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[op-ed snap] Making CSR work: On Companies Act amendments

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

CONTEXT

Amendments to the Companies Act have made non-compliance with CSR norms a jailable offence for key officers of the company, apart from hefty fines up to ₹25 lakh on the company and ₹5 lakh on the officer in default.

Evolution of CSR

  1. It was first encouraged as a voluntary contribution by business
  2. 6 years ago it evolved into a co-option of the corporate sector to promote inclusiveness in society 
  3. Now it has become an imposition

Issues with amendments

  1. The committee headed by the Corporate Affairs Secretary has proposed that non-compliance be decriminalised and made a civil offence. CSR is a means to partner corporates for social development and such penal provisions are not in harmony with the spirit of CSR.
  2. CSR should not be treated as another tax on businesses.
  3. The government should not micromanage and tie-down businesses with rules and regulations that impose a heavy compliance burden.

Problems with CSR

  1. Filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs show that in 2017-18, only a little over half of those liable to spend on CSR have filed reports.
  2. The average CSR spend by private companies was just ₹95 lakh compared to ₹9.40 crore for public sector units.

Way ahead

  1. Compliance will improve as corporates imbibe CSR culture fully.
  2. The committee’s suggestion to offer a tax break for expenses on CSR may incentivise companies to spend.
  3. It has also recommended that unspent CSR funds be transferred to an escrow account within 30 days of the end of the financial year.

Conclusion

CSR is not the main business of a company they should rightly be focusing their energies on the business rather than on social spending.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Issues & Development

[op-ed snap] Popular anxiety

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Sex ratio as a major population issue


CONTEXT

Prime Minister called “population explosion” a challenge in his Independence Day speech. 

Facts

  1. India’s headcount is over 1.3 billion. It is headed even higher.
  2. The number might stabilize in a few years ahead. From data between 2013 to 2016, the country’s total fertility rate has fallen to an estimated 2.2. This figure is only marginally higher than 2.1, the replacement rate of the existing population.

Challenges

  1. Failure to arrest and reverse a trend in population: the gender gap. India has approximately 930 females per 1,000 males. 
  2. The ratio is even worse if we look at new births. The country’s sex ratio at birth declined from 900 females per 1,000 males in 2013-15 to 896 in 2015-17.
  3. Male preference among parents is not unique to India. Of the 201 countries listed on the United Nations Human Sex Ratio chart for 2018, India is at No. 191. There exist worse performers. 

Conclusion

We are heading for a gender crisis if a balance is not restored.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] A jan andolan for water

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Water conservation - Jal Jeevan Missiojn


CONTEXT

This Independence Day,  the Prime Minister announced the Jal Jeevan Mission, which plans to supply water to all households by 2024. 

Importance of the mission

  1. For many years, the central and state governments have been making efforts to increase access to safe and adequate drinking water.
  2. Household water supply issues – Though the basic quantity of drinking water in rural India has been provided through hand pumps etc.,  household water supply remains a challenge. A low percentage of rural Indian households have access to this service.
  3. Institutional unity – Institutions for water at both the Centre and state governments have been fragmented, with several ministries in Delhi and departments in states dealing with different aspects of water management. Jal Shakti Mantralaya to integrate the management of water resources is a landmark step. 
  4. Source conservation – Inadequate attention to sustain the source of the water. Instead of simple and local measures like creating rainwater harvesting structures, the emphasis has been more on maximizing the pumping of water and distributing it through pipes. Many of the systems have either shut down or function suboptimally as the groundwater source has dried up.
  5. Decentralization –
    1. Provision of drinking water was viewed primarily as an engineering solution, with schemes planned and executed by the public health and engineering departments. 
    2. Programs like the Swajal project in UP and WASMO program in Gujarat demonstrated that water can be most efficiently managed at the lowest appropriate level. 
    3. Single village ground water-based schemes would be managed by the community itself through the setting up of a village water and sanitation committee. Local innovations such as solar-based schemes will be encouraged.
  6. Household water – household wastewater amounts to about 75% of the amount of water supplied.
    1. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, huge quantities of household wastewater will be generated across the country.
    2. It is planned to include a mandatory provision under the Jal Jeevan Mission for the effective channeling and treatment of household wastewater through appropriate and low-cost drainage and treatment systems. 

Extensive information, education, and communication will be needed to create a jan andolan for water management.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Giving shape to an elusive strategic concept

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Chief of Defence staff - analysis


CONTEXT

Prime Minister announced appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This could have a far-reaching impact on the management of defence in India.

