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Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Why rice and wheat bans aren’t the answer to inflation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues with export ban

Context

There are reports suggesting that the government is mulling a ban on rice exports to tame inflation.

Background

  • This is surely not the first time an attempt is being made to ban wheat and rice exports.
  • It was also done in 2007-08, in the wake of the global financial crisis.
  • Perhaps government will also impose stocking limits on traders for a host of commodities, suspend futures trading in food items, and even conduct income tax raids on traders of food.

Issues in India’s rice export strategy

  • Highest ever volume: India exported the highest-ever volume of 21 million metric tonnes (MMT) of rice in 2021-22 (FY22) in a global market of about 51.3 MMT, which amounts to about 41 per cent of global exports.
  • Reduces price: Such large volumes of rice exports brought down global prices of rice by about 23 per cent in March (YoY), when all other cereal prices, be it wheat or maize, were going up substantially in global markets.
  • In fact, in FY22, the unit value of exports of common rice was just $354/tonne, which was lower than the minimum support price (MSP) of rice.
  • Below MSP buying or leakage from PMGKAY: This meant that rice exporters were either buying rice (paddy) from farmers and millers at below the MSP or that quite a substantial part of rice was given free under the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) was being siphoned away for exports at prices below MSP.
  • Artificial competitive advantage: Free electricity for irrigation in several states, most notably Punjab, and highly subsidised fertilisers, especially urea, create an artificial competitive advantage for Indian rice in global markets.
  • Suggestion: This is a perfect case for “optimal export tax” — not a ban — on rice exports.
  • If we can’t raise the domestic price of urea, which is long overdue, we should at least recover a part of the urea subsidy from rice exports by imposing an optimal export tax.

Why export ban on wheat and rice is not a solution

  • Small contribution of cereals in inflation: In May, the consumer price index (CPI) inflation was 7.04 per cent (YoY). The cereals group as a whole contributed only 6.6 per cent to this inflation.
  • Within that, wheat, other than through PDS, contributed just 3.11 per cent and non-PDS rice contributed 1.59 per cent.
  • So, by imposing a ban on wheat and rice exports, India can’t tame its inflation as more than 95 per cent of CPI inflation is due to other items.
  • Interestingly, inflation in vegetables contributed 14.4 per cent to CPI inflation, which is more than three times the contribution of rice and wheat combined. And within vegetables, tomatoes alone contributed 7.01 per cent.
  • What all this indicates is that agri-trade policies need to be more stable and predictable, rather than a result of knee-jerk reactions.
  • Irresponsible behaviour: Export bans on food items also show somewhat irresponsible behaviour at the global level, unless there is some major calamity in the country concerned.
  • The recently concluded WTO ministerial meeting as well as the G-7 meet expressed concerns about food security in vulnerable nations.

Way forward

  • Efficient value chain and processing facilities: In commodities like vegetables, most of which are largely perishable, we need to build efficient value chains and link these to processing facilities.
  • The same would go for onions, which often bring tears to kitchen budgets when prices shoot up.
  • A switch to dehydrated onion flakes and onion powder would be the answer.
  • Our food processing industry, especially in perishable products, is way behind the curve compared to several Southeast Asian nations.

Conclusion

If India wants to be a globally responsible player, it should avoid sudden and abrupt bans and, if need be, filter them through transparent export taxes to recover its large subsidies on power and fertilisers.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Strains on India-Russia Defence Cooperation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : India's import dependece for arms

As the war in Ukraine stretches over four months with no end in sight, it has given rise to apprehensions on Russia’s ability to adhere to timely deliveries of spares and hardware to India.

History of the bilateral defence ties

  • India was reliant, almost solely on the British, and other Western nations for its arms imports immediately after Independence.
  • However, this dependence weaned, and by the 1970s India was importing several weapons systems from then USSR, making it the country’s largest defence importer for decades.

A major chunk of India’s strategic arms

  • Russia has provided some of the most sensitive and important weapons platforms that India has required from time to time including nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, tanks, guns, fighter jets, and missiles.
  • According to one estimate, the share of Russian-origin weapons and platforms across Indian armed forces is as high as 85%.
  • Russia is the second-largest arms exporter in the world, following only the United States.
  • For Russia, India is the largest importer, and for India, Russia is the largest exporter when it comes to arms transfer.

What saw the decline?

  • Between 2000 and 2020, Russia accounted for 66.5% of India’s arms imports.
  • Russia’s share in Indian arms imports was down to about 50% between 2016 and 2020, but it still remained the largest single importer.

Present status of defence cooperation

  • When the war began, Indian armed forces had stocks of spares and supplies for eight to ten months and the expectation was that the war would end quickly.
  • However, as it stretches on with no clear endgame, there are apprehensions on Russia’s ability to adhere to the timelines for both spares as well as new deliveries.
  • Armed forces are looking at certain alternative mitigation measures and identifying alternate sources from friendly foreign countries.
  • However, in the long term, this is also an opportunity for the private industry to step up production and meet the requirements.

Impact of the war

  • While some timeline lapses and shipping delays were possible, there would not be any dent on the Army’s operational preparedness along the borders.
  • In addition, the armed forces have also made significant emergency procurements since the standoff in Eastern Ladakh and have stocked up on spares and ammunition.
  • However, Russia has assured India that it would adhere to delivery timelines.
  • Since the war sees no end, Russian industry would be caught up in replenishing the inventories of their own armed forces.

What is the status of deals underway/new deals pending with Russia?

  • The defence trade between India and Russia has crossed $15 billion since 2018, in the backdrop of some big deals including the $5.43 billion S-400 long range air defence systems.
  • Other major contracts currently under implementation are construction of four additional stealth frigates in Russia and India,
  • There is a licensed production of the Mango Armor-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS) rounds for the T-90S tanks as also additional T-90S tanks, AK-203 assault rifles among others.

Deferred deals in downtime

  • There are several big deals deferred by the Defence Ministry as part of the review of all direct import deals.
  • This is in conjunction with efforts to push the ‘Make in India’ scheme in defence.
  • Russian deals have also been deferred including the one for 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) along with the upgradation of 59 existing Mig-29 jets.
  • This also includes the deferment of the manufacture of 12 SU-30 MKI aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

What is the status of payments?

  • While India continues to remain Russia’s largest arms buyer with a major chunk of legacy hardware from Russia and the Soviet Union, the volume of imports has reduced in the last decade.
  • With Russia being shut out of the global SWIFT system for money transfers, India and Russia have agreed to conduct payments through the Rupee-Rouble arrangement.
  • With several big ticket deals including the S-400 under implementation, there are large volume of payments to be made.

 

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Earthquake in Afghanistan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Earthquakes

Mains level : Read the attached story

Recently a powerful earthquake of magnitude 5.9 on the Richter scale struck a remote town in Afghanistan, killing over a thousand and injuring many more.

How do earthquakes happen?

  • According to the theory of plate tectonics, the Earth’s crust and upper mantle are made of large rigid plates that can move relative to one another.
  • Slip on faults near the plate boundaries can result in earthquakes.
  • The point inside the Earth where the earthquake rupture starts is called the focus or hypocentre.
  • The point directly above it on the surface of the Earth is the epicentre.

