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Day: October 17, 2017

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Low Priority new Items/op-eds

[17 Oct 2017 | Low Priority News Items of the Day]

Low Priority Items of the Day:

Need to implement progressive laws: CIC

Chief Information Commissioner of India Rajiv Mathur on Monday called for immediate implementation of the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, the Lokpal Act and the Lokayukta Act, which would strengthen governance systems further.

Individual comments of the officials are not very much important. Also, these are very general suggestions, nothing special about them.

 

530% jump in assets of seven parties

The average total assets of seven national parties increased by 530% between 2004-05 and 2015-16, from about Rs. 62 crore to Rs. 388 crore, according to a report by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Important part of the news is given above. No need to go into details, Just try to remember the above given data.

 

Lessons from the Aarushi case

The curtain has nearly come down on the 2008 murder of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj. In turning down the Sessions Court ruling of November 2013 that convicted her parents for life, the Allahabad High Court last week appeared to have gone by the fundamentals of the law of evidence, and gave the dentist couple the benefit of doubt. An essential lesson here for criminal justice agencies is that a sound knowledge of law backed by adherence to prescribed procedure would save them from such admonition by superior courts.

The Op-Ed talks about a very popular case. But popularity doesn’t matter for the UPSC exam. Just stick to the syllabus and eliminate unnecessary things(from the UPSC exam perspective). The UPSC don’t ask direct questions on such kind of issues.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan Bilateral Relations

NSA Ajit Doval visits Kabul, both sides welcome new US strategy

Note4students

 

Mains Paper 2: India and its neighborhood- relations

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level:  Points from this news item can be used as a value addition in any question involving India Afghanistan relations.

 


News

Context

  1. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visited Afghanistan, days after US President said that he has started to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan .
  2. Doval’s schedule was kept under wraps to avert any incident.
  3. According to the sources, US Defense Secretary James Mattis was the target of a failed rocket attack near a key Afghanistan airport in September, although the attack occurred after he had left the airport.

The Joint Statement

  1. Afghanistan and India in a joint statement said both sides welcomed the opportunities created by the new US strategy for bringing peace and security in Afghanistan.
  2. It has also prompted closer security and development cooperation between India and Afghanistan.
  3. The statement said that both sides emphasised that bilateral and sincere regional cooperation is important for peace, security and stability in the region.
  4. India is committed to not only continuing but also broadening its development efforts in Afghanistan.

While announcing the new policy for Afghanistan, USA had praised India for its development efforts in the war-torn country and acknowledged that Pakistan does not like Indian investment in Afghanistan.

$1-billion pledge: Abu Dhabi to pick up a stake in infra fund

Note4students

 

Mains Paper 3: Investment models

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: NIIF

Mains level:  This is important as it highlights about the first institutional investor of the NIIF fund and other investors and how this fund will give impetus to India’s infrastructure fund.

 


News

Context

  1. In a major boost to the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), the government has secured an investment commitment of up to $1 billion from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), which will become the first institutional investor in the NIIF Master Fund and a shareholder in the Fund’s investment management company that is, the National Investment and Infrastructure Limited.
  2. ADIA is expected to hold around 10-11 per cent stake in the NIIF Master Fund.
  3. This is a significant milestone in operationalisation of NIIF.
  4. This Agreement paves the way for creating significant economic impact through investment in commercially viable infrastructure development projects.
  5. ADIA is expected to bring in $200-250 million in the first fund and will invest the remaining portion in investment vehicles created by the NIIF.
  6. The government is not providing any guarantee on returns and the investments will be done purely on commercial basis.

 

Domestic Institutional Investor of NIIF

  1. Apart from ADIA, six domestic institutional investors will also join the NIIF Master Fund:
  2. HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Ltd, HDFC Asset Management Company Ltd, Housing Development Finance Corporation Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Kotak Mahindra Old Mutual Life Insurance Ltd and Axis Bank Ltd.

