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

[op-ed of the day] Food for Expediencyop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- PDS and issue of excess food stock with FCI.


Context

A substantial rise in consumer food price inflation to 14.12% in December 2019, the highest ever in the past six years, has driven the retail price inflation in this country.

Discrepancies in the fiscal deficit

  • Policy dilemma for the RBI: Though the CPI was at 14.12% in December but with the core inflation rate still not overshooting the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) medium-term target of 4(+/- 2)%.
    • Speculations hover as to whether the RBI monetary policy committee will go for another rate cut in the coming month.
    • This is a policy dilemma for the central bank
    • Why is the dilemma? The dilemma is because the moot issues regarding the government’s key economic estimates, such as the fiscal deficit, largely remain unresolved.
  • Discrepancies flagged by the CAG: The CAG has stated that the current figures on deficit have been kept at a 1.5% to 2% low by not including the government’s off-budget borrowings from public accounts, such as the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF).
    • According to media reports, such off-budget expenditure of the current government stands at ₹1.5 lakh crore in 2019–20.
    • The major portion of off budged expenditure on food subsidy: About three-fourths of the incremental off-budget expenditure is on account of under-recoveries in food subsidies of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
  • Low allocation but high expenditure on food subsidy: For instance, the 2019–20 Union Budget had provisioned food subsidy at₹1.84 lakh crore.
    • While the overdue of the FCI is already at₹1.86 lakh crore.
    • For these burgeoning overdue, FCI’s ­off-budget borrowings from the NSSF have been on the rise.

Excessive stock by the government and rising inflation

  • Issue of supply management: The issues of agricultural supply management are relegated to the background by the standard causality argument of “crop damages” caused by excessive rains and that the inflation will ease out once the new harvest comes in.
    • This argument can hold some water for horticulture crops like onions that saw an almost 200% rise in price in November and December.
    • Unable to explain inflation in wheat and other cereals: This argument may not find traction in explaining the price inflation of wheat and other cereals.
  • holding the excessive cereal stock: With the government currently stocking much higher quantities of cereals at the FCI than the buffer norms.
    • 45.8 million tonnes of wheat as against the buffer norm of 27.5 million tonnes and nearly double the amount of rice vis-à-vis the buffer norm of 13.5 million tonnes.
    • India is now a cereal surplus economy.
    • Why then the inflation in cereal prices? Is this artificially created by the government through its irrational stocking practice?
    • Some fundamental concerns are triggered at this juncture.
  • Concerns with excess stocks
    • First-Higher stock means higher subsidy bill-With the economic costs of the FCI being 12 times or more than the allocation cost of the grains through the public distribution system-higher stocks would imply higher subsidy bills.
    • SecondNo benefit of the stock: In tandem with the first, ad hoc releasing of the stocks will not bring about any major changes in the situation.
    • ThirdHiding fiscal deficit from the public: In this context, off-budget borrowing can serve various politically expedient purposes.
    • It has enabled the government to showcase a consistently low share (below 1%) of subsidies in national income.
    • Thereby diverted the public attention from two critical facts: the FCI’s tipping financials and the country’s (grossly) underestimated fiscal deficit.

Conclusion

The government must recall that the “illusion” of this acceptable limit of inflation potentially rests upon the savings of the common consumers, which is being unduly misemployed by the government.

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Frame rules to govern how devices identify usop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Face recognition technique, its uses and related issue.


Context

Facial recognition technology is set to become an integral part of the law enforcement toolkit, but we should regulate this technology before it pervades our public spaces.

What are the issues with the use of facial recognition?

  • Enormous possibilities for law enforcement agencies:
    • Detectives have been using facial recognition to solve crimes for almost as long as the camera has been in existence.
    • Use of AI for facial recognition: It is but a logical extension of the modern crime solver’s toolkit to use artificial intelligence (AI) on the most identifiable physical feature of people, their face.
    • Screening faces within hours: An image captured at the scene of a crime can now be screened against photographs of entire populations for a match within a matter of hours.
  • Uneasiness with being watched: The idea of being watched by devices linked to vast databases far out of sight makes liberal societies uneasy.
  • Invasion of privacy:  The intrusion that is causing alarm, however, has nothing to do with the technology itself, and everything to do with the all-pervasive surveillance it enables.

Should there be no rules governing it?

  • Issue of accuracy: How accurately faces are identified by machines is a major point of concern. Deployed in law enforcement, false matches could possibly result in a miscarriage of justice.
    • Judicial scrutiny: Even a low rate of error could mean evidence faces judicial rejection. It is in the judiciary’s interest, all the same, to let technology aid police-work.
  • Racial bias: First up for addressal is the criticism that facial recognition is still not smart enough to read emotions or work equally well for all racial groups.
    • With iterative use, it will improve.
  • Mala fide use: Since such tools can be put to mala fide use as-rogue drones equipped with the technology, for example, should never be in a position to carry out an assassination.
    • Nor should an unauthorized agent be able to spy on or stalk anyone.
    • Caution in the developed countries:  Apart from California, the European Union has also decided to exercise some caution before exposing people to it.
  • Privacy as fundamental rights in India: India, which has recently accepted privacy as a fundamental right, would do well to tilt the Western way on this.

Conclusion

  • We need regulations that restrict the use of facial recognition to the minimum required to serve justice and ease commercial operations. For the latter, customer consent should be mandatory.
  • There will be some overlaps. Its use at an aerobridge to board an aircraft, for example, could serve the interests of both state security and the airline, but data-sharing could risk leakage.

 

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

[op-ed snap] It’s not yet Howdy, Modi!op-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India-US ties, what are the issues that introduces friction in the ties between the two.


Context

Persistent in their efforts to remake their countries and their engagement with the world, Mr Modi and Mr Trump are shaking up the bilateral ties between the two countries, and the resultant flux could outlive their tenures.