What are Seismic Waves?

  • Any elastic material when subjected to stress, stretches in a proportional way, until the elastic limit is reached.
  • When the elastic limit is crossed, it breaks.
  • Similarly, the Earth also has an elastic limit and when the stress is higher than this limit, it breaks.
  • Then there is a generation of heat, and energy is released. Since the material is elastic, the energy is released in the form of elastic waves.
  • These propagate to a distance determined by the extent of the impact. These are known as seismic waves.

Why Earthquake in Afghanistan?

  • Afghanistan is earthquake-prone because it’s located in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, which is part of the Alpide belt — the second most seismically active region in the world after the Pacific Ring of Fire.
  • The Alpide belt runs about 15,000 kilometers, from the southern part of Eurasia through the Himalayas and into the Atlantic.
  • Along with the Hindu Kush, it includes a number of mountain ranges, such as the Alps, Atlas Mountains and the Caucasus Mountains.
  • Additionally, the Earth’s crust is especially lively in Afghanistan because it is where the Arabian, Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.
  • The boundary between the Indian and Eurasian plates exists near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

How are earthquakes measured?

  • Earthquakes are measured by seismographic networks, which are made of seismic stations, each of which measures the shaking of the ground beneath it.
  • In India, the National Seismological Network does this work.
  • It has a history of about 120 years and its sensors can now detect an earthquake within five to ten minutes.

Issues with Earthquake measurement

  • Everywhere, the wave parameters are measured, not the total energy released.
  • There is a direct relationship between the quantum of energy released and the wave amplitude.
  • The amplitude of the wave is a function of the time period of the wave.
  • It is possible to convert the measured wave amplitude into the energy released for that earthquake.
  • This is what seismologists call the magnitude of the earthquake.

What is the Richter magnitude scale?

  • This is a measure of the magnitude of an earthquake and was first defined by Charles F. Richter of the California Institute of Technology, U.S., in 1935.
  • The magnitude of an earthquake is the logarithm of the amplitude of the waves measured by the seismographs.
  • Richter scale magnitudes are expressed as a whole number and a decimal part, for example 6.3 or 5.2.
  • Since it is a logarithmic scale, an increase of the whole number by one unit signifies a tenfold increase in the amplitude of the wave and a 31-times increase of the energy released.

How are zones designated?

  • Based on seismicity, intensity of earthquakes experienced, and geological and tectonic qualities of a region, countries are divided into several zones.
  • In India, for example, there are four zones, designated Zone II-Zone V. Among these, Zone V is the most hazardous and Zone II the least hazardous.

Can we predict Earthquakes?

  • Since parameters of the earthquake are unknown, it is near impossible to predict an earthquake.
  • The problem with earthquakes is that they are heavily dependent on the material property, which varies from place to place.
  • If there are elastic waves propagating through a material, there are two kinds of waves — the primary wave which reaches first, and the second one called the secondary wave, which is more destructive.
  • If it is known that the amount of energy released is extremely high, trains and power grids can be shut down and the damage minimised.
  • This has worked in some locations, but not on a large commercial basis.

Successful attempts made so far

  • The most successful early warning systems are in Japan.
  • They have several hundreds of thousands recording devices.
  • Responses are sent to a central point where they estimate whether it is large enough to form a tsunami or some other hazard, and precautionary steps are taken.

 

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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Functioning of the National Investigation Agency (NIA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Investigation Agency (NIA)

Mains level : Terrorism and radicalization in India

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over the probe into the terrible beheading of a person in Udaipur by Jihadi radicalists.

What is the NIA?

  • Headquartered in Delhi, the NIA has its branches in Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kochi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Kolkata, Raipur, Jammu, Chandigarh, Ranchi, Chennai, Imphal, Bengaluru and Patna.
  • It is a central agency mandated to investigate all the offences affecting:
  1. Sovereignty, security and integrity of India
  2. Friendly relations with foreign states
  3. Offences under the statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations
  • The offense include terror acts and their possible links with crimes like smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders.
  • The agency has the power to search, seize, arrest and prosecute those involved in such offences.

When did the NIA come into being?

  • In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, which shocked the entire world, the then United Progressive Alliance government decided to establish the NIA.
  • In December 2008, former Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram introduced the National Investigation Agency Bill.
  • The agency would deal with only eight laws mentioned in the schedule and that a balance had been struck between the right of the State and duties of the Central government to investigate the more important cases.
  • The agency came into existence on December 31, 2008, and started its functioning in 2009.
  • Till date, the NIA has registered 447 cases.

What are the scheduled offences?

The list includes the

  1. Explosive Substances Act,
  2. Atomic Energy Act,
  3. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,
  4. Anti-Hijacking Act,
  5. Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act,
  6. SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act,
  7. Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act,
  8. Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act and
  9. Relevant offences under the Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and
  10. Information Technology Act
  • In September 2020, the Centre empowered the NIA to also probe offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that are connected to terror cases.

How wide is NIA’s jurisdiction?

  • The law under which the agency operates extends to the whole of India.
  • It also applies to:
  1. Indian citizens outside the country;
  2. Persons in the service of the government wherever they are posted;
  3. Persons on ships and aircraft registered in India wherever they may be;
  4. Persons who commit a scheduled offence beyond India against the Indian citizen or affecting the interest of India.

How does the NIA take up a probe?

  • As provided under Section 6 of the Act, State governments can refer the cases pertaining to the scheduled offences registered at any police station to the Central government (Union Home Ministry) for NIA investigation.
  • After assessing the details made available, the Centre can then direct the agency to take over the case.
  • State governments are required to extend all assistance to the NIA.
  • Even when the Central government is of the opinion that a scheduled offence has been committed which is required to be investigated under the Act, it may, suo motu, direct the agency to take up/over the probe.

 

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History- Important places, persons in news

100 years of Rampa or Manyam Rebellion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rampa Rebellion

Mains level : Major tribal uprisings in freedom struggle

Hundred years ago, in August 1922 the “Rampa Rebellion” or “Manyam Rebellion” took place in the forests of the Godavari Agency in the Madras Presidency.

Rampa Rebellion

  • The Rampa Rebellion of 1922, also known as the Manyam Rebellion, was a tribal uprising led by Alluri Sitarama Raju in Godavari Agency.
  • It began in August 1922 and lasted until the capture and killing of Raju in May 1924.
  • Forced labour, embargoes on collecting minor forest produce and bans on tribal agriculture practices led to severe distress among the Koyas in the area.
  • Sitarama Raju did not belong to the tribal community, but understood the restrictions that the British colonial administration placed on the tribal way of life.

Background of the revolt

  • The Rampa administrative area comprised around 1,800 square km and had a mostly tribal population of approximately 28,000.
  • They had traditionally been able to support their food requirements through the use, in particular, of the podu system, whereby each year some areas of jungle forest were burned to clear land for cultivation.
  • The British Raj authorities had wanted to improve the economic usefulness of lands in Godavari Agency, an area that was noted for the prevalence of malaria and blackwater fever.
  • The traditional cultivation methods were greatly hindered when the authorities took control of the forests, mostly for commercial purposes such as produce for building railways and ships.
  • This was done regardless of the needs of the tribal people.

