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Type: op-ed snap


[op-ed snap] The one-child policy had limited impact on growth

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population and associated issues

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Not much

Mains Level: The topic is specially mentioned in the mains syllabus. The newscard discusses some issues related to population control.


News

Context

  1. After four decades of population control, the concerns of an ageing population have caught up with the Chinese
  2. There have been reports suggesting that it will likely phase out population controls in 2019
  3. The Chinese experience holds valuable lessons for other developing countries that are experiencing declining fertility due to economic growth

Background

  1. The one-child policy was implemented by Deng Xiaoping in 1979, at a time when China was home to a quarter of the world’s population, and two-thirds of it was under 30 years
  2. A large, young population together with economic liberalization became the foundation for three decades of economic growth in China
  3. In 2011, China surpassed Japan to become the second-largest economy at market exchange rates, and 2016 World Bank data shows it’s already ahead of the US in purchasing-power-parity dollars

The one child policy which contributed to this growth is coming back to bite China

  1. China’s fertility rate was around 2.7 at the end of the 1970s, and dropped to 1.57 in 2015
  2. That is far less than the rate of replacement—the fertility rate needed to hold the population size constant—which is 2.1
  3. That means even if the fertility rate increases by 0.7 percentage point (which is an optimistic number), China’s total population would peak in 2030, at approximately 1.46 billion
  4. The composition of the population is, however, changing unfavourabl
  5. The working-age population, which peaked in 2014, is at present below 2010 levels and is expected to shrink by 23% by 2050

The problem of population ageing is going to affect every developed country

  1. Europe is well and truly in population decline, and government debt is already at unsustainable levels due to unfunded liabilities, primarily due to social security
  2. The US, with a fertility rate of 1.76, has been an outlier in the developed world because it has historically been open to immigrants, whose fertility rate is also higher
  3. Australia has not had a recession in the last three decades, despite stagnant per-capita output, because of its rapidly increasing population, which has grown 50% in that period
  4. This success, however, is difficult to emulate for homogenous, and inert, societies like China
  5. Japan, another ageing and inert nation, has struggled to build political support for immigration

Advantage for India

  1. The immensity of the ageing problem should make it obvious that India has a massive demographic advantage
  2. It has a growing share of working-age population, at the same time as China’s is declining; and the country’s median age is only 27, against China’s 38
    But this is also a challenge
  3. But while China managed its demographic dividend by transitioning to stable jobs in manufacturing, the share of manufacturing jobs in India has remained stagnant in the last three decades, at 10%
  4. Moreover, the share of labour-intensive jobs within manufacturing, such as textiles and leather, has actually shrunk
  5. As the economy struggles to create formal sector jobs, India is creating an army of peons, guards and delivery boys

Lesson for India

  1. What the Chinese economic success has shown is that a burgeoning population can be the source of economic prosperity, if accompanied by economic liberalization
  2. India, on the other hand, will squander its demographic advantage if it doesn’t act on key policy challenges in its labour, land acquisition and trade policy
President’s Rule Indian Polity

[op-ed snap] Do we need the office of the Governor?

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Polity| Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features.

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: The GoI Act 1935, Appointment of the Governor

Mains Level: Evolution of the Post of Governor, Issues related to his discretionary powers.


Context

Role of governor

  1. Inviting the immediate majority party to form the government is perhaps a legitimate exercise of Governors constitutional discretion.
  2. However, the recent Karnataka elections have raised questions about the Governor’s discretionary powers following several open criticisms about the office bearer
  3. If we want to put an end to the continuous misuse of the Raj Bhavan for partisan political ends in a manner that threatens both federalism and democracy, we have to rethink the role of the Governor in the constitutional scheme

Where does the flaw lie?

  1. Some have suggested that the post of the Governor be reserved for non-political appointees, and still, others have urged the Supreme Court to lay down the law on how the Governor ought to act when an election yields a fractured verdict
  2. All of these, however, are patchwork solutions that miss the point
  3. For that, it is important to understand the origins of the office in the colonial British regime

Provisions in Govt. of India Act, 1935

  1. Through the course of the early 20th century, the Indian nationalist movement managed to extract gradual and incremental reforms towards responsible government from the British rulers
  2. These reforms culminated in the Government of India Act, 1935 which established provincial legislative assemblies elected from a limited franchise
  3. In order to ensure that overriding power remained with the British, the Act retained the post of Governor (a holdover from the old, “diarchy” system), and vested him with “special responsibilities” that, in essence, allowed for intervention at will

The Critique of the Post

  1. In a searing critique, K.T. Shah (who was later one of the most articulate members of the Constituent Assembly), wrote that the Governor would inevitably be biased in his functioning and his actions would remain at odds with those of popularly elected Ministers
  2. During CA debates, it was pointed out that the Articles dealing with the powers of the Governor were almost verbatim reproductions of the 1935 Act.

