Newspaper notes for UPSC 27-06-18

Hello friends, this is¬†Newspaper¬†notes for UPSC of 27-06-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions,¬†[email protected]¬†,¬†telegram:¬†@naylak¬†. Do¬†subscribe¬†to our website and¬†please share this post with your friends.

After aid for defence buys, India gifts plane to Seychelles

  • India¬† gifted a Dornier maritime patrol aircraft to Seychelles, which will increase the island nation‚Äôs surveillance capabilities.
  • Earlier, Prime Minister¬† announced a $100 million credit for Seychelles to buy military hardware from India. But confusion continues over the cooperation in the development of Assumption Island.
  • The Do-228 aircraft, built by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), was formally handed over by External Affairs Minister¬† to Seychelles President.

Elephantine threat

  • Assam considering sedation, relocation of aggressive animals.
  • Assam wildlife officials are keen on replicating their Uttarakhand counterparts‚Äô jumbo-relocation experiment for reducing man-elephant conflicts in western Assam.
  • Two herds of aggressive elephants and a lone rogue may be sedated for a sobering effect and relocated.
  • About half of 58 elephant corridors in the northeast, comprising 35% of the country‚Äôs, are in Assam.
  • Human habitations and barriers such as electric fences and trenches have blocked some of these corridors that once enabled movement of the two herds comprising 40-50 elephants between Assam‚Äôs Goalpara district and Garo Hills of Meghalaya. With nowhere to go, the elephants have virtually been confined within a small area that forest officials likened to a stadium without any exit.

NGOs on ED watchlist for funding Naxals

  • Expanding its investigations from the Bihar-Jharkhand region to Chhattisgarh, the Enforcement Directorate has zeroed in on some non-government organisations (NGOs) that are suspected to have funded Naxal operatives in the State.
  • The agency is preparing a list of such NGOs to examine their financial dealings, as they are already on the radar of security and police agencies.
  • The ED has also identified some prominent industrial houses that paid ‚Äėprotection‚Äô money to the banned outfit.
  • The agency has found that they extorted money and laundered the funds, acquiring movable and immovable assets.Properties worth crores have been attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act over the past few months.

Directorate of Enforcement

  • is a specialized financial investigation agency under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, which enforces the following laws: –
  • Foreign Exchange Management Act,1999 (FEMA) – A Civil Law, with officers empowered to conduct investigations into suspected contraventions of the Foreign Exchange Laws and Regulations, adjudicate, contraventions, and impose penalties on those adjudged to have contravened the law.
  • Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) – A Criminal Law, with the officers empowered to conduct investigations to trace assets derived out of the proceeds of crime, to provisionally attach/ confiscate the same, and to arrest and prosecute the offenders found to be involved in Money Laundering.

Tainted by uranium

  • Reports of widespread uranium contamination in groundwater across India demand an urgent response.
  • A study, published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters , has found over 30 micrograms per litre (mcg/l) of the heavy metal in parts of northwestern, southern and southeastern India.
  • Drinking such water can damage one‚Äôs kidneys, and the World Health Organization prescribes 30 mcg/l as an upper limit.
  • The residents of the regions surveyed were using the contaminated wells as their main source of drinking water.
  • These findings highlight a major gap in India‚Äôs water-quality monitoring. As the Bureau of Indian Standards does not specify a norm for uranium level, water is not tested regularly for it.
  • A 2015 Bangalore study, for example, found uranium levels of over 2000 mcg/l in the southern part of the city. Other studies found levels of over 500 mcg/l in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • The health effects of drinking uranium-tainted water merit special attention. A few small animal and human studies have found that the heavy metal damages the kidneys. The studies indicate that this is a chemical effect, rather than a radiological one, even though uranium is radioactive.
  • Critical area of research is the mechanism by which uranium enters groundwater. The Environmental Science paper identified two types of terrains with heavy contamination. In Rajasthan and other northwestern regions, uranium occurs mostly in alluvial aquifers; while in southern regions such as Telangana, crystalline rocks such as granite seem to be the source.
  • When groundwater is over-extracted from such soils, the researchers suggest, the uranium is exposed to air, triggering its release.

Transplanting best practices

  • Heart transplantation has always been in the public eye right from the time Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human heart transplant in 1967, in Cape Town, Africa.
  • The debate around it is vital because it is a marker of the fault lines in transplantation policy in India that need immediate correction.
  • Tamil Nadu‚Äôs deceased donor programme is one of the best in the country and that public credibility is key to its continuing success. But it is also important to address certain key drivers behind foreigners getting cardiac transplants.

Shift from Public to Private institutions:

  • It may be pertinent to note that one of the first cardiac transplants in the world was attempted back in 1968 at Mumbai‚Äôs King Edward Memorial Hospital by P.K. Sen (the world‚Äôs fifth and sixth heart transplants). What is relevant to the debate is that Dr. Sen‚Äôs transplants as well as India‚Äôs first successful cardiac transplant in 1994 (by P. Venugopal at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi) were performed in public institutions.
  • Along the way, organ transplantation in India largely became a private sector activity. Hence while the act of donation is a public act and the organs a public good, from that point onwards whatever happens is largely under the private sector.
  • Hospitals that invest large sums in transplantation programmes which include huge payouts to surgeons look for returns.
  • Unlike the liver and kidneys, a heart transplant cannot be performed with a living donor. Incidentally, around 20% of living donor liver transplants performed in some of the large centres in India are also on foreigners.

Financial angle : 

  • As these are largely performed in corporate hospitals, the costs in India are well beyond a large majority of the local population. This is where foreigner nationals who are often able to pay such sums fit in.
  • Cardiovascular practice in India is largely dominated by bypass and stenting for ischemic heart disease partly because this is a cash cow.
  • While India has enthusiastically embraced the idea of a liberalised economy and immediately applied it to health care, many countries have insulated their health-care systems from the ravages of the market. This too is at the heart of this matter.

Measures: 

  • We will have to demonstrate that organs will go to those who need them the most rather than to those who can pay for them. This will mean considering hard policy changes that include strengthening the capacity of the public sector, subsidising transplantation and perhaps enabling affirmative action in the allocation process in favour of public hospitals.
  • As Tamil Nadu has led the way in deceased donation and also has a good record of public medicine, it could lead the way here. One of the secrets behind Europe‚Äôs high donation rates is public trust in their respective nationalised health schemes.

Saving Delhi’s trees

  • Background: Over the last few days, Delhi residents have been protesting against the government‚Äôs approval for felling over 14,000 trees in south Delhi. Faced with severe criticism, the National Buildings Construction Corporation, tasked with redeveloping half a dozen south Delhi colonies, on Monday assured the Delhi High Court that no trees would be cut for the project till July 4, which is temporary relief.
  • Many of the trees proposed to be felled are mature, local, fruit-bearing ones that provide clean air, shade and water recharge to humans and are homes to many birds. These areas of Delhi have served as the ‚Äúlungs‚ÄĚ of the city. However, the project reports overlook these qualities.
  • Following the orders of the National Green Tribunal in September 2017 in a case challenging these projects, at least five of the seven projects received environment clearances between November and June.
  • Lobbying: Large constructions have been difficult to manage in India. The sector has systematically lobbied to be excluded from the environmental norms of the country and has been successful in carving out special privileges for itself in the environment clearance process.
  • Laws and rules: From 2006, most construction projects have been approved based on an application form instead of detailed assessment reports.
  • In 2016, projects with areas of less than 20,000 sq m were permitted to proceed as long as they submitted a self-declaration ensuring adherence to environmental norms. As a result of these privileges, construction projects contribute significantly to urban air and noise pollution and high water consumption in cities. Compensatory afforestation taken up in lieu of trees felled by projects is a failure due to poor survival rates of saplings and no monitoring. Yet all regulatory bodies treat large constructions with kid gloves.
  • The Minister for Urban Development has stated that this public campaign is ‚Äúmisinformed‚ÄĚ. But that is far from the truth. In a literate, urban society that has high access to the Internet, the lack of official information on urban development and its impacts can only be understood as an indirect form of public silencing.
  • The residents are now appealing to the government to embrace inclusive ways of redesigning the city. The governments could join hands by committing to review these projects.

Russia-related sanctions to dominate 2+2 talks

  • When India and U.S. hold their first 2+2 Dialogue involving the External Affairs and Defence Ministers and their counterparts, one of the key issues would be questions regarding the recent Russia-related sanctions that have now come up as a key impediment for India‚Äôs defence modernisation.
  • A MEA statement said the two sides will ‚Äúshare perspectives on strengthening their strategic and security ties and exchange views on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
  • The impact of CAATSA (Countering America‚Äôs Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) is still being assessed in the military circles even as policy moves from the U.S. have not been reassuring.

COMCASA: Why US, India can’t connect

  • Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement¬† COMCASA is meant to provide a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India that would facilitate ‚Äúinteroperability‚ÄĚ between their forces ‚ÄĒ and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secured data links.
  • The general agreement signed by the US is called the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) but the name was changed to COMCASA to reflect its India-specific nature.
  • It is part of a set of three military agreements that the US considers ‚Äúfoundational‚ÄĚ for a functional military relationship. In August 2016, India had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which allows the military of each country to replenish from the other‚Äôs bases. Negotiations on the third agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), have not yet begun.
  • US officials contend that COMCASA will facilitate the use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India, and fully exploit their potential. India‚Äôs armed forces, they argue, are currently dependent on less secure, commercially available communication systems on high-end American platforms like C-130Js and the P8I maritime surveillance aircraft.
  • These platforms are, therefore, unable to share data in real time with other friendly militaries using American platforms, besides creating problems of interoperability during training exercises and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
  • The US granted India the status of Major Defence Partner in the final days of the Obama administration to facilitate transfer of high-end defence technology. Signing the foundational agreements would underline that status, beside making the transfer of American defence technology possible to India.
  • There is also a fear that a lot of Russian-origin and indigenous Indian military platforms may not be compatible with COMCASA.

India most unsafe for women: poll

  • India has been ranked as the most dangerous country out of the world‚Äôs 10 worst countries for women, behind Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, according to a poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
  • The same poll conducted in 2011 had placed India at the fourth place. The findings are based on perceptions of experts on women‚Äôs issues.
  • The world‚Äôs second most populous nation, with 1.3 billion people, ranked as the most dangerous on three of the topic questions ‚ÄĒ the risk of sexual violence and harassment against women, the danger women face from cultural, tribal and traditional practices, and the country where women are most in danger of human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude.
  • The question on cultural practices targeting women included offences such as infanticide, acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage, forced marriage, physical abuse or mutilation as a form of punishment.
  • The other category in which India ranked the worst was sexual violence which comprised rape as a weapon of war, domestic rape, rape by a stranger, lack of access to justice in rape cases, sexual harassment and coercion into sex as a form of corruption.
  • Govt response : A source in the Ministry of Women and Child Development said the survey was not based on scientific findings.

Reviving economy faces risks

  • The Reserve Bank of India has observed that the 7.7% GDP growth in the last quarter indicates the economy is well on the recovery track.
  • At the same time, the conditions that had resulted in fiscal consolidation, moderation in inflation and a benign current account, are changing.
  • Specifically, it warned that the progress achieved on fiscal consolidation could face challenges unless there was buoyancy in tax receipts and restraint on expenditure.
  • The widening current account deficit ‚ÄĒ the shortfall widened in 2017-18 on the back of a wider trade deficit ‚ÄĒ was also a challenge as it impacted exporters‚Äô.
  • Externally, tightening liquidity conditions in developed markets were impacting emerging market currencies, bonds and capital flows. Firming commodity prices, evolving geopolitical developments and rising protectionist sentiments pose added risks.

Modi urges AIIB to boost lending 10-fold to $40 bn

  • Prime Minister urged the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to boost lending tenfold to $40 billion by 2020, and to $100 billion by 2025, in order to speed up infrastructure financing across the region.
  • Addressing the third annual meeting of the China-backed multilateral lender, PM sought to woo investors by highlighting India‚Äôs economic progress and policy environment.
  • The AIIB started operations in January 2016 and has so far approved 25 projects in a dozen countries with a total financing of more than $4 billion, which PM described as a ‚Äėgood beginning.‚Äô

SEBI set to open commodities to MFs

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is gearing up to usher the next set of reforms in the commodity market by allowing mutual funds (MFs) to participate in the segment while also actively considering allowing derivatives on commodity indices.
  • The proposal for allowing mutual funds and portfolio management services (PMS) in the commodity derivatives segment is awaiting final approval by SEBI
  • The Commodity Derivatives Advisory Committee, which met recently, deliberated upon the issue of physical settlement in commodity derivatives and formed a subgroup to look into this specific matter.
  • Physical settlement refers to the system where the contract on the day of expiry is settled through the delivery of the underlying commodity instead of the current practice of cash. This assumes significance as currently only about 1-2% of the total turnover of certain commodities is settled by way of physical delivery.
  • The regulator, however, will have to first frame the warehousing guidelines for non-agriculture commodities before going ahead with physical settlement. In September 2016, SEBI introduced warehousing norms for agri-commodities to ensure that exchanges do not face any default risk while the settlement and delivery of the commodity is assured.
  • Equity exchanges BSE and NSE, which plan to start commodity trading from October, have asked SEBI to allow co-location in the commodity derivatives segment as well.
  • A co-location facility is a data centre with racks for computer servers, which helps in execution of high-frequency trades. Globally, prominent commodity bourses like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Liffe and the Tokyo Commodity Exchange provide this facility.The main objective is to reduce latency in connections with the trading system, especially for electronic trading facilities like direct market access and algorithmic trading. High-frequency trading through co-location is catching on in India. NSE was the first exchange to offer this to its members in August 2009, while BSE started it early 2018.

Belize’s reef may be out of risk

  • The Mesoamerican Reef, an underwater wonder world whose survival was considered to be at risk for years, may now be removed from UNESCO‚Äôs list of threatened World Heritage Sites, thanks to bold steps to save it by activists and the Belizean government.
  • Second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Caribbean reef was named to the prestigious World Heritage List in 1996, but placed on endangered status in 2009 because of Belize‚Äôs plans to allow oil exploration nearby.
  • The warning also encompassed the mangroves that help protect the reef and serve as a breeding ground for many of the hundreds of fish species that inhabit the area. That spurred activists into action. They organised an informal referendum in 2012, in which 96% of Belizeans voted against offshore oil exploration, choosing the reef over the potential economic gains for the country.
  • Stretching from the tip of Mexico‚Äôs Yucatan peninsula all the way to Guatemala and Honduras, the reef includes 380 km in the waters off Belize, the portion covered by World Heritage status.

When an insurer buys a bank

  • Reports of state-owned LIC planning to buy the government‚Äôs holding in the troubled IDBI Bank to become a majority shareholder have triggered a debate around whether LIC should be using policyholders‚Äô money to buy a controlling stake in a troubled bank.
  • LIC‚Äôs bid to acquire controlling stake in the bank may give it an entry into the banking space, while allowing the government to raise around Rs 10,000 crore ‚ÄĒ thereby helping it meet the disinvestment target for the year.
  • The proposal involves LIC raising its stake in IDBI Bank to 51% from the around 11% that it had at the end of March.
  • LIC has presented to the government a number of synergies and mutual benefits. While IDBI will get the requisite capital, LIC will get a controlling stake in a bank, and is learnt to be preparing to bring in a professional management to run it.
  • Can LIC enter a new business to begin with? The Corporation has argued that the Life Insurance Corporation Act, 1956 permits it to enter an unrelated business that it is capable of running ‚ÄĒ and it can, therefore, pick up a controlling stake in a bank. It can ‚Äúcarry on any other business which may seen to the Corporation to be capable of being conveniently carried on in connection with its business and calculated directly or indirectly to render profitable the business of the corporation‚ÄĚ.
  • Will it require changes in regulations as well?
  • The existing rules of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), the autonomous, statutory regulator of the Indian insurance and re-insurance industry, do not permit LIC to raise its shareholding in a single listed entity beyond 15%.
  • Since LIC already holds 10.82% stake in IDBI Bank (as on March 31), it would require exemption from the IRDAI to pick up a majority stake in the bank. The insurance regulator has laid down this condition to ensure that the Corporation does not put policyholders‚Äô money at risk, and has a diversified portfolio.
  • why does the government want to cut its stake in IDBI Bank?
  • IDBI Bank is the worst performing state-owned lender in terms of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs).¬†IDBI Bank‚Äôs Gross NPAs rose to 27.95% ‚ÄĒ which means that out of every Rs 100 loaned by the bank, Rs 28 turned into NPAs. Unlike in the other public sector banks, the government can pare its stake in IDBI Bank to below 50%, because this bank is not governed by the Bank Nationalisation Act, 1969.
  • Any other risks? some experts argue that buying a controlling stake in a beleaguered state-owned bank may not be a prudent decision. It could put the Corporation at risk, since it would be required to pump in capital in the bank year after year. LIC is already a large investor in public sector banks and holds a more-than-9% stake in 16 out of India‚Äôs 21 public sector banks.

Emperor’s new clothes

  • The ongoing Aadhaar imbroglio is symptomatic of not only the rot within India‚Äôs welfarism but also its systemic entropy. We will find inherent inconsistencies in welfarism as it is practised in India. Right from the beginning, policy and decision makers of independent India have ignored a fundamental reality: that the welfare state is, first and foremost, a state.
  • They have spent most of their energy and resources on introducing and expanding welfarist measures rather than, what was and is urgently needed, strengthening the institutions of the state ‚Äď even for the success of welfarism.
  • Colonial setup and reasons: For the British had framed laws and formulated policies to largely further their own ends.
    • They set up institutions to perpetuate the Empire;
    • they promoted the extortionist land revenue system to bolster the exchequer;
    • they framed economic policy that bolstered the manufacturers of Manchester and Lancashire rather than those of Kanpur and Bombay;
    • they created an administration to suppress and repress the natives rather than ‚Äėorganise liberty with order‚Äô;
    • they established the police that had least regard for human rights; in almost everything they did, the interests of mother country preceded those of the colony.
  • Independent India: Not much has been done to alter that situation by way of state capacity augmentation. On top of that, the Indian state took upon itself a variety of responsibilities: becoming the prime mover of development, overseeing infrastructure projects, setting up dams and public sector undertakings, regulating (usually heavily) the economy, taking care of health and education, trying to achieve a socialistic pattern of society, in short doing everything under the sun.
  • Statism: with mounting inefficiencies, ineptitude and corruption in government functioning. This is the statism of a weak state, but it is still statism.
  • Our leaders love it; in their scheme of things, the cure for statism is not small government or less statism; the solution is more or, at best, a different kind of statism. For instance, when public distribution system (PDS) proved less than effective, a targeted public distribution system (TDPS) was devised.
  • How did it go? In the foreword of its performance evaluation report, erstwhile Planning Commission deputy chair Montek Singh Ahluwalia wrote in April 2005: ‚ÄúAbout 58% of the subsidised food grains issued from the central pool do not reach the below poverty line families because of identification errors, non-transparent operation and unethical practices in the implementation of TPDS. The cost of handling of food grains by public agencies is also very high.‚ÄĚ Ten years later, the Comptroller & Auditor General‚Äôs report said, ‚ÄúAfter a lapse of two years from the stipulated date of completion, most of the states were yet to computerise their TPDS operations.‚ÄĚ
  • Politicians: So, our political masters stayed focussed on making the state largesse more targeted.
  • Aadhaar was conceptualised, but it has also run into all manner of trouble ‚Äď linking Aadhaar to ration cards, privacy matters, data theft, even alleged starvation deaths, litigations. But the government is still adamant regarding the implementation of Aadhaar. Everybody knew that inadequate state capacity plagued PDS, but little was done to address the real issue; instead something new, TPDS, was tried.Similarly, the implementation of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana has proved to be less than satisfactory, but the government aims at an even more ambitious National Health Protection Scheme.
  • Limits to state capacity: More than stubbornness, this is dogmatism:The premise in this case is that a welfare state can be built regardless of state capacity. It is putting the cart before the horse, but they are convinced that this will work. Which means that the state can take limitless burden without improvement in its institutions, without administrative reforms.
  • Administrative Reforms is the need of the hour: There was something called the Second Administrative Reforms Commission,It prepared as many as 15 reports, the last of which came out in April 2009. Nobody has heard about administrative reforms ‚Äď or, for that matter, movement on police and judicial reforms ‚Äď since then.
  • Smoke and mirrors: It says something about the obtuseness of our politicians that neither the government nor the opposition is bothered about administrative, judicial and police reforms; they are happy with cows, name changing, symbolism and other emotive issues. The engine bequeathed by the Raj was rickety; instead of repairing it, politicians have burdened it with a myriad of welfare measures.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 27-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 26-06-18

Hello friends, this is¬†Newspaper¬†notes for UPSC of 25-06-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions,¬†[email protected]¬†,¬†telegram:¬†@naylak¬†. Do¬†subscribe¬†to our website and¬†please share this post with your friends.

India, Seychelles talk of ‚Äėmutual welfare‚Äô

  • The Indian PM said¬†India and Seychelles will ensure mutually beneficial steps regarding stalled plans for a military base at the island of Assumption.
  • PM¬†announced several initiatives for the strategically located country, including the grant of $100 million Line of Credit for the purchase of defence hardware. ‚ÄúOn the project of Assumption island, we have agreed to work for the welfare of each other. The statement is the first from the Prime Minister since the National Assembly of Seychelles last week refused to ratify the naval base that India has been planning to build on Assumption to provide a foothold in the western Indian Ocean.
  • India made it clear that its security and strategic cooperation will go ahead.
  • Pre:Seychelles map pointing.

No tree felling in south Delhi till July 4

  • The National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC), tasked with redeveloping half a dozen south Delhi colonies, assured the Delhi High Court that no trees would be cut for the project till July 4.
  • The NBCC and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) are in the process of felling over 16,500 trees for redevelopment of six south Delhi colonies.
  • The NBCC‚Äôs statement came after a vacation Bench of Justices said it was inclined to order an interim stay of the tree-chopping process.
  • Petitioner has sought setting aside of the terms of reference and the environmental clearances granted to the project by the Environment Ministry.

Value addition:

  • NBCC (India) Limited, formerly known as National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd., is a blue-chip Government of India Navratna Enterprise under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

Centre cannot guarantee power supply to all villages

  • Joint Secretary in the Power Ministry said that while it is the Centre‚Äôs responsibility to connect households and villages to the power grid or provide them alternative sources of electricity, it cannot guarantee the supply of electricity to them.
  • The actual supply is the responsibility of the power distribution companies ( discoms) in each State.
  • In news:¬†The Centre has claimed 100% electrification of all villages and 83% of all households across the country. It has said that all households will be electrified by the year end.

Discrepancies

  • In some cases, the electrification infrastructure such as cables and transformers were stolen days after they were installed, leaving the target village unelectrified in reality but connected on paper.
  • In other cases, electricity was supplied for just a few hours a day.
  • Despite the government pegging India as a power surplus nation, almost every State in the country reels under power cuts, especially during peak summer.
  • This according to power sector analysts, is because discoms are still very inefficient, with the costs they incur in the transmission far outweighing revenue.
  • F&D: Government data show discoms across the country, on an average, lose Rs. 0.22 a unit of electricity supplied.

The Discom Situation :

  • Power Ministry has claimed that this situation is improving rapidly under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY), with Power Minister recently saying that discom losses have drastically reduced to Rs. 17,352 crore in 2017-18 from Rs. 51,096 crore in the previous year.
  • The performance of discoms is improving, they are still not at the performance level to supply electricity 24×7.
  • Many of the discoms right now are not ready to provide 24×7 power, for two reasons:
    • The first is their financial health. Most of them are not financially capable to do this.
    • Secondly, only some of the discoms have the infrastructure to supply good quality power on a sustained basis.
  • If the respective State governments continue to give financial support and assurances to the discoms, then this could definitely improve.

Value addition:

What is definition of an electrified village ?

  • According to the definition, in place since October 1997, a village is deemed to be electrified if basic infrastructure such as a distribution transformer and distribution lines are in place in the inhabited locality, electricity is provided to public places like schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries, community centres, and at least 10% of the households in the village are electrified.

What are the Ground realities and quality of Power Supply ?

  • The claim of electrification pales when viewed against some of these realities. Rural household electrification has a wide range across States, from 47% to 100%.
  • The average hours of power supplied in a day to rural areas in January 2018 ranged from 11.5 in Mizoram, 14.91 in Haryana and 17.72 in Uttar Pradesh to 24 hours in Kerala, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. These anomalies are often the result of infrastructure deficits and administrative inefficiency and they show that, even with supportive Central schemes, the Power for All 24×7 goal adopted by States and Union Territories with a deadline of April 1, 2019 is far from realistic.
  • Census data for 2001 and 2011 indicate that the number of rural households that use electricity as their primary source of lighting rose by about 12 percentage points to 55.3%, while in that decade urban households rose five points to 92.7%. The per capita consumption between rural and fast-rising urban India also represents a challenge, since there is a divergence between the two.

Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana ‚ÄúSaubhagya‚ÄĚ

  • ‚ÄúSaubhagya‚ÄĚ is to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.
  • The States and Union Territories are required to complete the works of household electrification by the 31st of December 2018.
  • The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.
  • However, un-electrified households not covered under the SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 installments through electricity bill.
  • The solar power packs of 200 to 300 Wp with battery bank are provided¬†¬†for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas.
  • The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) will remain the nodal agency for the operationalisation of the scheme throughout the country.

Oil blocks: India to bid with UAE firms

  • India is considering jointly bidding for oil blocks in the UAE with companies based there, Petroleum Minister¬† said.
  • The Minister also said that India would consider leasing a part of its third strategic reserve in Padur if Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) was interested. It had already leased a part of the strategic reserve in Mangalore to ADNOC.
  • The MoU signed by Saudi Aramco and ADNOC¬† was to jointly develop and build an integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. The project would be implemented by Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. (RRPCL).
  • The investment by Saudi Aramco and ADNOC in the $44 billion project will be the highest ever overseas investment in the Indian refining sector.
  • The significance, however, goes much beyond FDI. It is a strategic partnership between India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE which is symbolised by the MoU. The strategic partnership brings together crude supply, resources, technologies, experience and expertise of these multiple oil companies with an established commercial presence around the world.
  • The Ratnagiri refinery would be capable of processing 1.2 million barrels of crude oil per day or 60 million metric tonnes per annum. It would produce a wide range of refined petroleum products, including petrol and diesel meeting BS-VI fuel efficiency norms.

Value addition:

Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL)

  • To ensure energy security, the Government of India had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storages at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and Padur (near Udupi).
  • These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any external supply disruptions.
  • The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
  • The crude oil storages are constructed in underground rock caverns and are located on the East and West coast of India. Crude oil from these caverns can be supplied to the Indian Refineries either through pipelines or through a combination of pipelines and ships. Underground rock caverns are considered the safest means of storing hydrocarbons.
  • Read more about BS-VI emission standards

$4.5 tn investment needed for infra

  • The country will need more than $4.5 trillion in investments over a decade to create infrastructure but the cost of such investments will be a challenge, Finance Minister¬† said at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank‚Äôs (AIIB) annual meeting.
  • Interest rates are rising globally as well as domestically, raising the cost of finance,FM said.
  • India is the second-highest equity investor in AIIB and also the largest recipient of funds from the multilateral agency that started operations in January 2016.
  • India has picked up 28%, or $ 1.4 billion of the AIIB‚Äôs total funding for seven projects.
  • Finance Minister said the country is looking forward to investments in nine more projects with a funding of $2.4 billion from AIIB.
  • AIIB approved an equity investment of $100 million in India‚Äôs National Investment and Infrastructure Fund‚Äôs (NIIF) and is considering a further investment of $100 million in the future.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

  • Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia and beyond. Headquartered in Beijing, it commenced operations in January 2016 and have now grown to 86 approved members from around the world.It has authorized capital of US 100 billion dollars and subscribed capital of USD 50 billion.
  • As on 2017¬† China‚Äôs voting share at the AIIB (26.6491%) the second largest AIIB member nation, India (7.6605%).¬†The largest shareholders after India are Russia (6.0368%), Australia (3.5139%), and Turkey (2.5551%). Via AIIB
  • It offers sovereign and non-sovereign finance for projects in various sectors with an interest rate of London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) plus 1.15 % and a repayment period of 25 years with 5 years in grace period.

Oil India again discovers hydrocarbons in Krishna Godavari Basin

  • Oil India Limited (OIL), one of India‚Äôs largest public sector oil exploration and production companies, has made its second hydrocarbon discovery in the onland KG Basin NELP VI Block.
  • OIL is the operator of the the block with 90% participating interest while the balance 10% is held by Geo Global Resources.

Reduce, segregate: On plastic ban

  • Maharashtra‚Äôs ban on several consumer articles made of plastic, introduced after a three-month notice period to industry and users, is an extreme measure. It is naturally disruptive.
  • Today, stemming the plastic tide is a national imperative. India hosted this year‚Äôs World Environment Day and Prime Minister made a high-profile pledge, to international acclaim, that it would do away with all single-use plastics by 2022.This goal is not yet backed by an action plan so that State governments and local bodies can be in sync.
  • Worldwide, the problem has got out of hand, with only 9% of about nine billion tonnes of plastic produced getting recycled.
  • If the Centre and the States had got down to dealing with the existing regulations on plastic waste management and municipal solid waste, a ban would not even have become necessary. Specifications for the recycling of different types of plastics were issued two decades ago by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • To address the global concern that the bulk of India‚Äôs plastic waste estimated officially at 26,000 tonnes a day¬† is being dumped in the oceans, there has to be an effort on a war footing to segregate it at source.
  • But segregation at source has not taken off, as there is little awareness, official support or infrastructure. Even bulk generators such as shopping malls, hotels and offices do not abide by the law.

Measures and Solutions:

  • The Urban Development Secretary in each State, who heads the monitoring committee under the rules, should be mandated to produce a monthly report on how much plastic waste is collected, including details of the types of chemicals involved, and the disposal methods. Such compulsory disclosure norms will maintain public pressure on the authorities, including the State Pollution Control Boards.
  • Priority, therefore, should be given to stop the generation of mixed waste, which prevents recovery of plastics.
  • Companies covered by extended producer responsibility provisions must be required to take back their waste.
  • In parallel, incentives to reduce the use of plastic carry bags, single-use cups, plates and cutlery must be in place. Retailers must be required to switch to paper bags.
  • Plastics became popular because they are inexpensive, can be easily produced and offer great convenience. But, as the UN Environment Programme notes, their wild popularity has turned them into a scourge.
  • Consumers will be ready to make the switch, but they need good alternatives.

Erdońüan‚Äôs day: On Turkey polls

  • Recep Tayyip Erdońüan‚Äôs re-election as President of Turkey comes as no surprise. With this, his authoritarian grip will be further consolidated; in the new term, he will acquire the sweeping executive powers given to the presidency through last year‚Äôs referendum.
  • The elections were held in a state of emergency, imposed in July 2016 following a coup attempt.
  • A faltering economy, characterised by plunging foreign direct investment, high inflation and a depreciating lira, had given the Opposition some hope of taking the fight to Mr. Erdońüan.
  • But the President‚Äôs polarising personality and his party‚Äôs wide organisational reach, coupled with the perception that he was the right person to revive economic growth, helped him retain power.
  • His victory is likely to see Turkey continuing with its belligerent role in the West Asian neighbourhood.
  • A stable, democratic and pluralist Turkey is essential in a neighbourhood that continues to be blighted by ethnically driven civil wars. As things stand, Mr. Erdońüan‚Äôs victory signals another hyper-nationalist, authoritarian turn.
  • Pre:Turkey map pointing.

At the crossroads

  • Personal Note: I humbly accept the defeat when it comes toShiv Visvanathan articles, it’s beyond me to simply put the articles in a summary format.He compares the mob lynching in Hapur in Uttar Pradesh to¬†A Hindu woman and a Muslim man get isolated in a temple. The mob drags the man out, hitting him at random. A policeman stands up to the mob.
  • In one case the police became spectator and in the other he did his duty and perhaps even going beyond the call of duty (by putting his life at risk )
  • Then the author goes on verbosely to attack the mind of the reader. Here are few lines in my opinions which convey the crux of the article.
  • The policeman too can merge into the background and play the spectator indifferent to spectacle.The victim, by the very label Dalit, Muslim or woman, is the only social category; the scapegoat marked for violence. The indifference of the police in the video appears both surreal and slapstick. It spooks justice, the concept of duty, the Constitution as they let the violence go on.
  • The fable asks, who is the stranger, the other? It answers, the other is an extension of the self. Society, it argues, cannot be made of similarity and uniformity but it crucially needs difference and the celebration of difference to keep society alive. As the South African philosopher A.C. Jordan advised, ‚ÄúOne needs to reinvent the stranger constantly to keep society alive.‚ÄĚ Gagandeep Singh, the policeman at Ramnagar, plays the good Samaritan. At a time when police brutality is at its prime as in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, the policeman and the citizen become ‚Äúothers‚ÄĚ to each other. To this we add the distance between a fundamentalist mob and its victim. When a policeman like Gagandeep Singh rescues a victim, the fable of the Good Samaritan is enacted once again.
  • The first picture, from Hapur, displays the standard indifference of society to its other. Citizenship and authority come alive when the other becomes part of the creative self. Society in this fable is born when one creates civility. Gagandeep Singh‚Äôs act shows that society has to care to continue. The two pictures become ‚Äėbefore‚Äô and ‚Äėafter‚Äô pictures of one narrative. It is up to us as seekers of meaning to read it. One exemplary act shows what is possible with a bit of courage and a touch of patience. The policeman protects the victim but does nothing to imitate the crowd. It is also a reminder that a social contract does not come alive because of formal rules. It comes alive when someone is ready to sacrifice for it.

An unequal platter

  • Development is about expanding the capabilities of the disadvantaged, thereby improving their overall quality of life.
  • Based on this understanding, Maharashtra, one of India‚Äôs richest States, is a classic case of a lack of development which is seen in its unacceptably high level of malnutrition among children in the tribal belts. While the State‚Äôs per capita income has doubled since 2004 (the result of sustained high economic growth), its nutritional status has not made commensurate progress.
  • A comparison of nutrition indicators for children under five years, using the third and fourth rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015‚Äď2016 and 2005-06, shows this:
    • Though stunting has declined from 46.3% to 34.4%, wasting rates have increased from 16.5% to 25.6%.
    • Further, the underweight rate (36%) has remained static in the last 10 years.
    • This is worse than in some of the world‚Äôs poorest countries Bangladesh (33%), Afghanistan (25%) or Mozambique (15%). This level of poor nutrition security disproportionately affects the poorest segment of the population.
  • According to NFHS 2015-16, every second tribal child suffers from growth restricting malnutrition due to chronic hunger. In 2005, child malnutrition claimed as many as 718 lives in Maharashtra‚Äôs Palghar district alone.
  • In September 2016, the National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Maharashtra government over reports of 600 children dying due to malnutrition in Palghar.
  • Stunting is caused by an insufficient intake of macro- and micro-nutrients. It is generally accepted that recovery from growth retardation after two years is only possible if the affected child is put on a diet that is adequate in nutrient requirements. A critical aspect of nutrient adequacy is diet diversity, calculated by different groupings of foods consumed with the reference period ranging from one to 15 days.
  • calculating a 24-hour dietary diversity score by counting the number of food groups the child received in the last 24 hours.
  • The eight food groups include: cereals, roots and tubers; legumes and nuts; dairy products; flesh foods; eggs; fish; dark green leafy vegetables; and other fruits and vegetables.
  • And 26% and 57% of the children (83% put together) had a dietary diversity score of two and three, respectively, implying that they had had food from only two/three of the eight food groups.
  • In most households it was rice and dal which was cooked most often and eaten thrice a day.
  • Only 17% of the children achieved a minimum level of diet diversity ‚ÄĒ they received four or more of the eight food groups.
  • Such acute food insecurity in tribal households is due to a loss of their traditional dependence on forest livelihood and the State‚Äôs deepening agrarian crisis. Besides these, systemic issues and a weakening of public nutrition programmes have aggravated the problem. For example, 20% of tribal families did not receive rations (public distribution system) in Vikramgad (in Palghar) as they did not have a card.
  • Way forward: It is time the government looks at the root cause of the issue and finds a sustainable solution for tackling malnutrition. This is possible only when the state focusses on inclusive development by creating employment opportunities for the marginalised which would improve their purchasing power and, in turn, reduce malnutrition.

Underweight, stunting, wasting and overweight

What do these indicators tell us?

  • These indicators are used to measure nutritional imbalance resulting in undernutrition (assessed from underweight, wasting and stunting) and overweight.
  • Child growth is internationally recognized as an important indicator of nutritional status and health in populations.¬† The percentage of children with a low height for age (stunting) reflects the cumulative effects of undernutrition and infections since and even before birth.
  • This measure can therefore be interpreted as an indication of poor environmental conditions or long-term restriction of a child’s growth potential. The percentage of children who have low weight for age (underweight) can reflect ‚Äėwasting‚Äô (i.e. low weight for height), indicating acute weight loss, ‚Äėstunting‚Äô, or both. Thus, ‘underweight’ is a composite indicator and may therefore be difficult to interpret.

How are they defined?

  • Underweight: weight for age < ‚Äď2 standard deviations (SD) of the WHO Child Growth Standards median
  • Stunting: height for age < ‚Äď2 SD of the WHO Child Growth Standards median
  • Wasting: weight for height < ‚Äď2 SD of the WHO Child Growth Standards median
  • Overweight: weight for height > +2 SD of the WHO Child Growth Standards median

What are the consequences and implications?

  • Underweight: As weight is easy to measure, this is the indicator for which most data have been collected in the past. Evidence has shown that the mortality risk of children who are even mildly underweight is increased, and severely underweight children are at even greater risk.
  • Stunting: Children who suffer from growth retardation as a result of poor diets or recurrent infections tend to be at greater risk for illness and death. Stunting is the result of long-term nutritional deprivation and often results in delayed mental development, poor school performance and reduced intellectual capacity. This in turn affects economic productivity at national level. Small women are at greater risk of delivering an infant with low birth weight, contributing to the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, as infants of low birth weight or retarded intrauterine growth tend be smaller as adults.
  • Wasting: Wasting in children is a symptom of acute undernutrition, usually as a consequence of insufficient food intake or a high incidence of infectious diseases, especially diarrhoea. Wasting in turn impairs the functioning of the immune system and can lead to increased severity and duration of and susceptibility to infectious diseases and an increased risk for death.
  • Overweight: Childhood obesity is associated with a higher probability of obesity in adulthood, which can lead to a variety of disabilities and diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The risks for most noncommunicable diseases resulting from obesity depend partly on the age at onset and the duration of obesity. Obese children and adolescents are likely to suffer from both short-term and long-term health consequences, the most significant being: cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart disease and stroke; diabetes; musculoskeletal disorders, especially osteoarthritis; and cancers of the endometrium, breast and colon.

Uniquely placed

  • The 15th Finance Commission (FC) is in the process of figuring out a fair formula for the distribution of net tax proceeds between the Union and the States, and among States.

The 14th Finance Commission (FC)

  • The 14th FC had adopted a formula-based tax devolution approach, apart from grants-in-aid for local bodies, disaster relief, and post-devolution revenue deficit grants. The share of devolution to the States was enhanced to 42% from 32%, which gave the States considerable flexibility. However, it dispensed with sectoral grants for elementary education, the forest sector and renewable energy sector, among others.
  • The devolution formula, therefore, is central to the approach of resource transfers. The 14th FC accorded 27.5% weight to the population (of which 17.5% was of the 1971 population), 15% to area, 7.5% to forest cover and 50% to income distance. Larger States with larger populations have a greater requirement of resources. Income distance was adopted as a proxy for fiscal capacity, and forest cover was given weightage for the first time, underscoring ecological benefits.

