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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.