Newspaper notes for UPSC 05-07-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 05-07-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, , telegram: @naylak .

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

GS P2  10/10

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

How to rule Delhi

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

Delhi as State :

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

Marking the boundaries

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

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

Ground level Implications :

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

Towards a people’s police

GS P2 : Police reforms 7/10.

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

Is India winning the battle against extreme poverty

Gs P3 : Poverty definition, GS P2 Social Justice.

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

Fuel: getting the mix right

GS P3 biofuel 5/10

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

National Policy on Biofuels – 2018.

Salient Features:

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

Freedom from being ‘India-locked’

GS  p2 Ind- Nepal 6/10

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

Opening up to the world

GS P2 Education. 5/10

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

Flood of despair

P3 Urbanisation, Disaster M. 7/10

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

Insecurity in cyberspace

P3 S&T 5/10

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

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

Lateral entry can crush the steel frame of India

P2 6/10 very critical of Lateral entry .

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

MSP for paddy hiked by Rs. 200

P3 MSP 7/10

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

Criticism :

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

Horrified by fake news: WhatsApp

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

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

India braces for more U.S. pressure

P2 IR  6/10 India- US – Iran

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

Nipah transmission route unclear

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

Union Cabinet clears DNA profiling Bill

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

Services PMI returns to growth in June

  • The services sector returned to growth during June and registered the fastest rate of expansion in a year, supported by a robust increase in new business orders.
  • The seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index rose from 49.6 in May to 52.6, registering the fastest growth since June 2017.
  • In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.
  • Reflecting improved demand conditions, jobs growth in the services sector picked up from May’s five-month low.
  • While on the price front, input cost inflation remained solid overall, services providers were, however, unable to fully pass on the higher input costs to price-sensitive consumers.
  • The seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index, that maps both the manufacturing and the services industry, rose from 50.4 in May to 53.3 in June.
  • The Union Cabinet  approved accession to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty which extends coverage of copyright to the Internet and digital environment.
  • The Centre said the approval of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion proposal will “enable creative right-holders [to] enjoy the fruits of their labour, through international copyright system that can be used to secure a return on the investment made in producing and distributing creative works.”
  • It further added these treaties would enable Indian right holders to get reciprocal protection abroad.

Animals have equal rights as humans, says Uttarakhand high court

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

Step away from extinction, four endangered species on rescue list

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

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