Why CDS

    1. Long-awaited move – The issue of efficient management of higher defence organisation came into focus after the Kargil war in 1999 when K. Subrahmanyam task force highlighted the systemic issues affecting our national security structures; such as poor coordination and technological inadequacies.
    2. Group of Ministers (GoM) in the early 2000s reviewed national security management. Though many of their recommendations were implemented, Defence management recommendations were not implemented.
    3. Decision making process – Armed forces are not formally involved in decision-making on defence planning and strategy. Service Headquarters are not within the Ministry of Defence; they are treated more like attached offices. 
    4. New age military conflicts –The concept of military conflict extends beyond land, air and sea, into the space, cyber, electronic and information. Effective defence preparedness requires a ‘jointness’ of these forces. It also requires a prioritisation of the weapons requirement and optimisation of their resource allocations.
    5. GOM Recommendations – 
      1. Integrating the armed forces headquarters into the Ministry of Defence (MoD)
      2. Appointment of a CDS
      3. CDS was to administer tri-service institutions such as the Andaman and Nicobar Command
    6. Strategic advice – CDS would provide coordinated military advice to the Defence Minister. He would develop the national defence strategy from a national security strategy
    7. Established institution – Many democracies have the institution of a CDS or its equivalent, with varying degrees of operational control over their armed forces.
    8. Accountability – It arises from the greater participation of the military in defence decision-making alongside the civilian bureaucracy
    9. Defence acquisition –  The CDS can contribute to rational defence acquisition decisions by preventing redundancy of capacities among the services and making best use of available financial resources.

 

 

Challenges posed by CDS

  1. Authority of service chiefs – there is an apprehension that a CDS would undermine the authority of the three service chiefs over their forces. The establishment of theatre commands under the CDS in many countries reinforced this fear. 
  2. An all-powerful CDS would distort the civil-military balance in our democracy.

Role of CDS

  1. Developing multi-domain military strategies
  2. Strengthening tri-service synergies 
  3. Enabling perspective planning

Way ahead

  1. India should pursue the objective of indigenisation. India is still among the top arms importers. 
  2. There must be procedures to ensure that every acquisition is structured in a way as to strengthen our indigenous technological capacities.
  3. Eventually, the three Service headquarters would need to be suitably integrated into the Ministry of Defence.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Explained: India’s doctrine of Nuclear No First Use

Mains Paper 3 : External State & Non-State Actors: Challenges To Internal Security. |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the doctrine

Mains level : Time-test of India's NFU doctrine


News

  • Raksha Mantri has said that while India has strictly adhered to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) of nuclear weapons, it can be reconsidered on future circumstances.
  • It was not immediately clear if policymakers are willing to revisit it.

Doctrine in making

  • A commitment to not be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict has long been India’s stated policy.
  • India first adopted a “No first use” policy after its second nuclear tests Pokhran-II, in 1998.
  • In August 1999, the govt. released a draft of the doctrine which asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of “retaliation only”.
  • Pakistan, by contrast, has openly threatened India with the use of nuclear weapons on multiple occasions beginning from the time the two nations were not even acknowledged nuclear powers.

No First Use doctrine

  • Among the major points in the doctrine was “a posture of No First Use”, which was described as follows:
  1. Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”.
  2. India’s nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.
  3. Also in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.
  4. Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority. (The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council. The Political Council is chaired by the PM.)
  5. India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  6. India would continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.
  7. India remains committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.

Why in news?

  • The successive governments are following Vajpayee’s doctrine and have directly or indirectly reaffirmed their commitment to NFU.
  • However, the doctrine has been questioned at various times by strategic experts in domestic policy debates, and the idea that India should revisit this position has been put forward at various high-level fora.
Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

India gets its first national essential diagnostics list

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Medical diagnosis


News

National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL)

  • India has got its first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL) finalised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • With this, India has become the first country to compile such a list that would provide guidance to the government for deciding the kind of diagnostic tests that different healthcare facilities in villages and remote areas require.
  • NEDL aims to bridge the current regulatory system’s gap that does not cover all the medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic device (IVD).
  • The list is meant for facilities from village till the district level.

How are diagnostics regulated?

  • In India, diagnostics (medical devices and in vitro diagnostics) follow a regulatory framework based on the drug regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945.
  • Diagnostics are regulated under the regulatory provisions of the Medical Device Rules, 2017.

Why need NEDL?

  • Diagnostics serve a key role in improving health and quality of life.
  • While affordability of diagnostics is a prime concern in low, middle-income countries like India, low cost, inaccurate diagnostics have made their way into the Indian market which has no place in the quality health care system.
  • NEDL builds upon the Free Diagnostics Service Initiative and other diagnostics initiatives of the Health Ministry to provide an expanded basket of tests at different levels of the public health system.

Benefits

  • The implementation of NEDL would enable improved health care services delivery through evidence-based care, improved patient outcomes and reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure; effective utilisation of public health facilities.
  • It would help in effective assessment of disease burden, disease trends, surveillance, and outbreak identification; and address antimicrobial resistance crisis too.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Tamil Yeoman declared state butterfly of TN

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tamil Yeoman

Mains level : Significance of Insects



News

  • The state of Tamil Nadu has recently declared Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa thais)as its state butterfly to symbolise its rich natural and cultural heritage, in a move aimed at boosting the conservation efforts of the attractive insects.

Tamil Yeoman

  • Locally known as Tamil Maravanmeaning ‘Tamilian Warrior’, the canopy butterfly, usually sized between 60 and 75mm, belongs to the family of brush-footed butterflies or the Nymphalid.
  • The winged wonder, with its natural zigzag patterns near its bright orange-coloured wings and its aesthetic dots, has always been a fascination for local nature enthusiasts.
  • It was chosen for its cultural identity linking the state through its name and is abundance in hilly areas.
  • Endemic to the biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, Tamil Yeoman is usually seen at the foothills and moist evergreen forests of the state’s mountainous regions.
  • Known to have a straight flight with few wing beats and long glide, the butterfly is actively spotted in forest streams too.