 

Investment by other countries under NIIF

  1. Recently India and the UK announced the launch of a Green Growth Equity Fund to leverage private sector investment in green infrastructure projects in India.
  2. They agreed to anchor investments up to £120 million each (total £ 240 million) in the joint fund, which will be established under the NIIF framework.
  3. The NIIF has also signed memoranda of understanding with the government of UAE, Russia’s RUSNANO and RDIF; the Qatar Investment Authority and the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development to explore investments in the Fund.

 


Back2basics

NIIF Fund

  1. NIIF was registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a Category II Alternate Investment Fund on December 28, 2015.
  2. The fund has been set up as a fund of funds structure with an aim to generate risk-adjusted returns for its investors alongside promoting infrastructure development.
  3. The Fund will invest across infrastructure projects in the economy including in power, green energy and road sectors.
  4. It has a targeted corpus of Rs 40,000 crore to be raised over the years, 49 per cent of which will be funded by the government at any given point of time.
  5. The remaining 51 per cent of the corpus is to be raised from domestic and global investors, including international pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, multilateral/bilateral investors.
  6. A Governing Council chaired by Finance Minister already been set up to act as an advisory council to the NIIF.
  7. In the last financial year, the NIIF received a total of Rs 15 crore from budgetary resources for meeting administrative expenses.
  8. For the current financial year, the government has allocated Rs 1,000 crore as per Budget Estimates to NIIF.
  9. The government expects NIIF to raise Rs 8,000 crore from various sources to fund projects worth Rs 16,000 crore in the current financial year.
  10. The NIIF is set to play an important role in facilitating the flow of foreign capital into India’s infrastructure sector.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar Bilateral Relations

SOP to help movement of locals, raise security at Myanmar border

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: India and neighborhood relations

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: This article gives insights about the latest move of the government to devise standard operating procedures to facilitate movement across Indo Myanmar border.

 


News

Context

  • The government has decided to devise standard operating procedures (SOP) to facilitate movement of Indian and Myanmarese citizens residing within 16 km of the India-Myanmar border.

The Free Movement Regime

  1. The Home Ministry held consultations with Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh the states bordering Myanmar to discuss the Free Movement Regime (FMR).
  2. The FMR permits tribes residing along the border to travel 16 km across the boundary without visa restrictions.
  3. It was found that states follow different protocols for FMR.
  4. The Home Ministry considered this to be a security threat and have come up with common SOPs for all four states.
  5. It is a measure to upgrade security at the border amid the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar following turmoil in Rakhine province of that country.
  6. According to government estimates, there are nearly 40,000 Rohingya Muslims spread across India.
  7. The Home Ministry is also having a parallel discussion with the Ministry of External Affairs and their counterparts in Myanmar to allow Indian nationals living near the border to visit Myanmar for up to 72 hours.
  8. While India allows Myanmarese nationals to stay 72 hours without visa, Myanmar allows stay of only 24 hours.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc. Security Issues

Nirmala Sitharaman commissions warship INS Kiltan in Indian Navy

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Security challenges and their management in border areas

From the UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the INS Kitan

Mains Level: Specially mentioned in the Mains Syllabus. Also, it is a first-of-its-kind which make its more important for the exam.


News

INS Kiltan commissioned

  1. The Defence minister has commissioned the indigenously-built anti-submarine warfare stealth corvette INS Kiltan
  2. This is the third of the four Kamorta-class corvettes being built under Project 28
  3. The ship hosts a predominantly indigenous cutting-edge weapons

Particulars of the INS Kitan

  1. It is India’s first major warship to have a superstructure of carbon fibre composite material resulting in improved stealth features, lower top weight and maintenance costs
  2. In the future, it would also be installed with short range SAM system and carry an integral ASW helicopter

Background

  1. The ship derives its name from one of the islands in Aminidivi group of the strategically located Lakshadweep and Minicoy group of islands
  2. The ship also boasts of the proud legacy of the erstwhile Petya Class ship of same name ‘Kiltan (P79)’ built in the USSR
  3. It had actively participated as Task Force Commander in ‘Operation Trident’ during the 1971 India-Pakistan war
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc. Basic Sciences

[op-ed snap] Time for auto industry to go all electric

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From the UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the EV technology

Mains Level: The article is important for both Mains paper 2 and paper 3.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about Electric Vehicles(EVs) and how government is planning to achieve its targets related to EVs.