Defenders of the office raised two broad arguments:

  1. First, that there was a dearth of competent legislators in the States
  2. Second that a certain amount of centralization of power was necessary in a nascent state such as India

The way forward: Specify the rules

  1. The idea of the Governor standing as a bulwark against secessionism, or providing legislative expertise to States otherwise starved of it, are no longer valid justifications
  2. On the other hand, the Governor’s interference with the democratic process is both real and continuing
  3. As history shows, the solution is not to tinker around the edges or hope that the courts will come to our rescue
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc. Industries

[op-ed snap] International trade tensions: a worry for Asia

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Trade Related Aspects of Investment Measures (TRIMs), etc.

Mains level: There is a (so called) trade war going on between the US and China. The newscard discusses its possible implications on the Indian Economy.


News

Context

  1. The uncertainty in the global trade environment does not bode well for Asian economies that are heavily dependent on international trade and investment as a means of sustained growth

The growth decade between 2002 and 2017

  1. Between 2002 and 2017, economic growth in Asia averaged about 6% annually which expanded about 4% on an average
  2. Consequently, Asia’s share of GDP rose from 25% in 2002 to about 35% in 2017
  3. Asia’s share of global exports spiked from about 29% in 2002 to 38% in 2017,
  4. while its share of global imports increased from about 22% to 31% during the period

The tit-for-tat tariff threats by the US and China

  1. The Donald Trump administration announced the imposition of tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese imports
  2. This was in addition to the more general tariffs imposed on washing machines, solar panels, steel and aluminium imports on China and its other trading partners
  3. China, in turn, has threatened retaliatory tariffs worth $3 billion of goods from the US with 90% in food-related products and the rest in steel tubes and aluminium products

Both parties have a role to play in the US-China and overall global trade tensions

China is not following the WTO rules for its aspirations

  1. China is working on the “Made in China 2025” (inspired by Germany’s “Industry 4.0 plan”) which aims to develop world-class dominance in 10 domestic tech-manufacturing industries
  2. In so doing, critics have argued that China has failed at times to respect the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Trade Related Aspects of Investment Measures (TRIMs)
  3. Counter view: Others have argued that the WTO itself is ill-equipped to deal with the unique challenges posed by a rising China with its unique economic structure

The US has undertaken aggressive unilateralism

  1. The US  administration has undertaken aggressive unilateralism due to its “diminished giant syndrome”
  2. The trade threats make it look as if “America believes in the law of the jungle rather than the rule of law”

Possible implications for Asia

  1. For now, the global trade environment will be much less buoyant and much more uncertain than it was in the past
  2. This does not bode well for Asian economies, particularly those, which are heavily dependent on international trade and investment as a means of sustained growth
  3. For the rest of Asia, it is critical that they reaffirm the importance of an open, transparent and rules-based multilateral trading system,
  4. while pushing forward with greater intra-regional trade initiatives that are of mutual benefit
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc. Infrastructure

[op-ed snap] The Invisible Majority: Women form 80 per cent of urban migrants

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached stories

Mains level: The newscard discusses some women specific issues related to the Urban Migration. As women form 80 per cent of urban migrants, we need a public policy to address their issues.


News

UN report on urban migration in India

  1. The report says India is on the “brink of an urban revolution”, as its population in towns and cities are expected to reach 600 million by 2031
  2. Fuelled by migration, megacities of India (Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata) will be among the largest urban concentrations in the world

Women as urban migrants

  1. The 2011 Census reveals that women form almost 80 per cent of internal migration
  2. An Indiaspend analysis of Census shows that women migrating for work grew by 101 per cent — more than double the growth rate for men (48.7 per cent)
  3. However, both the Census and National Sample Survey Office have failed to capture this trend
  4. These continue to cite marriage as the primary reason for women migration
    The main issue
  5. Consequently, such surveys treat women as secondary earners and ignore her other motivations for migration and her labour participation post migration

The problems faced by women migrants

  1. They remain mostly discriminated in the workforce and invariably suffer economic exclusion
  2. Denied maternity benefits or special care and more vulnerable to sexual harassment, these women migrants are more likely to be paid less than male migrants and non-migrant women
  3. In addition to low pay and inhuman working conditions

Low-skilled women migrants often get work that is saddled with health hazards

  1. According to a study by Cividep, garment workers in Bengaluru, comprising 90 per cent women migrants
  2. They often suffer from respiratory illness, tuberculosis, ergonomic problems like back pain, mental health problems such as depression
  3. and reproductive health issues such as white discharge, irregular periods and excessive bleeding

What should be done?

