August 2018
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

[op-ed snap] Can regional trade agreements boost India’s exports?

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RCEP, WTO

Mains level: The problem with multilateral agreements and what India needs to do to gain most from them


Context

Demand for India to join multilateral agreements

  1. As the World Trade Organization (WTO) comes under mounting attack from the Trump-led US administration, there is a clamour in India to negotiate regional trade agreements with peer countries
  2. It is perceived that this will boost exports and insulate India’s trade from the uncertainties of the global trading system

Are multilateral agreements really beneficial for India?

  1. An analysis of trade agreements suggests that India has often failed to gain from such agreements
  2. This could explain why Indian policymakers have become cautious about pursuing new trade agreements in recent years

History of trade agreements

  1. The rise of regional trade agreements (RTAs) globally coincided with the end of the Uruguay round of WTO talks in the mid-1990s
  2. Their growth has often been explained as a result of slow progress in multilateral negotiations
  3. RTAs include both preferential trade agreements and free trade agreements (FTAs)

Criticism of RTAs

  1. RTAs face criticism for being detrimental to the spirit of multilateral free trade
  2. This is because countries that are not part of a regional agreement find themselves at a disadvantage
  3. This is especially true in an era of rising protectionism and uncertainty

Solution: Trade blocs

  1. It is possible to address such issues to some extent by creating mega-trading blocs
  2. One such bloc being negotiated is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), consisting of China, India, Japan, south-east Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand

Scope for India

  1. There might be scope for India to increase its trade with the Asia-Pacific region, given that its level of integration with the region is relatively low
  2. But India has remained ambivalent about the RCEP, with officials expressing concern that it might actually harm India

The reason behind India’s concerns

  1. India’s existing agreements with South Korea, Japan and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are often deemed to have benefited the partner countries at India’s expense
  2. India has not been able to sufficiently leverage these agreements to increase its presence in the markets of its partners
  3. The import-export ratio with these countries deteriorated in the years following the implementation of the trade agreements
  4. Even as partner countries have benefited, Indian exports to these regions have remained lacklustre

The actual reason for fewer gains from RTAs

  1. India’s inability to gain market share in these regions may be partly explained by its lack of competitiveness in exports
  2. India has various structural bottlenecks hurting its exports

Way Forward

  1. The focus needs to be on where India can promote its exports
  2. India needs to be careful in weighing each trade deal on its own merit
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

[op-ed snap] A Law Past Its Sell-by Date

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act

Mains level: Changes required in abortion law in India in order to make abortions safe as well as improve health of women


Context

Abortion law in India

  1. Abortion has been legal in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act since 1971 when it was hailed as one of the more progressive laws in the world
  2. According to the Act, abortion can be provided at the discretion of a medical provider under certain conditions
  3. Though the Act was liberal for its time, it has limitations that pose barriers to women and girls seeking legal abortions

Objectives of the law

  1. To control the population resulting from unintended pregnancies (which even today are to the tune of 48 per cent)
  2. To reduce the increasing maternal mortality and morbidity due to illegal, unsafe abortions

What are the barriers in the law?

  1. Currently, the Act allows abortion up to 20 weeks
  2. When it comes to foetal abnormalities and pregnancies resulting from rape, this limit is proving to be a hurdle for both the woman and the provider
  3. Women seeking an abortion after the legal gestation limit (a phenomenon that is fairly common due to later detection of abnormalities in the foetus or shame and stigma associated with rape), often have no option but to appeal to the courts and run from pillar to post for permission to terminate the pregnancy

What does this lead to?

  1. Many women, when denied legal abortions, turn to unqualified providers or adopt unsafe methods of termination
  2. According to a study published in The Lancet recently, 15.6 million abortions took place in India in 2015 out of which about 11.5 million took place outside health facilities
  3. Estimates based on the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2001-03, indicate that unsafe abortions account for 8 per cent of maternal deaths in India

Amendments returned back

  1. In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recognised these barriers and proposed certain amendments to the Act
  2. It proposed various changes key amongst which were increasing the gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for rape survivors and other vulnerable women and removing the gestation limit in the case of foetal abnormalities
  3. In 2017, these amendments were returned to the ministry with the mandate to strengthen the implementation of the MTP Act as it stands

Way Forward

  1. We are living in times when abortion is at the centre of global conversations on reproductive health and rights
  2. Adopting and implementing the amendments will take us a few steps closer towards ensuring that all girls and women have access to safe abortion services
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Caspian Sea breakthrough treaty set to boost oil, pipeline plans

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Caspian Sea Bordering States

Mains level: Changing dynamics of Caspian neighbouring states


News

Consensus over Caspian Sea

  1. Five Caspian Sea states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan) reached a breakthrough agreement on sovereign rights to the sea.
  2. This paved the way for new oil and gas extraction and pipelines after more than two decades of disputes.
  3. The treaty ends a spat over whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake, granting it special legal status and clarifying the maritime boundaries of each surrounding country.
  4. The five members have tried to define the Caspian Sea’s legal status since the collapse of the Soviet Union, in order to divide up the waters and its natural resources for new drilling and pipelines.
  5. It also allows each to lay pipelines offshore with consent only from the neighbouring states affected, rather than from all Caspian Sea nations.