India is going after clean and renewable energy sources

  1. The government has been working to effect a radical shift in India’s energy production and consumption patterns to reduce dependence on fossil fuels
  2. According to last year’s National Electricity Plan (NEP3) forecast, India will achieve(ahead of schedule), the target of renewable energy being 40% of total power production by 2030
  3. The target was declared at the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015

NITI Aayog’s report on mobility transformation 

  1. The government intends that all vehicles sold in India by 2030 should be electric
  2. A recently released NITI Aayog report on mobility transformation outlines a feasible and phased approach to achieve this goal
  3. It presents the government’s vision of a shared, electric and connected mobility paradigm where mobility is a service based on an electric vehicle (EV) fleet, enabled by the convergence of
    (1) low-cost technologies,
    (2) smart designs,
    (3) business model innovation and supportive policies

The government is leading by example

  1. The Central government is calling global tenders for the first 10,000 electric cars, of which a pilot phase of 500 cars has already been awarded to Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra & Mahindra
  2. Among the states, the Karnataka government has taken the lead in formulating India’s first comprehensive EV policy
  3. The policy will support a complete ecosystem from manufacturing to deployment of charging stations

Why EVs are not popular in India?

  1. Due to range anxiety, high capital cost and long charging time, despite the obvious benefits of very low running costs and zero emission

Government’s plan for Public Transport

  1. Coming to public transport, despite a sharp increase in private vehicle ownership over the last decade, India still relies heavily on public transport
  2. The government plans to make public transport more economical and environment-friendly by promoting electric buses
  3. However, the current generation of electric buses with traditional battery technology are prohibitively expensive at four to five times the cost of a diesel bus

How to counter challenges related to EVs?
One way is “Battery swapping” 

  1. To help bring down the capital cost of electric buses, experts are recommending two things among the various solutions being looked at
    (1) reducing the battery size and
    (2) adopting “swappable” battery technology,
  2. It will help in bringing down the upfront capital cost while reducing the operational cost and charging time
  3. The Indian auto industry is actively working in this direction as it helps state public transport agencies to induct electric bus fleets without incurring too much additional expenditure

Benefits of connected vehicles

  1. The government’s agenda also focuses on developing an ecosystem to support the EV industry
  2. It will enable various stakeholders to stay connected, enabling a high-functioning ,EV-driven public transport system
  3. For example, an electric bus heading for the last stop can signal EV taxis in the area about how many passengers it will be offloading
  4. This ensures optimum onward journey options for the disembarking passengers
  5. Or EVs can communicate with refuelling stations about battery requirements, so there is never a danger of getting stranded
  6. These connected vehicles are also a necessary step towards the inevitable progression to autonomous vehicles

The Way Forward

  1. The auto industry has been growing at a steady pace and India is now becoming an export hub for small and medium-sized cars
  2. This leaves the auto industry well-placed to go all out on electric
  3. This is an opportune time for the auto industry to embrace the government’s EV push and collaborate with technology and mobility solution providers to capitalize on this opportunity
  4. It will hugely benefit the nation, economically and environmentally

Inflation at wholesale level slows to 2.6% in September

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Growth

From the UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims Level: Not much

Mains Level: Article gives an overview of the current inflation rates.