The North east :

  • The Northeast represents a distinct entity for developmental planning and has a special category status.
  • Low levels of human development indices, a low resource base, and poor connectivity and infrastructure pose a different challenge which must be taken into account in the devolution formula.
  • Central Ministries earmark 10% of their allocations for the Northeast. By the same logic, 10% of tax proceeds could be earmarked for vertical devolution to the region.
  • The 13th FC acknowledged the different position of the Northeast while arriving at the formula for horizontal devolution. Its twin guiding principles were equity and efficiency. It accorded 47.5% weight to fiscal capacity distance.
  • The Northeast also bears a disproportionate burden of natural disasters every year on account of rainfall. The 14th FC disaster relief grants bore no correlation with vulnerability but were ad hoc extrapolations of previous allocations.
  • The Energy and Resources Institute has computed an index of vulnerability of all States. The disaster vulnerability index is highest for the Northeast; this needs to be factored in while allocating grants. The region also has the highest forest cover and represents the largest carbon sink nationally. Allocating 10% for forest cover would encourage States to preserve the forests.
  • The Terms of Reference of the 15th FC also mention performance-based incentives based on improvements in GST collection, Direct Benefit Transfer rollout, etc. This would definitely infuse a spirit of competition. However, the performance of the Northeastern States must be benchmarked with other Northeastern States so that apples are not compared with oranges.

A tough balancing act

  • Collection of broad-based taxes is more efficient if done by the Centre than individual states. Expenditures on items such as education, health and local infrastructure require decentralisation. This calls for the Centre to collect the broad-based taxes and share them with the states.
  • But who is to decide how this divisible pool of revenue is to be shared between Centre and states? A neutral umpire is required.¬†¬†The Constitution designates the Finance Commission (FC) as that umpire.
  • The FC must perform a tough balancing act.¬†¬†If allocation to the states is disproportionately small, there is risk that expenditures on education, health and local infrastructure, which must be substantially locally provided, will go underfunded.
  • Equally, if allocation to the Centre is unduly small, national public goods such as defence, internal security, highways, waterways and railways may go underfunded.
  • The 14th FC had felt that time had come to shift the allocation of the divisible pool in favour of states for two reasons. First, grants made by the erstwhile Planning Commission to the states ‚Äď approximately 7% of the divisible pool ‚Äď belonged to the states and should go to them unconditionally. Second, greater freedom of expenditures on education, health and local infrastructure needed to be given to states. Accordingly, it raised the direct devolution to states from 32% to 42% of the divisible pool.
  • in the terms of reference (ToR) to the 15th FC, it has taken the unprecedented step of directing the latter to consider the impact of the enhanced devolution on its fiscal situation. The 15th FC now has the unenviable task of deciding whether to reverse the course charted by its predecessor.
  • The ToR also direct the 15th FC to use population data of 2011 instead of 1971 in determining each state‚Äôs share. The directive has led to a heated debate with critics arguing that it punishes the southern states for early success in lowering fertility rates to replacement levels.
  • The ToR direct the 15th FC to propose performance-based incentives in a number of areas such as deepening tax base, achieving replacement level fertility rates and implementing flagship schemes of the Centre. The FC can surely offer advice on how performance in these areas may be measured to guide the Centre‚Äôs own performance-based incentives out of its budget.

Background: In November 2017, the 15th Finance Commission (Chaired by Mr N. K. Singh) was constituted to give recommendations on the transfer of resources from the centre to states for the five-year period between 2020-25.

What is the Finance Commission?

The Finance Commission is a constitutional body formed every five years to give suggestions on centre-state financial relations.  Each Finance Commission is required to make recommendations on: (i) sharing of central taxes with states, (ii) distribution of central grants to states, (iii) measures to improve the finances of states to supplement the resources of panchayats and municipalities, and (iv) any other matter referred to it.

Present Issue:

  • The constitution of each Finance Commission is announced by a gazette notification. The notification comprises terms that list out the Commission‚Äôs work and considerations, called the Terms of Reference(TOR): In the notification issued, the TOR recommended, ‚Äúthe Commission shall use the population data of 2011 while making its recommendations.‚ÄĚ
  • This, it is feared, will mean that the shares of states more successful in controlling their population will decrease, while those who couldn‚Äôt control their population will get a larger share. As a result, southern states could lose the most, while some in the north would gain.

This does not, however, mean that the entire amount to be disbursed is based on the population Рonly a certain percentage of the funds. In the case of the 14th Finance Commission, that was 25%. Some of the other factors that the Commission takes into account are percapita income, area, and fiscal discipline. 

F&D: Facts and data which can be used in your mains answer writing. Pre: Prelims related Home work /Things to do and remember .

Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 26-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 25-06-18

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The tools for counting

  • As the 2011 Census approached, demands for inclusion of data on caste in Census has increased , however ,the Union Home Minister at the time, was opposed to collecting caste data and blocked it by claiming that it was logistically impossible for the Census.
  • later the hasty inclusion of the caste question in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) has resulted in largely unusable data.
  • Consequently, if we want information regarding the size and characteristics of various castes in India, we must continue to look to the Census of 1931.
  • Crux of the article: It is hard to imagine that the 2021 Census will not face another slew of demands for collection of caste data.¬† If we really want to collect data on caste in India and not let the discourse about Indian society be shaped by the political exigencies of colonial India, the time to plan is now.

Should we collect data on caste?

  • Some would argue that the simple act of asking about caste creates a chasm within society.
  • Colonial Censuses, beginning with the first Census in 1871, included questions about caste and used these data to divide and conquer India by first privileging Brahmins as interpreters of Indian culture and then targeting them as the roots of caste-based oppression and inequality.
  • S. Ghurye, the early 20th century pioneer of Indian sociology, reacted sharply by identifying this passion for classification as the source of anti-Brahmin movements.
  • Veena Das, doyenne of modern Indian anthropology, also notes that the colonial Censuses via the process of recording caste generated a conception of community as a homogeneous and classifiable community and thereby influenced the processes of political representation.
  • The challenge lies in figuring out whether caste-based political mobilisation and strong sentiments for or against reservations would disappear just because we choose not to collect statistics about caste.
    • Patels, Gujjars, Jats and Marathas do not seem to care about the lack of Census data as they demand reservations.
    • Nor has the caste cauldron of Karnataka elections calmed because we can only roughly estimate the size of the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities.
  • Our political systems, civil society and courts continue to assume that broad caste-based social categories¬† Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and upper castes ‚ÄĒ defined largely using data from 1931 Census and a few special purpose surveys continue to shape economic conditions in 21st century India.
  • Without accurate data at a granular level for each of these categories consisting of thousands of jatis (castes) and upjatis(subcastes), we have no way of knowing whether this is correct.
  • Indian society has undergone a tremendous transformation since 1931. Land ownership that bolstered the power of upper castes has lost its hold. Land fragmentation and decades of agricultural stagnation have turned many upper caste landowners into marginal farmers barely eking out a subsistence.
  • Consequently, while at a broad brushstroke the National Sample Survey (NSS) shows that mean consumption expenditure of forward castes is higher than that of Dalits, clusters of poverty persist among forward castes.
  • F&D: According to NSS data, the bottom fourth of forward castes are poorer than the top half of Dalits. India Human Development Survey shows that 56% of Dalit children ages 8-11 cannot read but neither can 32% of forward caste and 47% of OBC children.
  • Economic growth of the past century, combined with strong affirmation action undertaken by successive governments of the independent nation, may have changed relative fortunes of various groups.
  • Collection of caste data is not easy. The SECC asked interviewers to write down the name of the caste exactly as articulated by the respondent. By some reports, it has revealed as many as 46 lakh castes. Sometimes the same caste is spelt in different ways, at other times some individuals report their jati and others upjati making it difficult to create mutually exclusive categories.
  • Solution:It would be possible to set up an expert group that uses the SECC data in conjunction with other data sources such as matrimonial advertisements and State-specific Scheduled Castes/OBC lists to make a comprehensive list of castes and condense them into meaningful categories via machine learning tools. These categories could then be validated by domain experts from the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) institutions in various States to come up with a district specific list of castes that would cover more than 90% of individuals in any given district.
  • Collection of data on castes is inherently risky. Politicians have long realised the advantages and disadvantages of capitalising on the sense of relative deprivation among various groups.However, once the SECC was conducted, the genie was out of the bottle. Demands are already rife for the release of these data.
  • It will take courage for a future government to collect data on caste and to use it to rationalise reservation policies. However, without better and more current data, our discourse on caste and affirmative action remains dominated by decisions made by the colonial administration.

Value Addition:

The Ministry of Rural Development Government of India, commenced the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011, in June 2011 through a comprehensive door to door enumeration across the country. This is the first time such a comprehensive exercise has been carried out for both rural and urban India. It is also expected to generate information on a large number of social and economic indicators relating to households across the country.

The SECC, 2011 has the following three objectives:

  • To enable households to be ranked based on their Socio- Economic status. State Governments can then prepare a list of families living below the poverty line
  • To make available authentic information that will enable caste-wise population enumeration of the country
  • To make available authentic information regarding the socio economic condition, and education status of various castes and sections of the population

The origins of the term ‘caste’ are attributed to the Spanish and Portuguese casta, which means “race, lineage, or breed” When the Spanish colonized the New World, they used the word to mean a “clan or lineage”. However, it was the Portuguese who employed casta in the primary modern sense when they applied it to the thousands of endogamous, hereditary Indian social groups they encountered upon their arrival in India.

Change perceptions in J&K

  • The suspension of operations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has been called off by the government.
  • What reasons that forced the government to announce the truce despite the success that the security forces had been achieving in counterterrorist operations.
  • In seeking answers, we have to consider both the external and internal facets of the conflict.
  • External Situation: Pakistan plays a key role in keeping the conflict alive; its Army gives unstinted support to terror groups. In the absence of any incentive, and an almost complete breakdown of diplomacy between the two countries, some of us feel that the only option left to deter Pakistan is to keep up military pressure along the Line of Control (LoC).
  • Unfortunately, the 2003 agreement was only verbal, so there is no ‚Äúletter and spirit‚ÄĚ to it. For the ceasefire to succeed, it must be based on some strong principles that promote confidence between the two armies. As long as infiltration continues, forward patrols are attacked by groups from across the border, and soldiers killed, there can be no peace among troops facing off on the LoC.
  • It is essential that the two DGMOs meet and formalise an agreement in which Pakistan agrees to do more to seal off its border to prevent terrorists from entering India.
  • There must also be greater interaction between the local commanders of the two armies ‚ÄĒ for instance, flag meetings can be held along the border. If confidence can be built between local officers, it will enhance peace.
  • Looking at the internal situation in J&K, it is obvious that a multipronged approach involving both kinetic and population-centric measures is required.
  • Terrorism: The security forces are confident and capable of dealing with this threat¬† 250-300 terrorists in the State can carry out a few high-profile terror attacks but are simply incapable of forcing any revolutionary change.
  • law and order: Itslittle more complicated in dealing with stone-pelting mobs. The injuries and deaths which inevitably follow these clashes lead to a repeated cycle of violence. However, there is no option but to check this with a firm hand.
  • The government must look at meeting the aspirations of the larger population with a view towards long-term conflict resolution. This is the most complex task, with many competing narratives being offered as solutions.When faced with this dilemma, it is sometimes helpful to go back to

Understanding why ethnic conflicts often defy solutions.

In his article, ‚ÄúBetween Past and Future: Persistent Conflicts, Collective Memory, and Reconciliation‚ÄĚ, Irit Keynan writes:

‚ÄúEthnic and national conflicts entail two major aspects ‚ÄĒ defined by scholars as a socio-political aspect and a socio-psychological aspect ‚ÄĒ with the latter no less crucial than the former… The socio-psychological aspect pertains to a wide range of issues relating to the community, including a community‚Äôs sense of identity and self-perceptions, its fears and sense of collective threats, perceived past, and portrayal of its role in the conflict… The socio-political aspect involves issues such as land, natural resources, economic and political dominance. Despite the complexity of the socio-political matters, in situations of intractable conflict it is the socio-psychological aspect, as well as history, that dominates the relationship between the involved adversaries and plays a central role in interpreting and fuelling persistent animosity.‚ÄĚ

Israeli scholar Daniel Bar-Tal writes in his paper, ‚ÄúOvercoming Psychological Barriers to Peace Making: The Influence of Mediating Beliefs about Losses‚ÄĚ:

‚ÄúIn (prolonged and violent) conflicts the involved societies evolve [a] culture of conflict of which the dominant parts are societal beliefs of collective memories and of ethos of conflict, as well as collective emotional orientation… These narratives are selective, biased and distorted as their major function is to satisfy the societal needs rather than provide [an] objective account of reality.‚ÄĚ

  • A similar situation is evident in J&K. In Kashmir, perceptions have been generated of a government being at war with its people.
  • Given this reality, it should be clear that issues like good governance and development, while important, need to be accompanied by measures that address the socio-psychological aspects of the people of all regions of the State.
  • This has been a key weakness in our approach, and the separatists, along with some politicians, have made the situation worse by continuously exploiting existing societal beliefs and collective memory, rather than pointing to their dangers.

Way Froward:

  • The government also needs to embark on a strong perception-changing programme that challenges the existing narratives, brings out the horrific cost of conflict to the people and the benefits of peace and cooperative relations.
  • The conflict in J&K defies simple solutions. Among the many actions required to be taken on the military, economic, political and social fronts, dealing with the psychological aspects of affected communities is critical.
  • Memories and perceptions are perhaps the biggest hindrances to reconciliation and must be addressed by showing greater empathy.

A new vulnerability

  • Post-2014, cow vigilante groups have emerged as the most prominent non-state actors in India in terms of their capacity to unleash violence.
  • Given the shoddy nature of the allegations levelled by these groups, the objective seems more to target Muslim traders and citizens than rescuing cows.
  • The cow protection movement has a long history that goes back to the colonial days.

Gandhiji wrote:

‚ÄúBut, just as I respect the cow, so do I respect my fellow-men. A man is just as useful as a cow no matter whether he be a Mahomedan or a Hindu. Am I, then, to fight with or kill a Mahomedan in order to save a cow? In doing so, I would become an enemy of the Mahomedan as well as of the cow. Therefore, the only method I know of protecting the cow is that I should approach my Mahomedan brother and urge him for the sake of the country to join me in protecting her.‚ÄĚ (Hind Swaraj, chapter 10).

  • For decades the Hindu right has campaigned for cow protection as a Hindu-Muslim issue, as if Muslims took to beef eating only to humiliate Hindus.
  • No definitive theory exists of how Muslims took to beef eating,As Dalits too eat beef, this is a Dalit issue as well. As a cause, cow slaughter is limited to the upper castes.

Dadri and Una response :

  • A comparison of the protests triggered by the Dadri lynching in 2015 and the Una flogging in 2016 sheds crucial insights into the political churning taking place in both communities.
  • Dadri: artists and intellectuals, and not Muslim organisations, led the protests.¬†No doubt the cow protection movement has struck a chord with many Hindu conservatives, most of whom constituted various levels of leadership of the Congress and non-Congress parties under whose patronage anti-cow slaughter laws were passed in various States long before the BJP came into existence. The difference between the Hindu right and Hindu conservatives is their position on vigilante violence, which a majority of Hindu conservatives do not approve of.
  • Una:¬†Dalits, on the other hand, came together in massive protest after the Una flogging, forcing the Prime Minister to make a statement.
  • That Muslim food habits, particularly beef eating, could be a major impediment to harmonious life in a free India was foreseen by Muslim separatists. Jinnah made a categorical argument that a separate homeland was necessary on account of Muslim food habits, among others.
  • In its fight against radical Islam, the Indian state has launched preventive arrests; often, innocent Muslim youths become its tragic victims. No such effort is seen with regard to the vigilante groups.
  • Gandhiji understood that India has enormous potential for violence, which is why he chose the path of non-violence, according to Paul Brass. The continuation of vigilante violence would only make India even more vulnerable to violence.

Smoke and mirrors

  • When the Cold War ended, the withering of its restraining influences spawned many ethnic and state-breaking conflicts. Also, the feeling of hubris generated in the U.S. by the demise of the Soviet Union amplified its interventionist proclivities.
  • A combination of these factors led to so-called ‚Äúhumanitarian‚ÄĚ interventions, especially in the Balkans and West Asia.
  • Some of these, as in Bosnia and Kosovo, did achieve humanitarian ends by preventing ethnic cleansing on a national scale.
  • Others, as in Iraq, Libya and Syria, made bad situations infinitely worse. Nonetheless, such interventions helped create a new international norm whereby it was assumed that the ‚Äúinternational community‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ or more aptly the Western powers ‚ÄĒ had the right to intervene in countries where governments engaged in brutal suppression of their peoples.
  • The term Responsibility to Protect (R2P), derived from a 2001 report by a high-powered commission at the behest of the UN Secretary General, became the linchpin of the humanitarian intervention argument.
  • R2P and its corollary, humanitarian intervention, have ended up subverting the international order rather than strengthening it, for two major reasons.
  • First, such interventions have been undertaken with the objective of regime change but without much thought about the rebuilding of state institutions that this would entail.
  • Consequently, they often ended up inducing state failure, which has led to people seeking security through ethnic, sectarian and tribal protection rackets, thus accentuating internal conflicts.
  • Second, humanitarian interventions are undertaken largely at the behest of the P-3 (the U.S., the U.K. and France), who wield veto power in the UNSC and have the wherewithal to mount such interventions.
  • Where they are unable to garner support in the UNSC they have launched interventions under the banner of the ‚Äúcoalition of the willing‚ÄĚ, as in the case of Iraq. Most humanitarian interventions have been undertaken when they suit the interests of the U.S. and its allies.
  • Demands for intervention in humanitarian crises, such as in Gaza, that do not suit the P-3, especially the U.S., face the threat of veto in the UNSC. This is why genuine humanitarian crises crying out for intervention remain unaddressed.
  • The related idea that the P-5 should not exercise their right to veto on issues of humanitarian intervention, while discussed in the R2P report, got no traction because the permanent members were not interested in their actions being restrained.

Value addition:

  • The Balkans, or the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various and disputed definitions.[1][2] The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea.
  • Balkanization, or Balkanisation, is a geopolitical term used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or uncooperative with one another. Balkanisation is a result of foreign policies creating geopolitical fragmentation, as has happened in the namesake Balkan region under the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Third Reich, the United Nations, and NATO.
  • The Responsibility to Protect (R2P or RtoP) is a global political commitment which was endorsed by all member states of the United Nations at the 2005 World Summit in order to address its four key concerns to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
  • The principle of the Responsibility to Protect is based upon the underlying premise that sovereignty entails a responsibility to protect all populations from mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations.The principle is based on a respect for the norms and principles of international law, especially the underlying principles of law relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights, and armed conflict.
  • The P5 refers to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (the P5); namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States

For nutrition security

  • The UN‚Äôs State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report for 2017 has important pointers to achieve nutrition policy reform.
  • At the global level, the five agencies that together produced the assessment found that the gains achieved on food security and better nutrition since the turn of the century may be at risk.
  • Although absolute numbers of people facing hunger and poor nutrition have always been high, there was a reduction in the rate of undernourishment since the year 2000. That has slowed from 2013, registering a worrying increase in 2016.
  • The estimate of 815 million people enduring chronic food deprivation in 2016 is depressing in itself, but more important is the finding that the deprivation is even greater among people who live in regions affected by conflict and the extreme effects of climate change.
  • The report says that child under nutrition rates continue to drop, although one in four children is still affected by stunting. These are averages and do not reflect the disparities among regions, within countries and between States.
  • The impact of the economic downturn, many violent conflicts, fall in commodity export revenues, and failure of agriculture owing to drought and floods are all making food scarce and expensive for many. They represent a setback to all countries trying to meet the Sustainable Development Goal on ending hunger and achieving food security and improved nutrition.
  • SDG Goal 2:¬†End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

 Indian Context :

  • India‚Äôs efforts at improving access to food and good nutrition are led by the National Food Security Act.
  • There are special nutritional schemes for women and children operated through the States. In spite of such interventions, 5% of the population suffers from undernourishment, going by the UN‚Äôs assessment for 2014-16.
  • At the national level, 53% of women are¬†anemic, Health Ministry data show.
  • All this shows that the Centre and State governments are woefully short on the commitment to end
  • The report on nutritional deficiency should serve as an opportunity to evaluate the role played by the PDS in bringing about dietary diversity for those relying on subsidised food.
  • In a report issued two years ago on the role played by rations in shaping household and nutritional security, the NITI Aayog found that families below the poverty line consumed more cereals and less milk compared to the affluent.
  • Way Forward:¬† Complementing rice and wheat with more nutritious food items should be the goal.

Sketchy deal

  • When it comes to crude oil prices, politics dwarfs everything else. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Friday agreed to increase its daily output to address the problem of rising crude oil prices.
  • Saudi Arabia‚Äôs Energy Minister announced that the cartel‚Äôs output would be increased by about a million barrels a day beginning in July. The official statement released by the group, however, failed to mention any solid numbers regarding the planned increase in production. It simply stated that OPEC countries would ‚Äústrive‚ÄĚ to adjust production levels in order to conform to the terms of the production cut deal reached in 2016.
  • OPEC members had in late 2016,, agreed to a historic deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day in order to end a supply glut and raise the price of oil. Since then, the cartel has in fact managed to overshoot its production cut target following unexpected outages in countries such as Venezuela and Libya, contributing to the steep rise in oil prices.
  • In May, for instance, OPEC overshot its production cut target by 624,000 barrels a day. The lack of any clear commitment from OPEC to raise production suggests that the threat of a supply shock still looms over the global economy.
  • The pressure on Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, to be seen as doing something to tackle rising oil prices was clear.
  • Other oil-importing economies, especially emerging markets such as India that have been affected by the rising cost of oil imports, have also been exerting pressure.

Brent Crude oil

  • Brent Crude is a major trading classification of sweet light crude oil that serves as a major benchmark price for purchases of oil worldwide. This grade is described as light because of its relatively low density, and sweet because of its low sulphur Brent Crude is extracted from the North Sea and comprises Brent Blend, Forties Blend, Oseberg and Ekofisk crudes (also known as the BFOE Quotation).
  • Brent blend is a light crude oil (LCO), though not as light as West Texas Intermediate (WTI). It contains approximately 37% of sulphur, classifying it as sweet crude, yet not as sweet as WTI. Brent is suitable for production of petrol and middle distillates.
  • The New York Mercantile Exchange designates petroleum with less than 0.42% sulfur as sweet.Petroleum containing higher levels of sulfur is called sour crude oil.
  • Sweet crude oil contains small amounts of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. High-quality, low-sulfur crude oil is commonly used for processing into gasoline and is in high demand, particularly in industrialized nations.

How Haksar reset ties with Beijing

  • It was former diplomat and civil servant P.N. Haksar who ‚Äúinvented‚ÄĚ the formula in 1987 that India and China could cooperate in other areas even as they addressed their differences on the boundary question, says a new book Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi by Jairam Ramesh.
  • Haksar, who was sent to China as special envoy by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1987, said he spent 10 days persuading the Chinese to accept his formula that, despite differences on the boundary question, the two countries should ‚Äúendeavour to reconstruct the totality of Sino-Indian relations in the field of trade, industry, technology‚Ķ‚ÄĚ
  • Rajiv Gandhi sent Haksar, one-time principal secretary to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in the wake of border tensions with China in 1986, to Beijing in 1987, and he managed to open the doors to a highly successful visit by Rajiv to China in December 1988.
  • Before Rajiv Gandhi left for China in 1988, the former diplomat wrote to the Prime Minister, ‚ÄúOn the border question, it has been my view that frontiers between India and China need to be demarcated on the ground in terms of objective criteria e.g., Watershed Principles, River valleys, administrative control, etc.‚ÄĚ
  • Twenty years after Rajiv Gandhi‚Äôs visit to Beijing, the two countries are still engaged in addressing their border dispute but trade and contacts between the two countries have multiplied manifold since 1988.

India, Bangladesh navies to join hands

  • India and Bangladesh have agreed to institute a Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) as an annual feature between the two navies. The first edition will be inaugurated by Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.
  • The commencement of CORPAT is major step towards enhanced operational interaction between both navies. Naval cooperation between India and Bangladesh has been traditionally strong, encompassing a wide span which includes operational interactions through port calls, passage exercises along with capacity building, capability enhancement and training initiatives.
  • Over the last few years, the Navy has expanded its assistance to countries in the region through ‚Äúmaterial support, training, EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) surveillance, provisioning of platforms, hydrographic assistance, joint exercises and offering slots in professional training courses.‚ÄĚ
  • The Navy regularly conducts CORPATs with Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. It also conducts EEZ surveillance of Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles on their request.

Govt. testing ‚Äėbig data‚Äô system to aid banks assess credit risks

  • The government is testing a new system (A credit rating model)¬† that will assist banks in assessing credit risk and the probability of fraud using big data analysis. The system is expected to help lenders, particularly rural and cooperative banks, tackle the issue of rising non performing assets (NPAs).
  • Currently, rural and cooperative banks depend on judgement of the bank manager, resulting in high NPA.
  • The¬†Ministry of Electronics and IT sponsored project includes as partners the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Bangalore-based IT firm Processware System and two cooperative banks.
  • The project is aimed at helping banks quantify risks associated with retail loans such as gold loans, personal loans and vehicle loans.
  • Under the project, a statistical and machine learning algorithmic model has been developed to predict the probability of default with an aim to reduce NPAs.

Key monetary tools at the RBI’s disposal

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), earlier this month, raised the policy repo rate to 6.25%, the central bank‚Äôs first interest rate increase in four-and-a-half years.

Monetary tools the RBI uses.

Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR)

  • Banks need to hold some portion of their deposits in cash with the RBI. This ratio is called CRR. If the RBI cuts CRR, banks will be left with more money to lend or invest. On the other hand, if the CRR is raised, banks will have lesser money to lend.
  • RBI uses CRR to absorb excess liquidity or to release funds needed for economic growth. The present CRR is 4%.
  • When a bank‚Äôs deposits increase by Rs. 100, and if the CRR is 4%, the banks will have to park Rs. 4 with the RBI. The bank can use only Rs. 96 for investments and lending purposes.

Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR)

  • Banks also have to invest a certain portion of their deposits in government securities with the RBI. This percentage is known as SLR. Banks can earn return on these investments.
  • The current SLR is 19.5%. If a deposit of Rs. 100 is made in a bank, then the bank will have to invest Rs. 19.5 in government securities.
  • So, to meet CRR and SLR requirements, a bank has to earmark Rs. 23.5 (4+19.5).

The repo rate

  • When banks need money they can borrow from the RBI against their surplus government securities at a fixed interest rate.
  • This rate is known as the repo rate. The higher the repo rate, the higher the cost of short-term money to the banks and vice versa. Generally, whenever the repo rate is raised, banks pass the burden on to customers.
  • If the repo rate is lowered, then banks can potentially charge lower interest rates on the loans taken by borrowers.

The reverse repo rate

  • The reverse repo rate is the rate of interest offered by RBI, when banks deposit surplus funds with the RBI for short periods.
  • The reverse repo rate at present is 6%.

Refer: Ramesh Singh for economy. Very important topic from prelims .

The two facets of NPA management

  • The phenomenal increase in non-performing assets (NPAs) and wilful defaults over the last three years raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of NPA management.
  • Given the potential adverse impact that the increasing incidence of NPAs might cause, it is critical that NPA resolution takes place in a timely manner. Policies concerning NPA resolution must address two critical aspects:
  • first, how to prevent it occurring at this scale in the future?
  • and second, how to manage the existing accumulated NPAs?
  • Till recently, most of the initiatives by the government and the RBIhad centred on¬† how to manage the existing NPAs.
  • While it is important to clean up the balance sheet of banks by reducing or eliminating bad loans, preventive measures are equally important. Typically, preventive measures are structural in nature. Both elements are quite important to a robust NPA management mechanism.
  • The role of the government has historically been crucial when there is a banking failure or crisis. It is the government which comes to the rescue, either through direct intervention or through the regulator. The role of government becomes even more important as it happens to be the principal owner of majority of the affected banks in India.
  • On preventive measures, there is a need for evolving a framework in order to bring transparency into the operation and management of SCBs (scheduled commercial banks), particularly the PSBs (public sector banks), on four major parameters ‚ÄĒ project appraisal, monitoring, accounting, and auditing.
    • As large loans constitute a substantial portion of the total NPAs, a robust credit appraisal mechanism is crucial.
    • As large loans tend to be relatively technically complex, banks must enhance their technical capabilities to undertake project monitoring effectively.
    • Greater emphasis must be placed on bringing efficiency and transparency into the accounting
    • Emphasis should be given on strengthening the audit system in banks.
  • These measures can potentially reduce the possibilities of collusion among the officials of the funding institutions and the borrowers.
  • There is a need for creating a publicly funded ‚Äėbad bank‚Äô or an asset management company which will deal with the stressed assets of PSBs. The bank should function independently and be accountable to government.Given the fiscal constraints, it may not be viable for the government to finance the proposed bad bank through budgetary support fully. The government can, however, partly finance the proposed ‚Äėbad bank‚Äô by issuing equity shares with the government holding the majority share.

Praggnanandhaa has done it

  • Chess prodigy R. Praggnanandhaa, who missed out on the chance to become the game‚Äôs youngest-ever Grandmaster in March this year, completed the technical formalities to become the world‚Äôs youngest GM at present, and the second youngest on the all-time list.
  • As things stand, at 12 years, 10 months and 13 days, Praggnanandhaa is now behind record-holder Sergey Karjakin in the all-time list.

Lessons from dark times

  • The darkest chapter in modern India‚Äôs history unfolded on June 25, 1975, when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed proclaimed Emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution on the grounds that ‚Äúthe security of India is threatened by internal disturbance‚ÄĚ.
  • Refer Laxmikanth for technicalities to impose emergency now, and what changed .
  • To prevent any attempt to throttle democracy on the grounds of internal disturbance, the Janata Party government had carried out the 44th Amendment in 1978. As a result, the President can declare Emergency only due to external aggression and the condition of ‚Äúinternal disturbance‚ÄĚ was replaced with armed rebellion. The President‚Äôs proclamation has to be approved by both the houses of Parliament within a month.
  • The imposition of Emergency in 1975 was preceded by a widespread anti-corruption movement in Gujarat, popularly known as Nav Nirman Andolan. Around the same time, a students‚Äô agitation gathered momentum against corrupt rule in Bihar, even as people in the rest of the country became increasingly resentful of soaring prices and corruption. Veteran socialist leader, J P Narayan, gave a call for ‚ÄúSampoorna Kranti‚ÄĚ. JP became the messiah of the masses.
  • Less than a fortnight before the proclamation of Emergency, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court had set aside the election of Mrs Gandhi for electoral malpractices and barred her from contesting elections for six years. He, however, stayed the order for 20 days to allow Mrs Gandhi to file an appeal. After her appeal was admitted in the Supreme Court, Justice V R Krishna Iyer granted a conditional stay on June 24 and held that Mrs Gandhi cannot participate in debates or vote as an MP. He referred the issue to a larger bench. The very next day, a massive public meeting was addressed by JP at Ramlila Grounds demanding Mrs Gandhi‚Äôs resignation.
  • Although there was no major incident anywhere in the country on the law and order front, Emergency was imposed on June 25.
  • Top political leaders¬†and several RSS leaders were arrested without any charge in midnight swoops. Thousands of others were detained either under the draconian MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) or DIR (Defence of India Rules).
  • People in India and rest of the world were stunned by the unprecedented developments as fundamental rights were suspended, judiciary was superseded, various organisations were banned, forcible sterilisations were carried out and thousands were brutally tortured.
  • The media by and large meekly surrendered to the censor, barring a few honourable exceptions like the fearless Ramnath Goenka‚Äôs The Indian Express, The Statesman and Mainstream. Well-known journalist, Kuldip Nayyar was among those arrested. The government categorised the media as friendly, hostile and neutral and gave advertisements to only friendly publications.
  • Sweeping constitutional amendments were carried out like the 39th amendment which prohibited SC from hearing election petitions and the 42nd amendment, which declared that any amendment to the Constitution cannot be questioned in any court. Even the tenure of legislatures was extended to six years.
  • However, all the attempts to throttle democracy came to naught. The people rose like a tidal wave and voted the Janata Party to power and the government headed by Morarji Desai was sworn in. It nullified some of the black laws legislated during the Emergency. The Shah Commission appointed to probe into the excesses committed during the Emergency concluded that its imposition was totally unwarranted.
  • An important lesson taught by Emergency is that the people of India, although peace-loving, will never tolerate authoritarianism. The fact that people have peacefully overthrown a despotic regime not only showed the maturity of the Indian electorate but also the resilience of India‚Äôs Parliamentary democracy. Freedom is the lifeline of democracy and any stifling will sound the death knell of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
  • Refer India after Gandhi selectively for Post Independence consolidation.

Not all milk and honey

  • Farmers, who had high expectations from the Narendra Modi government, are a disillusioned lot today. Market prices of several crops have remained well below their minimum support prices (MSPs). Moreover, milk prices have fallen by 20 per cent to 30 per cent (by Rs 5 to10 per litre for cow milk) in several milk-surplus states in western and northern India.
  • This reminds us of the history of Kheda district in Gujarat, which was struck by a milk crisis in 1946. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stepped in to solve the problem of low milk prices. He gave India its first and largest milk cooperative (AMUL), and in the process, emerged as a leader of farmers.
  • The value of milk is more than that of rice and wheat combined. So, it is India‚Äôs biggest agri-produce. It is a source of income to small and landless agri-households ‚ÄĒ 70 per cent of those earning their livelihood from milk are women.
  • There is a problem of falling milk prices in India.
  • Solution:¬† India has to work on two fronts simultaneously:
  • One, create demand to match rapidly increasing supplies of milk;
  • Two, ensure that its dairy sector develops on globally competitive lines. In order to cut down costs of milk production, India needs to increase the productivity of its milch animals, which is far below (indigenous cows 2.8 litres, crossbreds 7.5 litres, and buffaloes 5.2 litres per day) the global standards of 20 litres plus/day.
  • Cross-breeding with high-productivity animals of foreign breeds and pure indigenous breeds, with sex selection semen technologies assuring female progenies, is the way forward.
  • The technologies exist, but the country needs to ramp its R&D and agriculture extension department to transform this sector into a vibrant, competitive and more remunerative sector for farmers.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 25-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 23-06-18

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Vohra urges parties to ensure peace

  • Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra, who chaired an all-party meeting in Srinagar to seek the opinion of political representatives on the governance of the State.
  • He was advised by regional parties against any ‚Äúhot pursuit policy in Kashmir‚ÄĚ.
  • Vohra in turn asked the parties to play a role in ‚Äúmotivating youth to shun the path of violence‚ÄĚ.
  • Issues of internal security, law and order, development, educational problems, Amarnath Yatra and the current political scenario were discussed during the all-party meeting.

States’ claim on fighting plastic only strong on paper

  • Experience from across the country suggests that States‚Äô claims on reigning in plastic are stronger on paper than on the ground.
  • According to the Centre‚Äôs Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016, all States have to annually apprise the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the steps taken to reign in plastic use, whether a ban is in force, and the strength and performance of a recycler and waste-processing network.
  • The latest such report ‚ÄĒ as of July 2016 ‚ÄĒ notes that only 24 States and Union Territories have complied with these directions.
  • Most States, while claiming a ban, qualify it by saying that the ban is imposed in specific towns or cities. Or that it is focussed on particular categories of plastic.
  • Delhi, which reportedly generates the largest quantity of plastic waste in the country, has not provided information on its plastic management initiatives to the CPCB.
  • The law requires that all plastic waste recyclers register themselves but there were around 312 unregistered plastic manufacturing/recycling units all over the country.
  • It is observed that most of the States/UTs have not set-up proper monitoring system for use of carry bags as per the specified guidelines. Also those States/UTs, who have imposed complete ban on use and sale of plastic carry bags, the plastic bags are stocked, sold and used indiscriminately. Besides, substandard carry bags (<50 micron) are used widely in other States/UTs, violating PWM Rules, 2016.
  • Facts and Data:India generates an estimated 32 million metric tonnes of packaging waste each year, of which plastic waste constitutes 16%. But only 60% of the collected plastic waste is recycled.
  • Around 43% of manufactured plastics are used for packaging, most of it ‚Äúsingle-use‚ÄĚ plastic. So far, not a single one of the 24 States that report their plastic waste management performance have plans in place to tackle single use plastics.
  • Good Implimentation: Kerala and Sikkim,¬† are the States with the most creditable plastic waste management policies. Sikkim has a system of buying back plastic from consumers.

Value addition :

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), statutory organisation, was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Principal Functions of the CPCB, as spelt out in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,
  • (i) to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution, and
  • (ii) to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.

Kharif crop sowing slows down:

  • With the western sweep of the monsoon stalled over the Konkan coast, kharif crop sowing has also slowed. About 12 lakh fewer hectares have been planted than at the same time last year according to a statement by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers‚Äô Welfare.
  • The biggest lags are seen in rain-fed crops such as pulses and oilseeds.
  • National Mission on Oilseeds and Oilpalm¬†was launched in 2014 in an effort to reduce India‚Äôs dependence on edible oil imports by increasing domestic production to meet rising domestic demands. However, oilseed prices crashed to a five-year low last year, even as production increased.
  • Apart from oilseeds and pulses, sowing for paddy, coarse cereals and cotton is also lagging behind slightly.
  • What are Cropping Seasons in India?¬†

Cannot share Aadhaar data for crime probe

  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) made a case for limited Aadhaar data access for the police to crack crimes, the UIDAI asserted that use of Aadhaar biometric data for criminal investigation is not allowed under the Aadhaar Act.
  • The ‚Äúvery limited‚ÄĚ exception to this, said UIDAI, is allowed under Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act, which permits use of or access to biometric data in cases involving national security, only after pre-authorisation by an oversight committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary.

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

  • Accepting the recommendations of the National Police Commission – 1977, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a Task Force in 1985 to work out the modalities for setting up of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).¬†¬†The Government accepted the recommendations of the Task Force and constituted the NCRB with headquarters at New Delhi in January, 1986.
  • The agency responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA), Government of India.

The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016

  • Protection of information: Biometric information such as an individual‚Äôs finger print, iris scan and other biological attributes (specified by regulations) will be used only for Aadhaar enrolment and authentication, and for no other purpose.¬†¬†Such information will not be shared with anyone, nor will it be displayed publicly, except for purposes specified by regulations.
  • Cases when information may be revealed: In two cases, information may be revealed:
  • In the interest of national security, a Joint Secretary in the central government may issue a direction for revealing,
    • (i) Aadhaar number, (ii) biometric information (iris scan, finger print and other biological attributes specified by regulations), (iii) demographic information, and (iv)
    • Such a decision will be reviewed by an Oversight Committee (comprising Cabinet Secretary, Secretaries of Legal Affairs and Electronics and Information Technology) and will be valid for six months.
  • On the order of a court, (i) an individual‚Äôs Aadhaar number, (ii) photograph, and (iii) demographic information, may be revealed.