The emergence of both the leaders on similar promises

  • Improvements over the legacy of their predecessors: Both leaders continuously reiterate that their predecessors were incapable of protecting national interest.
    • The compulsion to reframe the national interest: Such premises commits them both to reframe the national interest, and both have articulated it with clarity and force.
    • For instance, Mr Modi, in Houston in September 2019 and Mr Trump in Davos this week, went great lengths to lay out figures that presented their respective regimes as the most effective guardians.
  • Both have cultural and economic agenda: Both dispensations believe that “the people” had been given a raw deal by earlier regimes.
    • Both have a cultural and economic agenda.
    • National awakening: They are now leading a national reawakening, and working hard for the hard-working people.
    • Both believe that cultural nationalism is a force for the good.
    • Securing borders and entry barriers: Both believe that national borders need to be strengthened by stricter monitoring and setting new bars for entry.
    • Renegotiating the treaties: Both leaders try to renegotiate the contract between the union and the States, and between citizens and the state within their respective countries.
    • The supremacy of executive: They assert the supremacy of the executive over the legislature and the judiciary.
    • Shared values: The notion of shared values of India and the U.S. has acquired a whole new meaning under Mr Trump and Mr Modi.

Politics and governance

  • Hopes of status-quo in bilateral relations shattered: It was hoped that the stronger U.S.-India ties- that have autonomous drivers of convergence-would not be impacted by the nationalist politics of these two leaders.
    • But both leaders have been remarkably true to their politics in their governance.
    • Current tumult in the India-US ties: Shared values notwithstanding, national interests as perceived by these leaders have several points of divergence and therein lies in the current tumult in India-U.S. ties.
    • Opposition to the “world order”: Mr Trump has been outspokenly confrontational with the “world order” that he says has worked against American interests.
    • Dismantling the treaties: America under Mr Trump has wrecked treaties such as the Paris climate agreement and institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, disrupting the “rule-based order”.
    • India’s relations with Bangladesh: India’s spirited outreach in the neighbourhood is still playing out. India’s historically warm ties with Bangladesh have been frayed after CAA.
  • India’s ambitions on the global level
  • The seat at the UNSC: India under continues to push for more space for itself in global affairs by seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and membership.
  • NSG membership: India is also pushing for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • The US actions at global levels
    • Expansion of the principle of the pre-emptive strike: America expanded the principle of pre-emptive strike to include the assassination of a senior official of Iran.
    • Renegotiating the treaties: After dismantling the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr Trump forced Mexico and Canada to accede to his demands in a new trade deal.
  • The India-US relations and impact of U.S. relations with other countries
    • Impact on India-US ties: India’s ties with the U.S. are impacted by America’s ties with India’s adversaries and neighbours, China and Pakistan.
    • Hopes of alignment in the Indo-US ties: Mr Trump’s bluster against both had lit hope that there would finally be a near-complete alignment between India and the U.S. on strategy.
    • US-Iran conflict: Despite Mr Trump’s avowed opposition to America’s endless wars in West Asia, the US is going against Iran headlong, which is not in India’s interest.
    • Relations with Gulf Countries: Trump and Mr Modi share a strong bonding with the Gulf Cooperation Council kings, but their courses in the region are diverging.
    • US-Pakistan coming closer once again: The American President’s impatience to get out of Afghanistan has already pushed his administration closer to Pakistan, which is now further necessitated by his adventurist Iran policy.
    • The US disregard for China’s expansionist policies: Mr Trump has been singularly focused on one question-trade. He cares little about China’s expansionism and at any rate that is not a factor in his ties with other Asian countries.

India-US ties- Points of fission

  • On the trade front: Mr Trump has bracketed India and China as two countries that have duped his predecessors to gain undue advantage. Which is far from seeing India as deserving special concessions to counterbalance China as old wisdom demanded.
    • Ending GSP: The US ended India’s status under the World Trade Organization’s Generalized System of Preferences and took other punitive measures.
    • India trying to decrease the trade surplus: By increasing hydrocarbon imports from the U.S., the government is trying to reduce India’s trade surplus.
  • Restrictions on H1-B visa: The US has tightened the restrictions on the H1-B visa which is used by the Indian companies.
  • Decreasing bipartisan support in the US: The mobilisation of Indian diaspora in America by the government has resulted in the inevitable blowback.
    • Diaspora divided and bipartisan support waning: The diaspora has been divided, and the bipartisan support for India is now squandered. Progressive sections on the Democratic side and religious libertarians and evangelicals on the Trump side are both concerned over India’s actions back home.

Conclusion

Partnership with America is critical to India. India must take the steps to align the interest but whenever it diverges India must take measures to minimise its impact on India while furthering its interests.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Forex Reserves of IndiaPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India's Forex reserves, SDR, Reserve tranche

Mains level : Forex Reserves and its significance


India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $943 million to touch a lifetime high of $462.16 billion according to the latest data from the RBI.

Forex reserves of India

  • They are holdings of cash, bank deposits, bonds, and other financial assets denominated in currencies other than Indian rupee.
  • The reserves are managed by the Reserve Bank of India for the Indian government and the main component is foreign currency assets.
  • They act as the first line of defense for India in case of economic slowdown, but acquisition of reserves has its own costs.
  • They facilitate external trade and payment and promote orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.
  • They act as a cushion against rupee volatility once global interest rates start rising.

Composition of Forex

  • Reserve Bank of India Act and the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 set the legal provisions for governing the foreign exchange reserves.
  • RBI accumulates foreign currency reserves by purchasing from authorized dealers in open market operations.
  • The Forex reserves of India consist of below four categories:
  1. Foreign Currency Assets
  2. Gold
  3. Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)
  4. Reserve Tranche Position

What is Reserve tranche?

  • Reserve tranche is a portion of the required quota of currency each member country must provide to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that can be utilized for its own purposes.

What are Special Drawing Rights?

  • The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves
  • The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF.
  • Initially SDR was defined as equivalent to 0.888671 grams of fine gold, which at the time, was also equivalent to one U.S. dollar.
  • After the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the SDR was redefined as a basket of currencies.
  • This basket Includes five currencies—the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Shola Forests of the NilgirisPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shola Forests

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness


 

Shola Forests

  • The Shola forests of South India derive their name from the Tamil word solai, which means a ‘tropical rain forest’.
  • Classified as ‘Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forest’ the Sholas are found in the upper reaches of the Nilgiris, Anamalais, Palni hills, Kalakadu, Mundanthurai and Kanyakumari in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • These forests are found sheltered in valleys with sufficient moisture and proper drainage, at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.