News

Decrease in inflation

  1. According to official data released, Inflation at the wholesale level has slowed down to 2.6% in September
  2. It shows a slowdown in the increase in food prices
  3. Growth in the Wholesale Price Index slowed in September from 3.24% in August
  4. According to the President of the FICCI, overall, inflation remains within RBI’s target area(4% to 6%) and this is an encouraging sign

Primary articles

  1.  Inflation in the primary articles category slowed to 0.15% in September from 2.66% in August
  2. The decrease in vegetable prices was the chief driver of the decline in primary food inflation to 2.0% from 5.8%

ICRA on crude prices

  1. According to the ICRA, initial data has placed the index for crude petroleum at 55.6 for September 2017, only 1% higher than in June 2017,
  2. Despite the 17% increase in the average price of the Indian crude oil basket in rupee terms in the period
Direct Benefits Transfers Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] Universal Basic Income is not feasible for India

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Inclusive growth & issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Monetary Fund (IMF), Fiscal Monitor, GDP, Economic Survey, Universal Basic Income

Mains level: Debate surrounding Universal Basic Income


Context

IMF joins in the UBI debate

  1. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has added its bit to the ongoing debate on Universal Basic Income in India.
  2. The latest Fiscal Monitor of the IMF, in its analysis, used fiscal space equivalent to the cost of the public distribution system and energy subsidies in 2011-12
  3. It showed that this can finance an annual Universal Basic Income of Rs 2,600 per person
  4. It is equivalent to about 20% of that year’s median per capita consumption, with the estimated cost at about 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP)

UBI: New to India?

  1. The basic idea of Universal Basic Income is not new for India
  2. The erstwhile Planning Commission had worked on it in the early 1960s

Why UBI debate started?

  1. Economists in the Union finance ministry published an excellent chapter on Universal Basic Income in the 2016-17 Economic Survey
  2. A large proportion of the population in India still lives below the poverty line and a number of government programmes providing subsidies and support to the poor are marred by inefficiencies
  3. There are leakages in the system, and often, people who actually need government support are left out
  4. Universal Basic Income is seen by many as an alternative to the existing system of subsidies, which is often associated with systemic inefficiencies

Why can India not opt for Universal Basic Income?

  1. Fiscal capacity
  • The Economic Survey calculations showed that a 75% universality rate with an annual Universal Basic Income of Rs 7,620 per year at 2016-17 prices will cost about 5% of the GDP
  • Economists calculated that an inflation-indexed Universal Basic Income of Rs 10,000 at 2014-15 prices—about three-quarters of that year’s poverty line—will cost about 10% of the GDP
  • Thinking: It is often assumed that resources can be raised by rationalizing subsidies and capturing a part of the revenue foregone on account of various tax exemptions, including in the personal income tax
  • Reality: The revenue forgone in most cases is optical and the result of poor design. In any case, a part of it is now out of the system with the implementation of the goods and services tax
  • Further, politically, it will be extremely difficult to roll back subsidies in order to create fiscal space for Universal Basic Income

2. Can create distortions in the labour market

  • A steady, permanent and guaranteed income without any work is likely to affect labour mobility and participation
  • It is also likely to increase wages, as has been witnessed after the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
  • Problem: Higher wages without a commensurate increase in productivity will affect India’s competitiveness
  • This could also have longer-term implications in terms of higher inflation and lower growth

3. Nature of Indian politics

  • It is highly likely that political parties, in order to improve their chances in elections, would want to increase the amount of Universal Basic Income
  • Or try to bring back subsidies in some form or the other, which will have fiscal implications
  • India still has to prove that it can actually run balanced budgets for an extended period
  • The political class always has this temptation to declare premature victories and give away fiscal gains

What India actually needs?

  1. India needs rationalization of subsidies, better targeting and operational efficiency
  2. It needs to move to cash transfers at an accelerated pace with the use of Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile
  3. This will help reduce costs and spare resources for capital spending to augment growth
  4. As history has shown, the best way to pull people out of poverty is sustained higher growth

Back2Basics

Read Economic survey all chapters here- Click2get

New Sebi panel to review stock exchange norms

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

From the UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims Level: IPO

Mains Level: Complement it with other committees constituted by the SEBI, for the improvement of stock exchanges, etc. The article also shows the statutory powers of the SEBI.


News

Setting up of a committee by the SEBI

  1. SEBI has constituted a committee to review the norms for market infrastructure institutions such as stock exchanges, depositories and clearing corporations
  2. The committee will be headed by former Reserve Bank of India deputy governor R. Gandhi

Why this move?