Free fall

  • Any which way one looks at the Puthiya Thalaimurai case, one conclusion is inescapable: it is a direct attack on press freedom. That the Tamil Nadu government could have slapped a case against the Tamil news channel under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (pertaining to promoting enmity between groups), and other sections of the law, would be laughable if it wasn‚Äôt so unspeakably appalling.
  • The cause for the action was certain remarks made by a couple of the TV channel‚Äôs guests who had participated in a roundtable discussion on current affairs before an invited audience. Although it was a right-wing section of the audience that was disruptive, first information reports (FIRs) were filed against the two guests ‚ÄĒ who, from all accounts, said nothing that was inflammatory ‚ÄĒ as well as the reporter and management of Puthiya Thalaimurai.
  • it is extraordinary that people have been booked for either hosting such a debate or merely expressing their views in it.
  • If proof was needed that the Tamil Nadu government was acting in a vindictive way, it was provided by another, and even more insidious, attempt to intimidate Puthiya Thalaimurai.
  • Value addition:¬†India‚Äôs ranking in the Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is 138/180

An adviser with nobody to advise

  • Arvind Subramanian has had quite a paradoxical tenure as the Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) to the Finance Minister.
  • Subramanian‚Äôs first major contribution to the socio-economic framework was in the Economic Survey 2014-15, in which he wrote at length about the various developmental possibilities that arose from the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity.The plan here was to use data obtained through the financial inclusion network of the Jan Dhan Yojana, the identity data of Aadhaar, and the accessibility offered by the mobile revolution to target financial assistance to those who need it.
  • The next Economic Survey saw the CEA bring to light an issue with doing business in India that few had actively thought or talked about until then: the difficulty of exit. While it was easy enough to begin a business venture in India, the CEA explained how it was extremely difficult for them to pack up or declare bankruptcy in such a way that they could easily dispose of their assets and settle their liabilities.
  • He called this, in his usual witty style, the chakravyuh problem. The Central government has since then taken decisive steps, such as bringing out the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, to address this issue.
  • India Ranks : 100/ 190 countries in World Bank‚Äôs ‚Äėease of doing business‚Äô index.

Non-responsiveness to ideas :

  • Subramanian had (in the 2014-15 Survey) also discussed the problems with public-private partnerships (PPPs) in India and suggested ways to improve them. Several of his suggestions, such as restructuring existing contracts to share the load between developers and lenders, might have actually worked. But PPPs have yet to take off in any meaningful way.
  • Several Surveys under Mr. Subramanian have talked about the ‚Äėtwin balance sheet problem‚Äô afflicting corporates and banks. In other words, the effect high levels of bad loans were having on the abilities of banks to lend and companies to borrow. One of the solutions he came up with was to create a ‚Äėbad bank‚Äô, to purchase bad loans clogging bank balance sheets and resolve them.
  • The idea was barely debated outside the Survey, and died a quick death with Finance Ministry officials dodging questions about it until they stopped being asked.
  • The idea of a Universal Basic Income, mooted in the 2016-17 Survey, also met the same fate.

Wages of vigilantism

  • The recurring incidents of lynching and targeted mob violence against vulnerable groups reported from various parts of the country are a direct challenge thrown by right-wing groups to political processes, especially electoral processes and the rule of law.
  • According to India Spend, a data-journalism website, 86% of those killed in lynching incidents in 2017 were Muslims. In September 2017 the Supreme Court, responding to a Public Interest Litigation, directed all State governments to take measures to prevent vigilantism in the name of cow protection.
  • An overwhelming majority of these attacks are bovine related, although there are other reasons for anti-minority attacks, too. Hate violence has also happened around festivals such as Ram Navami (Bihar and West Bengal), provocations over azaan and namaz (Gurugram in Haryana) and violence against those looking overtly Muslim.
  • This has now given way to a smaller-scale of conflict and vigilante violence against individuals endorsed by state inaction.
  • India has a poor record when it comes to prevention and punishment of the perpetrators of mass violence and/or lynchings. Each event of violence has hardened community boundaries and widened the divide between Hindus and Muslims.
  • F&D:Citizens Against Hate (CAH), a civil society group investigating and seeking to provide legal help to victims of hate crimes, has documented 50 lynching deaths (Muslims). As per its report¬†97% of cow-related lynchings had occurred since the Bharatiya Janata Party‚Äôs (BJP) rise to political dominance in 2014.
  • Most of these attacks were based on rumours sparked by accusations that the victims, almost always Muslims, slaughtered or smuggled cows. The content of these rumours and fears often circulating on social media take the shape of communal stereotypes of victims either eating beef or intending to do so, or showing any form of perceived disrespect for cows, which is broadly claimed as a motivation for lynching.
  • What explains the phenomenon and spread of lynchings across several States? Apart from the political reasons, the rising trend is directly related to the intensification of communal polarisation and instrumentalisation of prejudice for political ends apparent in various government attempts to infuse religion into politics and education.
  • Also, it‚Äôs important to acknowledge the widespread role of violence in Indian politics which is not considered an illegitimate form of politics. Popular anger, outrage and violence are integral features of everyday politics in contemporary India.
  • There is also little condemnation of lynchings by those in positions of authority except in very generalised terms,The tacit endorsement of mob violence may be the most disturbing effect of decades of communal politics in India.
  • The lack of public reaction to recent incidents implies a degree of acceptability of violence as an expression of vengeance against ‚Äėinjustices‚Äô suffered by Hindus in the past.
  • The theory of ‚ÄėHindu insecurity‚Äô and ‚ÄėHindu persecution‚Äô comes at a time when political representation of Muslims in legislatures and administration and their presence in the public sphere is at its lowest since Independence.
  • Both mobs and police have regularly treated victims of cow vigilantism, rather than those indulging in violence, as suspects in ways that de-victimise these individuals. Rather than taking swift action against perpetrators, law enforcement agencies act mostly against the victims themselves.
  • Most of these are not spontaneous acts of violence; there is usually systematic planning behind them.
  • Active support of powerful political figures in the current establishment at the Centre and in the States has helped to build networks, gain new recruits, resources and legitimacy that Hindu right-wing groups did not have in the past. The newly acquired organisational capacity, including manpower, money and feet on the ground, has proved crucial for translating dark ideas into concrete action.
  • Lynchings are encouraged by the atmosphere of hate and suspicion created through sustained propaganda. Always ready to refurbish the deep historical archive of anti-Muslim prejudice by focusing on the past to demonise all Muslims.

Way Forward :

  • Preventing further atrocities requires respect for the rule of law and legal institutions and strong prosecutions and expeditious punishments.
  • Unless checked, it can cause irreversible harm to the social fabric of our society and to the tenets of democracy that have shaped and sustained the idea of India.

At the heart of the Silk Road

  • The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Xinjiang, formerly known as Sinkiang, is home to 47 ethnic groups, every major religion of the world, and the descendants of four ancient civilisations: Greek, Chinese, Indian and Mesopotamian.
  • The opera that celebrates all the differences, called Revisiting the Western Regions, recreates the region‚Äôs glorious past as a crucial link of the old Silk Route under the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE).
  • It was through the three branches that go around the Tarim basin that goods were traded with China on the Silk Route.
  • Post-Revolution in 1949 when the Communist People‚Äôs Republic of China incorporated Xinjiang, with a 90% ethnic Muslim population, into China. Since then, as the Chinese majority Han population has grown from 6% to 41% (2010 Census), Uighur Muslims have dropped to 45%.
  • China‚Äôs form of a ‚Äúsecular and nationalistic‚ÄĚ education for the people of Xinjiang, where until some decades ago most people followed the Islamic faith, has long been a contentious issue, written about by human rights agencies and criticised by many governments as an attempt to change the demography of the region.
  • Other restrictions on faith are plain to the eye. In √úr√ľmqi, Changji and Korla in central and north Xinjiang, it is difficult to see any men with beards, women with headscarves (veils are banned), mosque minarets, or many people praying at mosques. According to human rights agency reports, any overt form of religiosity could bring you under the scanner of the state‚Äôs well-spread surveillance system, and qualify you for a stint at the ‚Äúreeducation‚ÄĚ centre.
  • By the standards of any of the countries bordering Xinjiang, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and even India, Xinjiang has seen a small number of attacks. The worst violence was in √úr√ľmqi in 2009, when 197 people died in Han-Uighur riots.
  • The BRI is not just China‚Äôs outreach to the world for connectivity or influence. As China‚Äôs economic growth slows, down to an estimated 6.5% from 6.9% last year, these railway routes will also supply new markets for China‚Äôs flagging manufacturing industry.
  • In order to attract manufacturers to Xinjiang, the Chinese government has designated the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region as the ‚ÄėCore Zone of the Silk Road Economic Belt‚Äô. Incentives have been given to both industries and real estate developers
  • A modern-day reprisal of the ancient Silk Route where merchants carried tea and spices from the East and returned with Western commodities. Italian explorer Marco Polo is said to have discovered the Chinese ‚ÄėBaiju‚Äô rice wine during his travels along the old Silk Route in the 13th century.
  • With its geographical position and climate benefits, Xinjiang has the most to offer the grand $1 trillion BRI. Yet, with its relatively poorer economic position, deep ethnic tensions and security situation, it could also contribute the most number of problems to the initiative. As one visiting journalist put it, the ‚Äúcore‚ÄĚ of the Silk Road, as Xinjiang is called, is both at the heart of China‚Äôs biggest worries and is one of its greatest hopes.

Just a small gang of IS-inspired men

  • The four terrorists who were killed in an encounter with security forces in Anantnag in south Kashmir on Friday were inspired only by the ideology of the Islamic State (IS), similar to the case of such persons arrested over the years in Kerala, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh and unlike any Kashmiri terrorist group.
  • The eight or nine men in the ‚Äúgang‚ÄĚ are all former members of the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM), a Pakistan-backed terrorist group.
  • Mostly urban and well-educated, the ‚Äúgang‚ÄĚ members had carried out grenade attacks on check posts and snatched weapons from security forces in the past.
  • The TuM is an outfit run by Pakistan. These men were originally part of it, but ideologically they were inspired by the IS. They used the TuM‚Äôs infrastructure initially and then switched allegiance to the IS.

Seychelles stalls project for Indian naval base

  • The Parliament of the Seychelles will not ratify India‚Äôs plans to build a naval base in the western Indian Ocean region.
  • Officials of the Seychelles government announced this when the country‚Äôs President,¬† arrived in India on a six-day state visit.
  • The state visit of President Faure is part of regular high-level exchanges between India and the Seychelles, and will accord an opportunity to review our wide-ranging bilateral cooperation, including in the fields of defence and security and development partnerships.
  • Seychelles has indicated that instead of allowing India to run the base, it would like to develop a coast guard facility at the Assumption. The Indian project was to include facility for Indian ships and an airstrip that would allow New Delhi to guard the energy lanes vital to India‚Äôs economy.

Oil rises after OPEC agrees to lift output

  • Oil prices rose almost 3% on Friday as Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to a modest increase in output to compensate for losses in production at a time of rising global demand.
  • Benchmark Brent crude jumped $2.19 a barrel, or almost 3%.
  • The OPEC, meeting in Vienna, agreed on Friday to boost output from July after its de facto leader Saudi Arabia persuaded arch-rival Iran to cooperate in efforts to reduce the crude price and avoid a supply shortage.
  • the group agreed that OPEC and its allies led by Russia should increase production by about 1 million barrels per day (bpd), or 1% of global supply.
  • Analysts had expected OPEC to announce a real increase in production of 5,00,000 to 6,00,000 barrels per day, which would help ease tightness in the oil market without creating a glut.
  • Oil prices have been on a roller-coaster ride over the last few years, with Brent trading above $100 a barrel for several years until 2014, dropping to almost $26 in 2016 and then recovering to more than $80 last month.The most recent price rally followed an OPEC decision to restrict supply in an effort to drain global inventories.
  • The group started withholding supply in 2017 and this year, amid strong demand, the market tightened significantly, triggering calls by consumers for higher supply. Declining production in Venezuela and Libya, as well as the risk of lower output from Iran as a result of U.S. sanctions, have all increased market worries of a supply shortage.
  • Additional Info: AIR Spotlight 22 OPEC¬†meeting discussion.

Value addition:

  • OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of 15 nations as of June 2018, founded in 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela), and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna, Austria. As of 2018, the 15 countries accounted for an estimated 44 percent of global oil production and 81.5 percent of the world’s “proven” oil reserves.
  • As of June 2018, OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader), United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela, while Indonesia is a former member.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 23-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 22-06-18

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India notifies higher tariffs on U.S.

  • India said its retaliatory tariff on 29 US products worth $235 million will come into effect on 4 August, countering a US move to unilaterally raise import duties on Indian steel and aluminium.
  • This is the latest salvo in the ongoing tariff tiff between the U.S. and several of its trading partners.
  • The notification, however, says these higher tariffs would come into effect from August 4, leaving room for further discussions between the U.S. and India before the new rates are implemented.
  • Last week, India gave the World Trade Organization (WTO) a revised list of 30 items imported from the US, including almonds, apples and phosphoric acid, on which it intends to impose retaliatory tariffs.
  • India had asked the US government to exempt it from the 25% steel tariff and 10% aluminium tariff imposed by Trump on grounds of national security. The US rejected India‚Äôs request. India has also dragged the US to the dispute settlement mechanism in the WTO over the matter.
  • GS3 – Economy- Please refer Ramesh Singh for WTO.

Dangerous spiral – OPINION

  • The global trade war is hotting up as major economies continue to impose tariffs on each other. India is the latest to join the tit-for-tat battle by slapping tariffs as high as 50% on a list of 30 goods imported from the U.S.
  • Background:¬†The first shot in the spiralling trade war was fired by the U.S. in March when Mr. Trump unveiled tariffs to discourage the import of steel and aluminium into the country. The latest round of tariffs imposed by the U.S. will be the highest in terms of the value of goods.
  • In all, U.S. tariffs will now affect Chinese goods worth $450 billion to put this in perspective, total Chinese imports into the U.S. last year were worth around $500 billion.
  • The European Union also joined the trade war this month, imposing tariffs on $3.3 billion of American goods.
  • While the India-U.S. tariff tiff could escalate, the amounts being discussed right now are minuscule compared to those under threat in the unfolding U.S.-China situation or even the spat between the U.S. and the EU.
  • India¬†has also indicated its preference to deal with the issue through dialogue, and not ‚Äúmeasures and counter-measures‚ÄĚ.

Implications:

  • For long, global financial markets largely ignored risks of an all-out trade war among major economies, but things are changing quickly.
  • This fresh round of volatility suggests investors may be beginning to take threats of a trade war more seriously. The fact is that all sides engaged in a trade war eventually lose.
  • The longer it goes on, the greater the cost as growth slows down under the increasing burden of taxes.

Near Future:¬†Instead of bringing the war to an end. Mr. Trump‚Äôs rejection of the G-7 communique that endorsed a ‚Äúrules-based trading system‚ÄĚ for the world suggests there may be no offer of truce from his side any time soon.

Way forward: Global powers must try their best to bring an end to the ongoing trade war before it gets out of hand.

Value Addition:

  • The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.The EU has developed an internal single marketthrough a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market.The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union in 1993 and introduced European citizenship.[18] The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.
  • The Group of Seven (G7) is a group consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This group was created after the removal of Russia from the then Group of Eight. These countries, with the seven largest advanced economies in the world.

World’s hungry population on the rise again

  • The number of hungry people in the world has risen for the first time in more than a decade, according to¬†UN‚Äôs Sustainable Development Goals 2018 report.
  • There are now approximately 38 million more undernourished people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.
  • After a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise again.
  • Reasons: Conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change are among the key factors causing this reversal in progress. Violent conflicts also led to the forced displacement of a record high 68.5 million in 2017.
  • Increasing impact of extreme events related to a changing climate, the report said economic losses attributed to disasters were estimated at over $300 billion in 2017.
  • South Asia, which includes India, has seen child marriage rates plunge, with a girl‚Äôs risk of getting married in childhood dropping by 40% from 2000 to 2017.
  • water stress levels for many countries in the region are above 70%, indicating fast-approaching water scarcity.
  • More than 9/10 people living in urban areas around the world are breathing polluted air, with southern Asia scoring the worst in this area.
  • It¬† examines the performance of various regions in meeting the 17 SDGs, which were adopted by UN member nations in 2015. The deadline to meet them is

Way Forward:

  • Achieving the 2030 Agenda requires immediate and accelerated actions actions by countries along with collaborative partnerships among governments and stakeholders at all levels. This ambitious agenda necessitates profound change that goes beyond business as usual.

Value Addition:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015. “Global Goals for Sustainable Development” is another name used. The goals are broad and somewhat interdependent, yet each has a separate list of targets to achieve. Achieving all 169 targets would signal accomplishing all 17 goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals

  • Goal 1:¬†¬†End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  • Goal 2:¬†¬†¬†End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote¬†sustainable agriculture.
  • Goal 3:¬†¬†Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
  • Goal 4:¬†¬†¬†Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  • Goal 5:¬†¬†¬†Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  • Goal 6:¬†¬†¬†Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  • Goal 7:¬†¬†¬†Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
  • Goal 8:¬†¬†¬†Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Goal 9:¬†¬†¬†Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
  • Goal 10:¬†¬†¬†Reduce inequality within and among countries .
  • Goal 11:¬†¬†¬†Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
  • Goal 12:¬†¬†¬†Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  • Goal 13:¬†¬†¬†Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
  • Goal 14:¬†¬†¬†Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  • Goal 15:¬†¬†¬†Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems ,sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
  • Goal 16:¬†¬†¬†Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development,provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  • Goal 17:¬†¬†¬†Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

Wave of lynchings

  • The events that led up to the brutal assault on Monday of two men in Uttar Pradesh‚Äôs Hapur district on the outskirts of New Delhi are unclear,so what actually transpired is not definitively known yet. But given lynchings across north India by ‚Äėcow protection‚Äô vigilantes, it is not difficult to miss the communal dangers Elsewhere, from Tamil Nadu in the south to Assam in the Northeast, men and women have been lynched on suspicion that they were out to kidnap children.
  • In many cases including in Tamil Nadu and Assam such public concern was created or heightened by warnings that were circulated on social media.
  • Yet, irrespective of whether the lynchings are due to fear of kidnappings or are deliberate acts by cow protection vigilantes, the authorities should not treat the crime of murder and the allegations that enrage a mob with the same equivalence.
  • Murder is murder, but the killing of another human being by a murderous crowd out to enforce mob justice or avert an imagined crime takes an extraordinary toll of the civilities of wider society. The police must make it clear, by word and action, that murder and mob violence will be strictly dealt with.
  • The administration must also reckon with a new challenge: the use of social media, especially WhatsApp groups and forwards, to spread fear and panic. Responses such as surveillance and Internet shutdowns are not just impossible ‚ÄĒ in a free society, they are inadvisable.
  • Solution: What is needed is an administration that reaches out to local communities to keep them in the loop in order to check trouble-makers¬† and that conveys sufficient good faith so individuals will trust it to keep the peace and sift real threats from mischievous rumors.

An old Kashmir-Jammu dilemma

  • The Bharatiya Janata Party‚Äôs decision to break its alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and plunge Jammu and Kashmir into political chaos comes as a climax to a dilemma.
  • It needs political stability and a friendly government in J&K to find a political solution to the growing insurgency and unrest in the Valley.
  • Jammu politics has always cast a long shadow over national politics and complicated the Srinagar-Delhi relationship. The demographic reality of Jammu as a Hindu majority region within a Muslim majority State, in a Hindu majority nation makes it an irresistible magnet for religious and identity politics, which inevitably hinders attempts to bring stability in the State as a whole.

Background:

  • In 1952, India seemed close to solving the Kashmir question. The J&K Premier, Sheikh Abdullah, had succeeded in establishing a stable government in Srinagar. He had also developed a good working relationship with Delhi, underpinned by his personal friendship with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In July, both sides signed the 1952 Delhi Agreement establishing the federal framework for India and J&K.
  • Unfortunately, this moment o0f bonhomie was mired by the widespread unrest that flared up in Jammu in late 1952. The JPP, a local Hindu party founded by RSS leader Balraj Madhok in 1947, took to the streets protesting against the State government.
  • Soon afterwards, the national Hindu right-wing parties rallied around the issue. They included the then-powerful Hindu Mahasabha, the BJP‚Äôs predecessor Bharatiya Jan Sangh, and a little-known party called the All India Ram Rajya Parishad. Under the leadership of S.P. Mookerjee, these parties launched a nationwide campaign in support of the Jammu agitators in February 1953.
  • Nehru found himself facing the Kashmir-Jammu dilemma. He continued to believe that the Abdullah government represented the best hope of finding a political solution to Kashmir. But he also had to find a way to put the Jammu agitation and its accompanying Hindu right-wing campaign to rest. However, after Mookerjee‚Äôs death, he had to give in, issuing an appeal to the agitators in July. The protests were suspended shortly thereafter.
  • But the damage was done. Abdullah had been severely weakened politically and his relations with Nehru were frayed. A month later, he was removed from power and put under arrest.
  • A deeper legacy of the agitation was that it turned Kashmiris against Delhi. Years of efforts by the Indian government to generate goodwill in Kashmir had been ‚Äúwashed away by this movement,‚ÄĚ Nehru lamented. ‚ÄúNothing more harmful to our cause in the State could have been done even by our enemies.‚ÄĚThe only real victors of the agitation were the Hindu right-wing parties.

Way forward

  • Today, while the Kashmir-Jammu dilemma remains, the political landscape has completely changed. The BJP is not only the ruling party in New Delhi, it is also the biggest political force in the country.
  • Instead of pursuing superficial political gains, the BJP‚Äôs government at the Centre should use its unique position to find a permanent political solution for the entire State.

Refer: Indian after Gandhi selectively for  Post Independence consolidation topic.

Should Delhi be given statehood?

YES:

  • As soon as the AAP government in Delhi set about fulfilling its mandate, the BJP-ruled Central government started stripping it of its powers. Delhi‚Äôs Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) had always functioned under the Delhi government, even during the rule of the previous 15-year Congress government in Delhi.The Centre responded by passing orders, forcefully taking away control of Delhi‚Äôs ACB by sending paramilitary forces.
  • Department of Services, which decides the appointments and transfers of all officers of the Delhi government, including Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, had also always functioned under the Delhi government. But an order issued by the Union Home Ministry in May 2015 ruled that the Lieutenant Governor would have complete control over this department.
  • No other elected government anywhere in India, or even in Delhi for that matter, has seen such curtailment of its powers. Through this and many such incidents, it is clear that the Delhi government is not being allowed to operate by the will of the people, but is at the Centre‚Äôs mercy.
  • Whether to create schools, colleges or hospitals, many of our policy proposals are routinely returned. This is because we are not allowed to propose the number and type of staff to man the institutions we wish to create to serve the people of Delhi.
  • In 1991, when the 69th Amendment to the Constitution created the Legislative Assembly of Delhi, the city‚Äôs population was much smaller. Today, there are nearly two crore people in Delhi.
  • Even when the Union Territories were first created, the idea was to provide a flexible yet transitional status to several territories that joined the Indian Union under different circumstances. With time, Goa, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura have been granted statehood. The first stage of Delhi‚Äôs evolution took place in 1991, when the Assembly was created. The time has come to enter the second and final stage to create the full State of Delhi.

NO:

  • It is the headquarters of intelligence and the security apparatus. It has a huge diplomatic core. It is where all State governments have a direct stake, whether in land, offices or officers.
  • It‚Äôs a city that houses the national government. Therefore, it has wisely been kept as a Union Territory with extraordinary powers to a subordinate State government.
  • In Delhi, except for law and order and land, both of which due to the presence and needs of the Central government is within its purview, all other subjects are with the State government. However, through the Lieutenant Governor, the Government of India oversees matters regarding Central civil services, some crucial matters of finance, etc.
  • From 1993 to 2013, this arrangement in Delhi worked, except when individuals wanted to play either politics or monopoly.
  • The current system works. If you ever have a full statehood, this city, given two governments, will enter into so many conflicts.

Complicated:

  • Should Delhi be given statehood? This issue was raised by the first time by Pattabhi Sitaramayya in 1947 in the Constituent Assembly. Though B.R. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru and others did not oblige, he did manage to get a Chief Minister with limited powers in a Part C State. This position was later lost.
  • Delhi could again have a Chief Minister only in the early ‚Äô90s with the introduction of Articles 239AA and 239BB in the Constitution and with the passage of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991.
  • The most intractable issue is the problem of having two governments in the same city-State. In the constitutional scheme, law and order, security and land are State subjects. No Central government can afford to leave these critical issues to someone else in a city from which it is also functioning.
  • It involves the safety of the many entities organically linked to it, especially the embassies which are protected by treaties and conventions and are given immunity in various respects. There is also the issue of security of the visiting heads of states and other dignitaries. This is a major responsibility of the Centre and cannot be given to another entity.
  • Can these objections be met by carving out the New Delhi Municipal Council area and letting it remain a Union Territory? The problems then would be substantially resolved, but two issues will remain: the Red Fort, where the Prime Minister takes the Independence Day salute,¬†Red Fort has to be includedin UT. If that happens, the major markets of Chandni Chowk and Daryaganj will be left out of the State. The bulk of the revenue collections are from these two and Connaught Place, which is in the NDMC area anyway. Without them the State will be left almost totally bereft of finances.
  • There are other problems too, mainly administrative, which will be difficult to resolve. The most important one is of policing and law and order. other problems of division of water, power, and of drainage and roads will also be there.

A Bill that is causing worry

  • It has been made clear that the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, will not be tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session, and that the Joint Parliamentary Committee examining it will be holding wider consultations.

Salient Features of the bill :

  • The Bill‚Äôs objective is to remove the tag of ‚Äėillegal migrants‚Äô from members of minority communities ‚ÄĒ Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis ‚ÄĒ from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have entered the country without legal documentation or whose documents have expired. The idea is to make them eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • The Bill‚Äôs statement of objects and reasons argues that the aim is to help persons of Indian origin, including those from these minority communities in the three countries
  • It enables cancellation of the registration of any Overseas Citizen of India cardholder for violation of Indian law.
  • Impact:¬†If the Bill is passed, these individuals will be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation.
  • Under the present law:citizenship by naturalisation requires applicants to have stayed in the country for 11 years of the previous 14 years, and throughout the last 12 months. The proposed amendment reduces the residency requirement to six years, besides the last 12 months.
  • Issue: The amendment will not cover Muslims, who form the majority in these three countries.
  • Opposition to the Bill is strong in Assam, where there is fear that non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh will become Indian citizens.
  • It is in conflict with the ongoing exercise to update the National Register of Citizens in Assam, for which the cut-off date is March 24, 1971.
  • The Bill is also seen as discriminatory in some quarters as it does not cover Muslim sects fleeing persecution from dominant sections in these countries.

A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is an ad-hoc body. It is set up for a specific object and duration. Joint committees are set up by a motion passed in one house of Parliament and agreed to by the other. The details regarding membership and subjects are also decided by Parliament. JPC consitutes of 30 members of which 20 were from the Lok Sabha and 10 were from the Rajya Sabha.

Please refer Laxmikanth for Committees.

Making children happy

  • In 2016, yoga was inscribed on UNESCO‚Äôs Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • Thanks to a unanimous resolution of the UN General Assembly, the International Day of Yoga is also celebrated annually on June 21.
  • Many schools in India have introduced yoga at early ages. One such school is the Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya¬† The principal says yoga improves students‚Äô mental, emotional, physical and behavioural health: ‚ÄúYoga is all about balance of mind, body and soul. It improves not only the health of the students but also their concentration.‚ÄĚ
  • Growing scientific evidence suggests that yoga and mindfulness training allow young people to improve ‚Äúself-regulation‚ÄĚ.
  • Over recent decades, access to education has expanded significantly throughout the world. Countries are increasingly achieving universal basic education, extending their coverage to secondary education.
  • However, at the same time, there is a concern that education systems are becoming too competitive, stress-fuelled and exam-oriented.
  • We are also witnessing rising trends of intolerance and violent extremism as well as increasing levels of anxiety and depression among the youth.
  • To tackle this issue, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, based in Bangkok, has launched the Happy Schools Project, with the aim of promoting happiness in schools through enhanced learner well-being and holistic development.
  • It is in the process of operationalising the Happy Schools framework, with the involvement of the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP).
  • MGIEP is the first UNESCO institute of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region and is generously supported by the Indian government. It has developed a social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum called Libre, which is designed to build four competencies ‚Äď critical inquiry, mindfulness, empathy and compassion.

Value addition: 

  • A total of 13 Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) elements from India have been inscribed till date on the UNESCO‚Äôs Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • For inclusion of an element in the UNESCO‚Äôs Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the state parties are required to submit nomination dossier on the relevant element for evaluation and examination of the UNESCO Committee.
  • The Ministry of Culture has appointed the Sangeet Natak Akademi, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Culture, as nodal office for matters relating to the intangible cultural heritage including for preparation of the nomination dossiers for the Representative List of UNESCO.

UNESCO India Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

  • 2008:¬† Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre, Tradition of Vedic chanting, Ramlila, The traditional performance of the Ramayana.
  • 2009:¬†¬†Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas, India.
  • 2010:¬† Chhau dance, Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan, Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala.
  • 2012:¬† Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India
  • 2013:¬† Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur.
  • 2014:¬† Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab, India
  • 2016:¬† Nawrouz,Yoga.
  • 2017:¬† Kumbh Mela.

Centre bans two affiliates of al Qaeda and IS

  • The Home Ministry has banned the Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA).
  • The recruitment of youth from India and their radicalisation are a matter of serious concern for the national security and international peace.
  • The AQIS has been pushing several provocative messages on social media platforms.

India, Maldives hold discussions to sort out issues

  • India and the Maldives are engaged in a series of high level meetings to end the logjam in the relations over strategic issues.
  • one possible solution to the problem caused by the Yameen government‚Äôs insistence on returning two helicopters India had stationed in the Maldives for the past few years, would be if the Maldives accepts a long pending Indian offer of a Dornier patrol aircraft instead.
  • The bilateral relationship has been on a downward trajectory since the Maldives started moving closer to China and further when President Abdulla Yameen declared emergency in the country in February.

India, U.S. 2+2 Dialogue on July 6

  • The inaugural U.S.-India 2+2 Dialogue will take place on July 6, both countries announced.
  • The dialogue¬† ‚Äúwill focus on strengthening strategic, security, and defense cooperation as the United States and India jointly confront global challenges.
  • The new dialogue format was agreed to between the two sides during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington D.C. in June, 2017.
  • Negotiations on India‚Äôs proposed purchase of Guardian Avenger armed drones from the U.S. is dependent on the progress of talks on the Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA) between the two countries.

Upgrade software at ATMs by June

  • With banks failing to upgrade software in automated teller machines (ATM) despite repeated reminders, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has now directed the banks to complete the process in a phased manner latest by June 2019.
  • The banking regulator pointed out that many ATMs were still running on Windows XP and other unsupported software
  • According to banking industry sources, there could be 30% of the present 2.2 lakh ATMs that still use old software.
  • RBI said the vulnerability arising from the ATMs operating on unsupported version of operating system and non-implementation of other security measures, could potentially affect the interests of customers and the banks‚Äô image.
  • RBI warned banks of penalty if they failed to adhere to the deadline.

CIL notifies coal e-auction

  • Coal India Ltd. on Thursday announced the commencement of the fourth tranche of auction of coal linkages for non-regulated sectors such as cement, steel/sponge iron, aluminium and others. This includes captive power plants too.
  • About 57 million tonnes of coal were earlier put on offer through the three tranches of e-auction since June 2016.
  • These went to the various non-regulated user sectors, including cement, sponge iron and captive power plants. The grades were that of thermal coal.
  • The auction is conducted by MSTC Limited (formerly known as Metal Scrap Trade Corporation).
  • The move to allot coal through this route follows the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in this regard two years ago.
  • The policy initiative followed the logic of the e-auction of coal mines after the cancellation of allocation of the 204 coal blocks in 2014.
  • The government sought to extend the same philosophy of non-discretionary allocation to coal linkages.

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 22-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 21-06-18

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U.S. quits UN human rights body

  • The United States announced its withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) terming it ‚Äúhypocritical and self-serving.
  • It¬†blamed the UNHRC for bias against Israel and refusing to eject members who are violators of human rights.
  • It also blamed¬† Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting U.S. efforts to reform the Council.
  • Earlier the¬† U.S. has also withdrawn from the U.N. climate treaty and the UNESCO.

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.

The Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly. The Human Rights Council replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

India’s first river interlinking project

  • In news: Disagreements over water-sharing and difficulty in acquiring non-forest land impede the Rs. 18,000-crore Ken- Betwa river interlink project.
  • About: The Ken-Betwa project aims to transfer surplus water¬† from the Ken River to the Betwa basin through concrete canal to irrigate India‚Äôs worst drought-prone Bundelkhand region.

The ‚Äúmajor‚ÄĚ issues

  • The project, which involves deforesting a portion of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, was accorded clearance by the National Wildlife Board on the condition that the land lost would be made good by acquiring contiguous, revenue land. This is to ensure that wildlife corridors in the region aren‚Äôt hit.
  • Another hurdle is a dispute over how Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh ‚ÄĒ the two beneficiaries ‚ÄĒ will share water in the Rabi season

Background:

  • Conceived as a two-part project, this is India‚Äôs first river interlinking project. It is perceived as a model plan for similar interstate river transfer missions.
  • Following a tripartite memorandum of understanding signed in 2005 among the union Minister for Water Resources and the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, a detailed project report was prepared on the Ken-Betwa river link project.
  • Phase 1 involves building a 77 m-tall and a 2 km-wide dam, the Dhaudhan dam, and a 230 km canal to transfer extra water from the Ken river for irrigating 3.64 lakh hectares in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • While there‚Äôs a 2005 agreement between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on how water would be shared, Madhya Pradesh said last year that these assumptions were no longer valid and the only way to meet increased water requirements would be to include certain local water management projects,this could mean a completely fresh environmental appraisal.
  • According to the Environment Ministry, Phase I of the project would result in direct loss of 58.03 sq km (10.07 %) of Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) of Panna Tiger Reserve due to submergence, indirect loss of 105.23 sq km of CTH due to fragmentation and loss of connectivity.
  • Later river interlinking project has been cleared by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL).This would be the first time that a river project will be located within a tiger reserve.
  • River Interlinking : In 1982, the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) was formed, and entrusted with the task of carrying out water balance and feasibility studies of the linking programme of 30 rivers.
  • The idea gathered steam under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The big plan was to connect 14 Himalayan and 16 peninsular rivers by constructing 30 canals and 3,000 reservoirs to irrigate 87 million hectares of land, and produce 34 gigawatt of hydroelectricity.
  • The Supreme Court formed a task force in 2002, which set an action plan for all detailed project reports to be completed by 2006.

Value addition:

  • The Ken River, is one of the major rivers of the Bundelkhand region of central India, and flows through two states, Madhya Pradeshand Uttar Pradesh. It is a tributary of the
  • The Betwa or Betravati is a river in Northern India, and a tributary of the It rises in the Vindhya Range.
  • Bundelkhand is a geographical and cultural region and also a mountain range in central India. The hilly region is now divided between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with the larger portion lying in MP.
  • Panna Tiger Reserve: Situated in the Vindhyan mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh, Panna Tiger Reserve is spread over the Panna and Chhatarpur districts.Flowing from the south to the north through the reserve is the River Ken. These forests along with Ken Gharial Sanctuary form a significant part of the catchment area of this river. It was designated as Biosphere Reserve.

Cropping seasons of India

  • The agricultural crop year in India is from July to June. The Indian cropping season is classified into two main seasons-(i) Kharif and (ii) Rabi based on the monsoon.
  • The kharif cropping season is from July ‚ÄďOctober during the south-west monsoon,¬†The kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi (cereals), arhar (pulses), soyabean, groundnut (oilseeds), cotton etc.
  • Rabi cropping season is from October-March (winter).The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats (cereals), chickpea/gram (pulses), linseed, mustard (oilseeds) etc.
  • Zaid Crops There is a short season between Kharif and Rabi season in the months of March to July. The crops that grow in this season are Zaid crops. These crops are grown on irrigated lands and do not have to wait for monsoons. Some examples of Zaid types of crops are pumpkin, cucumber, bitter groud.

National Wildlife Board

  • National Board for Wild Life is a ‚ÄúStatutory Organization‚ÄĚ constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Theoretically, the board is ‚Äúadvisory‚ÄĚ in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country. However, it is a very important body because it serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister.

Refer : India Physical Environment (NCERT | Class 11)

Trauma at the border

  • As part of its ‚Äúzero-tolerance‚ÄĚ approach to dealing with undocumented migrants, the Donald Trump administration in the U.S. has been separating parents and children within migrating families.
  • leading to outrage over the burgeoning number of minors lodged in foster care. Reports suggest that between October 2017 and May 2018 at least 1,995 children were separated from their parents.
  • Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed deep concern about the ethics of using children, facing trauma from separation from their parents, to discourage further undocumented border crossings.
  • Under the Trump administration‚Äôs zero-tolerance approach, all undocumented migrants are charged in criminal courts. Here the Flores settlement applies, because it limits to 20 days the length of time migrant children may be held in immigration detention. While their parents face charges, the children are transferred to a different location, often with devastating consequences for their families. This is unspeakable cruelty.
  • Interlinking: Internal security- Human rights- Ethics.

Transmission troubles

  • The RBI continues to remain unable to influence the effective lending rates in the economy.
  • In February, in its latest statement of intent to resolve poor monetary transmission, the RBI said it would instruct banks to switch base rate customers to the marginal cost of funds-based lending rate (MCLR) system from April 1, 2018.
  • In April 2016, it had introduced the MCLR regime, scrapping the base rate regime, in place since 2010.
  • This was supposed to push banks to lower lending rates. Currently, under the base rate system, the lending rate at State Bank of India is 8.7%. The one-year MCLR rate is just 8.25%. This difference of 45 basis points could make a significant difference in borrowing costs, especially for smaller firms and retail consumers relying on equated monthly instalments.
  • In the RBI‚Äôs assessment, a large proportion of outstanding loans and advances continues to be linked to the base rate system.

Why are banks reluctant to switch to the lower MCLR-based rates?

  • They already face multiple pressures,including record levels of non-performing assets and losses, and significant treasury losses.
  • An RBI study estimates that public sector banks could take a Rs. 40,000-crore hit on revenue if they allow all base rate borrowers to switch to the MCLR rate.
  • The RBI shouldn‚Äôt be swayed by these concerns.
  • But this creates an unfair situation as new borrowers get MCLR rates while the older ones continue on the higher base rate system.
  • Given the need to revive the economy through consumption and fresh investment, this impasse needs to be broken.

Marginal Cost of funds based Lending rate (MCLR)

  • The marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) refers to the minimum interest rate of a bank below which it cannot lend, except in some cases allowed by the RBI. It is an internal benchmark or reference rate for the bank. MCLR actually describes the method by which the minimum interest rate for loans is determined by a bank – on the basis of marginal cost or the additional or incremental cost of arranging one more rupee to the prospective borrower.

Reasons for introducing MCLR

RBI decided to shift from base rate to MCLR because the rates based on marginal cost of funds are more sensitive to changes in the policy rates. This is very essential for the effective implementation of monetary policy. Prior to MCLR system, different banks were following different methodology for calculation of base rate /minimum rate ‚Äď that is either on the basis of average cost of funds or marginal cost of funds or blended cost of funds. Thus, MCLR aims

  • To improve the transmission of policy rates into the lending rates of banks.
  • To bring transparency in the methodology followed by banks for determining interest rates on advances.
  • To ensure availability of bank credit at interest rates which are fair to borrowers as well as banks.
  • To enable banks to become more competitive and enhance their long run value and contribution to economic growth.

Neither new nor undesirable

Lateral Entry the Perception:

  • Our ceaseless search for the Holy Grail to fix the challenges of governance always leads us nowhere because the thing doesn‚Äôt exist.¬†Good intentions, unless tempered by thoughtful deliberation and preparation, do not lead to good policy outcomes.¬†The move by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) towards lateral entry in government service falls in this category.
  • One cannot question the good intentions behind the decision to make lateral entry more institutionalised than the case till now. Nor should one read too much bad faith into this, until and unless that bad faith comes into the open.
  • Traditionally, the services of outside experts were availed through consultative processes, a practice quite widespread with the erstwhile Planning Commission and to some extent with its new avatar, the NITI Aayog. It is not clear why the government determined that the practice was not effective.

Why Lateral entry ?

  • The lateral entry decision is based on the assumption that since our civil servants, especially those of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), are generalists and hence ill-suited to deal with policy implications of new technologies and new modes of thinking, the country is in dire need of domain experts.
  • The policy‚Äôs aim ‚Äúalso to augment manpower‚ÄĚ can only mean that the lateral entry will be as wide as regular recruitment and used as regularly.