Why did people revolt?

  • The tribal people of the forested hills, who now faced starvation had long felt that the legal system favoured the muttadar (estate landowners) and merchants.
  • This had also resulted in the earlier Rampa Rebellion of 1879.
  • Now they objected also to the Raj laws and continued actions that hindered their economic position and meant they had to find alternate livelihood.
  • They objected to attempts at that time to use them as forced labour in the construction of a road in the area.

Role of Raju

  • Raju was a charismatic sanyasin, believed by many tribal people to possess magical abilities and to have an almost messianic status.
  • He saw the overthrow of colonial rule in terms similar to a millenarian event and he harnessed the discontent of the tribal people to support his anti-colonial zeal.

Course of revolt

  • Alluri Sitarama Raju, along with 500 tribal people, attacked the police stations of Chintapalli, Krishnadevipeta and Rajavommangi.
  • They walked away with 26 police carbine rifles and 2,500 rounds of ammunition.
  • Legend has it that Alluri himself would forewarn the British officers of an imminent attack and would challenge them to stop him with the superior resources that they had at hand.
  • He was finally captured, tied to a tree and shot dead.

 

Try this PYQ:

Q. With reference to the history of India, “Ulgulan” or the Great Tumult is the description of which of the following event?

(a) The Revolt of 1857

(b) The Mappila Rebellion of 1921

(c) The Indigo Revolt of 1859-60

(d) Birsa Munda’s Revolt of 1899-1900

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

Researchers found gene regulating Nitrogen absorption in Plant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MADS27

Mains level : Not Much

Researchers led by those from the National Centre of Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bengaluru (NCBS-TIFR), have found a new pathway that regulates nitrate absorption in plants.

Nitrogen in plant nutrition

  • Nitrogen is one of the most important macronutrients needed for development of a plant.
  • It is a part of chlorophyll, amino acids and nucleic acids, among others.
  • It is mostly sourced from the soil where it is mainly absorbed in the form of nitrates and ammonium by the roots.
  • Nitrates also play a role in controlling genome-wide gene expression that in turn regulates root system architecture, flowering time, leaf development, etc.
  • Thus, while a lot of action takes place in the roots to absorb and convert nitrogen into useful nitrates, the absorbed nitrates in turn regulate plant development apart from being useful as a macronutrient.

What is MADS27?

  • The gene MADS27, which regulates nitrate absorption, root development and stress tolerance, is activated by the micro-RNA, miR444, therefore offers a way to control these properties of the plant.
  • The researchers studied this mechanism in both rice (monocot) and tobacco (dicot) plants.

Regulatory switches

  • In addition to this route, several gene regulatory switches that regulate nitrate absorption and root development, such as the micro-RNA, miR444, are known in monocot plants, such as rice.
  • The micro-RNA ‘miR444’ is specific to monocots.
  • When this is not made, its target, MADS27, is produced in higher abundance, and it improves biosynthesis and transport of the hormone auxin, which is key for root development and its branching.
  • This regulatory miR444 switch is known to turn off at least five genes called MADS box transcription factor genes.
  • The speciality of the MADS box transcription factors is that they function like switch boxes of their own.
  • They bind to their favourite specific DNA sequences and they switch the neighbouring genes “on.”

Why is the discovery important?

  • Presence of nitrates is important for the plant development and also for grain production.
  • However, the overuse of nitrates in fertilizers, for instance, can lead to the dumping of nitrates in the soil which leads to accumulation of nitrates in water and soil.
  • This accumulation adds to soil and water pollution and increased contribution to greenhouse gases.
  • Also, since the whole process of nitrate absorption takes place in the roots, a well-developed root system is needed for this to take place optimally.
  • At one level, it is known that the hormone auxin is responsible for well-developed roots across all plants.
  • A number of genes are known to help with auxin production, improved nitrate transport and assimilation in plants.

Significance of MADS27

  • The MADS27 transcription factor has a three-pronged effect on the plant.
  • First, it regulates nitrate absorption by switching “on” proteins involved in this process.
  • Second, it leads to better development of the roots by regulating auxin hormone production and transport.
  • Finally, and somewhat surprisingly to the researchers, it helps in the abiotic stress tolerance by keeping the main stress player proteins “on.”

 

 

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GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

Mayurbhanj’s superfood ‘Ant Chutney’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GI indication

Mains level : Not Much

The Kai Chutney made from Red Ants by the tribals of Mayurbhanj district in Odisha are seeking a Geographical Indications (GI) tag.

Ant Chutney

  • Despite this, weaver ants are popular among the people, mostly of the tribes,
  • This food item, rich in proteins, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, copper, fibre and 18 amino acids, is known to boost the immune system and keep diseases at bay.
  • Applied under food category, the GI tag will help develop a structured hygiene protocol in the preparation of Kai chutney for standard wider use.
  • Geographical Indications labels enhance the reputation and value of local products and support local businesses.

How is the Chutney prepared?

  • Weaver ants, Oecophylla smaragdina, are abundantly found in Mayurbhanj throughout the year.
  • They make nests with leaves of host trees.
  • The chutney is prepared by mixing and grinding salt, ginger, garlic and chilly and is sold by tribal people in rural markets.

 

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Which of the following has/have been accorded ‘Geographical Indication’ status?

  1. Banaras Brocades and Sarees
  2. Rajasthani Daal-Bati-Churma
  3. Tirupathi Laddu

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

Back2Basics:  Geographical Indication

  • A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Nodal Agency: Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry
  • India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 w.e.f. September 2003.
  • GIs have been defined under Article 22 (1) of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
  • GI is granted for a term of 10 years in India. As of today, more than 300 GI tags has been allocated so far in India (*Wikipedia).
  • The tag stands valid for 10 years.

 

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RBI Notifications

How the RBI unconventionally innovated policy to fight the pandemic

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Liquidity corrridor

Mains level : Paper 3- RBI innovative approach during pandemic

Context

Recently, the RBI has been at the receiving end for mission the inflation target.

Understanding the RBI’s rationale

  • Supply side shock: Inflation has been largely the result of supply side shocks from vegetable prices, caused by crop damages due to unseasonal rains (tomato, onion and potato) in late 2019 and widespread supply-side disruptions after the outbreak of the pandemic.
  • A narrow-minded focus on inflation caused by supply shocks would have constrained the MPC from supporting growth amidst the unprecedented loss of life and livelihood.
  • Focusing on recovery: Therefore, it was necessary to provide a lifeline to the economy at that juncture by focusing on the recovery.
  • Moreover, the wide tolerance band of 200bps +/- in the inflation targeting framework was specifically designed to accommodate such supply shocks, which provided the flexibility in the flexible targeting (FIT) framework.
  • Taking into account objective of growth: In contrast to a pure inflation targeting framework (inflation nutters), the amended mandate of the RBI under FIT reads as “price stability, taking into account the objective of growth”.
  • Therefore, the MPC was justified in looking through the higher inflation print during the pandemic while trying to resurrect growth.

