June 2018
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STORY - Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[op-ed snap] For nutrition security: On undernourishment

 Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Poverty & development issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, National Food Security Act

Mains level: State of undernourishment in India & Government interventions for same


News

Report on food security

  1. The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report for 2017 has important pointers to achieve nutrition policy reform
  2. India remains lacking in the commitment to tackle undernourishment
  3. At the global level, the five agencies that together produced the assessment found that the gains achieved on food security and better nutrition since the turn of the century may be at risk

Deprivation on the rise

  1. The estimate of 815 million people enduring chronic food deprivation in 2016, compared to 775 million in 2014, is depressing in itself
  2. The deprivation is even greater among people who live in regions affected by conflict and the extreme effects of climate change
  3. The report says that child under-nutrition rates continue to drop, although one in four children is still affected by stunting

Reasons for food scarcity

  1. The impact of the economic downturn
  2. Many violent conflicts
  3. Fall in commodity export revenues
  4. Failure of agriculture owing to drought and floods

India’s efforts

  1. India’s efforts at improving access to food and good nutrition are led by the National Food Security Act
  2. There are special nutritional schemes for women and children operated through the States
  3. In spite of such interventions, 14.5% of the population suffers from undernourishment, going by the UN’s assessment for 2014-16. At the national level, 53% of women are anemic.

Way Forward

  1. The report on nutritional deficiency should serve as an opportunity to evaluate the role played by the PDS in bringing about dietary diversity for those relying on subsidized food
  2. The NITI Aayog found that families below the poverty line consumed more cereals and less milk compared to the affluent
  3. Complementing rice and wheat with more nutritious food items should be the goal
STORY - Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] The tools for counting

 Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Salient features of Indian Society

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC),  Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR)

Mains level: Lacunae in current data available for population and how the inclusion of caste in census data collection can help in better planning


Context

Census & SECC 2011

  1. As the 2011 Census approached, demands for inclusion of data on caste in Census reached a crescendo
  2. The government at that time was opposed to collecting caste data and blocked it by claiming that it was logistically impossible for the Census
  3. It said that caste information could be collected via the planned Below Poverty Line (BPL) Census, later renamed the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC)
  4. The hasty inclusion of the caste question in the SECC has resulted in largely unusable data

Caste data collection: Differing views

  1. The simple act of asking about caste creates a chasm within society
  2. Colonial Censuses, beginning with the first Census in 1871, included questions about caste and used these data to divide and conquer India by first privileging Brahmins as interpreters of Indian culture and then targeting them as the roots of caste-based oppression and inequality
  3. This passion for classification has also been termed as the source of anti-Brahmin movements
  4. The colonial Censuses via the process of recording caste generated a conception of community as a homogeneous and classifiable community and thereby influenced the processes of political representation

Change that has happened

  1. Indian society has undergone a tremendous transformation since 1931
  2. Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and upper castes are still being defined largely using data from 1931 Census
  3. Land ownership that bolstered the power of upper castes has lost its hold
  4. Land fragmentation and decades of agricultural stagnation have turned many upper caste landowners into marginal farmers barely eking out a subsistence

Effects of landlessness

  1. Landlessness, once the bane of Dalit existence, has left the landless better poised to take advantage of rising rural wages, particularly construction wages
  2. According to NSS data, the bottom fourth of forward castes are poorer than the top half of Dalits
  3. India Human Development Survey shows that 56% of Dalit children ages 8-11 cannot read but neither can 32% of forward caste and 47% of OBC children
  4. Economic growth of the past century, combined with strong affirmation action undertaken by successive governments of the independent nation, may have changed relative fortunes of various groups

Caste data collection

  1. Collection of caste data is not easy
  2. The SECC asked interviewers to write down the name of the caste exactly as articulated by the respondent
  3. By some reports, it has revealed as many as 46 lakh castes
  4. This is because sometimes the same caste is spelt in different ways, at other times some individuals report their jati and others upjati making it difficult to create mutually exclusive categories

Preparing for 2021

  1. We have nearly three years before the Census of 2021 and are fortunate to have data from the SECC and technologies rooted in machine learning at our disposal
  2. It would be possible to set up an expert group that uses the SECC data in conjunction with other data sources such as matrimonial advertisements and State-specific Scheduled Castes/OBC lists to make a comprehensive list of castes and condense them into meaningful categories via machine learning tools
  3. These categories could then be validated by domain experts from the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) institutions in various States to come up with a district-specific list of castes that would cover more than 90% of individuals in any given district
  4. Interviewers could use this precoded list to allow respondents to self-classify with a small residual group’s responses being recorded verbatim and categorized later
  5. This is very similar to the technique through which occupational and industrial classification systems are created

Way forward

  1. Collection of data on castes is inherently risky
  2. A caste Census could easily roil the waters in ways that are hard to predict
  3. Without better and more current data, our discourse on caste and affirmative action remains dominated by decisions made by the colonial administration
  4. If we really want to collect data on caste in India and not let the discourse about Indian society be shaped by the political exigencies of colonial India, the time to plan is now
STORY - Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

Power Ministry may make 24°C as default setting air conditioners

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various initiatives by the government to tackle increasing energy demand and to counter climate change


News

Promoting energy efficiency

  1. The government will consider making 24°C as a mandatory default setting for air conditioners (ACs)
  2. The temperatures settings in ACs will be in the range of 24°C to 26°C
  3. AC makers have also been advised to have labelling indicating the optimum temperature setting for the benefit of consumers both from financial and health points of view

Why such move?