Other state species

  • This is the latest addition to Tamil Nadu’s existing symbols from the natural world – palmyra as the state tree, gloriosa lily as the state flower, emerald dove as the state bird, jackfruit as the state fruit and Nilgiri tahr as the state animal.
  • With the latest policy initiative, it has become the fifth India state after Maharashtra (Blue Mormon), Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern birdwings) and Kerala (Malabar banded peacock) to bestow a state emblem status to one of its colourful insects.

Why state designation to butterflies?

  • Butterflies are great bio-indicators of an ecosystem as they are highly sensitive to environmental conditions such as temperature, sunlight, humidity and rainfall patterns.
  • Butterflies are not only great pollinators but also play a crucial role in the food chain.
  • Their presence, patterns and migration assist in mapping the climatic health of a region and are they are perhaps the most studied insect group across the world.
  • Tamil Nadu’s naturally elongated geographical placement combined with the presence of Eastern and the Western Ghats generate a variety of habitats with diverse ecological conditions allowing plenty of ‘butterfly hotspots’.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Sustainable agriculture: Going beyond Soil Health Cards

Mains Paper 3 : E-Technology In The Aid Of Farmers |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Soil organic carbon (SOC)

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

Context

  • Agriculture supports roughly half of India’s population and is the key to its food security.
  • We have, indeed, avoided the spectre of food shortages, thanks to our farmers increasing production using modern inputs and technology developed by agriculture scientists.
  • But there has been a collateral cost to this — in the form of overexploitation of our natural resources, especially soil and water — which has brought issues of sustainability to the fore.

Issues relating to sustainable agriculture

  • The first is falling groundwater tables on which the PM himself has recently focussed attention.
  • The second is the depleting organic matter content in our soils.
  • The third one is a much broader concern of climate change; its impact on monsoon rainfall vagaries or temperature spikes during the cropping season doesn’t require elaboration.

(Note: This article’s focus is limited to the second issue.)

Soil organic carbon (SOC)

  • Soil organic carbon (SOC) is extremely important for agriculture.
  • About 58% of organic matter mass exists in the form of carbon.
  • The percentage of organic matter in the soil can, thus, be estimated by simply multiplying the SOC% by a conversion factor of 1.72 (100/58).

Why is SOC important?

  • While farmers may apply urea or di-ammonium phosphate, adequate SOC levels is what makes the nitrogen and phosphorous from these chemical fertilizers bio-available to crops.
  • Organic matter is also the source of food for the microorganisms that help increase the porosity and aeration of soils.
  • The soil’s moisture holding capacity, too, goes up with higher carbon levels, thereby reducing water runoff.
  • Simply put, SOC levels have direct correlation with soil productivity and, by extension, sustainability of agriculture.

How it is linked to Climate Change?

  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide is stored in the form of SOC through the process of absorption in crop production and plant residue retention in soil.
  • This sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide can, indeed, be a powerful mitigating measure for climate change.
  • But in the last four years, based on sample testing results under the Centre’s Soil Health Card Scheme, the picture emerging isn’t all that encouraging.
  • SOC levels are found to be very low in most parts of India.
  • The soils in temperate climates have better carbon levels. It is quite the opposite in hot and tropical atmospheric areas such as ours, where the soils tend to lose carbon through decomposition (mineralization) of plant residues.
  • Rising temperatures from climate change further aggravates the situation.

How to ascertain adequate SOC levels?

  • SOC levels matter can be raised through higher retention of farm residue and adding organic matter from outside.

Step I: Proper crop selection

  • Plants, we know, take atmospheric carbon dioxide and convert it into food through photosynthesis process.
  • Ideally, only crops producing more aboveground and root mass – which contribute to long-term productivity by enhancing soil organic matter – should be grown.
  • But farmers, being rational economic agents, will go only for crops that give higher and assured returns, even if in the short run.
  • A change in cropping patterns, to ensure high SOC and long-term productivity, will not take place unless the desired alternative crops are remunerative.
  • It calls for appropriate policy intervention, including encouragement to set up agri-processing units for such crops, which will, in turn, make it profitable for farmers to grow them.

Step II: Proper retention of farm residues

  • Even the aboveground mass remaining after harvesting of the grain and dried stalks needed for fodder should be returned to the soil as much as possible.
  • This requires scientific crop residue management.
  • Burning of crop stubble has a negative impact not just on environment and human health, but also on soil fertility.
  • The crop residue when burnt, instead of raising SOC through mixing with the soil, gets converted into carbon dioxide.
  • A strategy focused on both in situ and ex situ management of residue is necessary today.
  • Currently, it is being sought to address the issue through subsidised provision of implements such as Happy Seeder, Super-Straw Management System attachment, mulcher and chopper-shredder.
  • But all this is mostly in areas closer to the national capital. For sustainable farming and improving soil health, we need all states to pitch in.

