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Day: January 10, 2018

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January 2018
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ISRO Missions and Discoveries Space Technology

ISRO mulls launching 65 satellites for a slew of uses


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the ISAC

Mains level: Future goals set by the ISRO


Ambitious plan of the ISRO

  1. ISRO has set itself an ambitious to-do list of making and launching around 65 satellites
  2. They are planned to be realised over the period from 2017 to 2021

New goals by the ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC)

  1. According to the ISAC, the new goal puts ISAC’s annual asking rate at around 18 satellites a year: ISAC would now need to come out with three satellites every two months
  2. ISAC’s 45-year tally peaked in 2017 with a record 12 spacecraft, recently


Indian Space Research Organisation Satellite Centre(ISAC)

  1. The ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) is the leading centre of ISRO for design, development, fabrication and testing of all Indian made satellites. It was established in the year of 1972 as Indian Scientific Satellite Project (ISSP) in Peenya Industrial Estates of Bengaluru
  2. Situated in Vimanapura Post of Bangalore, Karnataka, the centre has produced more than 90 satellites including the INSAT series, the IRS series, as well as the GSAT communication satellites
  3. Organisations under the umbrella of ISAC include the Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems (LEOS) and the ISRO Satellite Integration and Testing Establishment (ISITE)
  4. Mylswamy Annadurai is the current director of ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC)

[op-ed snap] Protect workers, not jobs


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development and employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Employment generation is a hot topic of discussion these days, due to low employment generation from last few years.


What is the issue?

  1. Last year, an estimated 75,000 jobs were lost in the telecom sector due to financial stress in companies
  2. Another 50,000 jobs may have been lost in the information technology sector, as the industry faces new challenges due to Artificial Intelligence and H-1B visa woes
  3. According to the BSE-CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) survey, the estimated job losses due to the impact of demonetisation could be anywhere between three million and 12 million

India’s main concern on Employment front

  1. India’s challenge is to create 10-15 million jobs per year as new aspirants attain working age
  2. In addition to this number are the workers seeking to escape the trap of low productivity jobs in agriculture

What we need?

  1. Not only do we need sustained creation of new jobs, but also of good quality, that are ready to meet future needs and with higher productivity and wages
  2. All of this should preferably happen in the formal sector
  3. Else the spectre of jobless and restless youth could spell social instability and much wors
  4. Political analysts believe that joblessness among youth has been one of the factors behind the recent caste- and quota-based agitations

Labour intensive sectors

  1. The four most labour-intensive sectors are agriculture, including agro-processing, textiles, especially garment making, construction and tourism
  2. Labour is constitutionally on the state list, so reform will come largely from states’ initiatives

Efforts done by the Central Government

  1. Two years ago, the Central government announced a special package for the textile sector, with an employment subsidy
  2. The Centre agreed to pick up the provident fund (PF) contribution of the employer, to incentivize hiring of workers
  3. That initiative largely failed, because most of employment creation happens in the informal (non-PF category) sector in apparel making. This basic problem should have been anticipated

Examples of protecting the worker, not jobs
Indian Example

  1. The Centre’s own MGNREGA provides 100 days of employment to one member of every rural household, without the attendant liability of having to make those workers “permanent” employees of the government
  2. In that sense MGNREGA is actually a proxy for unemployment insurance
  3. Indeed, MGNREGA work can cover all kinds of jobs, including road construction, forestry, small irrigation projects or horticulture
  4. This is the principle of protecting the worker, not the jobs

Germany in the post-2008 crisis period

  1. Fearing massive job losses, the federal government offered private companies a salary subsidy to retain workers
  2. The German government figured it would be less costly to provide a wage subsidy and retain workers rather than having a large number of unemployed collecting the dole
  3. It worked
  4. This too is an example of protecting the worker, not jobs

Other major concerns

  1. There is a wide gap in pay and benefits between formal and informal sector employees in the same organization
  2. But more importantly, labour laws have ended up discouraging the hiring of new formal sector workers
  3. Casualization and contract workers have become the norm, leading to low productivity, low wages, insecure tenure and no benefits

What should be the big policy reform?

