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Day: October 18, 2017

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Low Priority new Items/op-eds

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

Low Priority Items of the Day:

President Xi set to consolidate authority

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s status as a theoretician, in the same league as the country’s tallest leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, is likely to be debated during the 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) which begins its once-in-five-years session on Wednesday.

The article talks about the internal politics of China. Internal politics of any other country have almost no effect on Indian policies. Therefore, this article is not important for the exam.

 

Rohingya crisis worse than Syria’s, says UN

The Rohingya refugee crisis is worse than the exodus from Syria, William Lacy Swing, Director-General of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM), says.

Important part of the news is given above. One can mention this statement in mains, as it came from the UN. But no need to go through the complete article.

 

Protest wave in U.S. against Viet Nam war

Thousands of draft-aged youths burned their draft cards or tried to hand them back in country-wide demonstrations yesterday [October 16] against military call-up and the Viet Nam war. Dozens of people were arrested including folk singer Joan Baez. The demonstrations were organised by an anti-Viet Nam war body called “The Resistance” in a campaign labelled “stop the draft week”.

The Op-Ed talks about the internal politics of the USA. Internal politics of any country, is not important from the UPSC perspective. Only those news are important which can have any effect on Indian Foreign Policy.


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Air Pollution Climate Change

[op-ed snap] The right to breathe

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Not much

Mains level: Most probable consequences(related to pollution) are discussed in the article. Specially mentioned in the Mains syllabus.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the recent judgement of the SC on firecrackers and the effects of pollution on Delhi(in different areas)

Pollution figures same as last year

  1. Air quality readings in Delhi are extremely poor, once again
  2. In November 2016, Delhi witnessed a public health emergency with the air pollution hitting perilous levels and smog covering the city
  3. Given that the situation repeats itself year after year

Issues related to the recent SC judgement on firecrackers ban

  1. Yes, the apex court’s ban on firecrackers may hurt the interests of the traders in the short run
  2. But then, clean air is a basic human right

Particulate matter in firecrackers

  1. Diwali firecrackers produce extremely high levels of PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less) over a short period of time, especially in the breathing zone (within a three-feet radius of the lit firework)
  2. PM 2.5 enters the blood stream through the lungs and cannot be filtered out
  3. They act as silent killers causing cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases

Pollution effect on Delhi’s children

  1.  Delhi is silently suffering from a severe paediatric respiratory crisis with children suffering from irreversible lung damage
  2. Half of Delhi’s school children will never recover full lung capacity, surveys reveal
  3. Its deathly air has led to generations with choked lungs, weak hearts and a failing immune system

Serious impact on foreigners

  1. Delhi is among those with the poorest air quality, according to a WHO report
  2. To contend with the poor air quality, embassies and international businesses in Delhi considered reducing staff tenures, advised staff to reconsider bringing their children to Delhi and provided high-end air purifiers

Why is it important for India to solve the problem of pollution?

  1. As an aspiring global super power, India needs to showcase its capital by meeting international standards on pollution control, and adhering to the quality of living index etc
  2. While trying to project itself as the world’s manufacturing hub and seeking foreign investment, the country needs to attain global standards
  3. Delhi needs to be safe and inviting for the global community

History of solving pollution related issues in Delhi

  1. Delhi has managed to clean up its air before
  2. At the turn of the century, polluting industries were made to leave the city
  3. Coal-burning power plants were shut down
  4. A historic SC judgment in 1998, compelling all public transport vehicles to run on CNG, had reduced levels of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) significantly
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc Finance and Banking

Outstanding credit grows 14.6% in 1 year; non-food loans fall to 13.6%

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: This news talks about the growth in the outstanding credit and the reasons for it.


News

Context

  • Outstanding credit loans, bonds and commercial papers (CPs) grew 14.6 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) between September 30, 2016 and September 30, 2017.
  • But in the same period last year the growth had been lower at 13.8 per cent.

The growth in other areas-

  1. The growth in non-food credit in the fortnight to September 29, 2017, was slightly lower at 13.6 per cent y-o-y.
  2. The net corporate bonds outstanding as at the end of September, was also up by 18 per cent as per latest data released by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).
  3. Data from RBI showed that the net outstanding on commercial papers stood has also increased from last year.

 

Why is there growth in outstanding credit ?