Issues with the proposed system:

  • Neither the DoPT nor Ministries concerned cared to define ‚Äėdomain expertise‚Äô.
  • What is common between the lateral entry policy and the push for simultaneous polls is a certain restlessness that the system has become too unwieldy to speed up development. The sentiment is honourable but misplaced. The Founding Fathers felt that India needed a responsible government more than an efficient one. Trade-off, there is.
  • Of the three methods at our disposal to ensure the government is responsible, one is independence of judiciary; the second is to subject the executive to constant scrutiny of the legislature; and the third is to maintain bureaucratic neutrality.
  • Most democracies train their higher civil servants to be accountable rather than efficient and India is no exception. What haunts a civil servant is the spectre of having to answer to a quo warranto writ against his alleged action/inaction.
  • The new system is open to three groups: 1) officers of State governments; 2) employees of public sector undertakings and assorted research bodies; and 3) individuals in the private sector, MNCs, etc. Among the three groups, any metric of accountability, bureaucratic neutrality and fidelity to due process gets progressively worse from group 1 to 3.
  • Whatever training or orientation that these new entrants will undergo cannot match 15-20 years of acculturation/on-job training that regular officers receive before they become joint secretaries.

Way forward:

  • Unless the government is mindful of the dangers, lateral entry can result in large swathes of higher bureaucracy being consumed by the ‚Äėnation-building‚Äô zeal at the cost of accountability.

The seeds of sustainability

  • In early June, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister¬† announced that the State would fully embrace Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), a chemical-free method that would cover all farmers by 2024.
  • It highlights the way to improve the welfare of farmers, reduce the cost of farm inputs, cut toxins in food, and improve soils.
  • With successful pilot programmes that were initiated in 2015 and partners who brought experience in different aspects needed to carry out such a transformation, Andhra Pradesh has become the first State to implement a ZBNF policy.
  • According to Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, the agency that is implementing the ZBNF, the programme will be extended in phases.
  • Tenant farmers and day labourers are also being trained, to ensure that through the ZBNF, livelihoods for the rural poor will be enhanced.
  • Vijay Kumar, a retired civil servant in charge of implementing the programme, views farmer-to-farmer connections as vital to its success. According to him, the role of the Agriculture Department is to just listen to farmers and motivate and assist them in different ways.
  • Farmer‚Äôs collectives such as Farmer Producer Organisations need to be established and these would be critical to sustaining the programme.
  • The Government of India provides funding through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana. Additional resources have been made available through various philanthropic organisations.

Background of Natural farming:

  • Natural farming is ‚Äúdo nothing farming‚ÄĚ, according to Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer who, in the 1970s, was a proponent of no-till, no chemical use in farming along with the dispersal of clay seed balls to propagate plants. He found it important to apply nature‚Äôs principles in farming and developed a deep-rooted philosophy around the process.
  • Subhash Palekar developed the ZBNF after his own efforts at chemical farming failed. He identified four aspects that are now integral to his process and which require locally available materials: s
    • Seeds treated with cow dung and urine;
    • soil rejuvenated with cow dung, cow urine and other local materials to increase microbes;
    • cover crops, straw and other organic matter to retain soil moisture and build humus;
    • and soil aeration for favourable soil conditions.
  • These methods are combined with natural insect management methods when required.

Effectiveness and Impact:

  • In ZBNF, yields of various cash and food crops have been found to be significantly higher when compared with chemical farming.
  • For example, yields from ZBNF plots in the (kharif) 2017 pilot phase were found on average to be 11% higher for cotton than in non-ZBNF plots. The yield for Guli ragi (ZBNF) was 40% higher than non-ZBNF.
  • Model ZBNF farms were able to withstand drought and flooding, which are big concerns with regard to climate change.
  • The planting of multiple crops and border crops on the same field has provided varied income and nutrient sources.
  • There is reduced use of water and electricity, improved health of farmers, flourishing of local ecosystems and biodiversity and no toxic chemical residues in the environment.
  • ZBNF has positive effect on many of the sustainable development goals through improvements in soil, biodiversity, livelihoods, water, reduction in chemicals, climate resilience, health, women‚Äôs empowerment and nutrition.

Input costs:

  • Input costs are near zero as no fertilizers and pesticides are used. Profits in most areas under ZBNF were from higher yield and lower inputs.
  • In early 2016, Sikkim was declared India‚Äôs first fully organic State. But organic agriculture often involves addition of large amounts of manure, vermicompost and other materials that are required in bulk and need to be purchased. These turn out to be expensive for most small farm holders.

How it worked :

  • Over the years, Andhra Pradesh has supported and learned from its many effective civil society organisations such as the Watershed Support Services and Activities Network, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and the Deccan Development Society. A step-by-step increase in the area covered is another notable aspect. The scaling up relies primarily on farmers and local groups ‚ÄĒ all in all, very much a bottom-up process.

Way Forward:

  • The ZBNF is a technology of the future with a traditional idiom. Agricultural scientists in India have to rework their entire strategy so that farming is in consonance with nature. The dominant paradigm of chemical-based agriculture has failed and regenerative agriculture is the emerging new science.
  • The world is at critical junctures on many planetary boundaries, and establishing a system that shows promise in improving them while supporting people sustainably is surely one worth pursuing.

Beating plastic pollution

  • We celebrated ‚ÄėWorld Environment Day‚Äô (June 5) with a critical theme: beat plastic pollution.
  • The theme urges governments, industries, communities and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives. It also urges this target group to reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastics, which are polluting our environment and threatening human health.

Background of Plastics:

  • Plastics are organic polymers of high molecular mass and often contain other substances. They are usually synthetic, mainly derived from petrochemicals. Due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, non-corrosiveness and imperviousness to water, plastics are used for multiple purposes at different scales.
  • Plastic was invented in New York in 1907 by Leo Baekeland. Further, many chemists, including Nobel laureate Hermann Staudinger (father of polymer chemistry) and Herman Mark (father of polymer physics), have contributed to the materials science of plastics.

 Impact of Plastics and Facts :

  • Worldwide, one million plastic bags and one million plastic bottles are used every minute. About 50% of our plastic use is single use (disposable) and it constitutes 10% of the total waste generated.
  • More than 9.1 billion tons of plastic are said to have been ‚Äúmanufactured since the material was initially mass-produced in the 1950s‚ÄĚ.
  • In 2015, scientists said that ‚Äúof the nearly 7 billion tons of plastic waste generated, only 9% was recycled, 12% incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the environment.
  • India, An estimate in 2015 revealed that 60 cities across the country generated over 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day.
  • Each year, 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans. A study revealed that 20 rivers (mostly from Asia) carry two-thirds of plastic waste to the ocean; the Ganga‚Äôs contribution to this is one of the highest.
  • Researchers exploring the Arctic have found very high levels of microplastics trapped in the ice.
  • The economic impact of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems through fisheries and tourism losses and beach cleaning-up costs is estimated to be around $13 billion per year.
  • Plastic disposed of on land degrades slowly and its chemicals leach into the surroundings. Drinking water samples analysed from 14 countries, including India, revealed that 83% have micro-plastics

Steps to be taken:

  • The government should restrict plastic production and encourage recycling through appropriate policies. The ‚ÄėPlastic Waste Management Rules 2016‚Äô need to be strictly followed.
  • As most plastic items pass through our hands, public care, with behavioural change, is necessary. Household-wise waste segregation is the key. We should act as responsible citizens with a determination towards maintaining cleaner surroundings.
  • use of biodegradable packing materials and use cloth bag Mass public awareness on the dangers of plastic hazards is a prerequisite.
  • Eco-friendly substitutes (cloth/paper/jute bags, leaves/areca leaf plates, paper straws) should be developed. For this, scientific and financial support (soft loans and subsidies) is required.
  • Charges for plastic bag use and deposit-refund for plastic bottles may be effective options. The recent decision by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on extending the mandate on packing food grains and sugar products in jute bags is welcome. Even if the intention is to promote the jute industry, it is a step that reduces plastic pollution.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission should emerge as a platform for plastic waste management.
  • Way forward: We cannot transform our world into a ‚Äėplastic planet‚Äô. What is needed is collective public effort to stop plastic pollution and safeguard our ecosystem/biodiversity.

Right on Kashmir’s rights?

  • The first ever report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Jammu and Kashmir, incluiding Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, published last week.
  • What prompted this human rights report:A new wave of violence had then hit the Kashmir Valley, when protests sparked by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani were met with force by security personnel.
  • OHCRC asked India and Pakistan to allow its teams access to the State, a request that was refused.
  • Why is this report controversial to India? : Apart from being irked by the report‚Äôs criticism of India‚Äôs handling of the protests, alleged extra-judicial killings and hard tactics, the Ministry of External Affairs MEA is also upset by the terms used to describe militants. For example, Hizbul Mujahideen, which is regarded as a terrorist organisation by India, was described in the report as an ‚Äúarmed group‚ÄĚ. Wani, regarded as a terrorist by Indian security forces, was described as the ‚Äúleader‚ÄĚ of the organisation.
  • India in its official statement said the report ‚Äúundermines the UN-led consensus on zero tolerance to terrorism‚ÄĚ.
  • Finally, it makes specific recommendations aimed at India, including removing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from areas and instituting inquiries into alleged human rights violations.
  • Implications: India has said that the report violates its ‚Äúsovereignty and territorial integrity‚ÄĚ as it has used terms such as ‚ÄúAzad Jammu and Kashmir‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúGilgit Baltistan‚ÄĚ to describe the part of the State under Pakistani control. India does not consider Pakistan‚Äôs control over a part of Kashmir as legitimate and describes the region as Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

China offers to boost ties between India and Pakistan

  • Without explicitly proposing a trilateral dialogue among India, Pakistan and China, Beijing on Wednesday offered to ‚Äústrengthen‚ÄĚ its cooperation with New Delhi and Islamabad to bolster ‚Äústability‚ÄĚ in the region.
  • Without abandoning the prospects of a trilateral meeting altogether, the Chinese Foreign Ministry seemed to step back from explicit offer of a meeting among China, India and Pakistan, made by its Ambassador.
  • India was exploring the possibility of connectivity to Central Asia through the Pakistan-Afghan corridor, under the SCO framework. ‚ÄúThe SCO has been working on connectivity among its member countries. Now that India and Pakistan are both members, it provides New Delhi with a fresh opportunity to reach out to Central Asia across the Pakistani corridor.

Rising oil prices to hit private consumption

  • The recent rise in oil prices could impact private consumption adversely, Reserve Bank of India governor¬† said at the meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee.
  • The recent increase in oil prices, by impacting disposable incomes, may have some adverse impact on private consumption,Private consumption expenditure contributed almost 60% to the gross domestic product last fiscal.

The state is taking healthcare

  • The government has carried out several reforms in healthcare. It assigns the highest priority to people‚Äôs health and is also alive to the country‚Äôs obligation under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • A series of steps have been taken:¬†These include the
    • Formulation of the National Health Policy, 2017,
    • enforcing a ceiling on the prices of cardiac stents and knee implants,
    • financial aid to expecting mothers and a renewed focus on nutrition.
    • The Ayushman Bharat (AB) Scheme
  • AB-NHPM intends to cover more than 50 crore people, which includes hospitalisation expenses for nearly 1,350 conditions over 23 clinical specialties. The beneficiaries are entitled to a premium of up to Rs 5 lakh per annum in any empaneled hospital. They need not pay for pre- or post-hospitalisation expenses.
  • Cost of Health:¬†India bears a triple burden of disease,¬†It has an unfinished agenda of eradicating communicable diseases, it is battling a growing number of non-communicable diseases and road accidents lead to large number of deaths and grievous injuries every year. Non-communicable diseases and traffic deaths alone cost the country 6.5 per cent of its GDP ‚ÄĒ a huge cost indeed.

Cost of Health :

  • The inability to afford treatment is the leading cause for people not seeking medical care. Currently, out-of-pocket expenditure constitutes 62 per cent of the healthcare spending of families in the country.
  • Catastrophic expenditure (when a household spends more than 40 per cent of its income on health) is a major cause of impoverishment in India and every year, this pushes around 63 million people below the poverty line.
  • On an average, an Indian family spends Rs 22,000 a year on hospitalisation in a private hospital. But in case of expensive treatments for diseases such as cancer, heart ailments and organ failures, most families have to borrow money. A benefit cover of Rs 5 lakh per annum, ensures that even these conditions are covered.
  • The role of the private sector is critical because of its size and widespread presence. At present, 70 per cent of illness episodes are treated in private institutions.
  • The public sector will have a golden opportunity to improve its services and compete with the private sector. The government has approved 24 new medical colleges at the district-level and ratified the upgradation of public hospitals and new tertiary care facilities, including six AIIMS.

Ayushman Bharat ‚Äď National Health Protection Mission

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Budget unveiled the world‚Äôs largest government-funded health programme called National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), covering 10 crore families or approximately 50 crore population, with Rs 5 lakh insurance cover per family per year. The scheme is for secondary and tertiary healthcare, mainly for hospital care.
  • This flagship scheme is likely to benefit more than 37% of the population, meaning that nearly all the poor and vulnerable families will be covered. The government will require Rs 12000 crore for it‚Äôs implementation, with cost shared on a 60:40 basis between central and state governments.
  • * The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister¬†¬†has approved the launch of a new Centrally Sponsored Ayushman Bharat -National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) having central sector component under Ayushman Bharat Mission anchored in the MoHFW.
  • * AB-NHPM will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes -RashtriyaSwasthyaBimaYojana (RSBY) and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS)

Salient Features:

  • AB-NHPM will have a defined benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year.This cover will take care of almost all secondary care and most of tertiary care procedures. To ensure that nobody is left out (especially women, children and elderly) there will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme. The benefit cover will also include pre and post-hospitalisation expenses. All pre-existing conditions will be covered from day one of the policy. A defined transport allowance per hospitalization will also be paid to the beneficiary.
  • Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empanelled hospitals across the country.
  • AB-NHPM will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database,
  • The different categories in rural area include
    • ¬† ¬†families having only one room with kucha walls and kucharoof;
    • ¬† ¬†families having no adult member between age 16 to 59;
    • ¬† female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59;
    • ¬† ¬†disabled member and no able bodied adult member in the family;
    • ¬† ¬†SC/ST households;
    • ¬† ¬†and landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour,
  • Also, automatically included families in rural areas having any one of the following:
  • ¬† ¬† households without shelter, destitute, living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups, legally released bonded labour. For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories are entitled under the scheme.

Major Impact:

In-patient hospitalization expenditure in India has increased nearly 300% during last ten years. (NSSO 2015). More than 80% of the expenditure are met by out of pocket (OOP). Rural households primarily depended on their ‘household income / savings’ (68%) and on ‘borrowings’ (25%), the urban households relied much more on their ‘income / saving’ (75%) for financing expenditure on hospitalizations, and on ‘(18%) borrowings. (NSSO 2015). Out of pocket (OOP) expenditure in India is over 60% which leads to nearly 6 million families getting into poverty due to catastrophic health expenditures.

AB-NHPM will have major impact on reduction of Out Of Pocket (OOP) expenditure on ground of:

  • ¬†Increased benefit cover to nearly 40% of the population, (the poorest&the vulnerable)
  • ¬†Covering almost all secondary and many tertiary hospitalizations. (except a negative list)
  • ¬†Coverage of 5 lakh for each family, (no restriction of family size)

This will lead to increased access to quality health and medication. In addition, the unmet needs of the population which remained hidden due to lack of financial resources will be catered to. This will lead to timely treatments, improvements in health outcomes, patient satisfaction, improvement in productivity and efficiency, job creation thus leading to improvement in quality of life.

Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 21-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 20-06-18

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Mehbooba calls it quits as BJP pulls the plug

  • Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned after the BJP announced that it was pulling out of the alliance with her Peoples Democratic Party that has ruled the State since March 2015.
  • Later in the day, GovernorN. Vohra forwarded his report to the President recommending imposition of Governor‚Äôs Rule in the State.
  • Please refer Laxmiakanth.

The imposition of governor‚Äôs rule in J&K is slightly different than that in other states. In other states, the president‚Äôs rule is imposed under the Article 356 of Constitution of India. In J&K, governor‚Äôs rule is mentioned under Article 370 section 92 ‚Äď ‚Äė Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the State.‚Äô Here‚Äôs a look at provisions for Governor‚Äôs rule and the dispensation of duties under Article 370 section 92:¬† Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the State.-

  • If at any time, the Governor is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, the Governor may by Proclamation-
    • (a) assume to himself all or any of the functions of the Government of the State and all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by anybody or authority in the State;
    • (b) make such incidental and consequential provisions as appear to the *Governor to be necessary or desirable for giving effect to the objects of the Proclamation, including provisions for suspending in whole or in part the operation of any provision of this Constitution relating to anybody or authority in the State:
    • Provided that nothing in this section shall authorise the *Governor to assume to himself any of the powers vested in or exercisable by the High Court or to suspend in whole or in part the operation of any provision of this Constitution relating to the High Court.
  • Any such Proclamation may be revoked or varied by a subsequent Proclamation.
  • Any such Proclamation whether varied under subsection (2) or not, shall except where it is a Proclamation revoking a previous Proclamation, cease to operate on the expiration of six months from the date on which it was first issued.
  • If the Government or by a Proclamation under his section assumes, to himself any, of the powers of the Legislature to make his laws, any law made by him in the exercise of that power shall, subject to, the terms there of continue to have effect until two years have elapsed from the date on which the proclamation ceases to have effect, unless sooner
  • No Proclamation under this section shall, except where it is a Proclamation revoking a previous Proclamation, be laid before each House of the Legislature as soon as it is convened.

India for rules-based world order

  • Articulating the principles of Indian foreign policy, President Ram Nath Kovind¬† said¬†India is committed to an international order marked by robust, rules-based multilateral institutions; by multi-polarity in international governance; and by investment and connectivity projects that are viable, sustainable.
  • In a lecture delivered during his ongoing trip to Greece, the President said New Delhi wishes to create a rules-based world order that will not differentiate between ‚Äúgood‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúbad‚ÄĚ terrorism.Jis¬†
  • He said¬†India is keen to maintain a non-aligned attitude towards major power blocs in the world.
  • His speech highlighted the syncretic connections between the European and Indian traditions of art, politics and state formation and described Greece and India are ‚Äúsister civilisations‚ÄĚ who have been part of the large family of humanity as exemplified in the Indian notion of ‚ÄúVasudhaiva kutumbakam ‚ÄĚ.
  • Prelims: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is a Sanskrit phrase found in Maha Upanishad, which means “the world is one family”.

Air India privatisation plan shelved

  • After it failed to get any buyers (not enough bids)for the debt-ridden national carrier, the government has shelved its plan to privatise Air India exactly a year after the Union Cabinet gave its nod for the disinvestment process.
  • Measures such as cutting down costs as well as monetisation of Air India‚Äôs assets would be adopted in order to run the airline.
  • Background:The government had offered to sell 76% of its stake in Air India, along with low-cost subsidiary Air India Express and its 50% share in ground-handling arm AISATS as a single entity. The buyer would have to take on the debt and current liabilities of Rs. 33,392 crore.

Difference between Disinvestment and privatization

  • Privatization involves transforming the ownership of a public sector business to the private sector known as a ‚Äėstrategic buyer‚Äô. In privatization, full ownership is transferred to the strategic partner.
  • In disinvestment, the same transformation process happens while retaining 26% or in some cases 51% percent of share right (i.e. the voting power) with the public sector organization.
  • In disinvestment 26% or 51% of share is retained with the government company and the rest is transferred to the strategic partner. Here, the ownership is not transferred to strategic buyer.

Keralites face highest risk of cardiovascular disease

  • A study based on two recent national surveys of nearly 8,00,000 adults between 34 and 70 years, has found that people of Kerala across sexes were most at risk of cardiovascular diseases while those in Jharkhand were least likely to have the condition.
  • Facts, just to get an idea, not useful in mains : A gender break down, however, puts the women of Goa at highest mean cardiovascular risk at 16.73% while men in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland were most vulnerable with mean cardiovascular risk of 24.23%.With 19.90%, adults living in urban areas in Kerala had the highest mean risk, followed by West Bengal (19.12%) and Himachal Pradesh (18.97%).
  • Mains:In general, the cardiovascular risk is lower in rural areas compared with urban areas.
  • While smoking was more prevalent in poorer households and rural areas, wealthy households and urban locations faced risks from high body mass index, high blood glucose and high systolic blood pressure.

Who conducted the Study and Sources?

  • The study, led by researchers at Public Health Foundation of India and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that adults in urban areas, as well as those with a higher household wealth, tended to have a greater cardiovascular risk. The study used the data from the District Level Household Survey-4 (DLHS-4) and the second update of the Annual Health Survey (AHS). The surveys covered 27 of the 29 States and five of the seven Union Territories.

The last to know

  • The board of ICICI Bank has finally acted on the allegations of misconduct against its CEO and managing director, Chanda Kochhar. It had earlier maintained that she was on annual personal leave; now, she will stay away from the office till the completion of an inquiry into the charges levelled against her by a whistle-blower.
  • ICICI Bank‚Äôs troubles are rooted in a 2016 complaint by an investor alleging a quid pro quo deal between Ms. Kochhar‚Äôs immediate family members and the Videocon group, which got a Rs. 3,250-crore loan from it.
  • With the Central Bureau of Investigation and later the stock market regulator SEBI swooping in, the issue of whether the bank had failed to make adequate disclosures about its dealings with the borrower (who is now a defaulter) and a firm related to Ms. Kochhar‚Äôs husband was spotlighted. The bank is yet to respond to SEBI, but changed tack after the latter decided to launch a probe into allegations of a quid pro quo and alleged misconduct by Ms. Kochhar.
  • The board itself could have dealt with this through an internal investigation rather than giving the impression that it wanted to paper over the issue, sending a poor signal to all stakeholders.
  • While one should not prejudge the inquiry findings, there is no doubt that the strength of corporate governance practices in the bank has come under question because of the way the issue has played out.
  • corporate governance.¬† is an ethics paper topic .

India’s pivot to Eurasia

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China attracted little international attention. It was the first SCO summit attended by India as a full-fledged member (It has been an observer since 2005.)

Background:

  • The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five grouping¬† of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan which was set up in 1996 to resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members.
  • It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation.
  • It admitted India and Pakistan as full members in 2017.

Scope of SCO :

  • The admission of India and Pakistan has expanded the geographical, demographic and economic profile of the SCO, which now has about half the world‚Äôs population and a quarter of its GDP. Its boundary extends southwards to the Indian Ocean.

Relevance for India:

  • The SCO‚Äôs relevance for India lies in geography, economics and geopolitics. Its members occupy a huge landmass adjacent to India‚Äôs extended neighbourhood, where India has important economic and security interests.
  • Its Central Asian countries border Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. A narrow sliver of land separates southern Tajikistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. When you have complicated relations with your neighbours, it makes sense to strengthen relations with your neighbours‚Äô neighbours.
  • With Pakistan joining the Organisation and Afghanistan and Iran knocking on the doors for membership, the logic of India‚Äôs membership becomes stronger.
  • Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, India‚Äôs relations with Central Asian countries has been constrained by lack of overland access through Pakistan and Afghanistan/Iran, because of political and/or security reasons. With new multimodal transport corridors now envisaged through Iran, there are again prospects of invigorating trade and investment links with this region.

China’s Influence :

  • In the formative years of the SCO, Russia pushed strongly for India to join it, to somewhat balance China‚Äôs economic dominance in Central Asia. The Chinese were not responsive. China has since consolidated its energy and economic foothold in the region, where ambitious infrastructure and connectivity projects are envisaged as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It has secured the simultaneous admission of Pakistan into the SCO.
  • India has to carve out a political and economic space for itself in Central Asia, alongside Russia‚Äôs role as net security provider and China‚Äôs dominating economic presence. The Central Asian countries would welcome India breaking into this Russia-China duopoly.
  • that SCO deliberations would get bogged down by India-Pakistan squabbles. It also respected the etiquette of international organisations: countries join them to promote shared objectives, not to settle bilateral scores.

The India-Pakistan angle:

  • Russian President¬† has suggested that harmonious cooperation in the SCO may pave the way for an India-Pakistan rapprochement, recalling that SCO membership had facilitated resolution of China‚Äôs boundary disputes with Russia and Central Asian countries.
  • Recalling that SCO membership had facilitated resolution of China‚Äôs boundary disputes with Russia and Central Asian countries.
  • The circumstances are not comparable. China made substantial concessions to settle its boundary disputes with Russia and Central Asia, in pursuit of larger strategic and economic objectives in the region.
  • India-Pakistan differences extend well beyond a boundary dispute, flow from different historical circumstances and are located in a different geopolitical environment.
  • The SCO will, however, nudge both countries to cooperate in sensitive areas.
  • Security: One example is the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO, which coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities.
  • Defence cooperation : enhanced linkages between armed forces is an SCO objective. India has agreed to participate in the SCO‚Äôs counter-terrorism military exercises in Russia later this year, when Indian and Pakistani troops will operate together.
  • Afghanistan: Reconciling Indian and Pakistani perspectives in the SCO‚Äôs initiatives on Afghanistan would be yet another challenge.

The Differences among SCO members :

The expansion of SCO has diluted its unanimity on hitherto shared perspectives.

  • India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Qingdao declaration confirms the compliance of the other members of¬† SCO who are NPT signatories.
  • India is the only member who have reservations on China‚Äôs BRI.
  • The essence of a functioning multilateral framework is focusing on shared objectives and underplaying divergences.

SCO and the West

  • Besides expanding opportunities for India in Central Asia, the SCO is a platform for articulating a non-Western¬†perspective on global issues.
  • This includes opposition to selective advocacy of regime change, self-serving homilies on human rights and intrusive advice on domestic policies.
  • It suits India that the SCO is not stridently anti-West in its pronouncements
  • Russia and China also carefully avoid strong anti-West postures in the SCO, preferring to deal with differences quietly and bilaterally.

The imperative to offer refuge

  • India is host to over 200,000 refugees who have been forced to flee conflict and persecution in their home countries.
  • On World Refugee Day (June 20), there is a need to reassess India‚Äôs approach to refugee protection, particularly in light of the regional refugee crisis after the mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar.
  • Traditionally, India has hosted several persecuted groups such as Tibetans and Sri Lankans. While it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no domestic asylum law, it has reiterated its commitment towards the protection of refugees at various international fora, including the UN General Assembly.
  • One of the most significant affirmations of this commitment was demonstrated by India becoming a signatory to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted by 193 countries in September 2016. In doing so, India has expressed its solidarity with those forced to flee and agreed that protecting refugees and supporting the countries that shelter them are shared international responsibilities that must be borne more equitably.

The Declaration sets the stage for a new framework for refugee protection ‚ÄĒ

The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).

  • The Compact is a coordinated effort to strengthen international response to protracted refugee situations and comprehensively addresses all stages of refugee protection, from reception to long-term solutions.
  • Two of its key objectives are to ease pressures on host countries and enhance refugee self-reliance.
  • The GCR recognises that certain refugee situations can last for decades and acknowledges that the burden is borne largely by developing countries, that now host over 80% of the refugee population in the world.
  • In light of this, it calls for support from the international community in the form of resources. It also seeks to establish forums to enable expertise-sharing to promote economic opportunities, decent work and job creation not just for refugees but also for the host community.

Indian Scenario:

  • Although India has hosted refugees of varying nationalities for decades, the country has done little beyond providing asylum. There have been some attempts to introduce a refugee law in the country, the latest being the Asylum Bill 2015, introduced as a private member‚Äôs bill by Shashi Tharoor.
  • Given that most refugees have been unable to return to their countries, leading to protracted refugee situations, there is an urgent need for the government to develop a uniform framework for their management during their stay in India.
  • Refugees have limited access to essential services and almost no avenues for livelihood. While some refugees have been able to generate income by working in the informal sector, many of them, especially vulnerable women, are at the mercy of touts and traffickers even within their own community.
  • The solution to this may lie within the GCR, which calls for States to identify gaps and opportunities for employment and income generation for refugees in a bid to enhance their self-reliance.
  • Prelims: Any MP who is not a minister is a private member and he or she can submit a legislative proposal for enacting it as law. Suggested reading : Only 14 private members’ bills passed since Independence

Way forward :

  • Therefore this is an opportune time for India to reassess the need for a national asylum policy which is compliant with the principles laid down in the GCR.
  • This will not only re-establish India‚Äôs place as a democratic regional power committed to core humanitarian principles but will also provide refugees¬† a chance to give back to the country that has adopted them.

Less talk, more action

  • When it comes to improving learning outcomes in India, we have no time to waste.
  • No time for conference speakers to drone on, no time for research that only produces another report on poor learning levels in the country, and no time to complain about how accountability systems and processes are broken.
  • Too many children are not learning and every moment that we don‚Äôt act is a moment wasted in a child‚Äôs life.
  • We also need to act in ways that will focus on improving learning.
  • While there has been an increase in education spending over the last five years, learning outcomes have been poor and have been declining.

Solutions: 

  • First, we need clear examples of what good quality education looks like.
  • Second, we need to focus on classroom practice, because that‚Äôs where change needs to happen.
    • Teachers need to be equipped with the right training on effective techniques and they should be introduced to concepts such as differentiation, where each child learns according to his or her level.
    • Teacher training must be practical and teachers must be provided feedback on the job.
  • Third, we need to involve parents
  • Fourth, we need to scale programmes that demonstrate impact,Supporting the expansion of a proven model to 1,000 schools is more likely to lead to classroom impact.
  • Fifth, we need to partner more. Whether it‚Äôs public-private partnerships or NGO partnerships or State government knowledge sharing, more needs to happen.

Way forward:

  • It takes a village to raise a child and it will take a nation working together to ensure that all children get the education they deserve.

Sushma writes to Maldives on visa row

  • India and the Maldives are engaging in an effort to resolve issues over the denial of visas to Indians, with officials meeting in Delhi, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reaching out to her counterpart in Male to help hundreds of Indian job-holders left stranded over the past few months.
  • Bilateral ties under strain since February, when Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of Emergency, which India had objected to.

Governor’s rule: Army and police to join forces now

  • Kashmir is likely to witness a new wave of violence as target-specific military operations will go up in the coming days with the State coming under Governor‚Äôs rule.
  • Governor‚Äôs rule would result in closer coordination among security forces, especially the State police and the Army, more intelligence flow and, consequently, more security operations.
  • The current trend shows that 2018 is on its way to become the bloodiest year in a decade.
  • A day after the Suspension of Operations was called off by the Home Ministry, the Army has resumed full-fledged anti-terror operations in the hinterland.

India to defend GSP benefits at USTR

  • India is expected to challenge charges levelled against it by the U.S dairy and medical devices industries at a hearing before the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office¬† and defend its eligibility for benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
  • The GSP programme provides for the duty-free treatment of designated articles when imported from beneficiary developing countries to America. What is at stake is exports worth about $5 billion annually, of 1,937 products from India.
  • The USTR is reviewing India‚Äôs eligibility under the programme, after complaints from bodies representing the dairy and medical devices industry. The USTR had accused India of implementing ‚Äúa wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on U.S. commerce,‚ÄĚ in April.
  • India requires that dairy products [be] derived from animals which have never consumed any feeds containing internal organs, blood meal, or tissues of ruminant origin.
  • In this regard, India has explained to the U.S that India‚Äôs position is based on religious, cultural and moral grounds. India is committed to respect the religious and cultural beliefs of its people and it will be inappropriate to impute any other considerations to this decision.

Rare spider found again after 150 years

  • Scientists rediscovered after 150 years a rare species of spider, which was believed have become extinct, from Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) located in the Western Ghats region of K
  • The spider belonged to the family of jumping spiders (Salticidae) and scientifically named as Chrysilla volupes .
  • World famous Arachnologist Dr. Ferdinand Anton France Karsch of Berlin Zoological Museum, Germany, had described the inventory of a species of spider from Periyej Lake in Gujarat in 1868.
  • Researchers of the Centre for Animal Taxonomy and Ecology, Christ College, Irinjalakuda, have rediscovered both male and female specimens of this spider from the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 20-06-18

Newspaper notes for UPSC 15-06-18

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 15-06-18

President rejects

  • President has rejected the request of the Tamil Nadu government to release the seven prisoners convicted for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991.
  • President¬†conveyed to the State government that the ‚ÄúCentre doesn‚Äôt concur with its view‚ÄĚ to release the prisoners. The President is bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers in such matters.
  • The State government has, in the last four years, written twice to the Home Ministry to pardon the convicted prisoners, and release them on humanitarian grounds.

Value Addition:

  • Refer Laxmikanth for the powers of the President.¬†
  • A President is empowered with the power to pardon under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Article 72 is about a very old but creatively renewed principle of a sovereign‚Äôs prerogative to adjudge capital crime against the backdrop of its circumstances, not legalistically but civilisationally.
  • An opportunity to see if that punishment than which there can be no greater punishment, is merited, deserved, fair, just and, above all, free from any error of judgment by those tasked to judge it.
  • In other words, the power to pardon is not about punishment as it is about redemption.

India calls UN report on Kashmir fallacious

  • India rejected a report from the UN that called for an international investigation into the alleged incidents of human rights abuse by Indian forces in Kashmir.
  • A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said the first-ever UN report on human rights situation was ‚Äúfallacious.‚ÄĚ
  • The statement said it is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative. The report violates India‚Äôs sovereignty and integrity… it is disturbing that those behind this report have chosen to describe internationally designated and UN-proscribed terrorist entities as ‚Äėarmed groups‚Äô and terrorists as ‚Äėleaders.‚Äô This undermines the UN-led consensus on zero tolerance to terrorism.
  • The¬† report focused on the human rights situation in the State between January 2016 and April 2018 during which violence escalated. In view of the spiralling terrorism and counter-terror operations, the report urged India to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol.

India is facing its worst water crisis

  • The NITI Aayog released the results of a study warning that India is facing its ‚Äúworst‚ÄĚ water crisis in history and that the demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030, if steps are not taken.
  • The report said¬†Nearly 600 million Indians faced high-to-extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people died every year because of inadequate access to safe water.
  • Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.
  • If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country‚Äôs Gross Domestic Product by 2050.
  • Critical groundwater resources, which accounted for 40% of the water supply, are being depleted at ‚Äúunsustainable‚ÄĚ rates and up to 70% of the supply is ‚Äúcontaminated‚ÄĚ.
  • Several of the high and medium performers Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana had faced droughts in recent years. Therefore, a lack of water was not necessary grounds for the States not initiating action on conservation.
  • Most of the gains registered by the States were due to their restoration of surface water bodies, watershed development activities and rural water supply provision.

Refer to Laxmikanth for NITI and its’s functions.

Categories: 

Two categories were made to account for different hydrological conditions across the two groups.

  • The observations are part of a study that ranked 24 States on how well they managed their water. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh took the top three spots, and Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana came in last in the ‚ÄėNon-Himalayan States‚Äô
  • Himachal Pradesh ‚ÄĒ which is facing one of its worst water crises this year ‚ÄĒ led a separate eight-member list of States clubbed together as ‚ÄėNorth-Eastern and Himalayan.‚Äô

Background:

  • The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), to evaluate States, has been developed by the National¬†¬†Institute¬†¬†for¬†¬†Transforming¬†¬†India (NITI) Aayog and comprises 9 broad sectors with 28 different indicators covering various aspects of groundwater, restoration of water bodies, irrigation, farm practices, drinking water, policy and governance.
  • The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) is a major step towards creating a culture of data based¬†¬†decision-making¬†¬†for¬†¬†waterin¬†¬†India,¬†¬†which¬†¬†can¬†¬†encourage¬†¬†‚Äėcompetitive¬†¬†and¬†¬†cooperative federalism‚Äô in the country‚Äôs water governance and management.
  • The indicators in the Water Index have been grouped into nine broad themes, which are:
    • Source augmentation and restoration of water bodies
    • Source augmentation (Groundwater)
    • Major and medium irrigation‚ÄĒSupply side management
    • Watershed development‚ÄĒSupply side management,
    • Participatory irrigation practices‚ÄĒDemand side management
    • Sustainable on-farm water use practices‚ÄĒDemand side management
    • Rural drinking water
    • Urban water supply and sanitation, and
    • Policy and governance
  • Going forward, the government can amplify the impact of the Index by developing a platform that can be accessed by researchers, NGOs, entrepreneurs and policymakers to enable innovation in the broader water ecosystem.

States should protect all strays

  • States will be held responsible for cattle, dogs and cats wandering on streets and officials will be held accountable for inflicting ‚Äúcruelty‚ÄĚ on them, according to a directive by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), constituted under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act.
  • The AWBI, however, does not have the right to prescribe punishments or fines for violations of the PCA Act but can pursue legal action.
  • It is also the responsibility of local bodies to save animals like stray cats, monkeys and stray dogs from cruelty and sufferings.

Value addition:

  • The Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body on Animal Welfare Laws and promotes animal welfare in the country. Established in 1962 under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It is under¬†Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • Well-known humanitarian Rukmini Devi Arundale¬†was instrumental in setting up the board.

The changing nature of violence

  • Events in Thoothukudi on May 22 and 23 have helped turn the spotlight on the changing nature of violence, and the inadequacy of existing rules and procedures to deal with new-era protests.
  • This should be instructive, for new-era protests are redefining the internal security landscape.

The issues involved in each case are highly complex and need careful attention.

  • Thoothukudi is yet another incident in the expanding saga of industry versus the environment. This segment embraces pollution issues, from Sterlite‚Äôs copper smelters in Thoothukudi to the tanneries spewing effluents in Kanpur, to the iron mines in Goa today.The mother of all environmental tragedies remains the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984.
  • Added to this list are
    • the escalating violence resulting from caste conflicts including the most recent Dalit uprising;
    • farmers‚Äô woes across the country;
    • the rape of young women and children;
    • issues revolving around tradition versus modernity;
    • the outsider versus insider syndrome, especially in the Northeast and we have an unfolding vista of incessant conflict and violence.
  • violence in Thoothukudi, resulting in at least three police firings and the death of over a dozen individuals, there remain many unanswered questions
    • Firing did not take place according to prescribed law and order procedures.
    • how peace could be maintained for 99 days, and it was the march to the Thoothukudi Collectorate on the 100th day that seemed to have triggered widespread violence.
  • In instances of this kind, it is vital to try to determine the actual trigger that led to the violence.
    • A mere reference to failure of intelligence, the usual litany of charges against the administration, or to excessive use of force by the police is inadequate to explain the turn of events in Thoothukudi.
    • The widest gap separating the official version from that of the public is about the presence/absence of ‚Äėagent provocateurs‚Äô among the protesters.
    • The official version highlights the role of such elements; the administration has identified quite a few such elements, some of whom reportedly belong to known militant outfits.
    • However, reports of the presence of outsiders have been totally rejected by the protesters.
    • It is no secret that many of today‚Äôs large-scale protests across the country are prompted by militant elements from outside, who are pre-programmed to create chaos.
  • The qualitative difference from the past is that protests today are beginning to embrace entire communities. Agitations also tend more and more to be ‚Äėleaderless‚Äô. This is both a strength and weakness. Governments and even tribunals are today viewed by protesters with deep suspicion, limiting opportunities for adjudication. Contrary judgments at different times by the High Courts and the Supreme Court have hardly helped.
  • This is the age of ‚Äėhigh voltage‚Äô revolt, basically an expression of repressed anger. Much of this arises from an ‚Äúembedded wisdom‚ÄĚ that the system is being ‚Äúmanipulated‚ÄĚ in favour of the rich, the powerful, and the big multinationals.
  • Government regulatory agencies often tend to be overwhelmed by the phalanx of lawyers that the big multinationals can throw at them, challenging and delaying for years on end decisions, especially when they believe that the verdict would go against them.
  • In Thoothukudi, the revolt was against Sterlite and its so-called disdain for the environment and the suffering of the locals. Far away in Bhangar, West Bengal, just a few miles away from Kolkata, for months villagers have been up in arms against a power grid project for which land had been acquired many years ago. The conditions may be different, but the opposition remains equally intense. In both instances, we see organisations genuinely interested in the welfare of the locals initially launching the agitations, which gradually tend to be taken over by extreme right-wing and left-wing The result remains the same: widespread disruption.
  • It is possible that the initial peaceful nature of the protests lulled the authorities into believing that matters were well under control. What they failed to understand was the metastasising nature of the protests and signs of the growing revolt of an ‚Äėunderclass‚Äô against the so-called ‚Äėelite‚Äô
  • police also do not seem to have taken into consideration the kind of impetus provided to agitational methodologies by the ‚Äėdigital wave‚Äô.
  • Outdated ideas can no longer explain the complex nature of today‚Äôs agitations.
  • Police effectiveness is also hampered on account of several other reasons, including that they are often outnumbered by mobilised crowds, driven by indignation and rage, predisposed towards creating disorder.
  • The police on their part need to realise that existing laws and procedures notwithstanding, merely putting faith and focus on strength is not likely to succeed. It ignores the asymmetrical measures available to today‚Äôs mobs, and the limits that these impose on tactics and policies of a bygone era.
  • whenever situations of this kind arise, there are a spate of reports regarding revamping intelligence and introduction of new methods to overcome the lacunae in intelligence collection. These are equally unlikely to succeed, unless the police strengthen their ‚Äėcontextual‚Äô intelligence to deal with today‚Äôs situations. This involves anticipating the meaning of ‚Äėstreet power‚Äô ‚Äď enhanced by information technology and the presence of flash mobs. New ‚Äėsmart tactics‚Äô have to be developed.

