considered how to leverage the abiding spiritual ties it has with the people of neighbouring Buddhist countries. India ignored how imaginatively building tourist facilities in areas of Buddhist pilgrimage would benefit it, boosting tourism revenues, by facilitating the quest of Buddhists worldwide for salvation, in the Land of the Buddha. It also appeared to ignore the fact that such tourism would enable it to develop abiding relationships, across its eastern shores.
  • Tourists from Buddhist countries often find visiting India a difficult, if not unpleasant, experience.Given the wide range of tourists who could visit the pilgrimage centres, all major destinations for potential Buddhist tourism should have a wide variety of hotels/hospitals available.
  • Given the immense long term diplomatic and economic benefits of building up viable Buddhist tourism circuits in India, it’s necessary to integrate our domestic efforts with a diplomatic drive to seek the participation, involvement and investment of Buddhist countries in a cooperative effort for building integrated Buddhist circuits for domestic and foreign tourism in India. Most notably, the involvement of China, Japan, South Korea, ASEAN and South Asian neighbours — Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal — is imperative.
  • Moreover, Buddhist countries should be welcomed to make their architectural and aesthetic contributions, including exhibitions, for displaying their own cultural and spiritual heritage, in Buddhist tourism destinations in India.
  • The Department of Tourism has imaginatively drawn up three distinct tourism circuits (“Dharma Yatra” or the “Sacred Circuit”) for visits to Buddhist pilgrimage places. With around 500 million Buddhists living beyond our borders, primarily to our east, it is imperative that, as the focal point of Buddhist heritage and spirituality, our “Act East” interactions with our eastern neighbours, are imaginative and sensitive.

Improving city finances is a must for India’s future

  • Indore is the third city to raise money through municipal bonds in recent months. Its issue was preceded by similar offerings from Pune and Hyderabad.
  • Indian cities do not have the financial muscle to build the infrastructure needed for them to sustain as engines of job creation. A committee headed by Isher Judge Ahluwalia had estimated in 2011 that Indian cities would have to invest a cumulative ₹40 trillion at constant prices over the next two decades, at the end of which around 600 million Indians could be urban.
  • Meanwhile, city revenue is less than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP). The share of their own revenue in annual budgets has been slipping consistently, making cities dependent on the whims of state and national governments for their infrastructure financing.
  • Municipal bonds are one obvious solution. However, they are not a magic wand. There are three cautionary points that are worth pondering over.
  • First, any bond eventually has to be repaid through cash flows. Should focus on core task of strengthening their own revenue base.
  • Second, there have to be credible commitments to investors that the money raised will not be diverted for other uses, as was done by several state governments in the 1990s.
  • Third, many of the (admittedly inefficient) levies such as octroi that cities depended on for money have been removed in the new goods and services tax (GST) system. The third level of government more generally, get a direct share of GST collections rather than routing these through state governments.
  • India may need policies to reduce the risk in municipal bonds till the market matures. Credit rating is already done, but there may be need for an agency to do market making, credit enhancement and underwriting.
  • Such institutional innovations will be needed in a country like India where cities are not financially strong. A strong municipal bond market should be seen as a part of a larger policy mix to improve the state of cities.
  • All this should be seen against the larger challenge of empowering city governments, with financial power complementing political power. Cities need directly elected mayors who have political incentives to use money wisely.
  • Cities are not only engines of economic growth but also offer an escape from social oppression. The future of India is profoundly linked to the future of its cities. That future will continue to be compromised as long as cities have neither the financial nor political ability to chart their own course. Municipal bonds are just one part of the broader task.

Optional reading:

Energy Hogs: Can World’s Huge Data Centers Be Made More Efficient?

  • The gigantic data centers that power the internet consume vast amounts of electricity and emit as much CO2 as the airline industry. To change that, data companies need to turn to clean energy sources and dramatically improve energy efficiency.
  • Data centers are the factories of the digital age. These mostly windowless, featureless boxes are scattered across the globe – from Las Vegas to Bangalore, and Des Moines to Reykjavik. They run the planet’s digital services. Their construction alone costs around $20 billion a year worldwide. The biggest, covering a million square feet or more, consume as much power as a city of a million people.
  • And with global data traffic more than doubling every four years, they are growing fast.
  • Yet if there is a data center near you, the chances are you don’t know about it. And you still have no way of knowing which center delivers your Netflix download, nor whether it runs on renewable energy using processors cooled by Arctic air, or runs on coal power and sits in desert heat, cooled by gigantically inefficient banks of refrigerators.
  • We are often told that the world’s economy is dematerializing – that physical analog stuff is being replaced by digital data, and that this data has minimal ecological footprint. But not so fast. If the global IT industry were a country, only China and the United States would contribute more to climate change, according to a Greenpeace report investigating “the race to build a green internet,” published last year.
  • Storing, moving, processing, and analyzing data all require energy. Lots of it. The processors in the biggest data centers hum with as much energy as can be delivered by a large power station, 1,000 megawatts or more. And it can take as much energy again to keep the servers and surrounding buildings from overheating.
  • Google estimates that a typical searchusing its services requires as much energy as illuminating a 60-watt light bulb for 17 seconds and typically is responsible for emitting 0.2 grams of CO2. Which doesn’t sound a lot until you begin to think about how many searches you might make in a year.
  • Streaming video through the internet is what really racks up the data count. IT company Cisco, which tracks these things, reckons video will make up 82 percent of internet traffic by 2021, up from 73 percent in 2016. Around a third of internet traffic in North America is already dedicated to streaming Netflix services alone.
  • Two things matter if we are to tame these runaway beasts: One is making them use renewable or other low-carbon energy sources; the other is ramping up their energy efficiency.
  • More and more IT companies are boasting of their commitment to achieving 100 percent reliance on renewable energy. To fulfil such pledges, some of the biggest are building their own energy campuses
  • More often, the data titans sign contracts to receive dedicated supply from existing wind and solar farms. In the U.S., those can still be hard to come by. The availability of renewable energy is one reason Google and Microsoft have recently built hubs in Finland, and Facebook in Denmark and Sweden. Google last year also signed a deal to buy all the energy from the Netherlands’ largest solar energy park, to power one of its four European data centers.
  • Of the mainstream data crunchers for consumers, Greenpeace singled out Netflix for criticism. It does not have its own data centers. Instead, it uses contractors such as Amazon Web Services, the world’s largest cloud-computing company, which Greenpeace charged with being “almost completely non-transparent about the energy footprint of its massive operations.
  • Amazon Web Services contested this. A spokesperson told Yale Environment 360 that the company had a “long-term commitment to 100 percent renewable energy” and had launched a series of wind and solar farm projects now able to deliver around 40 percent of its energy.
  • Some industry insiders detect an element of smoke and mirrors in the green claims of the internet giants. “When most data center companies talk about renewable energy, they are referring to renewable energy certificates.
  • Using data compiled by Swedish state-owned energy giant Vattenfall, he claims that in Norway, where most of the energy comes from hydroelectricity, generating a kilowatt-hour of electricity emits only 3 grams of CO2. By comparison, in France it is 100 grams, in California 300 grams, in Virginia almost 600 grams, in New Mexico more than 800 grams.
  • Meanwhile, there is growing concern about the carbon footprint of centers being built for Asian internet giants such as Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba in China; Naver in South Korea; and Tulip Telecom in India.
  • These corporations have been tight-lipped about their energy performance, claims Greenpeace. But with most of the region’s energy coming from coal-fired power stations, their carbon footprint cannot be anything but large.
  • the world’s largest center is currently the Range International Information Hub, a cloud-data store at Langfang near the megacity of Tianjin in northeast China, where it takes more than 1,000 grams of CO2 for every kilowatt-hour.
  • Almost as important as switching data centers to low-carbon energy sources is improving their energy efficiency. Much of this comes down to the energy needed to keep the processors cool. Insanely, most of the world’s largest centers are in hot or temperate climates, where vast amounts of energy are used to keep them from overheating. Of the world’s 10 largest, two are in the desert heat of Nevada, and others are in Georgia, Virginia, and Bangalore.
  • Most would dramatically reduce their energy requirements if they relocated to a cool climate like Scandinavia or Iceland.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 07-07-18

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

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U.S., China fire first shots in tariff war

  • The U.S. and China launched tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s imports, the opening shots in what Beijing called “the largest trade war in economic history.”
  • At the stroke of midnight Washington time, the U.S. pulled the trigger on 25% duties on $34 billion in Chinese machinery, electronics and hi-tech equipment, including autos, computer hard drives and LEDs.
  • Economists have warned that the escalating trade frictions could throttle global growth. Friday’s tariffs could just be the opening skirmishes in the trade war, as U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to hit $450 billion in Chinese goods, the vast majority of imports.

CJI alone is master of the roster

  • The term ‘Chief Justice of India’ denotes an individual judge and not a collective of the first three or five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court called the ‘Collegium,’ the Supreme Court declared.
  • It is the exclusive authority of this individual judge to allocate cases to fellow judges in his role as the master of the roster.
  • The ruling is based on a petition by former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan to have the Collegium collectively allocate cases.

Govt. deploys 800 IAS officers for village outreach

  • A battalion of Central government IAS officers has been drafted to ensure on the ground implementation as the Centre races to saturate 117 “aspirational districts” with seven flagship social welfare schemes by Independence Day.
  • At least 800 Deputy Secretaries, Under-Secretaries and Director-level officers, drawn from Ministries as diverse as Defence and Urban Affairs, have been assigned about 75 villages to visit, as part of the Extended Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (EGSA) from June 1 to August 15. In total, 49,178 villages — most with a majority SC/ST population — are being targeted.
  • In each village, the Central team convenes a meeting of villagers and beneficiaries along with a State government or district official, a lead bank representative and local officials from the agencies responsible for enrolling people into the schemes.
  • “We monitor the scheme, get feedback…If there are any hurdles, we can sort it out on the spot,” said a director-level IAS officer. The teams can also directly input the day’s progress into a data system.
  • These are central schemes although the implementation is being done by States.
  • States sidelined: “This is a deeply problematic way of going about welfare delivery…Constitutionally, while the Centre has higher powers of taxation, the bulk of the expenditure on welfare is to be done by the States,” said Yamini Aiyar, president of the Centre for Policy Research.

Alternative cereals can save water

  • If Indian farmers were to switch from growing rice and wheat to ‘alternative cereals,’ such as maize, sorghum, and millet, it could reduce the demand for irrigation water by 33%.
  • This could also improve nutritional availability to consumers, according to an analysis by researchers from the U.S.-based Earth Institute, Columbia University and Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
  • Rice is the least water-efficient cereal when it came to producing nutrients, and was the main driver in increasing irrigation stresses.
  • Better production: Replacing rice with maize, finger millet, pearl millet, or sorghum could save irrigation and improving production of nutrients such as iron by 27% and zinc by 13% , according to the report
  • Alternative cereal production can help distribute nutrient production across the country and reduce the impact of a single local climate shock to national grain production.

Academia irked by HECI move

  • There is growing resentment within the academic community over the Centre’s decision to scrap the University Grants Commission and replace it with a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
  • The grounds of opposition are varied, ranging from a lack of debate before the decision to the government seeking to take upon itself the power to finance universities and the low presence of professional academics in the proposed “bureaucrat-heavy” body.
  • The All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations (AIFUCTO), which has its presence in 483 State universities, has decided to protest.
  • It said while the UGC Act mandated the commission ‘to inquire into the financial needs of universities’ and ‘allocate and disburse, out of the fund of the commission’ to the universities (under Section 12 of the UGC Act, 1956), now the Ministry has taken over the direct control over the allocations to be made to the universities, which will clearly convert the universities into mere departments of the government.
  • This will bring the universities under the strict and direct financial control of the MHRD. This shift in financial control to the Ministry will be used for regimentation of knowledge.

CACP asks Cen­tre to in­tro­duce price de­fi­ciency pay­ment scheme

  • In a bid to en­sure farm­ers ben­e­fit from min­i­mum sup­port prices (MSP), the Com­mis­sion for Agri­cul­tural Costs and Prices (CACP) has sug­gested that the Cen­tre ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of im­ple­ment­ing the price de­fi­ciency pay­ment (PDP) scheme across the coun­try.
  • Mad­hya Pradesh had im­ple­mented such a scheme — the Bha­van­tar Bhug­tan Yo­jana (BBY) — on a pi­lot ba­sis dur­ing last year’s kharif sea­son to safe­guard farm­ers from price fluc­tu­a­tions.
  • In its non-price rec­om­men­da­tions for Kharif 2018, the CACP said a sys­tem should be brought in place to en­sure MSP for farm­ers, wherein the dif­fer­ence be­tween the MSP and av­er­age mar­ket price in the APMC (Agri­cul­tural Pro­duce Mar­ket Com­mit­tee) yards is di­rectly paid to farm­ers’ bank ac­counts.
  • Min­imis­ing in­ter­ven­tion
  • Such a move will min­imise gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion in pro­cure­ment. Be­sides, it will help curb food­grain losses due to lack of ad­e­quate stor­age, as farm­ers will be sell­ing their pro­duce di­rectly to traders un­der the scheme.
  • The CACP ob­served that the BBY scheme had helped the M.P. gov­ern­ment re­duce its costs to about 17.85 per cent of what was Curbs food­grain losses caused by lack of ad­e­quate stor­age.
  • Fur­ther, to in­stil con­fi­dence among farm­ers on pro­cure­ment of their pro­duce, a ‘right to sell at MSP’ leg­is­la­tion may be in­tro­duced, the CACP sug­gested.
  • Counter-view :“The BBY scheme in M.P. could ben­e­fit only 23 per cent of pro­duc­tion, cast­ing a shadow on how it will ben­e­fit the ma­jor­ity of farm­ers if it is scaled up to an all-In­dia level,” ob­served agri­cul­ture econ­o­mist Ashok Gu­lati and his col­leagues in a work­ing pa­per at the In­dian Coun­cil for Re­search on In­ter­na­tional Eco­nomic Re­la­tions (ICRIER).

What is price deficiency payment

Under Price Deficiency Payment, farmers are proposed to be compensated for the difference between the government-announced MSPs for select crops and their actual market prices. For crops such as rice and wheat where it is effective now, MSP announcements will continue. For other targeted crops, price deficiency payments will be made. However, it has to be noted that there may be a cap on the extent to which the Centre will bridge the gap between MSP and market price.

 

Niti Aayog has said that the farmer may be entitled to the difference up to say, 10 per cent. To avail this benefit, each farmer would have to register with the nearest APMC mandi and report the total area sown. The subsidy may be paid via Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) into the farmer’s Aadhaar-linked bank account.

Pun­jab, Haryana, AP ac­count for 50% rice pur­chase

  • Three states  Pun­jab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh ac­count for more than 50 per cent of the to­tal rice pro­cure­ment in the coun­try. Iron­i­cally, West Ben­gal and Ut­tar Pradesh, the top two rice-pro­duc­ing states, have less than 10 per cent share of the to­tal pro­cure­ment.
  • Ac­cord­ing to data from the Food Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia (FCI), in 2017-18 kharif sea­son, of the 36.18 mil­lion met­ric tonne rice pro­cured by var­i­ous agen­cies, about 11.83 tonne was from Pun­jab, fol­lowed by 3.99 met­ric tonne from Haryana and 3.87 met­ric tonne from Andhra Pradesh. To­gether, the three states ac­counted for close to 54 per cent of the to­tal rice pro­cure­ment by Cen­tre.
  • In con­trast, rice pro­cure­ment in Pun­jab and Haryana is close to 100 per cent of the pro­duce, and in some years, the quan­tity ex­ceeds pro­duc­tion. In the ab­sence of a ro­bust food­grain pro­cure­ment mech­a­nism in most states, traders of­ten flock to Pun­jab, Haryana and Chat­tis­garh to sell rice pro­cured from farm­ers in other states at a rate lower than the MSP.
  • The mech­a­nism for govern­ment pro­cure­ment is func­tional only in Pun­jab, Haryana, Ch­hat­tis­garh. Traders take the ac­tual ben­e­fit of MSP, as they buy pro­duce from farm­ers through dis­tress sale in states like Bi­har, Orissa and West Ben­gal, and sell it in states like Pun­jab at MSP.

Editorials and Opinions :

Seoul’s focus

South Korean President Moon Jae-in will arrive in India on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Describing his agenda, Ambassador Shin Bong-Kil says that India is the ‘new frontier’ for the Republic of Korea’s strategic and business interests, but many hurdles remain to growing the relationship.

What will be the main focus of President Moon’s visit beginning on Monday?

  • I like to say our main bilateral agenda will be 3P+. The 3 Ps stand for people, prosperity and peace. People means strengthening cultural and tourism ties. Prosperity means the economic agenda and peace refers to the Korean peninsula and regional issues

bilateral trade has not grown (in fact, it decreased between 2014 and 2016). What needs to be done?

  • One of the most important measures PM Modi took was to set up a “Korea-plus” special desk, which was very useful in easing investment opportunities
  • When we compare our trade volumes with China, we see that India-RoK trade last year was only $20 billion, while China-RoK trade was $240 billion. Korean investment in India was $6.8 billion, including from Samsung, LG, but the investment volume in China was $57 billion.
  • So we feel we must seize the opportunities that the Indian market provides, and there is much more potential.

What are the problems in realising this potential, then?

  • Well, there are still many hurdles in trade. We need to upgrade the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to deal with them.

On the P of Peace … What is the larger vision for bilateral cooperation in India-South Korea strategic ties ?

  • India is a central pillar of President Moon’s “new southern policy”, and he wants to elevate Korea’s relationship with India to the same level as ties with China, Japan, U.S. and Russia.
  • In RoK, both the government and the private sector believe India is the next frontier for both strategic and economic ties. We also expect they will discuss the concept of the Indo-Pacific policy, which is now quite important.

The Presidential “Blue House” had in a statement said President Moon would like to discuss India’s role in promoting peace in the Korean Peninsula. What is India’s role there?

  • India is a global power and a great country which has a voice and leverage with North Korea.
  • India maintains ties with Pyongyang and its words cannot be disregarded by the North Korean leadership.
  • On nuclear issues, India has always emphasised the importance of non-proliferation… I think India took the right decision not to shut down its embassy there as the U.S. had suggested last year, and they will be thus able to exert influence on the issue.

All India Radio spotlight : India South Korea Bilateral relations 

The new trade order

  • Since the start of the year, U.S. President Donald Trump has lashed out at allies and adversaries alike on trade.
  • A first question is why the Trump administration is launching its trade wars.There are at least three possible explanations worth considering:
    • an actualcasus belli , as with complaints about Chinese practices;
    • a phantom casus belli , as in the preoccupation with meaningless bilateral trade deficits;
    • or, finally, it might just be a straightforward desire to block trade.
  • The evidence seems to point to the last possibility — simple protectionism. While the U.S. has significant concerns about Chinese economic practices, such as China’s aggressive approach to acquiring intellectual property from American businesses, the administration has been unable to focus its demands on these practices.
  • The discord with trading partners such as the European Union and Canada has undercut the possibility of presenting a united front on China complaints.
  • There is ample evidence that Mr. Trump places a high priority on bilateral trade deficits, which he seems to equate with profit and loss statements.
  • Trump is fond of tariffs and believes that American industry will do better behind a wall of protection.
  • Turning to the global trading system, the burgeoning trade war demonstrates its limitations. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and World Trade Organization were never designed to block a major world power from running amok. They relied, instead, on the principal players in global trade respecting the system.
  • Trade disputes were anticipated, of course, but they were intended to be sincere cases of disagreement about rules and acceptable practices. The WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism cannot act quickly enough to address the mounting spats about trade protectionism emanating from the U.S., a major reason why countries around the world have not waited for verdicts from their WTO complaints and have instead proceeded with retaliation.
  • what comes next for the global trading system? In the near term, we are likely to see escalation.
  • The Trump administration also announced its intention to use its national security justification for tariffs on the auto sector.
  • There is little sign that Mr. Trump will be turned from his protectionist path by earnest explanations of the virtues of trade, though there have been valiant attempts both from the private sector and from members of Congress.
  • It is only in the last month or two that the effects of both protection and retaliation have begun to be felt. While some businesses have been helped, many more have been hurt. For example, while there are roughly 140,000 Americans who work in steel production, there are about 2 million who work in industries that use steel as a major input. Those latter industries are beginning to cry for help, along with farmers who are seeing sales lost to retaliatory barriers.
  • The Big Picture – Trade War Begins
  • BBC Inquiry Are We Heading for a Trade War?

A political ploy

  • The Centre has cleared a hike in the minimum support prices (MSPs) for the kharif summer crop, ranging from a modest 3.7% increase for urad to as much as a 52.5% for the cereal ragi over the previous season.
  • The NDA government says this ‘redeems’ its promise of assuring farmers a price at least 150% of the cost of production.
  • While making calculations, it relied on estimates of input costs actually paid by farmers and the imputed value of unpaid family labour engaged in the field. Yet, the final hikes announced for some crops are even higher – with the MSP for bajra pegged 97% over estimated costs.
  • On an average, the MSP hike notified for 17 kharif crops is about 25% higher and constitutes the biggest hike since 2013-14.
  • Given that the MSP mechanism is primarily enforced through official procurement only for wheat and paddy, mere announcement of prices for other crops is unlikely to suffice in ensuring farmers get those returns.
  • the Budget had promised that Niti Aayog would work with the Centre and States to put a fool-proof mechanism in place so that farmers get adequate remuneration if market prices slip below the MSP. This could be through government purchases or a gap-funding mechanism whereby the difference between MSPs and market prices is transferred to farmers.
  • As things stand, the impact of these hikes on consumer price inflation is expected to vary between 0.5% and 1% by the end of 2018-19.
  • While rural incomes may rise from this farm-friendly gesture, concomitant reforms to free agricultural markets are vital to prevent a distortionary effect on farmers’ choices on account of MSPs.
  • Easing onerous stockholding limits under the Essential Commodities Act and avoiding frequent curbs on farm exports are key.