  1. The first step should be better data collection
  2. Capturing the complex dynamics of gender-specific migration would improve the visibility of women as economic actors and help the state respond better to their needs
  3. Aadhaar card to women migrants can ensure her access to basic needs, opening of Jan Dhan accounts and availing benefits of the National Health Protection Mission

We can learn from other countries

  1. India can learn from countries such as Austria, Belgium, Norway, Romania, UK, etc which provide vocational training to improve employability of women migrants and access to support services
  2. The “We the Women” programme of Vietnam that helped create job opportunities for women migrants is also worth studying
    Indian Example
  3. States should emulate Kerala which provide insurance and free medical treatment for its 30 million migrant workers

The way forward

  1. Women migrants have a right to equal access to employment, adequate income and social protection
  2. An inclusive National Urban Policy should integrate migration and the needs of migrants(in particular women migrants)
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] Miles to go: The bankruptcy code

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | 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: Read the attached stories

Mains level: The issues discussed in the newscard regarding the IBC.


News

The new bankruptcy code yields its first success

  1. Tata Steel acquired 73% stake in the bankrupt firm Bhushan Steel for about Rs. 35,000 crore last week, making it the first major resolution of a bankruptcy case under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)
  2. Bhushan Steel was one among the 12 major accounts referred to the National Company Law Tribunal at the behest of the Reserve Bank of India last year to ease the burden of bad loans on banks

Expectations of the Finance Ministry from Banks

  1. The Finance Ministry now expects banks to recover more than Rs. 1 lakh crore from the resolution of the other cases referred by the RBI to the NCLT
    Possible benefits
  2. If the banks do indeed recover funds of this scale, it would considerably reduce the burden on taxpayers
  3. Even more important, speedy resolution would free valuable assets to be used for wealth-creation

Many challenges are still there

  1. The resolution of one high-profile case, however, should not deflect attention from the many challenges still plaguing the bankruptcy resolution process
  2. The IBC, as the government itself has admitted, remains a work in progress

Some issues with the present IBC

  1. The issues such as the proposed eligibility criteria for bidders have left it bogged down and suppressed its capacity to help out creditors efficiently
  2. Also, the strict time limit for the resolution process as mandated by the IBC is an area that has drawn much attention,
  3. and it merits further review in order to balance the twin objectives of speedy resolution and maximising recovery for the lenders

The way forward

  1. Going forward, amendments to the bankruptcy code should primarily be driven by the goal of maximising the sale price of stressed assets
  2. This requires a robust market for stressed assets that is free from all kinds of entry barriers

[op-ed snap] The impact of rising oil prices on Indian economy

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Impact of rising crude oil prices on CAD, fiscal deficit, etc.


News

India was a key beneficiary of falling crude oil prices between 2013 and 2015

  1. Some research had indicated that almost the entire reduction of about 0.6% of the GDP in India’s fiscal deficit between FY14 and FY16 could be attributed to the sharp fall in crude prices
  2. Lower crude prices also contributed to the narrower current account deficit
  3. But the pass-through of the fall in crude prices to retail consumers was limited
    (the government retained a large part of the benefits by hiking excise duty on retail fuel products)

Risk of rising crude prices

  1. With the US’ decision to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal and to re-impose sanctions on Iran, upside risks to crude prices cannot be ruled out

Possible impact of higher crude prices on the Indian economy

  1. We can conclude that higher crude prices will adversely affect the twin deficits of the economy(fiscal and current account deficit)
  2. It will also have impact on the monetary policy, and consumption and investment behaviour in the economy