Huge energy reserves

  1. The territorial disputes have prevented the exploration of at least 20 billion barrels of oil and more than 240 trillion cubic feet of gas, the US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2013.
  2. The new agreement states that the development of seabed reserves will be regulated by separate deals between Caspian nations, in line with international law.
  3. This essentially cements the current situation, since countries such as Kazakhstan and Russia already have bilateral accords on joint projects

Connecting to Europe

  1. The five Caspian Sea nations already develop offshore oil and gas reserves that are located near enough to the coast not to be disputed.
  2. Projects in the northernmost waters Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan field and Russia’s Filanovsky and Korchagin deposits are seen as sources of future oil-output growth for the countries.
  3. The treaty will also remove a legal barrier to building a trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Europe.
  4. While the European Union and Azerbaijan have supported the long-planned pipeline project, which could ease Russia’s grip on the EU’s gas market, the Kremlin has opposed it, citing environmental concerns and legalities.

Outstanding Issues

  1. Iran shares smallest boundary with Caspian Sea hence is the least gainer.
  2. It highlighted the issue of the distribution rights of seabed oil and gas deposits over the undiscovered fields.
Foreign Policy Watch- India-Central Asia

India releases additional funds for Nepal’s Postal Highway

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Postal Highway Project

Mains level:  India-Nepal Bilateral Relationship


News

Context

  1. The Government has released additional NPR 470 million for the Postal Highway being constructed in Southern Plains of Nepal.
  2. The amount has been released to maintain fund liquidity for the ongoing construction of 14 road packages under Postal Highway Project.

Postal Highway Project

  1. Postal Highway also called Hulaki Rajmarg runs across the Terai region of Nepal, from Bhadrapur in the east to Dodhara in the west, cutting across the entire width of the country.
  2. Since 1950, the Government of India has been supporting infrastructure development of Nepal.
  3. India has provided financial assistance for construction of various highways, roads, bridges, airports, etc as part of its multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional India-Nepal Economic Cooperation Programme.
  4. With this payment, a total of NPR 2.35 billion stands released to the Government of Nepal out of the total grant assistance of NPR 8.00 billion committed by the Government of India.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

FSSAI unveils initiative to collect, convert used cooking oil into biofuel

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RUCO

Mains level: Harnessing edible oils for biofuel production


News

Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) launched RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil), an initiative that will enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil to bio-diesel.
  2. The initiative has been launched nearly a month after the food safety regulator notified standards for used cooking oil.
  3. FSSAI may also look at introducing regulations to ensure that companies that use large quantities of cooking oil hand it over to registered collecting agencies to convert it into biofuel.
  4. Under this initiative, 64 companies at 101 locations have been identified to enable collection of used cooking oil.
  5. For instance: McDonald’s has already started converting used cooking oil to biodiesel from 100 outlets in Mumbai and Pune.

Cooking Oil can be harnessed as biofuel

  1. The regulator believes India has the potential to recover 220 crore litres of used cooking oil for the production of biodiesel by 2022 through a co-ordinate action.
  2. While biodiesel produced from used cooking oil is currently very small, but a robust ecosystem for conversion and collection is rapidly growing in India and will soon reach a sizable scale.
  3. FSSAI wants businesses using more than 100 litres of oil for frying, to maintain a stock register and ensure that UCO is handed over to only registered collecting agencies.
  4. According to FSSAI regulations, the maximum permissible limits for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) have been set at 25 per cent, beyond which the cooking oil is unsafe for consumption.

Collaborating with private players

  1. FSSAI is also working in partnership with Biodiesel Association of India and the food industry to ensure effective compliance of used cooking oil regulations.
  2. It is also going to publish guidance documents, tips for consumers and posters in this regard.
  3. It is also conducting several awareness campaigns through its e-channels.
  4. FSSAI has additionally launched a micro-site to monitor the progress of the collection and conversion of used cooking oil into biodiesel.
Biofuel Policy

NPCI launches UPI 2.0 with overdraft facility

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UPI 2.0

Mains level: Measures for facilitating cashless transactions.


News

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) 2.0

  1. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has upgraded unified payments interface (UPI) with enhanced security features and overdraft facilities.
  2. In addition to current and savings accounts, customers can link their overdraft account to UPI.
  3. The UPI mandate could be used in a scenario where money is to be transferred later by providing commitment at present.