Step III: Adding organic matter from external sources

  • Use of compost must be promoted.
  • There is definitely a case to subsidize building of vermicompost pits or ‘Nadep’ mud/clay brick tanks using money from MGNREGA and other schemes.
  • Even urban green waste and manure from sewage treatment plants can be returned to farm soils.
  • There is clear evidence that when nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is used in conjunction with farm yard manure, the fertilizer response ratio itself goes up with rising SOC levels.

 Step IV: Crop Rotation

  • Farmers, however, are hesitant to cultivate pulses for lack of a proper system of government procurement at minimum support prices, unlike that for wheat and paddy.
  • In the rice-wheat system, planting of legumes, either as a summer or full replacement crop in the kharif/rabi season, is most needed.
  • Legumes have root nodules harbouring rhizobium bacteria that fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.
  • This nitrogen also helps bind and retain carbon in the soil for a longer time.
  • Inclusion of pulses in the public distribution system would go a long way in promoting the cause of soil health as well as nutritional security for our masses.

Step V: Promoting Zero Tillage

  • The use of no-till implements deserves a big push. Organic carbon is retained in large soil aggregates.
  • Deep ploughing equipment that break these aggregates cause SOC loss, whether through runoff with water or evaporation as carbon dioxide.
  • Zero-till seed drills, Happy Seeders and Direct Seeded Rice machines will ensure minimal disturbance of aggregates and less depletion of organic matter.

Way Forward

  • We need to launch a comprehensive awareness programme for enhancing the organic matter content of soils, with specified and time-bound targets.
  • The very act of monitoring and measuring outcomes will help focus attention on this important aspect.
  • Farming should, of course, be profitable. But it must also be sustainable.
Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

[pib] Four New Products get GI Tag

Mains Paper 3 : Intellectual Property Rights |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Significance of GI tagging


News

  • The Geographical Indication (GI) under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has recently registered 4 new GIs:
  1. Palani Panchamirtham from Palani Town in Dindigul District of Tamil Nadu
  2. Tawlhlohpuan and
  3. Mizo Puanchei from the state of Mizoram and
  4. Tirur Betel leaf from Kerala

Palani Panchamirtham

  • PalaniPanchamirtham, an abishegaPrasadam, from Palani Town is one of the main offerings in the Abisegam of Lord Dhandayuthapani Swamy, the presiding deity of the Temple.
  • It is a combination of five natural substances, namely, banana, jaggery sugar, cow ghee, honey and cardamom in a definite proportion.
  • It is prepared in a natural method without addition of any preservatives or artificial ingredients and is well known for its religious fervour and gaiety.
  • This is the first time a temple ‘prasadam’ from Tamil Nadu has been bestowed with the GI tag.

Tawlhlohpuan

  • Tawlhlohpuan, a medium to heavy, compactly woven, good quality fabric from Mizoram is known for warp yarns, warping, weaving & intricate designs that are made by hand.
  • Tawlhloh, in Mizo language, means ‘to stand firm or not to move backward’. Tawlhlohpuan, which holds high significance in the Mizo society, is produced throughout the state of Mizoram, Aizawl and Thenzawl town being the main centre of production.

Mizo Puanchei

  • Mizo Puanchei, a colourful Mizo shawl/textile, from Mizoram, is considered as the most colourful among the Mizo textiles.
  • It is an essential possession for every Mizo lady and an important marriage outfit in the state.
  • It is also the most commonly used costume in Mizo festive dances and official ceremonies.
  • The weavers insert the designs and motifs by using supplementary yarns while weaving to create this beautiful and alluring textile.

Tirur betel vine

  • Tirur betel vine from Kerala is mainly cultivated in Tirur, Tanur, Tirurangadi, Kuttippuram, Malappuram and Vengara block panchayaths of Malappuram District.
  • It is valued both for its mild stimulant action and medicinal properties.
  • Even though it is commonly used for making pan masala for chewing, it has many medicinal, industrial and cultural usages and is considered as a remedy for bad breath and digestive disorders.

Back2basics

Geographical Indications in India

  • A Geographical Indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • This tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.
  • Recently the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India.
  • The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis Act for protection of GI in India.
  • India, as a member of the WTO enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS Agreement

Why GI tag?

  • GI is an indication used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • GI products can benefit the rural economy in remote areas, by supplementing the incomes of artisans, farmers, weavers and craftsmen.
  • India’s rural artisans possess unique skills and knowledge of traditional practices and methods, passed down from generation to generation, which need to be protected and promoted.
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

[pib] Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vedanta Philosophy

Mains level : Indian Philosophy


News

  • The President of India has awarded this year’s Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman to various dignitaries.

Details of the award

  • The distinction is conferred on persons once a year on the Independence Day (15 August) in recognition of their substantial contribution in the field of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Pali, Prakrit, Classical Oriya, Classical Kannada, Classical Telugu and Classical Malayalam.
  • The award introduced in the year 2002, is given to selected young scholars in the age group of 30 to 45 years.
  • The Presidential award carries a certificate of honour, a memento and a onetime cash prize of Rs.1 lakh.