  1. With banks increasingly participating in the bond markets, the share of bonds in total credit is rising.
  2. Higher-rated corporates have in recent days chosen to borrow from the markets rather than from banks as the former route has turned out to be cheaper.
  3. Bankers and sector analysts have in recent days made a case for measuring credit growth in terms of outstandings on loans as well as bonds as better-rated corporates are borrowing increasingly from the money markets.
  4. Between June 2016 and June 2017, around Rs 40,000 crore had moved from the bank’s loan book to the markets.
  5. A large portion of it about 70 per cent of it is in the CPs, or commercial papers. These commercial papers swing between the loan book and the markets, depending on the price, availability, etc.
Internal Security Trends and Incidents Security Issues

Centre plans 13 new Integrated Check Posts to encourage engagement with neighbours

Note4students

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

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: This article is important for mains, it talks about Integrated Check posts and why are they needed?


News

Context

  1. A Cabinet proposal to set up 13 new Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) is being mooted by the Union Home Ministry to encourage India’s engagement with its neighbours belonging to SAARC region, as also Thailand and Myanmar.
  2. Among the 13 ICPs, seven will be along the India-Bangladesh border, apart from the three already operational there.
  3. Only one will be on the India-Pakistan border while four will be on the India-Nepal border and one on the India-Myanmar border.
  4. The cost of setting up 13 ICPs will be Rs 3,000 crore.

 

ICP- Integarted Check Post

  1. An ICP not only provides various services under one roof but is also equipped with cargo process building, cargo inspection sheds, warehouse, cold storage, currency exchange counters, Internet hubs, clearing agents, banks, vehicle scanners, isolation bay and parking.
  2. The new ICPs are able to interdict such elements while facilitating legitimate trade and comm
  3. The setting up of new ICPs was first proposed by the UPA government, which set up a separate body, Land Port Authority of India (LPAI), in 2011 for their management.
  4. The borders need to be secured against interests hostile to the country.
  5. It is therefore necessary to undertake integrated development of infrastructure at the entry points on our land borders.
  6. The Ministry of External Affairs was the first to recommend the four ICPs on the India-Nepal border, and the cost of ICPs on the Nepalese side will be funded by the ministry.
  7. Following the constitution of LPAI, an Empowered Steering Committee headed by the Secretary, Border Management (MHA) and secretaries or senior representatives from the Ministries of Finance (Expenditure & Revenue), External Affairs, Commerce, Defence, Road Transport and Highways, Planning Commission and Railways were involved to expedite the projects.
  8. However, after nearly 10 years, only seven ICPs have been set up, of which five are operational. One is expected to start functioning this year and another by next year.
Gold Monetisation Scheme Finance and Banking

Centre taking steps to formalise gold trade

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Resource mobilization

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: This article is important as it highlights new development that is, commodity options trading in the gold on the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) and how it will benefit consumers.


News

Context

  1. The Centre is taking steps for greater formalization of the gold trade with an eye on the future.
  2. In accordance with these steps, the country unveiled its first commodity options trading in the gold on the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX).
  3. The gold option contract, with gold (1 kg) futures as underlying, expiring on November 28, 2017 and January 29, 2018 were made available for trading yesterday.
  4. As an introductory measure, no transaction fee is being charged on this product till December.
  5. This marks an important evolution in the trading of the yellow metal itself.
  6. Options trading hedge all risks for those dealing in gold.
  7. Given that Indians were big buyers of gold there are expectations that the new product would be extremely successful and with appropriate policy measures it will help formalize the gold trade.

 

How will consumers benefit from these steps?

  1. They are in consonance with the business environment for the future, the more it formalises, the better it is for consumers, jewellers and traders.
  2. The European-styled gold options are hedger-friendly and physically settled, which means on exercise at expiration, the options position develops into corresponding underlying MCX one kilogram gold futures position at the strike price of the exercised options.
  3. By hedging risk of rise in gold prices using ‘Gold Call Options Contract,’ a jeweller would not only be protected against price rise, but also would benefit from fall in gold prices.
  4. Similarly by hedging risk of fall in gold prices using a ‘Gold Put Options Contract’, a jeweller would not only be protected against price fall, but would benefit from rise in gold prices.
  5. Gold is the first product for options trading that SEBI had permitted after modern commodity derivatives trading started 14 years ago.
  6. The Finance Ministry had set up a committee for suggesting measures to transform India’s gold market.