The curriculum taboo

  • A news report from Maharashtra reminds us why we must keep on engaging with older issues and debates.
  • Even as a brave new India forges ahead with smartphones and cities, caste remains a major force shaping social relations and politics.
  • Three adolescent Dalit boys were brutally assaulted and paraded naked after they were caught having swum in a well forbidden for use by Dalits.
  • Perpetrators of violence against members of oppressed groups document their act themselves, apparently to establish their brazenness. Perhaps, they also intend to warn others against transgressing traditionally-maintained boundaries of upper caste authority. They don’t believe that history has moved on, towards new social norms. There is something in the current political ethos that persuades them to hope for a return to old times.
  • Several short stories by Premchand portray life around a well and the conflict that wells often witnessed. One poignant example is the story Thakur ka Kuan (The Thakur’s Well) probably written in the early 1930s. The plot is brief and the end bleak, although violent horror is avoided. An untouchable labourer’s wife makes an attempt to fetch water from a Thakur’s well. It is dark, and her husband is very ill and thirsty. The well accessible to the untouchables smells rotten because an animal has fallen in it. The labourer’s wife knows the terrible risk she is taking, but she goes ahead. Just when she is close to success, she is spotted and runs for her life. When she reaches home, she finds her sick husband drinking the foul water.
  • Many would like to believe that the portrait of India this story offers is obsolete. The Maharashtra incident proves that this is not entirely so.
  • As Premchand’s story figures in school and college textbooks in many parts of India, you can hear audio and video lessons on it on the internet. In most of these lessons, students are told to appreciate Premchand’s masterly treatment of old social problems like untouchability and superstition. Understanding and appreciation of his craft of fiction is important for getting good marks. The audio teacher insists that social problems like caste discrimination are a thing of the past. If they sometimes manifest today, it is only in remote villages. As expected, the lesson has a moral agenda, to establish that education is fighting against such inhuman practices.
  • Apart from including such literature in textbooks, education in most states does precious little to deal with caste issues in any depth or detail. Indeed, caste remains a curricular taboo: It is not supposed to be discussed directly. Nor is it acknowledged as a major social institution, shaping relationships as important as marriage. Not just schools and colleges, teacher training institutions also avoid engaging with it. All that is discussed is the reservation policy and its Constitutional aim. The hope that caste prejudices will gradually diminish, if not vanish, is based on general faith in education, rather than on any insight into how education works or how its agency can be deployed on a subject like caste.
  • If we try to answer two questions on this subject, we might achieve some clarity.
  • The first question is: “Has education helped to speed up economic and social mobility among the lower-placed castes?”
  • The second question is: “Has education helped to reduce caste-based prejudice?”
  • The answer to the first question is, yes. On the second question, one can at best say: “Maybe, but not much”.
  • B R Ambedkar was right in seeing caste as a barrier to India’s intellectual growth, apart from being the lever of oppression.  Ambedkar used the metaphor of social endosmosis to explain how the caste system prevents the flow of ideas and knowledge. Endosmosis ensures the passage of fluid through a membrane to an adjoining cell. The caste system, Ambedkar felt, deprives India of this basic means of social health.
  • Our system of education continues to be too weak to promote any kind of endosmosis, even across disciplines, let alone social groups. Someone studying science, engineering or management may never be intellectually challenged for holding casteist views. In routine life, such views reassure colleagues that you are normal. If you are part of the urban middle class, you learn to perceive caste as something remote even as it permeates your everyday world and gives you an identity.
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Newspaper notes for UPSC 06-07-18

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Allow gambling in sports but regulate it, says law panel

  • The Law Commission of India submitted a report to the government, saying that since it is impossible to stop illegal gambling, the only viable option left is to “regulate” gambling in sports.
  • The commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.S. Chauhan, recommended “cashless” gambling in sports as a means to increase revenue and deal a blow to unlawful gambling.
  • The money generated can be used for public welfare activities, it said. For that the revenue from gambling should be taxable under laws like Income Tax Act, the Goods and Services Tax Act.Transactions between gamblers and operators should be linked to their Aadhaar and PAN cards so that the government could keep an eye on them, the panel said.
  • The commission recommended a classification of ‘proper gambling’ and ‘small gambling.’ Proper gambling would be for the rich who play for high stakes, while small gambling would be for the low-income groups.
  • The panel wanted the government to introduce a cap on the number of gambling transactions for each individual, that is, monthly, half-yearly and annual. Restrictions on amount should be prescribed while using electronic money facilities like credit cards, debit cards, and net-banking.
  • Regulations need to protect vulnerable groups, minors and those below poverty line, those who draw their sustenance from social welfare measures, government subsidies and Jan Dhan account holders from exploitation through gambling. Foreign Exchange Management and Foreign Direct Investment laws and policies should be amended to encourage investment in the casino/online gaming industry. This would propel tourism and employment.

Dissent

  • However, one of the members, Prof. S. Sivakumar, expressed strong dissent in a separate note filed with the government. He said the Law Commission report was not “comprehensive.” A country as poor as India should not allow ‘legalised gambling’ on its soil.
  • He criticised the commission for exceeding the brief given to it by the Supreme Court in 2016. The court had merely asked the commission to look into the narrow question of legalising betting in cricket and not sports as a whole.
  • “Socio-economic and cultural circumstances of the country are not pragmatic to accept legalised gambling activities as it is still treated as a social stigma… The policy of the government in general is to disallow betting and gambling.

Allow visitors of all faiths to offer prayers, SC tells Puri temple

  • In a major order ahead of the annual Rath Yatra in Puri in mid-July, the Supreme Court directed the Jagannath temple management to consider allowing every visitor, irrespective of his or her faith, to offer prayers to the deity.
  • The apex court, however, said that allowing of every visitor will be subject to regulatory measures regarding dress code and giving an appropriate declaration.
  • A Bench of Justices , while referring to an earlier verdict of the court, said: “Hinduism does not eliminate any other belief. It reflects eternal faith and wisdom and inspiration of centuries.”
  • The court said not only the State, but even the Centre could look into the aspect of difficulties faced by the visitors, deficiencies in the management, maintenance of hygiene, appropriate utilisation of offerings and protection of assets with regard to shrines, irrespective of religion.
  • Context: The court was hearing a petition highlighting difficulties faced by devotees at the Jagannath Temple and their harassment or exploitation by the sevaks (staff) of the temple.

This aborted mission is a success

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) inched a small step closer to its ambition of sending Indians to space by conducting the first ‘pad abort’ test.
  • The test proves that the agency can bail out future astronauts with their capsule in case of an early danger to them at the launch pad.
  • A 1,260-kg crew module lifted off propelled by seven complex rockets built unconventionally around it. In a pre-programmed, automatic sequence, it reached a height of 2.7 km and curved down into the Bay of Bengal on parachutes.
  • The Pad Abort Test [PAT] demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad.
  • ISRO described PAT as a major technology demonstrator and the first in a series of tests to qualify a larger Crew Escape System of the future. The U.S., Russia and China which have sent human missions have developed their own systems.
  • During the test, teams from various centres tried out at least five new technologies — such as those related to wireless satellite communication, navigation, Ka-band altimeter and telemetry.
  • Nearly 300 sensors recorded various functional aspects. More technology trials related to astronaut safety would be taken up later.

Taiwan protests against use of ‘Chinese Taipei’

  • The resident trade representative of Taiwan on Thursday expressed deep disappointment with the Air India changing ‘Taiwan’ into ‘Chinese Taipei’ on its website.
  • This move taken by Air India, a state-owned airline, can be seen as a gesture of succumbing to the unreasonable and absurd pressure from China.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs defended Air India’s decision to change the name of Taiwan on its website. The decision of Air India is consistent with international norms and our own position on Taiwan since 1949.
  • India and Taiwan do not have full-fledged diplomatic ties. Both sides maintain trade representatives in each other’s capitals.

What’s in a name: Why China insists on Chinese Taipei rather than Taiwan

  • According to the “One China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan a province of China, although Taiwan calls itself a democratic, self-ruled country.
  • Although the two participate separately in international events, China has repeatedly insisted that Taiwan should be called “Chinese Taipei”, reflecting a deep anxiety to prevent international recognition of Taiwan as a country.
  • Background: After the surrender of Japan during World War II, the island of Taiwan was put under Chinese control. Towards the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and before the post-war treaties were to be signed, members of the Kuomintang party (KMT) were driven out of the mainland by the Communists, who would later establish the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The KMT retreated to Taiwan, becoming a government in exile. For some time, it was internationally recognised as the government of the Republic of China (RoC).
  • The turf war over the name began in the 1970s, with increased official recognition for the PRC in international event. In 1979, China agreed to participate in International Olympic Committee (IOC) activities if the RoC was referred to as “Chinese Taipei”.
  • In Nagoya, Japan, the IOC and later all other international sports federations adopted a resolution under which the National Olympic Committee of the RoC would be recognised as the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, and its athletes would compete under the name Chinese Taipei.
  • Not allowed to use its flag and national anthem in the subsequent Summer and Winter Games, the RoC Olympic Committee boycotted the subsequent Summer and Winter Games in protest.
  • In 1981, however, the government of the RoC formally accepted the name Chinese Taipei.
  • With Chinese Taipei as the name for Taiwan designated in the Nagoya Resolution, the RoC and the PRC recognise each other at various events — the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, Asian Games, Asian Para Games, FIFA events, World Health Organization (as an invited member) programmes, as well as beauty pageants.

Chinese Pressure :

  • In recent decades, under Chinese pressure, both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been using the name Chinese Taipei. “Taiwan” does not appear on the member countries list of either organisation.
  • Earlier this year, the hotel chain Marriott was forced to shut down the Chinese version of its website for a week while fast-fashion retailer Zara was ordered to complete a “self-inspection” and turn in a rectification report for listing certain areas as countries. China’s Civil Aviation Administration demanded an apology from Delta Airlines for listing both Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website. The airline responded by saying it had made a “grave mistake”.

India & China

  • Since 1949, India has accepted the “One China” policy that accepts Taiwan and Tibet as part of China.
  • However, since 2010, when Beijing was issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, India has not been explicitly mentioning “One China policy” in bilateral joint statements.
  • Delhi has often used the issue to make a diplomatic point. For example, before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in 2014, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had recalled her conversation with Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi where she had said that if India believes in “One China” policy, China should also believe in a “One India” policy.
  • Now, the government has maintained that Air India’s decision is consistent with international norms and India’s position since 1949. Taiwan has lodged a protest, while Beijing has welcomed the Air-India decision. The renaming is possibly yet another reflection of India’s effort to reset ties with China.
  • Delhi has often used the issue to make a diplomatic point. For example, before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in 2014, External Affairs Minister  had recalled her conversation with Chinese Foreign minister  where she had said that if India believes in “One China” policy, China should also believe in a “One India” policy.
  • Now, the government has maintained that Air India’s decision is consistent with international norms and India’s position since 1949. Taiwan has lodged a protest, while Beijing has welcomed the Air-India decision. The renaming is possibly yet another reflection of India’s effort to reset ties with China.

SC seeks plan to eradicate leprosy

  • The Supreme Court directed the Centre to file a comprehensive action plan to ensure eradication of leprosy, saying the ‘curable’ disease cannot be allowed to affect people.
  • The Bench, while reserving its verdict, asked the parties to file written submissions by July 9 on a PIL plea filed by advocate Pankaj Sinha alleging that the government was not taking adequate steps to eradicate the disease.
  • The Bench was informed that Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were leprosy-endemic States and efforts were needed to eradicate the disease from these States.
  • The court had earlier rapped the authorities for their “apathy” towards eradicating leprosy from the country, saying despite it being ‘curable’, the disease still remained a stigma.
  • The petition said: leprosy affects over 1.25 lakh people annually in the country.“Despite an effective cure, namely Multi-Drug Therapy, which has been available since 1981, that can completely cure 99% of leprosy bacteria, due to apathy of the Government of India and the State governments, people are still suffering from the said disease, which is treated as a social stigma.

Check lynchings, MHA tells States

  • The Home Ministry  asked the States and Union Territories (UTs) to check incidents of mob lynching fuelled by rumours of child-lifting on social media.
  • More than 20 people have been lynched over the last two months on suspicion of child-lifting.
  • In an advisory, the Ministry has urged the States and UTs to “keep a watch for early detection of rumours of child-lifting and initiate effective measures to counter them.”
  • The States and UTs have been asked to direct district administrations to identify vulnerable areas and conduct community outreach programmes for creating awareness and building confidence.
  • They have also been directed to properly investigate the complaints of child abduction or kidnapping to instil confidence among the affected people.

India, U.S. set to mend trade ties

  • The ongoing negotiations between India and the U.S. on multiple trade tussles are progressing smoothly and a deal could be announced when an Indian delegation visits America in mid-July.
  • The deal is likely to involve bringing down the duty on high-end Harley-Davidson motorcycles to zero, addressing an issue that President Donald Trump continues to raise publicly and privately about trade relations with India.
  • As part of a package deal, America is likely to maintain the Generalised System Preferences (GSP) for India, which allows many exporters to enjoy lower tariffs on specific exports to the U.S. India is likely to change the price restrictions imposed on medical devices imported from America to trade margin rationalisation, a more acceptable global practice being demanded by American manufactures.
  • The U.S. had invoked Section 232 (b) of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to impose 25% duties on steel and aluminium from India. India had taken the issue to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The U.S. is also challenging India at the WTO for its export subsidy programmes.
  • Other market access issues are also on the table. American companies are also protesting data localisation requirements that India has announced.

Rupee sinks to record closing low

  • The rupee slumped to its lowest-ever close as it weakened further against the dollar to end at 95. The Indian rupee’s previous closing low was the 68.83 a dollar level it fell to on August 28, 2013, when the currency was in free fall as foreign investors pulled out from emerging markets in what came to be known as the ‘taper tantrum’.
  • The rupee has come under intense pressure once again this year as a surge in international oil prices has increased demand for the U.S. currency among the country’s refiners, who import a bulk of their crude requirement from overseas.
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve’s hawkish stance is also prompting foreign investors to pull out from emerging markets.
  • The rupee’s slide past the 69 mark is likely to have prompted state-run banks to sell dollars on behalf of the central bank. The RBI has been intervening in the foreign exchange market to curb volatility.

Test-tube embryos may save rhinos

  • Months after the death of Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino (NWR), scientists have grown embryos containing DNA of his kind, hoping to save the subspecies from extinction.
  • With only two northern white rhinos known to be alive today — both infertile females — the team hopes their novel technique will lead to the re-establishment of a viable breeding population.
  • Using a recently-patented, two-metre egg extraction device, resulted in the first-ever test tube-produced rhino embryos. Now frozen, these have a very high chance to establish a pregnancy once implanted into a surrogate mother.
  • The hybrid embryos were created with frozen sperm from dead NWR males and the eggs of southern white rhino (SWR) females, of which there are thousands left on Earth.
  • ART (assisted reproduction techniques) could be a viable strategy to rescue genes from the iconic, almost extinct, northern white rhinoceros.

Give legal backing to MSP

  • The government panel, which recommended minimum support prices for kharif crops that were approved by the Cabinet , has also recommended that the Centre bring out a legislation which would give that announcement some legal teeth by giving farmers the right to sell their produce at those prices.
  • The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices is a statutory panel under the Ministry of Agriculture which makes the recommendations for MSPs for 23 kharif and rabi crops. Its suggestions are not binding on the government.
  • In its report titled ‘Price Policy for Kharif Crops for the Marketing Season 2018-19,’ the CACP notes that the procurement mechanism is broken for most crops and for most farmers.
  • It has been observed that often farmers of remote areas do not have sufficient access to APMCs [Agricultural Produce Market Committees] and their potential market is local ‘haats’ where their produce is sold below MSP,” says the report.
  • “Strong procurement operations need to be expanded to neglected regions, particularly eastern and north eastern regions.”

Editorials and Opinions:

Why we need Governors

  • Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers head the government. Governors and Presidents head the state. Governments govern, states sustain. And in a democratic republic, the people power both. They do so, wanting the Chief Minister to act conscientiously and the Governor to act constitutionally, to ensure self-government is good government, swa-raj is also su-raj.
  • The country has to congratulate the Delhi Chief Minister ,for having elicited from the Supreme Court a benchmark ruling. But it can do more. It can reflect on how, as a Chief Minister actuates a popular mandate, the Governor exercises that “all-pervasive moral influence”, both together providing the people in their jurisdiction the assurance that they are in secure and mutually composed, not conflicted, hands.

Allies, interrupted

  • There are enough signs that relations between India and the United States have suffered and their interests are diverging.
  • From the U.S. side, policy decisions by President Donald Trump to walk out of the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, and the U.S. Congress’s CAATSA law sanctioning Iran and Russia have set up an inevitable conflict. Mr. Trump’s insistence on tough sanctions against all those continuing to engage with Iran and Russia limits India’s options on energy security and defence procurement.
  • Added to this confrontation is the U.S.’s tough policy on trade tariffs, applied to ally and adversary alike, including India.
  • For its part, the Modi government has taken a policy turn away from four years of a pro-U.S. tilt. Mr. Modi’s speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue last month, in which he invoked the long-lapsed phrase “strategic autonomy”, set at rest any doubt that there is a reset in his foreign policy.
  • Since January, he has personally reached out to the Chinese and Russian Presidents in informal summits, and invited the Iranian President to Delhi. At variance with the U.S. position on limiting engagement with these very countries.
  • India promised to raise oil imports from Iran this year, committed to far greater engagement on the Chabahar port project and oilfields in Iran, while negotiating a $5.5 billion deal with Russia for the S-400 Triumf missile systems. These will trigger U.S. sanctions unless the two countries reach a compromise.
  • India must now decide how best to deal with the ultimatums, with U.S. sanctions kicking in by November.

Is India’s foreign policy adrift?

YES :

  • The first principle of Indian foreign policy, which is finessing the ‘big powers’ dynamic. This means that equilibrium must be maintained with the U.S., China, Russia, the European Union and members of the ASEAN.
  • While the first three carry geostrategic heft, with the U.S. still being the number one outside power balancer in almost every region of the world, the last two are economic powerhouses.
  • India needs all of them, not one at the cost of the other.
  • India has lost its eminent position in South Asia as a consequence of reckless adventurism in its neighbourhood. Today, the neighbourhood is bending towards China.
  • India has lost its pre-eminent position in the developing world as a consequence of its wilful abandonment of the leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and other such institutions of the postcolonial world order.
  • The present government’s denseness has ended up antagonising both Russia and China. Nothing typified this more than Russia holding antiterror exercises with Pakistan in DRUZBA-2017. Similarly, rather than taking a nuanced position, the ill-conceived boycott of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in 2017 invited the wrath of China via the Doklam standoff.
  • The worst casualty has, however, been India’s neighbourhood. In the past four years, the government has swung from the sublime to the ridiculous on Pakistan, blockaded Nepal for not declaring itself as a Hindu Rashtra, lost Sri Lanka to the Chinese, been belittled by the Maldives and even Seychelles. Europe, Africa, Latin and South America have fallen off the map.

NO:

  • Since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, India’s foreign policy has been on an upward trajectory.
  • Once a perennial disappointment that was not fulfilling expectations of greatness, India is now widely acknowledged as an actor living up to its true potential.
  • Two areas where Indian foreign policy has leapfrogged under Mr. Modi are cultural and commercial diplomacy.
  • Well-thought-out policy reforms and emotional engagements with the Indian diaspora have added a force multiplier to our soft power. By tapping into the transnational Hindu and Buddhist civilisational linkages and harnessing them for strategic benefits in our extended neighbourhood, Mr. Modi has reified India’s image as a repository of ancient wisdom that generates global public goods.
  • Record levels of inward FDI flows and improvements in a range of global ranking indices bear testament to Mr. Modi’s success in selling the India story abroad and linking his economic diplomacy with domestic reforms. Fuelling economic development is a core purpose of Indian foreign policy.
  • In geopolitics, he has made decisive choices. He has broken free of taboos that restrained India from capitalising on closer defence and strategic cooperation with the S., Japan and Israel. Casting aside the obsolete concept of non-alignment and entering into deeper circumstantial partnerships.
  • India is working its way to becoming a third power centre in the world alongside the U.S. and China.

It’s Complicated:

  • India is facing a unique combination of diplomatic, security and strategic challenges today.
  • The growing economic, defence and strategic partnership with the U.S. is being questioned.
  • India’s hitherto reliable and largest defence partner, Russia, is becoming increasingly enmeshed with China. Unlike in the past, Russia has now supplied military helicopters to Pakistan.
  • China now has a GDP that is five times that of India’s and military expenditure that is three times larger than ours. It has a growing global and regional economic and strategic footprint.
  • India’s neighbours, including the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, are exploiting new opportunities to leverage their possibilities with China vis-à-vis India.
  • Pakistan, while continuing to be perceived globally as problematic because of its sponsorship of several terrorist groups, remains useful to the U.S. for its efforts in Afghanistan, and to China in its regional and global strategies.
  • Some of India’s efforts, such as membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a facility in Seychelles, have been stymied. Debate continues endlessly on expansion of the UN Security Council.
  • Although this particular combination of circumstances is unique, Indian foreign policy has faced seminal challenges before.
  • India also has successes to its credit. There is a broad bipartisan consensus in the U.S. on the value of the India relationship.The U.S. has also supported India’s growing role in Afghanistan.
  • Europe, unnerved by the Trump administration, is attaching importance to its values and economic opportunity-based partnership with India.
  • The Indian Prime Minister was welcomed by the French President and German Chancellor soon after their inauguration.
  • In the Indo-Pacific, relations with Japan and ASEAN countries continue to strengthen.
  • A renewed thrust has been made in the Gulf, especially with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, keeping in mind the interests of our eight-million-strong diaspora, around $50 billion of remittances, energy security, and sovereign wealth fund investments in India.
  • Relations with Israel, a major defence and technology partner, have been taken a notch higher, even as Chabahar port is being developed in Iran to enhance connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
  • The picture is complicated. There are strong sui generis challenges and headwinds, requiring course modulation and adaptation. But foreign policymaking always faces challenges in an evolving world. Along with nimble footedness, India will also need to strengthen itself further economically and in its defence capacity, including in technology and production. It will also need to improve its capacity for implementation of agreed upon cooperation projects.

Evolving safety protocols for dams

  • The Dam Safety Bill of 2018 addresses the concerns raised about the safety of over 5,200 large dams in India and about 450 which are under construction.
  • A lack of legal and institutional architecture for dam safety raises fears about unsafe dams, and the possibility of consequent disasters and loss of life and property.
  • The Bill, approved by the Union Cabinet last month, proposes uniform dam safety procedures. It provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams and the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety to evolve safety policies and recommend necessary regulations.
  • Also envisaged is the establishment of a National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety. The Bill proposes the constitution of State-level committees on dam safety.
  • The legislation addresses procedures concerning dam safety, including regular inspection of dams, emergency action plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, instrumentation and safety manuals. In fact, it lays the onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions.
  • The National Dam Safety Authority is to liaison with the State Dam Safety Organisations and the owners of dams for standardisation of safety-related data and practices.
  • This authority shall provide technical and managerial assistance to the States and State Dam Safety Organisations, and maintain a national level database of dams and the records of major dam failures. It shall examine the cause of any major dam failure and publish and update the standard guidelines and check-lists for the routine inspection and detailed investigations of dams and appurtenances.
  • The National Authority is empowered to examine unresolved points of issue between the State Dam Safety Organisations of two States, or between the State Dam Safety Organisation of a State and the owner of a dam in that State.
  • At the level of the States, State Committees on Dam Safety will ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in that State and ensure their safe functioning.
  • These State Dam Safety Organisations are to be manned by officers from the field, preferably with expertise in dam-designs, hydro-mechanical engineering, hydrology, geo-technical investigation, instrumentation and dam rehabilitation.

How the 1.5-times formula works out MSP

How does the government fix MSPs of crops before every planting season?

  • The Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) in the Ministry of Agriculture recommends MSPs for 23 crops. These include 14 grown during the kharif/post-monsoon season and six in rabi/winter (wheat, barley, chana, masur, mustard and safflower), apart from sugarcane, jute and copra.
  • The CACP is supposed to consider various factors while recommending the MSP for a commodity, including cost of cultivation.
  • It also takes into account the supply and demand situation for the commodity; market price trends (domestic and global) and parity vis-à-vis other crops; and implications for consumers (inflation), environment (soil and water use) and terms of trade between agriculture and non-agriculture sectors.
  • The Budget for 2018-19 announced that MSPs would henceforth be fixed at 1½ times of the production costs for crops as a “pre-determined principle”. Simply put, the CACP’s job will be only to estimate production costs for a season and recommend the MSPs by applying the 1.5-times formula.
  • How is this production cost arrived at?  The CACP does not do any field-based cost estimates itself. It merely makes projections using state-wise, crop-specific production cost estimates provided by the Directorate of Economics & Statistics in the Agriculture Ministry. The latter are, however, generally available with a three-year lag.
  • The CACP further projects three kinds of production cost for every crop, both at state and all-India average levels. ‘A2’ covers all paid-out costs directly incurred by the farmer — in cash and kind — on seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, hired labour, leased-in land, fuel, irrigation, etc. ‘A2+FL’ includes A2 plus an imputed value of unpaid family labour. ‘C2’ is a more comprehensive cost that factors in rentals and interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets, on top of A2+FL.
  • The CACP’s ‘Price Policy for Kharif Crops: The Marketing Season 2018-19’ report states that its MSP recommendation is based on 1.5 times the A2+FL costs.
  • Farm activists, however, say that the 1.5-times MSP formula — originally recommended by the National Commission for Farmers headed by agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan and promised in the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto — should have been applied on the C2 costs. Had that been done, the MSP for common paddy alone (on a C2 cost of Rs 1,560) would have been Rs 2,340 per quintal, and not Rs 1,750 as announced.