  1. Every 1°C increase in the air conditioner temperature setting results in saving of 6% of electricity consumed
  2. Normal human body temperature is approximately 36-37°C, but large number of commercial establishments, hotels and offices maintain temperature around 18-21°C
  3. This is not only uncomfortable but is actually unhealthy
  4. Some countries like Japan have put in place regulation to keep the temperature at 28°C

Impact of the campaign

  1. Total connected load in India due to air conditioning will be 200 GW by 2030 and this may further increase as today only about 6% of households use ACs
  2. Considering this huge demand, India can save about 40 million units of electricity usage every day
  3. The new campaign will result in substantial energy savings and also reduce greenhouse gas emission
  4. Power Ministry estimates indicate that if all the consumers adopt the norm, this will result in savings of 20 billion units of electricity in one year alone
STORY - Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

India, Bangladesh Navies to join hands

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CORPAT

Mains level: India’s defense cooperation with Bangladesh


 News

Annual CORPAT with Bangladesh

  1. India and Bangladesh have agreed to institute a Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) as an annual feature between the two Navies.
  2. It is aimed to consolidate bilateral defense relations between India and Bangladesh and to explore new avenues for naval cooperation.

India-Bangladesh Naval Cooperation

  1. The commencement of CORPAT is a major step towards the enhanced operational interaction between both Navies.
  2. Naval cooperation between India and Bangladesh has been traditionally strong, encompassing a wide span which includes operational interactions through port calls, passage exercises along with capacity building, capability enhancement and training initiatives.

Widening cooperation through CORPAT

  1. Over the last few years, the Indian Navy has expanded its assistance to countries in the region through material support, training, EEZ surveillance, provisioning of platforms, hydrographic assistance, joint exercises and offering slots in professional training courses.
  2. The Navy regularly conducts CORPATs with Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. It also conducts EEZ surveillance of Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles on their request.
STORY - US policy wise : Visa, Free Trade and WTO

GSP: win-win for Indo-U.S. trade

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GSP

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Big impact for Exporters to US

  1. For over 40 years, GSP has fulfilled its purpose of promoting economic growth in a large number of developing countries by allowing increased exports of eligible products.
  2. This tremendous benefit to the global economy is a small aspect of the U.S. trade balance; for example, of the total $2.4 trillion U.S. imports in 2017, only amounting to less than 1% of total U.S. imports.
  3. Despite GSP’s low significance in the U.S. trade balance, its benefits ultimately help U.S. consumers and exporters by contributing to lower pricing of final products.
  4. It is important to note that Indian exports to the U.S. under the GSP programme are mostly intermediaries, and are not in direct competition with U.S. producers — ultimately, these goods benefit the U.S. economy.

Role of Indian Exports

  1. Most of the 3,500 Indian products imported by the U.S. under the GSP are raw materials or important intermediaries of value chains.
  2. In many cases, Indian exports are less-expensive, high-quality alternatives that reduce the costs of final products, thereby creating value that is subsequently exported the world over by U.S. companies or directly conveyed to the U.S. consumer.
  3. Most of these products are intermediate goods, many of which are not competitively produced in the U.S. given their lower role in manufacturing value chains.
  4. Indeed, this enables the U.S. economy to be more globally competitive.

GSP should be continued

  1. Despite continued economic growth over the last two decades or so, India is a lower middle-income country.
  2. GSP allows Indian exporters a certain competitive edge and furthers the development of the country’s export base.
  3. It also allows India to integrate with global value chains (GVC) and hence, with global markets.
  4. These advantages provide opportunities for small enterprises and help in the overall livelihood creation endeavor in India.
  5. In addition to the economic perspective, the U.S. should consider continuing India’s GSP eligibility as a gesture of goodwill that reaffirms its commitment to the mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries.
  6. The India-U.S. relationship has continued to grow stronger as India liberalizes along a positive and steady trajectory.

Way Forward: Balancing Trade with the US

  1. India has made systematic efforts to reduce trade imbalance with the U.S. and has enhanced purchases of shale gas and civilian aircraft.
  2. Adhering to the rules-based international trading system, India is in the process of examining its export subsidies.
  3. As per a CII survey, the U.S. remains a favored destination for Indian companies which have invested $18 billion in the U.S. and support as many as 1.13 lakh jobs.
  4. Today, our two countries engage in countless areas of mutual cooperation, and a supportive stance in recognition of our greater goals and shared values would promise significant progress in the future.
  5. The GSP remains a central aspect of the overall trade engagement and must remain available for Indian exporters keen to address the U.S. markets.