Vegetation

  • The upper reaches are covered with grasslands, known as Shola grasslands.
  • The vegetation that grows in Shola forests is evergreen. The trees are stunted and have many branches. Their rounded and dense canopies appear in different colours.
  • Generally, the leaves are small in size and leathery. Red-coloured young leaves turning into different colours on maturity is a prominent characteristic of the Shola forests.
  • Epiphytes like lichens, ferns and bryophytes usually grow on the trees.
  • The occurrence of Himalayan plants like rhododendron in these Shola forests is a mystery.

Significance of Sholas

  • Sholas thus act as ‘overhead water tanks’. They play a major role in conserving water supply of the Nilgiris’ streams.
  • The trees are slow-growing varieties which produce timber of little or no value and probably take at least a century to mature.
  • The rolling grasslands found on top of the Western Ghats, enhance the beauty of the region. Usually, Shola forests and grasslands are found in a ratio of 1:5.
  • The rain received from the Southwest and Northeast monsoons is harvested by the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem, leading to the formation of the Bhavani river that finally drains into the Cauvery.
  • Thus, the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem of the Nilgiris, also supports the prosperity of Cauvery delta farmers.
  • As tree species of the montane, evergreen forests are flammable, regeneration of any Shola tree species is completely prevented except for Rhododendron nilagiricum, the only Shola tree that can tolerate fire.

Threats to Sholas

  • Unfortunately, the Sholas have begun to gradually shrink due to the introduction of alien plant species and annual fire occurrences.
  • Alien species like Sticky Snakeroot, Gorse and Scotch Broom introduced during British rule, have encroached upon the grasslands.
  • During 1840, tree species such as Acacia and Eucalyptus were introduced from Australia.
  • Afterwards, between 1886 and 1891, Pine and Cypress were introduced, again from Australia. As the alien species grew, the forests and grasslands gradually became degraded and shrank.
  • In addition, unscientific agricultural practices like growing tea on the slopes, cattle grazing and fuel wood collection have become serious causes for degradation.
  • Unregulated tourism has created concrete jungles, traffic congestion and caused the generation of garbage.

Wrath of Eucalyptus

  • During 1849, the extent of Shola forests was 8,600 hectares (ha), grasslands 29,875 ha and agriculture was 10,875 ha.
  • No wattle or eucalyptus was planted in the area at that time.
  • The comparison of the results of the 1849 and 1992 studies shows that cultivation of tea, wattle and eucalyptus has reduced the Shola forest-grassland ecosystem to a great extent.

Protective measures

  • After realizing the seriousness of the situation, the government banned the planting of wattle and eucalyptus completely in 1987.
  • Ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation were given importance.
  • Under the Hill Area Development Programme since the mid-1980s, seedlings have been planted in degraded patches and protected with chain-link fences to restore the forests.
  • Special Shola forest protection committees were formed involving teachers, nature lovers, ecologists, environmentalists, students and villagers in the Nilgiris.
  • They were motivated to remove plastic garbage from the nearby forests, protect Shola trees, remove alien species and learn about the importance of the Sholas.
  • Presently, the Tamil Nadu forest department is now focusing on eradicating wattle, providing fencing and planting shola seedlings in degraded shola forests.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

ICDS ProgrammeGovt. Schemes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICDS and its components

Mains level : Forms of malnutrition in urban areas and their preventive measures


 

Centre seeks to revamp the ICDS scheme in urban areas. For this NITI Aayog will develop draft policy, which will be circulated to the Ministries for consultations.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

  • The ICDS is a government programme in India which provides food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.
  • The scheme was launched in 1975, discontinued in 1978 by the government of Morarji Desai, and then relaunched by the Tenth Five Year Plan.
  • Tenth FYP also linked ICDS to Anganwadi centres established mainly in rural areas and staffed with frontline workers.
  • The ICDS provide for anganwadis or day-care centres which deliver a package of six services including:
  1. Immunization
  2. Supplementary nutrition
  3. Health checkup
  4. Referral services
  5. Pre-school education(Non-Formal)
  6. Nutrition and Health information

Implementation

  • For nutritional purposes ICDS provides 500 kilocalories (with 12-15 grams of protein) every day to every child below 6 years of age.
  • For adolescent girls it is up to 500 kilo calories with up to 25 grams of protein every day.
  • The services of Immunisation, Health Check-up and Referral Services delivered through Public Health Infrastructure under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Revamp for Urban Areas

  • Health and ICDS models that work in rural areas may not work in urban areas because of higher population density, transportation challenges and migration.
  • Children in urban areas were overweight and obese as indicated by subscapular skinfold thickness (SSFT) for their age.
  • The first-ever pan-India survey on the nutrition status of children, highlighted that malnutrition among children in urban India.
  • It found a higher prevalence of obesity because of relative prosperity and lifestyle patterns, along with iron and Vitamin D deficiency.
  • According to government data from 2018, of the 14 lakh anganwadis across the country there are only 1.38 lakh anganwadis in urban areas.
Electoral Reforms In India

De-criminalization of PoliticsDOMR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Association for Democratic Reforms

Mains level : De-criminalization of politics in India


 

The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a proposition made by the Election Commission (EC) to ask political parties to not give a ticket to those with criminal antecedents.

Cleansing of Political Parties

  • The judgment had urged Parliament to bring a “strong law” to cleanse political parties of leaders facing trial for serious crimes.
  • The ruling concluded that rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but should begin by “cleansing” the political parties.
  • The court had suggested that Parliament frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes like rape, murder and kidnapping, only to a name a few, and refuse ticket to offenders in both parliamentary and Assembly polls.
  • It had also issued guidelines, including that both the candidate and the political party should declare the criminal antecedents of the former in widely-circulated newspapers.

Why such move?