  1. The big policy reform needed in India for job creation is around reforming labour laws
  2. These laws are supposed to exist to protect workers
  3. But de facto they have ended up protecting jobs, not workers as a class
  4. It is time to reorient labour laws to abide by the principle of “protect the worker, not the jobs”
  5. Since the central government enjoys immense political capital, it is time to bite the labour reforms bullet
  6. As suggested by many others, this can be done by grandfathering all the existing formal sector employees, who will continue to be under the old laws, so as to reduce their opposition to reforms
  7. All new entrants would be under new labour laws, which will hopefully lead to large-scale job creation

[ATAD] A Tikdam A Day: On organic labelling

Tikdams = तिकड़म = Smart Hacks for IAS Prelims

Tikdams are smart hacks which help you arrive at the right answer with just the basic knowledge. With Dr. Vipin Garg (IAS) closely monitoring the quality of our Flagship Prelims 2018 TS, we thought it would be good to have our users get a first-hand idea of how you can develop this habit daily!

Here’s the question of the day: 

Which of the following statement/s about the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India) programme for certification of organic produce is/are correct?

1. It involves a peer-review approach of certification.
2. Farmers play a role in certifying whether the farms in their vicinity adhered to organic-cultivation practices.
3. It is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture through the National Centre of Organic Farming.

Select the answer using the codes given below:

a) 1 and 3 only
b) 1 only
c) 2 only
d) All of the above

Inspired by: Come July, label mandatory for food certified as ‘organic’


Statement 1 and 2 are just the same so if 1 is correct then 2 has to be correct too. Now, look at the title of the programme. It itself makes clear both statements 1 and 2. So they have to be correct. Now see from options, (d) is the only one that suits the given combination.

Moreover, statement 3 is also more or less implied from the scheme as such a scheme must be under none other than Ministry of Agriculture and the NCOF.

So, even with almost zero knowledge on the topic, you could have arrived at the exact answer.

Liked the way we solved it?

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Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc. Industries

[op-ed snap] Reducing financial misallocation in India


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Twin balance-sheet problem

Mains level: Financial misallocation and its effects


Concerns about India’s future growth trajectory

  1. The twin balance-sheet problem, of highly leveraged corporate entities and bad loan-ridden banks, has raised concerns about India’s future growth trajectory
  2. If firms are not able to grow, and banks not able to lend, that trajectory will slow down

Financial misallocation in India

  1. Financial misallocation is a bigger problem in the manufacturing sector than in services in India
  2. Growth requires more efficient firms to produce more output and use more factors of production, including greater access to bank loans
  3. But, less efficient firms manage to access more bank loans, leaving less room for growth of more efficient firms
  4. This is India’s financial misallocation problem

Reasons behind misallocation

  1. The underlying cause behind the financial misallocation is distortion in the land market
  2. Access to bank loans is disproportionately tied to access to land, as land and buildings provide strong collateral support for most bank loans
  3. Less efficient firms have been accessing more land and thus more bank loans
  4. This is not a problem for the service industry, which is less land-intensive

Industry distributions of financial misallocation

  1. Most bank loans in the manufacturing sector are taken up by large firms in the organized sector
  2. The small firms in the unorganized sector, which account for nearly 80% of jobs, and about half of the value of land and buildings held in the manufacturing sector, pull in a very small share of bank loans
  3. The value of financial loans reported in the informal sector is barely 2-6% of the value of total bank loans reported in the manufacturing sector

Geographic distributions of financial misallocation

  1. There is a huge spatial diversity in access to bank loans within India
  2. Access to bank finance is significantly higher in the leading states compared to the lagging regions
  3. This is true for manufacturing enterprises in both the organized and the unorganized sector
  4. States like Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan have access to financial loans for over 95% of the organized sector plants
  5. Lagging states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh perform poorly in access to bank loans
  6. The differences in misallocation within India are larger than the differences across countries

Financial misallocation and growth

  1. India is one of the most land-scarce countries in the world
  2. Land and financial misallocation trumps labour misallocation
  3. Financial misallocation has constrained the growth of the manufacturing sector
  4. Rapidly growing firms in asset-intensive sectors require external finance due to their capital growth needs
  5. This is reduced due to financial and land misallocation which explains why India’s manufacturing firms have trouble scaling up
  6. Poorly functioning land and financial markets also explain why India has so few start-ups

Way Forward

  1. India remains one of the fastest growing market economies
  2. Financial misallocation has constrained the growth of the manufacturing sector, a key driver of growth and job creation
  3. Policymakers need to pay more attention to addressing the underlying causes of financial misallocation
  4. This would involve removing land market distortions, better land-use regulations, and more efficient taxation of properties
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc. Agriculture

[op-ed snap] Agriculture needs a reforms package

Image Source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics of the MSP. procurement, etc.