Back2Basics

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)

  1. NPCI is the umbrella organisation for all retail payment systems in India which aims to allow all Indian citizens to have unrestricted access to e-payment services.
  2. Founded in 2008, NPCI is a not-for-profit organisation registered under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013.
  3. The organisation is owned by a consortium of major banks, and has been promoted by the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India.
  4. Its recent work of developing Unified Payments Interface aims to move India to a cashless society with only digital transactions.
  5. It has successfully completed the development of a domestic card payment network called RuPay, reducing the dependency on international card schemes.
  6. The RuPay card is now accepted at all the ATMs, Point-of-Sale terminals and most of the online merchants in the country.
  7. UPI is a path breaking innovation that is unprecedented globally. Its high volume, low cost and highly scalable architecture built on an open source platform is key to India’s transformation to a digital payment economy.
  8. The first version of UPI was launched on April 11, 2016 and in the last two years the platform has emerged as a popular choice among users for sending and receiving money.
Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc.

[pib] Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Indian Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: APTEL

Mains level:  Read the attached story


News

Context

Justice Manjula Chellur took Oath as Chairperson, Appellate Tribunal for Electricity, Ministry of Power.

Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL)

  1. On 10th June, 2003, the Electricity Act was notified by the Govt. of India.
  2. A/c to this act, Appellate Tribunal for Electricity has been established by Central Government for those who are not satisfied with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission order or with a state.
  3. The Tribunal has the authority to overrule or amend that order, just like the Income-Tax tribunal or the Central Administrative Tribunal.
  4. The tribunal has to be approached within 45 days of the aggrieved person from getting the order.
  5. The Act extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

Explained: How to send an Indian into space?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Gaganyaan

Mains level: India’s aspiration for a manned mission in Space


News

Gaganyaan 2022

  1. With PM’s announcement that an Indian astronaut would go into space by 2022, ISRO has finally got a definitive timeline for a project it has been working on for the last 15 years.
  2. In 2004 the manned space mission was first endorsed by the ISRO Policy Planning Committee.
  3. There was lack of clarity on when exactly the mission would be launched, although the target initially in discussion was 2015.

Defining a manned-Mission

  1. A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed.
  2. In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.
  3. For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop include the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after flight, and to build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.
  4. Over the years, ISRO has successfully tested many of the technologies that are required, but many others are still to be developed and tested.

The rocket: GSLV Mk-III

  1. One of the most important requirements is the development of a launch vehicle that can carry heavy payloads into space.
  2. The spacecraft carrying human beings, called crew module, is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes.
  3. ISRO successfully tested GSLV Mk-III, now called LVM-3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-3).
  4. It successfully launched the first developmental flight of LVM-3, which carried the GSAT-19 satellite into space.
  5. The LVM-3 is the declared launch vehicle for taking the manned crew module into space as it will help for sending up heavier and heavier payloads.

Reentry & recovery tech

  1. The satellites normally launched by ISRO, like those for communication or remote sensing, are meant to remain in space, even when their life is over.
  2. Any manned spacecraft, however, needs to come back. This involves mastering of the highly complicated and dangerous reentry and recovery ability.
  3. While reentering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft needs to withstand very high temperatures, in excess of several thousand degrees, which is created due to friction.
  4. Also, the spacecraft needs to reenter the atmosphere at a very precise speed and angle, and even the slightest deviation could end in disaster.
  5. The first successful experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III also involved the successful testing of an experimental crew module that came back to Earth after being taken to an altitude of 126 km into space.
  6. Called the Crew module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment (CARE), the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere at about 80 km altitude and landed in the sea near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Crew Escape System

  1. This is a crucial safety technology, involving an emergency escape mechanism for the astronauts in case of a faulty launch.
  2. The mechanism ensures the crew module gets an advance warning of anything going wrong with the rocket, and pulls it away to a safe distance, after which it can be landed either on sea or on land with the help of attached parachutes.
  3. ISRO has completed the first successful flight of the crew escape system (the recent Pad Abort Test).

Life support

  1. The Environmental Control & Life Support System (ECLSS) is meant to ensure that conditions inside the crew module are suitable for humans to live comfortably.
  2. The inside of the crew module is a twin-walled sealed structure that will recreate Earth-like conditions for the astronauts.
  3. It would be designed to carry two or three astronauts.
  4. The ECLSS maintains a steady cabin pressure and air composition, removes carbon dioxide and other harmful gases, controls temperature and humidity, and manages parameters like fire detection and suppression, food and water management, and emergency support.
  5. While the layout and design of the ECLSS has been finalised, its many individual components and systems are in the process of being tested.
  6. The design and configuration of the inside of the crew module have also been finalised. Ground testing will have to be followed by tests in the space orbit while simulating zero gravity and deep vacuum.