Back2Basics

Generalised System of Preferences

  1. The GSP is one of the oldest trade preference programmes in the world and was designed to provide zero duties or preferential access for developing countries to advanced markets.
  2. The U.S. GSP programme was established by the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 and promotes economic development by eliminating duties on thousands of products when imported from one of the 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.
  3. In April 2018, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it would review the GSP eligibility of India, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan.
  4. The proposed review for India was initiated in response to market access petitions filed by the U.S. dairy and medical device industries due to recent policy decisions in India, which were perceived as trade barriers.
STORY - History- Important places, persons in news

Century not out, Jamiat still bats for an India with a composite culture

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Khilafat Movement, Deoband Movement

Mains level: The newscard highlights the contribution of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind’s in maintaining the composite culture of India


News

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind marks 100 years since inception

  1. A century ago, a Muslim organization was set up to pursue two broad goals: freedom for India and the restoration of the Muslim Caliphate after Turkey’s defeat in the First World War.
  2. Cut to the present, when the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is observing its 100th anniversary, and the organisation has emerged as a voice for Muslim causes in independent India.

Messenger of Composite Nationalism

  1. It famously espoused a composite nationalism for India, opposed the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan and took part in the freedom struggle.
  2. The Jamiat’s most notable contributions included a critique of the two-nation theory in the 1930s and 1940s.
  3. In 1938, when the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims had already been conceived, came a landmark book by Deobandi Muslim scholar Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, who was a leading light of the Jamiat.
  4. It argued that the Indian nation could not be based on religion, and that India was a single nation with a composite culture.
  5. It stringently criticised the demand for Pakistan from Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League as “dangerous”.
  6. As late as 1945-46, when the Congress, too, had reconciled to Pakistan, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind never accepted the idea. This is the most notable aspect of its history.

Sustained a deep divide

  1. During the split among Indian Muslims in the 1936-1947 period, two views emerged:
  2. One, that freedom should not be linked to special rights for educated and propertied Muslims and that the community should join the anti-colonial struggle;
  3. And the other that independence and transfer of power would be dangerous unless the question of special rights of Muslims was settled.
  4. While the Muslim League veered around to the second position and drifted away from the Congress by the 1940s, the Jamiat stood with the freedom struggle.
  5. Post-independence, the Jamiat worked to inject confidence among Indian Muslims.
  6. They took up the cause of Urdu, the need to protect Muslim personal laws as “integral” to Muslim religio-cultural identity and worked to spread education among Muslims, running schools, colleges and madrasas.

But Not a Monolith

  1. The differences between the Muslim League and the Jamiat were more of a strategic character, as none of them truly transcended religion but accepted its deeper centrality to life.
  2. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind did stand with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s position on the question of instant triple talaq, contending that Islamic law is necessary for Muslims.
STORY - Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Celebrating the goddess who bleeds

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Arts and Culture | Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ambubachi Mela and some terminologies used in the newscard

Mains level: Popular culture symbolizing awareness about menstrual health


News

Four-day Ambubachi Mela begins in Guwahati

  1. Ambubachi Mela, a four-day fair to mark the annual menstruation of the goddess at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati has begun.
  2. Ambubachi Mela is also an occasion to promote awareness on menstrual hygiene.
  3. Priests at the temple said doors of the temple were shut for visitors at 4 p.m. to let the goddess go through her period.

About Kamakhya Temple

  1. Kamakhya, atop Nilachal Hills in Guwahati, is one of 51 shaktipeeths or seat of Shakti followers, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.
  2. The temple’s sanctum sanctorum (garbhgriha) houses the yoni — female genital — symbolized by a rock.

Menstruation – a celebration in Assam 

  1. The ritualistic fair celebrating the goddess’ period is one of the reasons why the taboo associated with menstruation is less in Assam compared with other parts of India.
  2. The attainment of womanhood of girls in Assam is celebrated with a ritual called ‘Tuloni Biya’, meaning small wedding.

Popular Culture

  1. The only ones that avoid the temple are the descendants of the medieval Koch royalty, who had reconstructed the Kamakhya temple in 1565.
  2. This is because the goddess is believed to have cursed the royalty after the king and his brother Chilarai — one of Assam’s revered generals — had secretly watched her dance.
  3. Researchers said there are legends about the goddess dancing when Kendukoli, a priest during Naranarayan’s reign, performed puja with his eyes shut.
STORY - Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Smart Cities Mission is too project-based and lacks integrated vision: Report

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization, their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Smart Cities Mission

Mains level: The newscard critically evaluates Smart Cities Mission on its very goal of area-based development thereby neglecting community development due to institutional bottlenecks.