Possible reasons behind this increase

  1. According to the recent World Economic Outlook (WEO) by the IMF, roughly 80% of the recent oil price increase was caused by deterioration in supply conditions
  2. This, however, is not the only study on the factors leading to higher crude prices
  3. The “Oil Price Dynamics” report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that less than two-fifth of the rise in oil prices since the beginning of 2018 was on account of supply-side factors
  4. These contrasting studies lead to uncertainty regarding the sustainability of higher crude prices

Data on fiscal conditions

  1. An increase of $10 per barrel in crude prices will lead to an increase of about Rs17,000 crore (or $2.5 billion at an exchange rate of 67/$) in fuel subsidies, equivalent to 0.09% of GDP
  2. In the Union Budget 2018-19, the government had budgeted for petroleum subsidy of Rs25,000 crore, similar to that in FY18

Impact on Current Account of deficit

  1. An increase of $10 per barrel in crude oil prices will lead to an adverse impact of $10-11 billion (or 0.4% of GDP) on current account deficit
  2. There are two opposite forces at work in current account deficit. Higher oil prices will push the import bill higher;
  3. however, it will be partly offset by higher oil exports and better remittances

Possible impact on inflation

  1. With a weightage of only 2.4% in headline CPI, the adverse impact will entirely depend on the extent to which higher crude oil prices are passed on to the consumers
  2. Considering the general election next year
  3. and thus, the direct impact on CPI inflation is likely to remain muted
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc. Basic Sciences

[op-ed snap] Electric vehicles don’t need a government push

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | 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: Read the attached story

Mains level: The newscard discusses some issues related to the (possible) early adoption of the EVs in India.


News

Context

  1. EVs are the future, but the investments are still risky and rushing the change could leave us with an overpriced fleet of early-generation vehicles

Government is considering some exemptions

  1. Government has recently announced that the government is considering
    (1) exemption from permits, concessional toll,
    (2) a rate of depreciation of 50% as against the prevailing 15% for conventional vehicles,
    (3) lowering of the goods and services tax on batteries and
    (4) a rule mandating taxi aggregators to have a certain percentage of EVs in their fleet
  2. Government has spoken about making the public transport system fully electric through the second phase of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India (FAME India) scheme
  3. It’s possible that some of these plans will not materialize

Important issue related to the EVs: Pricing

  1. EVs are superior to internal combustion engines, but also expensive
  2. Therefore, incentives to purchase EVs, as well as procurement of EVs for public transport, could be fiscally expensive, and we might end up with an overpriced fleet of early-generation vehicles
  3. Suggestion: Just like early smartphones, a better idea would be to wait until the rich nations buy sufficient volumes of the products on offer, and bring prices down

An all-electric fleet of buses is an expensive solution to the problem: A World Bank study

  1. A World Bank study on the cost effectiveness of electric and hybrid buses in developing countries concluded that
  2. in order to tackle air pollution, the policy goal should be to incentivise more people to leave their cars at home

Government should be cautious

  1. The government should avoid regulating the supply of infrastructure with arbitrary prescriptions and subsidies
  2. While everyone agrees that charging infrastructure is essential to the success of EVs, whether there should be a charging station at every five kilometres or 10 cannot be known in advance
  3. Factors such as the driving range of vehicles, private charging capabilities of users and charging speed will determine the number and location of charging stations
  4. Similarly, shifts in technology(such as wireless charging, solid state batteries or a transition to hydrogen fuel cells) will have to be anticipated as these might render existing infrastructure obsolete

The way forward

  1. The government needs to focus on the less appealing, but more effective solutions
  2. Choosing new technologies is the task of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, not the government
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc. Infrastructure

[op-ed snap] Growing cities: Migration from rural areas

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Mains Level: Specially mentioned in the mains syllabus.


News

Context

  1. A fresh look at urban governance is necessary as migration from rural areas picks up pace

2018 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects: By the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

  1. Forecasting for the year 2050, the UN agency has estimated that the percentage of urban residents in India would be 52.8, compared to 34 today
  2. Delhi would edge past Tokyo as the world’s most populous city by 2028
  3. India, China and Nigeria are expected to lead other countries and account for 35% of the projected growth in urban population by mid-century

This forecast frames the challenge before developing countries, India in particular

The imperative before the Government

  1. The government should  come up with policies that provide adequate services in the villages
    (while investing in cities to ensure that their high levels of productivity and efficiency are not compromised)

Crucial issues in Indian Cities

  1. Housing deficits have led to the proliferation of slums,
  2. lack of enforcement of building norms has left the metros heavily congested, and
  3. poor investment in public transport has fuelled unsustainable levels of private vehicle use
  4. Most cities are also unable to collect and dispose of municipal waste scientifically, and simply dump them in the suburbs
  5. Such a dismal scenario can only get worse with higher population concentrations, unless city governments come into their own

What should be done?