Astronaut training

  1. While ISRO still plans to set up a permanent facility, the selected candidates for the first manned mission will most likely train at a foreign facility.
  2. Candidates will need to train for at least two years in living in zero gravity and dealing with a variety of unexpected experiences of living in space.
  3. Some training would also be imparted at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the Indian Air Force at Bengaluru.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Super-insulating gel could help build Mars habitats

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aerogel and its properties

Mains level: Utility of Aerogel can revolutionize insulation from heat, which is a major concern for space missions.


News

Aerogel

  1. Scientists at University of Colorado at Boulder have developed a transparent heat-resistant gel using beer waste that may one day be used to build greenhouse-like habitats for human colonised on Mars.
  2. It is made up of common plant sugar cellulose and is a thin, flexible film that is roughly 100 times lighter than glass.
  3. The gel is transparent and so resistant to heat that you could put a strip of it on your hand and a fire on top without feeling a thing.

90% made up of air

  1. Aerogels are at least 90 per cent gas by weight, but their defining feature is air.
  2. Their thin films are made up of crisscrossing patterns of solid material that trap air inside billions of tiny pores, similar to the bubbles in bubble wrap.
  3. This trapping capacity makes them such good insulators.

Utility of Aerogel

  1. Transparency is an enabling feature hence it can be used in windows for extraterrestrial habitats. A peel-and-stick film could simply be attached to home windows.
  2. Its thermally-insulating nature helps protecting from big oscillations in temperature in Space.
  3. The group’s gel is also cheaper to produce because it comes from beer waste.
  4. It can be developed for many other applications, including smart clothes, for insulating cars and protecting firefighters.

Odisha launches health scheme for 70 lakh families

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Scheme

Mains level:  Non-compliance of states to AB-NHPM


News

Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana

  1. Odisha CM launched Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, a health for all scheme, on the occasion of the 72nd Independence Day.
  2. The scheme provides health assurance coverage to 70 lakh families, covering more than 70% of the State’s population
  3. It may be recalled that the Odisha government had rejected the National Health Protection Scheme as it covered much lesser number of people in Odisha by adopting the 2011 census.
  4. The State government went ahead with its own scheme with coverage of up to ₹5 lakh per year per family. The amount is ₹7 lakh per family with women members.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal Comes

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Verdict on Water Sharing

Mains level: River water disputes in India


News

Award of the Tribunal

  1. The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal which has been hearing the tussle over sharing of the Mahadayi or Mandovi river between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, delivered its final verdict.
  2. Ending a 50-year-old dispute, the tribunal allowed Karnataka access to 13.4 tmc of water for its consumptive use (5.4 tmc) and power generation (8.02 tmc).
  3. The share of Goa was pegged at 24 tmc with the Tribunal allowing it for the state’s municipal water needs, irrigation water requirements and industrial water demands.
  4. Maharashtra got the lowest share of 1.33 tmc for meeting its in-basin needs with respect to five projects.
  5. The tribunal also directed the Centre to set up the Mahadayi Water Management Authority to implement its report and final decision.

Quick recap of the issue

  1. The Mahadayi river basin drains an area of 2032 square kilometres of which 375 square km lies in Karnataka, 77 sq km in Maharashtra and the remaining in Goa.
  2. It originates in the Belagavi district of Karnataka, briefly passes through Maharashtra and flows through Goa (where its known as Mandovi), and drains to the Arabian Sea
  3. Since the eighties, Karnataka has been was contemplating linking of Mahadayi with Malaprabha river, a tributary of Krishna
  4. In 2002, Karnataka gave the idea a shape in the form of the Kalasa-Bhanduri project
  5. Goa strongly opposed it as Mahadayi is one of the two rivers the State is dependent on and thus Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2010

Back2Basics

Interstate River Water Disputes Act

  1. The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted under Article 262 of Constitution of India.
  2. It sets basis to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valley.
  3. Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides a role for the Central government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers that arise among the state/regional governments.
  4. River waters use / harnessing is included in states jurisdiction (entry 17 of state list, Schedule 7 of Indian Constitution).
  5. However, union government can make laws on regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys when expedient in the public interest (entry 56 of union list, Schedule 7 of Indian Constitution).
  6. When public interest is served, President may also establish an interstate council as per Article 263 to inquire and recommend on the dispute that has arisen between the states of India.
  7. This act is confined to states of India and not applicable to union territories.
  8. Any river water sharing treaty made with other countries has to be ratified by the Parliament per Article 253 and all the riparian states of India per Article 252 to make the treaty constitutionally valid.