  • 46% of Members of Parliament have criminal records.
  • A move to steer politics away from the denizens of the criminal world would definitely serve national and public interest.
  • The EC had tried several measures to curb criminalisation of politics but failed.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

NavIC navigation systemPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAVIC, IRNSS

Mains level : Utility of NAVIC


 

Qualcomm Technologies has released chipsets, supporting India’s own GPS system ‘Navigation with Indian Constellation’ (NavIC).

New androids to be equipped with NavIC

  • The Qualcomm chipsets now supports up to 7 satellite constellations at the same time, including the use of all of NavIC’s operating satellites.
  • These enhancements will enable select mobile, automotive and IoT platforms to better serve key industries and technology ecosystems in the region.
  • It will help improve user experience for location-based applications especially in dense urban environments where geolocation accuracy tends to degrade, said the company earlier.

About NavIC

  • The name NavIC was given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after successful launch of the seventh navigation satellite, in April, 2016.
  • To date, ISRO has built a total of nine satellites in the IRNSS series, of which eight are currently in orbit.
  • The constellation is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary, which is its primary service area.
  • It is designed to provide two types of services – Standard Positioning Service (SPS), which is provided to all users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorised users.
  • The system is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20 m in the primary service area.

For more readings about NAVIC, navigate to the page:

NAVIC (Navigation in Indian Constellation)

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Species in news: Natrialba SwarupiaePrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Natrialba Swarupiae, Sambhar Lake

Mains level : Not Much


  • Scientists at the National Centre for Microbial Resource — National Centre for Cell Science (NCMR-NCCS) in Pune have reported a new archaeon (a kind of microorganism), which they discovered in Sambhar Salt Lake in Rajasthan.
  • The new archaeon has been named Natrialba swarupiae, after Dr Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology, for her initiative in supporting microbial diversity studies in the country.

Archaea

  • Archaea (singular archaeon) are a primitive group of microorganisms that thrive in extreme habitats such as hot springs, cold deserts and hypersaline lakes.
  • These slow-growing organisms are also present in the human gut, and have a potential relationship with human health.
  • They are known for producing antimicrobial molecules, and for anti-oxidant activity with applications in eco-friendly waste-water treatment.
  • Archaea are extremely difficult to culture due to challenges in providing natural conditions in a laboratory setting.
  • As archaea are relatively poorly studied, very little is known about how archaea behave in the human body.
  • The organism has potential gene clusters that helps maintain the metabolism of the archaea to survive in extreme harsh conditions.

Search and discovery

  • Sambhar Lake has been poorly studied for microbial ecology studies.
  • With a salt production of 0.2 million tonnes per annum, it is also a hypersaline ecosystem which provides an opportunity for microbial ecologists to understand organisms that thrive in such concentrations.
Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] Establishment of Chairs named after eminent Women in UniversitiesPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various chairs named after eminent Women

Mains level : Women empowerment


 

On the occasion of National Girl Child Day, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has set up 10 Chairs in different fields with an aim to carry out research activities to encourage women.

Chairs named after eminent Women

  • The initiative is called “the Establishment of Chairs in the Universities in the name of eminent women administrators, artists, scientists and social reformers”.
  • It is being launched with the assistance of University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • The main objective is to inspire women to pursue higher education and to achieve excellence in their area of work.
  • The financial implications of the proposal is Rs. 50 lakh per Chair per year and the total expenditure for establishing ten Chairs will be approximately Rs. Rs. 5 crore per annum.
  • The Chairs are to be established for a period of 5 years initially as per the guidelines.

The chairs proposed by UGC and approved by the Ministry are as under:

S. No. Subject Proposed name of chair
1. Administration Devi Ahilyabai Holkar
2. Literature Mahadevi Varma
3. Freedom Fighter (North East) Rani Gaidinliu
4. Medicine & Health Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi
5. Performing Art Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi
6. Forest/Wildlife Conservation Amrita Devi (Beniwal)
7. Mathematics Lilavati
8. Science Kamala Sohonie
9. Poetry & Mysticism Lal Ded
10. Educational Reforms Hansa Mehta

 Functions of these chairs

  • Academic functions of the Chairs will be to engage in research and, in turn, contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the area of the study, strengthen the role of university/academics in public policy making etc.
  • The University will review the progress of the Chair annually and submit a final report on the activities and outcome of the Chair to the UGC after five years.
  • However, the UGC may undertake the exercise of reviewing the Chair for its continuance, at any stage.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed of the day] Lady Gaganautop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Skybot F-850: Robot sent by Russia to dock with the International Space Station.

Mains level : Paper 3-Vyommitra, India's human spaceflight in 2022.


Context

The first gaganaut-Vyomamitra- to head for space in an Indian craft will not be human, but humanoid.

What Vyomamitra would do on spaceflight?

  • Test the technological environment: Vyomamitra unveiled by ISRO will fly two missions to test the technological environment which human gaganauts will inhabit on India’s first demonstration of human spaceflight in 2022.
    • She will test the systems and instruments that they would use.
    • Vyomamitra cannot test the cabin ecosystem,  as she would not be able to breathe the air.
    • Other functions: Vyomamitra is perfectly capable of issuing commands, activating switches and, obviously, communicating with earth.
  • Give company to human travellers: Her prototype has already chatted with people at the Isro event where she was introduced to the public, and future iterations will be able to give company to human travellers at the loneliest frontier.

A shift from sending animals to humanoids

  • Performing roles previously performed by animals: Vyomamitra will be executing the pioneering role which has traditionally been given to animals – testing systems for survivability.
    • Fruit flies and monkeys were the first beings to lift off, riding V2 rockets with devices monitoring their vital signs.
  • Why using humanoid is more useful: Using a humanoid robot is more useful because it can be used to replicate the behavioural and operational responses of a human.
    • Indeed, robots need not remain pioneers testing survivability, or assistants to the human crew, but are expected to crew missions that are too prolonged or too dangerous for a human pilot.