Mains level: The issues related to the MSP are specially mentioned in the Mains Syllabus.


Why are farm incomes unattractive?

  1. Due to the absurdity of policies features among them
  2. The overriding objective of price stability, over time, has tilted farm policy in favour of the consumer, the numerically larger vote bank.
  3. Trade and price controls are highly restrictive, and mostly anti-farmer
  4. The farmer is forced to sell in the domestic market where prices tend to be lower than global agricultural prices
  5. Incompetence and politics have ensured that policies are failing to serve even consumers

Government’s control on prices in agri-market

  1. Agri-markets are not free
  2. Governments seek to influence prices, to smoothen them out. In the absence of state intervention, prices soar in bad weather years and plunge in good weather years, hurting consumers and farmers
  3. The tools in governments’ hands are import and export controls, buffer stocks management and minimum support prices (MSPs)

What should be the MSP policy of government?

  1. The MSP, the price at which the government offers to procure from farmers, is an economic policy tool which requires technical acumen
  2. A sensible policy would be to
    (1) buy from farmers when market prices are depressed and
    (2) sell stocks in the open market when prices are elevated
  3. In the first scenario, if the MSP is pegged higher than the market price, the procurement will raise the market price, boosting farm incomes
  4. In the latter, by offloading its stocks at a price lower than the market price, government can cushion consumers against excessive inflation
  5. The buyers of the subsidised sales (an efficient Public Distribution System) are directly benefitted, but as the sales also lead to lower prices in the open market, all consumers gain

Issues related to procurement(2016-2017)

  1. Procurement works effectively only if trade controls and stocks management are aligned with it
  2. How these tools tend to be deployed in a counterproductive manner was evident in the example of pulses in 2016-17
  3. Despite a bumper harvest, after a steep MSP hike and good rains, export controls and stocking limits for private traders were retained
  4. And a record volume of imports allowed to be shipped in
  5. The resulting glut sent the market price down, below the MSPs, rendering it pointless
  6. The looming losses set off farmer protests seeking even higher MSPs

Comparison with other countries

  1. Even after four years of systematically aggressive hikes, Indian MSPs of rice and wheat are less than support prices in China and other Asian countries

What should be done?

  1. The bulk of agriculture is not sufficiently productive to be able to gainfully engage young rural Indians and so policy attention must be on building industry
  2. The upcoming Budget presents an opportunity to revisit strategic choices


Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

Banking Sector Reforms Finance and Banking

Bank recapitalization: The mockery of MoUs and statements of intent


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Department of financial services, Statements of intent (SoI), Memorandum of understanding (MoU)

Mains level: Management of Public sector banks


Sets of tools used ensuring “efficiency” in management of PSBs

  1. For ensuring “efficiency” in management of PSBs, two sets of tools were used by the administrative department, the department of financial services (DFS)
  2. These were: the statements of intent (SoI) and memorandum of understanding (MoU)
  3. Both were supposed to play a critical role in monitoring capital infusion in PSBs

Statements of intent (SoI) system

  1. The mechanism of SoI on annual goals to monitor the performance of PSBs was introduced on the directions of the finance ministry in June 2005
  2. A set of performance parameters was defined and targets were set for PSBs against these parameters
  3. There were 44 SoI parameters which were to be monitored by DFS
  4. The SOIs were also used to incentivize top management of PSBs when the SoI targets were achieved
  5. The SoI parameters were used as an instrument for efficient management of PSBs and not for ensuring either capital conservation or capital efficiency
  6. The SoI became a routine annual management tool on paper with little or no relevance to the process of capital infusion

Memorandum of understanding (MoU) system

  1. In February-March 2012, DFS introduced the system of MoU with PSBs
  2. This was to ensure that PSBs lay down a firm plan for long-term business development and performance enhancement, and relate the same to their capital requirement
  3. The MoU, signed by the PSBs and DFS, consists of a set of agreed targets that the PSBs are expected to achieve, which would form the basis for future capital infusion by the government
  4. The aim of the MoU was to achieve optimum utilization of scarce capital funds, with PSBs focusing on improving their efficiency simultaneously with the infusion of capital