Tribunals under IRWD Act

  1. Whenever the riparian states are not able to reach amicable agreements on their own in sharing of an interstate river waters, Section 4 of IRWD Act provides dispute resolution process in the form of Tribunal.
  2. As per Section 5.2 of the Act, the tribunal shall not only adjudicate but also investigate the matters referred to it by the central government and forward a report setting out the facts with its decisions.
  3. Under Section 6A of this Act, central government may frame a scheme or schemes to give effect to the decision of a tribunal. Each scheme has provision to establish an authority for implementation of a tribunal verdict.
  4. When a tribunal verdict, after formally gazetted by the union government shall be complied by the union government as the tribunal verdict is equal to Supreme Court verdict.
Kaveri River Water Dispute

India fares poor on Global Liveability

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Economist Intelligence Unit, Global Liveability Ranking

Mains level: Measures undertaken to improve living conditions in Indian cities


News

Global Liveability Index

  1. The rankings of 140 global cities, based on their living conditions were released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
  2. The EIU is part of UK magazine The Economist and provides forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.
  3. The index assigns cities scores on five broad parameters — stability, healthcare, culture/environment, education, and infrastructure using 30 indicators.

India fares poor in Liveability

  1. India has fared poorly on the Global Liveability Index, 2018, with Delhi ranking 112 and Mumbai five places behind at 117.
  2. Delhi has outperformed Mumbai on education, healthcare and infrastructure, while faring marginally better on culture/environment. The only parameter in which Mumbai fares better than Delhi is stability.
  3. The weakest area for Delhi is its instability due to the high prevalence of petty and violent crimes, and a high risk of terrorism and civil unrest.
  4. It also achieves the lowest possible ranking for public transport, an indicator within infrastructure.
  5. Mumbai fares low in the infrastructure category as it is let down by poor roads and public transport and lack of water provision and quality housing.

Why makes India fare poor?

  1. Even newly-developed areas (in Indian cities) are poorly served by public transport, suffer from congestion and pollution, and have inadequate water.
  2. While private health and education are acceptable in both Mumbai and Delhi, the level and quality of public provision is well below the global average.
  3. High levels of corruption and social and religious restrictions also reduce liveability markedly in both cities.

Contrasting with Indian Study

  1. The EIU report is in contrast with the MoHUA’s recent Ease of Living Index for 111 Indian cities that was released wherein Mumbai ranked at number 3, far ahead of New Delhi at a low 65th rank.
  2. While much of the parameters and data sources are different for the two reports, New Delhi is far behind Mumbai on parameters such as health, education and physical infrastructure.
  3. EIU, which was involved in developing the methodology to measure city GDP for the Indian government’s Ease of Living report, had nothing to do with the ranking process itself.

Other Highlights of the ranking

  1. As per their ranking, the liveability factor of these two Indian cities is the same as Mexico City, Jeddah, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta.
  2. Austria’s capital Vienna has been ranked as the best city to live in, displacing Australian city of Melbourne, which had held the record for seven consecutive years.
  3. Syrian capital of Damascus continues to be ranked at the bottom of 140 cities despite the report noting that it has witnessed.
  4. Dhaka in Bangladesh is the second worst with Pakistan’s capital Karachi ranked as the fourth worst.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] New Central Sector scheme for promoting Pharmacovigilance of AYUSH Drugs

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Scheme

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

Scheme for Pharmacovigilance of ASU&H drugs

  1. Ministry of AYUSH has introduced new Central Sector scheme for promoting pharmacovigilance of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy (ASU&H) Drugs.
  2. Prime objective of the scheme is to develop the culture of documenting adverse effects and undertake safety monitoring of ASUH drugs and surveillance of misleading advertisements appearing in the print and electronic media.
  3. The scheme intends to facilitate the establishment of three-tier network of National Pharmacovigilance Centre (NPvCC), Intermediary Pharmacovigilance Centres (IPvCCs) and Peripheral Pharmacovigilance Centres (PPvCC).
  4. All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of AYUSH, has been designated as National Pharmacovigilance Centre for coordinating various activities of the initiative.

Implementation of Scheme

  1. In the initial phase of implementation, five National Institutes of AYUSH are designated as the Intermediary Pharmacovigilance Centres.
  2. Another forty two institutions of AYUSH having clinical facilities are designated as Peripheral Pharmacovigilance Centres
  3. These will take up the work of reporting, documentation, analysis, causality assessment of the adverse reactions and events associated with the consumption of ASUH drugs.
  4. It is intended to have more such centres across the country and achieve the target of 100 peripheral Pharmacovigilance centres by 2020.
  5. Representatives of Central Drug Standards Control Organisation as the national drug regulatory authority and the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission being the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pharmacovigilance in the country are associated in the initiative as mentor and guide.

Why such scheme needed?