Opportunities and the future of AI-powered humanoid

  • Russian robot in space: As India prepared for human flight, in August 2019, the Russian space agency Roscosmos sent up the anthropomorphic robot Skybot F-850 to dock with the International Space Station.
    • The mission has been halted because of technical issues.
    • Goals beyond survivability testing: If the nation which pioneered human spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin’s mission in 1961 is sending humanoid robots into space, survivability testing is not the only legitimate goal of missions powered by artificial intelligence and robotics.
  • Opportunity to develop new technologies: Humanoid in space also provide opportunities to test and develop these technologies under circumstances that do not prevail on earth.
    • The inputs, goals and skills learned are different and while AI on earth specifically focuses on creating systems which do not think like humans,
  • Human-like AI system need of industry: The space industry would value systems that are human-like, to stand in for crew.

Conclusion

Vyomamitra represents the very first iteration of AI in space, and later generations could prove to be as essential for spaceflight as cryogenic engines.

 

 

BRICS Summits

[op-ed snap] As India prepares to honour Bolsonaroop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- BRICS- challenges and areas of cooperation.


Context

India has invited the Brazilian President to be a guest of honour for Republic Day 2020. It is also a good opportunity for focusing on intra-BRICS partnership and trade.

Future of the BRICS

  • To move towards multi-polarity: This was set up as a move towards greater multi-polarity; hence the spread across three continents and both hemispheres.
    • Infirmities in the group: The BRICS combination accounts for about one-third of global output, but a glance at the GDP t and growth rates will show the infirmities of the group.
    • Differences in GDP: In terms of GDP, China occupies the second position; India the fifth; Brazil the ninth; Russia the 11th; and South Africa the 35th.
    • Differences in growth rate: In terms of growth rates, China grew at 6%; India at 4.5%, Russia 1.7%, Brazil 1.2% and South Africa 0.1%.
    • Both politically and economically, Brazil and South Africa have been the laggards in recent years. But there are certain similarities as well.
  • Similarities in the group: Each country has different economic and political leverage and its own burden of domestic and external issues.
    • Decision-making structure: They all share the benefits of autonomous decision making.
    • Non-affiliation: The members of the group have non-affiliation with any binding alliances.
    • Informal structure: The group’s informal structure is an advantage for coordination among the most influential non-Western countries.
  • Challenges to the survival of the group: The BRICS group can survive only if its members maximise their congruencies to the extent possible. Following are the challenges to the existence of the group-
    • The growing intensity of Sino-Russian ties.
    • The pro-American leanings in Brazil.
    • The socio-economic difficulties of South Africa after nine years under the controversial Jacob Zuma.
    • India’s many difficulties with China, including its abstention from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Achievement of the grouping

  • New Development Bank: The main achievement of BRICS is the New Development Bank, with each country contributing equally to its equity.
    • The bank has so far financed over 40 projects at a cost of $12 billion.
    • The BRICS countries are also developing a joint payments mechanism to reduce foreign trade settlements in U.S. dollars.
  • BASICS: An offshoot of the group, dealing with climate change, is BASIC (BRICS without Russia).
    • BASICS met at the Spain conference last month and reiterated its support to the Paris Agreement.
  • India’s lead role: India is taking the lead role in-
    • Digital health, Digital forensics
    • Film technology.
    • Traditional medicine.
    • Sustainable water management,
    • Internships and fellowships.

Brazil-India relation

  • Visa waiver for Indians: Brazil declared the decision to waive visa requirements for Indian citizens.
  • Potential for investments: There is potential for Brazilian investments in the sectors of space and defence, agricultural equipment, animal husbandry, post-harvest technologies, and bio-fuels.
  • Low two-way trade: The total two-way trade is at a paltry $8 billion, and the prospect of closer economic ties, however desirable, would require considerable optimism.

Conclusion

Both India and Brazil need to further deepen the ties and increase cooperation in various areas of cooperation. BRICS, despite the various challenges, need to focus on congruencies between them and work towards greater cooperation.

.

 

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

[op-ed snap] Budgeting for jobs, skilling and economic revivalop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Suggestions for revival of the Indian economy, unemployment in rural and urban areas and ways to increase it by investing in various sectors.


Context

With the unemployment rate at 6.1 (2017-18), not just the future of the economy, the future of the country’s youth depends on the Budget.

Unemployment and other indicators of the economy

  • Unemployment in urban youth: The unemployment rate for urban youth in the 15-29 years category is alarmingly high at 22.5%.
    • These figures, however, are just one of the many problems, as pointed out by the Periodic Labour Force Survey.
  • The decline in labour force participation: The Labour Force Participation Rate has come down to 46.5% for the ‘15 years and above’ age category.
    • It is down to 37.7% for the urban youth. Even among those employed, a large fraction gets low wages and are stuck with ‘employment poverty’.
  • The decline in investment: The aggregate investment stands at less than 30% of the GDP, a rate much lower than the 15-year average of 35%.
  • The decline in capacity utilisation: The capacity utilisation in the private sector is down to 70%-75%.

Where the Budget should focus to reduce rural employment?

  • Revive demand: The Budget should also focus on reviving demand to promote growth and employment.
    • PM-KISAN and MGNREGA: Schemes like PM-KISAN and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) are good instruments to boost rural demand.
    • Unutilised fund: a significant proportion of the budgetary allocation for PM-KISAN will go unutilised.
  • Why income transfers through such schemes matter?
    • Spend most of their income: Farmers and landless labourers spend most of their income. This means that income transfers to such groups will immediately increase demand.
    • Consumes a wide range of goods: Further, rural India consumes a wide range of goods and services; so, if allocation and disbursement are raised significantly, most sectors of the economy will benefit.
    • Immediate result: And such transfer will have the immediate payoff.
  • Allocate to irrigation and infrastructure projects
    • How allocation could matter: Rural unemployment can be reduced by raising budgetary allocation for irrigation projects and rural infrastructures like roads, cold storage and logistical chains.
    • These facilities, along with a comprehensive crop insurance scheme, can drastically increase agricultural productivity and farmers’ income.
    • The decrease in wastage and reduction in inflation shocks: Moreover, by integrating farms with mandis, such investments will reduce wastage of fruits and vegetables, thereby leading to a decrease in the frequency of inflationary shocks and their impact.

Where the Budget should focus to reduce urban unemployment?

