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[Op-ed snap] Welcome measure

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : labour reforms


CONTEXT

In a welcome move, the Union government has announced a significant reduction in the contribution by workers and employers towards the employees’ state insurance (ESI) scheme.

Background

From July 1, the overall contribution to ESI is slated to decline from 6.5 per cent to 4 per cent, with employers’ contribution falling from 4.75 per cent to 3.25 per cent, and that of employees from 1.75 per cent to 0.75 per cent.

Benefits

Lower Cost of hiring and formal jobs – This decision, which lowers the cost of hiring for employers, should be seen in conjunction with recent initiatives such as the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojna (PMRPY) that aim to boost the creation of formal jobs by lowering the costs associated with formalisation.

Medical Care and cash benefits –The ESI Act provides for medical care and cash benefits in case of contingencies to employees drawing a salary up to Rs 21,000 per month. It is one of the pillars of the social security architecture in the country.

Issues

1.Its current cost structure is prohibitive.

2.Contribution far exceeds the benefits –

  • A look at its accounts shows that the current levels of contribution far exceed the benefits disbursed by it — in fact, only around half of the contributions are paid out as benefits.
  • For instance, in 2016-17, while total contributions stood at Rs 16,852 crore (including interest income of Rs 3,069 crore), total expenditure incurred for medical benefits was only a fraction at Rs 6,409 crore.
  • This growing divergence between collections and disbursement has led to a substantial build up of its reserves.
  • At the end of March 2018, its corpus stood at Rs 73,303 crore, up Rs 13,920 crore from last year.
  • Between 2012 and 2017, it earned Rs 19,993 crore as interest income alone on this corpus.
  • But this rise in income hasn’t translated to greater benefits.

3.Standing committee on labour’s report –

  • As the standing committee on labour noted in a report last year, people continue to be deprived of the benefits of the ESI scheme “due to lack of coverage of ESIC scheme, poor functioning of hospitals, etc”.
  • This suggests that contributions can be substantially lowered, while maintaining benefits at current levels.

Way Forward

  • Prohibitive mandatory contributions such as the provident fund/employee state insurance tend to act as deterrents to formalisation.
  • As the experience of PMRPY has shown, lowering these costs tends to have a positive impact on formalisation.
  • In fact, much of the recent rise in the EPFO subscriber base is on account of PMRPY.
  • Lowering costs further, or offering employees the choice of who handles their contributions, could accelerate the process further.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] A home in space

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : ISRO is making giant leaps in space explorations. Space station may be the next.


CONTEXT

ISRO has declared its intention to build a permanent space station for itself, possibly in the next five to seven years. After the mission to moon and Mars and a proposed manned space flight before 2022, this is the next logical step for the agency.

ISRO’s aspirations

ISRO would be undertaking many prolonged space exploration projects and sending many astronauts into space, such that it would require a permanent station for itself.

History of Space mission

  • For four decades since its inception in the early 1960s, ISRO had, apart from building its capacities, focused primarily on harnessing space technologies for societal benefits.
  • Yash Pal, the first director of Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, once described India’s space mission as “almost a sociological programme” as much as a technological programme.
  • Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme, used to repeatedly make the point that India must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to “the real problems of man and society”.
  • Even as late as in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi got all government departments to sit down with ISRO and identify the areas where space technology could help them achieve their objectives.

Proven Capacity of ISRO

  • In the next phase, beginning this century, ISRO established itself as a reliable and economical launcher of commercial satellites.
  • It demonstrated its capabilities to launch all kinds of satellites and delivered close to 300 payloads of foreign countries in space in the last 12 years.
  • This service is likely to continue since it generates the much-needed revenue to fund ISRO’s various missions.

New Mission into space explorations

  • However, ISRO is signalling that it is now ready to take a leap into space exploration. Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan are, in fact, heralding ISRO into this new phase.
  • There is a mission to the sun coming up next year, while another to Venus has also been announced.
  • More inter-planetary explorations, and possibly a human flight to the moon, are also in the pipeline.

The utility of space station

  • The space station is a facility India would need in the context of missions such as these and more.
  • NASA’s International Space Station, the only one functional right now, is slated to retire by 2025, or latest by 2028, and no replacement for it has been confirmed so far.
  • It is likely that future space stations would be commercial facilities, available to anyone for a fee. For an agency that is still to execute a successful human space flight, all this might seem a little premature.
  • And the proposed five to seven-year timeline to achieve it, surely, is ambitious. But ISRO is known to set ambitious targets, and achieve them as well.