The price is right

  • Since the beginning of the economic reforms in the early 1990s, the focus of agricultural policy has shifted towards prices. Farmers are losing faith in the market and seeking direct intervention by the government, mainly at the Centre.
  • India started the system of MSPs in the mid-1960s for wheat and gradually brought all major cereals, oilseeds, pulses, cotton, jute and sugarcane into its ambit. In reality, the MSP remained effective only for rice, wheat and cotton, where public agencies procure the produce when mandi prices fall below the MSP.
  • To address the issue effectively and comprehensively, the Union government made two significant announcements in the 2018-19 budget. It decided to keep MSPs at least 50 per cent above the sum of cost of production (A2) and imputed wages for the time spent by the farmer and his/her family (FL) in crop production. A2 is a comprehensive cost and includes paid or imputed costs of all purchased or own inputs like seed, fertiliser, manure, bullock labour and machine labour, interest on working capital, irrigation expenses, depreciation, rent paid for the leased-in land, costs of repair and miscellaneous expenses.
  • Some economists have persistently criticised the government for not adopting the principle of keeping MSP at 50 at per cent above cost C2.
  • Cost C2 is arrived at by adding the rental value of owned land and interest on fixed capital to cost A2 plus FL. On average, around 40 per cent of Cost C2 (imputed rent for own land and imputed value of family labour used in crop production) is not a cost but income to the farmer. Thus, if MSP is just equal to cost C2, it includes 40 per cent as net return for the farmers.
  • However, as own land has an opportunity cost (represented by rent), this must be covered by the MSP. It is important to mention that the MSPs approved by the Union Cabinet, based on the new criterion of 1.5 times A2+FL, have a margin over cost C2 varying from 10 per cent to 53 per cent. This clearly shows that the new criteria ensures more than 50 per cent net return to farmers over cost C2, when rent on own land and wages for family labour are treated as a return to the farmer, which indeed they are. The new MSPs announced by the government for kharif crops meet the spirit the Swaminathan Committee recommendation of 50 per cent net return over Cost C2.
  • Keeping MSP at 50 per cent above cost C2 involves an increase in the current MSP by 27-89 per cent for kharif and up to 45 per cent for rabi crops. Such a price entails a 50-100 per cent increase in the existing farm-level prices of some crops at one go. Demand-side factors at present do not support such a sharp increase in prices.
  • MSP fixed to 50 per cent above C2 will leave little incentive for efficiency and diversification in the crop sector.
  • A deeper analysis of crop costs reveals that keeping MSP 50 per cent above Cost A2 plus FL is adequate to ensure remunerative prices for farm produce with a reasonable margin. There is no logic and justification for raising MSP 50 per cent above cost C2 if this is not supported by demand and supply. Such a move involves keeping prices artificially high and cannot be sustained fiscally.
  • While it is desirable to intervene in the markets when they fail to deliver remunerative prices to producers, excessive intervention in prices can have serious implications for the functioning of market, fiscal resources and imports and exports. The best prices for farm produce can be realised from a competitive market. This requires regulatory reforms, institutional changes, and the development of appropriate infrastructure to promote evolution of agricultural market system.
  • There is a particular need to put pressure on the states to undertake the required reforms to make agricultural markets more efficient, competitive and responsive to the needs of producers and consumers.

India must act against public violence

  • A few days ago, the Government of Tripura denied all its citizens access to the net following one of the episodes of lynching that have unfortunately become commonplace in India.
  • Clearly, there is something seriously wrong with the environment that we have created and it needs urgent fixing. The response of the government has been to go after WhatsApp, the messaging service.
  • How America responded ?  They have also had lynchings in their past. But they have responded to this by strengthening the state. More policing, better law enforcement and more investment in the justice system.
  • We are asking WhatsApp to solve the problem for us. Is the issue really that of the medium? Technology will continue to evolve and there will always be another, faster and more efficient manner of communication within groups and communities. Banning news on radio, internet blackouts and stern letters to WhatsApp have solved nothing. We should stop looking at the medium because even newspapers can be a problem in India.
  • In 2002, the Editors Guild of India commissioned a report on the conduct of the media during the Gujarat riots. What we found on our visit to Ahmedabad, Godhra and Baroda was outrageous. Many Gujarati newspapers, even some of the most popular ones, had become poisonous pamphlets that pushed communal poison. The same factors causing the lynchings now — the demonisation of communities, whether Muslims or tribals or “outsiders” and the spreading of rumour — were present then.
  • Was the answer to ban newspapers or to have the government oversee them? Of course not. The only solutions to countering riots, lynchings and other acts of public violence are to prosecute and punish the perpetrators. And for the leadership to continually push for social harmony, encouraging respect for individuals and weaning us away from group identity.
  • The state has failed us historically on the former and some political parties continue to fail us on the latter.
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Newspaper notes for UPSC 05-07-18

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L-G bound by ‘aid and advice’ of Delhi govt., says Constitution Bench

GS P2  10/10

  • Context: The judgment came on appeals filed by the NCT government against an August 4, 2016, verdict of the Delhi High Court, which had declared that the L-G has complete control of all matters regarding the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and nothing will happen without the concurrence of the L-G.
  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held on Wednesday that Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal is bound by the “aid and advice” of the Arvind Kejriwal government.
  • In case of difference of opinion, the L-G should straightaway refer the dispute to the President for a final decision without sitting over it or stultifying the governance in the National Capital, the Bench said. It concluded that the governance of Delhi cannot rest upon the whims of one functionary — the Lieutenant-Governor.
  • The Lieutenant-Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power. He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him.
  • The bench cautioned the L-G against sending every “trivial” dispute with the government to the President.
  • CJI said: Governments are in their respective pursuits of development. The Union government and the State governments should endeavour to address the common problems with the intention of arriving at a solution by showing statesmanship, combined action and sincere cooperation. In collaborative federalism, the Union and the State governments should express their readiness to achieve the common objective and work together for it.

How to rule Delhi

  • In ruling that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi has no independent decision-making power, and has to act mainly on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, the Supreme Court has restored the primary role played by the “representative government” in the National Capital Territory.
  • Though seen as a Union Territory, Delhi was created as a separate category, with an elected Assembly with powers to enact laws in all matters falling under the State and Concurrent lists, with the exception of public order, police and land.
  • Until now, the situation was tilted in favour of the Centre because of the Lt. Governor’s claim that he had the authority to refer any matter to the President. The proviso that allowed him to make such a reference was used to block major decisions of the AAP regime. The Delhi High Court agreed with this two years ago, giving the impression that administrative decisions needed the Lt. Governor’s concurrence.
  • In a judgment that essentially reaffirms the constitutional position, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Lt. Governor has to ordinarily act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • The power to refer “any matter” in Article 239AA(4) to the President no longer means “every matter”. Further, there is no requirement of the Lt. Governor’s concurrence for any proposal.
  • However, the court has significantly limited its potential for mischief. It has not given an exhaustive list of matters that can be referred,encompass substantial issues of finance and policy which impact upon the status of the national capital or implicate vital interests of the Union.
  • Overall, the verdict is an appeal to a sense of constitutional morality and constitutional trust among high functionaries. It has ruled out Mr. Kejriwal’s demand of full statehood, and the critical powers — over police, land and public order — still remain vested with the Centre. However, the court having stressed that the elected government is the main authority in Delhi’s administration, the controversies over the arbitrary withholding of Cabinet decisions may end, or at least diminish.
  • The basic message is that an elected government cannot be undermined by an unelected administrator. The larger one is that the Union and its units should embrace a collaborative federal architecture for co-existence and inter-dependence.

Delhi as State :

  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday followed the 1987 Balakrishnan report to conclude that Delhi is not a State.
  • The report had envisaged that Delhi could not have a situation in which the national capital had “two governments run by different political parties. Such conflicts may, at times, prejudice the national interest.”
  • CJI said : Delhi as the national capital belongs to the nation as a whole.”
  • The report foresaw that if Delhi becomes a full-fledged State,
  • there would be a constitutional division of sovereign, legislative and executive powers between the Union and the State of Delhi. Parliament would have limited legislative access and that too only in special and emergency situations.
  • The Union would be unable to discharge its “special responsibilities in relation to the national capital as well as to the nation itself”.
  • The Lt Governor does not have the power to change every decision or differ with every decision of ministers. Certainly, just like Governors, he is to be apprised of every decision by the ministers, but his concurrence is not necessary. The CJI explicitly held that the Lt Governor’s difference of opinion with ministers should never be based on a perception of a “right to differ”, but should be based on “constitutional trust”. At the same time, ministers must keep in mind that Delhi is not a state and the Lt Governor is not a titular head; rather, he enjoys the powers of an administrator.

Marking the boundaries

The Supreme Court’s Wednesday verdict has made three very important deviations from the Delhi High Court judgment of August 2016.

  • It has dispelled the idea that the elected government has to wait to implement its decisions until the lieutenant governor (LG) acquiesces. More specifically, the advice given by the council of ministers is binding on the LG.
  • But only as long as the LG does not exercise his constitutional power to differ and refer the matter to the President for a decision.
  • Although it has been emphasised that this power is not to be exercised mechanically, anything that has sensitivity or can cast a financial burden which is beyond the government’s capacity or cause political problems with the Centre or other states will fall in this area.

Ground level Implications :

  • as long as every decision has been taken within the ambit of the Transaction of Business Rules 1993 ,which mandates informing the LG of decisions taken by the council of ministers or even by an individual minister, implementation of decisions can start without awaiting approvals.
  • But the Rules also have two important sub-chapters which refer to examination and concurrence by the finance and the law department This means a host of proposals can be called to question. Just a note of dissent given by the departmental secretary will give a handle to the LG to differ and withhold further action.
  • On the face of it, it may seem as though the Delhi government will now have the authority to make laws on all subjects, excluding those which fall directly under the LG’s authority,The apex court has reiterated that any law which is repugnant to a law made by Parliament cannot be passed by the legislative assembly. And indeed these bills or concepts would even now run into repugnancy issues and will be negated as Parliament’s laws do not envisage such deviations being made to the existing central acts.
  • If the spirit of the judgments is to be read, all postings and transfers of officers should return to as it was in the Sheila Dikshit era, with only the postings of principal secretaries needing the acquiescence of the LG because that makes for better management with the Centre which controls the cadre. However the selection and posting of the chief secretary, the home secretary and secretary lands needs the specific approval of the LG as per the Transaction of Business Rules, which have now been accorded a new sanctity.

Towards a people’s police

GS P2 : Police reforms 7/10.

  • The battle for police reforms has been going on for the last 22 years. The Supreme Court took 10 years to give a historic judgment in 2006. Since then it has been a struggle to get the Court’s directions implemented. It is a sad commentary on the working of our institutions that the state governments, when it is politically inconvenient, show scant regard to the directions given by the highest court of the land.
  • This detailed clarification became necessary because several states were misusing the apex court’s directions on the point to suit their political calculations. In one state, the DGP was regularised in his assignment hardly an hour before he was due to retire. In another state, the DGP was in acting capacity for more than a year and thereafter regularised, giving him tenure of more than three years. The Supreme Court took cognisance of these aberrations and laid down the ground rules for the states to follow.
  • The fact remains that this has been the only positive intervention during the last 12 years. During this period, Justice Thomas Committee (2010) expressed its “dismay over the total indifference to the issue of reforms in the functioning of police being exhibited by the states”. Two years later, Justice Verma Committee, which was constituted to examine amendments in Criminal Law in the context of a gang rape incident, had expressed its belief that “if the Supreme Court’s directions in Prakash Singh are implemented, there will be a crucial modernisation of the police to be service oriented for the citizenry in a manner which is efficient, scientific and consistent with human dignity”. Regrettably, there was no follow-up action on either of the above two reports.
  • The government of India (GoI), meanwhile, came up with the concept of SMART police in 2014 — police that would be strict and sensitive, modern and mobile, alert and accountable, reliable and responsible, tech-savvy and There was, however, no effort by the MHA to make the concept a reality. The states were, of course, unconcerned.
  • Taking a long-term of view of states’ indifference to systemic improvements in police, it is high time that GoI consider bringing police in the “concurrent list” of the Constitution.
  • There is tardiness in the separation of investigation from law and order The complaints authorities are generally dysfunctional. Apart from these structural changes mandated by the Supreme Court, which have yet to be carried out in letter and spirit, there is need to fill up the huge vacancies in the police and upgrade its infrastructure in terms of housing, transport, communications and forensics.
  • Our rulers need to understand that development needs solid foundations of good law and order. According to a recent estimate, crime, terrorism and external threats take a huge toll on economic growth and that these cost India 9 per cent of its GDP, which is a very high figure (China lost only 4 per cent, Japan 3 per cent).
  • If India is to achieve its status as a great power, it is absolutely essential that police is restructured and modernised.
  • These vested interests need to be countered by the combined pressure of public opinion, with support from the media and NGOs. The country needs another zamindari abolition with police being freed from the stranglehold of the executive and given functional autonomy to enforce the rule of law. We have had enough of Rulers’ Police, what we need today is People’s Police. The transformation is overdue.

Is India winning the battle against extreme poverty

Gs P3 : Poverty definition, GS P2 Social Justice.

  • India is perhaps no longer home to the highest number of people living in extreme poverty. Researchers at Brookings Institution say Nigeria had 87 million people living in extreme poverty in May 2018, compared to 73 million in India. They predict that the Indian number is expected to drop to around 20 million over the next four years.
  • The World Bank defines a person as extremely poor if she is living on less than 90 international dollars a day, which are adjusted for inflation as well as price differences between countries.
  • The recently concluded consumer expenditure survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation—which is used to generate estimates of absolute poverty—will show that there are 50 million Indians now living below the poverty line defined by the Suresh Tendulkar committee, or one in 25.
  • Scholars who have studied the Chinese success have no doubt that rapid economic growth has been the main reason why extreme poverty could be rolled back.
  • However, there were also other factors at play—the shift of people to jobs in formal enterprises, investments in human capital, relatively equal land ownership in rural areas, and targeted interventions to help the extremely poor. These allowed China to pull most of its citizens out of extreme poverty despite rising inequality.
  • The reduction in extreme poverty—and the debates should only be about its extent—has several implications.
  • India will once again have to redefine what it means by poverty. Poverty lines have to be recalibrated depending on changes in income, consumption patterns and prices. The usual poverty line used in narratives is 1.90 international dollars a day, but the World Bank has two others—$3.20 per day for middle-income countries and $5.50 per day for rich countries. India is now a middle-income country, with an estimated per capita income of around $9,000 in purchasing power parity. The poverty line of $3.20 translates into ₹75 a day, or 68% higher than the Tendulkar poverty line.
  • the Indian political, policy and administrative systems have to adjust to the new realities of the transition to a middle- income country, in which poverty does not mean living at the edge of hunger but, rather, lack of income to take advantage of the opportunities thrown up by a growing economy. The focus of government spending should be on the provision of public goods rather than subsidies.

Fuel: getting the mix right

GS P3 biofuel 5/10

  • The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas continues to chase its ambitious targets based on ambiguous plans and questionable technologies.
  • In the past, the government has dithered several times on the National Policy on Biofuels (NPB).
  • In 2003, the Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP) focussed on 5% blending of molasses-based ethanol with petrol. By 2008, it pushed for the blending target to be 10%.
  • Thereafter, the National Biodiesel Mission proposed a two-phase strategy for biodiesel production from Jatropha seeds to achieve a 10% blending mandate with diesel by 2012. These targets were not met.
  • Yet, in 2009, the NPB proposed a revised target of 20% blending for ethanol and biodiesel by 2017. This is yet to be realised.
  • Fuel blending with ethanol varies from 85% (E85) in Australia to vehicles run on 100% (E100) ethanol in Brazil, where the ethanol blending mandate is 27% (E27). In contrast, India has an abysmal 2-4% blending rate and is woefully short of the original target of 5% due to the inconsistent supply of domestically produced ethanol. Many States like Odisha have not even started their innings on fuel blending.
  • The government’s priorities in implementing the NPB were to find a solution to air pollution, maintain affordable transportation fuel prices, promote clean and sustainable fuels, move towards energy self-sufficiency, and reduce dependence on crude oil imports.
  • Against this backdrop of poor performance, the National Policy on Biofuels 2018 repeats the pattern of promising the moon and delivering little. At a time when the World Health Organisation has already declared 14 Indian cities as among the most polluted in the world, it is surprising that the government is looking at sourcing untested technologies like the production of 2G ethanol.
  • The policy is totally silent on octane, which has direct consequences on air quality and pollution as it assists in proper combustion of fuels, thereby affecting vehicular emissions. In the present-day scenario, petrol is blended with cancer-causing imported aromatics to boost octane rating. This has negative consequences on health.
  • Excessive expenditure from the exchequer is sought to be made by the NPB for a technology (production of 2G) which is untested and has not taken off commercially internationally. Why can we not exercise the option of 1G, which is a tried and tested mechanism and is available?
  • Merely increasing the price of ethanol by Rs. 3 and reducing fuel prices by a few paise will not help the current scenario. The government needs to roll back the increase of Central government taxes on fuel, which have doubled after 2014.
  • Facilitating import of ethanol will make up for the inconsistency in the availability of domestic ethanol, thereby ensuring the accomplishment of the present blending mandate of 10% (E10).
  • Appropriate blending of consistently available ethanol throughout the country will prevent octane savings to the tune of approximately Rs. 3,000 crore. Further, a consistent supply of ethanol will serve as a substitute for expensive and harmful imported aromatics like BTX.

National Policy on Biofuels – 2018.

Salient Features:

  1. The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  2. The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  3. Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  4. With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.
  5. The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
  6. Roles and responsibilities of all the concerned Ministries/Departments with respect to biofuels has been captured in the Policy document to synergise efforts.

Freedom from being ‘India-locked’

GS  p2 Ind- Nepal 6/10

  • Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli returned from China last month, this is his second trip.
  • This visit had much significance as Mr. Oli had made his first visit as Prime Minister to China in March 2016, as Nepal was just recovering from the Indian blockade that had paralysed lives.
  • The blockade of 2015 was different. Nepalis, who had been hit by a major earthquake in April 2015, were still recovering. And India’s blockade, coming against the backdrop of Indian reservations about the constitution Nepal was adopting, changed the course of bilateral relations.
  • Nepal has historically remained ‘India-locked’, rather than being termed landlocked, as it is dependent on India for transit to the seas. Being landlocked is not much of an issue as one can get sea-locked, like the Maldives, but to be completely dependent on a single country for transit rights now became an issue to resolve.
  • During his visit to China in 2016, Mr. Oli, for the first time, managed to push the agenda of a trade and transit agreement with China on the lines with special agreements with India. This trip was to consolidate the moves made two years ago.
  • With the U.S. receding into its own cocoon, globalisation on the world stage was captured well by China in 2017. It became the enabler of connectivity, world trade and dependency as it pushed its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • With Southeast Asia well covered and inroads made in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, for China, Nepal is the obvious next country for engagement. With India opting out of the BRI, Nepal continues to remain the best conduit for Indian markets for China.
  • Therefore, Nepal will be connected with China through a railway network in addition to roads. While optical fibre cables already connect Nepal and China, transmission lines will connect the two countries, providing Nepal a much needed alternative to sell excess power. Rail and road networks will also provide Nepal an alternative for petroleum products that continue to remain the highest imported product.
  • For Nepal, nurturing the relationship with China is a similar case. It is more out of compulsion than choice.
  • Therefore, now the onus is on India to rethink on a long-term basis how to recalibrate its relationship with Nepal.
  • India needs to also realise the new reality that its monopoly over geopolitics in Nepal is over, and there is another relationship that Nepal is nurturing.
  • It is time for India to be proactive and redefine its engagement rather than continue to be reactive. The way India has been flexible with the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) meetings is a good signal. India needs to continue to understand that there is another opportunity to rewrite bilateral and geopolitical history. It should not be squandered.

Opening up to the world

GS P2 Education. 5/10

  • Since Independence, the challenges of building a mass higher education system with inadequate government funding has meant poor quality, increasing privatisation and politicisation.
  • Excellence is possible, as the IITs and IIMs show, although it is limited to a tiny segment.
  • The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), implemented in 2016, is India’s first government-supported ranking of colleges and universities. It may in the future guide government financial support for higher education.
  • It also provides the basis for differentiating among colleges and universities, and forces participating institutions to submit data on critical areas, permitting government to make key decisions.
  • Two additional initiatives build on the idea of creating elite, globally competitive world-class universities in India: the Institutions of Eminence (IoE) project and the Graded Autonomy project.
  • The IoE project will recognise 20 universities, 10 public and 10 private, and provide significant government funds to the public institutions (no extra money to the privates) and give enhanced autonomy for them.
  • The Graded Autonomy programme provides considerable freedom for academic, financial and administrative innovation to the colleges and universities participating. Given the often stifling bureaucracy of higher education, it will be a significant stimulus for innovation. Both public and private institutions are involved.
  • Traditionally, colleges and universities have been restricted from deep international collaboration, and there has been little emphasis on attracting international students — only 47,575 international students study in India compared to the almost 400,000 in China. The Graded Autonomy programme makes it easier to hire international faculty, traditionally very difficult to do.
  • India is moving towards signing a pact on mutual recognition of academic qualifications with 30 countries. Recently a government-to-government MoU was signed between India and France to mutually recognise academic qualifications, a historic development.
  • Challenges:Upgrading 20 or more Indian universities to world-class quality will be complex. It will also take time and consistent funding, probably at a scale beyond what is envisaged in current plans. Further, greatly increased autonomy will be needed — and freedom from the bureaucratic shackles of government is not easy to attain.
  • Releasing the imagination of Indian professors is necessary. Ensuring that universities have imaginative leadership is also a key necessity. Carefully studying what has worked abroad may also provide useful ideas. India has shown academic innovations over the years, but on a limited scale and never in the comprehensive universities.
  • The national ranking initiative needs to be extended throughout the higher education system and requires simplification.
  • Internationalisation is central to academic success in the 21st century — and India has been notably weak. The inability in recent years to pass legislation relating to foreign branch campuses and other relationships with overseas universities is an indication of the problem.

Flood of despair

P3 Urbanisation, Disaster M. 7/10

  • Mumbai turns into a soggy mess with the arrival of a monsoon. This year the season has begun with the spectacular collapse of a pedestrian bridge on a crucial railway line in Andheri, causing injuries and overall urban paralysis.
  • Not even a year has passed since the ghastly stampede on a foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road station, that took over 20 lives.
  • The recurrent disasters involving infrastructure are proof of the indifference among policymakers to the city’s needs, even as they speak of a ‘global standard’ of living.
  • The city continues to attract a large number of people looking for opportunity — the population rose from 11.9 million in 2001 to 18.4 million a decade later. But urban managers, led by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, have not invested enough in new infrastructure and have done a shoddy job of maintaining the old.
  • A return to nature is needed to relieve Mumbai of its flooding woes. According to one estimate, the city’s Mithi river, blocked by debris and garbage, has lost about 60% of its catchment to development. The setting up of a Supreme Court monitoring committee has not helped much. It will take resolute measures to stop the release of sewage and industrial chemicals into the Mithi, and retrieve lost mangroves. A cleaner river connected to functional drainage can aid in the speedy removal of flood waters, and improve the environment.
  • other basic challenges: In a 2015 study, the World Bank found that half of the poor did not consider moving out of flood-prone areas, because of the uncertainty of living in a new place with severe social disruptions and reduced access to education and health facilities.
  • It is welcome that a joint safety audit with the IIT will be conducted on public infrastructure, in the wake of the bridge collapse. But such inspections must be regularly carried out and quick remedial steps taken.