  1. The quality issues and safety concerns of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy Drugs have been raised from various sources.
  2. The Ministry felt it necessary in the interest of Public Health to oversee the impact of ASU&H Drugs consumed by the people from the perspective of their safety profile.
  3. Similarly, publicizing improper drug information in the form advertisements is a matter of concern that needs to be addressed to safeguard the interest of AYUSH drug consumers.
  4. Pharmacovigilance initiative will facilitate detection of potentially unsafe ASU&H medicines and misleading advertisements for taking regulatory action against them.
AYUSH – Indian Medicine System

[pib] NITI Aayog launches “Pitch to MOVE”

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pitch to MOVE

Mains level:  The newscard highlights the importance of clean energy options in manufacture of electric vehicles that gives various benefits.


News

Pitch to MOVE Contest

  1. It is organised by NITI Aayog in collaboration with Invest India and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) as a part of a series of engaging featured events in the run up to the main event.
  2. The competition aims to identify and reward the start-ups offering innovative solutions for shared, connected, and environment friendly mobility.
  3. The Startups can be from the domain of Public Mobility, Electric Vehicles, Shared Transport, Last Mile Connectivity, Passenger Transportation, Battery Technology, Automotive IoT, Freight & Logistics, Powertrain/Drivetrain, Experiential, Travel, Mobility Infrastructure and Automotive Electronics etc.
  4. The Mobility Pitch Competition is open to primarily startups from various parts of India who are interested in showcasing their business ideas to jury members.

Aim of the initiative

  1. Startups working in the various fields of mobility can pitch their ideas to industry leaders and Venture Capitalists for raising investments.
  2. With rapidly evolving technologies and business models for delivering mobility services, our goal of cleaner and more efficient mobility systems will be achieved with the help of the dynamic entrepreneurial class of India.
  3. The objective is to harness the latest disruption for generating employment and growth in our country.
  4. Winners of the event will be felicitated by PM during the Global Mobility Summit.

Back2Basics

Global Mobility Summit

  1. Steeply falling technology costs and business – model innovation are driving the world’s transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles.
  2. Against this background, NITI Aayog, in collaboration with various ministries and industry partners, is organising ‘MOVE: Global Mobility Summit’.
  3. This Summit will help drive Government’s goals for vehicle electrification, renewable energy integration and job growth and also speed up India’s transition to a clean energy economy.
  4. MOVE Summit aims to bring together and engage with key stakeholders within the rapidly transforming global mobility landscape and to evolve a public interest framework for a shared, connected, zero emission and inclusive mobility agenda for the future.
  5. The Summit, hence, aims to encourage synergies between indigenous industries such as Automobile Manufacturing, Information Technology, Electronics, Telecommunications and others, to integrate with global supply chains and cement India’s position as a progressive, forwarding looking nation.
NITI Aayog’s Assessment

[pib] Australia recommences its adoption programme with India

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CARA, Hague Adoption Convention

Mains level: Problem of Child Trafficking


News

Recommencing Adoptions from India

  1. The Government of Australia has decided to recommence the Adoption Programme with India, as per Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption.
  2. The adoptions from India had earlier been put on hold by the Government of Australia eight years ago, on the reported charges of trafficking of children for Inter-country adoption by some of the recognized Indian placement agencies (the Adoption agencies mandated to place children in Inter-country adoption at that point of time).

Strict regulations by India pushed the move

  1. The regulation of Inter-country adoptions has been made strict by the Government of India with the enactment of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and notification of Adoption Regulations, 2017.
  2. The Ministry of Women & Child Development along with Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) have been constantly engaging with Australian Government for recommencement of the Adoption Programme.
  3. The recommencement of the adoption programmes will now enable large number of prospective adoptive parents including those of Indian origin settled in Australia in fulfilling their desire of adopting a child from India.

Back2Basics

Hague Adoption Convention

  1. The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international convention dealing with international adoption, child laundering, and child trafficking.
  2. The Convention was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the preeminent organization in the area of private international law. It was concluded on 29 May 1993 and entered into force on 1 May 1995.
  3. It is an effort to protect those involved from the corruption, abuses, and exploitation which sometimes accompanies international adoption.
  4. The Convention has been considered crucial because it provides a formal international and intergovernmental recognition of intercountry adoption to ensure that adoptions under the Convention will generally be recognized and given effect in other party countries.
  5. 96 countries including India has signed and ratified this convention. Whereas Nepal, South Korea and Russia are yet to ratify it.

Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

  1. Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory autonomous body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
  2. It functions as the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
  3. CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
  4. CARA primarily deals with the adoption of the orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

[op-ed snap] The roadmap to military reform

Related image

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Gaganshakti

Mains level: The idea of integrated theatre command in Indian military and what are the obstacles in implementing it


Context

Debate on reform in the Indian military

  1. The initial flavour of the debate in the decades following the Group of Ministers’ report, the Kargil Review Committee report, and the Naresh Chandra Committee report focussed on a restructuring of higher defence organisation as the first step
  2. This was intended to improve synergy among different tools of statecraft (bureaucracy, military, research and development, intelligence, internal security mechanisms, and more)
  3. The debate has now shifted to the second tier of reform in the operational realm
  4. This has unfortunately pitted the three services against one another in a series of turf wars that have ranged from control over space to control over cyber and special forces

The idea of standalone integrated theatre commands

  1. Dissection of the recently conducted exercise, Gaganshakti, would be good in weighing this idea
  2. The main apprehensions of the IAF leadership revolve around how best to exploit its dwindling offensive resources if they are hived off to multiple theatre commands
  3. A more serious concern is how the limited availability of enabling equipment and platforms (AWACS, refuelers, electronic warfare platforms and more) could seriously jeopardise operations even in a single-adversary limited conflict
  4. This conflict could involve up to three of the proposed theatre commands, including the Indian Navy

Crucial role of IAF

  1. If there is any service that is truly ‘joint’ in terms of participation in statecraft or military operations in tandem with other tools, particularly as first responders, it is the IAF
  2. If the flying task of the IAF in terms of its distribution between joint and exclusive tasks is scrutinised, 60% of it is used in joint operations
  3. Capturing ground beyond a few kilometres or taking physical control of vast maritime spaces for prolonged durations are no longer sustainable operations of war as they arguably result in avoidable depletion of combat potential
  4. This causes unacceptable attrition in limited but high-tempo operations
  5. It is in this context that air power would offer a viable alternative by shaping ‘battlespaces’ adequately before the other services enter combat

Other alternatives for integration

  1. India’s armed forces have little experience in training, staffing and exercising Joint Task Forces based on at least a division-sized land component
  2. Creation of three division-sized task forces for operations in varied terrain, including out-of-area contingency operations, could be mulled over
  3. These would be commanded by an Army, Navy and Air Force three-star officer, respectively, reporting to the Chairman of the Chief of Staffs Committee

Way forward

  1. National security reforms and restructuring are bound to have far-reaching consequences and call for political sagacity, wisdom and vision
  2. A concurrent three-pronged approach to military reform would be ideal
  3. Such an approach should respect the collective wisdom of past reports and take into account contemporary political and security considerations
Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] Fear isn’t the key: On regulation of securities markets

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Investment model

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SEBI

Mains level: T.K. Vishvanathan panel recommendations and their impact on the functioning of SEBI as well as investors


Context

Regulating stock markets

  1. A panel headed by T.K. Viswanathan, a former Lok Sabha Secretary General, has now submitted recommendations to curb illegal practices in the markets and ensure fair conduct among investors
  2. Front-running, insider trading, shady accounting practices that are tantamount to window-dressing firms’ performance, and other shenanigans to manipulate share prices continue

Panel’s recommendations

  1. A key recommendation is that the stock market watchdog be granted the power to act directly against “perpetrators of financial statements fraud”
  2. This means SEBI can act not only against listed entities under its extant powers but also against those who aid or abet financial fraud — including accountants and auditors
  3. The panel has suggested that SEBI, rather than the Central government, be given the power to grant immunity to whistle-blowers who help uncover illegal activities
  4. It has mooted new ideas to address market manipulation, from a better scrutiny of price-sensitive information to the creation of processes to expedite the investigation into cases
  5. It goes to the extent of recommending that SEBI be given powers to tap phone calls

Pros & Cons of these recommendations

  • Pros
  1. Greater executive powers can help the regulator take swifter action against offenders instead of relying on government bodies such as the Ministry of Corporate Affairs
  2. This could also free SEBI from various manifestations of political influence
  • Cons
  1. Given that SEBI is now considering a cap on trading by retail investors based on their assessed ‘net worth’, the committee’s suggestion that it may consider any trading by players beyond their known ‘financial resources’ as fraud could lead to undue harassment of investors

Way Forward

  1. Granting more teeth to enable the market regulator to fulfil its primary role of protecting investors is fine
  2. A strong regulator serves as a good deterrent to truants in the market, but banking on fear too much could also scare away genuine investors
  3. It is equally critical to empower it with the right tools so that a sledgehammer is not deployed to crack a nut
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

[op-ed snap] Questioning a crackdown

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Oxytocin, Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC), Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940,  Indian Council of Medical Research, National Dairy Research Institute

Mains level: Laws regulating pharma sector in India & their occasional usage in an adverse way leading to more problems than solutions


Context

Recent ban on Oxytocin

  1. The decision of the Ministry of Health to restrict, from September 1, the manufacture of oxytocin only to the public sector unit, Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (KAPL), has sparked fears of shortages and a disruption of supplies of this drug
  2. The restriction is because of alleged misuse of the drug by dairy farmers on milch cattle to stimulate milk production
  3. The Ministry now hopes to control distribution channels and prevent misuse

About Oxytocin

  1. Oxytocin is a hormone that acts on organs in the body (including the breast and uterus) and as a chemical messenger in the brain, controlling key aspects of the reproductive system, including childbirth and lactation, and aspects of human behaviour
  2. Oxytocin is important during childbirth and breastfeeding
  3. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus
  4. From there, it is transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain

Is oxytocin really harmful?