Chaukhandi Stupa declared to be “of national importance”

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chaukhandi Stupa and its significance

Mains level : Ancient Buddhist architecture



News

  • An ancient Buddhist site in UP’s Sarnath known as Chaukhandi Stupa has been declared to be “of national importance” by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Chaukhandi Stupa

  • Chaukhandi Stupa was built to mark the place where Buddha met his first disciples Panchavargiya Bhikshus (Buddha’s five companions) who had previously deserted him at Rajgir, as he traveled from Bodhgaya to Sarnath.
  • The stupa got its name Chaukhandi’ because of its four armed plan.
  • It is a lofty mound of brick whose square edifice is surrounded by an octagonal tower.
  • The stupa is an ancient Buddhist site which evolved from burial mounds and served as a shrine for a relic of Buddha.

Construction

  • It appears to be in ruins and was originally constructed in 5th Century AD.
  • It also finds mention in account of Hiuen Tsang, celebrated Chinese traveler of 7th century AD.
  • The Chaukhandi Stupa is said to be originally a terraced temple during the Gupta period (4th to 6th century).
  • Govardhan, the son of Todarmal altered and modified the Chaukhandi Stupa to its present shape.
  • He built an octagonal tower to commemorate the visit of Humayun, the great Mughal ruler.

Architecture

  • The current structure of the stupa is a high earthen mound covered with brickwork, to which stands atop a terraced rectangular plinth and it is capped by an octagonal Mughal tower.
  • Some images of Buddha, such as the image of Buddha in Dharmachakra Pravartana Mudra and other statues found during excavations at this Stupa are believed to be rare artifacts and classic examples of art from Gupta period.

About ASI

  • The ASI is an Indian government agency attached to the Ministry of Culture.
  • It is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country.
  • It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.
History- Important places, persons in news

ISRO plans to launch a space station

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Space Station

Mains level : Utility of space stations


News

  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to launch its own space station.

The Indian Space Station

  • A space station is an artificial satellite placed in orbit and is used as a long-term base for manned operations in space.
  • The Indian space station would be stationed at an altitude of 400 kilometres from Earth.
  • The proposed Indian space station would be similar to the International Space Station (ISS) but smaller in size weighing about 20 tonnes and would take another 5 to 7 seven years to construct.
  • India would be the fourth country to launch a space station as the US and Russia has already launched their space stations and China is planning to launch its in 2020.

About the ISS

  • The International Space Station, which launched its first piece in 1998, is a large spacecraft which orbits around the Earth and is home to the astronauts.
  • The ISS is currently the only active space station in the earth’s orbit.
  • The first crew on the space station arrived on November 2, 2000.
  • The space station is home to minimum of six astronauts, with two bathrooms, a gymnasium, and a big bay window.
  • It is a joint project between five participating space agencies -NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

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 : Kimberley Process, Conflict Diamond

Mains level : KPCS



News

  • The Intersessional meet of Kimberley Process (KP) will be hosted by India

Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

  • The Kimberley Process is a joint initiative involving Government, international diamond industry and civil society to stem the flow of Conflict Diamonds.
  • Conflict Diamonds means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.
  • It is also described in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.

Why need KPCS?

  • In 1998, certain rebel movements in Africa (Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia) were selling, among other things, illegally obtained diamonds.
  • These were known as Conflict Diamonds – to fund their wars against legitimate governments.
  • With a view to find ways to stop trade in Conflict Diamonds, world’s diamond industry, UN, Governments and leading NGOs came together and in November 2002 at Interlaken, Switzerland.
  • There the final draft of the Kimberley Process measures was ratified by more than fifty countries.
  • The KPCS came into effect from 1st January, 2003 and evolved into an effective mechanism for stopping the trade in Conflict Diamonds.
  • At present, KPCS has 55 members representing 82 countries including EU with 28 members.

India and the KPCS

  • India is one of the founder members of Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
  • It is the Chair of Kimberley Process for the year 2019 with Russian Federation as Vice Chair.
  • India had earlier chaired KPCS in the year 2008.

Rough diamond trading under the KPCS

  • As per the Scheme, each shipment of rough diamonds being exported and imported by crossing an international border be transported in a tamper proof container and accompanied by a validated Kimberley Process Certificate.
  • The shipment can only be exported to a co-participant country in the KPCS.
  • No uncertified shipments of rough diamonds are permitted to enter a participant country.

Assist this newscard with:

[pib] Kimberley Process

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

Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma telescope to create a 3D X-ray map of Universe

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SRG

Mains level : X Ray Telescope



News

  • A team of German-Russian scientists is all set to launch a space telescope, which will create a three-dimensional (3D) X-ray map of the universe and unveil unknown supermassive black holes, dark energy and stars.

Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG) Telescope

  • The telescope will be launched into space on a Russian-built Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in June 2019.
  • The four-year mission will survey the entire sky eight times and track the evolution of the universe and dark energy, a mysterious repulsive force that is accelerating its expansion.
  • Besides, it also aims to detect up to three million supermassive black holes — many of which are unknown — and X-rays from as many as 700,000 stars in the Milky Way.
  • The telescope is the first to be sensitive to high-energy ‘hard’ X-rays and map the entire sky.
  • The SRG will also find how dark matter — the main engine of galaxy formation — is spread in the universe.
  • X-ray sky surveys have also been conducted by previous missions, but they were not able to map the entire sky, the report said.