Insecurity in cyberspace

P3 S&T 5/10

  • Data mining and surveillance may have become synonymous with social good and public safety in the digital age, but anxiety about data theft and tampering has become a reality for social media, Internet and digital service users.
  • The new Breach Level Index, released by digital security firm Gemalto, reported a 783% increase in cases of data theft in India in 2017. Most compromised or stolen records belonged to the government, which was followed by the retail and technology sectors.
  • Globally, sectors which were hit the most by data theft in 2017 were healthcare (27%), financial services (12%), education (11%) and government (11%). In terms of the number of records lost, stolen or compromised, the most targeted sectors were government (18%), financial services (9.1%) and technology (16%).
  • Facebook estimated that the personal data of 5,62,455 users in India was “improperly shared” with British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica after users accessed an app, “thisisyourdigitallife”, between November 2013 and December 2015.
  • Illegal data mining apart, the Reserve Bank of India reported a 35% increase in ATM credit, debit card and net banking related fraud cases between 2012-13 and 2015-16,the cumulative effect of reported security breaches is that a sense of mistrust is taking shape among Internet users.
  • Reports suggest that a significant number of users have shown unwillingness to use technology and are uncertain about sharing basic data — name, location, date of birth — on third party applications.
  • With India’s Internet users expected to hit the 500 million mark this year, dispelling data anxieties remains a key challenge.

Stopping the rupee’s free fall, article it self is a summary.

Lateral entry can crush the steel frame of India

P2 6/10 very critical of Lateral entry .

  • A “bold experiment” is being carried out in the form of lateral entry at joint secretary-level in the government of India.
  • The underlying motivation behind this move, as it is being claimed, is essentially two-fold. First, the idea is to infuse outside talent and, second, to harness and make use of the knowledge of domain experts from outside the system.
  • The Constitution clearly articulates that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) alone has the mandate to conduct examinations for recruitment to civil service jobs in the Union government. Therefore,the government’s decision to recruit joint secretaries from outside the system, undermining the authority of the UPSC in the process, is an attempt to tear down the very fabric and fundamental premise of parliamentary democracy, which is undeniably linked to placing confidence on a strictly merit-based, apolitical civil service.
  • An IAS officer becomes eligible to hold the post of a joint secretary after completing roughly 20 years of service. Now, it is important to understand the role and functions of a joint secretary serving in the Union government.
  • To begin with, she is meant to be a generalist and not a specialist.
  • A joint secretary-level officer is expected to funnel-to-pulp well-researched information, data or statistics, as the case may be, in a lucid, succinct manner before the political executive.
  • She is to aid the political executive in weighing competing trade-offs, bearing in mind that the ultimate objective of public policy is to maximize social welfare.
  • It is only a generalist with rich experience in public administration who can visualize, see through, and articulate macro perspectives. Besides, she has sufficient experience of working at the village, district and state level. She understands how policies are implemented and the shortcomings of various policies. Therefore, when she rises to the rank of a joint secretary, she has vast practical experience in her kitty, which enables her to craft and design dynamic policies.
  • Specialists and domain experts are bereft of such qualities and, therefore, are not best suited to fill-up these positions. Lateral inductees, divorced from reality, will have little or no idea of how policies are implemented at the grass-roots level, let alone the policymaking process. Their myopic vision and risk-averse attitude, coupled with ignorance of office procedures, is a deadly cocktail that can choke an already suffocated system. They can, at best, be roped in as consultants in an advisory role to offer expert advice.
  • Wrong precedents in the government can be fatal, especially those wherein the political executive tinkers with well-established recruitment systems. No doubt lateral entries have been made in the past by previous ruling establishments.
  • The naysayers allege that a secure government job makes career bureaucrats inefficient and rusty. That’s far from true. The general public is probably unaware, but competition inside the services is real. The entire empanelment process is rigorous and holistic. Non-performers fall out of the race.
  • No doubt, over the years, the “steel frame” has rusted and time has come to refurbish it. But, lateral entry is definitely not the right way to go about it. The intention behind this move seems to be malicious and ill-considered. Lateral entry, at best, should only be an exception and not the norm. If shortage of civil servants is being felt, the number of recruitments made through the annual civil services examination can be gradually increased. Overhauling the current system of recruitment by altering the pattern of examination and the training format could be considered.

MSP for paddy hiked by Rs. 200

P3 MSP 7/10

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a hike in minimum support prices (MSPs) for kharif crops so that they are 50% higher than the cost of production, not including land costs.
  • This includes a Rs. 200 per quintal increase in the MSP for paddy, which is likely to inflate the food subsidy bill by over Rs. 15,000 crore.
  • The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs headed by Prime Minister.
  • The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) has recommended MSPs for all kharif crops ( 14 commodities) with major hikes being seen in cereals such as bajra, jowar and ragi, as well as cotton.
  • However, in percentage terms, this year’s MSP of Rs. 1,750 per quintal is only a 12.9% increase from last year’s MSP of Rs. 1,550 per quintal.
  • Prelims: The 14 commodities are : Paddy,Jowar,Bajra,Ragi, Maize,Arhar(Tur),Moong,Urad,Groundnut,Sunflower Seed,Soyabean,Sesamum,Nigerseed,Cotton.

Criticism :

  • The Centre’s focus on increasing pulses output and reducing dependency on imports is laudable. It is just as well that it has sought to push millets cultivation as well, a move that will benefit both dryland farmers as well as the nutrient intake of all consumers. However, minimum support price (MSP) increases may not help in fulfilling these ends, in the absence of a robust procurement infrastructure.
  • For example, the generous MSP increase in the case of tur in 2017, prompted farmers to increase acreage and output, which in turn brought down prices to levels that barely covered their cost — estimated by the Commission of Agriculture Costs and Prices at ₹3,318 per quintal for 2017-18.
  • The limits to procurement are best affirmed by a sobering fact: according to the Shanta Kumar Committee report submitted in January 2015, only 6 per cent of all farmers sell their produce to a procurement agency.
  • Citing 2012-13 NSSO data, it says that while a third of both paddy and wheat produced is procured, only 13.5 per cent of paddy farmers sell their produce to a procurement body.
  • There can be no denying the role of procurement in meeting the food security needs of the poor through PDS, Anna Antyodaya Yojana, mid-day meals programmes and public kitchens.
  • But there is no need to hold stocks hugely in excess of these requirements. Markets must operate freely, with no curbs on exports so that farmers are rewarded for output and quality of produce.
  • Without using support prices to serve populist ends, they must be supplemented by a drive to improve the PDS network, so that rural households benefit from cheap retail grain as well. But the bulk of India’s subsistence farmers need support systems other than MSP to alleviate distress. The Centre must shift to income support measures, and to this end set up a farmers’ income commission.
  • For the hike in MSPs to translate into an increase in farmers’ income these rates have to be ensured to the growers of all the crops and, more importantly, in all areas. The bulk of the farm produce, especially in areas where the procurement agencies do not operate, is usually sold in the post-harvesting peak marketing season at prices far below the MSP. Even distress sales are not uncommon.

Horrified by fake news: WhatsApp

P2 Policy, law and order , social media. 6/10

  • Responding to the government’s letter asking it to prevent the misuse of its platform, WhatsApp has said it is taking a number of steps to tackle the issue of fake messages, including testing a new label that lets a user know if a message is a forward.
  • The company, also announced “unrestricted monetary awards” for research on spread of misinformation on its platform to address the problem.
  • It also added new protections to prevent people from adding others back into groups they had left , a new setting that enables administrators to decide who gets to send messages within individual groups.
  • “This year, for the first time, we also started working with fact-checking organizations to identify rumours and false news — and respond to them using WhatsApp,” the company said.

India braces for more U.S. pressure

P2 IR  6/10 India- US – Iran

  • The government is bracing for more “pressure” from the U.S. on Iran sanctions in the upcoming weeks, but hopes that there may be an exception made for its dealings on the Chabahar port.
  • The government had yet to take any decision on cutting oil import from Iran, as the U.S. had demanded.
  • Iran remains an “important near neighbour” for India, and a major oil supplier, and the government hoped to have discussions with the U.S. to understand the options it has on dealing with Iran given the sanctions proposed to kick in by November 4. India is second only to China when it comes to the import of oil from Iran, and in February, India had committed to increase that intake by 25% this year.
  • However the U.S.’s decision to walk out of the multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran and re-imposition of sanctions by November has cast a shadow on future engagement.
  • The discussions on Iran sanctions, as well as on impending sanctions under the new American CAATSA law that imposes strictures on trade with Russian and Iranian entities, were expected to have been taken up during the “2+2” meeting but the talks were cancelled by the U.S.
  • Question is what do we see as our national interest and how do we make our case to the U.S.

Nipah transmission route unclear

  • Another piece of the puzzle in Kerala’s Nipah virus outbreak has fallen into place, with Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) confirming that the virus was found in fruit bats captured in Kozhikode.
  • These portions of the viral genome were detected through a test called Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, and were 99.68% similar to the virus in patients. This indicates strongly that the bats were the carriers in the Kerala outbreak.
  • But researchers still don’t know how the bats transmitted the infection to humans. This information is needed to prevent future outbreaks. In Bangladesh, which has seen multiple Nipah epidemics, patients tend to acquire the infection from drinking raw date-palm sap. But date-palm sap is not consumed in Kerala.
  • The new finding also highlights the urgent need to step up surveillance of animal reservoirs of disease in India, such as bats and pigs.
  • The researchers cautioned against bat culling in light of the NIV’s findings. In NIV’s investigations, the number of virus particles in the bats, or viral load, was very low. This means the possibility of a spillover to humans is extremely small.

Union Cabinet clears DNA profiling Bill

  • The Union Cabinet has cleared a Bill that allows law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples, create “DNA profiles” and special databanks for forensic-criminal investigations.
  • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018, is the latest version of a Bill that originated as a DNA “profiling” Bill, framed by the Department of Biotechnology.
  • The aim of that draft legislation was to set in place an institutional mechanism to collect and deploy DNA technologies to identify persons based on samples collected from crime scenes or for identifying missing persons.
  • Some activists argued that the manner in which DNA information was to be collected and the way they were to be stored by forensic laboratories constituted a violation of privacy.
  • The Bill creates a DNA Profiling Board that would be the final authority that would authorise the creation of State-level DNA databanks, approve the methods of collection and analysis of DNA-technologies.

Services PMI returns to growth in June

  • The services sector returned to growth during June and registered the fastest rate of expansion in a year, supported by a robust increase in new business orders.
  • The seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index rose from 49.6 in May to 52.6, registering the fastest growth since June 2017.
  • In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.
  • Reflecting improved demand conditions, jobs growth in the services sector picked up from May’s five-month low.
  • While on the price front, input cost inflation remained solid overall, services providers were, however, unable to fully pass on the higher input costs to price-sensitive consumers.
  • The seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index, that maps both the manufacturing and the services industry, rose from 50.4 in May to 53.3 in June.

Copyright treaties get Cabinet nod

  • The Union Cabinet  approved accession to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty which extends coverage of copyright to the Internet and digital environment.
  • The Centre said the approval of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion proposal will “enable creative right-holders [to] enjoy the fruits of their labour, through international copyright system that can be used to secure a return on the investment made in producing and distributing creative works.”
  • It further added these treaties would enable Indian right holders to get reciprocal protection abroad.

Animals have equal rights as humans, says Uttarakhand high court

  • Uttarakhand high court  while hearing a petition filed for the protection and welfare of animals declared “all members of the animal kingdom including birds and aquatic life have similar rights as humans” and ordained animals throughout the state should be treated as “legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”
  • The division bench  further named “citizens throughout Uttarakhand persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare/protection of the animals.”
  • The court directed the state government to constitute societies for prevention of cruelty to animals in each district and to appoint infirmaries for the treatment and care of animals.
  • The order banned use of “spike stick or bit, harness or yoke with spikes, knobs or projections or any other sharp tackle or equipment” throughout the state to “avoid bruises, swelling, abrasions or severe pain to animals.”
  • The court directed the state government to “enforce the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009 to prevent the animals from infectious and contagious diseases.
  • The judges cited in their order several articles as well as books like the Isha Upanishad, which they said dwell on the principle of equality of all species. They also cited a Supreme Court judgment, which had held that an animal, too, has honour and dignity which it cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks.
  • The term in loco parentis, Latin for “in the place of a parent” refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.

Step away from extinction, four endangered species on rescue list

  • Four species that are one step away from becoming extinct in the wild have been included in the Centre’s Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species.
  • They are Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska), Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale and Red Panda.
  • Under the International Union for Conservation of Species (IUCN), Critically Endangered Species are those facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild, and the centre’s recovery programme charts out species-specific plan to salvage the animals’ numbers.
  • The programme, which already covers 17 species across the country, includes legal sanction against hunting, financial assistance to states to protect the species, creation of sanctuaries, and even the CBI’s assistance in prosecuting the poachers.
  • The four species were recommended to be included by the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), and was approved recently by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL).
  • Norther River Terrapin, which is a species of riverine turtle found in the rivers that flow in Eastern India, is hunted for its meat and carapace. It is a native of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • Clouded Leopard, found in the Himalayan foothills, is threatened due to habitat loss, poaching for its skin and is also as a live pet trade. “The IUCN has categorized the species as ‘Vulnerable’ and indicates a ‘declining trend in its population.
  • Arabian Sea Humpback Whale is a species found in all of major oceans but ship strikes, unforgiving fishing gear and siesmic exploarations pose grave threat to it. International studies on the whales have indicated that the species migrates from the Oman coast through the Arabian sea, along the Indian coasts till the Sri Lankan coast.
  • Red Panda which is closely associated with montane forests with dense bamboo-thicket, is found Sikkim, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. It is poached for its meat, and for use in medicines, and as a pet. “The IUCN has categorized Red Panda as ‘Endangered’ and as per their Red List assessment of 2015.
  • At present, the following species fall under the recovery programme: Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 05-07-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 04-07-18

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Consult UPSC for selecting police chiefs

  • The Supreme Court restrained the State governments from appointing Directors-General of Police without first consulting the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
  • The State government concerned has to send to the service commission the names of the probables three months before the incumbent DGP is to retire.
  • The UPSC will prepare a list of three officers fit to be DGP and send it back. It shall, as far as practicable, choose the people who have got a clear two years of service and must give due weightage to merit and seniority.
  • The State, in turn, shall ‘immediately’ appoint one of the persons shortlisted by the commission.

In Prakash Singh Vs Union of India (2006), SC delivered a judgement instructing the central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives that laid down practical mechanism to kick-start police reforms.

  1. Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:
    1. (i)Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police
    2. (ii) Lay down broad policy guideline and
    3. (iii) Evaluate the performance of the state police
  2. Ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
  3. Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.
  4. Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police
  5. Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police
  6. Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
  7. Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.

Political masters wanted their own DGPs

  • The Centre wanted to dilute the 2006 Supreme Court judgment on police reforms as it pleaded that Directors-General of Police should have a two-year tenure subject to superannuation, said Prakash Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh who had moved the court on the subject.
  • Singh, who had first moved the petition in the court on police reforms, said distortions had crept in the appointment of DGPs as “political masters” wanted these posts to be filled with their choice.
  • These distortions were brought to the notice of the court. The Home Ministry, through the Attorney-General, complained that the majority of States didn’t comply with the 2006 order and suggested a remedy that DGPs should have two-year tenures subject to superannuation. This was an excuse to modify the original order of two-year fixed tenure,” Mr. Singh said.

States obliged to prevent lynchings: CJI

  • State governments are obliged to prevent mob lynchings, Chief Justice of India observed.
  • The Supreme Court classified lynchings as sheer ‘mob violence.’ But it said compensation for victims should not be determined solely on the basis of their religion, caste, etc., but on the basis of the extent of injury caused as “anyone can be a victim” of such a crime.
  • Chief Justice said States cannot give even the “remotest chance” to let lynchings happen. “People cannot be allowed to take law into their hands,”.

Centre open to discuss RBI’s power over regulating PSBs

  • Finance minister said the government is open to discuss the issues that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had raised recently over the lack of powers in regulating state-run lenders.
  • Amidst criticism that the apex bank had failed in its regulatory oversight over government-owned banks following the Rs. 13,500-crore PNB scam, RBI governor had recently blamed it on the lack of powers to control them.
  • The minister also ruled out government paring its stake in public sector banks (PSBs), saying there is no proposal with the government to lower its ownership in state-run banks to under 51% in 20 of them.
  • A day after accepting the Sunil Mehta panel recommendation to set up an asset management company to resolve smaller loan defaults of up to Rs. 500 crore, FM said liquidation can’t be the panacea for all NPAs as there are genuine business failures which need to be resolved.

MCX plans currency derivatives

  • The Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX), the country’s largest commodity bourse in terms of market share, plans to enter the currency derivatives segment.
  • The unified licence regime kicks in on October 1 and will allow equity and commodity exchanges to expand their offerings by starting new segments. The BSE and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) have already announced plans for commodity trading under the new regulations framework.
  • Currency derivatives see average daily volumes in excess of Rs. 60,000 crore. The BSE is the largest player in the currency segment followed by the NSE with the Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India (MSEI) having small share.

Thanjavur painting

  • Thanjavur paintings are characterised by rich, flat and vivid colors, simple iconic composition, glittering gold foils overlaid on delicate but extensive gesso work and inlay of glass beads and pieces or very rarely precious and semi-precious gems. In Thanjavur paintings one can see the influence of Deccani, Vijayanagar, Maratha and even European or Company styles of painting. Essentially serving as devotional icons, the subjects of most paintings are Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints. Episodes from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranasand other religious texts were visualised.
  • however, there was no way to find out if the gold foil and gemstones used in these traditional crafts were authentic or fake, now it can be found out  using Raman spectroscopy.
  • Researchers now have found a solution that uses Raman spectroscopy to tell whether the foil used in the paintings is made of gold or some other cheaper material.
  • The researchers tested ten ‘gold foils’ and found only three to be genuine. In the case of paintings, only one or two out of ten turned out to be genuine gold foil.
  • Thanjavur paintings have Geographical Indication tags, which puts a premium on their authenticity, but there are no regulations governing the quality or authenticity.
  • The researchers validated their detection of fake gold by carrying out an energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX) of the paintings, which confirmed the Raman spectroscopy findings. “EDX can also be used to find out if the foil is made of gold. But unlike in the case of EDX, Raman spectroscopy does not require the removal of the frame and the glass.

Raman Spectroscopy:

 

It is the shift in wavelength of the inelastically scattered radiation that provides the chemical and structural information. Raman shifted photons can be of either higher or lower energy, depending upon the vibrational state of the molecule under study.Raman spectroscopy has some unique advantages such as:

  • Non-contact and non-destructive analysis
  • High spatial resolution up to sub-micron scale
  • In-depth analysis of transparent samples using a confocal optical system
  • No sample preparation needed.
  • Both organic and inorganic substances can be measured
  • Samples in various states such as gas, liquid, solution, solid, crystal, emulsion can be measured
  • Samples in a chamber can be measured through a glass window
  • Typically, only 10 msec to 1 sec exposure to get a Raman spectrum
  • Imaging analysis is possible by scanning the motorized stage or laser beam.

Nipah outbreak from fruit bats

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has confirmed that fruit bats were the primary source of the Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, where 17 people died due to the virus earlier this year.
  • In its report to the Union Health Ministry, said bats could not be ruled out as the samples were collected from insectivorous bats, which were not known to be Nipah carriers.
  • The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus. Intermediate hosts of this instance were found to be pigs.
  • In the second round, samples from 55 fruit bats were collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune.The samples from fruit bats tested positive for the virus.
  • Explained : Nipah Virus

Editorials and Opinions :

A good beginning

  • The first meeting of the Cauvery Water Management Authority took place in a cordial atmosphere augurs well for a sustained phase of constructive cooperation among the States concerned.
  • The CWMA has been formed by the Centre to implement the water-sharing award of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal as modified by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
  • For the Authority to successfully perform its role, it needs the cooperation of the States in gathering data on rainfall, inflows and outflows, cropping patterns and periodic withdrawals from reservoirs.
  • The CWMA is expected to meet once every 10 days during the monsoon months. The south-west monsoon has been active for nearly a month, and is forecast to be normal this year. Therefore, the CWMA may not face any major problem in overseeing the release of water to Tamil Nadu. As long as the inflows into Karnataka’s major reservoirs are substantial, it has had no problem releasing its surplus water into the lower riparian areas of the basin.
  • It is only in a distress year that the CWMA will face a significant challenge, as determining the extent of distress, and dividing the shortfall among the States on a pro rata basis can be tricky exercises.
  • The provisions of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, make it clear that it is the Centre’s duty to notify a scheme to implement the award of a Tribunal. Parliament has the power to modify the scheme, or leave it as it stands, but Karnataka’s claim that the scheme requires parliamentary approval before it is implemented is questionable.
  • Now that the CWMA has become functional, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry should approach the issue of sharing the waters of the inter-State river in a spirit of cooperation and help the Authority in implementing the verdict. The parties concerned should leave behind the era of litigation.
  • After having been locked in a contentious legal dispute for so long, all parties concerned must embark on a new era of mutually beneficial water-sharing.

Mob violence is a crime

  • TAKING SERIOUS note of lynchings and mob violence, the Supreme Court  put the onus on the states to check such incidents. Saying it would “not confine these incidents to any particular motive”, the court said “this is mob violence, which is a crime”.
  • “Whoever they are, they can’t take the law into their hands. These kinds of incidents cannot occur. It can’t be accepted in the remotest sense,” said the CJI.
  • This is mob violence, which is a crime. The Centre should frame a scheme under Article 257 (Control of the Union over States in certain cases) of Constitution,” said the CJI.

Why rumours love WhatsApp

  • Although word of mouth played a key role in spreading the rumours that set off mob violence which led to the lynching of five persons in Dhule of Maharashtra, it was social media that spread most of the rumours leading to a recent spate of lynchings in various parts of the country, including in districts next door.
  • Of all social media platforms, WhatsApp is proving the most challenging for investigators trying to track the source of such rumours and formulate a response.
  • Messaging services by nature do not leave a trail for specific messages. From SMS to Facebook Instant Messenger, it is very difficult to track where a message originated if has been forwarded many times. However, with most of these services, the information is with the parent server and police can request the company for access to information, such as IP address, for investigation.
  • With WhatsApp, it is more complex. Everything on the platform is encrypted end-to-end at the device level — all data is stored on the device and not on servers. So, WhatsApp does not know what is being discussed.
  • For things that are widely shared on WhatsApp, it is next to impossible to identify the source.
  • Metadata is defined as data about other data, and includes information such as user name, device info and log-in time. Each file has a certain amount of metadata, which is embedded when the file is created. WhatsApp removes this, too, when it compresses a video or photo. This is called stripping.
  • A WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company is trying to learn more about the way misinformation spreads by looking into the metadata that the company has access to.
  • At the moment, WhatsApp is working on a mix of in-platform fixes and off-platform intervention. Within the platform it is offering more control for group administrators, flagging forwarded content and offering resources like fact-checking websites for verifying content. Off-platform, it is expected to initiate measures to educate people about the perils of misinformation and ways to identify them.