  1. Now is the time to take a fresh look at urban governance
  2. While the Centre’s goal of homes for all by 2022 is laudable, it is unlikely to be realised without a push from the States
  3. Integrating green spaces, open commons and wetlands will make cities cleaner and aesthetically richer

Back2basics

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)

  1. It is part of the United Nations Secretariat and is responsible for the follow-up to major United Nations Summits and Conferences, as well as services to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the Second and Third Committees of the United Nations General Assembly
  2. UN DESA assists countries around the world in agenda-setting and decision-making with the goal of meeting their economic, social and environmental challenges
  3. It supports international cooperation to promote sustainable development for all, having as a foundation the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015
  4. In providing a broad range of analytical products, policy advice, and technical assistance, UN DESA effectively translates global commitments in the economic, social and environmental spheres into national policies and actions and continues to play a key role in monitoring progress towards internationally agreed-upon development goals
  5. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group

[op-ed snap] Making life easier for small savers: Savings Promotion Act

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: The SSS scheme, the PPF act, the Savings Bank acg of 1873, etc.

Mains Level: Particulars of the proposed Savings Promotion Act.


News

Context

  1. The Union Cabinet has recently decided to bring a law to make life easier for small savers, especially those who save for girl children and senior citizens
  2. and to “further strengthen the objective of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’

Government has proposed the Savings Promotion Act

  1. Government has proposed the merging of the Public Provident Fund (PPF) Act of 1968, the Government Savings Banks Act of 1873 and the Government Savings Certificates Act of 1959
  2. There is no proposal to take away existing benefits to depositors through this merger
  3. The main objective is to make implementation easier for the depositors through this Act

New benefits for depositors
Provisions for premature closing of the SSS

  1. The PPF Act states that an account cannot be closed before completion of five financial years
  2. The proposed Act seeks to make premature closure of an account easier by introducing provisions through a specific scheme notification
  3. The benefits of premature closure of Small Savings Schemes (SSS) may now be introduced to deal with medical emergencies, higher education needs, and so on

Provisions for minors

  1. Now, investment in SSS can be made by a guardian on behalf of minor(s)
  2. Under the provisions in the proposed Act, the guardian may also be given associated rights and responsibilities
  3. There was no clear provision earlier regarding deposits by minors in the existing Acts
  4. And if the minor dies and there is no nomination, the balance amount shall be paid to the guardian

Other provisions of the proposed law

  1. The Bill also has clear provisions on the operation of accounts in the name of physically infirm and differently abled persons
  2. As per the existing Acts, if a depositor dies and nomination exists, the outstanding balances will be paid to the nominee
  3. The proposed law has clearly defined the right of nominees

Back2basics

Small Savings Schemes (SSS)

  1. The Central Government operates Small Savings Schemes (SSS) through the nationwide network of about 1.5 lakh post offices, more than 8,000 branches of the Public-Sector Banks and select private sector banks and more than 5 lakh small savings agents
  2. The Small Savings Schemes can be grouped under three:
    (i) Post office Deposits: Post Office Savings Account, Post Office Time Deposits (1,2,3 and 5 years), Post Office Recurring Deposits, Post Office Monthly Account,
    (ii) Savings Certificates: National Savings Certificate (VIII Issue) and Kisan Vikas Patra
    (iii) Social Security Schemes: Public Provident Fund, Senior Citizens Savings Scheme, and Sukanya Samriddhi Account

[op-ed snap] An air of gloom: Polluted cities in India

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: “What makes north Indian cities the most polluted in the world?” and “How is the current situation a public health emergency?”


News

Context

  1. 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are in India
  2. It points to a public health emergency

City wise data: Survey done by the WHO

  1. Kanpur’s average PM 2.5 levels were 17 times the WHO limit in 2016, the cut-off year for the current study
  2. It was followed by Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya and Patna. Delhi figured sixth, which is hardly any consolation

What makes north Indian cities the most polluted in the world?