Two X-ray telescopes:

  • A German-built eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array)
  • A Russian-built ART-XC (Astronomical Roentgen Telescope — X-ray Concentrator)
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

E-Foreigner Tribunal (e-FT)

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : E-Foreigners Tribunal

Mains level : Citizenship issue in Assam


News

  • The Centre has approved setting up of e-Foreigner Tribunal (e-FT) in Assam.

E-FT System

  • Aim: To maintain a statewide bio-metric and biographic data and to capture the illegal migrants’ data to computerize data flow for all the stakeholders.
  • The proposed integrated e-FT IT system will be implemented across Assam for effective monitoring and resolution of cases registered with Foreigner Tribunal.
  • The main objective of the project is to maintain a statewide bio-metric and biographic data, to capture the illegal migrants’ data to computerize data flow for all the stakeholders.
  • It will also help in the legalization of eligible beneficiaries for welfare schemes.
  • The new IT system will not only strengthen the Judiciary in the disposal of cases but also help Police organization in faster detection, prosecution and detention.
  • This will enhance the transparency of case disposal process.  It will also help in legalization of eligible beneficiaries for welfare schemes.
Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Too good to be true’

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Prospects and concerns with draft national education policy


CONTEXT

Draft National Education Policy – From the perspective of higher education, its main strength is that it has got its basics right — it appears to have a reasonable understanding of existing problems, and offers a plausible picture of possible solutions that may take us towards a better future. Indeed, the DNEP comes as a refreshing shock to academics long accustomed to policy documents that are rooted in a stubborn denial of basic ground realities.

Proposals

1.Liberal and holistic – The most overarching is the acknowledgement that all education is, and ought to be envisioned as, “liberal” and holistic.

2. Public education – There is a strong re-affirmation of the state’s commitment to public education, much needed at a time when privatisation has seemed to be the overriding objective of governments.

3. Autonomy – Also welcome is the explicit assurance that institutional autonomy is not just a polite term for financial abandonment.

4. Ad- hoc and contractual appointments –  Finally, the recognition that rampant resort to ad hoc and contractual appointments has crippled higher education and must be stopped immediately will surely bring relief to teachers’ organisations agitating tirelessly on this very issue.

5.Core Vision –  The core vision based on a tripartite division of higher education into teaching universities, research universities, and optimally-sized multi-disciplinary undergraduate colleges is sound. T

6.National Research Foundation – The diagnoses and prescriptions for the key areas of governance and regulation are workable as initial starting points, as is the plan to create a National Research Foundation separate from regulatory bodies.

Concerns with draft policy

  1. Discrimination  and Exclusion – 
  • It is deeply disappointing that the DNEP has evaded this issue, with the question of Under-Represented Groups (URGs) making no appearance outside school education.
  • Caste discrimination has long been an important issue in higher education, and has received intense public attention in recent times, from Rohith Vemula to Payal Tadavi.
  • Moreover, national statistics unambiguously establish that Persons with Disability and Muslims are by far the leading URGs in higher education.

2. Protecting public higher educational institutions from undue governmental interference

  •  The proposed institutional framework for higher education — with the National Education Commission chaired by the prime minister at its apex — clearly implies even more governmental control with significantly higher levels of centralisation than what is already the case.
  • The DNEP should have included — but does not — a forthright proposal for dealing with this unavoidable problem.

 

[op-ed snap] Faint glimmer: On revival in industrial activity

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 : Nothing Much

Mains level : Data regarding revival in industrial activity


CONTEXT

The tentative revival in industrial activity must be built on through prudent policy support.

Background

Industrial activity in the new financial year appears to have started on a healthier note than the trend witnessed in the last quarter of the previous fiscal, the government’s latest quick estimates show.

  1. Industrial output – Industrial output rose 3.4% in April, buoyed by a generally broad-based revival that saw electricity, mining and even manufacturing post faster growth .

2. Manufacturing output – In fact, manufacturing output growth, which had decelerated sharply from the pace of 8.2% in October to a revised level of less than 0.1% in March, rebounded to a four-month high of 2.8%.

3. Positive growth – A look at the use-based classification reveals that all six segments were in positive territory, with only infrastructure and construction goods marking a slowdown from both the earlier year and March levels and providing cause for some concern.

4. Capital Goods – Hearteningly, capital goods, a sector that serves as a closely tracked proxy for business spending intentions, posted a 2.5% expansion, snapping three straight months of contraction.

To be sure, the growth even in this key area trails the pace of 9.8% that was reported in April 2018 by a wide margin, and it would be premature to celebrate the single reading until a more abiding trend emerges in the coming months.