  • Focus on construction and related activities: In urban areas, construction and related activities are a source of employment for more than five crore people.
    • Second only to agriculture: Across the country, the sector’s employment figures are second only to those of the agriculture sector.
    • Construction as the backbone of other sectors:  These projects, along with infrastructure, support 200-odd sectors, including core sectors like cement and steel.
  • Problems with the construction sector:
    • Construction sector at a halt due to legal disputes: Due to the crisis in the real estate and infrastructure sectors, construction activities have come to a grinding halt.
    • At present, many real-estate projects are caught up in legal disputes-between home-buyers and developers; between lenders and developers; and between developers and law enforcement agencies like the Enforcement Directorate.
    • Unsold inventories: The sector has an unsold inventory of homes, worth several lakh crores.
    • Multiple authority as regulator and problem in liquidation: Multiple authorities -the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA); the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT); and the many consumer courts -have jurisdiction over disputes.
    • Consequently, restructuring and liquidation of bad projects are very difficult, and in turn, is the main source of the problem of NPA faced by the NBFCs.
  • What should be done to increase the demand in the construction sector?
    • Raise the tax exemption limit: To revive demand for housing, the Budget can raise the limit for availing tax exemption on home loans.
    • Use the bailout fund: The ₹25,000-crore fund set up by the centre to bailout 1,600 housing projects should be put to use immediately.
    • The funds should be used to salvage all projects that are 80% complete and not under the liquidation process under the NCLT.
    • Single adjudication authority: Several additional measures can also help. For example, there should be a single adjudication authority.
    • NIP and its significance: The ₹102-lakh-crore National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) programme is a welcome step. If implemented successfully, it will boost the infrastructure investment over the next five years by 2%-2.5% of the GDP annually.

Problems with National Infrastructure Pipeline

  • Problems of 60% investment: The problem is that more than 60% of the planned investment is expected from the private sector and the States.
    • Regulatory certainty a must for the private sector: The government does not seem to realise that for private investment, regulatory certainty is as important as the cost of capital.
    • Regulatory hurdles: Many infrastructure projects are languishing due to regulatory hurdles and contractual disputes between construction companies and government departments.
    • The reason behind the non-availability of private capital: As a result of the regulatory hurdles infrastructure investment has come to be perceived as very risky.
    • This is the major reason behind the non-availability of private capital for infrastructure.
  • Role to be played by the Centre: This is a scenario, where the private sector has very little appetite for risky investments and State finances are shaky due to low GST collection.
    • Responsibility of the Centre: The onus is on the Centre to ensure that the programme does not come a cropper. The budgetary support to infrastructure will have to be much more than the NIP projection at 11% of the GDP.

Way forward to revive the economy

  • Focus on completing the incomplete projects:
    • Bidding a lengthy process: Bidding and contracting for new roads, highways, railway tracks and urban development projects is a lengthy process.
    • This is also the reason why several infrastructure-linked Ministries like those for civil aviation and roads have not been able to spend money allocated to them in the current fiscal year.
    • Completing the projects a priority: Therefore, rather than earmarking budgetary support for new projects, the focus should be on projects that are currently under implementation so as to complete them as soon as possible.
    • Funding should be front-loaded: That is, funding should be front-loaded. In addition to creating employment, timely completion of infrastructure projects will help increase the competitiveness of the economy.
  • Address the distress in SMEs: The distress among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is another area of concern.
    • GST anomaly and stuck money: For many products produced by these enterprises, the GST rates are higher for inputs than the final goods. Due to this anomaly, around ₹20,000 crore gets stuck with the government annually in the form of input tax credits.
    • This has increased cost of doing business for SMEs, which employ over 11 crore people.
  • Fill the vacancies in the Government jobs: According to some estimates, there are more than 22 lakh vacancies in various government departments.
    • Focus on vocational training program: The government needs to provide affordable and good quality vocational training programmes.
    • To stop the demographic dividend from becoming a national burden, there is a need to invest heavily in skilling of the youth.
    • Besides, the Budget should give tax incentives to companies and industrial units to encourage them to provide internships and on-site vocational training opportunities.

 

J&K – The issues around the state

Explained: The Kashmir Pandit tragedyExplainedPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Kashmiri Pandits and the hurdles in their rehabiliation


 

It is 30 years since the “exodus” from the Valley of its minority Hindu Kashmiri Pandit community.

The run-up: 1980s to 1990

  • Sheikh Abdullah had died in 1982, and the leadership of the National Conference passed on to his son Farooq Abdullah, who won the 1983 election.
  • But within two years, the Centre broke up the NC, and installed dissident Ghulam Mohammed Shah as Chief Minister. This led to huge disaffection and political instability.
  • The Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) stepped up its activities, and the hanging of the militant leader Maqbool Bhat in 1984 added to the sense of foreboding.
  • In 1986, after the Rajiv Gandhi government opened the Babri Masjid locks to enable Hindus to offer prayers there, ripples were felt in Kashmir too.
  • In Anantnag, the constituency of then Congress leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, there was a series of attacks on Hindu temples, and shops and properties of Kashmiri Pandits, blamed on separatist and secessionists.
  • Pandits had begun to be targeted. Eminent persons of the community were being shot dead.

The night of January 19, 1990

  • Matters came to a head on January 19. By then, the Farooq Abdullah government had been dismissed and Governor’s Rule imposed.
  • According to accounts published by many eminent Kashmiri Pandits, there were threatening slogans over loudspeakers from mosques, and on the streets.
  • Speeches were made extolling Pakistan and the supremacy of Islam, and against Hinduism. Finally, the Kashmiri Pandit community decided to leave.

The Gawkadal Massacre

  • On January 20, the first stream began leaving the Valley with hastily packed belongings in whatever transport they could find. A second, larger wave left in March and April, after more Pandits were killed.
  • On January 21, the CRPF gunned down 160 Kashmiri Muslim protesters at the Gawkadal Bridge, which has come to be known as the worst massacre in the long history of the conflict in Kashmir.
  • The two events — the flight of the Pandits and the Gawkadal massacre — took place within 48 hours.

How many Pandits left?