 

SEBI and the integration of commodity markets

  1. There has been a very conscious effort by the government and SEBI to develop and integrate commodity markets in a phased manner.
  2. The introduction of options gives a strong impetus towards systematic development and transformation of commodity derivatives market in India, ushering in a new era in price risk management in response to stakeholder expectations.
  3. To further strengthen the market, a panel had been constituted in NITI Aayog to integrate spot and derivative market.
  4. The gold option is as an extremely low-cost product.

 

Options Trading in other commodities

  1. As per the SEBI rule, options trade is allowed in a commodity which has certain volumes in futures trade.
  2. Around 7-8 commodities like cotton, CPO, crude, silver, zinc and copper are there which also qualifies and after 3-6 months a decision will be taken to introduce options trading in them.
Internal Security Trends and Incidents Security Issues

[op-ed snap] The right balance

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Particulars of the SCO

Mains level: The article comprehensively explains the current issues related to India and the SCO. The UPSC is known to ask direct questions on such kind of topics. Very important for Mains Paper 2.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the relations between India and the SCO.

Speculations about the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  1. India’s relations with Pakistan and China have entered a difficult phase has also generated apprehensions in India about the forum creating new pressures on Jammu and Kashmir

Is the SCO’s objective and India’s expectations same?

  1. Countering extremism, terrorism and separatism is a major objective of the SCO
  2. Sceptics would say the apparent convergence between what the SCO does and India wants may be somewhat deceptive
  3. They would insist that the difficulties encountered by the recent Indian bid to isolate Pakistan in various international forums should caution India against expecting too much on this front at the SCO

What India should do?

  1. India must persist in the belief that change is inevitable and purposeful diplomacy can allow India to probe for new opportunities for regional security cooperation
  2. The recent kidnapping and killing of two Chinese nationals in Pakistan underlines the prospect that Beijing can’t forever remain untouched by the terror nurtured by Pakistan

Issues related to Belt and road initiative

  1. Differences between China’s President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not be masked
  2. If Xi argued that the SCO could become a major vehicle for its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, Modi articulated India’s reservations, especially the impact of the project on India’s sovereignty in Kashmir

Effective steps by the Indian PM

  1. The PM appears to have found the right balance between articulating India’s concerns and underlining India’s promise to strengthen inner Asian regionalism
  2. He outlined a realistic approach towards the SCO that combined a strong emphasis on countering terrorism and a readiness to explore win-win solutions for expanding connectivity
Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce Agriculture

[op-ed snap] Retrench India’s farm economy to sustain it

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct & indirect farm subsidies & minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Agriculture Market (eNAM), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana

Mains level: Long pending agricultural reforms in India


Context

  1. In 2007-08, Madhya Pradesh government announced a bonus of Rs 150 above the minimum support price (MSP) per quintal of wheat
  2. Predictably, a large segment of farmers in the state shifted to the crop
  3. The bonus was stopped in 2014
  4. Farmers who had shifted production were not pleased
  5. It fed into the resentment that would eventually erupt in widespread farmer agitations in the state this year

Artificial incentives for agriculture

  1. The Indian state has often played the same role in the agricultural sector
  2. Its policies have created artificial incentives that are unsustainable, an inefficient drain on public funds, or both

Another such scheme by MP government

  1. The Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana will replace government procurement with compensatory payments
  2. This will be when market prices are below the MSP
  3. It is being implemented as a pilot scheme for eight crops

Hope from the scheme

  1. The hope is that this will sidestep the implementation shortcomings of the procurement system
  2. These extend from the lack of government storage facilities and supply chain logistics
  3. Also, the fact that despite the government declaring MSPs for 25 crops, it largely procures only rice and wheat
  4. It will be less distortionary, freeing up space for the market to set rates

Reality check

  1. The knowledge that the government will make up the shortfall will incentivize traders to set rates well below the MSP
  2. The scheme has a two-month window, which means that the rush to sell in that period will also push prices down

Need for government intervention

  1. The agricultural sector is one of the handful where inelastic demand for the products, the deleterious public effects of supply shocks and inherent risks for suppliers mandate a government role

Agricultural reforms: What is needed?