Hiccups along the way

1.Rise in CPI –

  • Price gains measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) quickened to 3.05% in May, from April’s 2.99%, as prices of vegetables and pulses jumped by 23% and 10% respectively in urban areas, contributing to a bump-up in food inflation.
  • The Reserve Bank of India had last week flagged the risks to the inflation trajectory from factors including spikes in vegetable prices and international fuel prices and marginally raised its CPI inflation projection for the fiscal first half to a 3% to 3.1% range.
  • While the inflation reading remains below the RBI’s inflation threshold of 4%, policymakers would need to keep a close watch on price trends, especially as global energy prices continue to remain volatile amid heightened geopolitical tensions in West Asia and uncertainty on the demand outlook owing to the ongoing China-U.S. trade spat.

2. Monsson Dependence – And while the monsoon is forecast to be normal this year, the actual rainfall and its spatial distribution will have a significant bearing on agricultural output and food prices. A fiscally prudent budget, with incentives to support the nascent industrial recovery, would surely tick several boxes at one go.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

What SCO summit means for India’s global and regional interests

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCO

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

  • PK Modi has departed for the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the then security and economic architecture in the Eurasian region dissolved and new structures had to come up.
  • The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
  • The SCO was formed in 2001, with Uzbekistan included. It expanded in 2017 to include India and Pakistan.
  • Since its formation, the SCO has focused on regional non-traditional security, with counter-terrorism as a priority:
  • The fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and extremism has become its mantra.
  • Today, areas of cooperation include themes such as economics and culture.

India’s entry to the SCO

  • India and Pakistan both were observer countries.
  • While Central Asian countries and China were not in favour of expansion initially, the main supporter — of India’s entry in particular — was Russia.
  • A widely held view is that Russia’s growing unease about an increasingly powerful China prompted it to push for its expansion.
  • From 2009 onwards, Russia officially supported India’s ambition to join the SCO. China then asked for its all-weather friend Pakistan’s entry.

How does membership of the SCO help India?

 [I] Counter-terrorism

  • These sit well with the SCO’s main objective of working cooperatively against the “three evils”.
  • India wants access to intelligence and information from SCO’s counter-terrorism body, the Tashkent-based Regional Anti Terror Structure (RATS).
  • A stable Afghanistan too is in India’s interest, and RATS provides access to non-Pakistan-centred counter-terrorism information there.

[II] Connectivity

  • Connectivity is important for India’s Connect Central Asia policy. Energy cooperation dominates its interest – and it’s in China’s neighbourhood.
  • But India will also have to deal with an assertive China, which will push its Belt and Road Initiative during the summit.
  • SCO membership also bolsters India’s status as a major pan-Asian player, which is boxed in the South Asian paradigm.

Geopolitics and play out for India

  • The US’ power struggle with China, exit from the Iran nuclear deal JCPOA which affected India’s oil imports from Iran and adversarial attitude towards Russia which delayed India’s defence purchase like S-400.
  • While US’s stance against Islamabad after the Pulwama attack was evidence of its support to New Delhi, India has had a strained relationship with China after the Doklam stand-off, followed by attempts to reset relations in Wuhan.

A cause of worry for US

  • In the SCO, India’s sitting down with less-than-free regimes, Russia and China has always had the West worried.
  • India, however, has always been tactful in not aligning with these countries on governance issues.

How does it play out in the India-Pakistan or India-China relationship?

  • In the absence of the SAARC summit, the SCO summit gives an opportunity for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet informally, on the sidelines.
  • Both sides have the obligation not to bring in bilateral disputes, but can cooperate on issues of mutual interest and importance.
  • Signing off on joint counter-terrorism exercises will be a new form of engagement between the two militaries.
  • With China, it is yet another opening, like the BRICS summit last year, to bring down tensions, and ahead of the next informal summit in October in India.

Way Forward

  • What draws India to SCO is the “Shanghai spirit”, which emphasises harmony, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, and non-alignment.
  • The bottom-line is that it helps India keep all options open in terms of international partnerships.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

Chandrayaan-2 Mission

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayan 1, 2

Mains level : Prospects of the ISRO mission



News

  • The ISRO will finally launch the much-awaited Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon.
  • The mission will be launched on July 15, and its lander and rover will touch down on the moon’s surface either on September 5 or 6.

Background

  • The Chandrayaan-2 mission has taken a long way coming, considering that its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, an Orbiter mission, had been sent way back in 2008.
  • According to the original schedule, Chandrayaan-2 was to be launched in 2012 itself in a collaborative mission with the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, which was to provide the lander module.
  • The Russians, however, withdrew from the missions after their similarly-designed lander for another mission developed problems in 2011.
  • That left ISRO to design, develop and build the lander on its own, something it has not done earlier, which has led to considerable delay from the original schedule.