  1. Northern India is a combination of rapid increase in pollution sources due to urbanisation and its inherent geographical disadvantage
  2. It is landlocked that makes this region extremely vulnerable to winter inversion leading to massive trapping of pollution
  3. This region does not have the advantage of a coastline
  4. At the same time, air pollution sources are proliferating that include motorisation, proliferation of industrial units, extensive use of solid fuels for cooking, massive construction activities, enormous problem of waste mismanagement, etc.
  5. Other experts have cited how the Indo-Gangetic plains are sandwiched between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas and are home to more than 600 million people with winds blowing from north-west to east, especially in winter, which carry pollutants from other regions
  6. This region requires more stringent interventions to counter its disadvantages

Meteorological conditions is not the only reason of causing pollution in north Indian cities

  1. Global climate change is also responsible for these increasingly high temperatures and frequent storms and much of this is man-made

It is a public health emergency

  1. Two years ago, a study on the cost of air pollution co-authored by the World Bank found that the country lost 1.4 million lives due to such contamination in 2013, shaving off a massive 8.5 per cent of GDP
  2. The case for controlling such pollution is thus incontrovertible in economic terms, if not in saving lives. Indians can live four years longer if we comply with WHO norms

What should be done?

  1. Measures that need to be taken aren’t rocket science
  2. (1) More efficient means of treating crop residue; (2) replacing smoky chulhas with efficient models if not LPG cylinders; (3) cracking down on construction debris and polluting thermal power stations; (4) restricting the number of vehicles being some of the main ones
  3. In order of priority, the chulhas are probably the most urgent because 200 million households continue to burn biomass within homes
  4. Switching to mass public transport in cities is well within the capacity of every city
MGNREGA Scheme Governance

[op-ed snap] A triple blow to job guarantee scheme

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | 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: MGNREGA, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, National Electronic Fund Management System

Mains level: The newscard throws light on the institutional bottlenecks in the implementation of the job guarantee scheme


Context

Pending wages under MGNREGA

  1. The total amount of wages pending under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme for the whole country (2016-17) was around ₹11,000 crore
  2. This sum is a fifth of the MGNREGA budget announced for the financial year 2018-19
  3. On the other hand, rising instances of frauds whose amounts exceed far than the requirements of the very job guarantee scheme need to be put in perspective

What the Scheme actually say?

  1. The scheme is meant to be demand-driven in the sense that the government is mandated to provide work within 15 days of a worker seeking work. Otherwise, the worker is entitled to an unemployment allowance
  2. A second key provision of the Act pertains to payment of wages within 15 days of completion of work, failing which a worker is entitled to a delay compensation of 0.05% per day of the wages earned
  3. However, both these provisions have been routinely violated. There is an ongoing Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court (Swaraj Abhiyan v. the Union of India) concerning these violations

Three ways in which a lack of funds has led to a subverting of these provisions in letter and spirit

  • Budget allocation over the years has been insufficient
  1. While there has been an increase in the nominal budget in the last two years, after adjusting for inflation, the budget has actually decreased over the years
  2. The real budget of 2018-19 is much lower than that of 2010-11
  • Even this low budget allocation has undergone various kinds of curtailment
  1. By December of each year, through a bottom-up participatory planning approach, every State submits a labour budget (LB) to the Centre
  2. This contains the anticipated labour demand for the next financial year
  3. The Centre, on its part, has been using an arbitrary “Approved Labour Budget” to cut down funds requested by States (using the National Electronic Fund Management System, or Ne-FMS), making this a supply-driven programme

Curtailing the Work-demand of Workers

  1. Ne-FMS guidelines issued in 2016-17 say the Management Information System (MIS) “will not allow” States to “generate more employment above the limits set by Agreed to LB”
  2. This meant that the work demand of workers was not even getting registered and the MIS was being used as a means to curb work demand
  3. Thus the “approved labour budget” puts a cap on funds

Worsening situation due to poor allocation

  1. The Ministry of Finance memorandum said that the principal reasons for payment delays were infrastructural bottlenecks, unavailability of funds and lack of administrative compliance
  2. The study findings and this memorandum are at odds with the Centre’s dubious claims of 85% of payments having been made on time
  3. The poor are paying a heavy price for this throttling of funds by the Centre

Stagnating Wages

  1. Delinking of MGNREGA wage rates from the Minimum Wages Act (MWA), 1948 has contributed to this
  2. MGNREGA wages are a less lucrative option for the marginalized, being lower than the minimum agricultural wages in most States
  3. As primary beneficiaries of the Act, women, Dalits, and Adivasis could be the most affected and pushed to choose more vulnerable and hazardous employment opportunities
  4. Such contravention of the MWA is illegal

Way Forward

  1. MGNREGA now faces a triple but correlated crisis — a lack of sufficient funds, rampant payment delays, and abysmal wage rates
  2. What this reflects is not only a legal crisis created by the Centre but also a moral one where the fight is not even for a living wage but one for subsistence
  3. One hopes for a just order from the judiciary

IMD to add 30 Doppler radars in country

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Doppler Radars

Mains level: Need of these radars.