Truly transformative agricultural reforms will require work on three levels

  1. The first level is mandi system
  • With the 2003 and 2017 versions of the model Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, governments have attempted to liberalize this system, providing for private markets and integrated state markets
  • This was a step towards a national market facilitated by the National Agriculture Market (eNAM)
  • The problem with this is that it still operates within the mandi system
  • Solution: Government needs to get out of the business altogether—and that is only possible with a switch from the public distribution system to direct benefit transfers

2. The second level of reforms should be aimed at inputs

  • The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana aims to extend irrigation cover to all forms and maximize water-use efficiency over a period of five years
  • In a water-stressed yet groundwater-dependent country like India, this is only possible with comprehensive rural electrification, allowing for techniques such as drip irrigation
  • The other major reform needed here is access to formal credit
  • The current dependence on informal credit leaves farmers beholden to middlemen and traders who are often the credit suppliers, thus undercutting the former’s bargaining power

3.  The third level of reforms should be reduction in number of people participating in Agriculture

  • As per the last Agriculture Census, the average farm holding in India is a minuscule 1.15 hectares
  • Their number has been on the rise since the 1970s and is expected to touch 91% by 2030
  • There is no feasible way to make such a fragmented agricultural economy workable
  • For a sustainably healthy agricultural economy, the number of people participating in it must be drastically reduced
  • Measures such as enabling large-scale contract farming and corporate farming will help here—but the only genuine solution is job creation in non-agricultural sectors

U.S.-backed forces wrest Raqqa from IS

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Geographical position of Raqqa

Mains level: Significant development against the ISIS


News

Full control of Raqqa

  1. U.S.-backed forces took full control of Raqqa from the Islamic State group
  2. It was done after defeating the last jihadist holdouts in the de facto Syrian capital of their now-shattered ‘caliphate’

Why is the Raqqa so important?

  1. Raqqa, the most important urban center for Daesh after Mosul, has long been considered the terrorist organization’s capital by the U.S.-led international coalition forces
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran Bilateral Relations

U.S. ploy against Iran: envoy

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chabahar port, Iran (geographical features, countries surrounding), India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral agreement

Mains level: India-Iran relationship over years


News

Iran envoy lashes out at the US

  1. Iranian Ambassador said that U.S. was trying to ensure that India reduced oil imports from his country
  2. It is working to deprive Tehran of the Indian energy market
  3. This is after the U.S. announcement of a tougher line on Iran, even imposition of possible new sanctions

Change in trade stats

  1. India has cut its oil imports from Iran by approximately 20% in 2017, though its global imports have risen by 5.4%
  2. The Petroleum Ministry says India has been trying to “diversify” its imports so as to get more competitive rates
  3. One major development is India’s decision to import its first shipment of crude oil from the U.S., giving rise to speculation that New Delhi’s new policy will come at the cost of imports from Iran

Effect on India-Iran relations

  1. He said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy shift would not affect the India-Iran relationship
  2. Development of the Chabahar port project will remain on track

Other projects

  1. The India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral agreement for Chabahar should be ratified by the Iranian parliament in the next few months
  2. India committed about $1.6 billion to build the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, which will facilitate trade to Afghanistan along with Chabahar port

IISc & IIT Bombay among world’s top 200 for engineering

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: The ranking comprehensively shows  performance of Indian Institutions, in comparison with other world known institutions.


News

The Times Higher Education subject-wise rankings

  1. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore and IIT Bombay are among the world’s top 200 institutions for engineering and computer science
  2. IISc occupied the 89th spot, IIT Bombay was pegged in the 126- 150 category, globally
  3. IITs in Delhi, Kanpur and Kharagpur were placed in the 201-250 band, in that order, and IIT Madras and IIT Roorkee in the 251 – 300 category

Particulars of the ranking

  1. The rankings, scored 500 institutions worldwide, as opposed to 100 last year
  2. These rankings are on performance parameters such as
    (1) industry income,
    (2) international outlook,
    (3) teaching and research
  3. It highlights the educational institutions that are leading in electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical and general engineering courses

Top rankers

  1. Overall, Stanford University is number one, followed by California institute of Technology, Oxford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cambridge University
  2. While India has a total of eleven institutions in the rankings, China has 35 institutions, which is more than any other country in Asia
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