About Maharshi Badrayan Vyas

  • Badarayana was an Indian philosopher about whom almost no personal details are reliably known.
  • He wrote the foundational philosophical treatise Vedanta school of philosophy.
  • Badarayana is regarded as having written the basic text of the Vedanta system, the Vedāntasūtra a.k.a. Brahmasūtra.
  • He is thus considered the founder of the Vedānta system of philosophy.
  • The date of Badarayana and his Brahma Sutras is uncertain. Different scholars have dated the Brahma Sutras variously from 500 BCE to 450 BCE.
History- Important places, persons in news

Explained: The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Office of CDS

Mains level : Need for CDS


News

  • In his Independence Day address PM has announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff to provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces, and to help improve coordination among them.

What is the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)?

  • The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services, and offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the PM).
  • On long-term it provides for defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.
  • In most democracies, the CDS is seen as being above inter-Service rivalries and the immediate operational preoccupations of the individual military chiefs.
  • The role of the CDS becomes critical in times of conflict.

Why need CDS?

  • The creation of the CDS will eventually lead to the formation of tri-service theatre commands intended to create vertical integration of the three forces.
  • The CDS will be a single-point military adviser to the government and synergise long term planning, procurements, training and logistics of the three Services.
  • This is expected to save money by avoiding duplication between the Services, at a time of shrinking capital expenditure within the defence budget.
  • Military diplomacy is today supporting the conventional diplomacy. That can’t be done by different Services.

Background

  • India has had a feeble equivalent known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC); but this is a toothless office, given the manner in which it is structured.
  • The seniormost among the three Service Chiefs is appointed to head the CoSC, an office that lapses with the incumbent’s retirement.
  • The post did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets.
  • This system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years.
  • Apprehensions in the political class about a powerful military leader, along with inter-Services bickering, have long worked to disincentives the upgrade of the post.

Recent upheaval

  • The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which called for a reorganization of the “entire gamut of national security management and apex decision-making and structure and interface between the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Headquarters.
  • The Group of Ministers Task Force that studied the KRC Report and recommendations proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Security that a CDS, who would be five-star officer, be created.
  • In preparation for the post, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in late 2002, which was to eventually serve as the CDS’s Secretariat.
  • However, over the past 17 years, this has remained yet another nebulous department within the military establishment.

What happened to the proposal?

  • No consensus emerged among the Services, with the IAF especially opposed to such a move.
  • Then opposition was against the idea of concentrating too much military power in the CDS’s post.
  • The Ministry of Defence (MoD) too, opposed it subtly for the same reasons, and because it could disrupt civil-military ties in the latter’s favour.
  • The smaller Air Force and Navy fear that the CDS would be from the Army, by far the largest Service.
  • The IAF has long argued that unlike the United States and other western militaries, the Indian Services are not an expeditionary force, for which a CDS is a necessity.
  • The appointment of a CDS would also lead to theatre commands, another aspect that the IAF opposes, fearing a diminution of its operational role.

Naresh Chandra Committee recommendations

  • In 2011, more than a decade after the KRC Report, the UPA government which had opposed the CDS proposal when in opposition, set up the Naresh Chandra Committee on defence and security.
  • The 14-member Committee, comprising retired Service Chiefs and other defence experts, suggested a watered-down version of the CDS proposal, in which the Chairman CoSC in the rank of a four-star officer would have a fixed tenure of two years.
  • He would have significantly more authority and powers than the Chairman CoSC, and would be a CDS in all but name.

The case for having a CDS

  • Although the KRC did not directly recommend a CDS — that came from the GoM — it underlined the need for more coordination among the three Services, which was poor in the initial weeks of the Kargil conflict.
  • The KRC Report pointed out that India is the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure.
  • It observed that Service Chiefs devote most of their time to their operational roles, “often resulting in negative results”.
  • Long-term defence planning suffers as day-to-day priorities dominate.

Who serves the purpose as for now?

  • In effect it is the National Security Adviser.
  • This has been especially so after the Defence Planning Committee was created in 2018, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, and the foreign, defence, and expenditure secretaries, and the three Service Chiefs as members.

Need for an integrated service

  • Also, the PM and Defence Minister do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of military commanders, in order to ensure that higher level defence management decisions are more consensual and broadbased.
  • The CDS is also seen as being vital to the creation of “theatre commands”, integrating tri-service assets and personnel like in the US military.
  • India has 17 Service commands at different locations and duplicating assets.
  • In 2016, China integrated its military and other police and paramilitaries into five theatres from the earlier seven area commands, each with its own inclusive headquarters, one of which has responsibility for the Indian border.
  • In contrast, India’s border with China is split between the Eastern, Western, and Northern Commands.

The arguments against

  • Theoretically, the appointment of a CDS is long overdue, but there appears to be no clear blueprint for the office to ensure its effectiveness.
  • India’s political establishment is seen as being largely ignorant of, or at best indifferent towards, security matters, and hence incapable of ensuring that a CDS works.
  • Militaries by nature tend to resist transformation.
  • In the US, the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the Chairman from first among equals to the “principal military advisor” to the President and the Secretary of Defence.
  • In the Indian context, critics fear, the absence of foresight and understanding might end up making the CDS just another case of “jobs for the boys”.