News

New Doppler radars

  1. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will add 30 Doppler radars in the next two-three years across the country
  2. Several of them will be in the northeast

What are Doppler radars?

  1. Doppler radars provide precise information about thunderstorms, dust storms, hailstorms, rainfall and wind patterns
  2. With a radius of 250km, they help in issuing nowcasts 2-3 hours prior to severe weather events
    How it works?
  3. A Doppler radar is a specialized radar that uses the Doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance
  4. It does this by bouncing a microwave signal off a desired target and analyzing how the object’s motion has altered the frequency of the returned signal
  5. This variation gives direct and highly accurate measurements of the radial component of a target’s velocity relative to the radar

Right now, the IMD is working on selecting locations in hilly states to install these radars

  1. By the next year, Jammu and Kashmir will get four Doppler radars, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh three each
  2. The hilly states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir witness erratic patterns like thunderstorms and heavy rains and snowfall, so do the north eastern states
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc. Climate Change

[op-ed snap] Is it possible to slow global warming?

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNFCCC, SBI, SBSTA, etc.

Mains level: The roadblocks infront of the Paris Agreement.


News

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting

  1. A two-week-long meeting was recently concluded in Bonn (April 30-May 10) where the operational guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement were to be discussed and agreed upon by all parties
  2. This meeting was the 48th session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), referred to as SB48
  3. With insufficient progress towards goals, another interim meeting has been proposed in Bangkok ahead of COP-24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018

 Roadblocks at the Bonn meeting

  1. On the issue of the NDCs, the question was the scope of the rulebook
  2. Developing countries want them to cover mitigation targets, adaptation and the means of implementation for the NDCs
  3. Developed or rich countries would like the rulebook to be limited to mitigation, the reduction of greenhouse gases
  4. But since most countries require adaptation programmes in a warming world and need support to implement their national targets, it is essential that these be included too

The issues related to loss and damage (L&D): Another roadblock

  1. L&D is a means to provide assistance to poor countries that experience severe impacts from climate change but have contributed very little to the greenhouse gases responsible for the warming and its effects
  2. This is a very important issue for the least developed countries and for small islands, which are already experiencing the brunt of sea level rise
  3. But there was little progress on the funds that could be used to support L&D

Participants could not come to an agreement(at the Bonn meeting) on any significant issue and thus have not produced a draft document to guide full implementation of the PA

The way forward

  1.  Even if the current NDCs were implemented, the world would be on track to be warmer by about 3°Celsius
  2. The UN is also expected to release the report on the impacts from a 1.5°C warming around the same time
    Responsibilities on the shoulders of the youth
  3. Unless the youth remind governments and the public of the responsibilities of their countries towards mitigation, adaptation and support for means of implementation, keeping global warming under reasonably safe levels for humankind could be impossible
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc. Energy

Creating jobs for women in the renewable energy sector

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development and employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: How to create quality jobs for women in the RE sector?


News

Context

  1. Studies estimate that India’s ambitious target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy (RE) by 2022 could create 3,30,000 jobs in the wind and solar energy sectors alone
  2. Can this rapidly growing industry create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for women?
  3. And can these opportunities provide better salaries and health-care benefits, skilling and training opportunities, and enhance the quality of life for women and their families?
  4. What can decision-makers do to support the inclusion of more women in this growing sector?

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute

  1. According to the study, India can increase its GDP by up to 60% by 2025 by enabling more women to participate in its workforce

Can the new RE projects be planned in a manner that also creates good quality jobs for women in these areas?