News              

Lack of holistic approach

  1. The government’s flagship Smart Cities Mission has been too “project-focused” instead of evolving an integrated urban development paradigm
  2. New Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) highlights following aspects seeking more attention:
  • Gender
  1. It also lacks a strong gender equality or non-discrimination approach to city development
  2. The report also highlights the lack of any specific directions with the mission to make Indian cities more gender friendly or non-discriminatory.
  3. The ministry of housing and urban affairs had earlier proposed to set up several smart city sub-committees, including one on gender, but these are yet to take off.
  • Area
  1. The report also critiques the model for creating small area-based ‘smart enclaves’ resulting in an undue focus on a part of the cities.
  2. These area-based development zones cover less than 5% of the geographic domain of many of the proposed smart cities, says the report prepared by the HLRN.
  • Urban Amenities
  1. The lack of a city development model, for example, and adequate standards to guide project implementation, including for housing, water, sanitation, health, and environmental sustainability.
  2. This raises questions about whether the mission will really be able to deliver on its aims and ensure the fulfillment of rights and entitlements of all city residents, the report says.
  • No HR based approach
  1. The SCM guidelines do not include any human rights-based indicators to monitor implementation of the Mission or to ensure that projects will also benefit low-income and other disadvantaged groups.
  • Least Spending made so far
  1. In its March 2018 report, the standing committee had noted that of all urban schemes, spending on Smart Cities Mission had been the lowest.
  2. Only 8% of the total identified projects under the mission have been completed in three years.

Way Forward

  1. The Smart Cities Mission should reinvent itself as the Sustainable Cities Mission.
  2. A shift is required to bring about substantial and sustained improvement in the lives and livelihoods of not only the 8% of India’s population covered by the mission’s proposed ‘area-based development’
  3. It should define its goal as development for every inhabitant of this country.
STORY - Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] Countering India’s labour market imbalances

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NITI Aayog Action Agenda

Mains level: The newscard highlights dangers of low job growth and job displacement on the onset of new technologies like AI.


Context

Demographic Dividend – a benefit or bane?

  1. The issue of jobs has come into focus with forthcoming general elections.
  2. While economic growth has been impressive over the last couple of decades, job creation has been relatively slow.
  3. The increase in the share of young adults in the total population often called India’s “demographic dividend”, has turned out to be a problem rather than an asset.
  4. Whether or not job creation has slowed down in recent years has been debated vigorously, primarily owing to the poor quality of jobs data.

Jobs scenario in India

  1. Multiple data sources clearly show that job opportunities in India are, at present, limited, with the average annual addition to regular jobs during 2012-16 falling to 1.5 million from 2.5 million in 2004-12.
  2. Besides, job creation in India’s organized manufacturing sector experienced a sharp fall in 2012, later recovering only to a level considerably below any prior year during 2006-12.
  3. Furthermore, the share of regular workers with any form of social security has declined from 45% in 2011-12 to 38% in 2016.

Where the real problem lies- finds NITI Aayog

  1. NITI Aayog’s Action Agenda (AA), published over a year ago, attempted to find the issue.
  2. According to the AA, underemployment and poor job quality have been the real problems.
  3. No formula for the unemployment rate differs in India’s low labour force participation rate—the proportion of working-age people looking for jobs or working.
  4. It stands at its lowest in two decades, at 54%, compared to 62% in the late 1990s (it is currently around 70% in Brazil, China and Indonesia).

Find outs of NITI Aayog’s AA

  1. The AA has provided several good ideas for job creation, including labour law reforms at the state level, recognizing the difficult national political landscape as well as the wide cross-state variation in the nature of political constraints.
  2. Recent progress in this regard includes raising the minimum firm-level employment threshold for the application of the Industrial Disputes Act (that puts severe constraints on the hiring and firing of workers) from 100 to 300 workers.
  3. The AA has also identified labour-intensive sectors, such as apparel, electronics, food processing, gems and jewellery, financial services, and tourism, where employment needs to be encouraged.
  4. Furthermore, the report emphasizes the role of exports in job creation and recommends establishing coastal employment zones (CEZs), similar to China’s special economic zones (SEZs)

Health and Education- facing the real shortage

  1. There are some real imbalances across the economy, with some key sectors facing a shortage of skills and personnel. Such shortages are primarily in social services like health and education.
  2. The quality of these services, especially those available to low-income, remote and rural households, is shockingly low owing to the scarcity of quality doctors, nurses and teachers.

Automation and AI – filling the gap

  1. Another recently released NITI Aayog document, titled “National Strategy For Artificial Intelligence #AIforall”, proposes a strategy based exactly on such a principle of filling up the skill gap.
  2. For example, specialized software can be used to diagnose diseases (and prescribing appropriate medications) or grading students’ written work and providing feedback, thereby enabling large-scale online education.
  3. India’s information technology (IT) sector, until recently, had been able to create a number of high-skilled jobs due to a significant amount of offshore outsourcing by developed countries.
  4. In future, the support and maintenance services for AI, rather than IT, may be in demand, given that IT support itself is being robotized.

Way Forward: Countering Jobs- Skills Mismatch

  1. The new NITI document provides some specifics in this regard. However this document does not take seriously any job displacement threats from AI.
  2. For its future growth, India’s IT (and AI) sector needs to reinvent and position itself in a more innovative role, which will require considerable capacity building.
  3. Thus, there are serious imbalances, varying across sectors, between the availability of jobs and the supply of skills and workers.
  4. While good ideas to deal with them exist both within and outside the government, implementation is key. This is where the government often does not perform well.