  • According to some estimates, notably by the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), of 75,343 Kashmiri Pandit families in January 1990, more than 70,000 fled between 1990 and 1992 and continued until 2000.
  • The KPSS has placed the number of Kashmiri Pandits killed by militants from 1990 to 2011 at 399, the majority during 1989-90.
  • Some 800 families have remained in the Valley through these three decades.

Role of the administration

  • The other contentious question about the exodus is the role played by the administration, and more specifically that of the J&K Governor, Jagmohan.
  • Newly appointed, he had arrived in Srinagar on January 19.
  • The Kashmiri Muslim view of the exodus is that he encouraged the Pandits to leave the Valley and thus gave a communal colour to what was until then a non-religious Kashmiri cause.
  • The Kashmiri Hindu view is that this is a disingenuous interpretation.
  • They believe that Kashmiri Muslims, with whom they had lived amicably for centuries, drove them out with a vengeance in a frenzy of Islamism that they could not have imagined even months earlier.
  • The truth, many commentators have concluded, may have been somewhere in the middle.

The question of return

  • Those who had means rebuilt their lives elsewhere in the country — Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad have Pandit populations, also Jaipur and Lucknow — or went abroad.
  • The fleeing Pandits did not think they would never return to the Valley. But as the situation in Kashmir spiraled into a full-blown militancy, return began to look remote if not impossible.
  • The longing to return to the Valley did not diminish over the years, though it may have become more an idea than a real ambition.
  • Successive governments have promised that they will help this process, but the situation on the ground in Kashmir has meant this remains only an intention.
  • There is an acute realization in the community that the Valley is no longer the same that they left behind in 1990.
  • In many cases, their properties were either immediately vandalised or sold quickly by the owners to Kashmiri Muslims. Many fell into disrepair.
Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Corruption Perception Index 2019IOCRPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Corruption Perception Index 2019

Mains level : Menace of corruption in India


The Corruption Perception report for 2019 has been released. It has revealed that a majority of countries are showing little to no improvement in tackling corruption.

About CPI

  • The CPI is annually released by Transparency International.
  • It draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

India’s performance

  • India’s ranking in the CPI-2019 has slipped from 78 to 80 compared to the previous year.
  • Its score of 41 out of 100 remains the same.
  • CPI highlighted that unfair and opaque political financing, undue influence in decision-making and lobbying by powerful corporate interest groups, has resulted in stagnation or decline in the control of corruption.

Global corruption

  • In the Asia Pacific region, the average score is 45, after many consecutive years of an average score of 44, which “illustrates general stagnation” across the region.
  • China has improved its position from 87 to 80 with a score of 41 out of 100, a two-point jump.
  • Despite the presence of high performers like New Zealand (87), Singapore (85), Australia (77), Hong Kong (76) and Japan (73), the Asia Pacific region hasn’t witnessed substantial progress in anti-corruption.
  • In addition, low performers like Afghanistan (16), North Korea (17) and Cambodia (20) continue to highlight serious challenges in the region.
  • The top ranked countries are New Zealand and Denmark, with scores of 87 each, followed by Finland (86), Singapore (85), Sweden (85) and Switzerland (85).
Rohingya Conflict

ICJ ruling on RohingyasPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICJ

Mains level : Rhohingya settlement issue


 

  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Myanmar must take effective measures to protect its Rohingya Muslims, including protecting evidence relating to allegations of genocide.
  • It is important to note that these directions are “provisional measures” until the ICJ can finally decide if Myanmar has been committing genocide against the Rohingya. The final verdict could take years.

What is the case against Myanmar?

  • Last year, the Republic of the Gambia moved the ICJ against Myanmar over alleged violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
  • The Gambia urged the ICJ to direct Myanmar to stop the genocide, ensure that persons committing genocide are punished, and allow the “safe and dignified return of forcibly displaced Rohingya”.
  • The Gambia and Myanmar are parties to the Genocide Convention that allows a party to move the ICJ for violations.
  • Disputes between the Contracting Parties are settled according to Article 9 of the Genocide Convention.

How did Myanmar respond?

  • Myanmar asked the ICJ to remove the case from its list, citing lack of jurisdiction of the court.
  • Myanmar alleged that the proceedings before the court were instituted by the Gambia, not on its own behalf, but rather as a “proxy” and “on behalf of” the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
  • Gambia is a member of the OIC, which includes 53 Muslim-majority nations.
  • Myanmar cited the Gambia’s reliance on OIC documents to allege genocide and said the Gambia did not point to specific violations of the Genocide Convention.
  • The court refused to accept Myanmar’s argument and said the fact that the Gambia “may have sought and obtained the support of other States or international organizations in its endeavour” does not take away from its right to bring a case against Myanmar.

Does the ICJ ruling indict Myanmar?

  • Although a ruling against Myanmar dents its image internationally, the order of provisional measures does not translate into a finding against Myanmar.
  • While granting provisional measures, the court is not required to ascertain whether Myanmar violated the Genocide Convention.
  • The court found that it is sufficient at this stage “to establish prima facie the existence of a dispute between the Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfillment of the Genocide Convention”.
  • Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal appearance before the ICJ to lead the defence of the military, however, shows the great stakes her country had in the case.

Effects of non-compliance for Myanmar

  • For its part, Myanmar has denied that its military or paramilitary has participated in genocide of Rohingya and it is unlikely to alter its position.
  • Provisional measures are essentially a restraining order against a state when a case is pending and can be seen as, at most, a censure.
  • Provisional orders cannot be challenged and are binding upon the state.
  • However, limitations in enforcing decisions of the ICJ are widely acknowledged by law experts.

What are these limitations?

  • As per Article 94 of the Charter of the United Nations, all member states are required to comply with decisions of the ICJ.
  • However, any action by a state can be secured only through consent of the state in international law.
  • When a state fails to comply, the Security Council has the power to impose sanctions against it and ensure compliance when international security and peace are at stake.
  • So far, the Security Council has never taken a coercive measure against any country to get an ICJ ruling implemented.
  • Even with the stepping in of the Security Council, there are several hurdles in enforcement of ICJ decisions.
  • Any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers can block the enforcement of an ICJ decision against itself or its ally.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Trolling in IndiaIOCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Abuse of women on social media and its implications


 

The Amnesty International India has released a report titled “Troll Patrol India: Exposing Online Abuse Faced by Women Politicians in India”. The report analysed more than 114,000 tweets sent to 95 women politicians in the three months during and after last year’s general elections in India.