  1. Currently, India’s RE industry sector, as with other sectors, has low participation of women
  2. India ranks a poor 120 among 131 countries on female labour force participation, according to World Bank data
  3. A majority of women currently employed in the RE sector work at project sites, doing civil masonry work, which is temporary and labour-intensive with little potential for future growth
  4. Moreover, the working conditions on many sites are not always suitable for women as they are devoid of safety and support systems
  5. Where there is a need for more skilled or semi-skilled labour, fewer women can respond due to existing barriers to formal education and training
  6. Consequently, there are very few women in production, facilities, and operations and maintenance roles in the RE sector

Potential in the RE sector

  1. In a recent study, we found that jobs in the RE sector can impact poverty, provided several changes are made to the existing systems
  2. Particularly with the growth of the decentralised RE and off-grid energy sector, there is significant potential to include local women in the workforce
  3. Overall, the study concluded that if the government, clean energy enterprises, training institutes and civil society work together to implement these “tweaks”, India could create good-quality employment opportunities that can support the inclusion of more women
  4. But such interventions need to be designed with women at the centre and not as an afterthought

What can be done?

  1. Training institutes could reduce the bar on entry, allowing for less formally educated women to learn new skills and receive training
  2. Training should be customised to respect specific needs like location, hours of engagement, safety and sanitation
  3. Mobile training modules that can cater to small groups of women in remote areas can be developed
  4. This sensitisation to women’s specific needs can help increase participation of women in the RE workforce
Roads, Highways and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc. Infrastructure

[op-ed snap] Bharatmala will raise debt issues for some

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bharatmala Project

Mains level: The risk of default by BOT operators due to conflicts of the scheme with existing Toll Road Projects and need of a mechanism to avoid such conflicts


Context

The poor condition of roads

  1. Indian roads are usually characterized by poor infrastructure and congestion
  2. This affects travel time and road safety which is a big hindrance to economic development and leads to inefficiency in the transportation of goods and services across the country

Bharatmala program and diversion of traffic

  1. The Bharatmala programme may result in traffic diversion from the existing road network to new roads,
    thereby affecting the toll collection and, consequently, the debt servicing ability of some of the BOT and
    OMT projects
  2. Out of the proposed 44 Economic Corridors in Bharatmala, about 21 would partially or fully affect the existing alignments
  3. This has raised the risk of default on 25 national highway toll projects which involve Rs 19,435 crore of
    debt
  4. The risk of such loan defaults will add to banks’ and financial lenders’ stressed assets and non-performing assets

What can BOT operators do?

  1. The stretches under ECs of the Bharatmala Pariyojana are either longer by more than 20%, or traverse a
    new route completely
  2. Hence, they do not fit into the description of the additional tollways, as defined in Article 30 of the
    concession agreement
  3. Thus, there would be no compensation payable for traffic loss on account of the
    Bharatmala programme
  4. In such cases, the concessionaire (contractor) may opt for termination of the concession agreement, in
    which case the termination payment is payable by the Authority (under Authority Event of Default)
  5. The termination payment is equivalent to 90% of the debt due

Kelkar Committee Recommendations

  1. To ensure that the existing BOT projects that are at risk of default do not turn bad for the financial
    institutions, swift and adequate measures are needed
  2. The Kelkar committee had observed that since infrastructure projects span over 20-30 years, a private developer may lose bargaining power owing to abrupt changes in the economic or policy environment
  3. It has thus recommended that the private sector must be protected against such loss. This could be ensured by allowing renegotiation of the terms of the concession agreement
  4. Financial institutions are already reluctant to finance the infrastructure sector, given the rise in non-performing assets (NPAs)

Way Forward

  1. The need of the hour is to realign the terms and conditions of the model concession agreement to ensure that banks do not end up accumulating NPAs
  2. Alternatively, the NHAI can compensate the affected BOT operators and account for it in the total outlay of the Bharatmala programme
  3. Having an appropriate remedial mechanism for BOT operators will help retain interest for investments in new projects; for the lenders, it will help curtail the number of stressed assets from the risk of default

Back2Basics

Bharat Mala Pariyojana

  1. The government has embarked upon a massive overhaul of the country’s road network through Bharatmala Pariyojana
  2. It is an umbrella highway development programme involving 34,800 km of road network at an
    investment of Rs5.35 trillion, to be completed by 2022
  3. The government has assigned NHAI, National Highway and Industrial Development Corporation (NHIDCL) and state public work departments for the highway projects
  4. The programme focuses on optimizing the efficiency of road traffic movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through shorter routes
  5. The end goal is to create economic corridors (ECs) along the path—new industries, more employment and new markets—thereby bringing socio-economic change and upliftment of the underdeveloped regions of the country
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