No contradiction between Governor’s statement and MPC resolution

  • Recently, the MPC highlighted inflation concerns and voted to raise the policy repo rate.
  • The governor’s statement of the same day noted that the RBI will ensure an orderly completion of the government’s borrowing programme.
  • Contradictory objectives: It is said that the above two actions created confusion as lowering inflation and lowering government bond yields are contradictory objectives.
  • This justification is redundant as an orderly completion of the borrowing programme does not imply lowering yields.
  • It basically ensures that the borrowing programme is completed seamlessly at low costs (ensured through auctions).
  • Moreover, from a theoretical perspective, this is not inconsistent because controlling inflation and lowering inflation expectations bodes well for the term premia of bond yields — which moderate once expectations are anchored.
  • Therefore, if inflation is reined in, the government stands to gain in terms of lower interest costs.
  • Was width of corridor lost during pandemic? It is argued that  the MPC kept repo rates unchanged while the RBI changed the reverse repo rate during the pandemic, meaning that the fixed width of the corridor was lost and the MPC lost its role in setting interest rates and so, its credibility.
  • This argument does not stand scrutiny.
  • During the pandemic, the policy repo rate was cumulatively reduced by an unprecedented 115 bps and the interest rate on the overnight fixed-rate reverse repo was reduced cumulatively by 155 bps.
  • Assymetric corridor justified in crises: This measure was not incongruous with contemporary wisdom as an asymmetric corridor has been justified, particularly during crisis times (Goodhart, 2010).
  • Given that elevated inflation concerns precluded the possibility of any further repo rate cuts (cumulatively reduced by 250 basis points since February 2019), financial conditions were eased substantially by reducing the reverse repo rate, which lowered the floor rate of interest in the economy.
  • Since the mandate of the MPC is to control inflation for which the policy instrument is the repo rate, the RBI had used the LAF through changes in the reverse repo rate to alter liquidity conditions.

Trade offs involved in inflation targeting for emerging economies

  • Inflation-targeting countries, because of their sole focus on inflation, experience lower inflation volatility but higher output volatility.
  • Higher output volatility entails a higher sacrifice ratio — the proportion of output foregone for lowering inflation.
  • For an emerging economy, the costs of higher output foregone against the benefits of lower inflation must always be balanced as potential output keeps on changing given the shift of the production function.
  • Developed countries, on the other hand, operate near full employment — therefore, sacrifice ratios are lower.
  • As a result, smoothening inflation volatility is relatively costless for them.

Conclusion

The RBI has innovated admirably under its current stewards during the pandemic, keeping in mind the task of reinvigorating the economy. Despite the existing targeting framework, it did not get fixated on a one-point agenda, daring to look beyond the inflation print.

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Back2Basics: Liquidity corridor

  • The Corridor in monetary policy of the RBI refers to the area between the reverse repo rate and the MSF rate.
  • Reverse repo rate will be the lowest of the policy rates whereas Marginal Standing Facility is something like an upper ceiling with a higher rate than the repo rate.
  • The MSF rate and reverse repo rate determine the corridor for the daily movement in the weighted average call money rate.

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

A five-point plan to boost renewable energy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Transition to renewable

Context

As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels, pouring billions more dollars into the coal, oil and gas that are deepening the climate emergency.

Need for transition to renewable energy

  • Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis.
  • Renewable energy can limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century.
  • But the battle for a rapid and just energy transition is not being fought on a level field.
  • Investors are still backing fossil fuels, and governments still hand out billions in subsidies for coal, oil and gas — about $11 million every minute.
  • The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.
  • We must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.
  • But current national commitments will lead to an increase of almost 14 per cent this decade.
  • Reducing cost:  The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade.
  • The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
  • Nature-based solutions: Of course, renewables are not the only answer to the climate crisis.
  • Nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, are essential.
  • So too are efforts to promote energy efficiency.
  • But a rapid renewable energy transition must be our ambition.

Five point plan to boost renewable

  • 1] Renewable energy technology as global good: We must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer.
  • 2] Improve global access: We must improve global access to supply chains for renewable energy technologies, components and raw materials.
  • In 2020, the world installed five gigawatts of battery storage.
  • We need 600 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2030.
  • Shipping bottlenecks and supply-chain constraints, as well as higher costs for lithium and other battery metals, are hurting the deployment of such technologies and materials.
  • 3] Fast-tracking : We must cut the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects.
  • We need fast-track approvals and more effort to modernise electricity grids.
  • 4] Shifting energy subsidies: The world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.
  • Increase investment in renewables: We need to triple investments in renewables.
  • This includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks.

Conclusion

When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

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Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

What are G-Sec Yields?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G-Secs

Mains level : Read the attached story

Government Securities (G-Secs) yields are at an all-time high.

What are G-Secs?

  • These are debt instruments issued by the government to borrow money.
  • The two key categories are:
  1. Treasury bills (T-Bills) – short-term instruments which mature in 91 days, 182 days, or 364 days, and
  2. Dated securities – long-term instruments, which mature anywhere between 5 years and 40 years

Note: T-Bills are issued only by the central government, and the interest on them is determined by market forces.

Why G-Secs?

  • Like bank fixed deposits, g-secs are not tax-free.
  • They are generally considered the safest form of investment because they are backed by the government. So, the risk of default is almost nil.
  • However, they are not completely risk-free, since they are subject to fluctuations in interest rates.
  • Bank fixed deposits, on the other hand, are guaranteed only to the extent of Rs 5 lakh by the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC).

How are G-sec yields calculated?

  • G-sec yields change over time; often several times during a single day.
  • This happens because of the manner in which G-secs are structured.
  • Every G-sec has a face value, a coupon payment and price.
  • The price of the bond may or may not be equal to the face value of the bond.
  • Here’s an example: Suppose the government floats a 10-year G-sec with a face value of Rs 100 and a coupon payment of Rs 5.
  • If one were to buy this single G-sec from the government, it would mean that one will give Rs 100 to the government today and the government will promises to 1) return the sum of Rs 100 at the end of tenure (10 years), and 2) pay Rs 5 each year until the end of this tenure.
  • At this point, the face value of this G-sec is equal to its price, and its yield (or the effective interest rate) is 5%.

How do G-sec yields go up and down?

  • Imagine a scenario in which the government floats just one G-sec, and two people want to buy it.
  • Competitive bidding will ensue, and the price of the bond may rise from Rs 100 (its face value) to Rs 105.
  • Now imagine another lender in the picture, which pushes the price further up to Rs 110.

What do G-sec yields show?

  • If G-sec yields (say for a 10-year bond) are going up, it would imply that lenders are demanding even more from private sector firms or individuals; that’s because anyone else is riskier when compared to the government.
  • It is also known that when it comes to lending, interest rates rise with the rise in risk profile.
  • As such, if G-sec yields start going up, it means lending to the government is becoming riskier.
  • If you read that the G-sec yields are going up, it suggests that the bond prices are falling. But the prices are falling because fewer people want to lend to the government.
  • And that in turn happens when people are worried about the government’s finances (or its ability to pay back).
  • The government’s finances may be in trouble because the economy is faltering and it is unlikely that the government will meet its expenses.
  • By the reverse logic, if a government’s finances are sorted, more and more people want to lend money to such a G-sec.
  • This in turn, leads to bond prices going up and yields coming down.