Way Forward

  • The last time India fought a major battle was the Kargil conflict in 1999 in which the Navy played a silent role while the Army and Air Force collaborated to evict intruders from Indian soil.
  • The lessons learnt then prompted the K. Subrahmanyam Committee to propose having a CDS for the first time.
  • Instrumentalism doesn’t always work; sometimes a giant leap is the need of the hour.
  • India has traditionally been a land power and, yes, the primary threats are still on land, from the northern and western borders.
  • But the threat matrix has changed since 1947 and the Indian Ocean region is fast metamorphosing into a major arena of friction, with increasing forays by the Chinese Navy and building up of regional navies with help from China.
  • Also, while the threat of war stills exists in the subcontinent under the nuclear overhang, the room for large conventional manoeuvres is over.
  • In a conflict situation, what would unfold are short and swift skirmishes which call for agility and swift action by the three services in unison.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Explained: Crisis in Automotive Sector

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Decline in vehicle sales in India and thier impact on economy


News

Context

  • Leading automobile manufacturers announced a sharp decline of up to 50 per cent in their domestic sales in recent months
  • This sector is hard hit by the liquidity crunch for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and a dip in consumer sentiment
  • Manufacturers are now going for cuts in production, and the industry that is one of the biggest job creators in the country is staring at a deep-rooted slowdown and job losses across its value chain.

Decline in Sales

  • Vehicle sales numbers in July, the worst in 19 years, have reaffirmed the downturn in the automobile sector. The drop is happening across all segments.
  • If passenger vehicles sales witnessed a fall of 18.4 per cent in the quarter ended June 2019, the commercial vehicle segment witnessed a 16.6 per cent decline.
  • The two-wheeler segment the more affordable form of motorized mobility and an indicator of consumption demand in the hinterland has also seen a slowdown.
  • It saw a drop in sales by 11.7 per cent during the quarter.

Decline in the sales of commercial vehicles and tractors

  • Tractor sales have been further hurt by weak farm sentiment, the slowdown in the rural economy, and fears of a worse than average monsoon this year.
  • This comes amid the third advance estimates of crop production indicating a slide in rabi production. Kharif sowing has remained weak so far.
  • Truck sales have been hurt by changes made by the government in the axle load norms.
  • A significant decline in the sales of commercial vehicles has been visible ever since the increased axle load has become effective.
  • The industry has been calling for a scrappage policy and other policy support measures to revive demand.

A sign of distress

  • Like tractors, the drop in two-wheeler volumes is a key indicator of rural distress.
  • In the two-wheeler segment, motorcycle sales are predominantly dependent on rural India; people in rural areas prefer motorcycles to scooters given their sturdier structure, better performance, and lower operational costs, especially in the economy segments.
  • The continued sluggishness in two-wheeler volumes is worrying, given that India, despite now being the world’s biggest two-wheeler market, still has a very low penetration level of two wheelers.

A cause of concern

  • Such a sales slump is naturally forcing automobile factories to cut production, with July alone witnessing a production decline of around 3 lakh vehicles compared to the same month last year.
  • This, in turn, means a loss of jobs for contract workers initially but if this slowdown deepens, then permanent workers too may be let go.
  • The automobile industry employs close to forty million people.
  • While such a widespread and progressive decline is a cause for concern on its own, the unravelling of India’s famed automobile industry should also send shockwaves across policy makers too.
  • The sector accounts for almost half the manufacturing GDP of India.

Causes for decline in sales

There are several reasons for the famed Indian automobile sector, fourth largest in the world, to experience this unprecedented slowdown.

  • First, the sector was impacted due to impending general elections, where uncertainty over outcome drove people to postpone vehicle purchases.
  • Industry insiders feel that the pressure on NBFCs and the liquidity squeeze in the market is a big factor causing the decline.
  • Say for example a third of the retail sales of a company were funded by NBFCs, and a liquidity crisis for the NBFC sector has led to a drop in sales for lack of funding for customers.
  • The decline in customer confidence is the other factor that is leading to a continuous slide in sales of passenger cars.
  • Customers are also expecting discounts in the coming festive season.
  • Customers are also postponing their purchase decisions due to various considerations, including an expected fall in GST rates, and the hope that the transition from BS-IV to BS-VI may lead to big discounts between January and March 2020.
  • To top it all, the face-off between the industry and the policymakers over a proposed deadline to convert some vehicle categories to electric from the present internal combustion engine (ICE) technology obviously did not help either.
  • The government has been considering a proposal to ban all ICE-driven two-wheelers under 150cc in the next six years and all three-wheelers within four years.

What does this situation indicate?

  • The sharp decline in sales numbers of the leading manufacturer shows the decline in consumer sentiment and indicates an overall slowdown in the economy.
  • The drop in sales over the last one year has led major manufacturers to cut production, and has put pressure on the overall automotive sector, including the automobile ancillaries.
  • Various manufacturing units of renowned brands have been shut in various parts of the country.
  • There have already been job losses across the value chain of the automobile sector, including in the dealerships and ancillaries.
  • The continuing decline in sales is now expected to put pressure on manufacturers to cut down on their costs, and reduce headcounts.

What next?