Decongesting our cities

  • India has witnessed a rapid growth in the number of motor vehicles, from a mere 5.4 million in 1981 to 210 million in 2015.
  • This furious pace of motorisation has led to severe traffic congestion and air pollution, adversely impacting the well-being of the people, the energy security of the country, and the economic efficiency of cities.
  • Ways to de-clog: Policies to deal with these problems have aimed at improving our public transport systems in the belief that this will enable people to shift from using personal vehicles.
  • Public transport uses less road space, consumes less fuel and emits less pollutants on a per passenger basis. Hence, India has invested large amounts in high quality metro systems.
  • Did it work ?¬†Unfortunately, congestion is far from gone and pollution is only getting worse in our cities. At this juncture, it is necessary to stop and look at where we have gone wrong and understand what needs to be done to correct this situation.
  • Why not ?¬†people who can afford cars and motorbikes are unwilling to compromise on the convenience of door-to-door travel, and the comfort of not having to jostle or hunt for seats in overcrowded buses or trains.
  • Innovate solutions: The emerging slew of shared mobility options and app-based ride providers become important. These new players have read the market well and offer the conveniences that commuters are looking for, from door-to-door services to on-demand availability. They allow commuters to travel independently or share the ride with other passengers to save costs.
  • Regulator issues: Unfortunately, services like the app-based mini-buses do not find favour with regulators. That they are neither ‚Äústage carriages‚ÄĚ nor ‚Äúcontract carriages‚ÄĚ under the Motor Vehicles Act makes it difficult for them to secure permits.
  • Whats the difference:
    • Stage carriages are those that ply along fixed routes and stop at predetermined stations to pick up and drop passengers.
    • Contract carriages are vehicles that serve a single customer or a group of customers, to be picked and dropped between two designated places.
  • We must aim at leapfrogging with the help of these new services rather than shunning them for old models like ‚Äėstage‚Äô and ‚Äėcontract‚Äô carriages. Clearly, these services are the need of the hour;
  • At the same time to safeguard investments in public transport and to ensure that app-based services don‚Äôt compete with them on price, a floor price could be set for these services. This would mean that these services can charge more than a certain base price but not less.

Way forward:

  • Developments in technology have given us new services that were not possible earlier. They are serving a public purpose and people are taking to them in a big way. They hold the potential to ease our congestion and air quality challenges. The regulation must, therefore, consider embracing technology-based services for the larger benefit, rather than fighting them.

Islands apart

  • Recent moves by Abdulla Yameen, President of the Maldives, have put Mal√© on a collision course with New Delhi.
  • Even the presidential election, which India has been calling for, is a point of contention.
  • India criticised the government for its incarceration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, sentenced to 19 months in prison for an alleged plot to unseat Mr. Yameen.
  • India called the trial a sham, saying the sentencing put a question mark on the credibility of the presidential election process.

There has been a series of setbacks in India-Maldives ties,

  • Starting from March 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled a visit in a show of disapproval of the treatment of Mohamed Nasheed, then in prison facing treason and terror charges.
  • Since then, India has called out many actions of Mr. Yameen‚Äôs government, including the conduct of polls, treatment of the judiciary and, in February, his declaration of a state of emergency.
  • On the last, it also rejected Mr. Yameen‚Äôs offer to send an envoy to explain his decision.

Strengthened relationship with China

  • Bolstered by a newly strengthened relationship with China, Mr. Yameen showed no inclination to heed India‚Äôs advice.
  • The strain is now evident in two areas where India-Maldives ties had been the strongest: strategic relations and people-to-people engagement.
  • The Maldives has conveyed to India that it will not extend beyond June 30 the lease of Indian helicopters or the visas of personnel manning them. This signals a marked downturn in defence cooperation between the two countries, which normally coordinate maritime and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) patrols together.
  • Meanwhile, hundreds of Indians offered employment in the Maldives at resorts, hospitals and colleges have been denied work visas for the past few months.
  • India too must pause to consider why relations have soured so badly. Until a few years ago, the Maldives affirmed an ‚ÄúIndia First‚ÄĚ policy.
  • The fact that the Maldives is the only country in the neighbourhood that Mr. Modi hasn‚Äôt visited is one reason, but there are many others.
  • India‚Äôs vocal protests on democratic rights in the Maldives have been at variance with the past policy of taking a more muted line in public while encouraging democracy in official conversations.
  • Way forward: It‚Äôs time to restore the bilateral trust.

Couples in live-in relations cannot adopt

  • The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) nodal body for adoption in the country has barred partners in live-in relationships from adopting a child on the ground that cohabitation without marriage is not considered a stable family in India.¬†It has been decided that the cases of single PAP (prospective adopting parent) in a live-in relationship with a partner will not be considered eligible to adopt a child and their registration through the AFAAs (authorised foreign adoption agencies) will not be considered for approval.
  • It permits a single woman to adopt a child of any gender, while single men can adopt only boys.
  • In case an applicant is married, both spouses must give their consent for adoption and should be in a stable marriage for at least two years.
  • Candidates must be physically fit, financially sound, mentally alert and highly motivated to adopt a child, as per the Adoption Regulations 2017.
  • Legal view about Live in relationships: The Supreme Court has on several occasions said that a live-in relationship is neither a crime or a sin.Last month, the Supreme Court had said that adult couples have the right to live together even if they were not married. It said that even the legislature recognised live-in relationships through the provisions under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Salient features of the Adoption Regulations, 2017:-

  • Procedures related to adoption by relatives both within the country and abroad have been defined in the Regulations.
  • Validity of Home Study Report has been increased from two to three years.
  • The time period available to the domestic PAPs for matching and acceptance, after reserving the child referred, has been increased to twenty days from the existing fifteen days.
  • District Child protection Unit (DCPU) shall maintain a panel of professionally qualified or trained social workers.
  • There are 32 Schedules annexed to the Regulations including model adoption applications to be filed in the Court and this would considerably address delays prevalent in obtaining the Court order
  • CARA shall be facilitating all adoptions under the JJ Act, 2015 through Child Adoption Resource Information & Guidance System (CARINGS) and all kinds of adoptions, including adoptions by relatives shall be reported to CARA which would enable safeguards for all adopted children by maintaining their record and ensuring post adoption follow up.

A drive to clean air

  • The WHO global air pollution database report that ranked 14 Indian cities among the 15 of the world‚Äôs most polluted, in terms of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 concentration.
  • Cities provide 60 per cent to 65 per cent of India‚Äôs GDP and 45 per cent to-50 per cent of our consumption.
  • As per a World Economic Forum study, the number of million-plus urban conglomerates in India has increased from 35 in 2001 to 53 in 2011. By 2030, this number is expected to grow to 87.
  • Currently, the World Bank assesses health and welfare losses at 7.7 per cent of India‚Äôs GDP (PPP adjusted). If these costs are unchecked, they will grow sharply in the coming decades.
  • India‚Äôs urban pollution as measured by PM 2.5 level is already about 40 per cent above the global safe limits across major Indian cities.
  • Soureces: If we disaggregate urban pollution, we find 70 per cent to 80 per cent of it (as measured by PM 2.5) comes from vehicular emissions, domestic activity, construction activity, industry activity and road dust.
  • Among these¬†two require urgent attention and will create the largest short term impact vehicular emissions and domestic activity.
  • Domestic:¬†The movement away from kerosene, coal and wood fires for cooking will have a big impact, also increased focus on¬†LPG and solar-powered stoves will help.
  • vehicular pollution: it contributes around 35 per cent of the total PM 2.5 emissions today. Of the total vehicular pollution, 40 per cent to 45 per cent comes from two-wheelers and another 30 per cent to-35 per cent from four wheelers. In a future with internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles (even post BS VI roll out), urban pollution will continue to remain 25 per cent to 30 per cent above safe global standards because of the growth in automobiles.
  • Addressing vehicular emissions¬†requires a multi-pronged approach by Combining it with¬†already-proposed tighter emission norms (in form of BS VI), with a push for shared mobility and public transport and adoption of alternate mobility technologies.
  • The policy roadmap should encompass three key elements based on global learnings.
  • First, incentives for adoption of alternate mobility technologies.
    • Globally, incentives for adoption of alternate mobility technologies have been known to help
    • we need to assess and refine the monetary incentives that are offered to bridge the viability gap for electric vehicles.
    • It is Important for the government to continue the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) vehicles programme.
    • Non-monetary incentives must go along with subsidies. Technology choices should be rewarded with exemption from tolls/taxes, special toll lanes and other preferred access to public infrastructure.
  • Second, restrictions on elements that contribute negatively to strategic objectives (such as congestion charges on polluting technologies),
    • There is a need to impose restrictions through supply-side regulations on OEMs to increase production of zero emission vehicles to curb urban pollution.
  • and last provision of enabling infrastructure.
    • There is an early need to standardise charging infrastructure/equipment to ensure interoperability and make it widespread.

BS-VI emission standards

  • Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion enginesand Spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change.

Centre for Science and Environment analysis,

  • In case of cars,‚Äúthe particulate matter norm will reduce by 82%¬†and nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 68%;
  • PM and NOx emissions from two-wheelers will reduce by 89% and 76%, respectively;
  • PM and NOx emissions from trucks and buses will drop by 50% and 89%, respectively‚ÄĚ,
  • when BS-VI emission standards are implemented for all vehicle categories.
  • CSE researchers also said that BS-VI fuel would bring down sulphur content by five times from the current BS-IV levels ‚ÄĒ an 80% reduction.
  • They said that the moment fuel quality was improved, the emission control systems in the existing fleet would perform better, wear and tear would be less and PM emissions would be lower.

The changes in the automobiles under the wake of BS VI norms will be-

  • Vehicles must be fitted with DPF (diesel particulate filter) for Particulate Matter (PM) reduction. It is a a cylindrical object mounted vertically inside the engine compartment.
  • BS-VI vehicles also have to be equipped with an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) module to reduce oxides of nitrogen.
  • To attain the specified super low emissions, all reactions have to be precise, and controlled by microprocessors.
  • Manufacturers will also need to make petrol engines more fuel-efficient as CO emission levels will also need to be controlled. This may lead to a shift towards gasoline direct injection engines.

FAME

  • Government of India has notified FAME India Scheme [Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India] for implementation with effect from 1st April 2015, with the objective to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and Manufacturing eco-system. The scheme has 4 focus areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 14-06-18

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 14-06-18

Downturn in ties with Maldives

  • Since February, when Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen ordered an Emergency, which India took a strong position against, the Maldives Immigration Authority has reportedly held up thousands of work permits to Indians.
  • More startling are public advertisements from companies that are hiring, but say clearly that ‚ÄúIndians need not apply‚ÄĚ, as they would not be given work permits.
  • Despite the increasing numbers of desperate job-seekers, the MEA has refused to take up the matter, and the Embassy of India in the Maldives (EoI) has replied to queries from the job-seekers by saying it cannot help.

Green ambitions

  • Union Power Minister said India would overshoot its target of installing 175 gigawatts of capacity from renewable energy sources by 2022. India was on track, he said, to hit 225 GW of renewable capacity by then.
  • This is a tall claim, considering India has missed several interim milestones since it announced its 175 GW target in 2015.
  • The misses happened despite renewable capacity being augmented at a blistering pace, highlighting how ambitious the initial target was.
  • Issues: Technological and financial challenges remain: both wind and solar generation could be erratic, and India‚Äôs creaky electricity grid must be modernised to distribute such power efficiently. Meanwhile, wind and solar tariffs have hit such low levels that suppliers are working with wafer-thin margins. This means small shocks can knock these sectors off their growth trajectories.
  • The obstacles have capped capacity addition to 69 GW till date, with India missing its 2016 and 2017 milestones. To hit its 2022 target of 175 GW, 106 GW will have to be added in four years, more than twice the capacity added in the last four.
  • In the solar sector alone so many issues are there:¬†Manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) cells have demanded a 70% safeguard duty on Chinese PV imports, and the Directorate General of Trade Remedies will soon take a call on this.
  • There is also the problem of the rooftop-solar segment. Of the current goal of 100 GW from solar energy by 2022, 40 GW is to come from rooftop installations, and 60 GW from large solar parks.
  • Despite being the fastest-growing renewable-energy segment so far¬†India only hit 3% of its goal by the end of 2017,¬†Homeowners aren‚Äôt warming up to the idea of installing photovoltaic panels on their terraces because the economics does not work out for them.
  • Compared to industries and commercial establishments, a home typically needs less power and will not use everything it generates. Homeowners need to be able to sell electricity back to the grid, which in turn needs a nationwide ‚Äúnet-metering‚ÄĚ policy.
  • Even if India hits the 175 GW target, it stands to meet its greenhouse-gas emission goal under the Paris climate agreement. This in itself will be a worthy achievement. Overshooting this target will be a plus, but until the government tackles the policy challenges.

Salient features of India’s INDC

  • To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation.
  • To adopt a climate-friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at corresponding level of economic development.
  • To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • To achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030, with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance, including¬† ¬†from Green Climate Fund. [India aims to install 175 GW of¬†¬†renewable energy 100 GW solar, 60 GW wind, and 15 GW biogas by 2022.]
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • To better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health and disaster management.
  • To mobilize domestic and new and additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions in view of the resource required and the resource gap.
  • To build capacities, create domestic framework and international architecture for quick diffusion of cutting edge climate technology in India and for joint collaborative R&D for such future technologies.

An improbable friendship

  • ‚ÄúTruth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn‚Äôt,‚ÄĚ wrote Mark Twain. Nothing proves it better than the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
  • Less than a year ago, the heightened rhetoric on both sides had led to growing concerns about the possibility of a nuclear exchange as North Korea ramped up its nuclear and missile testing programmes.
  • The UN Security Council met repeatedly, tightening economic sanctions on North Korea.
  • Russia and China appealed for restraint, proposing a ‚Äúfreeze for freeze‚ÄĚ, calling on the U.S. to stop military exercises with South Korea in return for North Korea halting its nuclear and missile testing.

New Take away Points:

  • The Joint Statement in Singapore is shy on detail but carries political promise. Instead of obsessing on the nuclear issue, it reflects clear recognition that a new beginning in U.S.-North Korea relations is possible only by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a permanent peace treaty and that regime security guarantee for North Korea is a prerequisite for denuclearisation.
  • The affirmation of the Panmunjom Declaration (signed between the two Korean leaders in April) means that bilateral normalisation between the two Koreas will move apace and a meeting involving the U.S. and possibly China to conclude a peace treaty can happen by end-2018.

The missing tiers

  • Read about 73rd and 74th amendments in Laxmikanth, to understand this article in a better way.

As the Central Government’s Smart Cities mission completes three years this month, it’s the right time to examine India’s tryst with municipal governance. 

  • Issues: Much has been written about the failure of States to implement the provisions of the 74th Amendment. However, it is important to examine concerns in the underlying constitutional design of urban local governments and the politics impeding this Amendment‚Äôs operation.
  • The ‚Äúimplementation failure‚ÄĚ narrative tends to focus on how local governments are financially constrained and do not have the administrative capacity to carry out its functions. It is also important to explore how urban local governments are actively disempowered and depoliticised as an institution.

How the disempowerment and depoliticization has happened in multiple ways. ?

  • First, elected representatives at the city-level are rendered powerless by making them subservient to the State government.
  • In most municipal corporations, while the mayor is the ceremonial head, the executive powers of the corporation are vested with the State government-appointed commissioner.
  • This been exploited by State governments to ensure that no city-level politician challenges their control over a city.
  • Municipal corporations are further denied their political role by the continued operation of various agencies like urban development authorities (which build infrastructure) and public corporations (which provide services such as water, electricity and transportation).
  • These agencies, which function with a certain autonomy, are accountable only to the State government, not the local government.
  • Even urban planning and land-use regulation (globally a quintessential local government function) is with State government-controlled development authorities.
  • Further depoliticisation of local government is taking place through Central government programmes such as the Smart Cities Mission which mandates the creation of special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for Smart Cities which will have ‚Äúoperational independence and autonomy in decision making and mission implementation‚ÄĚ. It further ‚Äúencourages‚ÄĚ a State government to delegate ‚Äúthe decision-making powers available to the ULB (urban local body) under the municipal act/government rules to the Chief Executive Officer of the SPV‚ÄĚ.

Limitations of 74th amendment:

  • Many of its key provisions are not mandatory for the State government.
  • The functions listed under the 12th Schedule which a State government is expected to devolve to the local governmentdo not include essential civic issues such as urban transportation, housing or urban commons.
  • The 74th Amendment also contains an industrial township exception whereby a municipality need not be constituted in areas which are declared as industrial townships.
  • These provisions have been employed by State governments to keep local governments weak.

Way forward: As cities struggle to meet the basic needs of their inhabitants, we must re-examine the existing modes of organising power in urban India.

VA: The amendment also included provisions for a district planning committee under Article 243ZD to secure development planning for the district,addressing both rural and urban concerns. Similarly,under Article 243ZE,a committee for metropolitan planning is required to be set up for each multi-municipal metropolitan area with a population of 10 lakh or more.

The crimes of a few condemn the fate of many

  • On May 22, Amnesty International (AI) released a briefing that revealed that a Rohingya armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), had committed serious human rights abuses against Hindus in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar.
  • The May 22 briefing follows AI‚Äôs earlier reports documenting military attacks on the Rohingya that led to more than 693,000 people fleeing from their homes to other countries.
  • The issue here is not about which ‚Äúside‚ÄĚ committed more atrocities. The issue is about people. About civilians. It is about their rights as human beings.

What should we do ?

  • We should be calling for¬†better protection for survivors fleeing persecution in accordance with international human rights law.
  • We should be calling for justice, truth and reparation for victims and their families.
  • We should be calling for unfettered access to the northern Rakhine State for independent investigators.
  • However, the reaction to the briefing report has been deeply disturbing.

What happened?

The debate has deteriorated to unfairly and unreasonably attributing the condemnable actions of the armed ARSA to all Rohingya people. What this means is that we are willing to demonise and malign an entire community for abuses they may not have committed.

India’s stand : Very Imp from exam point of view :

  • Despite irrefutable evidence that Rohingya people fleeing to India are at serious risk of human rights violations in Myanmar, the Indian government has refused to recognise them as asylum seekers and refugees.
  • Instead the Rohingya have been labelled as ‚Äúillegal immigrants‚ÄĚ even those recognised as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in India.
  • In fact, in August last year, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs proposed to forcibly return to Myanmar all the 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India.
  • The Ministry claimed that the Rohingya are a threat to national security.

Solution

The UN Refugee Convention provides a straightforward solution to deal with the potential security concerns involving asylum seekers. Article 1F of the Convention excludes protection for those involved in serious crimes. Therefore, if India acceded to the Refugee Convention, it would be able to effectively assess Rohingya asylum applications and deny protection to those who might fall under Article 1F exceptions, such as members of ARSA who participated in the August 2017 violence.Indian authorities have outsourced refugee status determination to the UNHCR, which follows a rigorous process.

Why it wont work? However, this is largely meaningless as India refuses to officially recognise Rohingya people identified as refugees by the UNHCR. These people are left in a state of limbo with neither the UNHCR nor the Indian government providing them effective protection.

Criticism of India’s stand :

  • Even though India is not a party to the Refugee Convention, it has always had a longstanding tradition of providing shelter to those seeking protection. However, in this instance, it seems to be faltering, and it is time we question why.

Fortress mentality

Mostly Criticizing arm for it’s colonial mindset.

  • There is a raging debate in military circles about the opening of cantonment roads in Secunderabad. Many civilians do not know that cantonments are governed by an elected body under the Cantonment Act, which alone can legislate and approve closure of public roads. In the past, the Army has closed public roads for security, without approval from the Cantonment Board.
  • The Army believes that it is safe inside a deemed fortress, which belongs to it. It does not realise the discomfort that is caused to all those who undergo repeated security checks when entering a Cantonment. After all, these are public spaces. Private schools, hospitals, shopping complexes and parks are accessed by all, not just the military.
  • We should open up all our cantonments. Wherever there is a likely threat, use modern means of Artificial Intelligence, drones, CCTV and well-equipped Quick Reaction Team commandos. In places where there is a need, create military bases that have only the military and their families living and working there.
  • The cardinal rule should be to never harass or subject our own citizens to unnecessary security checks.

Cleaning up balance sheets

What is a ‚Äėbad bank‚Äô?

  • The Central government has revived the idea of setting up an asset reconstruction or asset management company, a sort of ‚Äėbad bank‚Äô first mooted by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian in January 2017.

How it helps?

  • A Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency that would take on public sector banks‚Äô chronic bad loans and focus on their resolution and the extraction of any residual value from the underlying asset.
  • This would allow government-owned banks to focus on their core operations of providing credit for fresh investments and economic activity.
  • Unlike a private asset reconstruction company, a government-owned bad bank would be more likely to purchase loans that have no salvage value from public sector banks. It would thus work as an indirect bailout of these banks by the government.
  • How will it be capitalised? The bad bank will require significant capital to purchase stressed loan accounts from public sector banks. The size of gross NPAs on the books of public sector banks is currently over Rs. 10 lakh crore. The chances of private participation are low unless investors are allowed a major say in the governance of the new entity.
  • How will it help the NPA problem? It would free public sector bank balance sheets from their deleterious impact and improve their financial position. As the quality of a bank‚Äôs assets deteriorates, its capital position (assets minus liabilities) is weakened, increasing the chances of insolvency.
  • Many public sector banks are effectively insolvent due to their poor asset quality. Consequently, banks have turned risk-averse and credit growth has taken a hit. If managed well, a bad bank can clean up bank balance sheets and get them to start lending again to businesses.
  • But it will not address the more serious corporate governance issues plaguing public sector banks that led to the NPA problem in the first place.

National Dam Safety Authority

  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister , has approved a proposal for introduction of the Dam Safety Bill, 2018 in Parliament.
  • The Bill envisages a National Dam Safety Authority, which will liaise with State-level dam safety organisations and the owners of dams for standardising safety-related data and practices.
  • The NDSA will investigate dam failures and have the authority to fine the States that are found remiss in implementing safety measures.
  • It will look into ‚Äúunresolved points of issue‚ÄĚ between the States which share dam territory and look to ‚Äúeliminating potential causes for inter-State conflicts.
  • Due to lack of legal and institutional architecture for dam safety in India, dam safety is a perennial concern.

India, China discuss ‚ÄėOil Buyers Club‚Äô

  • With oil producers‚Äô cartel OPEC playing havoc with prices, India discussed with China the possibility of forming an ‚Äėoil buyers club‚Äô that can negotiate better terms with sellers as well as getting more S. crude oil to Asia to cut dominance of the oil block.
  • On the discussion table was de-bottlenecking infrastructure to facilitate more U.S. crude oil coming to Asia so as to cut the dominance of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which supplies about 60% of India‚Äôs oil needs.
  • Production cuts by OPEC have led to international oil prices hitting a four-year high last month that forced a Rs. 3.8 per litre raise in petrol and Rs. 3.38 a litre increase in diesel prices.
  • Oil Minister¬†wants to form an oil buyers‚Äô club with China, Japan and South Korea to take up issues like premium being charged from Asian buyers.
  • At the¬†International Energy Forum (IEF)meeting, India and China agreed to join hands to have a collective bargaining power against cartelisation of oil producers.

Why ?

  • So far, India has not been able to bargain better rates from the Gulf-based producers of the oil cartel, OPEC. Instead of getting a discount for bulk purchases, West Asian producers such as Saudi Arabia, charge a so-called ‚ÄėAsian Premium‚Äô for shipments to Asian buyers, including India and Japan, as opposed to Europe.

Antarctic ice loss has tripled

  • Antarctica has lost a staggering three trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, according to a landmark study published by a¬† consortium of 84 scientists reported in the journal Nature that suggests the frozen continent could redraw the earth‚Äôs coastlines if global warming continues unchecked.
  • Two-fifths of that ice loss occurred in the last five years, a three-fold increase in the pace at which Antarctica is shedding its kilometres-thick casing.
  • Up to now, scientists have struggled in determining whether Antarctica has accumulated more mass through snowfall than it loses in meltwater run-off and ice flows into the ocean. But more than two decades of satellite data ‚ÄĒ the new findings draw from 24 separate space-based surveys ‚ÄĒ have finally yielded a more complete picture.
  • Covering twice the area of the continental U.S., Antarctica is blanketed by enough ice pack to lift global oceans by nearly 60 metres (210 feet).
  • More than 90% of that frozen water sits atop East Antarctica, which has remained mostly stable even as climate change has driven up earth‚Äôs average surface temperature by a full degree Celsius.
  • West Antarctica, however, has proven far more vulnerable to global warming. Already floating, ice shelves breaking off into icebergs do not add to sea level. But massive glaciers on West Antarctica slowly gliding seaward hold enough water to push oceans up by 3.5 metres (11 feet).
  • Oceans are currently rising by 4 millimetres (0.13 inches) per year. Since 1993, the global ocean watermark has gone up by 84.8 mm (3.3 inches).
  • In another study published in the journal Nature Communications , scientists pointed out that loss of coral reefs due to spikes in water temperature could double the damage from coastal flooding, and triple the destruction caused by storm surges.

Flood damage may double without reefs

  • Loss of coral reefs around the world could double the damage from coastal flooding, and triple the destruction caused by storm surges.
  • Coupled with projected sea level rise driven by global warming, reef decline could see flooding increase four-fold by century‚Äôs end.
  • Without coral to help absorb the shock, a once-in-a-century cyclone would wreak twice the havoc, with the damage measured in the tens of billions of dollars.
  • Coral reefs serve as natural, submerged breakwaters that reduce flooding by breaking waves and reducing wave energy.
  • Not all coral reefs are declining, and reefs can recover from bleaching, overfishing and storm impacts,but the overall pattern of signficant losses across geographies is clear.
  • Much of the world‚Äôs 71,000 kilometres of coastline with shallow reefs¬† concentrated in the tropics has been decimated by coastal development, sand mining, dynamite fishing and runoff from industry and agriculture.
  • Coral is also highly sensitive to spikes in water temperature, which have become sharper and more frequent with climate change.
  • A marine heatwave in 2016, for example, killed off nearly 30% of Australia‚Äôs iconic Great Barrier Reef.
  • The countries most at risk from coral reef loss are Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico and Cuba.

A justice more efficient

  • LIMBS stands for Legal Information Management and Briefing System and is a Ministry of Law and Justice initiative. The idea is to reduce government litigation. Make government litigation more efficient, is a better statement. At the moment, this is about civil cases, though there is no reason why the idea can‚Äôt be extended to criminal cases.
  • Earlier, information about cases involving 64 ministries/departments was scattered in different places, typically in the form of physical files. That information is now available on a single platform, in electronic form.
  • As of now¬†2,65,272 cases are part of LIMBS, those 2,65,272 cases are scattered across 2,107 courts and 15,332 advocates.
  • LIMBS is meant to improve the Union government‚Äôs handling of cases. Its purpose isn‚Äôt that of facilitating research and/or reportage. Some data will no doubt be in the public domain, but not everything.

Mains Value addition :

  • The then prime minister addressed a Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices in September 2004. ‚ÄúOne way of reducing the load on courts is to reduce the quantum of cases that come to the courts.
  • A sample survey conducted in Karnataka found that in 65 per cent of civil cases, the government was a litigant, sometimes on both sides.
  • Government litigation crowds out the private citizen from the court system.
  • Much of this government litigation is in the form of appeals and this survey again found that 95 per cent of government appeals fail. In a way, they are appeals that shouldn‚Äôt have been made in the first place.

Solutions :

  • In 1994, the government had convened a meeting of law ministers and law secretaries that had resolved that, ‚Äúdisputes between the government and public sector undertakings (PSUs), and one PSU and another PSU ought not to go to courts or tribunals, and that such disputes should be settled between the parties amicably.‚ÄĚ This, unfortunately, has not happened.
  • The government will now ensure that this decision is effectively implemented.This step, along with a better assessment of which judgments are to be appealed against, would lead to some reduction of cases in courts.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 13-06-18

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 13-06-18

Trump-Kim meet ends with promise

  • S. President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged at a historic summit¬† to move towards complete denuclearisation, while the U.S. promised its old foe security guarantees.
  • President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,
  • Despite Mr. Kim announcing that North Korea was destroying a major missile engine-testing site, Mr. Trump said sanctions on North Korea would stay in place for now.

Historic handshake

  • The historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore is an affirmation of the power of diplomacy.
  • The two whimsical leaders deserve full credit for this thaw in relations, given the decades of hostility and the quick diplomacy that pulled the Korean peninsula back from the brink of war.
  • It all began with the new South Korean President Moon Jae-in‚Äôs expansive outreach to the North. Mr. Kim reciprocated by sending athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. As the relationship between the Koreas improved rapidly, Mr. Kim invited the U.S. President for a meeting. Mr. Trump accepted at once, surprising America‚Äôs allies and rivals.
  • After their meeting, Mr. Kim iterated his ‚Äúfirm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation‚ÄĚ of the Korean Peninsula, while Mr. Trump offered security guarantees to the North. Mr. Kim had earlier promised to denuclearise the peninsula in return for security assurances, while Mr. Trump had promised that the North would be welcomed into the international community as a respectable member and be allowed to prosper economically. The two leaders have put these demands and promises into a document that could guide future diplomatic engagement.
  • Trump also announced that he would end the regular American ‚Äúwar games‚ÄĚ with South Korea, a concession to the North.
  • The joint statement provided few specifics on how denuclearisation can take place or how North Korea‚Äôs steps to dismantle its arsenal will be monitored. There are no deadlines mentioned. There is no reference to China, North Korea‚Äôs only ally. There has been no word on whether the two will establish formal diplomatic ties.

Trump’s vow to end war drills with Seoul stuns region

  • President Donald Trump rocked East Asia with the stunning announcement that he was halting annual U.S.-South Korean military drills and wants to remove the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South as a deterrent against North Korea.
  • The remarks contradicted countless previous declarations by U.S. political and military officials over the years that the drills are routine, defensive and absolutely critical.
  • Trump has now essentially adopted the standard North Korean line, calling the military exercises a ‚Äúprovocative‚ÄĚ drain of money and announcing they would stop while he continues talks with Mr. Kim.
  • North Korea also insists that the U.S. troop presence in the South, as well as its nuclear ‚Äúumbrella‚ÄĚ over allies Seoul and Tokyo, are part of America‚Äôs ‚Äúhostile‚ÄĚ policy toward the North.

RBI blames PNB board for fraud

  • Blaming the board of directors of the Punjab National Bank for the embezzlement of over Rs. 13,000 crore¬† the Reserve Bank of India, in a written reply to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, said all ‚Äúthree lines of defence‚ÄĚ built in the banking system failed in this case.
  • The central bank said all financial institutions were adequately warned about dealing with Letters of Undertaking (LoUs), the primary tool of embezzlement by Nirav Modi.
  • The RBI said it was the primary responsibility of the PNB board to understand the risks in issue of LoUs without collateral and to manage them through controls.
  • It said each bank should have three lines of defence: first, the officer sanctioning the loan; second, at the managerial level; and third, the internal audit.

Letters of Undertaking (LoUs)

  • Technically, Letter of Undertaking is a bank guarantee under which a bank allows its customer to raise money from another Indian bank‚Äôs foreign branch in the form of short-term credit. The loan is used to make payment to the customer‚Äôs offshore suppliers in foreign currency. The overseas bank usually lends to the importer based on the LoU issued by the importer‚Äôs bank.
  • So, let‚Äôs say Nirav Modi, whose diamonds have sparkled on the necklines of Bollywood and Hollywood A-listers, wants to import diamonds for a new collection. He approaches PNB and asks it to arrange for a guarantee in the form of LoU for short-term loans from the foreign branches of Indian banks, to pay his diamond supplier. Bank officials promptly send instructions from PNB‚Äôs Mumbai branch to other overseas banks offering LoUs. The messages are sent through¬†The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) ‚ÄĒ an inter-bank messaging network for securely transmitting instructions for financial transactions.
  • Theoretically, such SWIFT instructions need to be recorded in a bank‚Äôs core banking system. But thanks to the connivance of bank officials at PNB, the actual LoUs issued over the past seven years to Nirav Modi managed to escape scrutiny.
  • These guarantees never figured in the bank‚Äôs books. According to the CBI FIR filed by PNB, a total of 153 LOUs were issued in 2017, amounting to a little over ‚āĻ3,000 crore.

Prelims: Please read Laxmikanth for details about Parliamentary Standing Committee, composition and nature all these details are useful in prelims.

Russian games in Syria , purely analytical. India’s role is limited in that axis .

The Hindu

A plastic charter

  • Every piece of plastic ever disposed of is damaging the earth,broken down into microparticles and in the food chain.
  • India‚Äôs Plastic Waste Management Rules (published in March 2016) called for a ban on plastic bags below 50 micron thickness and a phasing out, within two years, of the manufacture and sale of non-recyclable, multi-layered plastic (plastic that snacks come in).
  • More than 20 Indian States have announced a ban on plastic bags.
  • Cities such as Bengaluru announced a complete ban (gazette notification), in 2016, on the manufacture, supply, sale and use of thermocol and plastic items irrespective of thickness.
  • However, a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report has said that this ban is barely effective Citizens need to be aware of these rules, governments need to work with citizens to collect fines and companies need to be held accountable in terms of their environmental and social responsibilities.
  • Mains Value:¬†The CPCB report says that India generates an estimated 16 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually. If sold at the global average rate of 50 cents a kg, it can generate a revenue of Rs. 5,600 crore a year.
  • Steps to Recycle: In order to realise the potential for recycling, waste must first be segregated at source. This segregated waste should be then transported and treated separately. If plastic waste is mixed with organic and sanitary matter, its recyclability drastically reduces and its value lost.
  • As mentioned in the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, waste has to be segregated separately at source. This includes separation of dry (plastic, paper, metal, glass) and wet (kitchen and garden) waste at source.
  • The primary responsibility for collection of used plastic and multi-layered plastic sachets (branded chips, biscuit and snack packets) lies with their producers, importers and brand owners.
  • Companies should have already submitted plans, by September 2016, for waste collection systems based on extended producer responsibility (EPR) either through their own distribution channels or with the local body concerned.
  • Several companies produce the same type of packaging so it is impossible for a given company to collect and recycle only its own packaging. Instead, these companies can collectively implement EPR by geographically dividing a region into zones and handle the waste generated in their designated zones.
  • companies, large corporates and governments could cooperate to implement innovative means to realise the value of plastic disposed of while simultaneously investing in phasing it out.
  • For example, a Canadian company monetises plastic waste in novel ways. It has one of the largest chains of waste plastic collection centres, where waste can be exchanged for anything (from cash to medical insurance to cooking fuel).

Way Forward:

  • The best way to reduce plastic pollution is to reduce and phase out its consumption.
  • Solutions range from carrying your own reusable steel glass, box, spoon and cloth bag while eating out or shopping for groceries to using alternatives to plastic for household items.
  • There should be research on ways to implement Plastic Waste Management Rules, waste generation quantities and trends and find innovative alternatives to plastic.
  • We also need strategies to deal with the plastic that has already been disposed of.
  • It is time we rethink, reduce, segregate and recycle every time we encounter a piece of plastic so that it stops damaging our environment and our lives.

Some of the salient features of SWM Rules, 2016 include:-

  • The Rules are now applicable beyond Municipal areas and extend to urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbase, Port and harbour, defence establishments, special economic zones, State and Central government organizations, places of pilgrims, religious & historical importance.
  • The source segregation of waste has been mandated to channelize the waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle.
  • Responsibilities of Generators have been introduced to segregate waste in to three streams, Wet (Biodegradable), Dry (Plastic, Paper, metal, wood, etc.) and domestic hazardous wastes (diapers, napkins, empty containers of cleaning agents, mosquito repellents, etc.) and handover segregated wastes to authorized rag-pickers or waste collectors or local bodies.
  • Integration of waste pickers/ ragpickers and waste dealers/ Kabadiwalas in the formal system should be done by State Governments, and Self Help Group, or any other group to be formed.
  • No person should throw, burn, or bury the solid waste generated by him, on streets, open public spaces outside his premises, or in the drain, or water bodies.
  • Generator will have to pay ‚ÄėUser Fee‚Äô to waste collector and for ‚ÄėSpot Fine‚Äô for Littering and Non-segregation.

Ethics first

  • Transplantation of human organs is today a mature programme in many States, making it possible for people with kidney, liver, heart and lung failure to extend their lives.
  • Heart and lung transplants are expensive and less widely available, compared with kidney and liver procedures.
  • State governments, which have responsibility for health care provision, are expected to ensure that the organs that are altruistically donated by families of brain-dead people are given to recipients ethically, and as mandated by law.
  • Priority for citizens enrolled in the State and national waiting lists over foreign nationals is laid down in the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Rules.
  • The Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu has served as a model for other States that now have their own programmes. Every effort must be made to ensure that it retains this high reputation, and organs go to the most suitable recipients on the rule-based parameters of domicile, citizenship, Indian origin and foreign nationality, in that order.
  • Any inquiry into the allocation of hearts and lungs to foreigners should, therefore, shed light on the factors that led to the decisions, including whether registered citizens were overlooked. It should cover such issues as the capacity of district-level hospitals to perform transplants, and arrangements to air-lift organs, since domestic patients are unable to afford flight facilities. Such measures will make it possible to utilise more hearts and lungs, and offer them to domestic recipients.
  • Hospitals and professionals who engage in commerce or unethical behaviour should have no place in the system.

Asian games

  • India joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a full-fledged member for the first time at the Qingdao summit this month, a development that may over time influence Central Asian geopolitics.

The Great Game

  • It was The historical rivalry between the British Empire in the Indian subcontinent and Tsarist Russia in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • It was a clash of imperial ambitions between two great powers, in which the territory of Afghanistan helped minimise the risk of direct confrontation between them.
  • British officials of the East India Company feared that the advance of Tsarist Russia into the Khanates of Central Asia might prove detrimental to British interests in the Indian subcontinent. The officials were worried that if the Russians crossed Afghanistan, it would be easier for them to cross over the plains of Punjab and advance deep into the territories of northern India.

The ‚ÄúNew Great Game‚ÄĚ,

  • This logic applies equally to what has come to be known as the ‚ÄúNew Great Game‚ÄĚ, or the modern geopolitics in Central Asia since the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union, characterised by competition among the S., the U.K. and other NATO member states on the one hand, —-¬† and Russia, China and other states of the SCO on the other.