India’s forest cover

  • The Delhi high court will hear a petition challenging the felling of 16,000 trees to build houses for government employees in Delhi on Wednesday. The hearing comes in the wake of growing protests over the felling of 16,000 trees.
  • According to official estimates of the Forest Survey of India, Delhi has witnessed a whopping 73% rise in forest cover between 2001 and 2017, the third highest gain among all states and Union territories (UTs).
  • However, a Mint analysis of official and alternative estimates suggests that the Forest Survey of India estimate may be grossly overstating the true extent of forest cover in the national capital, and in the nation.
  • While the official data suggests that India has been able to increase green cover since the turn of the century, alternative estimates provided by Global Forest Watch, (GFW) —a collaborative project of the University of Maryland, Google, USGS, and Nasa—suggests that green cover has declined sharply in the country.
  • The main reason for the stark difference in the two estimates seems to lie in the definition of forest cover used by Forest Survey of India.
  • Forest Survey of India employs satellite imagery to estimate “forest cover”, considering “all lands which have a tree canopy density of more than 10% when projected vertically on the horizontal ground, within a minimum areal extent of one hectare” as forests.
  • This definition fails to distinguish between native forests and man-made tree plantations, overstating the extent of forest cover. While the Convention on Biological Diversity has a similar definition of forests, it mentions that the land in question should not be under agricultural or non-forest use.
  • the GFW database relies on satellite data for estimation of “tree cover”, employs similar criteria as Forest Survey,However, the GFW definition is stricter as it only considers vegetation that is taller than 5 metres in height. It is this difference that seems to explain the striking differences in results obtained from the two data sources.
  • As per GFW The tree cover loss for Indian states shows an accelerating trend in recent years, with the heavily forested northeastern states, Odisha, and Kerala showing the greatest amount of tree cover loss in the period 2001-2017. However, the official data represents that Kerala gained 30% forest cover in the same period. This can be explained by the fact that Kerala is one of the biggest producers of plantation crops in India.
  • According to the GFW data, all states and union territories with the exception of Chandigarh show a decline in the extent of tree cover in the time period 2000-2010. In contrast, in terms of official data, 28 of 36 states and UTs have registered an increase in forest cover.
  • Since the GFW data adopts a globally consistent definition, it enables international comparison of the extent of tree cover loss, and the results do not paint a pretty picture. India ranks 14th among all countries in tree cover loss in the decade 2000-2010.

Urban Chipko

  • There is no faith among residents that city governments would do the right thing.
  • That lack of faith has spread across many Indian cities spawning a number of city-wide ‘urban chipko’ movements in its wake.
  • The intensity of tree cutting seen in Indian cities does not happen anywhere else in the world. Mumbai loses about 2000 trees every month, on average.
  • As Indian cities grow, tree loss is increasingly being treated as an inevitability.
  • But since trees aren’t yet viewed as an integral part of city’s “infrastructure”, studies show 96% of Mumbai surface area is concretised. Delhi has less than one tree per resident. In contrast, Singapore has committed to put a green open space within 400 metres of every resident, treating trees on par with access to mass transit.

The marriage penalty on women in India

  • The discourse on economic development has become increasingly gendered, in recognition of both the ethical construct of equality between men and women and the realization that women’s empowerment generates positive externalities.
  • India ranks 108 in global gender equality report, in 144-nation list. The country slipped 21 places between 2016 and 2017 in The Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum. Within the sub-indices, India’s low rank on gender parity in labour force participation (LFP) fell further, by four points, to 139 (among 144 countries).
  • The National Sample Survey shows that among working-age women who are currently not enrolled in educational institutes, LFP stood at 37% in 2011, registering a 10% fall over 20 years.
  • The explanations for this decline have circled around rising incomes, the changing education structure and the decline in number of agricultural jobs.
  • What is missing from this discourse is the focus on one specific demographic group—married women.
  • The observed decline in female LFP has been the largest and most significant for rural married women. In urban areas, while there has been no decline in participation by married women over time, the figure has been stagnating.
  • In 2011, around 50% of unmarried women in the 15-60 age bracket were in the labour force, while the proportion for married women was 20%. There has been a rise in labour force participation rates among urban unmarried women between 1999-2011, from 37% to 50%, but, for married women, it has been stagnant for 30 years.
  • For married and unmarried men, the participation rates are high (around 95%) and constant over time.
  • The latest figures from the National Family Health Survey show that the average age at first marriage in India is 18 for rural and 4 for urban women. Age at first birth is 20 for rural, and 21 for urban, women. While the average years of education acquired by a girl who is 15-19 years is low (8.5 and 10 in rural and urban India, respectively), even for a girl with graduate or higher education, the mean age at first marriage is 23 years and mean age at first birth is 24 years.
  • These numbers lay bare two realities that young girls face in the country. First, there is a small window of opportunity to be economically active after completion of education and before marriage. Second, with universal marriage and expected child-bearing, there is little space between marriage and first child. While the number of children born to a woman has come down (two in urban areas and 2.5 in rural areas in 2015), this may not necessarily increase women’s labour force.
  • Are women more likely to (re)enter the labour force once the children have grown up? A look at participation numbers at the cohort level shows that there is an increase in participation proportion from 17% in the early 20s to 22% in the early 30s. Even for women with graduate and higher level of education, it increases from approximately 13% in the early 20s to 28% in the early 30s. Childcare is clearly a constraint for married women and continues to remain a roadblock from the employment perspective.
  • Hence, an exclusive focus on educating and skilling women or financial inclusiveness is unlikely to be effective in making women economically more empowered unless policy measures address the constraints of childcare faced by married women. The burden of domestic work lies on women. At the same time, the absence of flexible work hours and easier physical access to work have been compounded by the persistent gender gap in wages.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 04-07-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 03-07-18

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Cauvery authority directs Karnataka to release water

  • The Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), at its first meeting , directed Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu and other States but did not discuss Karnataka’s decision to challenge the constitution of the CWMA in the Supreme Court.
  • The Karnataka government on Saturday decided to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the setting up of the CWMA and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC).
  • The CWMA, which is yet to appoint full-time members, is scheduled to meet every 10 days during the monsoon months. Based on the storage of water in various reservoirs — Hemavathy, Harangi, Krishnarajasagar, Kabini, Mettur, Bhavanisagar, Amaravathy and Banasurasagar — it will recommend how much water ought to be released in keeping with the Supreme Court’s recent verdict in these blocks of 10 days.
  • The apex court’s February verdict had said Karnataka will get 284.75 tmcft, Tamil Nadu 404.25 tmcft and Kerala and Puducherry 30 and 7 tmcft respectively.

2021 census data to be stored electronically

  • The data collected during the 2021 Census will be stored electronically, the first time since the decennial exercise was conducted in 1951 in Independent India,according to an amended rule notified by the Registrar-General of India (RGI).
  • Till now the “schedules” (a tabular form containing details of individuals), carried by enumerators to households, were being stored in a physical form at the government’s storehouse in Delhi. It is based on these schedules that the relevant statistical information on population, language and occupation are sorted and published.
  • The records, running into crores of pages, were occupying space in government office and it has now been decided that they will be stored in an electronic format. Any tampering with the data will invite punishment under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Rijiju tells States to fight fake news

  • Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said on Monday that “rumours and fake news” had become a big menace, amid reports that around 20 people had been lynched in different parts of the country in the past one month following child-lifting rumours spread primarily through WhatsApp.
  • State governments and all government agencies, along with NGOs, need to come together and create better awareness.

Intellectual Property rules amended

  • The Union Ministry of Finance has amended Intellectual Property rules to revoke the power vested with Customs authorities to seize imported products based on complaints of patent infringement.
  • On June 22, the Ministry made two amendments to the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Rules, 2007. Firstly, the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Amendment Rules, 2018, omits all reference to the Patents Act, 1970.
  • Another amendment incorporates further conditions that oblige the right-holder to notify the Commissioner of Customs of any amendment, cancellation, suspension or reaction that concern Intellectual Property rights, and require the Customs authorities to accordingly amend, suspend or cancel the corresponding protection provided by them.
  • Now, the amended law will permit the Customs authorities to cancel his patent from its records based on the order passed by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB)

Court notice on vacancies in information panels

  • The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and eight State governments to respond to a petition highlighting that a large number of vacancies in the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions have crippled the Right to Information Act and resulted in huge backlog.
  • Centre and the State governments have attempted “to stifle the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to do their statutory duty of ensuring appointment of commissioners in the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions, in a timely manner.
  • The petition said that due to non-appointment of information commissioners, several information commissions take many months, and in some cases even years, to decide on appeals and complaints due to accumulation of pending appeals/complaints, defeating the entire object of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • Currently, there are four vacancies in the Central Information Commission, though more than 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending.
  • The Andhra Pradesh Commission is completely non-functional as not a single information commissioner has been appointed.
  • The effective functioning of information commissioners, the final adjudicators under the RTI Act, is critical for the health of the transparency regime in the country, the petition said.

Court seeks response on FCRA amendments

  • The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the government on amendments made in the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) which benefit the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress, both held guilty by the Delhi High Court in 2014 for receiving foreign funds from two subsidiaries of Vedanta, a U.K.-based company.
  • A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra agreed to examine the petition filed by NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms, challenging the amendments made in the FCRA through the Finance Act, 2016 and Finance Act, 2018. The amendments were passed as a Money Bill with retrospective effect from the year 1976.
  • The petition, represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Neha Rathi, contended the amendments were made to counter a March 28, 2014 decision of the Delhi High Court. The High Court had held the two major national political parties — the BJP and the Congress — guilty of taking foreign funding. It had directed the Centre and the Election Commission of India to take action against the two parties within six months.
  • The Representation of the People Act bars political parties from receiving foreign funds. The petition argued that the “amendments have opened doors to unlimited political donations from foreign companies and thereby legitimising financial contributions received from foreign sources”.

Interpol Red Notice against Nirav Modi

  • The Interpol has issued the Red Notice against diamond merchant Nirav Modi, his brother Neeshal Modi, and their employee Shubash Parab on the request of the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI in connection with the Rs. 13,578-crore Punjab National Bank fraud.
  • The Red Notice not only restricts a fugitive’s movement in the 192 member-countries of the Interpol but also empowers enforcement agencies in the respective foreign jurisdictions to detain the person for deportation or extradition to the requesting country.
  • The ED has launched a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against the accused persons on the basis of FIRs registered by the CBI.
  • Both the agencies have filed initial chargesheets and had requested the Interpol to issue Red Notice seeking his location and detention.
  • The ED has also moved the Mumbai Special Court seeking approval for sending a request to extradite him. While the application is expected to be sent to the U.K., the agency will write to other countries requesting cooperation in his arrest.

China aims to outstrip NASA with super-powerful rocket

  • China is working on a super-powerful rocket that would be capable of delivering heavier payloads into low orbit than NASA.
  • By 2030, the Long March-9 rocket under development will be able to carry 140 tonnes into low-Earth orbit — where TV and earth observation satellites currently fly.
  • This compares to the 20 tonnes deliverable by Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket or the 64 tonnes by Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy.
  • It would also outstrip the 130 tonnes of NASA’s Space Launch System, which is due to become operational in 2020.
  • The rocket could be used in manned lunar landings, deep space exploration or constructing a space-based solar power plant.
  • In addition, China is working on a reusable space rocket, which is expected to make its maiden flight in 2021.

Editorials and Opinions :

How to list cases better

  • Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra recently flagged rising pendency in appeals lying with High Courts based on the findings of the Supreme Court’s Arrears Committee. He has since directed High Courts to prepare action plans for disposal of five and 10-year-old cases.
  • He has also asked for High Court Arrears Committees to periodically review the situation. While it is crucial that a disposal review mechanism is put in place, the manner in which judicial performance is measured and accountability is exercised must be carefully revisited.
  • For decades, the primary measure of court efficiency has been case disposal rates. Public perception of court performance and individual judges now hinges on the number of cases pending before them.
  • Though a crucial indicator it does not consider the quality of adjudication itself. Neither does it shed light on the exact nature of cases that have remained pending the longest, or the stage at which pendency recurs the most. Since these parameters are not measured, they are often disregarded in the discourse on court performance.
  • The discourse on case pendency has largely revolved around delayed appointments and vacancies.   xcxvbn
  • The study showed how certain cases listing practices influenced case movement and harboured pendency.
  • First, listing patterns were generally erratic, with the number of matters listed for the same courtroom ranging from 1 to 126 a month. In some courtrooms, it was 80-120 cases for a month.
  • Second, a large number of cases listed in a day meant that inevitably, matters listed towards the end of the day remained left over. Thus, cases in the final stages of hearing most often clogged the case pipeline.
  • Third, old pending matters barely made it to court. Our case data over three years showed that 91% of them remained unheard despite being allotted a separate day and specific judges.
  • One way to accelerate case movement is by making case listing more systematic. Here, courts must assess their performance based on the actual number of cases being heard.
  • Cause list preparation can be made more scientific if supported by a consistent study of the variance in the number of cases listed across courts, identifying the exact stages at which cases are clogging the pipeline for the longest duration, and the nature of cases left over.
  • Second, the cause list should have cases methodically distributed by type and stage. The court can decide on a minimum and maximum number for particular matters.
  • Third, disposing of old and pending matters must be prioritised. Despite allotting two days in week to hearing these matters for most of the day, the High Court we studied had a massive docket of old pending cases.
  • Scientific listing has clear benefits. It will introduce standardisation across courts and help disincentivise judges from using discretionary practices in the number and nature of cases listed before them.
  • Another benefit would be better quality of adjudication.
  • The quality and efficiency of court functioning can be improved with simple tweaks. Therefore, it is time that the judiciary as an institution opens itself to the services of competent external agencies that can help them record, manage and analyse their data better, to build and sustain a healthy institution.

Pending cases in India

  • There were over 2 million cases pending in the 24 high courts of India on 4 February 2018, according to the National Judicial Data Grid, with 49 percent of these cases being more than five years old.
  • Data from central ministries show that infrastructure projects of close to Rs 52,000 crore are affected by court orders, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18.
  • Chief Justice Dipak Misra sounded the alarm on rising pendency at a time when the situation is almost getting out of hand with the backlog touching 3.3 crore cases. While 84 crore cases are pending in the subordinate courts, the backlog clogging the High Courts and Supreme Court (SC) is 43 lakh and 57,987 cases, respectively.
  • According to National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), the five states which account for the highest pendency are Uttar Pradesh (61.58 lakh), Maharashtra (33.22 lakh), West Bengal (17.59 lakh), Bihar (16.58 lakh) and Gujarat (16.45 lakh).
  • The CJI is particularly concerned as large number of undertrials languishes in jails across the country as they don’t get bail and many even spend more than their sentence once they are convicted. Of all the pending cases, 60% are more than two years old, while 40% are more than five year old. In the Supreme Court, more than 30% of pending cases are more than five years old.
  • A study conducted by a Bengaluru-based non-government organisation (NGO) has shown that a judge in a high court spends less than five minutes hearing a case, on an average.The most relaxed high court judges in the country have 15-16 minutes to hear a case, while the busiest have just about 2.5 minutes to hear a case and, on average, they have approximately five-six minutes to decide a case .
  • The report also said that there is one judge for every 73,000 people in India, seven times worse than in the United States.

Measures :

  • A study by data journalism website IndiaSpend has found no strong direct correlation between judicial vacancies and the performance of a court. The study looked at the lower courts in Tamil Nadu and found that while all courts had missing judges, there was still significant variation in their performances. For example, while a civil case anywhere in the state takes on an average about 2.95 years to be resolved, in the district of Ariyalur, it takes an average of 4.65 years. Similarly, while Chennai’s lower courts dispose criminal cases the quickest, Coimbatore’s lower courts are the slowest.
  • This is not to suggest that the large number of judicial vacancies isn’t a problem. But there are other effective ways to address the problem as well.
  • Judicial case management is one important measure. Here, the court sets a timetable for the case and the judge actively monitors progress. This marks a fundamental shift in the management of cases—the responsibility for which moves from the litigants and their lawyers to the court.
  • The Law Commission of India in its 230th report has also offered a long list of measures to deal with the pendency of cases.
    • These include providing strict guidelines for the grant of adjournments,
    • curtailing vacation time in the higher judiciary,
    • reducing the time for oral arguments unless the case involves a complicated question of law,
    • and framing clear and decisive judgements to avoid further litigation.
  • In addition, the courts should also seriously consider incorporating technology into the system; digitizing courts records has been a good start in this context but a lot more can be done. For example, just like automation powered by Artificial Intelligence is already helping doctors, it can also be leveraged to assist judges and lawyers.

Undertrial :

  • The ‘Prison Statistics India 2015’ report is released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) The report calls overcrowding as “one of the biggest problems faced by prison inmates.”
  • The occupancy rate at the all India level at the end of 2015 was 114.4 per cent.
  • Sixty-seven per cent of the people in Indian jails are undertrials — people not convicted of any crime and currently on trial in a court of law.
  • Marginalised communities form the bulk of the undertrial population – 53% are Muslim, Dalit and Adivasi. This is a disproportionately high number given these communities together make up only 39% of India’s population.
  • Most undertrials are poorly educated. Around 29% are illiterate and 42% have not completed secondary education.
  • If undertrials are held for a period equal to half their potential sentence, then under Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, they are eligible for release on a personal bond. After release, they are required to appear at all future court dates.
  • In December 2017, a public interest litigation (PIL) had brought up the issue of over 300 undertrials, who despite being granted bail by courts were languishing in capital’s jails due to their inability to furnish bail bonds and surety bonds.

In a reply in Lok Sabha  the government acknowledged the large number of undertrials as a major reason for overcrowding, and listed various measures taken to address the problem:

  • Establishing fast-track courts
  • Establishing open prisons in states and UTs
  • Launching a National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms
  • Introducing the concept of plea bargaining through Section 265 of CrPC
  • Insertion of Section 436A that sets a limit for the maximum period for which an undertrial prisoner can be  detained
  • Promotion of plea bargaining by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) within CrPC parameters
  • Free legal services being provided to all undertrial prisoners by NALSA’s legal service clinics.
  • Under entry 4 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, prisons are governed by the Prisons Act, 1894, and the Prison Manuals of respective state governments. Thus, states have the primary role, responsibility and authority to change the current prison laws, rules and regulations.

One year after

  • Since its midnight launch on July 1 last year, India’s Goods and Services Tax regime has evolved significantly.
  • Industry had anxieties about the multiple tax rates, ranging from zero to 28%, with a cess on demerit goods. But gradually, the number of goods under the 28% bracket has been brought down to 50 from around 200.
  • A unique component envisaged in India’s GST regime, matching of invoices for granting tax credits, has been kept on hold for fear of adding to taxpayers’ transition pains. Despite its glitches and snarls, the new tax has taken firm root and is altering the economic landscape positively. The strongest sign of this is the entry of over 4.5 million entities in the country’s tax net, many of which would have so far been part of the cash-driven, informal economy. This expansion of the tax net will also help increase direct tax collections.
  • The government was eyeing a little over Rs. 90,000 crore a month to make up for the revenues earned under the earlier regime and to compensate States for any losses due to the GST. Finance Minister is confident that the average monthly collections this year could touch Rs. 110,000 crore.
  • This surge must allay the fiscal concerns of the Centre and the States, and nudge policy-makers towards further rationalising the GST structure.
  • In its second year, the GST Council must pursue a time-bound approach to execute plans already announced to ease taxpayers’ woes, such as an e-wallet for exporters and a simpler return form. Besides, there must be a road map to bring excluded products — petroleum, real estate, electricity, alcohol — into the GST net.

Reforming higher education

  • Once the draft is approved technical details like composition and all can be discussed and criticized, so left out some parts of the article.
  • The draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECT) Bill is now in the public domain. The HECI will replace the main regulatory authority, the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • The main point of departure in the proposed Bill is a clear separation between academic functions and grant-giving ones, the former to be discharged by the HECI and the latter by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) directly.
  • The need for a single regulatory body arose largely in the context of multiple bodies set up over the years trying to cope with the ever increasing complexity of the sector, both in terms of rapidly expanding number of institutions to meet the demands of surging student enrolment, and the uneven and perhaps deteriorating standards in the quality of student output against the requirements of the job market.
  • The regime of multiple regulators started in the mid-1980s and various professional bodies also started asserting themselves as regulators from around the early 1990s when the country embraced the new challenges of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
  • It can be observed that the heavy hands of multiple regulators (like the UGC and All India Council for Technical Education), together with the empowerment of professional bodies (like the Bar Council of India and Council of Architecture) have not yielded the desired dividends. Mushrooming of institutions and a steady decline of standards in most of them have not done much good to the image of the government and the architecture of regulation.
  • Question of funds : As of today, the MHRD has been directly funding more than a hundred institutions of national importance, including the Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research. Funding 47 Central universities should not pose a problem for the ministry. The funding scheme of State universities, which account for more than 50% of the student enrolment, requires to be clearly worked out.
  • On the one hand, the HECI is being conceived as an overarching regulato, and on the other it is sought to develop mechanisms so that more institutions are encouraged to move out of its regulatory ambit.
  • Of the many functions of the HECI, specifying norms and standards for grant of autonomy and of graded autonomy is an important one. Linked with the issue are the recent initiatives to encourage public institutions to raise user charges so that they become self-sustaining as also to allow such institutions to take loan from the Higher Education Funding Agency to meet developmental costs.
  • These are bold initiatives with major consequences, inducing institutions to abandon courses that have hardly any job prospects and starting ones that are market-friendly. Besides, the high fees to be paid by students for such courses might compel them to take concessional student loans. The first militates against the idea of higher education and the concept of the university and the second may result in the student loan crisis reaching alarming proportions on account of delay in payment and default.
  • Despite some apparent infirmities, the proposed Bill shows the resolve of the government to move forward in reforming the sector. While many questions remain unanswered, the proposal appears to be a plausible one, if the public expenditure in the sector continues to hover around the present level of over 1% of GDP, against the minimum requirement of 2%. Major issues like making the universities the hub of scientific and technological research, restoring the value of education in social sciences and the humanities, ensuring that poor and meritorious students can afford to be educated in subjects of their choice, improving the quality of instruction to enhance the employability of the students, addressing the concerns of faculty shortage, etc. require a quantum jump in allocation of public resources to this sector.

Triggered by bad air

  • Particulate matter that exists as fine dust in the air can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, particularly in low-income countries such as India.
  • Analysis of the burden of pollution-linked diabetes (in the journal, Lancet Planetary Health ) estimates that in 2016, air pollution resulted in as many as 3.2 million new cases of diabetes.
  • This is 14% of all new diabetes cases for that year, and India’s share was 20% of new cases. Annually, the researchers estimated that pollution-linked diabetes caused more than 2 lakh deaths in 2016.
  • the risk of incident diabetes increased with rising concentrations of PM2.5 (fine dust less than 2.5 microns in diameter), even reaching significant impact at concentrations of 12 micrograms per cubic meter (m3).
  • This level is considered “safe” by Indian standards which sets a limit of 40 micrograms per m3) and is far below what is experienced in cities. In Delhi, for instance, PM2.5 can touch nearly 100 micrograms per m3.
  • Studies have shown that this fine dust enters the bloodstream through the lungs, reducing insulin production and triggering inflammation. This factor adds to the diabetes burden which affects more than 420 million people globally.
  • India tops the list in terms of ‘Disability-Adjusted Life Years’, which measures years of healthy life lost due to pollution-linked diabetes. Researchers estimate that nearly 8.2 million years of healthy life were lost globally in 2016, and India lost 1.625 million healthy years.
  • Where high economic growth has lead to higher pollution burdens, lower-income countries such as India are affected the most. After all, while the global PM2.5 average was 42.3 micrograms per c3, in India, it was 72.6 per m3. The study finds that a modest reduction in PM2.5 levels may lead to a reduction in diabetes cases in India.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 03-07-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 02-07-18

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Tax department launches ‘instant’ PAN card service

GS P3 : Economy 1/10

  • The Income Tax Department has launched an ‘instant’ Aadhaar-based PAN allotment service for individuals seeking the unique identity for the first time.
  • This facility is free of cost and instant allotment of e-PAN is available for a limited period on a first-come, first-served basis for valid Aadhaar holders.
  • The facility was introduced because of the increasing number of people applying for the PAN. A fresh PAN will be allotted on the basis of a one-time password sent on the mobile number linked to the Aadhaar number of a person. The new PAN will have the same name, date of birth, gender, mobile number and address as in the Aadhaar.