A sequel to Chandrayaan-1

  • The Chandrayaan-1 mission which was launched in October 2008 was ISRO’s first exploratory mission to the moon, in fact to any heavenly body in the space.
  • That mission was designed to just orbit around the moon and make observations with the help of the instruments on board.
  • The closest that Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft came to the moon was in an orbit 100 km from its surface.
  • Chandrayaan-2 is a logical progression on Chandrayaan-1. It is a more sophisticated mission designed to pack in a whole lot of science.

The Moon Impact Probe

  • For largely symbolic reasons, though, the Chandrayaan-1 mission did make one of its instruments, called Moon Impact Probe, or MIP.
  • It was a 35-kg cube-shaped module with the Indian tricolour on all its sides, to crash-land on the moon’s surface.
  • ISRO claims that while on its way, MIP had sent data that showed evidence for the presence of water on the moon.
  • Unfortunately, those findings could not be published because of anomalies in calibration of the data.
  • The confirmation for water had come through another onboard instrument, the M3 or Moon Mineralogy Mapper that had been put by NASA.

Chandrayaan-2: India’s first lander mission

  • Chandrayaan-2 consists of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments to study the moon.
  • The Orbiter would once again watch the moon from a 100-km orbit, while the Lander and Rover modules will separate and make a soft-landing on moon’s surface.
  • ISRO has named the Lander module as Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, the pioneer of India’s space programme, and the Rover module as Pragyaan, meaning wisdom.
  • Once on the moon, the rover, a six-wheeled solar-powered vehicle, will detach itself from the lander, and would slowly crawl on the surface, making observations and collecting data.

Tasks to be accomplished

  • The mission will be equipped with two instruments, and its primary objective would be to study the composition of the moon’s surface near the landing site, and determine its abundance of different elements.
  • The 1471-kg lander, which will remain stationary after touching down, will carry three instruments that will mainly study the moon’s atmosphere.
  • One of the instruments will also look out for seismic activity on lunar surface.
  • While the lander and rover are designed to work for only 14 days (1 lunar day), the Orbiter, a 2379-kg spacecraft with seven instruments on board, would remain in orbit for a year.
  • It is equipped with different kinds of cameras to take high-resolution 3D maps of the surface.
  • It also has instruments to study the mineral composition on the moon and the lunar atmosphere, and also to assess the abundance of water.

Chandrayaan-2 to enter uncharted territory

  • With Chandrayaan-2, India will become only the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon.
  • So far, all landings, human as well as non-human, on the moon have been in areas close to its equator.
  • That was mainly because this area receives more sunlight that is required by the solar-powered instruments to function.
  • Earlier this year, in January, China landed a lander and rover on the far side of the moon, the side that is not facing the earth. This was the first time that any landing had taken place on that side.
  • The Chinese mission, Chang’e 4, was designed to function for three lunar days has outlived its mission life and entered its fifth lunar night.

What differentiates Chandrayaan 2 with others?

  • Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, near the South pole of the moon.
  • It is a completely unexplored territory and therefore offers great scientific opportunity for the mission to see and discover something new.
  • Incidentally, the crash-landing of the MIP from the Chandrayaan-1 mission had also happened in the same region.
  • The south pole of the moon holds the possibility of the presence of water, and this is one aspect that would be probed meticulously by Chandrayaan-2.
  • In addition, this area is also supposed to have ancient rocks and craters that can offer indications of history of moon, and also contain clues to the fossil records of early solar system.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Arctic Kelps: Underwater forests in the Arctic

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kelps

Mains level : Impact of climate change on the underwater ecosystem of the Arctic



News

  • Climate change is altering marine habitats such as kelp forests on a global scale.
  • In Western Australia, eastern Canada, southern Europe, northern California and eastern United States, kelps are disappearing due to warming temperatures.

Arctic Kelp Forests

  • Kelp is a type of large brown seaweed that grows in shallow, nutrient-rich saltwater, near coastal fronts around the world.
  • They occur on rocky coasts throughout the Arctic. The longest kelp recorded in the Arctic in Canada was 15 metres, and the deepest was found at 60-metre depth (Disko Bay, Greenland).
  • Kelps function underwater in the same way trees do on land. They create habitat and modify the physical environment by shading light and softening waves.
  • The underwater forests that kelps create are used by many animals for shelter and food.
  • More than 350 different species – up to 100,000 small invertebrates – can live on a single kelp plant, and many fish, birds and mammals depend on the whole forest.
  • Kelp forests also help protect coastlines by decreasing the power of waves during storms and reducing coastal erosion.

What makes Kelps special?

  • Many find it surprising that marine plants can grow so well in harsh Arctic environments. Kelps have adapted to the severe conditions.
  • These cool water species have special strategies to survive freezing temperatures and long periods of darkness, and even grow under sea ice.
  • In regions with cold, nutrient-rich water, they can attain some of the highest rates of primary production of any natural ecosystem on Earth.