  • Industry players say the worst is still to come and that of consumer demand and the liquidity crisis — could get prolonged as automakers compulsorily transition to new technologies, rendering their products more expensive.
  • The outlook for the rest of the year will depend on multiple factors, including the progress of the monsoon and the festive season offtake, as well as improvement in the liquidity situation.
  • Meanwhile one may expect some sort of fiscal or monetary stimulus to boost up the sector.
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

[op-ed snap] Trade rhetoric: On U.S.’s WTO pullout threat

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : WTO : US. Problem of developing countries


CONTEXT

U.S. President threatened to pull the U.S. out of the WTO if it fails to treat the U.S. fairly. He blamed it for allowing too many countries to claim the status of a “developing country”.

Background

  1. In a memo to the U.S. Trade Representative, it was pointed out that nearly two-thirds of the 164 WTO members classified themselves as developing countries and many rich economies claiming to be “growing” rather than “grown” economies.
  2. India and China were targeted in particular for “taking advantage” of the U.S. by classifying themselves as “developing countries” at the WTO. 
  3. The status of a developing country allows countries to seek partial exemptions from the WTO’s rules for free and fair trade between countries. 
  4. It allows countries like China and India to impose higher tariffs on imports from other countries and also offer more subsidies to local producers in order to protect their domestic interests.
  5. Developed countries find this to be unfair on their producers who are put at a relative disadvantage.
  6. Countries like China have argued that their developing country status is justified given their low per capita income.

Positive

  1. The “developing country” status that gives substantial benefits to countries that want to protect their domestic interests has skewed global trade over the years in favor of certain countries.

Problem

  1. The US is using this pretext to justify further trade barriers against China and other countries. 
  2. This is also used to justify retaliatory tariffs against these countries to boost the “America First” approach.
WTO and India

[op-ed snap] Over to the teacher

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Primary education - quality : A case study


CONTEXT

The quality of education in India has been a persistent concern.

Data

  1. ASER report has been that a large number of children in the country cannot read fluently or do basic arithmetic even after attending secondary school.
  2. Other studies have raised questions about teaching methods in Indian schools.

Case study: Odisha

  1. Odisha government tried to address this problem by doubling the teaching time of three subjects — English, Mathematics, and Science — in all government schools in the state.
  2. These subjects get 90 minutes of teaching time every day while other subjects will continue to get 45 minutes.

Benefits

  1. First-generation learners – The ASER surveys have shown that a large percentage of children in the country’s primary schools are first-generation learners.
  2. Illiterate background of children – School environment and the role of the teacher is crucial in providing support to children from non-literate homes and communities.
  3. Diverts focus from completing the syllabus – If pedagogy is aimed at completing the syllabus, there is scarcely any scope for addressing the needs of students who are falling behind.
  4. This shortcoming can be overcome if students spend more time with English, Mathematics and Science teachers and get time to clear their fundamentals.

Problem

  1. Issue of mother tongue – For a child, acquiring foundational skills in a language that is not her mother tongue is a complex matter.
  2. Overburdened – Doubling the teaching time could tax the attention span of students, and may end up doing more harm than good.
  3. Science and Mathematics education has been dogged by rote learning.

Way ahead

  1. Teachers could utilize the extra teaching time to stimulate students to discover the laws of nature and Mathematics.
  2. Teachers will have to be provided the autonomy to venture beyond bookish explanations.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Whether we will survive ought to be our foremost concern

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : The extent of water and air crisis in India


CONTEXT

The lack of safe water and clean air will either make or break India.

Water

  1. Statistics
    1. A report by NITI Aayog warned that India is facing its worst water crisis in history.
    2. Nearly 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress, 75% of households do not have drinking water on the premises, 84% of households do not have piped water access, and 70% of our water is contaminated.
    3. Nearly 200,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
    4. 21 cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, will run out of groundwater by 2020. 
    5. India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.

Air pollution

Statistics

  1. A report by the Centre for Science and Environment released last year, indicated that severe air pollution crisis in India caused lifespans to shrink by 2.6 years on average
  2. Air pollution is now the third-highest cause of death among all health risks ranking just above smoking in India. 
  3. As many as 14 of the 20 most polluted cities of the world are in India.
  4. The World Health Organization calls toxic air the “new tobacco”

The need of the hour is a nationwide strategy on conservation, checks on development, salination projects across our long coastlines, and urgent steps to check pollution.

Air Pollution

J&K Public Safety Act

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Act

Mains level : Issues with the act


News

  • A former IAS officer was recently detained under the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA).

J&K Public Safety Act (PSA)

  • The Jammu and Kashmir PSA) which received the assent of the J&K Governor on April 8, 1978.
  • The Act was introduced by the government of Sheikh Abdullah as a tough law to prevent the smuggling of timber and keep the smugglers “out of circulation”.
  • The law allowed the government to detain any person above the age of 16 without trial for a period of two years.
  • It allows for administrative detention for up to two years in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State, and for administrative detention up to one year where any person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
  • Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.
  • Section 22 of the Act provides protection for any action taken “in good faith” under the Act.
  • No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act.