Agni-V to be part of nuclear arsenal soon

GS P3 Technology 7/10

  • India’s longest-range ballistic missile, Agni-V, will be inducted into the nuclear arsenal very soon.
  • The Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) with a range of over 5,000 km can reach most parts of China.
  • The official said the missile features the latest technologies for navigation and improved accuracy. Earlier variants of the Agni family of long-range missiles have already been deployed.
  • Last month, the canisterised variant of the missile was successfully test-fired by the user, the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).
  • The Agni series of missiles constitute the backbone of India’s nuclear weapons delivery, which also includes the Prithvi short-range ballistic missiles and fighter aircraft. The submarine-based nuclear arsenal, which assures second strike capability in the face of the proclaimed no-first-use policy, is taking shape.
  • Agni-5 can carry nuclear warheads weighing 1.5 tonnes to a distance of over 5,000 km and is the longest missile in India’s arsenal capable of reaching most parts of China. With a smaller payload the range can go up much higher.
  • The missile features many new indigenously developed technologies:
  •  The very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS)
  • and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) which improves the accuracy of the missile.

Agni Missiles

  • The missiles of Agni family are medium to long range.
  • These are developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation of India under Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.
  • Together five Agni missile form the bulwark of India’s nuclear deterrence capability.

The five missiles are:

  1. Agni-I: 700 km
  2. Agni-II: 2,000 km
  3. Agni-III: 3,000 km
  4. Agni-IV: 4,000 km
  5. Agni-V: 5000 Km

No first Use policy:

  • One of the cornerstones of India ’ s official nuclear policy is No First Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons, which has a long history in Indian nuclear debates and discussions. The country ’ s stated doctrine from January 2003 includes a pledge not to use nuclear weapons first but with a significant caveat, that nuclear weapons could be used if Indian forces are attacked with biological or chemical weapons. The NFU policy has often been held up by Indian diplomats, government spokespeople, and various strategists as proof of India ’ s status as a responsible nuclear power.
  • At the same time, there is also a history of strategists, military leaders, and, more recently, government officials questioning, or calling for the abandonment of, the NFU commitment.
  • The NFU policy serves another purpose: it allows Indian politicians and diplomats to portray India as a responsible country, especially by contrasting India with Pakistan.
  • Withdrawing the NFU policy and making a declaration to that effect makes little strategic sense, since it will damage India’s status as a responsible nuclear power. Such a step will abrogate India’s commitment to the universal goal of nuclear disarmament and upset the regional balance in the sub-continent. The NFU policy is a sound pillar of India’s nuclear doctrine.

Row over U.K.-India meet postponement

GS P2 IR 2/10

  • India had proposed a three-day window for a brief bilateral in June during the U.K.-India week, sources in London and New Delhi confirmed. However, due to scheduling difficulties, Britain’s Ministry of Defence declined the meeting for proposed dates.
  • India had previously cancelled a confirmed trip by the Minister in February, after which a July date had initially been agreed upon. A meeting has now been scheduled for later in the summer.
  • Nevertheless, the decision to turn down a meeting with India — which London has pegged as one of its major defence partners in the wake of Brexit — raised concern in Britain, coming days after the controversy over the exclusion of Indian students from a relaxation of visa documentation.

FDI growth hits 5-year low

GS P3 Economy, FDI  3/10

  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India seems to be petering out with the growth rate of inflows recording a five-year low of 3% at $44.85 billion in 2017-18, according to the latest data of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
  • According to experts, it is critical to revive domestic investments and further improve ease of doing business in the country to attract foreign investors.
  • While the government has taken substantial efforts in relaxing the regulations as well as removing ambiguities, global consumer and retail companies are still hesitant to take decisions to invest in India.
  • An UNCTAD report, too, had recently stated that FDI in India decreased to $40 billion in 2017 from $44 billion in 2016. However, outflows from India, the main source of the FDI in South Asia, more than doubled to $11 billion.

RERA vs IBC: two laws that now ring fence homebuyers

GS P3 Infrastructure. 5/10

  • The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act,2016 (RERA) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) offer protection to homebuyers from errant builders.
  • How does RERA protect homebuyers? RERA offers protection to homebuyers by imposing duties on promoters and consists of preventive and penal provisions. Every promoter shall register his project with RERA and 75% of the amount realised shall be deposited in a separate account; withdrawal from the account shall be in proportion to the degree of project completion, among others. Failure to comply entails penalty.
  • Protection that IBC offers: Post the recent ordinance promulgated in June 2018, homebuyers are included in the category of financial creditors under the IBC, thereby climbing up the ladder of precedence in recovery proceedings. Money given to real estatecompanies by homebuyers gets the commercial effect of a borrowing.
  • Which is the best forum to approach: RERA or IBC?
  • RERA, which caters to the real estate sector, contains stringent norms and penalties against errant builders. The IBC recognised homebuyers as financial creditors to protect their rights even when a creditor, other than a homebuyer, invokes insolvency proceedings against the builder. It may be in the interests of homebuyers to approach the National Company Law Tribunal only when the promoter fails to remedy default under RERA or where RERA is not active.

A transition to bioplastic: will it work?

GS P3 Environment 7/10

  • Under pressure from activists, the European Union, Britain, India and even fast food giants like McDonald’s have all made some headway towards bringing the use of plastic straws to an end.
  • According to peer-reviewed U.S. journal Science , eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the earth’s oceans and seas each year250 kg every second.
  • For years, the focus of environmentalists has been on plastic bags. But plastic straws have now come into the spotlight.
  • There are alternatives to plastic straws, but they are much pricier. Others are using raw pasta and bamboo sticks.
  • The U.S. is resisting change while Europe takes the lead with biodegradable plastics made either from fossil fuels or crops such as potatoes and corn.
  • Some 100,000 tonnes of bioplastics were produced in 2016 in the world, according to Germany’s specialist Nova-Institute. In 2017, biodegradable plastic production capacity rose to 8,00,000 tonnes globally.
  • Experts, meanwhile, warn that biodegradable plastics may not be a miracle solution anyway. A separate collection system for bioplastic waste would need to be set up in order for the shift to really work, and that would involve millions in investment from States.

Does tracking mobile location breach privacy?

GS P2 Privacy 5/10

  • A recent ruling by the US Supreme Court addressed a question that has so far been a grey area in the digital age:
  • can law enforcers tracking a suspect collect location data from cellphone companies? They generally need a warrant, the nine-judge Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 majority decision that was a statement for a consumer’s privacy rights.
  • In India, central and state law enforcement agencies gain access to cellphone location data whenever service providers, once asked, provide them with call data records. Accessing such information is subject to certain permissions. Only an officer of SP rank — DCP rank in a commissionerate — can write to the nodal officer of a service provider seeking call data records.
  • The US court ruled that it did not matter that the location records were in the hands of a third party. This marks a break from earlier decisions that went by the “third-party doctrine” — a legal theory that holds that people who voluntarily give information to third parties (service providers in this case) have “no reasonable expectation of privacy”.
  • The new decision has implications for all kinds of personal information held by third parties, including email and text messages, Internet searches, and bank and credit card records.
  • with GPS information, the time-stamped data provides an intimate window into a person’s life, revealing not only his particular movements, but through them his familial, political, professional, religious and sexual associations.
  • In one dissent, Justice Anthony M Kennedy wrote: “Cell-site records are uniquely suited to help the government develop probable cause to apprehend some of the nation’s most dangerous criminals: serial killers, rapists, arsonists, robbers, and so forth.” The ruling made exceptions for emergencies like bomb threats and child abductions.

Editorial and Opinions

GST monthly revenue will exceed Rs. 1.1 lakh cr

GS P3: GST, Economy Imp of article: 6/10

  • Revenue from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will exceed Rs. 1.1 lakh crore monthly, Finance Minister l said , adding that he expects about Rs. 13 lakh crore of revenue from the new tax regime over this financial year.

Live mint: Opinion

  • It has been a year since the landmark goods and services tax (GST), which converted India into a single market, was implemented. Although India opted for an extremely complex GST structure, its implementation was still a big breakthrough as problems can always be addressed with experience.

Some interesting facts in this year’s Economic Survey:

  • First, the Survey showed that India’s formal non-farm payroll is much higher than is commonly believed. The implementation of the GST, which is bringing more businesses into the tax net, will further push formalization of the economy.
  • Second, the GST is leading to better tax compliance. The number of unique registrations has now crossed the 10 million mark. The increasing number of taxpayers and better compliance should help raise higher revenue in the medium to long run.
  • Third, the GST system is creating a vast repository of data that could be useful in policymaking. For example, it is now possible to know the state-wise distribution of international exports.
  • Finally, the way the GST council has evolved is a notable achievement. All decisions so far have been taken by consensus. It shows the way complex issues can be addressed through cooperation between the Union and state governments.

Issues with GST :

  • However, despite visible benefits,  the GST structure is far from optimum. The latest “India Development Update” of the World Bank, for example, noted that the 28% rate, applicable on a set of goods, is the second highest among the 115 countries sampled: 49 countries have a single rate and 28 have two rates.
  • Only four countries other than India—Italy, Luxembourg, Pakistan and Ghana—have four rates.
  • It is important for India to simplify the tax structure. The first target should be to move to at least a three-rate structure—a lower rate for essential goods, a relatively high rate for luxury goods, and a standard rate for the majority of goods and services.
  • Apart from rates, some of the operational issues, such as those related to ease of filing and refund, need to be resolved. Delays in refund affect the working capital of firms and should be avoided, particularly in the case of exporters, in an environment of widening trade deficit. Further, the council will need to work on bringing items such as electricity, petroleum products and real estate into the GST net.

Bhima-Koregaon and the fault in our laws

GS P2 laws and acts 7/10 The article should be read in entirety, still tried to summarize it.

  • Many other members of the Constituent Assembly (CA), were objecting to the wide range of restrictions that had been imposed upon fundamental rights in the draft Constitution. Drawing attention to the multiple “Public Safety Acts” and “Defence of India Acts” that had been the favourite weapons of the colonial regime, speaker after speaker expressed the concern that, despite the best intentions of the Assembly, the Constitution could easily be interpreted to authorise the continuation of these hated laws.
  • The arrest of five individuals in early June, ostensibly for instigating the riots at Bhima-Koregaon at the beginning of the year, throws the fears expressed in the CA into sharp relief. The accused, who include activists and lawyers, have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). An examination of the UAPA shows how, in one overarching “anti-terrorism law”, vast discretionary powers are conferred upon state agencies, judicial oversight is rendered toothless, and personal liberty is set at naught.
  • The UAPA authorises the government to ban “unlawful organisations” and “terrorist organisations” (subject to judicial review), and penalises membership of such organisations.
  • The problems begin with the definitional clause itself. The definition of “unlawful activities” includes “disclaiming” or “questioning” the territorial integrity of India, and causing “disaffection” against India. These words are staggeringly vague and broad, and come close to establishing a regime of thought-crimes.
  • “Membership” of unlawful and terrorist organisations is a criminal offence, and in the latter case, it can be punished with life imprisonment. But the Act fails entirely to define what “membership” entails. Are you a “member” if you possess literature or books about a banned organisation? If you express sympathy with its aims? If you’ve met other, “active” members? These are not theoretical considerations: charge sheets under the UAPA often cite the seizure of books or magazines, and presence at “meetings”, as clinching evidence of membership.
  • In 2011, the Supreme Court attempted to narrow the scope of these provisions, holding that “membership” was limited to cases where an individual engaged in active incitement to violence. Anything broader than that, it ruled, would violate the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and of association.
  • The second serious problem with the UAPA regime kicks in: Section 43D(5) of the Act prohibits courts from granting bail to a person if “on a perusal of the case diary or the [police] report … [the court] is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facietrue.”
  • The case diary and the charge sheet is the version of the state. Therefore, under the UAPA, as long as the state’s version appears to make out an offence, a court cannot, under law, grant bail. When we juxtapose this with the inordinately slow pace at which criminal trials progress, Section 43D(5) of the UAPA is effectively a warrant for perpetual imprisonment without trial.
  • However, as the CA debates reveal, the provision was meant to be used in rare and exceptional cases.
  • This is not to say that the state always, or even often, abuses its power. The purpose of a Constitution and a bill of rights, however, is to establish a “culture of justification” where the state cannot abuse its power. Civil and political rights are based upon the understanding that at no point should so much power, and so much discretion, be vested in the state that it utterly overwhelms the individual.
  • This is why the traditional argument in defence of laws such as the UAPA — that the state must be given a strong hand to control terrorist and other violent and disruptive activities — proves too much. It proves too much because it subordinates every other constitutional value — freedom of speech, personal liberty, the right to a fair trial — to the overarching concern of order. Such an attitude can be justified only in times of war or Emergency (and even then, subject to safeguards). But what the UAPA does is to normalise this “state of exception”, and make it a permanent feature of the legal landscape.
  • The Bhima-Koregaon arrests provide us with yet another opportunity to rethink a legal regime that has obliterated the distinction between the normal and the abnormal. The power to keep citizens incarcerated for long periods of time, on vague charges, and without affording them an opportunity to answer their accusers in a swift and fair trial, is an anathema to democracy and the rule of law.
  • The UAPA’s stringent provisions should go the way of its predecessors — the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. They should be removed by Parliament, and, in the alternative, struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. And if that is not feasible, then there must at least be a change in the legal culture, with the courts following the example of the Bombay High Court in the first Kabir Kala Manch case, and granting bail unless the state can produce some cogent proof of criminality.

The dream of being an AI powerhouse

GS P3 and P2 Policy making, technology 7/10

  • In a recent discussion paper, NITI Aayog has chalked out an ambitious strategy for India to become an artificial intelligence (AI) AI is the use of computers to make decisions that are normally made by humans.
  • NITI Aayog envisions AI solutions for India on a scale not seen anywhere in the world today, especially in five key sectors — agriculture, healthcare, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and transport.
  • In agriculture, for example, machines will provide information to farmers on the quality of soil, when to sow, where to spray herbicide, and when to expect pest infestations. It’s an idea with great potential: India has 30 million farmers with smartphones, but poor extension services. If computers help agricultural universities advise farmers on best practices, India could see a farming revolution.

However, there are formidable obstacles.

  • The first problem is data. Machine learning, the set of technologies used to create AI, is a data-guzzling monster. It takes reams of historical data as input, identifies the relationships among data elements, and makes predictions.
  • More sophisticated forms of machine learning, like “deep learning”, attempt to mimic the human brain. And even though they promise greater accuracy, they also need more data than what is required by traditional machine learning.
  • Bengaluru-based Intello Labs,  is a start-up which helps buyers at agricultural mandis evaluate the quality of grains, fruits or vegetables.
  • To develop this product, the Intello Labs team had to photograph 2.5 million agricultural samples. Experts then identified the contents of these photos — a laborious process called annotation. Next, the team wrote a deep learning algorithm, which was trained using the photos. Today, the algorithm can predict the quality of 12 foods over 95% of the time in a few markets like Delhi and Rajasthan. But in order to expand their basket beyond 12 products and a few States, Intello Labs will need millions of more such images. This can be challenging for a private firm, unless such images are collected, digitised and annotated automatically by the government at agricultural mandis. Such data collection doesn’t happen today.The biggest agricultural data today resides with the government. It’s entirely up to them to annotate it and make it usable.
  • lack of data means that deep learning doesn’t work for all companies in India. One example is Climate-Connect, a Delhi-based firm, which uses AI to predict the amount of power a solar plant will generate every 15 minutes.But to generate such data, Climate-Connect needs historical inputs like the time of sunrise and sunset, and cloud cover where the plant is located. Unfortunately, since most Indian solar plants are recent, data are available only for a couple of years, whereas deep learning needs data over many years to predict generation.
  • Another problem for AI firms today is finding the right people. NITI Aayog’s report has bleak news: only about 50 Indian scientists carry out “serious research” and they are concentrated in elite institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Science. Meanwhile, only about 4% of AI professionals have worked in emerging technologies like deep learning.
  • How does this skill gap impact companies? To some extent, open libraries of machine learning code, which can be customised to solve Indian problems, help. This means that companies need not write code from scratch, and even computer science graduates can carry out the customisation.
  • But open libraries can only go so far. For some technical problems, such libraries don’t exist. In Bengaluru, a start-up called Ati Motors is developing an autonomous cargo vehicle to ferry materials in ports and factories. One of the things the vehicle must do is to chart out its trajectory based on the obstacles along its path. There are no standard deep learning algorithms for this, and Ati Motors must write these on its own.
  • Can India then really become an “AI garage” for 40% of the world, as NITI Aayog envisions? The discussion paper mentions no timeline for this goal. But for any reasonable time frame for execution, much needs to change immediately.
  • First, if the government is serious about AI solutions powering agriculture or healthcare, it must collect and digitise data better under its existing programs.
  • Second, to close the skill gap, NITI Aayog suggests setting up a network of basic and applied AI research institutes. But if these institutes are to fulfil their mandate, they must collaborate closely with agricultural universities, medical colleges and infrastructure planners.
  • Third, NITI Aayog’s ambitious road map does not mention deadlines or funding. Without these, it lacks accountability. The government must make haste and specify its commitments on these fronts.

Gearing up for space wars

GS P3 Technology and P2 IR 4/10

  • The announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump in June about the creation of a “space force” or a sixth branch of the American armed forces has taken many by surprise within and outside the U.S.
  • Trump said at the time of the announcement, the intention is to see that the U.S. establishes and maintains dominance in space.
  • The U.S. Defence Secretary said that adding another military arm would only compound the organisational challenges facing the U.S. armed services. First, it could undercut ongoing missions. Second, it could very well increase budgetary allocations in the future. Third, his objections were clear in that a space corps could undermine American efforts in the domain of joint warfare.
  • the fundamental difficulty of a space corps is that the physical environment of space is not conducive to the conduct of military operations without incurring serious losses in the form of spacecraft and debris. And despite efforts to make spacecraft more fuel efficient, the energy requirements are enormous. Further, the technical demands of defending assets in space make the possibility of dominance and space as a domain for war-fighting a sort of chimera.
  • China and Russia’s responses: While China has reiterated its response to the Trump Administration’s announcement with its oft-repeated statement that it opposes the weaponisation of space, it knows that it is the prime target of this incipient force.
  • Beijing will be in no mood to allow U.S. space dominance. China’s space military programme has been dedicated to building “Assassin Mace” technologies (an array of kinetic and non-kinetic means of attack) — capabilities that are geared to help win wars rapidly.
  • Russia for its part has been shriller in its response, making it clear that it will vigorously take on the U.S.. However, given its lack of the resources for competition, it will in all probability, for tactical reasons, align itself with China.
  • Implications for India While India is officially committed to PAROS, or the prevention of an arms race in outer space, it is yet to formulate a credible official response to the Trump plan.
  • New Delhi would do well to come out with an official white paper on space weapons. The government needs to engage with multiple stakeholders directly about the role space weapons will play in India’s grand strategy. More than their war-fighting attributes, space weapons have one principal function — deterrence.

Still thriving

GS P2 IR 3/10

  • There is a growing feeling amongst the larger Asian countries that the West is passé.
  • The news coming out of west, especially since the 2008 financial crisis, is of declining populations, big layoffs and economic meltdowns,So much of bad news over an extended period gives the impression that the rise of the West has finally halted.
  • One tends to forget that the most populous of the Western countries, the U.S., has a growing population and remains the most productive and innovative in the world, as well as militarily the most powerful.
  • The West continues to have most of the finest educational and research facilities, and takes in the most brilliant and creative minds from the rest of the world.
  • West hangs together, with a combined GDP several times than that of the rest of the world.
  • The West has no problem it cannot overcome, simply because it also collectively commands formidable military might of a kind that has enabled it to intervene wherever and whenever it chooses.
  • The robust legal and administrative systems in the West, the kind of social security as well as democracy its people enjoy, the accountability insisted upon, along with quick retribution of wrongdoing makes life there so much more secure and predictable.
  • Though as the world looks on the West as a spent force, there is every reason to believe that it will dominate the 21st century, as it has the two before that. The rest of the world badly needs a revolution in governance and public accountability to overcome seemingly insurmountable environmental, social and economic challenges.

Seychelles template

GS P2 IR 7/10

  • New Delhi has clearly opted for a charm offensive in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The red carpet laid out for the visiting Seychelles President Danny Faure last week came against the backdrop of setbacks in the bilateral relationship owing to the Assumption Island agreement being put on hold. The pact, to build a naval base on the island, was seen as a major strategic enhancement of India’s IOR naval capacities and had been under discussion since 2003.
  • Background: It was finally signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Seychelles in 2015. The deal was to include 30-year access to the base as well as permission to station Indian military personnel on the ground, with facilities on the island funded by India, owned by Seychelles and jointly managed. After Opposition protests about loss of sovereignty, however, it had to be renegotiated and an amended version was signed in January 2018. Even that proved insufficient. Mr. Faure lacks the numbers in the legislature to ratify it, and with the Opposition sticking to its stand he announced in early June he would not be taking the agreement with India forward. Instead, Seychelles would build the naval facility “on its own”.
  • Both sides decided to walk around the minefields relating to Assumption Island, with Mr. Modi saying they would work on the project “keeping in mind each other’s interests”. India also announced a credit line of $100 million for Seychelles to purchase defence equipment from India to build its maritime capacity.
  • This is good strategy. It would have been pointless to push the Seychelles President for a more concrete assurance on the Assumption Island project, as he has little room for manoeuvre.
  • Until 2020-21, when Seychelles is due for presidential and parliamentary elections, it may not be possible to move the agreement further for ratification; rather than renegotiate or cancel it entirely, it is best to keep it in abeyance. This softer approach adopted by the government is in remarkable contrast to the strong-arm tactics it has used in the past with other countries in the IOR, such as the Maldives.

Risky recourse

GS P3 Economy , P2 regulators 8/10

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has approved a proposal to allow the Life Insurance Corporation of India to increase its stake in the ailing state-owned IDBI Bank to 51%.
  • While there are no details on how exactly this capital infusion will take place — reports suggesting that the LIC may acquire the additional 40% stake it would need to reach 51% shareholding from the Government of India.
  • Reports suggesting that the LIC may acquire the additional 40% stake it would need to reach 51% shareholding from the Government of India — market speculation and media reports have estimated figures north of Rs. 10,000 crore.
  • Whether this will be adequate to even staunch the flow of red ink at the troubled bank, leave alone help it turn around, is another matter. The bank posted a net loss of Rs. 8,238 crore in the 12 months ended March 31, 2018, and is facing the prospect of more losses with gross non-performing assets rising to 28%.

The proposal raises several troubling questions.

  • The government clearly sees it as a relatively painless way to recapitalise the bleeding bank without adversely impacting its fiscal position.
  • The regulators: The IRDA, whose mission is to “protect the interest of and secure fair treatment to policyholders”, is reported to have exempted the LIC from the well-reasoned 15% cap on the extent of equity holding an insurer can have in a single company. This puts at risk the interests of the premium-paying customers of the LIC.
  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India has in the past waived the mandatory open offer requirement under its takeover regulations when it involved a state-run acquirer and another state enterprise as the target. As the capital markets watchdog, SEBI has an obligation in all such cases to weigh the interests of the small investor.
  • And the RBI, as the banking regulator, should not ignore the contagion risks that the level of “interconnectedness” the proposed transaction would expose the entire financial system to.