  1. This move comes after SEBI proposed a review of regulations related to ownership and governance of market infrastructure institutions earlier this year

Comprehensive review

  1. After SEBI’s 11 February board meeting, it had announced a comprehensive review of
    (1) Stock Exchange and Clearing Corporation (SECC) regulations,
    (2) Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act and
    (3) Sebi Depositories and Participants (D&P) regulations
  2. And sought public comments
  3. The review is in line with the recommendation of the Bimal Jalan committee
  4. The committee tabled its report in 2012 and had asked the regulator to conduct a review every five years
  5. Sebi’s review is significant in the wake of Multi-Commodity Exchange Ltd and BSE Ltd getting listed and National Stock Exchange of India Ltd preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) in the next financial year

Back2basics

Initial public offering (IPO)

  1. An initial public offering, or IPO, is the very first sale of stock issued by a company to the public
  2. Prior to an IPO the company is considered private, with a relatively small number of shareholders made up primarily of early investors (such as the founders, their families and friends) and professional investors (such as venture capitalists or angel investors)
  3. The public, on the other hand, consists of everybody else – any individual or institutional investor who wasn’t involved in the early days of the company and who is interested in buying shares of the company
Gravitational Wave Observations Space Technology

Simply put: Now confirmed, mergers of neutron stars are factories of heavy chemical elements

Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), European Southern Observatory (ESO), constellation Hydra, Kilonova

Mains level: Important findings in space have been one of the favorite areas of UPSC


News

First direct visual identification of the source of a gravitational wave

  1. European Southern Observatory (ESO) has announced the first direct, visual identification of the source of a gravitational wave
  2. Detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) on August 17
  3. This is the first time that such an event has been seen, rather than detected, and the output of numerous telescopes, terrestrial and in orbit, compared to identify a single source
  4. Radiations were detected in optical/near-infrared wavelengths as the counterpart of a gravitational wave source

Nobel Prize for LIGO scientists

  1. On October 3, LIGO founders Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barish and Kip S Thorne were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for detecting gravitational waves in 2015, generated by the collision of two black holes

What led to this finding?

  1. In August this year LIGO, together with the Virgo observatory in Italy, detected waves from the cataclysmic merger of two neutron stars, designated GW170817
  2. Soon after, the Fermi space telescope detected a burst of gamma rays from the same region of space, which is a signature of massive stars in collision
  3. The ESO then organized the astrophysical equivalent of a manhunt, marshaling its own resources and those of allied organizations
  4. Its Vista, VST and La Silla telescopes in Chile, along with the US DECam telescope, located the source of light near the galaxy NEC 4993 in the constellation Hydra
  5. The signal was picked up in Hawaii and over the following weeks, about 70 observatories watched the event unfold when they were on the dark side of the earth
  6. The Hubble Space Telescope tracked it, too

What do the observations tell?

  1. The observations place the electromagnetic source at 130 light years away, which matches with the distance to GW170817
  2. It confirms that when neutron stars collide into a kilonova — a body 1,000 times brighter than the average Nova — it produces a gamma-ray burst and gravitational waves
  3. This enormous exercise has joined the dots between various forms of imaging events and objects in deep space
  4. Also, ESO’s experiment has established a much more important principle — that it is now possible to correlate the findings of instruments looking into the sky in different spectra

Back2Basics

Gravitational waves and kilonova

  1. A gravitational wave is a ripple distorting the fabric of spacetime — literally, the universe itself – created when heavy bodies accelerate rapidly
  2. A kilonova (macronova or r-process supernova) is a type of supernova that occurs when two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole merge in a binary system
  3. The kilonova was a phenomenon theoretically predicted 30 years ago and was expected to emit short bursts of gamma rays
  4. Gravitational waves were predicted by general relativity a century ago, and it was surmised that colliding neutron stars would emit them
  5. Both phenomena are now observationally confirmed, and a single event is identified as the source
  6. Such phenomena are believed to have generated and spewed out into the universe metals heavier than iron, including precious metals like gold, silver and platinum
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