Try this PYQ:

Consider the following statements:

  1. The Reserve Bank of India manages and services the Government of India Securities but not any State Government Securities.
  2. Treasury bills are issued by the Government of India and there are no treasury bills issued by the State Governments.
  3. Treasury bills offer are issued at a discount from the par value.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 Only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Goods and Services Tax (GST)

GST revenues surpass ₹1.44 lakh crore

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GST, Major sources of revenue

Mains level : Success and limitations of the GST regime

India recorded its second-highest monthly gross GST revenues in June at ₹1,44,616 crore, 56% more than a year earlier when the second COVID wave had hit economic activity.

What is GST?

  • GST is an indirect tax that has replaced many indirect taxes in India such as excise duty, VAT, services tax, etc.
  • The Goods and Service Tax Act was passed in Parliament on 29th March 2017 and came into effect on 1st July 2017. It is a single domestic indirect tax law for the entire country.
  • It is a comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax that is levied on every value addition.
  • Under the GST regime, the tax is levied at every point of sale. In the case of intra-state sales, Central GST and State GST are charged. All the inter-state sales are chargeable to the Integrated GST.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.All revenues received by the Union. Government by way of taxes and other receipts for the conduct of Government business are credited to the (CSP 2015):

(a) Contingency Fund of India

(b) Public Account

(c) Consolidated Fund of India

(d) Deposits and Advances Fund

 

Post your answers here.

What are the components of GST?

There are three taxes applicable under this system:

  1. CGST: It is the tax collected by the Central Government on an intra-state sale (e.g., a transaction happening within Maharashtra)
  2. SGST: It is the tax collected by the state government on an intra-state sale (e.g., a transaction happening within Maharashtra)
  3. IGST: It is a tax collected by the Central Government for an inter-state sale (e.g., Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu)

Advantages Of GST

  • GST has mainly removed the cascading effect on the sale of goods and services.
  • Removal of the cascading effect has impacted the cost of goods.
  • Since the GST regime eliminates the tax on tax, the cost of goods decreases.
  • Also, GST is mainly technologically driven.
  • All the activities like registration, return filing, application for refund and response to notice needs to be done online on the GST portal, which accelerates the processes.

Issues with GST

  • High operational cost
  • GST has given rise to complexity for many business owners across the nation.
  • GST has received criticism for being called a ‘Disability Tax’ as it now taxes articles such as braille paper, wheelchairs, hearing aid etc.
  • Petrol is not under GST, which goes against the ideals of the unification of commodities.

Take a look at the share of GST in government earnings for the previous fiscal:

UPSC can ask about the majority component of the Revenue Receipts of the govt. See how Corporate tax is nearing the GST revenues.

Do you think it will surpass GST revenue when the economy is fully recovered?

 

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Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

DRDO tests Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator

Mains level : India's defence exports, Atmanirbharta in defence

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully carried out the maiden test flight of a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), an autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator, from the Aeronautical Test Range, Chitradurga, Karnataka.

About the Indigenous Drone

  • The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is powered by a small turbofan engine.
  • It is developed under unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) programme.
  • It is designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru, a premier research laboratory of DRDO.
  • The engine is Russian TRDD-50MT originally designed for cruise missiles.
  • A small turbo fan engine is being developed indigenously for meeting the requirement.

Various initiatives by DRDO

  • DRDO is in the process of developing UAVs of different classes to met the requirements of the armed forces.
  • Rustom-2, the indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV under development, had crossed a milestone by reaching an altitude of 25,000 feet and an endurance of 10 hours.
  • It is now being designed to reach an altitude of 30,000 feet and 18 hours endurance.
  • An Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle is also on the drawing board.

Significance of the development

  • Operating in a fully autonomous mode, the aircraft exhibited a perfect flight, including take-off, way point navigation and a smooth touchdown.
  • This flight marks a major milestone in terms of proving critical technologies towards the development of future unmanned aircraft.
  • This is a significant step towards self-reliance in strategic defence technologies.

 

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[pib] Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CDRI

Mains level : Disaster management

The Union Cabinet has approved the categorization of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) as an ‘International Organization’.

What is the news?

  • The cabinet also signed as the Headquarters Agreement (HQA) with CDRI for granting it the exemptions, immunities and privileges as contemplated under the United Nations (Privileges & Immunities) Act, 1947.
  • This will provide CDRI an independent and international legal persona so that it can efficiently and effectively carry out its functions internationally.

What is CDRI?

  • The CDRI is an international coalition of countries, UN agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and academic institutions that aim to promote disaster-resilient infrastructure.
  • Its objective is to promote research and knowledge sharing in the fields of infrastructure risk management, standards, financing, and recovery mechanisms.
  • It was launched by the Indian PM Narendra Modi at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019.
  • CDRI’s initial focus is on developing disaster-resilience in ecological, social, and economic infrastructure.
  • It aims to achieve substantial changes in member countries’ policy frameworks and future infrastructure investments, along with a major decrease in the economic losses suffered due to disasters.

Its inception

  • PM Modi’s experience in dealing with the aftermath of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake” as the chief minister led him to the idea.
  • The CDRI was later conceptualized in the first and second edition of the International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) in 2018-19.
  • It was organized by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in partnership with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the UN Development Programme, the World Bank, and the Global Commission on Adaptation.

Its diplomatic significance

  • The CDRI is the second major coalition launched by India outside of the UN, the first being the International Solar Alliance.
  • Both of them are seen as India’s attempts to obtain a global leadership role in climate change matters and were termed as part of India’s stronger branding.
  • India can use the CDRI to provide a safer alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well.

Why designated as International Organization?

  • Deputing experts to other countries
  • Deploying funds globally and receive contributions from member countries
  • Making available technical expertise to assist countries
  • Imparting assistance to countries in adopting appropriate risk governance arrangements and strategies for resilient infrastructure
  • Aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Leveraging international engagement to foster disaster-resilient infrastructure at home; and,
  • Providing Indian scientific and technical institution as well as infrastructure developers an opportunity to interact with global experts.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants is a unique initiative of G20 group of countries
  2. The CCAC focuses on methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Festivals in news: Puri Rath Yatra

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rath Yatra

Mains level : NA

Lakhs of devotees thronged the coastal town of Puri town to witness the annual Rath Yatra with three decorated chariots of sibling deities Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath and Devi Subhadra towed in front of the 12th century Shree Jagannath Temple.

About Jagannath Rath Yatra

  • Ratha Jatra, the Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannatha is celebrated every year at Puri, the temple town in Orissa, on the east coast of India.
  • It involves a public procession with a chariot with deities Jagannath (Vishnu avatar), BalaBhadra (his brother), Subhadra (his sister) and Sudarshana Chakra (his weapon) on a ratha, a wooden deula-shaped chariot.
  • The huge, colourfully decorated chariots, are drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees on the bada danda, the grand avenue to the Gundicha temple, some two miles away to the North.
  • It attracts over a million Hindu pilgrims who join the procession each year.

