Newspaper notes for UPSC 07-07-18

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

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

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

CJI alone is master of the roster

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

Govt. deploys 800 IAS officers for village outreach

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

Alternative cereals can save water

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

Academia irked by HECI move

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

CACP asks Cen­tre to in­tro­duce price de­fi­ciency pay­ment scheme

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

What is price deficiency payment

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

 

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

Pun­jab, Haryana, AP ac­count for 50% rice pur­chase

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

Editorials and Opinions :

Seoul’s focus

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

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

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

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

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

What are the problems in realising this potential, then?

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

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

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

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

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

All India Radio spotlight : India South Korea Bilateral relations 

The new trade order

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

A political ploy

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

The curriculum taboo

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