Newspaper notes for UPSC 08-06-18

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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 “settlers” 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’s 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 — a new period in earth’s 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 “Half-Earth”. He calls for formally protecting 50% of the earth’s 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 “Half-Earth” should not compromise the rights of indigenous people.

safeguard biodiversity and the ecosystem

  • India’s 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’s 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’s 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 — these and many other natural services underpin our agricultural productivity and mitigate climate change.
  • In many of our academic institutions, the ‘Life Sciences’ are still restricted largely to the study of cells and molecules — 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’s 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’s time scale, we are officially in the Holocene (“entirely recent”) epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age.
  • Anthropocene”—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”—because 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” – a global marker in the environment that indicates the start of the new age.

Suggested reading:

Is the Indian economy on an upswing


  • 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’s 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’s 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’s macro balance including trade and current account deficits, inflation, exchange rate and fiscal deficit.
  • The Centre’s 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%.


  • 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 “full potential” scenario when women participate in the economy, equally to men, it could add $2.9 trillion to India’s 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’ 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’ access to its users’ 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’ data on the platform.

PSB recap plan inadequate for growth

  • The government’s 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’s.
  • The PSBs’ 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 ₹2.11 lakh crore in PSBs over two years, of which ₹1.35 lakh crore was to come through recapitalisation bonds. The government will infuse ₹65,000 crore in this financial year, following the ₹90,000 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 “Responsive and Responsible PSBs”.

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’s sovereign rating has been upgraded by Global rating agency Moody’s 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’s 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’s dealings with Iran, an observer state that has applied for full SCO membership. India has a powerful strategic interest in Iran’s Chabahar port. This will provide the opportunity to interact with the Iranian leader at the SCO.
  • While the West has been sceptical of India’s 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 “Shanghai Spirit” the SCO’s driving philosophy  emphasises harmony, working by consensus, respect for other cultures, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and non-alignment.
  • The SCO’s main objective of working cooperatively against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism sits well with New Delhi’s 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:

  • “India 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… we can do so only by becoming a great power, with the ability to shape the international system and environment to our purposes.”
  • Strategic autonomy”, Menon wrote, “is not just a slogan or a desire but a necessity if we are to transform India”.

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