Back2Basics

NITI Aayog Action Agenda

  1. The draft “Three Year Action Agenda” of the NITI Aayog been released in 2017  for 2017-18 to 2019-20.
  2. It focuses on seven key areas that include revenue and expenditure, economic transformation in major sectors, regional development, growth enablers, and reforms in governance, social sectors and sustainability.
  3. It is said to be a phasing out of Five Year Plan as a concept.
STORY - Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Let the elite pay

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Status of primary and higher education in India and ways to improve it


News

Statistics on higher education in India

  1. The government (state plus Centre) spends a third of its budget on education, and a further third of that on higher education
  2. We have a messed-up education system and have had one in place since Independence

Mistakes committed so far

  1. Our first mistake was to not expand primary and secondary education for the common people
  2. We proceeded to build temples of wisdom for the elite (higher education in general, IITs in particular)
  3. This expansion was at the expense of providing basic education to all

What this resulted in?

  1. The children of the poorest of the poor, the ones most discriminated against on the basis of caste or religion, did not receive basic quality education, so they could not proceed to higher education
  2. The ones that were able to go to school — and they did so in poorly-staffed government schools — did not receive a quality education, and therefore were not able to compete with the rich kids when it came to college

Situation in India

  1. India must be one of the very few countries in the world (along with its Subcontinental neighbors) where the average good quality high school education costs more than five times the average good quality college education
  2. In most civilized economies, the ratio is the opposite

Way Forward

  1. We need to change our education system which is for the rich, by the elite, with sops and band-aids for the not-so-fortunate
  2. Each student should pay for her college education the same she paid for her high school education
  3. The revenue gains for the government from this much-needed education reform are large
  4. This extra money should allow the government to redo the Indian education system from the primary level onwards
STORY - Aadhaar Card Issues

Aadhaar biometric data cannot be used for crime investigations, UIDAI clarifies

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Basics of cyber security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Aadhaar Act

Mains level: Various issues related to data security and privacy in connection with Aadhar


News

Only identification is permissible via Aadhar

  1. The biometric data collected by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) cannot be used for any other purpose except for generating Aadhaar and authenticating the identity of cardholders
  2. Invoking section 29 of the Act, the UIDAI issued a statement after reports emerged about the purported use of Aadhaar biometric data for the purpose of investigating a crime

Exceptions to this clause

  1. The section 33 of the Aadhaar Act allows a very limited exception and permits the use of or access to Aadhaar biometric data in cases involving national security after pre-authorisation by an oversight committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary
  2. This is also the consistent stand taken by the Union of India in the ongoing Aadhaar case in the Supreme Court

Section 29 of the Aadhaar (Targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016

  1. No core biometric information, collected or created under this Act, shall be—(a) shared with anyone for any reason whatsoever; or (b) used for any purpose other than generation of Aadhaar numbers and authentication under this Act.
  2. The identity information, other than core biometric information, collected or created under this Act may be shared only in accordance with the provisions of this Act and in such manner as may be specified by regulations
  3. No identity information available with a requesting entity shall be—(a) used for any purpose, other than that specified to the individual at the time of submitting any identity information for authentication; or (b) disclosed further, except with the prior consent of the individual to whom such information relates
  4. No Aadhaar number or core biometric information collected or created under this Act in respect of an Aadhaar number holder shall be published, displayed or posted publicly, except for the purposes as may be specified by regulations
STORY - International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Nasa unveils program to defend Earth from asteroid attack

Image result for international asteroid warning network

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: International Asteroid Warning Network, Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission

Mains level: Threat posed by Near-Earth objects and scientific measures to counter it


News

Countering NEOs

  1. The US and other nations have long sought to track “near-earth objects,” or NEOs, coordinating efforts through the International Asteroid Warning Network and the United Nations
  2. The Trump Administration now wants to enhance those efforts to detect and track potential planet killers and to develop more capable means to deflect any that appear to be on a collision course
  3. The government unveiled new goals this week for Nasa’s work on countering NEOs over the next decade

NEO threat

  1. Nasa has documented roughly 96% of the objects large enough to cause a global catastrophe since work began in 1998
  2. More than 300,000 objects larger than 40 meters (131 feet) wide orbit the sun as NEOs, according to Nasa estimates
  3. Many of these were difficult to detect more than a few days in advance
  4. Forty meters is about the average size an object must be to make it through the atmosphere without burning up

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission

  1. The goal of this mission is to impact the smaller “moonlet” of a binary asteroid called Didymos, to learn how well we may be able to alter the course of a future killer rock
  2. It is expected to be complete by 2021-2022

Back2Basics

International Asteroid Warning Network

  1. The International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) was established in 2014 to address the recommendations for an international response to the near-Earth Object impact threat
  2. It was endorsed by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of
    Outer Space and the General Assembly resolution 68/75
  3. It forms an international association of institutions involved in detecting, tracking, and characterizing NEOs (Near Earth Objects) to provide the best information available on the NEO hazard and any impact threat
  4. The IAWN is also tasked to use well-defined communication
    plans and protocols to assist Governments in the analysis of asteroid impact
    consequences and to support the planning of mitigation responses
  5. IAWN serves the global community as the authoritative source of accurate and up-to-date information on near-Earth objects and NEO impact risks. Information is freely available to all interested parties
STORY - Foreign Policy Watch: Cross-Border Terrorism

Mongolia launches construction of first oil refinery with India aid

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India-Mongolia cultural ties

Mains level: India-Mongolia Bilateral Relation and its importance.