Threats to Kelps

  • Coastal conditions in the Arctic are changing dramatically and the region is warming faster than the rest of the world, but these changes could actually be good for kelp.
  • In Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Siberia, permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years are receding by half a metre per year.
  • Thawing permafrost and crumbling Arctic coasts are dumping sediments into coastal waters at alarming rates, which blocks light and could limit plant growth.
  • The run-off from melting glaciers will also lower salinity and increase turbidity, which impacts young kelp.

Importance of Kelps

  • Kelp forests throughout the world play an important role in coastal economies, supporting a broad range of tourism, recreational and commercial activities.
  • Kelp is making its way onto the plates of North Americans, and the kelp aquaculture industry is growing at a rate of seven per cent per year for the last 20 years globally.
  • Kelp is a coveted food source in many countries which is full of potassium, iron, calcium, fibre and iodine.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Cabinet approves ratification of OECD’s multilateral convention to check tax evasion

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 : BEPS

Mains level : Impact of BEPS on Indian economy


News

  • The Cabinet approved ratification of a multilateral convention to implement OECD’s project on checking tax evasion.
  • The Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) was signed by the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Paris on June 7, 2017.

Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS)

  • Firms make profits in one jurisdiction, and shift them across borders by exploiting gaps and mismatches in tax rules, to take advantage of lower tax rates and, thus, not paying taxes to in the country where the profit is made.
  • BEPS refers to this corporate tax planning strategies to “shift” profits from higher–tax jurisdictions to lower–tax jurisdictions.
  • The OECD has considered ways to revise tax treaties, tighten rules, and to share more government tax information under the BEPS project.

About the convention

  • The Multilateral Convention is an outcome of the OECD/G20 Project to tackle  BEPS which is resorted to by MNCs through tax planning strategies by exploiting gaps and mismatches in tax rules.
  • It helps them artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.
  • Post this convention, 90 countries have now implemented the automatic exchange of financial account and tax information.
  • The Convention enables all signatories to meet treaty-related minimum standards that were agreed as part of the BEPS package.

Impact

  • The Convention will modify India’s treaties in order to curb revenue loss through treaty abuse and base erosion and profit shifting strategies.
  • It will ensure that profits are taxed where substantive economic activities generating the profits are carried out and where value is created.
Tax Reforms

Jalan panel defers report on RBI surplus funds

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Economic Capital of RBI

Mains level : Issue over transfer of surplus funds of RBI


News

  • A committee under former RBI governor Bimal Jalan considering guidelines for transfer of the central bank’s surplus funds to the government delayed submitting its report after lack of consensus.

Bimal Jalan Committee

  • The committee was appointed in December 2018 to review the Economic Capital Framework (ECF) for the RBI after the Finance Ministry advised the central bank to transfer surplus funds to the government.
  • The RBI has over Rs 9.6 lakh crore surplus capitals.
  • The panel has been entrusted with the task of reviewing the best practices followed by central banks worldwide in making assessment and provisions for risks.

Issue over surplus transfers

  • The government and the RBI under its previous governor Urjit Patel had been at loggerheads over the Rs 9.6 lakh crore surplus capital with the central bank.
  • The finance ministry was of the view that the buffer of 28 per cent of gross assets maintained by the central bank is well above the global norm of around 14 per cent.

What is Economic Capital?

  • Banks and financial institutions are faced with long-term future uncertainties that they intend to account for.
  • Economic capital (EC) is the amount of risk capital that a bank estimates in order to remain solvent at a given confidence level and time horizon.
  • The concept of economic capital has gained significance especially after the global financial crisis in 2008.
  • The crisis exposed many central banks in the world to multiple risks, which forced many of them US Federal Reserve, Bank of England and European Central Bank to pump in liquidity.
  • They tempted to buy securities and expand their balance sheets to boost confidence in the financial system and to ensure that critical institutions did not collapse.

Balance sheet of Central Banks

  • The balance sheet of central banks is unlike that of the institutions that it regulates or supervises.
  • They are not driven by the aim of boosting profits given their public policy or public interest role.
  • Their aim is primarily ensuring monetary and financial stability and maintaining confidence in the external value of the currency.
  • Central banks do make money or the profits earned by issuing currency which is passed on to the owner of the central bank, the government.
  • But they are typically conservative and the crisis prompted a review of the capital buffers that central banks and commercial banks needed.

Potential Risks to Central Banks

  • Traditionally, central banks have been factoring in risks such as credit risk when there could be a potential default by an entity in which there has been an investment or exposure.
  • There is also interest rate risk when interest rates either move up or slide, depending on the price of which securities or bonds held by a central bank or banks can be impacted.
  • Besides, there is operational risk when there is a failure of internal processes.
  • To measure these risks, both quantitative and qualitative methods are typically used.