Central Asia

  • It has historically witnessed tussles over access to the region‚Äôs rich natural resources, because preferential access to these resources better enable energy-hungry global powers to meet their domestic demand.
  • The New Great Game is manifested in efforts to expand regional connectivity, with links through trade, commerce, energy, ideology, ethnicity and even terrorism.
  • The New Great Game became more entrenched after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., with Washington getting deeply enmeshed in the region.

The Indian Perspective:

  • India‚Äôs engagement with the region has also become active, with the Ministry of External Affairs making it clear that it considers the Central Asian region to be India‚Äôs ‚Äúextended neighbourhood.‚ÄĚ
  • India and Central Asia have enjoyed shared cultural linkages for around 2,000 years. From the Kushan Empire in ancient India to the Mughal Empire later, the connectivity between the two regions has always been considerable.
  • When India got independence and parts of modern-day Central Asia were within the USSR rubric, India was one of the few countries that managed to maintain its access to this region.
  • Today, projects such as the Chabahar port and the International North-South Transport Corridor have increased India‚Äôs involvement and stakes in the region‚Äôs stability.
  • India‚Äôs admission to the SCO was a step towards its more holistic engagement with the region.
  • Given the multipolar competition for Central Asia‚Äôs resource bounty, India would do well to tread lightly, yet manoeuvre to protect its interests.

Low recoveries of NPAs: RBI data

  • According to data provided by RBI Governor to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance¬†public sector banks have claimed a Rs. 1,50,960-crore reduction in their non-performing asset (NPA) levels over 2017-18, about 55% of this was due to write-offs and only 27% was actual recoveries.
  • The data also showed that the same period saw Rs. 2,37,475 crore of loans being added to the NPA list, thereby leading to an overall worsening of the NPA situation.
  • Private sector banks saw a reduction of Rs. 46,091 crore in their NPA levels by December 31, 2017 compared with what they were as of April 1, 2017. But, fresh additions to the NPA list amounted to Rs. 60,800 crore.

NPA as per RBI

An asset, including a leased asset, becomes non-performing when it ceases to generate income for the bank. A ‚Äėnon-performing asset‚Äô (NPA) was defined as a credit facility in respect of which the interest and/ or instalment of principal has remained ‚Äėpast due‚Äô for a specified period of time.

 Non ­performing Assets

  • An asset, including a leased asset, becomes non¬≠ performing when it ceases to generate income for the bank.
  • A non ¬≠performing asset (NPA) is a loan or an advance where;
  1. interest and/ or instalment of principal remain overdue for a period of more than 90 days in respect of a term loan,
  2. the account remains ‚Äėout of order‚Äô as indicated, in respect of an Overdraft/Cash Credit (OD/CC),
  3. the bill remains overdue for a period of more than 90 days in the case of bills purchased and discounted,
  4. the installment of principal or interest there on remains overdue for two crop seasons for short duration crops,
  5. the installment of principal or interest thereon remains overdue for one crop season for long duration crops,
  6. the amount of liquidity facility remains outstanding for more than 90 days, in respect of a securitisation transaction undertaken in terms of guidelines on securitisation dated February 1, 2006.
  7. in respect of derivative transactions, the overdue receivables representing positive mark-to-market value of a derivative contract, if these remain unpaid for a period of 90 days from the specified due date for payment.
  8. In case of interest payments, banks should, classify an account as NPA only if the interest due and charged during any quarter is not serviced fully within 90 days from the end of the quarter.

Age well: attitudes matter in a greying world

  • A growing body of research and global data collected and analysed by Orb Media shows a strong connection between how we view old age and how well we age. Individuals with a positive attitude towards old age are likely to live longer and in better health than those with a negative attitude. Older people in countries with low levels of respect for the elderly are at risk for worse mental and physical health and higher levels of poverty compared with others in their country. A shift in attitude, the research shows, could improve a lot.
  • Healthy ageing is increasingly important: countries everywhere outside Africa are rapidly growing older. If population trends continue, by 2050 nearly one out of five people in the world will be over 65, and close to half a billion will be older than 80. Smaller, young populations will have to care for large, older populations with increasingly expensive health care needs.
  • A World Health Organization analysis found that 60% of people surveyed across 57 countries had negative views of old age. Older people are often viewed as less competent and less able than younger people. They are considered a burden on society and their families, rather than being recognised for their valuable knowledge, wisdom and experience.
  • Japan, with the world‚Äôs longest lifespans and low birth rates, is at the leading edge of this global demographic shift. There Orb found low levels of respect for the elderly. Kozo Ishitobi, an 82-year-old nursing home physician, says that older people were traditionally seen as a burden.
  • Those with positive views about old age live longer and age better. They are less likely to be depressed or anxious, and they show increased well-being and recover more quickly from disability. They also are less likely to develop dementia and the markers of Alzheimer‚Äôs disease.

CPI inflation quickens to 4-month high

  • Retail inflation accelerated to a four-month high in May as quickening food and fuel costs lifted the Consumer Price Index (CPI) based reading to 4.87%
  • The acceleration in price gains in May, a second straight month when the headline reading has risen, followed April‚Äôs 4.58% pace.
  • Refer Ramesh Singh / any standard latest book for CPI, very important for Prelims .

When Artificial Intelligence goes psycho

  • Norman: also known as the first psychopathic Artificial Intelligence, just unveiled by U.S. researchers.
  • The goal is to explain in layman‚Äôs terms how algorithms are made, and to make people aware of AI‚Äôs potential dangers.
  • Norman ‚Äúrepresents a case study on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence gone wrong when biased data is used in machine learning algorithms,‚ÄĚ according to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Steel frame, more flexible

  • Partly by law and partly by tradition, the states have been governed by the Indian Administrative Services (IAS). Barring exceptions, all posts from the district collector to the secretary of a department are reserved for IAS officers.
  • The functioning of the state machinery, from the appointment of employees to disbursement of funds, requires the explicit approval of IAS officers. However, if the state wants to initiate disciplinary action against a particular officer, it requires the permission of the central government.
  • It is therefore very difficult for the ‚Äúprovincial‚ÄĚ representatives to take any disciplinary measure against IAS officers.
  • The recently announced lateral entry of 10 joint secretaries at the Centre, is a remarkable opportunity to rethink the structure of the state and what we want from it.
  • The halo around the IAS is, of course, because of their immense power, the inherent unaccountability and aura of ‚Äúsuperior understanding‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúmerit‚ÄĚ supposedly ensured by the difficulty and selectivity of the UPSC exam. This is the ‚Äúiron cage‚ÄĚ that we have inherited from the colonial, if not the Mughal, era.

Case Study :

  • The Water Supply and Sanitation Department in Maharashtra, which has more than 6,000 employees (including those employed by the zila parishad). Of these, more than 1,000 are engineers. The head of the department is the secretary, who is an IAS officer and whose typical term is of three years. As per the Constitution, the secretary is responsible for the smooth functioning of the entire department. This includes the day-to-day running, effecting improvements in its functioning and outcomes, making suitable suggestions to the minister, etc. However, there is no guarantee that the secretary has the required training, background or expertise in water management or enterprise management. This means that the entire department must rely on the long experience across departments and the ‚Äúsuperior understanding‚ÄĚ of the secretary. Any reform depends on the chance that the secretary is open to inputs from his subordinate senior managers.
  • The outcomes of such a system are obviously patchy. As per the NSSO Survey of 2012, only 74 per cent of the rural population of Maharashtra had access to drinking water throughout the year. The Census of 2001 and 2011 too show a deterioration in large parts of the state. However, around the same time, the department reports claim that the state had 85 per cent coverage by piped water supply schemes. The secretary seemed unaware of such a major discrepancy in numbers. Clearly, improvements in coverage and year-round access should have been the central objectives of the department. This was missed. Moreover, problems such as the drying up of groundwater sources, increasing levels of nitrate contamination in drinking water sources, and failure of major water supply schemes have been overlooked. The planning, design and test procedures being used by the engineers and geologists of the department are outdated. No thought has gone into this. A similar situation is seen in other government departments as well.
  • This calls for a drastic change in the structure of the department and the roles and responsibilities of IAS officers. The recently proposed lateral entry is one such mechanism at the Centre.
  • We propose another at the state level. Every government department should create a new section called ‚ÄúAnalysis and Research (AR)‚ÄĚ, which is led by an officer at the level of a deputy secretary. The section should be adequately staffed at the division and district level and have its own guaranteed funding. The main task of the deputy secretary will be to prepare and maintain a detailed documentation of the working procedures within the department, analyse their outcomes and upgrade them, design monitoring and evaluation criteria, create a network of trusted knowledge institutions and undertake periodic and extensive evaluations, assessment and other topical research studies. In fact, the production of such periodic (say, biennial) public reports may be regarded as the chief responsibility of the deputy secretary.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 12-06-18

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 12-06-18

In Chennai, the hearts beat for foreigners.

  • An organ transplant racket has surfaced in Tamil Nadu. Officials of the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare have found that hearts harvested from brain-dead patients were given to foreign nationals, bypassing Indian patients on the waiting list.
  • In 2017, foreigners got about 25% of all heart transplants in the State and 33% of lung transplants.
  • Acting on this¬†Directorate General of Health Services convened an urgent meeting in New Delhi recently and framed strict guidelines for allocation of organs to foreigners.
  • National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO)which functions under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, is an all-India apex body for coordination and networking for procurement and distribution of organs/tissues and transplantation.
  • The protocol is that an organ should first be offered to an Indian. If no Indian is available, an NRI should be considered. The question of an international patient arises only when both Indian and NRI patients decline an organ offer.
  • Going by the rule book, allocation of organs to recipients on the waiting list is based on criteria that include the date of registration and the medical condition of the recipient.
  • The wealth, race or gender of a person on the waiting list has no bearing on when and whether a person will receive a donated organ. The Transplantation of Human Organs Act of 1994 makes it illegal to buy or sell human organs in India.
  • Health is a State subject, we can only frame national guidelines. States should implement the guidelines. They have to take strong action… they are the appropriate authority to take steps to unravel the truth.
  • InteInterestingly, while the wait list of active patients as on June 9, 2018 had 53 foreigners, it had 5,310 Indians.restingly, while the wait list of active patients as on June 9, 2018 had 53 foreigners, it had 5,310 Indians.
  • It was decided that strategies for maximising utilisation of organs by Indian recipients should be worked out by State governments and post-transplant data on follow-ups and outcome of transplants for every recipient be compiled.

Value addition:

  • National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) is a National level organization set up under Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
  • It has following two divisions:
  • “National Human Organ and Tissue Removal and Storage Network‚ÄĚ
  • “National Biomaterial Centre‚ÄĚ.

“National Human Organ and Tissue Removal and Storage Network‚ÄĚ

  • This has been mandated as per the Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Act 2011. The network will be established initially for Delhi and gradually expanded to include other States and Regions of the country. Thus, this division of the NOTTO is the nodal networking agency for Delhi and shall network for Procurement Allocation and Distribution of Organs and Tissues in Delhi.

Function/Activities

National Network division of NOTTO would function as apex centre for All India activities of coordination and networking for procurement and distribution of Organs and Tissues and registry of Organs and Tissues Donation and Transplantation in the country.

Under divine care, turtles swim on in temple tanks

  • The protected water bodies the temple ponds across northeast India have emerged as safe havens for many threatened species of freshwater turtles, including the Nilssonia nigricans or Black Softshell turtle, declared extinct in the wild by the IUCN Red list.
  • However, given their ritual nature, scientists are denied complete access to these ponds and hence have used the technique of extracting environmental DNA (eDNA) to confirm the presence of specific varieties. eDNA based specimen identification through DNA barcoding successfully detected the targeted taxa from environmental water samples.
  • In addition to N. nigricans, tests at the Nagshankar temple pond in Assam have confirmed the presence of two more species Nilssonia gangetica or Indian softshell turtle, classified as Vulnerable, and Chitra indica or South Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle, listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

What is eDNA?

  • Environmental DNA (eDNA) is nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that is released from an organism into the environment. Sources of eDNA include secreted faeces, mucous, gametes, shed skin, hair and carcasses. Recent research has shown that the DNA of a range of aquatic organisms can be detected in water samples at very low concentrations using qPCR (quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction) methods.

How long does environmental DNA persists in the water?

  • In aquatic environments, eDNA is diluted and distributed in the water where it persists for 7‚Äď21 days, depending on the conditions. However, the DNA of organisms once trapped in sediments can be preserved for thousands of years.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity.

The IUCN system uses a set of five quantitative criteria to assess the extinction risk of a given species. In general, these criteria consider:

  1. The rate of population decline
  2. The geographic range
  3. Whether the species already possesses a small population size
  4. Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area
  5. Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild

After a given species has been thoroughly evaluated, it is placed into one of several categories.In addition, three of the categories (CR, EN, and VU) are contained within the broader notion of ‚Äúthreatened.‚ÄĚ

 The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species recognizes several categories of species status:

  • Extinct (EX), a designation applied to species in which the last individual has died or where systematic and time-appropriate surveys have been unable to log even a single individual
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW), a category containing those species whose members survive only in captivity or as artificially supported populations far outside their historical geographic range
  • Critically Endangered (CR), a category containing those species that possess an extremely high risk of extinction as a result of rapid population declines of 80 to more than 90 percent over the previous 10 years (or three generations), a current population size of fewer than 50 individuals, or other factors
  • Endangered (EN), a designation applied to species that possess a very high risk of extinction as a result of rapid population declines of 50 to more than 70 percent over the previous 10 years (or three generations), a current population size of fewer than 250 individuals, or other factors
  • Vulnerable (VU), a category containing those species that possess a very high risk of extinction as a result of rapid population declines of 30 to more than 50 percent over the previous 10 years (or three generations), a current population size of fewer than 1,000 individuals, or other factors
  • Near Threatened (NT), a designation applied to species that are close to becoming threatened or may meet the criteria for threatened status in the near future
  • Least Concern (LC), a category containing species that are pervasive and abundant after careful assessment
  • Data Deficient (DD), a condition applied to species in which the amount of available data related to its risk of extinction is lacking in some way. Consequently, a complete assessment cannot be performed. Thus, unlike the other categories in this list, this category does not describe the conservation status of a species
  • Not Evaluated (NE), a category used to include any of the nearly 1.6 million species described by science but not assessed by the IUCN

All else being equal, a species experiencing an 90 percent decline over 10 years (or three generations), for example, would be classified as critically endangered. Likewise, another species undergoing a 50 percent decline over the same period would be classified as endangered, and one experiencing a 30 percent reduction over the same time frame would be considered vulnerable. It is important to understand, however, that a species cannot be classified by using one criterion alone; it is essential for the scientist doing the assessment to consider all five criteria when determining the status of the species.

We’ll help in locating Nirav Modi, says U.K.

  • British authorities have confirmed to Indian officials that fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, accused of bank fraud worth Rs. 13,000 crore, is in the U.K. and assured them of cooperation in locating him.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said on Monday that it had sent a request to the Interpol for issuance of a Red Notice against Mr. Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi.

The story of two ceasefires

This article is a bit political analysis , but have some important analysis in relation to internal security and Pak .

  • The Narendra Modi government in New Delhi has decided to make a host of political concessions ‚ÄĒ in the form of conciliatory moves, positive responses and toned-down rhetoric ‚ÄĒ vis-√†-vis Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and Pakistan.

conciliatory moves.

  • New Delhi has offered to reach out to the separatists in Kashmir (junking its earlier resolve not to engage them),
  • reportedly carried out backchannel parleys with the separatist leadership in Srinagar,
  • declared a ceasefire during the month of Ramzan, and agreed to maintain the 2003 ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) with Pakistan.

Why ?

  • These¬†¬†moves have come against the backdrop of several worrying developments within J&K and on the border. For one, the intensity of ceasefire violations had been steadily rising, with damage to civilian habitats and civilian and military casualty rates going up.
  • Past experience suggests that fire assaults and cross-border raids on the LoC are fraught with potential for bilateral escalation.
  • Within Kashmir, an increasing number of local boys are joining the ranks of militancy, and terrorist attacks on civilian and military targets have been on the rise.

Why now?

  • There seems to be a counterintuitive rationale behind it. While the BJP has traditionally benefitted from a hardline policy in Kashmir, and towards Pakistan, the diminishing returns of such a policy have started kicking in. The use of force has failed to achieve its objectives. Hence, the potential to use the Kashmir or Pakistan bogey for electoral gains is limited for now.
  • it would be risky for the government to have a violent border and a troubled Kashmir going into the 2019 campaign
  • while the BJP‚Äôs hardline policy on the border initially received popular support in the Jammu region, such support is drastically fading now, given the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians from the border villages and the attendant misery for the local population.
  • India‚Äôs policy of disproportionate bombardment against Pakistani forces, especially last year, has also not helped. For instance, India violated the ceasefire more than twice as Pakistan did in 2017 (i.e. India fired twice as much), but tables have already turned in 2018: Pakistan violated the ceasefire 1,252 times till May this year whereas India violated the ceasefire on 1,050 occasions. Adding to the locals problems.
  • Both infiltration into J&K and militant attacks in the State have been on the rise. In 2014, 65 terrorists infiltrated into J&K, with the number steadily rising since then. In 2016 it was 119, and last year it went up to 123. In other words, New Delhi‚Äôs hardline policy has not only not worked, it has actually had the reverse effect.
  • India and Pakistan have been signalling to each other for some time about the possibility of a rapprochement.

What’s next ?

  • Both India and Pakistan, and in particular the people of J&K, will immensely benefit for these two ceasefires.
  • Internal ceasefire:Government should¬† have a clearly-articulated blueprint for bringing peace to Kashmir .
  • Bilateral ceasefire:¬†experience suggests that without political dialogue between India and Pakistan, especially on Kashmir, ceasefire agreements tend to break down.
    • Measures such as formalising the ceasefire agreement through a written down document
    • and regular scheduled meetings of Directors-General of Military Operations, among others would need to be taken by the two countries to sustain the ceasefire.
  • Finally, and perhaps most important, there is an undeniable direct link between the Kashmir insurgency on the one hand, and India-Pakistan dialogue, maintenance of the ceasefire agreement, terrorist infiltration into J&K and terrorist violence in Kashmir on the other.

Way Forward:

  • it‚Äôs time to invest in negotiations, political concessions and soft power. And Pakistan must make efforts to control terrorist infiltration into Kashmir for these to be successful.

AI garage

  • In news: The NITI Aayog has published an ambitious discussion paper on kickstarting the artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem in India.
  • AI is the use of computers to mimic human cognitive processes for decision-making.
  • The paper talks of powering five sectors ‚ÄĒ agriculture, education, health care, smart cities/infrastructure and transport ‚ÄĒ with AI.
  • It highlights the potential for India to become an AI ‚Äėgarage‚Äô, or solutions provider, for 40% of the world.
  • The U.S., Japan and China have published their AI strategy documents and, importantly, put their money where their aspirations are.
  • The NITI Aayog does not talk about how India‚Äôs ambitions will be funded, but proposes an institutional structure to get things going.
  • This structure includes a network of basic and applied research institutions, and a CERN-like multinational laboratory that would focus on global AI challenges.

Can India make it happen? In answer, the NITI Aayog offers a note of caution.

  • India hardly has any AI expertise today. The paper estimates that it has around 50 top-notch AI researchers, concentrated in elite institutions like the IITs.
  • Further, only around 4% of Indian AI professionals are trained in emerging technologies such as deep learning.
  • And while India does publish a lot, these publications aren‚Äôt very impactful; India‚Äôs H-index, a measure of how often its papers are cited, is behind 18 other countries.

Good and bad of AI

  • The technology has tripped up as often as it has delivered. Among successes, a recent study found that a Google neural network correctly identified cancerous skin lesions more often than expert dermatologists did. India, with its acute shortage of specialist doctors in rural areas, could benefit greatly from such a tool.
  • On the other hand, studies have found that AI image-recognition technologies do badly at identifying some races, because the data used to train them over-represent other races.
  • This highlights the importance of quality data in building smart AI tools;

India re-defines its regional role

  • Recent foreign policy moves by New Delhi indicate an inflexion point. Combining orthodox ideas from the Cold War era along with 21st century pragmatism, it appears that India has decided that the emerging multipolar world is becoming far too complicated for the binary choices and easy solutions that some had envisioned for the country‚Äôs foreign policy.
  • Not only has it recast its approach to the maritime Indo-Pacific but as the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit exemplifies, it is also building deeper and more constructive links with continental Eurasia.

Prime Minister’s speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore  laid out a framework that might outlast the present government. The speech was dominated by four themes that collectively tell us about the evolving foreign policy.

  • First, the central theme was that at a time when the world is facing power shifts, uncertainty and competition over geopolitical ideas and political models, India would project itself as an independent power and actor across Asia.India‚Äôs ties with the three great powers.
    • Russia and the United States were called as partners with whom India has relationships based on overlapping interests in international and Asian geopolitics.
    • India-China relations were portrayed in complex terms as having ‚Äúmany layers‚ÄĚ but with a positive undertone that stability in that relationship is important for India and the world.
  • The message was that¬† India will not be part of a closed group of nations or aggregate Indian power in a bloc, but will chart out its own course based on its own capacity and ideas.
  • India has become too big to be part of any political-military camp whose design and role in Asian affairs is being conceived elsewhere, upon ideas that India might not fully share, and where India has a marginal role in strategy and policy implementation.
  • Second, even as China‚Äôs rise has undoubtedly increased the demand and space for India to increase its region-wide engagement, India‚Äôs role in the vast Indo-Pacific is no longer envisaged as a China-centric one.
  • Third, despite this policy adjustment, India‚Äôs approach to the region is not going to be a hands-off policy or one devoid of norms. We continued to hear an emphasis on a ‚Äúfree, open, inclusive region‚ÄĚ and a ‚Äúcommon rules-based‚ÄĚ Indo-Pacific order.
  • Finally, without mentioning either,PM urged both the U.S. and China to manage their rivalry and prevent their ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ competition from descending into conflict. ‚ÄúAsia of rivalry will hold us all back. Asia of cooperation will shape this century.

Summary :

  • After drifting towards the U.S. for the past decade, Delhi is rediscovering a posture and policy for a multipolar world as well as taking greater responsibility for its own future and destiny.
  • Reflecting its unique geographical position at the rimland of Eurasia and at the mouth of the Indo-Pacific, India‚Äôs foreign policy is likely to be driven by a dual attention to the balance of power and order building in the continental and maritime environment around the subcontinent.

To the brink and back

Less than a year ago, North Korea scored a ‚Äėnuclear double‚Äô. In July 2017, it launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles, the first capable of reaching Alaska, and the second, the Hwasong-14, capable of reaching California. In November, it detonated its most powerful nuclear weapon ‚ÄĒ a 120 kiloton-boosted fission device.For long, North Korea had been seen as an impoverished state, run by a megalomaniac dictator, trying to punch way above its weight by defying the United Nations and the U.S. Yet, last year, it was very close to establishing a viable nuclear deterrent against the world‚Äôs biggest superpower.

By late 2017, these developments had brought the world closer to a potential nuclear exchange than perhaps at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump kept exchanging threats and barbs.Fortunately, matters have greatly improved since, aided by some statesman-like initiatives by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Today, Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump will sit across the table and start negotiations.

The impact of sanctions

When North Korea pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and intensified its nuclear programme, the UN imposed sanctions. But the North Korean regime continued to conduct missile and nuclear weapon tests, provoking the UN and the U.S. to impose more severe sanctions in the hope that North Korea would abandon its nuclear programme. But that did not happen.The prolonged sanctions have had a very serious impact on the North Korean economy.

But the resulting hardship has not caused any internal protests or revolt in North Korea, threatening Mr. Kim’s rule.The regime survived those years through a combination of a brutal internal security apparatus, political indoctrination, and tight media control.But although North Korea has found the sanctions manageable and continued with its nuclear programme, it would certainly like to have the sanctions eased.

There has been a deep-rooted conviction in the successive Kim regimes that only a nuclear deterrent can keep the U.S. at bay ‚ÄĒ a view that has only been reinforced by the downfall and eventual assassination of Libya‚Äôs Muammar Qaddafi after he gave up his nuclear programme.

South Korea’s role

Fortunately, 2018 saw some ‚ÄėOlympics diplomacy‚Äô coming to the rescue.This provided the diplomatic opportunity for the two Koreas to address more serious bilateral issues as well as the stand-off with the U.S. A North-South summit was scheduled for April and, more importantly, a message was conveyed to the U.S.

To Mr. Trump‚Äôs credit, he has further softened his earlier demand for ‚Äúthe complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula‚ÄĚ before any lifting of sanctions and has instead settled for ‚Äúcredible steps‚ÄĚ by North Korea towards that goal. The North is extremely unlikely to give up its entire nuclear deterrent, no matter what the inducement. Instead, it might, in stages, offer to suspend further weapon and missile tests, desist from producing more fissile materials and from non-deployment of shorter range missiles that could threaten Japan or South Korea, and perhaps work towards partial disarmament.

Remove copters by June-end: Maldives

  • External Affairs Minister held a high-power meeting on Monday to discuss a deadline set by the Maldives for India to withdraw its helicopters gifted to the island nation.
  • Tensions over the presence of the two Indian helicopters in two different strategically important locations in Laamu and Addu atolls have been growing over the past few weeks, forcing the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to step in to defuse the situation.
  • India had gifted two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) to Maldives in 2013, of which one was operated by the Indian Coast Guard and the other by the Indian Navy.
  • In the normal course, Letters of Exchange (LoE)¬†are renewed for two years at a time, but on this occasion the Present Maldivian government refused to do so and has since made it clear that it would like India to remove them and their crew entirely.
  • Maldives has also not approved an LoE sent by India for a Dornier maritime patrol aircraft that the Maldives had itself requested.

Prelims: An Atoll sometimes called a coral atoll, is a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.

India to host first BIMSTEC war games

  • India will host the first military exercise of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) group focussing on counter-terrorism in September. As part of this, a conclave of the Army chiefs of all seven member-states is being planned.
  • The aim of the exercise is to promote strategic alignment among the member-states and to share best practices in the area of counter-terrorism.
  • The theme includes counter-terrorism in semi-urban terrain and cordon and search, and each side will bring in some 30 soldiers.
  • BIMSTEC countries held a disaster management exercise in 2017, but this is the first military exercise of the grouping which brings together important neighbours of India in South and Southeast Asia.

Bay  of  Bengal  Initiative  for  Multi-Sectoral  Technical  and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)

  • BIMSTEC is an international organisation involving a group of countries in South Asia and South East Asia.
  • Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal are its members.

PM’s maternity scheme benefits 23.6 lakh

  • In news:the government has finally made some headway and provided cash incentives to nearly 23.6 lakh beneficiaries out of an estimated 51.6 lakh a year under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY).
  • Issues:Many States like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal have not yet come on board to implement the scheme. As these States account for nearly 25% of the total beneficiaries.
  • The scheme is being implemented on a 60:40 cost-sharing basis with the State governments.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

The maternity benefits under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) are available to all Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) except those in regular employment with the Central Government or State Government or Public Sector Undertaking or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force, for first living child of the family as normally, the first pregnancy of a woman exposes her to new kind of challenges and stress factors.

The eligible beneficiaries gets Rs. 5,000/- under PMMVY and the remaining cash incentive as per approved norms towards Maternity Benefit under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) after institutional delivery so that on an average, a woman gets Rs. 6000/-.

The objectives of the scheme are:

(i) providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentives so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child; and

(ii) the cash incentives provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM).

Reserve Bank aims to tighten working capital loan norms

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed a minimum 40% loan component for working capital funding of Rs. 150 crore and above to bring in greater credit discipline and improve monetary transmission.
  • According to draft guidelines, the RBI has proposed that the loan component of 40% will come into effect from October 1 and will be increased to 60% from April 1, 2019. The loan‚Äôs tenure will be minimum seven days.
  • What changes?
  • First, if there is a loan component then there will be a repayment schedule which will put pressure on borrowers to manage their liquidity.
  • Secondly, since the loan component will have a fixed tenure, the reset clause can be invoked at the end of each tenure period.

The Age of Surplus

  • If there is one thing that has changed in Indian agriculture in recent times, it is supply response ‚ÄĒ the ability of farmers to increase production when prices go up. Traditionally, the supply curve in most crops was near vertical: No matter the price, the quantity harvested and sold remained virtually the same.
  • In the past, sugar production typically took two years to recover from a drought. But 2017-18 will see output rebound to a record 32 mt-plus, from a seven-year-low of 20.26 mt last season. Thus, the old ‚Äúsugar cycle‚ÄĚ, where three bumper years were followed by two lows, is dead.
  • The same goes for vegetables.
  • So what changed?¬†Better seeds and faster diffusion of technology have made a difference. HD-2967, a blockbuster wheat variety released in 2011, could cover 10 million hectares area in a single season within five years. Along with HD-3086, a newer variety more resistant to yellow rust fungus, but the story of yield increases isn‚Äôt limited to publicly-bred open-pollinated varieties (OPV).
  • The technologies in all these ‚ÄĒ be it hybrid seeds, high-density cultivation using tissue-cultured plants, or drip irrigation ‚ÄĒ have been supplied by the likes of DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and Jain Irrigation.
  • In short, the farm supply curve has been flattened, both by better seed technology and improved roads, electricity, irrigation and communication infrastructure. Farmers are also more aware about prices and the latest hybrids/varieties, crop protection chemicals, machinery and agronomic practices ‚ÄĒ from laser levelling and raised-bed planting to seed treatment ‚ÄĒ than, say, 20 years ago. As a result, they take far less time to respond to high prices.
  • Downside:is that it makes gluts commonplace and shortages temporary. We have, indeed, entered a regime of ‚Äúpermanent surpluses‚ÄĚ in most crops ‚ÄĒ a reality our policymakers are unable to grasp, stuck as they are in the era of the Essential Commodities Act.
  • The moment prices now go up, the immediate reaction is to impose stock-holding limits, allow duty-free imports, restrict exports and inter-state movement of produce,Thesesupply-side management measures have acquired legitimacy with the policy of ‚Äúinflation targeting.
  • There is practically no agri-commodity today that isn‚Äôt a victim of ‚Äúpermanent surpluses‚ÄĚ

The Essential Commodities Act (ECA)

The ECA was enacted way back in 1955. It has since been used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‚Äėessential‚Äôin order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.

  • The list of items under the Act include drugs, fertilisers, pulses and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products. The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and take them off the list once the situation improves.
  • Here‚Äôs how it works. If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is spiking, it can notify stock-holding limits on it for a specified period. The States act on this notification to specify limits and take steps to ensure that these are adhered to. Anybody trading or dealing in a commodity , be it wholesalers, retailers or even importers are prevented from stockpiling it beyond a certain quantity.
  • A State can, however, choose not to impose any restrictions. But once it does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity. This improves supplies and brings down prices.
  • It empowers the government to control prices directly too. The recent amendment to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011 is linked to the ECA. The Government can fix the retail price of any packaged commodity that falls under the ECA.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 11-06-18

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Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 11-06-18

India rebalancing ties with Pak

  • After engaging with China in Wuhan and Qingdao, India appeared to be rebalancing its ties with Pakistan in order to build bridges with Eurasia, within the framework of the eight-nation SCO.
  • The relations between India and Pakistan have been strained after an attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based terror organisations in 2016.
  • The SCO has been working on connectivity among its member countries. Now that India and Pakistan are both members, it provides New Delhi with a fresh opportunity to reach out to Central Asia across the Pakistani corridor.The result is an evolving policy towards Eurasia, with a Central Asia core
  • Asserting India‚Äôs continued opposition to China‚Äôs ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, PM said mega connectivity projects must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries. However, New Delhi, he said, would support initiatives which ensure inclusivity.
Value Addition:

SCO is a Eurasian political, economic,and  military  organisation which  was founded by the  leaders of China,Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan has recently
become members of SCO in its 2017 meeting held at Astana, Kazhakhstan.

What is OBOR?

Projected as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project, the One Belt One Road initiative focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe. The emphasis is on enhancing land as well as maritime routes. The policy is significant for China since it aims to boost domestic growth in the country. Experts have noted that OBOR is also a part of China’s strategy for economic diplomacy. Considering China’s exclusion from G7, OBOR policy might just provide China an opportunity to continue its economic development.  The initiative comprises of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21 Century Maritime Silk Road.

Why is India opposed to OBOR?

The main reason behind India’s opposition towards the policy is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a part of OBOR.

India’s Official stand

We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality. Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities; balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards; transparent assessment of project costs; and skill and technology transfer to help long term running and maintenance of the assets created by local communities. Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.

  • Regarding the so-called ‚ÄėChina-Pakistan Economic Corridor‚Äô, which is being projected as the flagship project of the BRI/OBOR, the international community is well aware of India‚Äôs position. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Draft pesticide Bill will hurt farmers

  • A group of Indian pesticide manufacturers says that the proposed Pesticides Management Bill,¬† will harm both farmers and the domestic industry by not making it mandatory for the active ingredients of pesticides to be revealed in the registration process.
  • The draft Bill will allow importers to register readymade products without registering the active ingredients.

Why no one is worried about MPC’s rate hike

  • Recently MPC raised repo rate by 25 basis points, and there is ahardly any reaction from various stakeholders.
  • The MPC‚Äôs recent rate decision has turned out be a non-event because India‚Äôs financial markets had already pre-empted it.

Market forces drive rates

  • Consider bond markets first ,in the last 10 months, the yield on the 10-year government bond, the benchmark for market interest rates, has shot up by 120 basis points from 6.60% to 7.83%.
  • Several factors have propelled market interest rates in this period. The most important one is the demand-supply mismatch in government securities (g-secs).
  • Normally, the g-sec supply released by the Centre‚Äôs borrowings is promptly absorbed by banks to fulfil their 19.5% SLR (statutory liquidity ratio) requirement.
  • But post-demonetisation, domestic banks were flush with funds and took to parking these surpluses in g-secs, resulting in them holding as much as 30% in SLR securities.
  • With credit offtake picking up in recent few months, banks have gone slow with their g-sec purchases, to ensure that they had funds to lend. With the largest buyers in the market stepping back, excess g-sec supply has swamped the market, quelling prices and raising yields.
  • With global interest rates firming up lately, foreign portfolio investors, key players in the bond market, have been in sell mode, withdrawing a massive $6.7 billion between April 1 and June 6, 2018, as per the MPC.
  • Looming inflation risks have impacted rates too.This has also prompted market players to pre-empt the MPC.
  • With all the above factors propping up market interest rates by over 120 basis points in the past year, the mild 25-basis point hike by the MPC proved underwhelming.

why the stock market wasn’t fazed by the repo rate hike?

Sovereign bond rates set the floor for all other borrowers in the market. Therefore, this upward spiral in g-sec yields in the last 10 months has been faithfully mirrored by corporate bonds and commercial paper.

As a result, India Inc has already seen a 100-120 basis point escalation in its borrowing costs from the market in the last 10 months.

  • Banks: With deposit flows slowing down and credit offtake picking up, banks have had to hike their retail and bulk deposit rates by 25-50 basis points over the last six months to woo new depositors.
  • Given that the RBI requires banks to peg their lending rates to their incremental cost of funds, higher deposit rates have automatically fed into higher lending rates. The SBI‚Äôs MCLR (marginal cost of funds based lending rate) for one-year loans bottomed out at 7.95% in November 2017, but is now at 8.25%.

Implications:

  • If the markets regularly pre-empt MPC moves, its policy rates lose their benchmark status and become a less effective tool to rein in inflation, stimulate growth or stabilise an unruly exchange rate.

what can the MPC do

  • For one, it can improve its forecasting skills.
  • It should be considered that if MPC should go back to a multiple-indicator approach to decide on its rate actions.
  • Earlier, the RBI used incoming data on a whole host of factors ‚ÄĒ inflation, GDP numbers, deficit indicators, foreign flows ‚ÄĒ as inputs to its rate-setting decisions, so as to balance inflation, growth and stability objectives. As the RBI would assign different weights to these factors at different times, the markets were often kept guessing about RBI actions.
  • Way Forward: Restoring this flexibility may give the MPC a fighting chance at staying ahead of the market.
Value Addition:

The Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) is a prudential measure under which (as per the Banking Regulations Act 1949) all Scheduled Commercial Banks in India must maintain an amount in one of the following forms as a percentage of their total Demand and Time Liabilities (DTL) / Net DTL (NDTL);

[i] Cash.

[ii] Gold; or

[iii] Investments in un-encumbered Instruments that include;

(a) Treasury-Bills of the Government of India.

(b) Dated securities including those issued by the Government of India from time to time under the market borrowings programme and the Market Stabilization Scheme (MSS).

(c) State Development Loans (SDLs) issued by State Governments under their market borrowings programme.

(d) Other instruments as notified by the RBI.

Monetary Policy Committee

A  6-member  monetary  policy committee  is  to  be  setup  to  decide key policy rates. The  panel  will  have  three  members from  RBI.  They  are  the  governor, deputy governor and another officer.  The  other  three  members  will  be decided  by  the  centre  based  on  the

recommendations  of  a  panel  headed by the Cabinet Secretary. Under MPC, the RBI governor has a casting vote and doesn’t enjoy veto power,decisions will be taken on the basis of majority vote. The decision of the Committee would be binding on the RBI.

Functions: 

  • Under the Monetary Policy Framework Agreement, the RBI will be responsible for containing inflation targets at 4% (with a standard deviation of 2%). 2%-4%-6%
  • RBI would have to give an explanation in the form of a report to the Central Government, if it failed to reach the specified inflation targets. It shall, in the report, give reasons for failure, remedial actions as well as estimated time within which the inflation target shall be achieved.
  • MPC decides the changes to be made to the policy rate (repo rate) so as to contain the inflation within the target level specified to it by the Central Government.
  • Each Member of the Monetary Policy Committee has to write a statement specifying the reasons for voting in favour of, or against the proposed resolution, and the same alongwith the resolution adopted by the MPC.

Please refer Ramesh Singh for Indian Economy .

Open data, open government

  • When Artificial Intelligence is coupled with open data, a real paradigm shift begins. With choice and information-sharing now redefining consumer behaviour, every company is looking to embrace or at least look like it is embracing the new paradigm of data-driven innovation.
  • The new wave of a technological revolution will not be from pure data or access to consumer behaviour. The application of data and their assimilation with solving social problems, enabling better governance and powering elected governments to serve their citizens better is ushering in a new revolution.
  • Privacy and consent: The ‚ÄúDatafication‚ÄĚ of businesses has also brought to the fore the criticality of developing data management, storage and privacy laws.
  • The European Union with its General Data Protection Regulation has been a front-runner and other countries, including India, have also adopted a collaborative model to develop privacy laws, which includes deliberations with creators of data (the consumer) and users (corporates).

Open government data:

  • Open government data means publishing information collected by the government in its entirety, such as government budgets, spending records, health-care measures, climate records, and farming and agricultural produce statistics.
  • Over 100 governments have already signed a charter to proactively share data collected by various government departments, for public consumption. Fostering collaboration, enabling creative innovations and collective problem-solving are giving accountability and transparency a shot in the arm.
  • The potential of Open government data is being grossly under utilised. We need to act on it without further delay for three basic reasons.
    • One, such data collected by governments are for citizen welfare; hence they have an implicit right to benefit from the information.
    • Two, data sets such as government budget usage, welfare schemes and subsidies increase transparency and thereby build trust.
    • Third, it paves the way to develop technology-led innovations which can unlock massive economic value, thereby benefitting even the poorest of poor, the under-represented and the marginalised.