 News

India funded oil refinery in Mongolia

  1. Mongolia launched construction of its first oil refinery
  2. It is a long-awaited project that is funded by India and designed to end the country’s dependence on Russian fuel.
  3. The oil refinery, in southern Dornogovi province, will be capable of processing 1.5 million tonnes of crude oil per year

Benefits for Mongolia

  1. Mongolia’s new refinery, planned for completion in late 2022, will meet all of the nation’s demand for gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
  2. Earlier it was solely dependent on Russia for petroleum, though it exported crude oil
  3. By establishing this strategically important oil refinery, the national economy will become independent from energy imports, and fuel and commodity prices will be stabilized
  4. The project is expected to boost Mongolia’s gross domestic product by 10 percent, it said.

Indian Credit: Slow but steady

  1. A Mongolian oil refinery has been discussed since 1997, but while several projects were approved, none have been completed.
  2. The refinery’s financing is part of a $1 billion credit line agreement between Mongolia and the Export-Import Bank of India, made during a 2015 visit by Prime Minister Modi.

 Back2Basics

India-Mongolia Bilateral relations

  1. Mongolia, a large landlocked country wedged between giants China and Russia, has a population of just 3 million. Almost half its people live as nomadic stock herders.
  2. Mongolia considers India a “third neighbor” as well as a “spiritual neighbor” (the late venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk who is revered in Mongolia, was the Indian ambassador to Ulaanbaatar for 10 years).
  3. India shares historical relations with Mongolia in terms of culture from over 2700 years.
  4. Nomadic Elephant was the Counter-Terrorism joint military exercise conducted by India and Mongolia in 2016
STORY - ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India to teach satellite tech to students from abroad

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life, Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNSSP, UNISPACE+50

Mains level: The newscard highlights the prestige of India at the global level for its unique satellite building methodology.


 News

ISRO to teach foreign students

  1. India has thrown open its satellite-building expertise to engineering graduates chosen from other countries.
  2. Starting this year, and for three years, a total of 90 qualifying engineers from various countries will be taught to build and test three small satellites each year.
  3. ISRO’s Bengaluru-based U.R. Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) — until recently known as ISAC — will train the overseas students in November and December this year through 2020.
  4. India is also ready to launch the small satellites built during the programme if they are good.

Indo-UN Small Satellites Programme

  1. Indian start-ups and participants at the meeting shared the details of the training proposal, called the Indo-UN Small Satellites Programme (UNSSP).
  2. The capacity-building programme was India’s contribution to the world in response to a request that the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs had made to space-faring nations last year.
  3. The countries are marking the 50th year of the first UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space — called UNISPACE+50.
  4. Three such conferences held earlier recognized the potential of space and laid the guidelines for human activities and international cooperation related to outer space.
STORY - Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Anti-profiteering under GST: A leap of faith for consumers and industry

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Anti Profiteering Provisions under GST

Mains level:  Businesses in various sectors have received notices under anti-profiteering for non-compliance. This is due to unclear guidelines on records. The newscard suggests measures to counter such incidences.


News

Inflationary Effect of the GST

  1. Historically, many countries who introduced GST or value-added tax found to it to have an inflationary effect in the initial years.
  2. This inflationary effect has largely been attributed to the benefit accruing due to GST was not being passed on through the transaction chain to the ultimate customer.

GST anti-profiteering provisions

  1. Anti-profiteering provisions have been enacted under the GST regime to curb undue profiteering by businesses and ensure that the benefits by way of a reduction in the price of the goods/services are passed on to the consumer.
  2. The provisions require businesses to pass on the benefit arising on account of
  • reduction in the rate of GST
  • increase in input tax credit, to the consumer.

National Anti-Profiteering Authority

  1. A National Anti-Profiteering Authority has been constituted for the efficient administration of these provisions
  2. Any consumer can approach the Authority with documentary evidence against any supplier who has not passed on the specified benefit.
  3. The Authority is entrusted with the power to determine whether the benefit of GST is passed on:
  • to identify persons who have not passed on the benefit;
  • to order reduction of prices;
  • to repay the customer an amount which is not passed on along with interest/imposition of penalty on the supplier;
  • cancellation of registration etc.