Lax implementation

  1. Both these tools were not used the way they were supposed to
  2. DFS as well as PSBs did a lax implementation and made them survive only on paper
Indian Missile Program Updates

Army satisfied with Akash missile

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Akash missile, Army Air Defence

Mains level: India’s missile development programmes


Fully satisfied with the performance of Akash

  1. The Army is fully satisfied with the performance of the indigenously developed Akash short-range surface-to-air missile (SR-SAM) system
  2. Army is looking for further performance enhancements in future

User trial completed

  1. Last month, the Army carried out the first user trial of the missile system
  2. The first user trial by AAD crew was fully successful
  3. Army Air Defence (AAD) celebrated its 25th year of raising on 9th January


Akash short-range surface-to-air missile (SR-SAM) system

  1. Akash is a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defence system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
  2. It is produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for Missile Systems and Bharat Electronics (BEL) for other radars, control centres in India
  3. Akash flies at supersonic speed, reaching around Mach 2.5
  4. The missile system can target aircraft up to 30 km away, at altitudes up to 18,000 m
  5. It has the capability to “neutralise aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles” as well as ballistic missiles
  6. It is in operational service with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force
  7. The Akash system is fully mobile and capable of protecting a moving convoy of vehicles
  8. Akash has an indigenous content of 96%
Human rights issues

No viable alternative to hanging, Centre tells court

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lethal injections, Deena versus Union of India case, Bachan Singh case, Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure

Mains level: Capital Punishment and issues related to it


SC seeks less painful means of execution

  1. The Centre told the Supreme Court that there is no viable method at present other than hanging to execute condemned prisoners
  2. Lethal injections are unworkable and often fail
  3. The government was responding to a query from the court on alternative modes of execution

SC view on hanging of convicts

  1. The court had previously said a condemned convict should die in peace and not in pain
  2. A human being is entitled to dignity even in death
  3. The court had asked the government to consider the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of causing death

Is death penalty unconstitutional?

  1. The court has already clarified that it is not questioning the constitutionality of death penalty
  2. It has been well-settled by the apex court, including in Deena versus Union of India and earlier in the Bachan Singh case reported in 1980
  3. Section 354 (5), which mandates death by hanging, of the Code of Criminal Procedure, has already been upheld

Lethal injections an alternative?

  1. Death by lethal injection is practised in the U.S., China, Thailand, Vietnam and few other countries
  2. The Law Commission of India had recommended lethal injection for death penalty
Issues and Judgments related to SC

SC modifies order, says playing of national anthem in cinema halls is not mandatory

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Anthem (History, significance and related provisions), Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act of 1971

Mains level: Debate over Nationalism and Patriotism


Playing National Anthem optional

  1. The Supreme Court modified it’s November 30, 2016, interim order and made it optional for cinema halls to play the 52-second national anthem before every show
  2. SC clarified that it is not mandatory to play the anthem before screenings in cinemas
  3. It left the choice of whether to play the anthem or not to the discretion of individual cinema hall owners

Rules, if the anthem is played

  1. If the anthem is played, patrons in the hall are bound to show respect by standing up
  2. The court clarified that the exception granted to disabled persons from standing up during the anthem “shall remain in force on all occasions”
  3. The court banked on a Home Ministry order of 2015, which directs that “whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention”

Standing up a sign of respect

  1. The court pointed out its judgment in the famed Bijoe Emmanuel versus State of Kerala case
  2. It dealt with three children belonging to the Jehovah Witnesses sect refusing to sing the anthem in the school assembly though they stood up in respect
  3. SC kept the point that standing up is indeed a sign of “proper respect” to the anthem

Report due in six months

  1. The modification will be in place till the Union government takes a final decision on the recommendations of a 12-member high-profile inter-ministerial committee regarding the occasions, circumstances and events for the solemn rendering of the anthem
  2. The ministerial panel will examine whether any amendments are necessary to the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act of 1971 to expand or specify the meaning of “respect” to the national anthem
  3. The 1971 Act states: “Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both


Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act of 1971

  1. The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 is an Act of the Parliament of India which prohibits desecration of or insults to the country’s national symbols, including
  • The National Flag,
  • The Constitution,
  • Indian map and
  • The National Anthem

2. Significant amendments were added in 2003 and 2005, which prohibited many previously common uses of the flag, such as draping it over a podium during a speech, using it as decoration, or incorporating it into clothing designs

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