Highlights of the report

  • The research found that women are targeted with abuse online not just for their opinions – but also for various identities, such as gender, religion, caste, and marital status.
  • Indian women politicians face substantially higher abuse on Twitter than their counterparts in the U.S. and the U.K.
  • Around 13.8% of the tweets in the study were either “problematic” or “abusive”.
  • Problematic content was defined as tweets that contain hurtful or hostile content, especially if repeated to an individual on multiple occasions, but do not necessarily meet the threshold of abuse.
  • While all women are targeted, Muslim women politicians faced 55% more abuse than others.
  • Women from marginalized castes, unmarried women, and those from non-ruling parties faced a disproportionate share of abuse.

A matter of concern

  • Abusive tweets had content that promote violence against or threaten people based on their race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, religious affiliation, age, disability or other categories.
  • They include death threats and rape threats.
  • Problematic tweets contained hurtful or hostile content, often repeated, which could reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes, although they did not meet the threshold of abuse.
Real Estate Industry

Enemy Property in IndiaPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Enemy Property in India

Mains level : Disposal of such Enemy Property


  • A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Home Minister will monitor the disposal of over 9,400 enemy properties, which the government estimates is worth about Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • Two committees headed by senior officials will be set up for the disposal of immovable enemy properties vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India under The Enemy Property Act.

What is “Enemy Property”?

  • In the wake of the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, there was migration of people from India to Pakistan.
  • Under the Defence of India Rules framed under The Defence of India Act, 1962, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of those who took Pakistani nationality.
  • These “enemy properties” were vested by the central government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.
  • The same was done for property left behind by those who went to China after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.
  • The Tashkent Declaration of January 10, 1966 included a clause that said India and Pakistan would discuss the return of the property and assets taken over by either side in connection with the conflict.
  • However, the Government of Pakistan disposed of all such properties in their country in the year 1971 itself.

How did India deal with enemy property?

  • The Enemy Property Act, enacted in 1968, provided for the continuous vesting of enemy property in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.
  • The central government, through the Custodian, is in possession of enemy properties spread across many states in the country.
  • Some movable properties too, are categorised as enemy properties.
  • In 2017, Parliament passed The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, which amended The Enemy Property Act, 1968, and The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.

Who is an Enemy?

  • The amended Act expanded the definition of the term “enemy subject”, and “enemy firm” to include the legal heir and successor of an enemy, whether a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy; and the succeeding firm of an enemy firm, irrespective of the nationality of its members or partners.
  • The amended law provided that enemy property shall continue to vest in the Custodian even if the enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm ceases to be an enemy due to death, extinction, winding up of business or change of nationality, or that the legal heir or successor is a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy.
  • The Custodian, with prior approval of the central government, may dispose of enemy properties vested in him in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and the government may issue directions to the Custodian for this purpose.

Why were these amendments brought?

  • The thrust of the amendments was to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars.
  • The amendments denied legal heirs any right over enemy property. The main aim was to negate the effect of a court judgment in this regard.

What did these court orders say?

  • One major judgment was passed in the case of the estate of the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad, who owned several large properties in Hazratganj, Sitapur and Nainital.
  • Following Partition, the Raja left for Iraq and stayed there for some years before settling in London.
  • After The Enemy Property Act was enacted in the year 1968, the Raja’s estate was declared enemy property. When the Raja died, his son who stayed in India staked claim to the properties.
  • After a legal battle that lasted over 30 years, an apex court Bench on October 21, 2005, ruled in favour of the son.
  • The verdict opened the floodgates for further pleas in courts across the country in which genuine or purported relatives of persons who had migrated to Pakistan produced deeds of gift claiming they were the rightful owners of enemy properties.
  • On July 2, 2010, the then UPA government promulgated an Ordinance that restrained courts from ordering the government to divest enemy properties from the Custodian.
  • The 2005 SC order was thus rendered ineffective, and the Custodian again took over the Raja’s properties.

Enactment of the Amended Law

  • A Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 22, 2010, and subsequently, a revised Bill was tabled on November 15, 2010. This Bill was thereafter referred to the Standing Committee.
  • However, the said Bill could not be passed during the term of the 15th Lok Sabha, and it lapsed.
  • On January 7, 2016, the President of India promulgated The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2016, which was replaced by the Bill that became law in 2017.
Banking Sector Reforms

Specialized Supervisory and Regulatory Cadre (SSRC)Prelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Specialized Supervisory and Regulatory Cadre (SSRC)

Mains level : Governance of RBI


The RBI has decided to recruit 35% of the specialised supervisory and regulatory cadre from the market while the remaining 65% will be recruited via internal promotions.

Specialized Supervisory and Regulatory Cadre (SSRC)

  • The SSRC will comprise officers in Grade B to Executive Director level.
  • In Nov. last year RBI decided to reorganize its regulation and supervision departments.
  • It merged the three regulatory departments (department of bankingnon-banking and cooperative bank) into one and did likewise for the three supervisory departments.
  • As a result, there is only one supervisory department which looks after supervision of banks, NBFCs and cooperative banks and only one regulatory department for these three.
  • The move is aimed at dealing more effectively with potential systemic risk that could come about due to possible supervisory arbitrage and information asymmetry.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP)

Mains level : Data Analytics and its applications in governance


 

NITI Aayog has released its vision for the National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP).

National Data and Analytics Platform

  • The platform aims to democratize access to publicly available government data.
  • NDAP will host the latest datasets from various government websites, present them coherently, and provide tools for analytics and visualization.
  • It will spearhead the standardization of formats in which data is presented across sectors and will cater to a wide audience of policymakers, researchers, innovators, data scientists, journalists and citizens.
  • It will follow a user-centric approach and will enable data access in a simple and intuitive portal tailored to the needs of a variety of stakeholders.
  • The development of NDAP will take place over a period of one year. The first version of the platform is expected to be launched in 2021.