Ambiguities in Anti Profiteering provisions

Various challenges are being faced by the business community in complying with anti-profiteering rules:

  1. The anti-profiteering provisions do not prescribe the specific guidelines on records or documentation to be maintained to prove compliance with the rules.
  2. A definite method for computing the benefit on implementing GST has also not been prescribed.
  3. Absence of clear guidelines could lead to ambiguity and businesses will be constrained in proving the compliance with these provisions.
  4. Absence of specific time limit with respect to operation makes it unclear for the industry as to how long the specified benefits need to be passed on.
  5. Businesses are very dynamic and pricing is determined based on the market forces in most of the cases.
  6. Even though the regular price increase does not come under the purview of anti-profiteering, justifying the same could become a difficult task for the businesses.

Dilemma of Business community

  1. Under the anti-profiteering provisions, businesses are required to pass on the benefit of reduction in tax rate and increase in input tax credit on any supply of goods or services.
  2. This implies that benefit needs to be passed on at each supply level and not at the entity level.
  3. If an entity is engaged in supplying more than one product or service then for each such supply the benefits, if any, needs to be computed and passed on to the recipient.
  4. There could be cases where losses are incurred in certain products, even in such cases the benefit may have to be passed on if applying GST has resulted in a reduction in losses.
  5. In the recent past, businesses in various sectors have received notices under anti-profiteering provisions.

The Way Forward

  1. Businesses should consider evaluating the likely impact of the anti-profiteering clause and review its pricing policy for the product and/or services.
  2. Even where there is no benefit accruing to the company, the same has to be properly documented so that it can be explained to the authorities if the need arises.
  3. Anti-profiteering provisions are a positive step towards protecting consumer interests and rein in undue profiteering so that GST does not add to inflation in the economy.
  4. However, GST is a new and evolving law, hence, there’s still a sense of confusion and lack of clarity on many aspects.
  5. One step may be to adopt a soft approach vis-à-vis the businesses where there is no prima facie mala fide intent. This would go a long way in building the confidence and trust among the businesses.
STORY - AIIB & The Changing World Order

[pib] Third AIIB Annual Meeting 2018, Mumbai

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AIIB, Asian Infrastructure Forum

Mains level: Not Much


News

3rd Annual Meeting of AIIB

  1. The Department of Economic Affairs and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will jointly host the third Annual Meeting of the AIIB in Mumbai.
  2. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Mobilizing Finance for Infrastructure: Innovation and Collaboration” that will see leaders from varied organizations and levels of government to share ideas and experiences for creating a sustainable future through sound infrastructure investment.

Asian Infrastructure Forum

  1. This year will also see the launch of the inaugural Asian Infrastructure Forum, which will gather infrastructure practitioners in a practical and project-driven discourse
  2. It is focused on matching innovative finance to critical infrastructure needs.

India Infrastructure Expo 2018

  1. The Department of Economic Affairs, in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), is also organising an exhibition India Infrastructure Expo 2018.
  2. The objective of the exhibition is to offer companies from the public and private sector to showcase their latest solutions, technologies and offerings in the realm of infrastructure project development and delivery.

Back2Basics

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

  1. The AIIB is a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region.
  2. It was proposed as an initiative by the government of China in 2013 and came into existence in 2014.
  3. The capital of the bank is $100 billion, equivalent to 2⁄3 of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
  4. Recently AIIB extended USD 1.2 bn loan for infra projects in India.
  5. The fund will invest in six projects, including $500 million in the Mumbai Metro and $455 million in rural roads in Andhra Pradesh.
  6. This also includes $200 million to the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.
STORY - Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] Ministry of Women & Child Development receives the ‘Best Performing Social Sector Ministry’ SKOCH Award

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various initiatives by MoWCD at a glance

Mains level: Read the attached story 


News

Lauding the achievements of the Ministry of Women and Child Development in delivering the promises made and for its significant achievements and initiatives from the last 4 years, SKOCH has conferred the ‘Best performing Social Sector Ministry’.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao- a huge success

  1. Flagship schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao have achieved huge success within a very short period of time.
  2. Under this scheme, efforts were made at National, regional and local level which led to behaviour change which is reflecting in the improved sex ration at birth.

Other lauded Initiatives of MoWCD

  1. 6 months maternity leave,
  2. Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act,
  3. SHe-box,
  4. One stop centers,
  5. Universal Women helpline (181),
  6. 33 percent reservation in police etc.

Forensic Analysis for Sexual assault cases

  1. Stressing that forensic analysis plays a critical role in nabbing the culprits in sexual assault cases, the foundation of  Sakhi Suraksha Advanced DNA Forensic Laboratory was laid in Chandigarh.
  2. 5 more advanced forensic labs would come up in Guwahati, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune and Bhopal.
  3. Special forensic kits for rape cases will be provided to all police stations and hospitals.
  4. The funds for these kits will be provided from Nirbhaya Fund.
STORY - Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] The cost of the missing women in Indian politics

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution

Mains level: Representation of women in politics and ways to increase it


Context

Low representation of women in democracy

  1. B.R. Ambedkar once said that “political power is the key to all social progress”
  2. In India, women suffer substantially greater socio-economic disadvantages than Western democracies
  3. A concentration of political power tends to lead to extractive economic institutions
  4. Inclusive economic institutions and growth—both necessary for and dependent on social empowerment—require inclusive political institutions