Back2Basics: Puri Temple Architecture

  • Jagannath Temple is a very big temple and covers an area of 37000m2. The height of the outer wall is 6.1m.
  • It is surrounded by a high fortified wall 6.1 m high is known as Meghanada Pacheri.
  • The main portion of the temple is also surrounded by a wall known as Kurma Bheda.
  • The temple is built in Rekha Deula style and has four distinct sectional structures, namely –
  1. Deula, Vimana or Garba griha (Sanctum sanctorum) where the triad deities are lodged on the ratnavedi (Throne of Pearls)
  2. Mukhashala (Frontal porch)
  3. Nata mandir/Natamandapa, which is also known as the Jagamohan (Audience Hall/Dancing Hall), and
  4. Bhoga Mandapa (Offerings Hall)

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.Building ‘Kalyaana Mandapas’ was a notable feature in the temple construction in the kingdom of-

(a) Chalukya (b) Chandela (c) Rashtrakuta (d) Vijayanagara

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Anti Defection Law

Do not weaken the anti-defection law

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Schedules of the Constitution

Mains level : Paper 2- Strengthening anti-defection law

Context

The political developments in Maharashtra throw up troubling questions about how the political class is weakening the anti-defection law.

Background of the anti-defection law

  •  It was enacted as the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India, in 1985, under Rajiv Gandhi’s premiership.
  • The law as it was enacted provided for the disqualification of a legislator belonging to a political party if he voluntarily gave up his membership of his party or if he defied the whip of his party by voting contrary to its directions in the legislative house.
  • Two exceptions: Initially, there were two exceptions provided in the schedule which would exempt a legislator from disqualification.
  • 1] Split: The first exception was a split in their original political party resulting in the formation of a group of legislators.
  • If the group consisted of one third of such legislators of that party, they were exempted from disqualification.
  • This exception was deleted from the schedule through a Constitution Amendment Act of 2003 because of frequent misuse.
  • 2] Merger: The second exception was ‘merger’ which can be invoked when the original political party of a legislator merges with another party and not less than two thirds of its legislators agree to such a merger.

Interpretation of term ‘merger’ and issues with it

  • It is this second exception contained in paragraph four of the schedule which has been taken recourse to by a large number of legislators across States and even in Parliament to defect to the ruling party.
  • These legislators interpreted for themselves the term ‘merger’ to mean the merger of two thirds of legislators.
  • Now, the same is being repeated in Maharashtra.
  • But there is a little difference here.
  • It appears that the dissidents of Shiv Sena believed that if they get the two third number they can form a separate group and topple the government and then form a government with the help of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • The law imposes the condition of merger of the original political party.
  • However, a recent judgment of the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court ( Girish Chodankar vs The Speaker, Goa State Legislative) that held that the merger of two thirds of Members of the Legislative Assembly is deemed to be the merger of the original party seems to have given them a ray of hope.
  • So, the legal position is if the dissidents do not merge with another party they will be disqualified now or later.

Question of disqualification

  • Disqualification petitions have been filed by the Shiv Sena against 16 of the dissidents under paragraph 2(1)(a) on the ground that they have voluntarily given up the membership of the party.
  • The question of whether they have voluntarily given up the membership of the party is decided on the basis of the conduct of a member.
  • In Ravi S. Naik vs Union of India (1994), the Supreme Court had said “an inference can be drawn from the conduct of a member that he has voluntarily given up the membership of the party.

Weakening the anti-defection law

  • Unprincipled defection: The ongoing developments in Maharashtra have once again brought before the country the reality of what the Supreme Court also described as the political evil of unprincipled defection.
  • But the order of the Supreme Court, on June 27, on petitions from the dissidents in the Shiv Sena, gives undue advantage to the dissident legislators.
  • The Court has granted them a longer time to submit replies than the rules mandate.
  • This order is going to set in motion certain political developments which will resurrect in a big way what the Supreme Court characterised as political evil.
  • The intervention by the Supreme Court too has thrown up some crucial question.
  • Kihoto Hollohan case: The first question is whether the Court can intervene at a stage prior to the decision by the Deputy Speaker.
  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had held in Kihoto Hollohan (1993) that judicial review cannot be available prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker nor at an interlocutory stage of the proceeding.
  •  The notice of no-confidence against the Deputy Speaker has added another piece to the jigsaw puzzle.
  • Nabam Rebia case: The Supreme Court had held in Nabam Rebia (2016) that the Speaker shall not decide the disqualification cases till the no-confidence motion against him is disposed of.
  • The House rules clearly say that the notice of no-confidence against the Speaker/Deputy Speaker needs to be admitted in the first place which is done only by the Speaker.
  • But it is the House which takes the final decision on the motion. If the notice of no-confidence does not contain specific charges, it can be disallowed by the Speaker. 
  • Further, the notice can be given only if the House is summoned.
  • When the notice was given, the Assembly was not convened. So, the notice against the Deputy Speaker can have no validity under the rules.

Conclusion

The law, though not perfect, is a serious attempt to strengthen the moral content of democracy. There will be shortcomings in this Bill but as we see and identify those shortcomings we should try to overcome them.

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Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Is India really ahead of the West in terms of reproductive rights?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Reproductive rights in India

Context

Contrary to the grandstanding since the overturning of the landmark Roe V. Wade judgment, the truth is that India is not ahead of the West in terms of reproductive rights.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act

  • Abortion in India has been a legal right under various circumstances for the last 50 years with the introduction of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in 1971.
  • The Act was amended in 2003 to enable women’s accessibility to safe and legal abortion services.
  • Abortion is covered 100% by the government’s public national health insurance funds, Ayushman Bharat and Employees’ State Insurance with the package rate for surgical abortion.

The idea of terminating your pregnancy cannot originate by choice and is purely circumstantial. There are four situations under which a legal abortion is performed:

  1. If continuation of the pregnancy poses any risks to the life of the mother or mental health
  2. If the foetus has any severe abnormalities
  3. If pregnancy occurred as a result of failure of contraception (but this is only applicable to married women)
  4. If pregnancy is a result of sexual assault or rape

These are the key changes that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021, has brought in:

  • The gestation limit for abortions has been raised from the earlier ceiling of 20 weeks to 24 weeks, but only for special categories of pregnant women such as rape or incest survivors. But this termination would need the approval of two registered doctors.
  • All pregnancies up to 20 weeks require one doctor’s approval. The earlier law, the MTP Act 1971, required one doctor’s approval for pregnancies upto 12 weeks and two doctors’ for pregnancies between 12 and 20 weeks.
  • Women can now terminate unwanted pregnancies caused by contraceptive failure, regardless of their marital status. Earlier the law specified that only a “married woman and her husband” could do this.
  • There is also no upper gestation limit for abortion in case of foetal disability if so decided by a medical board of specialist doctors, which state governments and union territories’ administrations would set up.