Issues with the act

  • It is often referred to as a “draconian” law.
  • However, right from the beginning, the law was misused widely, and was repeatedly employed against political opponents by consecutive governments until 1990.
  • After the emergence of militancy, the J&K government frequently invoked the PSA to crack down on separatists.
  • In the aftermath of the killing of a sympathized terrorist in July 2016, hundreds of youths in the Valley were detained under PSA, with extendable detention periods.
  • In August 2018, the Act was amended to allow individuals to be detained under the PSA outside the state as well.
J&K – The issues around the state

Decoding post-Flood Landslides in Kerala

Mains Paper 3 : Disaster Management |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various terms mentioned in the news

Mains level : Effective post flood management


News

Context

  • Almost 60 people are feared dead, buried alive under layers of mud and rocks in the Kavalappara landslide.
  • It is the worst tragedy in Kerala’s devastating monsoon so far this year.

What causes landslides?

  • Destabilizing geological processes, coupled with extreme rainfall events and unscientific farming and construction activities, pose a serious threat to human habitation in the highlands of Kerala.
  • A team of scientists from the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) had found that land subsidence, lateral spread, and soil piping were an immediate threat to life and property in the uplands.

 

Need for stabilization measures

  • Lateral spreading, subsidence, and crack development are quite unusual phenomena and the sites need immediate rehabilitation.
  • Most of the slopes were used for raising crops and farmers had blocked the natural drainage systems.
  • Any developmental activity like construction of roads and buildings in such vulnerable areas requires remedial measures for slope stabilization.
  • Based on the recommendations of the NCESS, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has initiated steps to establish a network of landslip monitoring stations in the highlands.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Notifiable Disease

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Notifiable diseases

Mains level : Need for notifying diseases


News

  • A month after Union Health Minister asked the Delhi government to make malaria and dengue notifiable diseases, the local authorities has initiated the work to notify malaria in the capital.

What is a notifiable disease?

  • A notifiable disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities.
  • The collation of information allows the authorities to monitor the disease, and provides early warning of possible outbreaks.
  • The World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations, 1969 require disease reporting to the WHO in order to help with its global surveillance and advisory role.
  • Registered medical practitioners need to notify such diseases in a proper form within three days, or notify verbally via phone within 24 hours depending on the urgency of the situation.
  • This means every government hospital, private hospital, laboratories, and clinics will have to report cases of the disease to the government.
  • The onus of notifying any disease and the implementation lies with the state government.
  • The Centre has notified several diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, encephalitis, leprosy, meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough), plague, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, measles, yellow fever, malaria dengue, etc.

Why notify diseases?

  • Making a disease legally notifiable by doctors and health professionals allows for intervention to control the spread of highly infectious diseases.
  • The process helps the government keep track and formulate a plan for elimination and control. In less infectious conditions, it improves information about the burden and distribution of disease.
  • Any failure to report a notifiable disease is a criminal offence and the state government can take necessary actions against defaulters.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] Commandos for Railway Security (CORAS)

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CORAS

Mains level : Not Much


News

CORAS (Commandos for Railway Security)

  • To tackle the threats to Railway passengers or establishments, a special task force having trained manpower was required.
  • Keeping in mind the threat from disruptive forces, induction of CORAS was planned in Railway Protection Force.
  • Commissioning of CORAS will address challenges to these ongoing projects as well as any challenging situation for Railway travellers.
  • The commandos in CORAS are well trained in reputed institutions and are capable of meeting any precarious situation.

Vision

  • To develop world level capabilities of specialized responder for any situation pertaining to damage, disturbance, disruption of train operations, attack/hostage/hijack, disaster situations in railway areas.
  • Following the doctrine of graded response, minimum effective force shall be used for providing fool proof security to Indian Railways and its users.

Salient features

  • Carved out from motivated and willing young staff of RPF/RPSF.
  • With an average age between 30-35 years, CORAS will always be young and motivated staff.
  • Very high physical standards to join CORAS.
  • Commando Coys shall be deployed in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)/Insurgency/Terrorism affected Railway areas.
Railway Reforms

[op-ed snap] In China’s court

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

CONTEXT

Protests in Hong Kong have evolved over nearly three months.

Background of the protests

  1. The movement evolved from a movement against a proposed law that would allow people accused of certain crimes to be extradited to the Chinese mainland — to a wider expression of public anger at the Chinese state’s curbs on democracy and the city’s special status within the People’s Republic.
  2. China has been labeling the pro-democracy protestors as anarchists, radicals or terrorists.
  3. These protests have been compared to the 1989 demonstrations in mainland China, which culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre. 
  4. The movement now threatens to bring economic activity in the global financial hub to a standstill.
  5. Despite China’s accession to the original demand of scrapping of the extradition law, the protests continue.

China – Hong Kong relationship

  1.  In 1997, it was decided that China would be “one country, two systems”, and Hong Kong would continue to enjoy its autonomy.
  2. That promise has been eroded by refusing to allow direct elections for the chief executive’s post.

Way ahead

  1. There is a need for the Chinese state to adapt to its promise it made to Hong Kong.

A country with superpower ambitions, negotiating massive international investments through the Belt and Road Initiative, cannot be seen incapable of delivering on the promise of federalism and autonomy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China