Effects of political representation of disadvantaged groups

  1. Observing a member of their own group in charge of a public office changes attitudes and infuses confidence in the minority group
  2. This may be referred to as the reporting channel
  3. The second effect is an increase in the responsiveness of the official towards the pleas of disadvantaged groups
  4. This is termed as the recording effect
  5. The knock-on economic effects are apparent as well
  6. There is a strong connection between the implementation of political reservations and small-scale entrepreneurship among women

Status of women representation

  1. The proportion of women in the Lok Sabha has seen only a paltry increase since independence—from 4.5% in the first Lok Sabha to the current 12% in the 16th Lok Sabha
  2. The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution in 1993 made it mandatory to earmark 33% of all positions in Panchayati raj institutions for women

What limits women representation?

  1. Political parties in India tend not to follow provisions in their constitutions reserving seats for women in different committees
  2. The second barrier is the lack of education and leadership training
  3. Additionally, since women are not integrated in any local political process initially, and, unlike men, are not part of the relevant social and power networks, women leaders are prone to inefficiencies

Way forward

  1. Socio-economic disadvantages lead to reduced opportunities for women to participate in the political process, leading to a weakened representation
  2. There is a pressing need for education and leadership training to familiarize them with the local government functioning and instill in them a sense of agency
STORY - Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[op-ed snap] Tighter is better

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Current account deficit, Fiscal profligacy

Mains level: Risks associated with India’s CAD and factors affecting it


Context

Sudden reversal of capital flows

  1. Since April, emerging markets (EMs) have been rudely shocked by the sudden reversal of capital flows without any apparent change in economic fundamentals
  2. Financial buffers in EM are much stronger today than they were before the 2013 taper tantrum

Which economies are under pressure?

  1. The ones with large current account deficits and, in turn, high foreign borrowing
  2. Why? There has been a steady decline in policy space because of loose fiscal and, in some cases, monetary policy
  3. Without adequate policy space, the buffers have turned ineffective

Factors influencing Capital inflows

  1. The growth differential with developed markets (DM)
  2. The strength of the US dollar
  • Higher EM-DM growth differential increases inflow, a stronger US dollar lowers it
  • Why? Investing in EM is riskier, higher growth will compensate the risk
  • A stronger dollar raises the cost of funding and therefore investors scale back investment

What happened in April 2018?

  1. Incoming data from the Euro Area and Japan pointed to growth disappointment, but above par growth in the US
  2. The altered dynamics forced the market to reprice US interest rates and the dollar
  3. The consequent tightening of global financial conditions caught investors off guard
  4. Capital outflows from EM ensued and their currencies depreciated

Why are economies struggling even after having buffers?

  1. Along with buffers, Foreign exchange liabilities have also risen and there are limits to the use of reserves
  2. In several, if not all, vulnerable economies, the current account deficit is rising because of growing fiscal and quasi-fiscal deficits
  3. Fiscal profligacy is restraining the space for the economies to grow without increasing foreign borrowing

What needs to be done?

  1. If an EM economy is to maintain or widen the growth differential with DM, it needs to grow faster, requiring more funding
  2. If the government does not reduce its deficit to provide the additional funds, the private sector is forced to borrow more externally, that is, the current account deficit has to widen
  3. The way out is to tighten fiscal policy, even when it might not have been part of the problem so that the private sector has the domestic space to grow

Risks for India

  1. India’s overall fiscal deficit (Centre plus state) has remained virtually constant, around 7 percent of GDP since 2013-14
  2. This year also, both the Centre and state deficits are likely to be under pressure with GST collections running below the budgeted run rate
  3. A continued decline in private investment in last 4 years provided the excess domestic savings needed to keep the current account deficit (foreign borrowing) contained at around 1 percent
  4. With the higher budgeted fiscal deficit, even the hint of a recovery in private investment is raising fears of the current account deficit rising sharply

Way forward

  1. Loose fiscal and monetary policies pushed India to the brink of crisis in 2013
  2. If India doesn’t tighten fiscal and monetary policies early and sufficiently, then it too could be heading down the path of its peers
STORY - Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

National Health Profile exposes inability of agencies to stop foeticide

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Health Profile, National Family Health Survey

Mains level: Contnuing female foeticide in India and reasons behind it


News

Female foeticide continues

  1. The National Health Profile, 2018, exposes the gross inability of law enforcement agencies in India to crack down on female foeticide
  2. NHP 2018 highlights the under-reporting of foeticides (sex-selective and otherwise) in the country
  3. The National Family Health Survey 4 shows that the sex ratio of children born in the last five years before the survey (2010-11 to 2015-16) is just 919 girls per 1,000 births (the ideal ratio is 950)
  4. The abysmally low cases filed for foeticide expose the laxity of the law enforcement system

NHP 2018

  1. National Health Profile is the most comprehensive annual compilation of data on disease incidence, health infrastructure and health finance
  2. The National Health Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health