Issues with legal provisions related to reproductive rights in India

  • Lack of rights based approach: The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 is far from ideal and has been criticised for not taking a rights-based approach.
  • According to the Act, a pregnancy can be terminated on the following conditions: Grave danger to the physical/mental health of the pregnant woman; foetal abnormalities; rape/coercion; and contraceptive failure.
  • A woman’s right to choose to end the pregnancy even in the first few weeks is still not recognised in India.
  • Systemic barriers: It doesn’t give the pregnant person complete autonomy in ending the pregnancy, instead making them go through various systemic barriers.
  • The final decision falls not on the pregnant person, but on registered medical practitioners (RMP).
  • The constitution of a medical board, a requirement by the Act, is considered a barrier by the World Health Organisation.
  • Excludes transgenders and non-binary persons: Additionally, it uses the word “woman”, thereby leaving out pregnant transgender and non-binary persons who are biologically capable of bearing children.
  • It forces them to identify themselves in the gender-binary ignoring their gender identity.

Social factors and lack of medical facilities

  • It is important to look through an intersectional lens, and factor in class and caste privilege.
  • Abortion facilities in private medical centres are expensive, available only for those who have the resources.
  • Lack of access: Not all public health centres, especially in rural India, provide abortion facilities.
  • Most unmarried women end up resorting to unsafe abortions in illegal clinics or at home.
  • According to the latest National Family Health Survey 2019-2021, 27 percent of the abortions were carried out by the woman herself at home.
  • According to United Nations’ Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report 2022, around 8 women die each day in India due to unsafe abortions.
  • It also found that between 2007-2011, 67 percent of the abortions were classified as unsafe.
  • Unsafe abortion was one of the top three causes of maternal deaths.

Discussion on reproductive rights in India are incomplete without mentioning surrogacy.

Issues in the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021

  • While well-intentioned, leaves much to be desired.
  • The plethora of regulations one must undergo is antithetical to a dignified standard of living.
  • Exclusionary in nature: Experts have pointed out that the Act is exclusionary in nature, disregards privacy, and also exploits women’s reproductive labour.
  • Only a heterosexual married couple (with certain preconditions) can be the intending parents.
  • It strips the reproductive autonomy of LGBTQ+ persons and single, divorced, and widowed intending parents. It can be seen as a violation to the fundamental right to equality.
  • Experts also believe that regulations, rather than a complete ban on commercial surrogacy, should have been the way forward.
  • Violates right to privacy: The Act requires the intending couple to declare their infertility and reveals the identity of the surrogate, both of which violate the right to privacy.
  • The landmark Puttaswamy judgment discusses bodily privacy – the right over one’s body and “the freedom of being able to prevent others from violating one’s body.”
  • The current reproductive rights regulatory framework falls short in guaranteeing bodily privacy.

Conclusion

The situation in India is far from perfect and we should take this moment to reflect and learn from progressive practices around the world. We should strive for inclusivity, complete bodily autonomy, and reproductive equity.

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Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (BNCAP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BNAP, GNAP

Mains level : Read the attached story

The government is planning a new car assessment programme (NCAP) in India, to be called the Bharat NCAP or BNCAP.

What is Bharat NCAP?

  • Bharat NCAP is a new car safety assessment programme which proposes a mechanism of awarding ‘Star Ratings’ to automobiles based upon their performance in crash tests.
  • BNCAP standard is aligned with global benchmarks and it is beyond minimum regulatory requirements.
  • The proposed Bharat NCAP assessment will allocate Star Ratings from 1 to 5 stars.
  • The testing of vehicles for this programme will be carried out at testing agencies, with the necessary infrastructure.

Its implementation

  • BNCAP will be rolled out from April 1, 2023.
  • It will be applicable on type-approved motor vehicles of category M1 with gross vehicle weight less than 3.5 tonnes, manufactured or imported in the country.
  • M1 category motor vehicles are used for the carriage of passengers, comprising eight seats, in addition to driver’s seat.

Significance of Bharat NCAP

  • BNCAP rating will provide consumers an indication of the level of protection offered to occupants by evaluating the vehicle in the areas of:
  1. Adult occupant protection
  2. Child occupant protection
  3. Safety assist technologies
  • It will serve as a consumer-centric platform, allowing customers to opt for safer cars based upon their Star-Ratings.
  • It will also promote a healthy competition among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in India to manufacture safer vehicles.
  • It will ensure structural and passenger safety in cars, along with increasing the export-worthiness of Indian automobiles.
  • It will prove to be a critical instrument in making our automobile industry Aatmanirbhar.

Why does India need to crash-test vehicles?

  • Indian vehicles have historically not been crash-tested in the country.
  • Despite being home to only 1% of the world’s vehicles, India shoulders 11% of the global road crash fatality burden.

What about existing testing standards?

  • India’s Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) mandate a safety and performance assessment, including a basic conformity crash test by agencies like the ARAI and ICAT when vehicles go in for type approvals.
  • However, this does not involve a crash test rating.
  • Many international automakers have been found to sell products in India which score much lower on safety and structural performance parameters.
  • This is done to reduce costs in the price-sensitive Indian market.
  • However, safety is moving up nowadays the list of key purchase criteria in India as well.

How will a homegrown NCAP help?

  • Global NCAP (GNCAP) crash tests for many best-selling Indian vehicles have dismal ratings, many of them rated zero in a bias.
  • The government hopes that by facilitating these tests by in-house agencies, more automakers will voluntarily undergo safety assessments and build vehicles that hold up to global standards.

How will it compare with GNCAP?

  • The government wants the two tests to be in congruence with each other.
  • It intends to design the BNCAP to resemble the GNCAP, the global gold standard, as closely as possible, including the speed for crash testing at 64kmph.
  • Central Motor Vehicle rules encompass standards with respect to pedestrian protection and seat belt reminders among others and will be retained in the testing under the BNCAP.
  • The government hopes the move will increase the export-worthiness of Indian automobiles.

 

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Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

Road Safety in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Road safety issues in India

The United Nations is holding a high-level meeting on Global Road Safety on June 30 and July 1, 2022 to review the progress and challenges.

Road Accidents in India: A lookover

  • In spite of several years of policymaking to improve road safety, India remains among the worst-performing countries in this area.
  • Total 1,47,913 lives lost to road traffic accidents in 2017 as per Ministry of Road Transport and Highways statistics.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figure for the same year is 1,50,093 road accident deaths.

Why in news?

  • The persistently high annual death toll brings into question the country’s ability to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.6.
  • This aims to halve the fatalities and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2030.

Lancet’s findings on road safety

  • A new analytical series on road safety worldwide, published by The Lancet, proposes that India and other countries could cut accident-related deaths by 25 to 40%.
  • This is based on evidence that preventive interventions produce good outcomes when applied to four well-known risk factors:
  1. High speed
  2. Driving under the influence of alcohol
  3. Not using proper helmets
  4. Not wearing seat-belts and not using child restraints

Issues highlighted in developing countries

  • The structural problems linked to unplanned motorisation and urbanisation remain.
  • In India, speedy highway construction takes place without reconciling fast and slow-moving traffic.
  • There is a rampant presence of ramshackle vehicles, wrong-side driving, absence of adequate traffic police forces etc.

Why are there so many road fatalities in India alone?