Examples:

  • Agriculture: availability of data on yearly produce of crops, soil data health cards and meteorological data sets can help companies develop customised crop insurance solutions with specific risk-based pricing.
  • Local self government: Data points around progress in literacy rates, demographic data and density of educators can help develop customised solutions for villages.
  • Health care: information on availability of facilities in public hospitals, current occupancy rates, hospital and demographic data can pave the way for curated health-care applications.
  • Monetary Benefits: Research by PwC in Australia estimated that open data can add an additional 1.5% to the country‚Äôs GDP. In the Indian context, this could conservatively translate to about $22 billion.
  • Government’s role: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has made some laudable efforts, including a policy around open data.
  • India currently houses more than 1.6 lakh data resources and has published over 4,015 application programme interfaces (APIs) from across 100-plus departments. As a result, India‚Äôs global ranking by the Global Open Data Barometer has increased.
  • Issue: while India publishes data points, very little of it is getting utilised by data consumers, scientists and corporates. Naturally, the socio-economic impact is limited.

Way Forward: Five-point framework

  1. Ensure completeness of data stacks opened for use either through machine-readable formats or direct APIs. Completeness would imply a data set.
  2. Comprehensiveness of a data stack or various data sets is essential.
  3. Clustering of relevant data sets and APIs would be the next step. This would mean combining data sets which can lead to the creation of applications.
  4. Building anchor cases or use-cases to encourage data usage. A case in point is Aadhaar/identity data which has seen exponential growth (post identification in e-KYC).
  5. setting up a comprehensive governance framework which includes an open data council with cross-sector representation to monitor, regulate and build usage after proportionate oversight.

Ceasing fire

  • The Taliban‚Äôs announcement of a three-day ceasefire with Afghan government troops for Eid, two days after Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani declared an unconditional week-long ceasefire, is a glimmer of hope for a breakthrough in the long-struggling peace process.
  • This is the first time the Taliban has announced a ceasefire in the 17 years since it was removed from power in Kabul. Though it has not acknowledged the government ceasefire, the timing and the public declaration unmistakably point to the reciprocity of the decision.
  • The war has long entered a stalemate, and something needs to give. The Taliban has made enormous military gains in recent years. It now controls vast swathes of rural, mountainous Afghanistan, while the government retains its grip on the more populated urban centres.
  • The Taliban doesn‚Äôt seem to be in a position to capture power by overthrowing the government as long as the U.S. and its allies remain committed to the regime‚Äôs security. Equally, Afghan forces are unable to defeat or even check the Taliban‚Äôs momentum in rural areas.
  • Demands: The Taliban insists that foreign troops be withdrawn, while the government demands that the group accept the Afghan constitution.
  • Way forward:¬†The U.S. could put pressure on the Taliban through Pakistan to bring them to the table. If not, the war will carry on, with neither side gaining a decisive edge and leaving millions of Afghans in unending misery.

No easy solutions

The idea of a ‚Äėbad bank‚Äô is not new.

  • Finance Ministry, has announced the formation of a committee to assess the idea of special asset reconstruction companies or asset management companies to take over bad loans from banks.
  • The bankers‚Äô panel has been given two weeks to revert.
  • Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian had suggested the creation of a Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency (PARA) to deal with what he described as India‚Äôs ‚Äúfestering twin balance sheet problem‚ÄĚ.
    • By this he meant over-leveraged corporates unable to service debt or invest afresh,
    • and banks hit by non-performing assets (NPAs) cagey about fresh lending.
  • This¬† hurts new investments and continues to dent India‚Äôs medium-term growth and job creation prospects.
  • A professionally-run PARA, or the so-called ‚Äėbad bank‚Äô, could assume custody of the largest and most difficult-to-resolve NPAs from lenders‚Äô balance sheets. This would allow banks to focus on extending fresh credit and supporting the pick-up in growth. More importantly, a bad bank taking tough decisions on borrowers-gone-bad, it was argued, could free bankers from the risks entailed in large loan write-downs.

Whys it’s not a great idea?

  • The new entity would need a lot of capital support, just as banks do. Some of this was envisaged as coming from the Reserve Bank of India through a complicated transaction.
  • After a long debate within government, it was noted that setting up a new institution would be very time-consuming and there would be challenges on its ownership structure as well as the pricing of bad loans taken over from banks.
  • A PARA by itself would not be able to deploy dramatically different tools to extract better value from underlying assets and would, at best, amount to window-dressing bank books to attract investors.
  • The government is clearly under pressure to demonstrate fresh intent to investors as India Inc believes bank loans are likely to remain sluggish for the next two-three years.

Way forward: The government should focus on other reforms as well.

  • One, amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to shield bankers and officers from investigative witch-hunts.
  • Two, back bankers to take demonstrable action against wilful defaulters.
  • And three, take a hard look at what ails the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Draw the line for Speakers and Governors

  • Speakers and Governors, acting independently of each other or in concert, can navigate the destiny of State governments.
  • Refer Laxmikanth for Powers of speakers and Governors.
  • This is because Speakers and Governors, even after their appointments, continue to be guided by their respective parties‚Äô best interests.
  • The result is that those holding these exalted constitutional offices enjoy little public trust or credibility. Constitutional values are made subservient to political outcomes.
  • The provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, meant to root out defection, are now being misused to protect those who defect. When defections are engineered either to install a government or protect its longevity, the role of the Speaker is critical.
Value Addition:

Value addition:  One need to have basic understanding of 10th schedule via PRS 

The 52nd amendment to the Constitution added the Tenth Schedule which laid down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection.

  1. A member of parliament or state legislature was deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily resigned from his party or
  2. Disobeyed the directives of the party leadership on a vote. That is, they may not vote on any issue in contravention to the party’s whip.
  3. Independent members would be disqualified if they joined a political party.
  4. Nominated members who were not members of a party could choose to join a party within six months; after that period, they were treated as a party member or independent member.

Case studies

  • In Tamil Nadu, the Chief Minister owes his continuance in office to the Speaker‚Äôs indefensible machinations when dealing with pending proceedings under the 10th Schedule. A petition was presented against the present Deputy Chief Minister and 10 other MLAs of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in March 2017 for violating the party whip during the floor test held in February 2017. However, till date the Speaker has not even issued notice to the defecting MLAs.
  • The Speaker is more loyal to his party and the government than to the Constitution. Both the inaction of the Speaker in one case and the disqualifications of the 18 MLAs in the other case were challenged in the High Court in writ proceedings
  • In Andhra Pradesh, of the 67 legislators belonging to the YSR Congress Party, 21 have defected, making Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu‚Äôs position unassailable. Some of the defectors are Cabinet Ministers. Despite pending petitions questioning the Speaker for not proceeding against the defectors, the Speaker has chosen not to act for obvious reasons.
  • In Telangana, 12 of 15 Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLAs defected to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Apparently, eight TDP MLAs had initially crossed over, after which four others followed suit. Despite a petition seeking disqualification, the status quo prevails.
  • In the past too, partisan Speakers have extended the tenure of illegitimate cut-and-paste majorities. The Samajwadi Party did it by creeping defections from the Bahujan Samaj Party to reach the magic 1/3 figure under the unamended 10th Schedule in the early 2000s. That gave legitimacy to the defections.
  • The recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, and later the Punchhi Commission, had clear guidelines for Governors to act when inviting leaders to be sworn in after the electoral verdict is out. But time and again we see Governors flouting these guidelines. A challenge in courts takes time while the constitutional indiscretions of Governors play havoc with democracy.
  • Way forward:
  • Radical amendment in the law is one way out, especially by amending the 10th Schedule qua the office of the Speaker and the fate of those who defect. We need amendments to the Constitution to circumscribe the Governor‚Äôs powers in areas of abuse of discretion. But most of all, we need political consensus to combat subversion of democracy.

Govt. opens doors to lateral entry

  • In an apparent bid to bring in expertise from the private sector and infuse talent into the country‚Äôs bureaucracy, the Union government has invited ‚Äúoutstanding individuals‚ÄĚ to join the government at the level of Joint Secretary at the Centre.
  • For starters, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has invited applications for 10 senior-level positions in the departments of Economic Affairs, Revenue, Commerce and Highways and others.
  • The notification invites individuals working at comparable levels in private sector companies, consultancy organisations, international/multinational organisations with a minimum of 15 years‚Äô experience, besides those working in central public sector undertakings, autonomous bodies, statutory organisations, research bodies and universities.
  • Though the idea of lateral entry into the administrative framework has been under discussion for some years now, this is the first move towards implementing the idea, which is generating curious debate on the pros and cons of the move.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

  • Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, who wrote the national song Vande Mataram
  • The 19th century author‚Äôs novel Anandamath ‚ÄĒ which was set in the background of the Sanyashi Bidroho (rebellion of monks in late 18th century) ‚ÄĒ is considered to be one of key works on Bengal‚Äôs nationalism.
  • Refer¬†Spectrum Modern Indian History.

Rise in India-ASEAN naval games

  • India is instituting a series of bilateral and multilateral naval exercises with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries as part of the increasing military-to-military cooperation. This is in addition to assisting the countries in capacity-building and sale of military hardware.
  • Later this month, the Navies of India and Indonesia will hold their first bilateral exercise in the Java Sea. India will stage a new trilateral exercise with Thailand and Singapore soon.
  • The bilateral with Indonesia is in addition to the Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) that the two sides conduct.
  • The Navy recently conducted maiden bilateral exercises with Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • The Indian Navy has had extensive interactions with Vietnam People‚Äôs Navy, particularly in training, repairs, maintenance and logistics support aimed at capacity building.
Value Addition:
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations¬†is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten Southeast Asian countries which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational and socio-cultural integration amongst its members and other Asian countries, and globally.
  • Since its formation on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand the organisation’s membership has expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

SCO calls for global front to fight terror groups

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has resolved to fight¬†against ‚Äúthe three evils‚Ä̬†¬†terrorism, separatism and extremism with a renewed vigour in the next three years, and called for a unified global counter-terrorism front under the coordination of the UN.
  • The declaration said all the member countries were for reaching a consensus on adopting the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and emphasised the importance of comprehensive measures to reach a peaceful settlement of international and regional conflicts.
  • The declaration said the SCO would work to stop the spread of terrorist ideology and eliminate factors and conditions that facilitated terrorism and extremism, acknowledging that there can be no justification to any act of terrorism or extremism.
  • The member states note that the interference in the domestic affairs of other states under the pretence of combating terrorism and extremism is unacceptable, as well as the use of terrorist, extremist and radical groups for one‚Äôs own purposes.
  • The SCO called for ‚Äúeffectively fulfilling‚ÄĚ the requirements of specialised UN Security Council resolutions to counter any forms of financing of terrorism and providing material and technical support to it.
  • The member states will work to improve the information exchange mechanisms regarding these people and their movements, and speed up procedures to extradite foreign terrorists in accordance with the national legislation of the SCO member states and boost international cooperation both on the political level and between the security services
  • The leaders advocate the strengthening of the international legal framework to counter this threat and support the initiative to draft an international convention against chemical and biological terrorist attacks at the Conference on Disarmament.

Plea to make poll offences cognisable

  • A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to direct the government to make electoral offences cognisable with a punishment of minimum two years in jail. The offences listed are bribery, undue influence, impersonation, false statement, illegal payments and non-filing of accounts.
  • The petetions said that successive governments did not act on the Election Commission‚Äôs recommendations since 1992 for harsher punishment. The result was the erosion of public trust in the electoral system. Parties and candidates used bribery not only in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections but also in byelections.
Value Addition:

Cognizable Offence and Non Cognizable Offence

  1. Cognizable offence means an offence for which, and `cognizable case’ means a case in which, a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without warrant.
  2. Cognizable offenses are those offenses which are serious in nature. Example- Murder, Rape, Dowry Death, Kidnapping, Theft, Criminal Breach of Trust, Unnatural Offenses.
  3. Section 154 of CrPc provides, that under a Cognizable offense or case, The Police Officer has to receive the First Information Report (FIR) relating to the cognizable offense, which can be without the Magistrate’s permission and enter it in the General Diary and immediately start the investigation.
  4. If a Cognizable offense has been committed, a Police Officer can investigate without the Magistrate’s permission.

Non Cognizable Offence

  1. A non-cognizable offence has been defined in Criminal Procedure Code as follows, “`non-cognizable offence’ means an offence for which, and `non-cognizable case’ means a case in which, a police officer has no authority to arrest without warrant”.
  2. Non-Cognizable offenses are those which are not much serious in nature. Example- Assault, Cheating, Forgery, Defamation.
  3. Section 155 of CrPc provides that in a non-cognizable offense or case, the police officer cannot receive or record the FIR unless he obtains prior permission from the Magistrate.
  4. Under a Non-Cognizable offense/case, in order to start the investigation, it is important for the police officer to obtain the permission from the Magistrate. Via Lawrato

Insolvency Code: what’s new

  • Last week, President gave his nod to promulgate the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code (Amendment) Ordinance 2018.
  • Homebuyers as financial creditors: Homebuyers would now be treated as financial creditors or, in other words, on par with banks. The amendment enables homebuyers (either as an individual or group) to initiate insolvency proceedings against errant builders. Homebuyers shall have the right to be represented in the committee of creditors (CoC), which takes the key decision regarding revival of the company or its liquidation.
  • The amendment now defines related party in relation to an individual running the firm and they would be barred from bidding for the firm under the resolution process.
  • Changes in voting share of committee of CoC:¬†The amendment has changed the voting share required in CoC meetings. For extending the insolvency process beyond 180 days till 270 days and for appointment of the resolution professional (who oversees the process), now a voting share of 66% is sufficient, compared with earlier requirement of 75%. Unless a specific approval is required in the Code, all other decisions of the CoC can be taken with 51% voting share against the earlier norm of 75%. Withdrawal from the insolvency process is permitted with the approval of 90% of voting share of the CoC (the norms for which would be prescribed).
  • Insolvency Code: what‚Äôs new

If it is Roland Garros, it must be Nadal!

  • Rafael Nadal claimed an 11th French Open title on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 demolition of Dominic Thiem despite a worrying injury scare in the closing stages of the final. The 32-year-old World No.1 now has 17 Grand Slam titles, just three behind great rival Roger Federer.
  • The French Open (French: Championnats Internationaux de France de Tennis), officially called Roland-Garros , is a major tennis tournament held over two weeks between late May and early June at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris, France.

Why farmers agitate

  • After it completed four years in office, the BJP-led NDA government launched a major media campaign that claimed, ‚Äú48 months of transforming India‚ÄĚ
  • the Indian economy (GDP) grew at an average rate of about 7.2 per cent but its agriculture sector (agri-GDP) grew at a mere 2.5 per cent per annum¬† according to the CSO figures.
  • It is this below-normal performance in agriculture that has resulted in farmers‚Äô protests. Their basic demands are two-fold: First, deliver on the promise of ‚Äú50 per cent profitability over costs‚ÄĚ, and second, ensure complete loan-waiver.
  • The promise of remunerative prices was based on the 2006 M S Swaminathan Committee Report that recommended fixing MSP at cost plus 50 per cent.
  • An efficient and sustainable solution for better prices really lies in ‚Äúgetting the markets right‚ÄĚ by overhauling the agri-marketing infrastructure and its associated laws. Agriculture is a state subject.
  • Farm loan-waivers,the total bill of farm loan-waivers, from 2017 till 2019, we are afraid, may touch Rs 3,00,000 crore. This might give temporary relief to farmers but agriculture is unlikely be revitalised. Attaining 4 per cent growth in agri-GDP on a sustainable basis remains a challenge.
  • Goverment¬†must focus on effective and timely implementation of its programmes ‚ÄĒ the PM‚Äôs Fasal Bima Yojana, Krishi Sinchayee Yojana and the National Agriculture Market.

Minor forest produce, major returns

  • In news: Media reported the widespread rejection of forest rights claims by Mahrarashtra‚Äôs Tribal Development Department.
  • Such rejection, though not uncommon, is against the spirit of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA).
  • The Act vests a number of rights with forest-dwelling communities, including rights over forest land for habitation and cultivation, right of ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce, right to govern and manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally conserving for sustainable use.
  • Historically, during the colonial and post-colonial periods, forest management and access to forest resources like non-timber forest products (NTFPs) was largely driven by the principles of centralisation, exclusion and exploitation.
  • The FRA envisages to change this and ensure that the economic benefits of NTFPs accrue to tribal people ‚ÄĒ this is one reason that claims on forest resources should be addressed without bias.

Importance of non-timber forest products (NTFPs)

  • The report of the sub-group on NTFPs and their sustainable management in the 12th Five Year Plan highlighted that NTFPs constitute one of the largest unorganised sectors in India.
  • Almost 275 million people depend on NTFPs with a turnover of at least Rs 6,000 crore per annum.
  • There is a strong potential to scale up NTFP collection and processing.

Issues:

  • NTFPs potential as a source of development and poverty alleviation has been deeply neglected.
  • Prior to the enactment of the FRA in 2006, forest laws nationalised non-timber forest produce and regulated the market process, creating severe inefficiencies.

Impact of the Act:

  • It has remarkable impact of ownership rights over these forest products in terms of incomes and empowerment.
  • The FRA provides the legal basis of ownership rights over NTFPs to forest dwellers.
  • Example:¬†Maharashtra‚Äôs Vidarbha region, information from 247 villages which reveals how ownership over minor forest produce, specially tendu leaves and bamboo, has improved the economic condition of forest dwellers. These villages earned a total of nearly Rs 35 crore in 2017 by selling NTFPs.
  • Discussions with villagers in the region suggest that there is a significant change in their socio-economic condition due to the additional income from NTFPs.
  • Migration has reduced and in some areas, reverse migration has started.
  • The FRA also fosters democratic control over customary forests by forest-dependent communities, ensuring more effective, sustainable and people-oriented forest conservation, management and restoration.
  • Given that most of the NTFPs are collected, used and sold by women, it would also lead to financial and social empowerment for millions of women.

Unfortunately, such positive developments have been largely confined to some areas only :

  • In the rest of the country, state governments continue to resist and create hurdles in the implementation of community rights over NTFPs and forests.
  • Despite several orders from the nodal agency, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the implementation of the provision of collective rights over NTFPs under the FRA has been weak and ineffective.
  • The failure to recognise access rights of forest dwellers over NTFPs is a perpetuation of the historical injustice on India‚Äôs forest-dwelling communities and a missed opportunity to democratise forest governance and improve the economic condition of marginalised forest communities.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 09-06-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 08-06-18, 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.

Modi likely to take the spirit of Wuhan to Qingdao

  • Prime Minister will participate in a two-day summit of the eight- nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the weekend, riding on the bonhomie generated by the Wuhan informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and an extended one-on-one dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
  • Russia, China and India were likely to emerge as the core of the SCO, after New Delhi and Islamabad joined the grouping last year, and would be participating as full SCO members for the first time in Qingdao. But it was also imperative that the importance of the four Central Asian Republics ‚ÄĒ Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan¬† were not undermined in the expanded SCO.
  • America-first‚ÄĚ doctrine of U.S. President Donald Trump, which was getting translated into rising protectionism and threat of trade wars, had provided an important subtext to the Wuhan summit.

J&K to get 2 new border battalions

  • Context: Pakistan has been shelling the International Border (IB) heavily in recent times
  • Union Home Minister described¬†the border residents of Jammu and Kashmir as ‚Äúa strategic asset.
  • He also¬†said five battalions of the Indian Reserve Police and two women‚Äôs battalions of the State police would be raised with 60% reservation for border residents.
  • The Minister also announced an enhanced compensation package for the border residents.
  • Tip :
    • Remember the difference between International border, Line of control, line of actual control.¬†
    • How many countries¬†each state share IB with.¬†

Jaguar develops snag while landing

  • In news:¬†Within 72 hours of the Indian Air Force (IAF) losing one of its senior most active pilots in a Jaguar crash, another Jaguar fighter met with an accident.
  • The IAF has a fleet of about 120 Jaguar deep penetration strike fighters they also carry nuclear weapons¬† which are being upgraded with new avionics and sensors to keep them flying for another two decades.
  • The Jaguars are expected to remain in service till 2025-30.
  • In a July 2017 report presented in Parliament, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) observed that some Jaguars were still flying without auto-pilot, 20 years after the project was conceived.
  • Value addition:¬†The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is an authority, established by Article 148 of the Constitution of India. Please refer Laxmikanth for CAG chapter.

SC wants panel to monitor shrines

  • The Supreme Court¬† (articles 124-147)¬† on Wednesday directed the Centre to form an independent committee to review whether the ‚Äúmanagement practices‚ÄĚ of shrines across the country are visitor-friendly.
  • It also ordered a judicial enquiry into allegations of rampant fleecing and exploitation of worshippers by staffers and sevaks at the Puri Jagannath Temple in Odisha.
  • There is no doubt that proper management of pilgrimage centres of great importance is a matter of public interest. These centres are of undoubted religious, social, historical and architectural importance, representing the cultural heritage of our country.
  • The order is based on a PIL filed which highlighted the difficulties faced by visitors to Shri Jagannath Temple.

Uranium contamination in Rajasthan groundwater

  • Many parts of Rajasthan may have high uranium levels in their groundwater, according to a study by researchers at the Duke University in North Carolina, United States, and the Central Groundwater Board of India.
  • The main source of uranium contamination was ‚Äúnatural,‚ÄĚ but human factors such as groundwater table decline and nitrate pollution could be worsening the problem.
  • ‚ÄúNearly a third of all water wells we tested in Rajasthan, contained uranium levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) safe drinking water standards.
  • The WHO has set a provisional safe drinking water standard of 30 micrograms of uranium per litre, a level that is consistent with the U.S. EPA standards.
  • Despite this, uranium is not yet included in the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards‚Äô Drinking Water Specifications.

An unexceptional economic performance.

  • Central Statistics Office (CSO) released¬† estimates of national income for the final quarter of the 2017-18 financial year.
  • Annual rate of growth since 2014 has first risen and then declined. By 2017-18 growth at 6.6% was less than the 6.9% it was in the final year of the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Questions of promotion

Background information from various Judgements:

  • In news: The Supreme Court‚Äôs one line order that the government can go ahead with promotions in government offices ‚ÄĒ which will have bearing on Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) reservations in promotions¬† has come with the caveat ‚Äúin accordance with law‚ÄĚ.
  • Barring a few exceptions, the judiciary has not been encouraging on reservation policies. In the State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan (1951), which related to medical and engineering seats, the Madras High Court struck down the reservation policy. The judgment led to the first amendment to the Constitution to protect reservations.
  • The newly introduced Clause (4) of Article 15 read: ‚ÄúNothing in this Article or in Clause 2 of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.‚ÄĚ
  • In M.R. Balaji (1962), the Supreme Court did make some positive observations. These included:
    • the government need not appoint a commission to determine backwardness under Article 340 prior to formulation of a reservation policy; executive orders giving reservation are valid;
    • caste is important but not the sole determinant of backwardness;
    • and ‚Äėcaste‚Äô and ‚Äėclass‚Äô are not synonymous.
  • The court struck down the distinction between ‚Äėbackward‚Äô and ‚Äėmore backward‚Äô communities and termed 68% reservation as a ‚Äėfraud‚Äô on the constitutional power conferred on the state by Article 15(4).
  • It also introduced a 50% upper limit in reservation.
  • In C.A. Rajendran (1967), where governmental policy of 1963 that did not provide for reservation of posts in class I and II posts was challenged, a five-judge bench upheld the policy by saying that reservation both in appointments and promotions is merely discretionary rather than the constitutional duty of the state.
  • In T. Devadasan (1963), the ‚Äúcarry forward‚ÄĚ in reservations (if reserved seats remained unfilled in a year they would be carried forward subsequently) was struck down.
  • In State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas (1975), the Supreme Court did extend the benefit of reservations to promotions while upholding the rule that gave further exemption of two years to SC/ST candidates in passing the tests.
  • In Indra Sawhney (1992), where 27% Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation was challenged, a nine-judge bench authoritatively laid down the law on reservation. The positive findings were:
    • Article 16(4) is not an exception to the right to equality of opportunity provided under Article 16(1) but an illustration of the right to equality of opportunity;
    • a caste can be and quite often is a social class in India;
    • a classification between ‚Äėbackward‚Äô and ‚Äėmost backward‚Äô is constitutionally permissible, and T. Devadasan was wrongly decided.
    • But here too the court explicitly said that in future reservation, benefits cannot extend to promotions and ‚Äėcreamy layer‚Äô is to be excluded in reservation for OBCs.
    • Further, reservation though not ‚Äėanti-merit‚Äô, should not apply to some services and certain posts.

Useful from Mains point of view

  • M. Nagaraj (2006) in which the court made certain¬† observations:
  • The concept of SC/ST reservation is hedged by three constitutional requirements
    • backwardness of SC/STs,
    • inadequacy of their representation in public employment,
    • and overall efficiency of administration.
  • A number of High Courts following Nagaraj have struck down reservation in promotions after applying these requirements.
  • The bench in Nagaraj also went against the judgment of Indra Sawhney where the court had said that SC/STs were definitely socially backward.
  • In Ashoka Kumar Thakur (2008), the Supreme Court clarified that the creamy layer doctrine has no relevance in SC/ST reservation.
  • On Efficiency¬†: it is demonstrated in the performance of employees. No research has so far proved that SC/ST employees are less efficient than employees recruited under the general category. And the judiciary should not pre-judge the efficiency of any category of employee prior to their appointment/promotion.
  • Justice Chinnappa Reddy in K.C. Vasanth Kumar demolished the efficiency argument when he said: ‚ÄúEfficiency is very much on the lips of the privileged whenever reservation is mentioned.‚ÄĚ
  • He added: ‚ÄúThe underlying assumption that those belonging to the upper castes and classes, who are appointed to the non-reserved castes will, because of their presumed merit, ‚Äėnaturally‚Äô perform better than those who have been appointed to the reserved posts and that the clear stream of efficiency will be polluted by the infiltration of the latter into the sacred precincts is a vicious assumption, typical of the superior approach of the elitist classes.‚ÄĚ
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court finally referred reconsideration of Nagaraj to a Constitution bench.

A vicious cycle

  • The European Commission on Wednesday announced it would impose tariffs as high as 25% on imports worth $3.3 billion from the U.S. beginning July.
  • The Commission is also mulling import duties on more American goods if the trade war with the U.S. intensifies.
  • Europe is not alone in waging a battle against imports from the U.S.; China, Mexico and Canada have joined hands in response to President Donald Trump‚Äôs decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
  • Last week, the U.S. imposed a 25% tax on steel and a 10% tax on aluminium imports from the EU, Mexico and Canada.
  • Consumers in America and the rest of the world are likely to suffer as their respective governments make it costlier for them to access foreign goods and services.
  • Implications: The sad fact, however, is that at the end of the day nobody actually wins a destructive trade war.
  • Tariffs that seek to disadvantage foreign producers in favour of domestic producers, only increase the burden of taxes. What this leads to eventually is slower global economic growth.
  • The World Bank has warned that the effect of the increased use of tariffs to regulate international trade could be similar to the significant drop in global trade after the financial crisis a decade ago.
  • Countries that are protesting America‚Äôs metal tariffs in the name of free trade are also only encouraging further protectionism when they impose retaliatory tariffs.
  • As former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan aptly put it, the ongoing trade war is a ‚Äúlose-lose situation‚ÄĚ for the warring parties.
  • The only winners will be special interest groups and consumers in countries that do not engage in the tit-for-tat tariff war, but their winnings will come at the cost of global growth.
  • Way forward: It is high time countries worldwide come together to promote the cause of free trade.

U.S. wants India out of S-400 deal

  • The United States is trying to discourage India from buying large defence systems from Russia, an action that may attract sanctions, according to a senior official of the State Department.
  • Countering America‚Äôs Adversaries through Sanction Act (CAATSA), a 2017 law, requires that countries that have significant defence cooperation with Russia be sanctioned by America.
  • India is planning to buy five S-400 Triumf air defence systems for around $4.5 billion from Russia.
  • The US administration has publicly expressed its desire to protect India from CAATSA, considering the U.S.-India strategic ties.

CPEC is elephant in the room

  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the ‚Äúelephant in the room‚ÄĚ for India, but India does not view its bilateral relations with China through the prism of China-Pakistan relationship/
  • Defence minister said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the ‚Äúelephant in the room‚ÄĚ for India, but India does not view its bilateral relations with China through the prism of China-Pakistan relationship.
  • There has been an increased dependence of Pakistan‚Äôs military on Chinese arms and ammunition. The fundamental reorientation of the China-Pakistan relationship is getting intense.
  • There was now a greater engagement between India and China, and with India‚Äôs participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the relationship was becoming stronger.

Delhi charts new line on Indo-Pacific area

  • New Delhi does not consider the newly re-established quadrilateral format of U.S.-Japan-India-Australia a part of its ‚ÄúIndo-Pacific‚ÄĚ region policy.
  • India would like to engage more closely with Russia in the Indo-Pacific region as well.
  • India‚Äôs maritime partnerships would not be restricted to the Quad formation with the U.S. and its allies.
  • The Quadrilateral format of U.S.-Japan-India-Australia is one of the many multilateral dialogues in the region, and not directed against any country. It is not part of the Indo-Pacific region concept outlined by Prime Minister Modi in Shangri La.
  • Given improved relations with China in the last few months, the government has been seen as less active in promoting the Quad, also declining a request from Australia to join the ongoing Malabar naval exercises with the other three Quad members.

Trump calls for Russia to be readmitted into the G7 bloc

  • U.S. President Donald Trump made a shock call¬† for Russia to be readmitted into the G7.
  • He wanted Russia which was expelled from the group of the world‚Äôs most industrialised nations after annexing Crimea to be brought back into the fold.

Indonesia wins UNSC vote

  • The Maldives¬† failed to get elected to the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member. Maldives and Indonesia had contested for a seat in the UNSC, but in the plenary session¬† held at the UN headquarters in New York, Indonesia won the seat after securing 144 votes against 46 for the Maldives.
  • Maldives.
  • In the election, 190 members participated, and the winning members had to get more than two-thirds majority or 127 votes. Indonesia is likely to take up the seat on January 1, 2019 with other newly elected non-permanent members ‚ÄĒ Germany, Belgium, Dominican Republic and South Africa.

Panel to mull ARC for stressed assets

  • The finance ministry has set up a committee to examine the possibility of setting up an asset reconstruction company or an asset management company to fast track resolution of stressed assets.
  • At least five state-run banks do not have a chief executive, and several executive directors‚Äô positions are also vacant. Some more vacancies are expected to arise in the coming months.

GST Council meet may take up inclusion of natural gas

  • The Goods and Services Tax Council is likely to take up the possible inclusion of natural gas in the indirect tax regime during its next meeting.
  • Petroleum is a considerably larger source for revenues not only for the Centre but States also and on the] natural gas front, there is some consensus for bringing it into GST ambit and therefore, it could be the first petroleum product that could come within the GST network.
  • Currently, petroleum crude, motor spirit (petrol), high speed diesel, natural gas, and ATF have been kept out of GST.

More than 2.25 lakh shell firms

  • The Centre said it has identified 2,25,910 companies whose names are to be struck off from the register of companies during the current financial year 2018-19.
  • This comes on the top of the removal of 2,26,166 companies from the register during the previous financial year.
  • The Task Force on Shell Companies had so far confirmed a total of 16,537 shell companies on the basis of the information received from the various law enforcement agencies.
  • The major achievements of the task force include the compilation of a database of shell companies by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO),. ‚ÄúThis database, as on date, comprises of three lists, viz the confirmed list, derived list and suspect list.

From Indo-Pacific to Eurasia

Written by C. Raja Mohan this is one article I do not like to summarise , because it , it self is a summary of the weeks international dynamics in Indian context . It’s totally worth the time you invest in reading it.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 08-06-18

Hello friends, this is¬†Newspaper notes for UPSC of 08-06-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions,¬†[email protected]¬†, telegram @naylak . Do subscribe to our website and please share this post with your friends.

Download the Notes PDF : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 08-06-18

Violence in the hills

  • The week-long incidents of violence in downtown Shillong Meghalaya, has it origins in a lie spread through WhatsApp, the¬† messaging platform that has increasingly become an unfiltered medium for hate and rumour-mongering.
  • Value addition:¬† Misusing technology/Fake news can be used in essay and Internal security/Society.
  • A scuffle between members of the Mazhabi Sikh community, long-time settlers in the Punjabi Lane area of the city, and a Khasi youth and his associates over a local matter was amicably settled between representatives of the communities.
  • But a fabricated story that the youth had succumbed to injuries sustained in the scuffle led to large numbers of Khasi protesters laying siege to Punjabi Lane, demanding that the Sikh residents move from the area. That the ‚Äúsettlers‚ÄĚ have been in Shillong for more than a century and a half, having been originally brought there by the British colonials to work as manual scavengers, and have since integrated themselves within Shillong, has not insulated them from being described as outsiders.
  • The administration did well to protect the dwellers of Punjabi Lane from physical harm, but mob violence persisted until curfew was imposed and the Army put on stand-by.
  • Agitators¬†insist that the Punjabi Lane residents be moved from Shillong‚Äôs commercial heart to its outskirts.

Useful Mains points:

  • Tribal angst over economic issues leading to the scapegoating of non-tribal long-time residents reflects the continued failure to forge a more inclusive politics in Meghalaya.
  • There are enough provisions of affirmative action for the tribal people¬† 80% reservation for the Khasi, Jaintia, Garo and other tribes in jobs and professional studies. Yet, discontent persists over the lack of adequate jobs in the State, especially in urban areas.
  • A Labour Bureau report on employment in 2015-16 found Meghalaya to have among the highest urban unemployment rates (13.4%).
  • Past experiences: Discontent over lack of opportunities in the past had led to incidents such as the violent targeting of the Bengali community in 1979 and Nepalis in 1987, many of whom then fled the State.

Sustaining earth for the future [Paper 3, Environment and Biodiversity]

  • Biologists all over the world have been documenting the ongoing loss of life forms. Modern extinction rates are more than a thousand times greater than the rates of the geological past. In recent decades, populations of more than 40% of large mammals have declined and insect biomass has decreased by more than 75%. Natural habitats all over the world have shrunk.
  • We have entered what scientists are calling the Anthropocene era ‚ÄĒ a new period in earth‚Äôs history, when humans have begun to impact our environment at the global scale. We have seen our forests degrade and diminish, our rivers vanish, and our air become unfit to breathe.
  • American biologist E.O. Wilson has described an ambitious project he calls ‚ÄúHalf-Earth‚ÄĚ. He calls for formally protecting 50% of the earth‚Äôs land surface in order to conserve our rapidly disappearing natural heritage.
  • Others have rightly argued that in the past conservation efforts have often disregarded issues of social justice and equity. Thus the goals of ‚ÄúHalf-Earth‚ÄĚ should not compromise the rights of indigenous people.

safeguard biodiversity and the ecosystem

  • India‚Äôs forest policy calls for forests to cover almost a third of the country, and if we include other natural systems such as grasslands and wetlands, the area to be protected could amount to almost 40%. In a populous country such as ours, that would be a huge achievement.
  • Some areas could be fully protected while others might be managed by stakeholders for sustainable use and enrichment of biodiversity.
  • India needs massive new effort to catalogue, map, and monitor life, using fundamentally different approaches. Current efforts to map India‚Äôs biodiversity are largely restricted to forestlands, while plans for species monitoring are even more inadequate. We have the digital tools and artificial intelligence today to efficiently catalogue, map, and monitor life‚Äôs fabric in a manner never before attempted.
  • We are just beginning to learn how myriad species interact to drive our ecosystems, and how these systems in turn maintain our soils, water and breathable air. Wild pollinators, the microbiota of soils, and the many enemies of agricultural pests ‚ÄĒ these and many other natural services underpin our agricultural productivity and mitigate climate change.
  • In many of our academic institutions, the ‚ÄėLife Sciences‚Äô are still restricted largely to the study of cells and molecules ‚ÄĒ life at microscopic and submicroscopic levels.Our institutions need to place far more emphasis on the scientific study of life at higher levels. We also need a comprehensive inquiry into how our society is shaping as well as responding to changes in biodiversity.

The way forward

  • Some in the Indian science establishment, such as the Departments of Biotechnology and of Science and Technology, have recently started programmes and initiatives in the broader areas of science and society.
  • Several non-government think tanks in the civil society sector have strong interdisciplinary programmes in environmental sustainability. The India Biodiversity Portal has the ambitious goal of mapping India‚Äôs biodiversity with the engagement of civil society though the portal relies largely on private support.
  • The scale of the problem is so massive and its importance so vital for our future that government and private philanthropy need to bring together multiple stakeholders.

What Is Anthropocene ?

  • According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization in charge of defining Earth‚Äôs time scale, we are officially in the Holocene (‚Äúentirely recent‚ÄĚ) epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age.
  • ‚ÄúAnthropocene‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒfrom anthropo, for ‚Äúman,‚ÄĚ and cene, for ‚Äúnew‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒbecause human-kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts. The striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development mark the end of that slice of geological time. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the Anthropocene .”Golden spike” ‚Äď a global marker in the environment that indicates the start of the new age.

Suggested reading:

Is the Indian economy on an upswing

YES :

  • Nine consecutive quarters since the fourth quarter of 2015-16, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth fell quarter after quarter from a peak of 9% to a trough of 5.6% in the first quarter of 2017-18.
  • This was due to demonetisation and the transitory adverse effects of the goods and services tax implementation.
  • These eventually subsided and for the last three quarters, growth steadily recovered to 6.3%, 7.0% and 7.7% in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2017-18, respectively.
  • This¬† recovery is based entirely on domestic factors as the contribution of net export growth to GDP has been zero or negative since the third quarter of 2016-17.
  • Demand side, two segments which have supported growth, particularly in the fourth quarter of 2017-18, are government consumption and overall investment demand.The real investment rate has also increased.
  • Government‚Äôs policy initiatives have shown a clear productivity-enhancing supply-side thrust including demonetisation and the GST.
  • Key policy initiatives (Make in India, Start-up India) also aim at improving productivity.
  • Market determination of mineral and spectrum prices also spurred the growth.
  • The power sector further benefitted from the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana scheme.

Factors that may slow down:

  • Two factors may create short-term drags on India‚Äôs prospects for maintaining a sustained level of high growth: rising global crude prices and prospects of fiscal slippage.
  • Rising crude prices may adversely affect most indicators of India‚Äôs macro balance including trade and current account deficits, inflation, exchange rate and fiscal deficit.
  • The Centre‚Äôs fiscal deficit-GDP ratio, after showing a steady improvement since 2014-15, slipped back to a level of more than 3.5% of GDP in 2017-18, exceeding the fiscal responsibility and budget management (FRBM) target of 3% and the budgeted target of 3.2%.

NO:

  • GDP growth estimates released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) suggest that the economy grew at 6.7% in 2017-18 at 2011-12 prices.
  • agricultural growth in real terms at 4.5% appears more of a statistical artefact than a story of turnaround in agriculture.
  • The problem of the Indian economy is, It is going through a period when domestic demand especially in the rural areas has almost collapsed. This¬†has also been confirmed from data on rural wages which continued to be in negative territory in real terms until January 2018.
  • Growing farmer unrest in the rural areas against falling commodity prices, the strike in many agriculturally important States is a clear reflection of the level of distress.

It’s Complicated:

  • The 7.2% growth in the Indian economy during the October-December quarter has put the country in the highest growth bracket globally.
  • A V-shaped recovery¬†¬†depends on¬†¬†export growth and also on private investment picking up.

Issues for V-shaped recovery

  • The external environment is not exactly buoyant. Global growth had been slow till 2017.Oil prices, after being low for at least four years, have begun rising again.
  • The international trade environment, favourable until recently, has worsened with threats of a U.S.-China trade war.
  • Interest rates have begun to rise in the U.S., and will continue to rise, reducing the prospect of more fund flow to emerging economies, including India.

Averting Ponzi schemes

  • Instances of people losing their hard-earned money to Ponzi schemes keep coming to light. The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 was approved by the Union Cabinet to provide comprehensive legislation to deal with illicit deposit schemes in the country.