Over The Barrel: Networked and vulnerable

GS P2 IR 7/10 Facts useful for mains and essay.

  • The world has a population of 7.6 billion people. Of them, 1 billion have subscriptions to mobile phones, 4 billion have access to internet, and 3.1 billion are active users of the social media.
  • In just one internet minute, 4,50,000 tweets are sent, 9,00,000 people log onto Facebook, 1.8 million snaps are created, 3.5 million searches hit Google, 4.1 million YouTube videos are seen and over 156 million emails are sent. The point: The world must not ignore the consequences of being so tightly networked.
  • The historian Niall Ferguson has placed the consequences in historical context in his latest book, The Square And The Tower: Network, Hierarchies And The Struggle For Global Power . He avers that the 1,000-year old Roman Empire collapsed because of the viral spread of the “network borne threats” of religion (Christianity), disease (bubonic plague) and migration (the Germanic tribes). These threats spread because of physical and spiritual connectivity. They permeated every strata of the Empire’s governance and social hierarchy. The leadership did not anticipate or have the capability to contain the spread. The result was the erosion of the foundations of the Empire and its eventual demise.
  • The challenge of managing and mitigating “network borne” threats (cyber, pandemics, global warming) is on most government and corporate agendas. A tour d’horizon of the global landscape suggests, however, that instead of converging towards a common purpose for managing these threats, the world leaders are adopting divergent, populist and localised approaches.
  • The only two countries that stand out in this landscape as islands of relative stability and strong leadership are India and China. China has recognised that this fragmented world offers an opportunity. It has projected itself, ironically as the custodian of the multilateral rules based system and it is using its financial leverage to broaden strategic relations. Its One Belt One Road is a manifestation of this intent. India has an opportunity also to take on a global mantle. It should do so.
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Newspaper notes for UPSC 30-06-18

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Not all Swiss bank money illegal: govt.

Gs P3: Economy, Black money Imp of article : 2/10

  • Finance Minister said that the reported 50% rise in deposits by Indians in Swiss banks could not be presumed to be a case of black money parked abroad.
  • He added that the government would start getting details on bank accounts of Indians in Switzerland from next year under a bilateral tax treaty, and strong action would be instituted against anyone found guilty.
  • The Minister was responding to news reports that money parked by Indians in Swiss banks rose to CHF (Swiss Franc)1.01 billion (Rs. 7,000 crore) in 2017.
  • Citing reports, FM said 40% of the deposits was the result of the liberalised remittance scheme introduced by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. As per the scheme, an individual could remit up to $2,50,000 per year.
  • Almost exactly a year ago, in an address to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on July 1, 2017, PM had highlighted a record 45% drop in deposits by Indians in Swiss banks.

‘Soft policing’ stops social media misuse

Social Media, Lynching, Police Imp of article: 3/10 

  • Troubled by the rising frequency of such incendiary social media posts, the Assam police have been experimenting with a slew of ‘soft policing’ tactics.
  • These include making the local policemen campaign at weekly haat s or rural markets, where they would meet school and college students, parents and teachers, and motivate them to become informants on social media misuse.
  • Cyber cell staff say Facebook and Twitter are easier to track than WhatsApp.
  • But police claim to have infiltrated several WhatsApp groups in order to get to the mischief makers. They have also befriended many group administrators.
  • Higher officials  have been asking policeforce to educate people about the greater good if they lead us to people misusing social media. This strategy has helped them make arrests quickly in cases of lynching, moral policing, and posting of hate messages.

Iran not just an energy supplier

GS P2: IR Iran, Energy security Imp of article: 3/10

  • Former Vice-President Hamid Ansari said that Iran ensures overland connectivity between Eurasia and India and it is not just an energy supplier.
  • He said that the government should take into consideration the “totality” of India’s ties with Iran, while responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand to cut down drastically energy imports from that country.
  • Our relationship with Iran has been built carefully and thoughtfully by all past governments as Iran for us is not just an energy supplier from the Persian Gulf region.
  • For us, Iran is a land power on the other side of Pakistan that provides us with an alternative route to Afghanistan, Our infrastructure-building activities in Afghanistan is done with support from Iran. Iran has the port of Chabahar where we have invested because access to Afghanistan is crucial for us.
  • He said India maintained relations with countries strictly on the basis of bilateral dynamics and in this context, Iran’s importance had remained undiminished over the past several decades.

FATF hands 10-point plan to Pak.

GS P2: IR , Pakistan. FATA

  • Unanimously agreeing to put into effect its February decision to place Pakistan in the grey list for inaction against terror funding, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has laid out a 10-point action plan for compliance with its guidelines.
  • Pakistan’s failure in implementing the elaborate action plan may result in it being included in the black list the next year.
  • The country has been instructed to take measures demonstrating that UN-designated terrorists and banned terror outfits such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, Taliban and Haqqani Network, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and their affiliates, are deprived of their resources and their sources of funding are choked.
  • The FATF, in its Paris Plenary that concluded on Friday, observed that Pakistan had this time round made a high-level political commitment to work with the global watchdog and the Asia Pacific Group, of which it is a member, to strengthen its anti-money laundering and counter terror-financing regime.
  • Pakistan will have to take steps to ensure that terror funding risks are properly identified, assessed and that supervision is applied on a risk-sensitive basis.
  • The FATF has also sought actions demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf.

IRDA okays LIC-IDBI Bank deal

GS P3 Economy, Regulator. Imp 2/10

  • The board of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, which met on Friday, has approved Life Insurance Corporation’s (LIC) proposal to increase its stake in troubled state-run lender IDBI Bank.
  • According to sources, IRDA has approved acquisition of up to 51% stake by LIC in IDBI Bank.
  • However, LIC needs to get a board-approved plan to bring down its stake to 15% over time. Now, the LIC board will have to consider the matter for approval.
  • The deal, which will trigger takeover regulations, will also require an approval from the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
  • As per capital market regulations, any company that acquires 25% stake in a listed entity has to make an open offer to acquire 26% additional stake from public shareholders.
  • However, the markets watchdog may waive the requirement for LIC as it has done earlier in matters involving the government and public sector entities.
  • The deal, which will trigger takeover regulations, will also require an approval from the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
  • As per capital market regulations, any company that acquires 25% stake in a listed entity has to make an open offer to acquire 26% additional stake from public shareholders.
  • However, the markets watchdog may waive the requirement for LIC as it has done earlier in matters involving the government and public sector entities.

Monsoon covers entire country 15 days in advance

  • The monsoon has covered the entire country, reaching Sriganganagar in western Rajasthan its last outpost  a fortnight ahead of schedule, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • The monsoon’s journey across the country before time isn’t unusual.
  • However, there’s no linkage between the speed with which the monsoon spreads out across the country and the quantum of rainfall.
  • Typically the monsoon traverses the northern-most portions of the country by July 1, and then takes about a fortnight to reach western Rajasthan.
  • This time, a Western Disturbance as well as pressure system across the northern portion of the Bay of Bengal has propelled the rains.
  • The bulk of the rain has been in the southern peninsula, with Kerala, Karnataka and Goa pooling in 20% more rain than normal.
  • East and Northeast India are experiencing a 26% deficit.
  • The southwest monsoon accounts for 70% of the rainfall in the country, where agriculture still remains a major contributor to the GDP.

Editorials and Opinion :

Reform 101

GS P2: Education, Regulator . Imp of article: 7/10

  • The provisions of the new Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill drafted by the Centre have far-reaching implications for the expansion and quality of human resource development, at a time when access to skill-building and educational opportunity are vitally important.
  • There were 864 recognised universities and 40,026 colleges in the country in 2016-17, while the gross enrolment ratio of students was only about 26%. To put this in perspective, there were only 20 universities and 500 colleges at the time of Independence.
  • The Centre should give sufficient time to academia, the teaching community and society at large to submit considered opinions on the draft proposals.
  • Among the key questions that need resolution is the future role of multiple regulatory bodies that currently exist for engineering, medicine and law; the Yash Pal Committee had recommended that they should be brought under the ambit of a single commission.
  • There is a case to include other professional education streams as well, including architecture and nursing. The aim should be to set academic benchmarks for each stream, with sufficient autonomy to innovate on courses and encourage studies across disciplines.
  • Among the more contentious issues arising out of the draft Bill is the Centre’s decision to shift grant-giving powers for higher education institutions to the Ministry of Human Resource Development or a separate body. The UGC has been doing this so far.
  • Maintaining a balance on allocation of funds and ensuring transparency will now depend on the proposed advisory council to the HECI. It is welcome that the States are represented on the advisory council, giving it a federal character, although it is the Centre that will have the final say in all matters, not even the apex HECI.
  • Higher education is challenged today by fast-paced technological changes affecting the economy and the need to create a workforce that has the requisite skills.
  • Reform should, therefore, lead to the creation of an agency that has the intellectual corpus to help universities and colleges adapt, and the vision to plan for public funding in the emerging spheres of activity.

A broken tax chain

GS P3: GST,Tax.  Imp of the article 5/10 .

The article is very critical of GST, can remember some valid criticism which is backed by data.

  • year on, what has the GST achieved? ? One should not expect instant results. There will be many short comings when a complex reform is rolled out. But the question is this: is the economy headed in the right direction?
  • Arguments in favour of the GST were that it would lead to
    • ease of doing business;
    • make markets efficient;
    • yield higher tax collections; and lead to lower prices.
    • With higher tax collection, the government would be able to deliver better services.
  • Thus, the GST was presented as a win-win situation for everyone.

The Issues :

  • Businesses have not yet experienced ‘ease of doing business’ though some have adjusted to it. To begin with, the GST rates were fixed rather late.
  • The IT functioning of the Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) has been unsatisfactory due to problems or inordinate delays in access because of the volume of traffic.
  • The complexity of the system became apparent as for or each State one was operating in, three returns had to be processed every month. Then there was an annual return to be filed. So for each State, a business had to file 37 returns in a year. Even though it was computerised, accounting was difficult. So, even though 17 taxes were replaced by one tax made up of many parts, simplification did not follow.
  • The small businesses operating under the Composition Scheme had their own woes. They could not give input tax credit (ITC) and if anyone bought from them, then the buyer had to pay the tax that the small business should have paid. This was the reverse charge mechanism (RCM). These small businesses were not permitted to make inter-State sales so that their market became limited in case they were at the border of the State.
  • Taking cognisance of these, the government made rapid changes during the year through the GST Council (the body set up to govern GST). But this only added to the confusion. Some components of the GST which were considered essential to its design were suspended or altered permanently. For example, the e-way bill (to track goods being transported) was postponed to April 2018. The RCM was suspended and may resume now. The tax rate for businesses under the Composition Scheme was brought down.
  • Prices have not fallen. Of course, there are many factors underlying inflation such as a rise in petroleum goods prices, the weather and so on. But the GST has contributed to inflation because services are now taxed higher, — the rate has risen to 18% from 15%.
  • Even though essential goods are exempt under the GST, as basic goods and services prices rise, all prices increase.
  • Exemptions from GST: The tax rate structure (0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%) also adds to the complexity. Then there are different rates for gold and jewellery. Some petro-goods and alcohol (human consumption) are not a part of the GST. Electricity and real estate are also out of the GST. The multiplicity of tax rates and exemptions means that the cascading effect continues.

Very critical points of GST

  • India does not have a full GST which is applicable from raw material to the final good/service. The chain is broken in many places. This partial GST is a result of trying to fulfil many policy objectives.
  • The GST is not bigger than the policy changes introduced in 1991 and hence not the biggest reform. It is not yielding more revenue to enable governments to spend more on services for the poor.
  • Further, by damaging the unorganised sectors, it has set back output and employment in the economy rather than leading to a higher growth rate.
  • These problems emanate from introducing a very complex tax in a complex economy. In brief, while there are a few gains, the economy is not headed in the right direction because of the faulty design of the GST.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 30-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 29-06-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 29-06-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, kalyan@iksa.in , telegram: @naylak . Do subscribe to our website and please share this post with your friends.

Rising temperature to cut living standards

GS P3: Environment, Climate change Imp of article 7/10

  • A World Bank report ‘South Asia’s Hotspots: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards’ has found that rising temperatures and changing monsoon rainfall patterns from climate change could cost India 2.8% of GDP.
  • Six hundred million Indians could see a dip in living standards by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise at their current pace.
  • Seven of the 10 severest or most vulnerable ‘hotspots’ in India would be located in Maharashtra; the rest would be in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
  • In the absence of a major climate mitigation, nearly 148 million Indians will be living in these severe hotspots in 2050
  • States in the central, northern and northwestern parts of India emerge as the most vulnerable. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which are predicted to experience a decline in living standards of more than 9%, are the top two ‘hot spot’ States in India, followed by Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
  • Almost half of South Asia’s population now lives in areas that are projected to become moderate to severe hotspots under the carbon-intensive scenario.
  • What is carbon-intensive? The report looks at two scenarios: climate-sensitive and carbon-intensive.
  • Climate-sensitive represents a future “in which some collective action is taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions and global annual average temperatures increase 4°C by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels.
  • Carbon-intensive, on the other hand, represents a future in which no actions are taken to reduce emissions and global annual average temperatures increase 3°C by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels.
  • India’s average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1°C to 2°C by 2050, even if preventive measures are taken along the lines of those recommended by the Paris climate change agreement of 2015. If no measures are taken, average temperatures in India are predicted to increase by 1.5°C to 3°C.

The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place.

Kharif sowing on, but no word on MSPs

GS P3: Agriculture, MSP  Imp of article 4/10

  • The monsoon has arrived in northern India and is expected to cover the whole country in the next few days, but farmers are still waiting for the announcement of the minimum support prices (MSP) for major crops.
  • The government had promised that this year the MSPs would be set at least 50% higher than production costs, but without a clear announcement on actual prices ahead of the monsoon, agrarian experts say farmers have been left in the lurch.
  • The government is also considering three NITI Aayog proposals which could shift some of the burden of enforcing MSPs to the States and even private agencies.
  • MSPs for 23 major crops are announced at the beginning of sowing season, which for the kharif (summer) season is signalled by the onset of the monsoon. Accordingly, the announcement is usually made in the first two weeks of June.

RBI steps in as rupee hits record low

GS P3: Economy, Imp of article 4/10

  • The rupee extended its losing streak for a fourth straight session, breaching the 69-a-dollar mark for the first time ever in early trade on Thursday before the central bank intervened by selling dollars through state-run banks, curbing volatility in the foreign exchange market and helping the local currency trim its losses.
  • The rupee, which hit an an intraday low of 69.09.
  • RBI is estimated to have sold dollars about $700-800 million through state-owned banks. RBI to expected to intervene aggressively at 69.0 levels to support the rupee.
  • Climbing crude oil prices, which would fan inflation and widen the current account deficit, fears of a looming global trade war and the rising U.S. interest rates have combined to exacerbate outflows from emerging markets and impacted the rupee.
  • The country’s $413 billion foreign exchange reserves acts as a cushion, the pile has shrunk in eight of the nine weeks to June 15 as the central bank intervenes in the currency market to smooth volatility.The weak sentiment spilled onto the bonds and equity markets.

Hyderabad may house first government blockchain centre

GS P3: S&T, Imp of article 2/10

  • The Centre is considering a proposal to set up a Centre of Excellence for blockchain technology in Hyderabad to drive innovation. 
  • The proposal has been submitted by C-DAC Hyderabad, along with the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT) and Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI), Mumbai.

Editorials and Opinion

Where women are without fear

GS P1: Society , women  Imp of article 9/10

  • A recent survey by Thomson Reuters Foundation found that India is the most dangerous country for women. In this poll, India ranks below Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Saudi Arabia on the six issues surveyed.
  • These were healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, non-sexual violence and human trafficking. The government has rejected the findings. In reality, these are issues that every woman has faced directly or indirectly.

Patriarchal Society :

  • Despite social reform movements and legal provisions, patriarchy rules the roost in our society and polity. The journey of a female is marked by discrimination from birth to death.
  • Besides, patriarchal mindsets and norms are blatantly coming to the fore with the rise of the political right.

Discrimination against girls

  • Discrimination against girls begins even before birth. The Census of 2011 highlights the sex ratio at 940 with states like Haryana at a shocking 877 girls to 1000 boys.
  • The PCPNDT law has made little impact on the preference for a male child in our society and girls continue to be killed in the womb.
  • Although primary education enrolment figures have improved, dropout of girl children remains an issue.
  • Male privilege norms ensure that families prefer to spend on boys’ education rather than on girls.

Vicious Cycle:

  • There is a high incidence of under-age girls being pushed into marriage owing to poverty, lack of income avenues and sometimes conservative mindsets.
  • A large number of girls are caught up in the vicious cycle of no education, early marriage, early motherhood, domestic violence, drudgery of family and low paying work.
  • The experience can be far worse for girls from Dalit, minority, tribal or poor backgrounds.

The state and Politicians:

  • The state mechanism has failed to check the rising incidence of sexual violence in society.
  • There are regular instances of politically connected persons indulging in sexual violence which is condoned by the ruling class. The hypocrisy of the political class is evident in the way the women’s reservation bill has been kept pending for decades.
  • In recent years, there have been instances where elected representatives and religious leaders have openly espoused patriarchal and misogynist views.
  • There is a clear view in the present cabinet against a law on marital rape. This can be owing to the political ideology that considers marriage a sacred bond or “janam janam ka bandhan”.
  • The harassment of inter-faith couples must stop forthwith and society must respect the choices of women.

Other issues :

  • Our cities have become increasingly unsafe for women despite the Smart Cities campaign.
  • Unsafe buses and trains have made the dream of education for girls that much more distant. Sexual violence during communal riots and violence against Dalit women goes largely unpunished.
  • Various surveys suggest that work participation of women has gone down during the last decade in India. This is besides the discrimination in wages for women as well as sexual harassment at the workplace.
  • Most employers are not aware of the law prohibiting harassment of women at workplaces.
  • Women across economic backgrounds do not have autonomy over how to spend their earnings.
  • Apart from these, there are issues like trafficking of girls, criminalisation of sexual minorities, denial of women’s share in property.

Way Forward:

  • Any discussion on how to fight patriarchy has to account for the fact that the perpetrator is often within. She or he can be inside the home, inside the family, within the religion, within cultural practices, within ourselves.
  • The struggle for women’s equality is made more difficult by the fact that women are not a political block. The few women who make it to influential positions against all odds get outweighed by the omnipresent and dominant patriarchal forces.

The present survey should be an occasion for serious reflection and the joining of voices for women’s equality. There is a need to go beyond the country rankings and focus on how to build a society where women are equal citizens. It is a task that demands sustained action at multiple levels, governmental as well as civil society.

Sinking rupee

GS P3: Economy Imp or article 8/10

  • The rupee’s troubles just do not seem to end. The currency weakened past 69 intraday against the U.S. dollar, an all-time low. The rupee, which has lost almost 8% in value since January 1, is the worst-performing currency in Asia this year.
  • Emerging market currencies as a group have witnessed a sharp correction in their value against the dollar this year. The MSCI Emerging Markets currency index, for instance, is down about 6% since the beginning of April.
  • The rise in international crude oil prices is one of the reasons behind the rupee’s decline as importers have had to shell out more dollars to fund their purchases.
  • India’s current account deficit, which jumped to 1.9% of GDP in the fourth quarter of 2017-18 from just 0.6% a year earlier, is now expected to widen to 2.5% in FY 2019.
  • The dollar index, which gauges the value of the dollar against a host of major global currencies, is up about 7.5% since February. The rise in global trade tensions amidst the ongoing trade war could be another factor behind the rout in emerging market currencies, but its impact on the rupee remains unclear as of now.
  • But by far the most important reason behind the fall in the rupee and other emerging market currencies is the tightening of U.S. monetary policy.
  • Investors attracted by higher yields in the United States have been pulling their capital out of India at an increasing pace over the last few months.
  • Most of the foreign fund outflow this year has come out of the bond market, which explains the steep fall in Indian bond prices.
  • The tightening of monetary policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve has traditionally caused the turning of the global credit cycle, which eventually leads to various crises around the world.
  • But the fact that the American central bank expects to raise interest rates further this year suggests that more pain could be in store. The government, as well as the Reserve Bank of India, which recently raised domestic interest rates in response to rising external economic risks, may need to think out of the box to avoid a crisis similar to the taper tantrum of 2013.

The deepening disconnect

GS P2: IR, Indi-US. Imp of the article : 8/10

  • If there were any doubts about a ‘disconnect’ between New Delhi and Washington in the past few months, the U.S.’s decision to put off the first ‘2+2’ dialogue (enhanced engagement between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence) with India should put them to rest.
  • If the optics are bad, the messaging is worse.
  • Since January, the S.’s Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act against those conducting business with Russia and Iran, as well as its decision to walk out of the Iran nuclear deal have come right up against India’s interests.
  • India has, in turn, tightened its engagement with Russia, China and Iran, with Prime Minister advocating a course of “strategic autonomy”.
  • On bilateral trade, hardly a week goes by without the U.S. and India firing one salvo or another. And on their strategic relationship, upgraded to a ‘major defence partnership’ only recently, the two governments have failed to make progress on signing foundational agreements, which in turn has held up talks on defence procurement and technology transfers.
  • Unfortunately, one of the areas they had made good progress on, the S.’s South Asia policy, also appears to be in trouble. According to the policy announced about ten months ago, India was to be central to the U.S.’s efforts in Afghanistan while Pakistan would be ‘put on notice’ for its support to terror groups, including those that target India.
  • However, there are enough indications that Mr. Trump’s South Asia policy is veering towards the U.S.’s Af-Pak policy of the past with the U.S. engaging Pakistan to help with Afghanistan, and India consigned a more supplementary role.
  • The first indicator of this shift is the increase in U.S.-Pakistan engagement, in conjunction with a rapid improvement in Pakistan-Afghanistan ties.Concurrently, the U.S. administration’s language on Pakistan with Afghanistan has softened.
  • While the U.S. State Department has called for Pakistan to act against all groups operating in its territory, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), its own military actions have left many in Delhi bemused. To begin with, while the U.S. has carried out a number of drone strikes since Mr. Trump announced his new policy, the large bulk of them are on Afghan, not Pakistani, territory.
  • What’s more, among the most prominent “kills” were leaders of groups that Pakistan had called on the U.S. to target, most prominent of them being Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah. His killing in June is believed to be a direct trade-off for Pakistan’s assistance in bringing Afghan Taliban leaders to agree to the ceasefire, the first time they have done so.
  • While the killing of terrorists anywhere as well as the cessation of hostilities must be welcomed by India, the contrast in terms of action it has demanded cannot be ignored. LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, is now addressing political rallies in Lahore for parliamentary elections.
  • Finally, there are India’s regional concerns that stem from Mr. Trump’s Iran policy, which has spurred new sanctions against all countries and companies doing business in Iran and imposed a November 4 deadline to reduce oil imports from Iran to “zero”. Regardless of India’s determination to go ahead with its dealings with Iran, the impact of American restrictions will be felt in Chabahar Port, once billed as India’s gateway to Afghanistan.
  • Clearly, none of these predicaments is new, and India has pulled the situation to its advantage in the past. The difference this time is that the India-U.S. dialogue is not as robust as before, while India’s planned engagements with Russia Iran and China in the next few months may render bilateral ties yet more difficult.
  • Way Forward: Rescheduling the 2+2 at the earliest opportunity, in the face of the high stakes involved for both New Delhi and Washington, is crucial.