  • Weak enforcement of traffic laws: People hardly oblige to traffic rules and find easier to bribe policemen rather than paying hefty challans.
  • Speeding issue: More accidents on the highways have been attributed to higher vehicle speeds and higher volume of traffic on these roads.
  • Engineering bottlenecks: Issues such as gaps in the median on the national highways, untreated intersections, and missing crash barriers are some of the biggest engineering issues.
  • Behavioural issue: Driver violations such as wrong-side driving, wrong lane usage by heavy vehicles, and mass violation of traffic lights, intoxication are the biggest behavioural issues.
  • Lack of Golden hour treatment: Lack of rapid trauma care on highways leads to such high fatalities.

Various steps taken by India

  • India amended Motor Vehicles Act in 2019, but its implementation by State governments is not uniform or complete.
  • A National Road Safety Board was constituted under the Act, with advisory powers to reform safety.
  • The World Bank has approved a $250 million loan to support for India State Support Programme for Road Safety.

Issues with implementation

  • The focus of State governments, however, remains conventional, with an emphasis on user behaviour (drivers and other road users), education and uneven enforcement.
  • Low emphasis is placed on structural change such as raising engineering standards for roads, signages, signals, training for scientific accident investigation, raising policing skills and fixing responsibility on government departments for design, creation and maintenance of road infrastructure.

What can be done to cut death and injury rates?

  • The ambitious amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act in 2019 (MV Act) have not yielded significant results.
  • Major interventions in India, first suggested by the Sundar Committee (2007) and ordered by the Supreme Court in Rajasekaran vs Union of India have not made a dent in the problem.

Key findings of Sundar Committee

  • The Sundar Committee pointed out that India lacked a technically competent investigation arm that could determine the cause of accidents.
  • There is little clarity on whether the States have formed such units to aid traffic investigation, or whether the insurance industry has pressed for these to accurately determine fault.
  • In the absence of scientific investigation, perceptions usually guide the fixing of liability.

Solutions provided by the Lancet

  • The Lancet calculated that 17% of road traffic injury-related deaths could be avoided if trauma care facilities improved.
  • This is significant as several accidents take place in rural areas on highways, and victims are taken to poorly-equipped district hospitals or medical college hospitals.
  • While positive user behaviour — slower travel, wearing of helmets, seat belts and so on — could save thousands of lives.
  • In the short term, slowing down traffic, particularly near habitations, segregating slower vehicles, enforcing seat belt and helmet use and cracking down on drunken drivers could produce measurable gains.

Imbibing road safety: Way forward

  • Road safety education
  • Better road design, maintenance and warning signage
  • Crackdown on driving under influence of alcohol and drugs
  • Strict enforcement of traffic rules
  • Encouraging better road behaviour
  • Ensuring road worthiness of a vehicle
  • Better first aid and paramedic care

Do you know?

The ‘golden hour’ has been defined as ‘the time period lasting one hour following a traumatic injury during which there is the highest likelihood of preventing death by providing prompt medical care.

 

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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

UAPA necessary to act against terrorists: Minister

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UAPA

Mains level : Terrorism and radicalization in India

A Union Minister has said it was necessary to have certain laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) so that action could be taken against terrorists and those who “behead other people”.

Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act (UAPA)

  • The UAPA is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India
  • It is an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004.
  • It was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory. Following the 2004 amendment, “terrorist act” was added to the list of offences.

Major feature: Designation of Terrorists

  • The Centre had amended UAPA, 1967, in August 2019 to include the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist.
  • Before this amendment, only organisations could be designated as terrorist outfits.
  • Section 15 of the UAPA defines a “terrorist act” as any act committed with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country.
  • The original Act dealt with “unlawful” acts related to secession; anti-terror provisions were introduced in 2004.

Who makes such designation?

  • The UAPA (after 2019 amendment)seeks to empower the central government to designate an individual a “terrorist” if they are found committing, preparing for, promoting, or involved in an act of terror.
  • A similar provision already exists in Part 4 and 6 of the legislation for organizations that can be designated as a “terrorist organisations”.

How individuals are declared terrorists?

  • The central government may designate an individual as a terrorist through a notification in the official gazette, and add his name to the schedule supplemented to the UAPA Bill.
  • The government is not required to give an individual an opportunity to be heard before such a designation.
  • At present, in line with the legal presumption of an individual being innocent until proven guilty, an individual who is convicted in a terror case is legally referred to as a terrorist.
  • While those suspected of being involved in terrorist activities are referred to as terror accused.

What happens when an individual is declared a terrorist?

  • The designation of an individual as a global terrorist by the United Nations is associated with sanctions including travel bans, freezing of assets and an embargo against procuring arms.
  • The UAPA, however, does not provide any such detail.
  • It also does not require the filing of cases or arresting individuals while designating them as terrorists.

Removing the terrorist tag

  • The UAPA gives the central government the power to remove a name from the schedule when an individual makes an application.
  • The procedure for such an application and the process of decision-making will is decided by the central government.
  • If an application filed by an individual declared a terrorist is rejected by the government, the UAPA gives him the right to seek a review within one month after the application is rejected.
  • The central government will set up the review committee consisting of a chairperson (a retired or sitting judge of a High Court) and three other members.
  • The review committee is empowered to order the government to delete the name of the individual from the schedule that lists “terrorists” if it considers the order to be flawed.
  • Apart from these two avenues, the individual can also move the courts to challenge the government’s order.

 

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ISRO Missions and Discoveries

What is PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : POEM

Mains level : Not Much

The ISRO has launched three Singaporean satellites in precise orbit through the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module or ‘POEM’.

What is POEM?

  • The POEM is a platform that will help perform in-orbit experiments using the final, and otherwise discarded, stage of ISRO’s workhorse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
  • The PSLV is a four-stage rocket where the first three spent stages fall back into the ocean, and the final stage (PS4) — after launching the satellite into orbit — ends up as space junk.
  • However, in PSLV-C53 mission, the spent final stage will be utilised as a “stabilised platform” to perform experiments.
  • POEM is carrying six payloads, including two from Indian space start-ups Digantara and Dhruva Space.

Features of POEM

  • POEM has a dedicated Navigation Guidance and Control (NGC) system for attitude stabilisation, which stands for controlling the orientation of any aerospace vehicle within permitted limits.
  • The NGC will act as the platform’s brain to stabilize it with specified accuracy.
  • POEM will derive its power from solar panels mounted around the PS4 tank, and a Li-Ion battery.
  • It will navigate using four sun sensors, a magnetometer, gyros & NavIC.
  • It carries dedicated control thrusters using Helium gas storage. It is enabled with a telecomm and feature.

Has ISRO repurposed and used PS4 rocket junk earlier?

  • The Indian space agency first demonstrated the capability of using PSLV-C44 as an orbital platform in 2019.
  • It injected Microsat-R and Kalamsat-V2 satellites into their designated orbits.
  • The fourth stage in that mission was kept alive as an orbital platform for space-based experiments.
  • While in that mission, the fourth stage had Li-Ion batteries, solar panels are an addition this time.
  • The latest repurposing and upgrade of the fourth stage of the PSLV rocket involves the stabilization of the orbital platform.

 

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