The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 will provide a comprehensive legislation to deal with the menace of illicit deposit schemes in the country through,

  • complete prohibition of unregulated deposit taking activity;
  • deterrent punishment for promoting or operating an unregulated deposit taking scheme;
  • stringent punishment for fraudulent default in repayment to depositors;
  • designation of a Competent Authority by the State Government to ensure repayment of deposits in the event of default by a deposit taking establishment;
  • powers and functions of the competent authority including the power to attach assets of a defaulting establishment;
  • designation of Courts to oversee repayment of depositors and to try offences under the Act; and
  • listing of Regulated Deposit Schemes in the Bill, with a clause enabling the Central Government to expand or prune the list.

The salient features of the Bill are as follows:

  • The Bill contains a substantive banning clause which bans Deposit Takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme. The principle is that the Bill would ban unregulated deposit taking activities altogether, by making them an offence ex-ante, rather than the existing legislative-cum-regulatory framework which only comes into effect ex-post with considerable time lags.
  • The Bill creates three different types of offences, namely, running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes, fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.
  • Clear-cut time¬†¬† lines¬†¬† have¬†¬† been¬†¬† provided for attachment of property and restitution to depositors.
  • The Bill enables creation of an online central database, for collection and sharing of information on deposit taking activities in the country.
  • The Bill defines “Deposit Taker” and “Deposit” comprehensively.
  • “Deposit Takers” include all possible entities (including individuals) receiving or soliciting¬† deposits,¬†¬† except specific¬† entities¬† such¬† as¬† those¬† incorporated¬†¬† by legislation.
  • “Deposit” is defined in such a manner that deposit takers are restricted from camouflaging public deposits as receipts, and at the same time not to curb or hinder acceptance of money by an establishment in the ordinary course of its business.
  • Being a comprehensive Union law, the Bill adopts best practices from State laws, while entrusting the primary responsibility of implementing the provisions of the legislation to the State Governments.

India not ready to sign the Hague treaty

  • The government is not yet ready to sign the Hague treaty on inter-country abduction of children by parents fleeing a bad marriage.
  • There has been immense pressure from the U.S. on the government to sign the treaty though the government has long held the view that the decision could lead to harassment of women escaping marital discord or domestic violence.
  • A committee constituted by the Centre to examine legal issues involved in international parental abduction submitted its report in April, opposing a central provision of the Hague Convention. It said that the criterion of habitual residence of the child, which is used to determine whether the child was wrongfully removed by a parent as well as to seek the return of the child to the country of habitual residence, was not in the best interest of the child.
  • It also recommended setting up of a Child Removal Disputes Resolution Authority to act as a nodal body to decide on the custody of the child as well as a model law to deal with such disputes.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad.

To do this, the Hague Convention puts:

  • safeguards in place to make sure that all intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of the child and respects their human rights,
  • a system in place of cooperation among countries to guarantee that these safeguards are respected, and to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children.

Habitual residence

When a child is removed from or retained in a country that is not a child’s habitual residence a parent can seek to have the child returned to their habitual residence country under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Consortium to help women entrepreneurs

  • The UN India Business Forum and the Women Entrepreneurial Platform of NITI Aayogformed a consortium to reduce gender disparities in start-up investments by providing mentorship and networking opportunities and accelerating financial and market linkages for women entrepreneurs.
  • UN India-NITI Aayog Investor Consortium for Women Entrepreneurs will bring together key ecosystem stakeholders, including venture capitalists and impact investors, international donor and funding agencies, private sector partners and state governments.
  • Women entrepreneurs will be identified through key partners, including WEP, UN Women, and UNDP. The consortium secretariat will then connect entrepreneurs with relevant members.
  • In ‚Äúfull potential‚ÄĚ scenario when women participate in the economy, equally to men, it could add $2.9 trillion to India‚Äôs GDP by 2025, . However, Indian women entrepreneurs continue to face challenges in accessing investors and raising capital.

Refer Laxmikanth for NITI .

FB questioned on sharing user data

  • The government sought an explanation from Facebook following reports of the networking site sharing users‚Äô data with smartphone manufacturers, including Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo.
  • There are media reports claiming that Facebook has agreements which are allowing phone and other device manufacturers‚Äô access to its users‚Äô personal information, including that of their friends without taking their explicit consent.
  • In response to earlier notices about breaches of personal data relating to the Cambridge Analytica episode, Facebook had apologised and given strong assurances to the Government of India that they would take sincere efforts to protect the privacy of users‚Äô data on the platform.

PSB recap plan inadequate for growth

  • The government‚Äôs recapitalisation plan for the 21 public sector banks (PSBs) will not be sufficient to support credit growth but will take care of the provisioning requirement for bad loans, according to Moody‚Äôs.
  • The PSBs‚Äô capital shortfalls are larger than the scale that the government had expected when it announced the recapitalisation in October 2017, mainly because the banks have failed to raise additional capital from the market and it may be difficult for them to raise more capital given the substantial decline in their share prices since the beginning of 2018.
  • In October last, the Centre had announced the infusion of ‚āĻ2.11 lakh crore in PSBs over two years, of which ‚āĻ1.35 lakh crore was to come through recapitalisation bonds. The government will infuse ‚āĻ65,000 crore in this financial year, following the ‚āĻ90,000 crore infusion made in FY18.

Value Addition:

  • Government announced Indradhanush plan for revamping Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in August 2015. The plan envisaged, inter alia, infusion of capital in PSBs by the Government to the tune of Rs. 70,000 crore over a period of four financial years.
  • Government has recently announced decision to further recapitalise PSBs to the tune of Rs. 2,11,000 crore, through recapitalisation bonds of Rs. 1,35,000 crore and budgetary provision of Rs. 18,139 crore (the residual .
  • The capital infusion plan for 2017-18 includes Rs.80,000 crore through Recap Bonds and Rs.8,139 crore as budgetary support.
  • The reform agenda is aimed at EASEEnhanced Access and Service Excellence, focusing on six themes of customer responsiveness, responsible banking, credit off take, PSBs as Udyami Mitra, deepening financial inclusion & digitalisation and developing personnel for brand PSB.¬†¬†¬†The overarching framework for the reforms agenda is ‚ÄúResponsive and Responsible PSBs‚ÄĚ.

Rating Agencies

  • The Big Three credit rating agencies are Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch Group. S&P and Moody’s are based in the US, while Fitch is dual-headquartered in New York City and London, and is controlled by Hearst. As of 2013 they hold a collective global market share of “roughly 95 percent.
  • India‚Äôs sovereign rating has been upgraded by Global rating agency Moody‚Äôs Investors Services for the first time in 14 years in 2017

Why SCO matters

  • India will attend the SCO summit in Qingdao, China, on June 9-10 as a full member.
  • Both India and Pakistan were admitted to the grouping at its summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, last June.
  • The summit provides an opportunity for the Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally on the sidelines of a multilateral event. The two sides are obliged to cooperate on issues of mutual interest without bringing in their bilateral disputes.
  • Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries.
  • The summit will provide the Indian and Chinese leaders another opportunity to meet and talk.
  • Russia has been India‚Äôs staunchest supporter in the SCO, having lobbied hard with Beijing for years to ensure its entry into the grouping. The conversation with Russia will continue.
  • India‚Äôs dealings with Iran, an observer state that has applied for full SCO membership. India has a powerful strategic interest in Iran‚Äôs Chabahar port. This will provide the opportunity to interact with the Iranian leader at the SCO.
  • While the West has been sceptical of India‚Äôs sitting down with the less-than-free regimes of Central Asia, Russia and China, New Delhi has always been careful to not signal alignment with these countries on issues of governance.
  • The ‚ÄúShanghai Spirit‚ÄĚ the SCO‚Äôs driving philosophy¬† emphasises harmony, working by consensus, respect for other cultures, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and non-alignment.
  • The SCO‚Äôs main objective of working cooperatively against the ‚Äúthree evils‚ÄĚ of terrorism, separatism, and extremism sits well with New Delhi‚Äôs interests. Indeed, the SCO summit gives India an opportunity to showcase the kind of power it wants to be.

Way forward:

From Shivshankar Menon’s Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy:

  • ‚ÄúIndia cannot rely on others for its security because its economic, political, and security interests are unique, a function of its unique history, geography, and culture. If we wish to abolish mass poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and disease and modernise our country‚Ķ we can do so only by becoming a great power, with the ability to shape the international system and environment to our purposes.‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúStrategic autonomy‚ÄĚ, Menon wrote, ‚Äúis not just a slogan or a desire but a necessity if we are to transform India‚ÄĚ.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 07-06-18

Here is the link to¬†Newspaper notes for UPSC 07-06-18 PDF¬†and please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions,¬†[email protected]¬†, telegram @naylak . Do subscribe to our website and please share this post with your friends.

RBI raises rates after 4.5 years as crude price surges.

  • The six-member monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday increased the repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.25%.
  • The MPC arrived at the unanimous decision as the outlook for inflation had become ‚Äėuncertain‚Äô following a surge in international crude oil prices.Crude oil prices have been volatile and this imparts considerable uncertainty to the inflation outlook both on the upside and the downside
  • This is the first rate hike in four-and-a-half years; the last was in January 2014.
  • The RBI increased its inflation projection to 4.8%-4.9% in the first half (H1) of the financial year and 4.7% in the second half, as compared with 4.7-5.1% in H1 and 4.4% for H2.
  • Crude oil prices have been volatile and this imparts considerable uncertainty to the inflation outlook¬† both on the upside and the downside.

Pre-emptive strike

  • The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India opted for a hike in key interest rates by 25 basis points ‚ÄĒ the first such increase in four and a half years.
  • This hike, the first during this NDA government‚Äôs tenure, was approved unanimously by the six-member committee.
  • One of the reasons:strengthening dollar or further rate hikes by the Federal Reserve that could strengthen the exodus of global capital from emerging markets such as India,¬†between January and May, outflows from foreign portfolio investors have reached their highest level in 10 years.
  • However,¬†RBI Governor¬† dismissed suggestions that the rate hike was a bid to stem outflows. The MPC, he asserted, is driven purely by its inflation management mandate.

Monetary Policy Committee

A  6-member  monetary  policy committee  is  to  be  setup  to  decide key policy rates. The  panel  will  have  three  members from  RBI.  They  are  the  governor, deputy governor and another officer.

The  other  three  members  will  be decided  by  the  centre  based  on  the recommendations  of  a  panel  headed by the Cabinet Secretary. Under MPC, the RBI governor has a casting vote and doesn’t enjoy veto power,decisions will be taken on the basis of majority vote. The decision of the Committee would be binding on the RBI.

Functions: 

  • Under the Monetary Policy Framework Agreement, the RBI will be responsible for containing inflation targets at 4% (with a standard deviation of 2%). 2%-4%-6%
  • RBI would have to give an explanation in the form of a report to the Central Government, if it failed to reach the specified inflation targets. It shall, in the report, give reasons for failure, remedial actions as well as estimated time within which the inflation target shall be achieved.
  • MPC decides the changes to be made to the policy rate (repo rate) so as to contain the inflation within the target level specified to it by the Central Government.
  • Each Member of the Monetary Policy Committee has to write a statement specifying the reasons for voting in favour of, or against the proposed resolution, and the same alongwith the resolution adopted by the MPC.

Maternal mortality ratio in the country drops to 130 from 167

  • The latest Sample Registration System (SRS) data indicating the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) has dropped to 130 from 167.
  • The MMR (number of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births) has dropped from 167 (in 2011-2013, the last SRS period) to 130 for the country. this¬† is a 28% drop.

The SRS segments States into three groups:

  • ‚ÄúEmpowered Action Group‚ÄĚ (EAG) ‚ÄĒBihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand and Assam;¬† ¬†They have the highest reduction from the last SRS is with the EAG States at 23%, a drop from 246 (2011-2013) to
  • ‚ÄúSouthern States‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu; They¬†dropped by 17% to 77.
  • ‚ÄúOthers‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ the remaining States and union territories. They have dropped by 19%, taking the MMR down from 115 in 2011-2013, to 93

Top three:

  • Kerala remains at the top with an MMR of 46 (down from 61).
  • Maharashtra retains its second position with 61,
  • Tamil Nadu with 66 (79) is in the third position.

Schemes related to MMR :

  • Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Yojana Abhiyan,¬†¬†is to provide antenatal care to a large number of pregnant women who suffer from several diseases during their pregnancy.
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) & Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK)
  • National Population Policy 2002 one of the targets is to Achieve 80% institutionalized deliveries, to reduce MMR
  • ‚ÄėLaQshya‚Äô will improve quality of care during delivery and immediate post-partum period thus providing Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) to all pregnant women attending public health facilities. This will reduce maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality.

The Atal Bhujal Yojana

  • The Government has proposed Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) aimed at sustainable ground water management with community participation.
  • In select over-exploited and ground water stressed areas in seven States (Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh).
  • ABHY is designed as a Central Sector Scheme with a total outlay of Rs. 6,000 Crore and is proposed to be implemented with World Bank assistance.
  • According to a sample assessment in 2011, groundwater in 19 of India‚Äôs 71 districts¬† about 26%¬† were critical or exploited, meaning that nearly as much or more water was being pulled out than their reservoirs‚Äô natural recharge ability.

No longer seeing eye to eye

  • In his¬†Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore PM spoke of India and the U.S.‚Äôs ‚Äúshared vision‚ÄĚ of an open and secure Indo-Pacific region.
  • It seemed clear that India¬† and USA no longer see eye-to-eye on this issue, and several others as well.

Differences:

  • PM referred to the Indo-Pacific, a term coined by the U.S. for the Indian and Pacific Oceans region, as a natural geographical region, not a strategic one, while¬†U.S. Defence Secretary called the Indo-Pacific a ‚Äúpriority theatre‚ÄĚ and a ‚Äúsubset of [America‚Äôs] broader security strategy‚ÄĚ for his military command, now renamed the Indo-Pacific Command.
  • India‚Äôs referred good relations with the U.S., Russia and China in equal measure, while USA¬†vowed to counter China‚Äôs moves in the Indo-Pacific.¬†Also U.S. National Defence Strategy released this January, which puts both China and Russia in its crosshairs as the world‚Äôs two ‚Äúrevisionist powers‚ÄĚ.
  • Reasons: The divergence in their positions, admittedly, are due more to a shift in New Delhi‚Äôs position over the past year than in the U.S.‚Äôs.
  • A year ago, the Indian government seemed clear in its intention to counter China‚Äôs growing clout in its neighbourhood, especially post-Doklam, challenge the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and back a Quadrilateral grouping of India, the U.S., Japan and Australia to maintain an open Indo-Pacific. Today, the Doklam issue has been buried, the BRI isn‚Äôt as much a concern as before, and the government‚Äôs non-confrontational attitude to the Maldives and Nepal indicates a softened policy on China in the neighbourhood.
  • India also aims a closer engagement with China and a relationship reset after the Wuhan meeting.
  • The Quad formation, has also been given short shrift. India rejected an Australian request to join maritime exercises along with the U.S. and Japan this June.Navy Chief Admiral said that there was no plan to ‚Äúmilitarise‚ÄĚ the Quad. Contrast this with India‚Äôs acceptance of military exercises with countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Russia-China led grouping it will join in Qingdao.
  • India also makes¬†its intentions clear to continue energy deals with Iran and Venezuela in defiance of American sanctions.
  • Trade protectionism is clearly the other big point of divergence between India and the U.S., which have in recent months taken each other to the World Trade Organisation on several issues.
  • The biggest challenges to a common India-U.S. vision are now emerging from the new U.S. law called Countering America‚Äôs Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and the U.S.‚Äôs withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal with the threat of more secondary sanctions. Both actions have a direct impact on India, given its high dependence on defence hardware from Russia and its considerable energy interests in Iran.
  • In particular, India‚Äôs plans to acquire the Russian S-400 missile system will become the litmus test of whether India and the U.S. can resolve their differences.
  • Building a relationship with the Trump administration in the past year has been tricky for both South Block (MEA) and the Indian Embassy in Washington, as more than 30 key administration officials have quit or have been sacked.

Defend the deal

  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, reached among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, besides Germany, the European Union and Iran, in 2015, curtailed Tehran‚Äôs nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
  • S. withdrew from the nuclear deal last month, and threatened to impose new sanctions on Iran, its survival is in question
  • Consequence: Iran sent a notification to the UN that it would launch a plan to increase its uranium enrichment capacity.
  • For now, the other signatories say they remain committed to the agreement,they are yet to come up with a framework to salvage the deal.
  • The latest Iranian announcement is perhaps aimed at pressuring European powers to come up with guarantees that the deal‚Äôs benefits will be in place even with U.S. sanctions.
  • According to the deal, Iran can enrich uranium, but under tight restrictions. Iran now says it would open a centre for the production of new centrifuges at its Natanz facility. This¬† could be seen as a provocative step by the remaining parties to the agreement.
  • Both Iran and Europe would do well to shift their focus to preserving the integrity of the agreement.If Europe remains politically committed to the agreement as it claims, there have to be proper measures to circumvent the impact of U.S. sanctions.
  • Iran has made it clear that the U.S. withdrawal should not affect its oil exports and access to the SWIFT international bank payments messaging system. The way forward is to continue a dialogue to find an economic and legislative package that would shield European companies and Iranian economic interests from U.S. sanctions.

Society  for  WorldwideInterbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)  a  messaging  network  that connects  banks  and  other  financial institutions across the world.

When uranium is mined, it consists of approximately 99.3% uranium-238 (U238), 0.7% uranium-235 (U235), and < 0.01% uranium-234 (U234). These are the different uranium isotopes. Isotopes of uranium contain 92 protons in the atom’s center or nucleus. (The number of protons in the nucleus is what makes the atoms “uranium.”) The U238 atoms contain 146 neutrons, the U235 atoms contain 143 neutrons, and the U234 atoms contain only 142 neutrons. The total number of protons plus neutrons gives the atomic mass of each isotope ‚ÄĒ that is 238, 235, or 234, respectively.

The nuclear fuel used in a nuclear reactor needs to have a higher concentration of the U235 isotope than that which exists in natural uranium ore.¬†¬†U235 when concentrated (or “enriched”) is fissionable in light-water reactors. the U235 isotope is enriched to 3 to 5% (from the natural state of 0.7%) and is then further processed to create nuclear fuel.

What is the Security Council?

The UN Charter established six main organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council. It gives primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the Security Council, which may meet whenever peace is threatened. Five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United State.

Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions; it is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General. The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms.

Additional Reading :

Global Peace Index

The Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), world’s leading think tank that develops metrics to analyse peace and quantify its economic value, released the 12th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), or measure of global peacefulness.

  • India has moved up four places to the 137th rank among 163 countries on the 2018 Global Peace Index, due to a reduction in the level of violent crime driven by increased law enforcement.
  • The best performer of South Asia, Bhutan, slipped from 13th to 19th position, while Bangladesh‚Äô peace index deteriorated sharply. Bangladesh moved from 84th to 93rd position.
  • Peace continues to record a ‚Äúgradual, sustained fall‚ÄĚ across the world, the report noted. ‚ÄúThe results of the 2018 GPI find that the global level of peace has deteriorated by 0.27% last year, marking the fourth successive year of deteriorations.
  • Syria remained the least peaceful country in the world, a position that it had held for the past five years.
  • Iceland continues to remain the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008.

Co-op banks can become small finance banks, says RBI

  • The Reserve Bank of India has decided to allow urban co-operative banks (UCB) to convert into small finance banks (SFB), a move aimed at bringing these entities into mainstream banking.
  • UCBs had been facing financial trouble till a few years ago, prompting the RBI to stop issuing fresh licences. But their performance has improved recently while their numbers have come down due to mergers and closures. UCBs currently face regulation by both the RBI and the respective State governments. By turning into SFBs, they will be regulated only by the RBI.

The law on SC/ST promotions

  • Responding to the government‚Äôs complaint that promotions were at a ‚Äústandstill‚ÄĚ because of verdicts by the High Courts of Delhi, Bombay, and Punjab & Haryana, the Supreme Court said the government was ‚Äúnot debarred‚ÄĚ from making promotions so long as they were ‚Äúin accordance with the law‚ÄĚ Which law ?
  • The law that currently applies is the one laid down by the five-judge Bench¬† in M Nagaraj & Others vs Union Of India & Others (October 19, 2006).
  • In that case¬†The court dealt with a challenge to constitutional amendments aimed at nullifying the impact of judgments including that in the famous Mandal case, on reservations in promotions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees.

Questions before Supreme Court and Articles 16(4A) and 16(4B):

  • The petition challenged the constitutional validity of:¬†77th, 81st, 82nd, and 85th Amendments
  • In Indra Sawhney and Others vs Union of India and Others (Mandal case), in which the Supreme Court observed that reservation under Article 16(4) ‚ÄĒ which allows the state to make provisions for ‚Äúreservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ did not apply to promotions.
  • This affected SC and ST employees, and in order to ensure that reservations in promotions continued, Clause 4A was introduced: ‚ÄúNothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion‚Ķ in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.‚ÄĚ
  • Clause 4B was inserted to ensure that while calculating the quota for a particular year ‚ÄĒ capped at 50% by Indra Sawhney ‚ÄĒ the unfilled or ‚Äėcarried forward‚Äô quota from the earlier year was not clubbed with the regular quota of that year.
  • In both Indra Sawhney and S Vinod Kumar And Anr vs Union Of India And Ors (October 1, 1996), ruled that relaxation of qualifying marks and standards of evaluation for reservation in promotion were not permissible under Article 16(4) in view of the command contained in Article 335 (‚ÄúClaims of SCs/STs shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments‚Ķ‚ÄĚ). To restore the relaxations, the 82nd Amendment added a proviso to Article 335/

The Nagaraj judgment

  • The petitioners argued that the four amendments were aimed at reversing the judgments in Indra Sawhney and other cases, that Parliament had arrogated to itself judicial powers, and had, therefore, violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The court upheld the constitutional validity of the 77th, 81st, 82nd, and 85th Amendments.
  • It, however, ruled that if the state ‚Äúwish(ed) to exercise their discretion and make (a) provision (for reservation in promotions for SCs/STs), the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance of Article 335‚ÄĚ. Also, ‚Äúeven if the State has compelling reasons‚Ķ (it) will have to see that its reservation provision does not‚Ķ breach the ceiling-limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely‚ÄĚ.

Newspaper notes for UPSC 05-06-18

To be an environmental world power

  • Ecological ruin is on a spreading across South Asia, with life and livelihood of nearly a quarter of the world‚Äôs population affected.
  • The distress is severe in the north India
  • South Asian societies are apart when they should be joining hands across borders to save our common ground.
  • Why we need to be proactive:¬†wildlife, disease vectors, aerosols and river flows do not respect national boundaries, the environmental trends must perforce be discussed at the regional inter-country level.
  • China has been resolutely tackling air pollution and promoting clean energy. But while Beijing‚Äôs centralised governance mandates environmentalism-by-decree.
  • Indian state is¬† neglecting its own realm, and¬† it’s not taking any lead on cross-border environmentalism.
  • Examples:¬†Bihar is helping destroy the Chure/Siwalik range of Nepal to feed the construction industry‚Äôs demand for boulders and conglomerate, which will¬† hurt Bihar itself through greater floods, desertification and aquifer depletion.
  • Air pollution is a huge problem in Lahore, New Delhi, Kathmandu and Dhaka alike, but there is no collaboration.
  • Wildlife corridors across States, provinces and countries are becoming constricted by the day,¬† again there is no collaboration.
  • Governments are¬†unprepared when the challenges have greatly multiplied and deepened.
  • Examples:¬† the subcontinent is running out of the water due to the demands of industrialisation and urbanisation, and continuation of the colonial-era irrigation model based on flooding the fields.
  • the Ganga in Uttarakhand and the Teesta of Sikkim have been converted into dry boulder tracts by ‚Äėcascades‚Äô of run-of-river hydroelectric schemes. Rivers of Nepal and India‚Äôs Northeast are facing similar threat. Tributaries of the Indus were dried decades ago through water diversion.
  • Everywhere, natural drainage is destroyed by highways and railway tracks elevated above the flood line, and bunds encircling towns and cities. Reduced flows and urban/industrial effluents have converted our great rivers into sewers.
  • Underground aquifers are exploited to exhaustion
  • High-dams:¬†we have not adequately studied the phenomenon of Himalayan cloudbursts.
  • Also while building dams they does not factor in the natural silt carried by rivers of the Himalaya.
  • leaving an important question : how do you de-silt a deep reservoir when it fills up with sand and mud?
  • Sea level:¬†climate change is introducing massive disturbances to South Asia, most notably from the rise of sea levels. The entire Indian Ocean coastline will be affected, but the hardest hit will be the densely populated deltas where the Indus, the Irrawaddy and the Ganga-Brahmaputra meet the sea.
  • The climate change discourse has not evolved enough to address the tens of millions of ‚Äėclimate refugees‚Äô who will en masse move inland, paying no heed to national boundaries in the search for survival.
  • The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is jeopardising the perennial nature of our rivers and climate scientists are now zeroing in on the ‚Äėatmospheric brown cloud‚Äô to explain the excessive melting of snows in the central Himalaya
  • Environmental activists all over tend to be¬†criticized¬† in the media and social media as anti-national, anti-development saboteurs. The task of preserving the forests and landscapes has mostly been relegated to the indigenous communities.¬†The urban middle class is not visible in environmentalism, other than in ‚Äėbeautification projects‚Äô.
  • Way forward:¬†Tomorrow‚Äôs activists must work to quantify the economic losses of environmental destruction and get local institutions to act on their ownership of natural resources. The activists must harness information technology so as to engage with the public and to override political frontiers, and they must creatively use the power of the market itself to counter non-sustainable interventions.
  • Refer atlas for geographical locations in *Bold¬†

What is Brown Cloud: 

This cloud is made up of ‚Äėblack carbon‚Äô containing soot and smog sent up by stubble burning, wood fires, smokestacks and fossil fuel exhaust, as well as dust kicked up by winter agriculture, vehicles and wind. It rises up over the plains and some of it settles on Himalayan snow and ice, which absorb heat and melt that much faster.

A cloudburst is an extreme amount of precipitation in a short period of time, sometimes accompanied by hail and thunder, that is capable of creating flood conditions.

Governance and the Governor

Refer Laxmikanth for this topic. 

Under the constitutional scheme, the Governor’s mandate is substantial:

From being tasked with overseeing government formation, to reporting on the breakdown of constitutional machinery in a State, to maintaining the chain of command between the Centre and the State, he can also reserve his assent to Bills passed by the State Legislature and promulgate ordinances if the need arises. Further, under Article 355, the Governor, being the Central authority in a State, acts as an overseer in this regard.

The issues with Governor post : 

  • There are numerous examples of the Governor‚Äôs position being abused, usually at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre. The root lies in the process of appointment itself.
  • The post has been reduced to becoming a retirement package for politicians for being politically faithful to the government of the day.
  • Consequently, a candidate wedded to a political ideology could find it difficult to adjust to the requirements of a constitutionally mandated neutral seat. This could result in bias, as appears to have happened in Karnataka.
  • A possible solution would be not to nominate career politicians and choose ‚Äúeminent persons‚ÄĚ from other walks of life. Both the Sarkaria and M.M. Punchhi Commissions recommended in similar lines, this could also lead to the creation of sycophants within the intelligentsia.
  • But there are instances of politicians who have risen above partisan politics, and performed their role with dignity and without fear or favour.
  • The Supreme Courtverdict of the¬† in B.P. Singhal v. Union of India , on interpreting Article 156 of the Constitution and the arbitrary removal of Governors before the expiration of their tenure. This judgment is crucial since a fixed tenure for Governors could go quite far in encouraging neutrality and fairness in the discharge of their duties, unmindful of the dispensation at the Centre.
  • The most crucial issue relates to the exercise of his discretion
  • The Governor has the task of inviting the leader of the largest party/alliance, post-election, to form the government; overseeing the dismissal of the government in case of a breakdown of the Constitution in the State; and, through his report, recommending the imposition of President‚Äôs rule.
  • The importance of the Governor‚Äôs position arises
  • As a crucial link within this federal structure in maintaining effective communication between the Centre and a State. As a figurehead who ensures the continuance of governance in the State, even in times of constitutional crises, his role is often that of a neutral arbiter in disputes settled informally within the various strata of government, and as the conscience keeper of the community.
  • In the current political climate examples being Goa, Manipur and Karnataka ‚ÄĒ it may seem natural to suggest that the post of the Governor has outlived its utility.
  • Way forward: there is a urgent need to ensure proper checks and balances to streamline the functioning of this office. However, misuse of a position of power should not serve as a justification for removing the office altogether, unless such a position has totally lost its relevance.

Farm friction

  • Since June 1, many farmers are on an unusual 10-day ‚Äėstrike‚Äô to draw the government‚Äôs attention to distress in the fields.
  • A federation of 130 farmer bodies has decided to stop supplies of vegetables and dairy produce to major cities and hold a dharna on 30 national highways, without blocking vehicular passage.
  • Prices of vegetables and fruits are rising up in urban centres given the supply shock created by this Gaon Bandh.
  • The farmers‚Äô demands :¬†
    • Eenhancement of the minimum support price regime for crops in line with the M.S. Swaminathan Commission‚Äôs recommendations,
    • higher prices for milk procurement
    • and loan waivers to offset low or negative returns on investment.
  • Issues: much of the structural reform agenda to free agricultural markets from the grip of government rules and intermediaries remains pending.
  • Even simple things like strengthening the food processing sector are not taking place.
  • 100% FDI was allowed in the food retail business in 2016, but little money has come in as retailers want permission to stock a few non-food items like soaps and shampoos for customers.

Swaminathan Report: National Commission on Farmers

Be agents of change, President tells Governors

  • President¬† said that the people of a State look at the offices of the Governor as the ‚Äúfount of ideals and values‚ÄĚ.
  • Inaugurating a two-day Governors‚Äô conference at the Rashtrapati Bhavan , he asked these constitutional functionaries to be agents of change.
  • PM in his speech said that¬†The institution of Governor has a pivotal role to play within the federal structure and constitutional framework of our country.
  • The Prime Minister also urged Governors of States with a substantial tribal population to ensure that they benefited from government programmes on education, sports and financial inclusion.
  • The President said a Governor is also a mentor and a guide to the State governments.
  • The President also urged Governors to serve as ‚Äúguardians to India‚Äôs youth‚ÄĚ in their role of Chancellors of universities.

Available, accessible, but not stable

This part give you background information and need for a food security act.

  • The right to food is a well established principle of international human rights law. It has evolved to include an obligation for state parties to respect, protect, and fulfil their citizens‚Äô right to food security.
  • Our current understanding of food security includes the four dimensions of access, availability, utilisation and stability.
  • As a state party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, India has the obligation to ensure the right to be free from hunger and the right to adequate food.
  • Approach to Food security :¬†
  • The¬† post-Independence¬†years were turbulent for India. Memories of the Bengal famine remained fresh and fears of a food shortage were rampant.
  • Framing of food security in quantitative terms sparked India‚Äôs determination to initiate the Green Revolution to boost food production. However,it’s devastating environmental impact has also rightly been critiqued.
  • Food Security today:¬†Two occurrences over the 1980s and 1990s set the stage for what we understand as food security in India today.
  • The first was when the Supreme Court expanded the ambit of rights, food being g a cluster of basic rights integral to human dignity. Second was a shift of the frame from the problem of availability to the problem of acces.
  • It was realized that¬†increasing food supplies was falling short of actually ameliorating hunger. Inspite of¬†government efforts such as the Public Distribution System, people were dying of starvation because they were unable to physically or financially (or both) reach this food.
  • In 1996, the World Food Summit stated that food security was achieved ‚Äúwhen all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.‚ÄĚ
  • This focus on access culminated in India in a 2001 case brought by the People‚Äôs Union for Civil Liberties, in which the Supreme Court evolved a right to food and read it into the right to life provisions of the Constitution. Following that, a host of court orders and directions ultimately resulted in the 2013 National Food Security Act (NFSA), which has been lauded for guaranteeing a quantitative ‚Äúright to food‚ÄĚ to all Indians.

Assessing the Food Security Act

  • The NFSA¬† does not guarantee a universal right to food, it limits the right to food to those identified on the basis of certain criteria. It¬† restrict the right to 75% of the Indian population.
  • It also specifies that a claim under the Act would not be available in times of ‚Äúwar, flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake‚ÄĚ (notably, it is within the Central government‚Äôs remit to declare whether such an occassion has arisen).
  • Given that a right to food becomes most valuable in exactly these circumstances, it is questionable whether the Act is effective in guaranteeing the right that it is meant to.
  • Another problematic aspect of the NFSA is its embrace of certain objectives that are to be ‚Äúprogressively realised‚ÄĚ. These provisions include agrarian reforms, public health and sanitation, and decentralised procurement.
  • ‚Äúprogressive realisation‚ÄĚ actually retards food security reform in the country. This is because some of the elements mentioned under this head are already incorporated in laws and policies at the State and national levels.
  • Food security to citizens might instead have the result of limiting the courts with respect to how far citizen entitlements can be extended.
    • Example: Recent Swaraj Abhiyan cases that address the impact of government failures in tackling consecutive drought years in India.
  • While the court took a strong stance in ordering the executive to implement the provisions of the NFSA, it was reluctant to go beyond the provisions of the NFSA in terms of what it could order the government to give citizens.
  • while the NFSA addresses issues of access, availability and, even tangentially, utilisation, it is largely silent on the issue of stability of food supplies.
  • Way forward: There is a need to frame a ‚Äúthird generation‚ÄĚ food security law and recognise and mainstream issues including increasing natural disasters and climate adaptation.

What has been the impact of the SC/ST Act?

  • The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015
  • A 2017 paper by Peter Mayer, ‚ÄúThe better angels of their natures?‚ÄĚ, published in Studies in Indian Politics , argues that ‚Äúcontrary to popular understanding, murder, rape and arson against Dalits have declined significantly since a peak in the early 1990s.‚ÄĚ
  • ¬†The highest rates of Dalit homicide are seen in the northern States (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan) and in Gujarat in the west.¬†Even here, the rates have been declining.
  • ¬†In the southern States, the homicide rates are very low (as is the case with Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal). These trends are true for other major crimes against Dalits too.
  • Reasons for decline ?
  • He does not find a statistically significant correlation between literacy and reducing crime rates.
  • Higher political mobilisation? A look at parliamentary ascendancy of Dalit Chief Ministers in States suggests that this does not entirely explain the decline either.
  • He finds a significant correlation between crime rates against Dalits and overall murder rates across States. The decline in overall rates of interpersonal violence has impacted crimes against Dalits as well.
  • The decrease in overall crime rates is due to a better economy which has fostered ‚Äúgentle commerce‚ÄĚ, and a more responsive state that acts upon the agency of the Dalits, which is seen in higher reporting of crimes against them.

Protect the great and small

  • The¬†Centre is gathering inputs from the States on proposed amendments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • The acts Schedule lists are not up to the mark to grasp the immensity of the country‚Äôs biodiversity, have been largely ignored in consultations.
  • the Wildlife Act has expanded the number of species given varying degrees of protection under its six Schedules: 184 animals in 1972 to over 909 entries of taxa of vertebrates, invertebrates and plants now.
  • The power of inclusion and exclusion, which lies with the Centre. The Schedule lists are critical as they determine anti-poaching regulations and even habitat protection, in part because diverting forest lands is difficult in areas where better-protected species are found.

Issues with the act: 

  • The lists continue to keep out scientific research that can match species to appropriate protection.
  • Inconsistencies abound: Crimson rose, a colourful butterfly that is widely found in south India, remains as protected as the tiger, while the poorly understood, near-threatened striped hyena is in Schedule III along with ‚Äúleast concern‚ÄĚ species of wild pig or barking deer.
  • A majority of the 659 species of Indian endangered fish do not find mention;
  • only an estimated quarter of the butterfly species have been represented;
  • and 128 species of bats, including fruit bats, are considered vermin despite their significant role as pollinators.

do we need a pan-India list?

  • What is endemic may not be rare, what is widespread elsewhere may be locally endangered, and what is endangered in one area may be a pest elsewhere.
  • In Andaman and Nicobar islands, where the British introduced deer and elephants over a century ago. The two protected species (Schedules III and I, respectively) have caused large-scale degradation of native vegetation and threaten other native animals and plants.

Way forward: 

  • Duly ranked in conservation value, local habitat loss, cultural significance, population decline, and constantly updated through local research, a multi-parameter list would be a far greater reflection of India‚Äôs biodiversity than a single Central legislation.

India seeks new security forum

  • India on Monday urged for support from Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil to create a new security forum to counter terrorism and radicalisation.
  • Speaking at the BRICS Foreign Ministers meeting, External Affairs Minister said that the forum could be realised through an understanding among the National Security Advisors (NSAs) of the member countries of the grouping.
  • The National Security Advisers of the BRICS member states have a dialogue mechanism to counter radicalisation, terrorism, money laundering and other international crimes.
  • The statement from the Indian Minister came weeks before the Indian leadership‚Äôs meeting with the Russian and the Chinese leaders at the Qingdao summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

NPAs increasing, IBA tells panel

  • The Indian Banks‚Äô Association (IBA) told the Standing Committee on Finance that¬†With non-performing assets (NPA) increasing and banks‚Äô capital positions not improving despite the additional capital infused by the government.
  • They said that one way forward could be an extension of the deadline by which Indian banks have to comply with the Basel III norms.
  • The ratio of gross NPAs to gross advances basically a metric of bad loans¬† had grown from 2.36% by March 2011 to 4.11% in March 2014, and grew further to 10.41% by December 2017.
  • IBA said this growth was also due to the Asset Quality Review conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, which revealed a lot of loans as NPAs, which were earlier classified as standard assets.
  • The RBI has been implementing the¬†Basel III norms in a phased manner from April 2013, and they have to be fully implemented by March 31, 2019.

War games to hone anti-submarine skills

  • The Navies of India, Japan and the U.S. will enhance their anti-submarine warfare skills in this year‚Äôs Malabar naval war games to be held off the coast of Guam from June 7 to 16.
  • For the first time in a Malabar exercise, all three Navies are deploying their maritime reconnaissance (MR) aircraft to sharpen those skills.
  • While the Indian Navy is deploying a P-8I long-range MR aircraft, the U.S. is deploying two P-8A aircraft and Japan is sending a Kawasaki P-1 MR aircraft.
  • In addition, Japan and the U.S. have anti-submarine warfare helicopters on board their helicopter carrier JS Ise and aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan , respectively.
  • The U.S. has one nuclear attack submarine, USS Pasadena , and Japan for the first time is deploying a Soryu class conventional submarine.

In S-400 deal, U.S. is the elephant in the room

  • India‚Äôs ambitions to procure the Russian-developed S-400 Triumf long-range air-defence system has landed New Delhi right in the middle of global strategic complexities.
  • The S-400 is a complex military system comprising several radars, command post, different types of missiles and launchers that can track several dozen incoming objects simultaneously from hundreds of kilometres away, launch counter-missiles within seconds and shoot them down with great efficiency.As the Defence Ministry prepares to present the procurement proposal for the S-400 systems before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS),¬† Dilemma is about pushing the deal through in the face of possible U.S. sanctions and warnings that it will adversely affect transfer of U.S. military technology.

Centre to start measuring ‚Äėgreen GDP‚Äô of State

  • Starting this year, the government will begin a five-year exercise to compute district-level data of the country‚Äôs environmental wealth.
  • The numbers will eventually be used to calculate every State‚Äôs ‚Äėgreen‚Äô Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • The metric will help with a range of policy decisions, such as compensation to be paid during land acquisition, calculation of funds required for climate mitigation, and so on.
  • The government has also launched a ‚Äėgreen skilling‚Äô programme under which youth, particularly school dropouts, would be trained in a range of ‚Äėgreen jobs‚Äô as operators of scientific instruments used to measure environmental quality, as field staff in nature parks, and as tourist guides.

The green gross domestic product (green GDP or GGDP) is an index of economic growth with the environmental consequences of that growth factored into a country’s conventional GDP. Green GDP monetizes the loss of biodiversity, and accounts for costs caused by climate change.