Target incomes, not prices

GS P3: Agriculture, Farmers Income Imp of the article : 7/10

  • Our farm policy is so bad, the proverb ‘you reap what you sow’ isn’t true any longer. A bumper crop is no different from a drought, for it too depresses farm incomes.
  • Good rains, excessive sowing and the bumper harvest last year produced gluts in the market that sent the prices of many crops, and therefore farm incomes, crashing. None of the economic tools available for protecting farm incomes — the price support scheme, the price stabilisation fund and the market intervention scheme — was employed to the best advantage.
  • This year’s Budget promised that the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) would be at least 150% of production costs, a longstanding demand of farmers and recommendation of experts.
  • Even if the market prices fall below the MSP, as they did for major kharif crops in 2017, the government will procure the produce on MSP. And if it does not procure, it will provide a mechanism to ensure payments, equal to the gap between the MSP and the market price, would reach farmers.
  • For several crops last year, the quantities procured were small portions of the total produce. Although MSPs are announced for more than 20 crops, noteworthy procurement is conducted for three: paddy, wheat and sugarcane.
  • Further, procurement frequently takes places at prices below the MSP, as is happening this year, according to reports. Finally, small and vulnerable farmers usually do not get paid MSPs at all, as they sell their produce to aggregators, not directly in mandis.

Demand-supply mismatch

  • A set of estimates of the price differential payments likely this year, premised on realistic assumptions, from agriculture economists led by Ashok Gulati projects that the MSP of paddy for the 2018-19 kharif season will have to be raised 11-14%, cotton 19-28%, and jowar 42-44%, if the MSP pricing formula of 1.5 times the cost is employed.
  • A rational response of farmers looking at this menu of MSPs would be to sow more jowar in the next season. The promise of profits is greatest for jowar. The policy will unwittingly lead to increased jowar production. There’s no reason the demand for jowar would also rise. A demand-supply mismatch would be inevitable which would send the market prices for jowar way below the announced MSP, calling for significantly expanded jowar procurement at MSP.
  • The trouble is, pricing policies distort market prices and send the wrong signal to farmers on what to produce and how much.

Solution:

  • Our inept policy system fails to correct such situations, which then spiral out of control. But if the problem is volatile incomes, the solution must target incomes, not prices.
  • Income support payments, paid on a per hectare basis through direct transfers, offer an administratively neater, economically far less distortionary and politically more attractive solution.
  • Telangana has announced such payments for farmers at the rate of Rs. 10,000/ha (Rs. 4,000/acre) per season. The cost projections for scaling up this model to the national level, excluding the procurement of sugarcane, wheat and paddy, and non-MSP crops, are roughly as much as the estimated bill for the price differential payments.
  • The current farm crisis is purely because of policy failure. Fiscal space must be found for providing income support this year to the most vulnerable farmers at least. Over the longer term, there is no alternative to deep reforms.

Reducing plastic pollution

GS P3 : Pollution, Plastic. Imp of article : 6/10

  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016 are the sharpest prongs in India’s legal arsenal against plastic.
  • The most significant aspect of the Rules is that they strengthen the concept of ‘extended producers responsibility’ whereby plastics manufacturers and retail establishments that use plastic are legally bound to introduce a system of collecting back plastic waste.
  • As an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic does not exist yet, and plastic is too ubiquitous and useful, the country has to move towards a regime where plastic waste is treated and recycled rather than engage in rhetoric about banning the product.
  • The Rules direct that a plastic waste management fee be collected through pre-registration of the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/multilayered packaging and vendors selling the same, for establishing a waste management system.
  • Producers, importers and brand owners who introduce plastic carry bags, multilayered plastic sachets, pouches or packaging in the market within a period of six months from the date of publication of these Rules need to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to their products.
  • The Rules envisage promoting the use of plastic waste for road construction, or energy recovery, or waste to oil, etc
  • The Rules also mandate an increase in the thickness of carry bags and plastic sheets from 40 to 50 micron.
  • Local bodies and gram panchayats are responsible for implementing and coordinating a waste management system.
  • Retailers or street vendors who sell or provide commodities in plastic carry bags, or multilayered packaging, or plastic sheets or covers made of plastic sheets which are not manufactured, labelled or marked in accordance with these Rules will be fined.

Listening in

GS P2: Privacy

  • The Union government has proposed to set up a network of social media communication hubs to monitor the digital chatter of citizens,to be implemented by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • The Hubs would be required to monitor local editions of newspapers, cable channels, FM radio stations, and influential social media handles.
  • Coming on the heels of the Cambridge Analytica investigations, this proposal raises serious questions about the surveillance state, right to privacy and data protection.
  • With the proposed network of hubs poised to cover all 716 districts across India, we are reminded of George Orwell’s famous words in 1984 : “Big Brother is watching you.”
  • Today, big data analytical tools and machine learning can map user behaviour and predict trends. The modern-day Orwellian nightmare of a surveillance state is that the government can analyse your digital footprint, Combined with your Aadhaar data, the setting up of a totalitarian regime will be complete.
  • The first casualty of this new regime will be the citizens’ right to privacy. In the Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India judgment (2017), the Supreme Court of India held informational privacy to be “a facet of the right to privacy.”
  • One of the nine judges of the Bench, Justice S.K. Kaul, described privacy as “an inherent right” and upheld the “individual’s right to control dissemination of his personal information.”
  • While the European Union is moving towards a more secure data regime under the General Data Protection Regulation, private data and personal information in India are still exposed to serious risks from state and non-state actors.
  • The government should, therefore, focus on enacting tough data protection laws which ensure a balance between individual rights and legitimate concerns of the state like national security or investigation of crime.The decision of the government to administer social media monitoring tools goes against the privacy judgment and much of the global best practices in this field.
  • What is General Data Protection law (GDPR) ? The law is a replacement for the 1995 Data Protection Directive, which has until now set the minimum standards for processing data in the EU.
  • GDPR will significantly strengthen a number of rights: individuals will find themselves with more power to demand companies reveal or delete the personal data they hold;
  • The definition of personal data now explicitly includes location data, IP addresses, and identifiers such as genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of a natural person.
  • Individuals will have stronger rights over their personal data. The new rights include the right to be forgotten, the right to data portability, the right to object to profiling. Consumer consent to process data must be freely given.
  • Data privacy laws are almost non-existent at the moment in India, but the government-appointed BN Srikrishna committee will soon be suggesting a framework and law for protecting data.
  • In Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (retd.) vs Union of  India,  a  nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that right to privacy is an intrinsic part of life and liberty under Article 21.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 29-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 28-06-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 28-06-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, kalyan@iksa.in , telegram: @naylak . Do subscribe to our website and please share this post with your friends.

No-fly list has cut down unruly flyers

(Governance : laws and acts.)  IMP of the article 3/10

  • Incidents involving unruly passengers have seen a dramatic drop ever since the government announced rules for a national no-fly list, according to Minister of State for Civil Aviation.
  • before the no-fly list was brought out there were a lot of incidents where people were misbehaving on aircraft. But, once we issued a whole set of regulations, the number of incidents dropped dramatically.
  • People recognise now that if you compromise safety onboard an aircraft, we will not take it lightly and the consequences are going to be severe.
  • Last year, the Ministry of Civil Aviation unveiled the first-ever set of guidelines imposing a ban on flying, ranging from three months up to a lifetime, on passengers found guilty of misbehaving inside a plane.
  • Background:The domestic airlines in the country collectively urged the government for a no-fly list in the country after an incident in March last year involving Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad who hit an Air India staffer with a slipper 25 times for being denied a business class seat in an all-economy plane.

U.S. postpones 2+2 dialogue with India

(P2 IR) IMP of the article 1/10

  • The much anticipated dialogue, between the defence and foreign ministers of India and the United States scheduled for July, has been postponed.
  • Both Countries agreed to identify new mutually convenient dates to hold the dialogues at the earliest in India or the US.

Centre may scrap UGC, proposes new regulator

GS, P2 : Polity : regulator bodies, Higher education . IMP of the article 6/10

  • Initiating major reforms in higher education, the Centre has placed in the public domain a draft Bill for a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
  • Objective: replace the University Grants Commissionand for eliciting suggestions from educationists.
  • The draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018, takes away funding powers from the proposed regulator and gives it powers to ensure academic quality and even close down bogus institutions.
  • There is no plan to merge all higher education regulators, as was proposed through a planned agency called HEERA, which was supposed to be put in place as a super regulator.
  • Funding: The new regime separates the academic and funding aspects of higher education. While HECI will be in charge of ensuring academic quality in universities and colleges, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) – or another mechanism that will be put in place later – will be responsible for funding universities and colleges.
  • Closure: Another key feature of the draft legislation is that “the Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions. Non-compliance could result in fines or even a jail sentence.
  • Till now, the UGC had no such powers. All it could do was to release a list of bogus institutions and not recognise their degrees.
  • HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology, etc.
  • It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law (including state list).

Nepal welcomes ‘2+1’ dialogue mechanism

GS P2:  IR : India – Nepal IMP of the article 3/10

  • Nepali officials are mulling over China’s proposal of a “two-plus-one” mechanism, where China  and India can jointly hold a dialogue with a third country in South Asia.
  • The Chinese side has been emphatic that its relations with the Nepal will be conducted according to the five principles of peaceful coexistence — the basis for a foreign policy among equals.
  • Nepal’s two big neighbours are developing very fast. It is a big opportunity for us if we can manage our relations with both countries properly.In this way Nepal wants to be a bridge between India and China.

Rupee tumbles to 19-month low on oil

GS P3: Economy  IMP of the article 5/10

  • The rupee slid to a 19-month low against the dollar as concern that rising crude oil prices could widen the country’s current account deficit and stroke inflation combined with fears of a trade war that could spur capital outflows to weigh the Indian currency down.
  • The rupee fell 0.54%, or 37 paise, against the dollar on Wednesday to settle at 68.61, the currency’s lowest close since November 24, 2016, when it ended at 68.73.
  • The Indian rupee has slumped almost 7% against the dollar so far this year, making it one of Asia’s worst performing currencies.
  • Forex traders said the rupee’s depreciation is in line with other emerging market currencies as the dollar index has strengthened in the wake of the S. Federal Reserve raising interest rates.
  • Elevated oil prices are also weighing on rupee as India’s dependence on oil imports is very high. Other factors that are impacting Indian currency are the political uncertainty in the wake of upcoming State elections and the general elections of 2019. This combined with the concerns over earnings outlook has led to FPI [foreign portfolio investor] outflows.

Editorial and Opinion articles :

Rethinking the referendum

Article is about Brexit IMP of the article 3/10 

  • On Saturday, June 23, just two years to the day since the referendum in which Britain and Gibraltar voted to leave the European Union (EU), over 100,000 people marched through London to call for a second referendum on Britain’s decision to leave.
  • Why the change in mind now: a range of promises made during the course of the referendum campaign by the Leave side that had been unfulfilled, such as £350 million a week extra for the National Health Service (NHS) as well as the difficulties related to Northern Ireland and other matters that voters had not been aware of at the time of the vote.
  • Two years on, as Britain remains as divided over the issue of leaving the EU, public debate has continued and gained ground on the virtues of a second referendum.
  • The House of Commons, the MPs last week had voted by a slim majority to pass the central plank of Brexit legislation, the EU Withdrawal Bill.
  • The Brexit referendum was won by a slim majority of 51.9% to 48.1%

Important questions to consider: 

  • Arguments are focused on the closeness of the margin, and what was voted on. Was a 50% threshold high enough, and was a mere 3-4% gap wide enough for such a fundamental and irreversible decision that was to determine the future of generations to come?
  • Did it necessarily involve leaving the single market (the elimination of tariffs, quotas, and the free movement of goods, services, capital and people)? Or the customs union (the clubbing together of countries to apply identical tariffs at the border)? Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are part of the single market but not the EU, while non-member Turkey is part of a customs union with the EU, while also not a member.
  • New problem areas have continued to arise particularly over the Irish question, which has proved to be one of the issues hardest to resolve at the heart of Brexit. Leaving the single market and the customs union would result in a “hard” border on the island of Ireland, jeopardising the fragile peace process under way that has heavily relied on the fluid boundary and deep economic and social links.
  • Business groups have become more and more vocal over their concerns.

Things to learn : What is referendum ? what are the problems with it.  also an opp to know the background of brexit and issues involved.

Reality check

GS P3 :  Economy , NPA, IMP of the article 10/10

  • The financial stability report released by the Reserve Bank of India has warned that the gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) of scheduled commercial banks in the country could rise from 11.6% in March 2018 to 12.2% in March 2019, which would be the highest level of bad debt in almost two decades.
  • This puts at rest the hope of a bottoming out of the NPA crisis that has affected the banking system and impeded credit growth in the economy.
  • The GNPA of banks under the prompt corrective action framework, in particular, is expected to rise to 22.3% in March 2019, from 21% this March.
  • The RBI believes that this will increase the size of provisioning for losses and affect the capital position of banks.
  • In fact, the capital to risk-weighted assets ratio of the banking system as a whole is expected to drop from 13.5% in March 2018 to 12.8% in March 2019.
  • A major highlight of the financial stability report is the central bank’s finding that public sector banks (PSBs) are far more prone to fraud than their private sector counterparts. This is significant in light of the huge scam unearthed at a Punjab National Bank branch earlier this year. The RBI notes that more than 85% of frauds could be linked to PSBs, even though their share of overall credit is only about 65%.
  • This should come as no surprise given the serious corporate governance issues faced by public sector banks, which to a large extent also contributed to the lax lending practices that are at the core of the NPA crisis.
  • The RBI, however, has warned about the rising external risks that pose a significant threat to the economy and to the banks. The tightening of monetary policy by the United States Federal Reserve and increased borrowing by the U.S. government have already caused credit to flow out of emerging markets such as India.

Solutions:

  • In his foreword to the report, RBI Deputy Governor has noted that governance reforms at PSBs, if implemented, can help improve their financial performance and also reduce their operational risks.
  • For now, the RBI expects the government’s recapitalisation plan for banks and the implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to improve the capital position of banks.These reforms can definitely help.
  • Unless the government can gather the courage to make drastic changes to aspects of operational autonomy and the ownership of PSBs, future crises will be hard to prevent.

The increasing stress in the banking system Livemint -Opinion

GS P3 :  Economy , NPA, IMP of the article 10/10

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has put 11 public sector banks on a special watch list because their balance sheets have almost been overwhelmed by a mountain of bad loans. Senior officials from the 11 banks under preventive corrective action (PCA) reportedly told a parliamentary committee this week that they were confident that these banks would get back on track by 2020.
  • Most of the headlines after the release of the new RBI Financial Stability Report on Tuesday focused on the fact that the banking regulator expects bad loans to go up even more this year. That is sobering in itself. However, there is more.
  • Nearly a quarter of the loans given out by these banks will have turned bad while the capital needed to support the loan book will be lower than the regulatory minimum. Remember that these 11 banks in the PCA watch list—Central Bank of India, Bank of India, IDBI Bank, UCO Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, United Bank of India, Dena Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Corporation Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Allahabad Bank—collectively account for 18.4% of total bank assets in India.
  • The Indian banking regulator has in effect converted the 11 banks from lenders into narrow banks that will only use depositor money to buy safe government bonds. Narrow banking is not much of an option in the long run. If depositor money is to be parked in government securities, then why do it through an expensive banking system.
  • Solution: There are no easy answers, but the government must stick to its original intent of providing fresh capital only to those banks that have viable strategies for the future. The Indian economy is clearly on the path of recovery, and economic activity needs to be supported with bank lending. The biggest companies have alternative sources of funding such as equity issues, bond issuance and overseas borrowing. Smaller enterprises have fewer financing options. They need a healthy banking system. It is also important to point out that some of the banks on the PCA watch list are clustered in specific regions, such as the eastern states. There are potential regional imbalance issues as well.
  • Indian households continue to put money into these damaged banks because of an implicit sovereign guarantee that all their money is protected. Such a variant of adverse selection means that fresh money continues to pour into organizations that are bad at financial intermediation.
  • The RBI has done well to divide banks into two categories in its analysis of financial stability. It now needs to take the next step by providing information about how individual banks have performed in its stress testsso that citizens have a better idea of the true financial health of their banks.

prompt corrective action

Reserve Bank, under its supervisory framework, uses various measures/tools to maintain sound financial health of banks. PCA framework is one of such supervisory tools, which involves monitoring of certain performance indicators of the banks as an early warning exercise and is initiated once such thresholds as relating to capital, asset quality etc. are breached. Its objective is to facilitate the banks to take corrective measures including those prescribed by the Reserve Bank, in a timely manner, in order to restore their financial health.

Encouraging mediation to settle disputes

GS P3 :  Economy , IMP of the article 3/10

  • Beginning this week, India will participate in deliberations at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in New York on an important issue concerning resolution of commercial disputes.
  • Commercial disputes are resolved not only through courts and arbitration but also through The deliberations will consider how these settlement agreements in disputes in international commercial transactions will be implemented by courts in different countries.

Why is this draft important for India and its businesses:

  • Mandatory pre-litigation mediation has been introduced in commercial disputes. The adoption of the convention will address a policy gap on outcomes from the mediation process involving cross-border disputes.
  • With a definitive legal framework recognising and enforcing mediated settlement agreements, businesses will be encouraged to consider mediation in managing and resolving disputes that arise in their commercial transactions.
  • India has lost substantial earnings as a result of international disputes being taken for resolution outside the country. Strengthening the dispute resolution policies will encourage dispute resolution in India.
  • International transactions involve the application of different laws, by virtue of the persons from different countries being involved, or their undertaking a business in a third country.
  • The convention will link laws adopted by countries to recognise domestic mediation and extend them beyond their boundaries. UNCITRAL has formulated principles on which countries should recognise and enforce mediation agreements arising from cross-border disputes.

How it works?

  • The draft convention defines mediation as aprocess whereby parties attempt to reach an amicable settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a third person (the mediator). The mediator lacks the authority to impose a solution upon the parties to the dispute.
  • Courts of a country before which a mediated settlement agreement is brought must ensure implementation of the terms of settlement.
  • When the settlement agreement comes up before the court for implementation or enforcement, the court will review it on the basis of certain conditions. These include the capacity of the parties to enter into the agreement, the question whether the subject matter of the agreement is one that can be settled through mediation in terms of its domestic laws, and so on. Once the agreement has been reviewed, the court must enforce the agreement on the terms agreed. Courts can decline enforcement only on these conditions. The importance of the draft convention is in the identification of these conditions after careful deliberation.
  • With this convention comes the certainty that settlement agreements through mediation will be acknowledged as a resolution of the dispute, and will be respected and enforced.
  • 174 countries recognise mediation and conciliation as a method of resolving disputes, and as an alternative to going to courts.
  • International business and dispute resolution institutions all have established rules and assist businesses in resolving disputes through mediation. Businesses, in turn, have turned to mediation as the first step in resolving differences that arise in their international disputes. The convention is opportune and will facilitate legal reform to ease dispute resolution.

Ujjwala revolution

IMP of the article 2/10

  • Last month, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) completed two years of operation. During this time the number of LPG connections has crossed 4 crore, and LPG penetration in India has risen from 56% in 2014 to 80%.
  • The greater challenge for the mission lies in refills.
  • It is worth considering the usage pattern of PMUY customers who have been in the system for a year or more and have been buying four or more cylinders a year.
  • Data from the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), which has given out almost half of the Ujjwala connections says that the average cylinder consumption of these customers was 4.4 per year, including the installation cylinder.
  • One in five Ujjwala customers who enrolled in May 2016 is using seven cylinders annually, thus matching the national per capita consumption of 6.8 cylinders in 2017-18.
  • The adoption of LPG has received a boost with supplies ramping up and service improving. In April 2014, there were 13,896 LPG distributors across India. This number is now 20,227. Another 3,750 distributorships will be commissioned in 2018-19.
  • Similarly, the loan deferment policy, which has allowed the recovery of loan amounts from Ujjwala customers, has been deferred for their next six refills starting April 1, 2018. This allows customers to avail of the subsidy during this period.

Stranded on migration

  • What is the issue?: More than 1.8 million migrants have come to Europe since 2014, mostly from West Asia and Africa. This has become a contentious electoral issue across Europe with right-wing populists capitalising on an anti-migrant sentiment for electoral gains.
  • EU countries are now grappling with (and fighting over) the treatment of migrants within their territories and related policies. The temporary migrant resettlement system of 2015, which was formulated to distribute migrants across the EU, failed when many countries refused to meet their quotas. Migration is top of the agenda.
  • Why is migration in Europe in the news again? Earlier this month, Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to grant MV Aquarius , a ship that had rescued 629 migrants, docking permission. The ship was finally allowed to dock at Valencia, Spain, after food had run out and the UN refugee body had made appeals.
  • Salvini wants to deport 500,000 of those who are in Italy, fix the migrant resettlement system, build migrant reception centres in Africa, and do away with the Dublin Regulation which says refugees must apply for asylum in the EU country where they first landed.
  • How does issue affect the German government? More than 1.6 million migrants have made their way to Germany since 2015, the bulk of them arriving when Chancellor Angela Merkel suspended EU migration rules in 2015 to accept migrants stranded in other countries. This issue has since been used to attack Ms. Merkel politically, and last year helped the far-right Alternative for Germany win seats in the German parliament for the first time. It now threatens the coalition government headed by Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

Citizens, non-citizens, minorities

IMP of the article 5/10. It gives a diff perspective of the issue and IR .

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is intended to be supportive of religious minorities facing persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • But members of those communities living in the three countries do not seem to welcome the proposed amendment. Only those who have moved to India, and now live their lives as members of the majority community, do.
  • The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council for example, has expressed fears that the proposed amendment would make the communities it represents more insecure, not less. It would embolden political forces that would like to evict them from their lands and force them to leave Bangladesh and cross into India.
  • Organisations like the these have had to fight back rumours that the bill is the result of their reaching out to friendly political forces in India.
  • Developments in India have long affected the plight of minorities across the border. The suspicion of dual loyalty has been a persistent source of anxiety and fear for minority communities in the Subcontinent.
  • Given this history, it is not unreasonable for the religious minorities in Bangladesh to expect India to be attentive to their predicament and not make their situation worse.
  • In the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) — the Supreme Court has set June 30 as the deadline — as well as the citizenship amendment bill, there is an illusion of unilateralism that marks Indian policy.
  • The NRC exercise and the citizenship amendment bill, in their eyes, are meant only to serve domestic constituencies; they do not belong to the high table of diplomacy and strategic affairs.
  • One can hardly blame Bangladeshi officials for treating the NRC exercise as a matter of Indian domestic politics with no implications for their country. Even as the process nears completion, the official position of Bangladesh remains that there are no unauthorised Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.
  • This illusion of unilateralism is the main reason why people whose names will not appear in the final NRC in Assam are likely to face a gloomy future. They have long been subjects of suspicion of being false nationals. The NRC will now officially bestow on them the status of stateless citizens or of non-citizens with no rights.
  • It is worth recalling that the landmark Nehru-Liaquat Pact of April 1950 was a bilateral agreement between the two governments on the security and the well-being of minorities.
  • The two governments not only made a commitment to mutual accountability, the Pact even provided an institutional infrastructure — including provincial and district minority boards — to address the concerns of threatened minorities.
  • In the world of diplomacy, the bilateral way of approaching the question of minorities has a long history. Even the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 — conventionally thought of as the foundational event of the modern international state system — included safeguards for religious minorities. Concluding minority treaties was the instrument of choice for the protection of minorities during the early part of the 20th century.
  • The then chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, painted a grim picture of the condition of minorities in that country. He was very critical of “the way the religious minorities are being treated” and the response of the Bangladeshi state institutions. “If it goes on,” he said, “I think within 15 years there will be no Hindus in Bangladesh.”
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 28-06-18