The RBI proposal

  • RBI holds a huge pile of foreign exchange reserves, and as the lender of last resort it described as contingent risks arising from its public policy role in fostering monetary and financial stability.
  • In 2015, the RBI discussed this and put in place a draft Economic Capital Framework, or ECF.
  • The rationale for such a capital framework was that there were increased risks to its balance sheet.
  • RBI sought for an adequate capital buffer, critical not only to achieving its objectives, but also to ensuring the credibility of the central bank.

Concerns of RBI

  • RBI pointed out that a weak balance sheet could force the central bank to rely more on excessive seigniorage (profit made by issuing currency) income, which would run in conflict to its price stability mandate.
  • A compelling reason for RBI to build large capital buffers is to try and preempt a situation where they have to approach their governments for putting up their capital for recapitalization.
  • That is seen by them as an erosion of their operational independence.
  • The sovereign governments themselves are under fiscal strain.
  • This strengthens the case for ex-ante capitalization (based on forecasts) than ex-post capitalization i.e. better to build a capital framework way ahead of a crisis.
RBI Notifications

Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV)

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HSDTV, Ramjet and Scramjet Engines

Mains level : Utility of HSDTV



News

  • The DRDO has conducted the maiden test of an indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) along with several technologies.

HSDTV

  • The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic speed flight.
  • India is pushing ahead with the development of ground and flight test hardware as part of an ambitious plan for a hypersonic cruise missile.
  • The HSTDV is intended to attain autonomous scramjet flight for 20 seconds, using a solid rocket launch booster.
  • The research will also inform India’s interest in reusable launch vehicles. The eventual target is to reach Mach 6.5 at an altitude of 32.5 km.
  • Under this project, DRDO is developing a hypersonic vehicle that will be powered by a scram-jet engine.

Uses

  • This is dual-use technology, which when developed, will have multiple civilian applications.
  • It can be used for launching satellites at low cost.
  • It will also be available for long-range cruise missiles of the future.

Back2Basics

Scram-jet technology

  • In scram-jet technology, combustion of fuel takes place in a chamber in the missile at supersonic speeds.
  • This is different from a ram jet system where the system collects the air it needs from the atmosphere during the flight at subsonic speeds and the propellants burn in the combustion chamber.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Abujh Maria PVTGs

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Abujh Maria PVTGS

Mains level : PVTGS in India



News

  • The Chhattisgarh government is processing habitat rights for Abujh Marias, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG).

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)

  • Tribal communities are often identified by some specific signs such as primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness to contact with the community at large and backwardness.
  • Along with these, some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having pre-agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population and extremely low level of literacy.
  • These groups are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.

Characteristics of PVTGs

  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups.
  • In 2006, the GoI renamed the PTGs as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  • PVTGs have some basic characteristics -they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, social institutes cast in a simple mould, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.

PVTGs in India

  • In this context, in 1975, the GoI initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups.
  • In 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 STs, spread over 17 states and 1 UT in the country (2011 census).

Identifying PVTGs

  • PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
  • Due to this factor, more developed and assertive tribal groups take a major chunk of the tribal development funds, because of which PVTGs need more funds directed for their development.
  • Government of India designed a procedure to identify PVTGs.
  • According to the procedure, the state governments or UT governments submit proposals to the Central Ministry of Tribal Welfare for identification of PVTGs.
  • After ensuring the criteria is fulfilled, the Central Ministry selects those groups as PVTGs.

For additional information, navigate to the page:

PVTGs

http://vikaspedia.in/social-welfare/scheduled-tribes-welfare/primitive-vulnerable-tribal-groups

Tribal Development

[pib] New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019

Mains Paper 2 : International Institutions |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arbitration

Mains level : NDIAC


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the Bill New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) Bill, 2019 for introduction in the ensuing session of Parliament.

About the Bill

  • In view of the provisions of the Article 107 (5) and 123 (2) of the Constitution, the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019 is proposed to be introduced in the Parliament.
  • The Bill provides for setting up of an independent an autonomous body for institutional arbitration.
  • It aims to acquire and transfer the undertakings of International Centre For Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR) to New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC).

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC)

  • The NDIAC will be headed by a Chairperson, who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of a High Court or an eminent person, having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration, law or management,
  • He is to be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  • Besides, it will also have two Full-time or Part-time Members from amongst eminent persons having substantial knowledge and experience in institutional arbitration in both domestic and international.
  • In addition, one representative of a recognized body of commerce and industry shall be nominated on rotational basis as a Part-time Member.
  • The Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law & Justice, Financial Adviser nominated by Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance and Chief Executive Officer, NDIAC will be ex-officio Members.

Aims and objectives of NDIAC

  • bring targeted reforms to develop itself as a flagship institution for conducting international and domestic arbitration
  • provide facilities and administrative assistance for conciliation, mediation and arbitral proceedings;
  • maintain panels of accredited arbitrators, conciliators and mediators both at national and international level or specialists such as surveyors and investigators;
  • facilitate conducting of international and domestic arbitrations and conciliation in the most professional manner;
  • provide cost effective and timely services for the conduct of arbitrations and conciliations at Domestic and International level;
  • promote studies in the field of alternative dispute resolution and related matters, and to promote reforms in the system of settlement of disputes; and
  • co-operate with other societies, institutions and organisations, national or international for promoting alternative dispute resolution.

Impact

  • The benefits of institutionalized arbitration will be manifold for the Government and its agency and to the parties to a dispute.
  • This will result in quality experts being available in India and also an advantage in terms of cost incurred.
  • It will facilitate India becoming a hub for institutional arbitration.

Back2Basics

International Arbitration in India

  • It has been the endeavor of the Government of India to establish an independent and autonomous institution for resolving International and domestic commercial disputes expeditiously by Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.
  • In this regard, a HL Committee headed by Mr. Justice B.N. Srikrishna, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, was constituted in the year 2017.
  • The HLC recommended that the Government may take over the International Centre For Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR), an existing institution which has been established in the year 1995 using the public funds and develop it as an Institution of National Importance.
  • Taking into consideration the HLC’s recommendations, a Bill, namely the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) Bill 2018 was approved.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism – NCA, Lok Adalats, etc.

[pib] President’s (not Governor’s) Rule in J&K

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : President's rule in J&K

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

  • Based on the prevailing situation in the state as stated in the report of Governor of J&K, the Union Cabinet has approved the extension of President’s Rule in J&K for a further period of six months under article 356(4) of the Constitution of India.

Why not Governor’s Rule?

  • Under Section 92 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no provision for further continuation of Gov. Rule after six months.
  • Hence, on the recommendation of Governor, the President issues a proclamation promulgating President’s Rule in J&K under article 356 of the Constitution of India.

What is Governor’s rule in J&K?

  • In all states of India, the state government’s failure results in President’s rule.
  • The process is slightly more nuanced in Jammu and Kashmir where not the President’s but Governor’s rule is imposed.
  • The Constitution of India grants special status to J&K among Indian states, and it is the only state in India to have a separate Constitution and regulations specific to it.
  • Under the provision of Section 92 of the J&K Constitution, Governor’s rule is imposed for six months, but only after the consent of the President of India.
  • The President’s rule in other states of India is imposed under Article 356 of the Constitution of India.
  • Under the Governor’s rule, the State Assembly is either kept in suspended animation or dissolved.

History of Governor’s Rule

  • The Governor’s rule was imposed on the state for the first time in March 1977, when the Congress withdrew support to a government led by the late Sheikh Abdullah.
  • Among notable differences with other states, till 1965, the head of state in J&K was called Sadr-e-Riyasat, whereas in other state, the title was Governor, and head of government was called Prime Minister in place of Chief Minister in other states.

Back2Basics

President’s Rule

J&K – The issues around the state

[pib] Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Mains Paper 2 : E-Governance |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the amendment

Mains level : Aadhaar and associated issues


News

  • In a major move aimed at making Aadhaar making people friendly, the Union Cabinet has approved “The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019” to replace the earlier ordinance.
  • The Ordinance amongst other things envisaged strengthening of the Aadhaar Act as per the directions of the Supreme Court and recommendations of Justice B.N.Srikrishna Committee.

Details of the Amendment Bill

The salient features of the amendments are as follows—

  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar  number holder;
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number or its alternative virtual identity.
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years;
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002;
  • Proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities;
  • Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication;
  • Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund;
  • Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, and appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act.

Impact:

  • The decision would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhar.
  • No individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.
Aadhaar Card Issues

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak in Bihar

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AES

Mains level : Preventing Child Mortality


News

  • An epidemic of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has broken out in five north Bihar districts, with more than 50 children having died in the last nine days.
  • Locally known as Chamki Bukhar, at least 400 children have died in the last one decade due to AES in these districts.

What is AES?

  • AES is a clinical condition most widely caused by infection with Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) or other infectious and non-infectious causes.

Symptoms of AES

  • The signs and symptoms of AES include – an acute onset of fever, headache and clinical neurological manifestation that includes mental confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma.

Who is at risk?

  • People in rural areas where the virus is common are at greater risk.
  • But the incidence was highest among children 0-6 years of age.
  • People with weakened immune system – for instance, who have HIV/AIDS, take immune-suppressing drugs – are at an increased risk of encephalitis.

Treatment for AES

  • People suffering from encephalitis need to be treated urgently.
  • Treatment may include antiviral medication, steroid injections among others to support the body, relieve the symptoms.
  • Other treatment options are – bed rest, plenty of fluids, anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the symptoms such as fever and headache.
  • There is no cure for the disease. However, safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent encephalitis.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.