  1. Minutes of the meetings of the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) and the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) — (statutory bodies under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 cite experts from the medical and veterinary sciences who advised the DTAB that oxytocin is required in the treatment of both humans and animals
  2. Two studies by the Central government, by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Dairy Research Institute, conclude that the use of oxytocin does not have an adverse effect on either people or animals
  3. With cattle, the danger of misuse is that it may cause addiction, in which case cattle do not react to normal milk ejection stimuli

Why was production restricted to public sector company?

  1. It is due to a judgment by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in a public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by the court after it came across newspaper reports of oxytocin misuse
  2. The court passed a judgment in 2016 blaming oxytocin for a number of diseases, including breast and uterine cancers, male impotence, excessive hair growth in women and balding for men
  3. However, the court did not cite a single scientific study to support these claims
  4. Towards the end of its judgment, the court directed the State government to consider the feasibility of restricting manufacture to the public sector
  5. The Central government decided to adopt the judgment as the basis of its order restricting manufacture to the public sector
  6. The fact is that the High Court sought a study of the feasibility of restricting manufacture to the public sector; it never ordered the restriction to be imposed

What should be the basis of the ban?

  1. A study of the degree of misuse
  2. The demand for the drug
  3. The manner in which the proposed restriction will affect the supply of the drug
  4. It’s impact on public health

Way Forward

  1. The regulation of drugs has to be rigorous and reasoned
  2. It appears that the government has gone ahead to restrict manufacture without conducting any kind of feasibility study
  3. The case for restricting the manufacture of oxytocin is neither rigorous nor reasoned
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[op-ed snap] How India should close the financial gender gap

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Findex data, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)

Mains level: Problems being faced by women in terms of financial inclusion & solutions to these


Context

India’s efforts in financial inclusion

  1. The World Bank’s latest Global Findex data proves that India has made rapid strides in improving access to formal financial services
  2. In 2014, just 53% of adults had a formal account. Today, more than 80% do
  3. At the same time, it has cut its gender gap in financial access from 20 percentage points to six

How did this happen?

  1. The government has made financial inclusion and expanding the formal sector a top priority
  2. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) programme—launched in 2015 with a mission to provide a basic account to every adult—has enrolled more women than men

Problems that were being faced and how PMJDY resolved them

  • Millions of women were deterred from going to banks because of the long distances involved as they have a more restricted “economic geography” than men, making brick-and-mortar banks harder to access
  1. Under the PMJDY, banks went door-to-door enrolling customers and held camps in villages
  2. It also increased the number of banks’ business correspondents (BCs or bank mitras), bringing services closer to more households
  • Establishing identity
  1. Aadhaar and the India Stack’s biometric eKYC verification capability make it easier for women, who possess the required documents less often than men, to establish their identity to a bank
  2. Until recently, fulfilling know your customer (KYC) requirements was a significant barrier for many women
  • Directed benefits for women
  1. The government has also mandated that certain defined benefit schemes, such as Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY), distribute payments to accounts in a woman’s name
  2. The benefits are being deposited directly in the recipients’ Aadhaar-linked accounts

Thrust toward digital payments

  1. The government has made a major policy thrust toward digital payments since demonetization
  2. The widespread rollout of Aadhaar enabled customers to use digital BC payment points in addition to ATMs and service terminals

Closing the gender gap is still difficult

  1. PMJDY has opened more than 100 million new bank accounts, but many of them are inactive or carry a zero balance
  2. More women have been enrolled, but a larger gender gap persists in account usage
  3. In terms of credit and insurance usage, the gender gap remains high

How to reduce this gap?

  • First, we need to put smartphones into the hands of more women
  1. The mobile phone is still the most promising empowerment tool for financial inclusion, and yet, fewer than half of adult women in India own a mobile phone, compared to 73% of men
  2. One reason for this technological divide is that smartphones are not marketed as an empowerment tool, but rather as an entertainment and social media platform
  3.  In India, many women have internalized social fears that smartphones will expose them to “bad influences”, leading to sexual harassment or broken marriages
  • Second, when women gain access to digital financial services over mobile, many face a three-step learning curve at once:
  1. Becoming familiar with using a smartphone
  2. Understanding how credit, insurance, and other financial products work
  3. Using an interface that’s not even written in their native language
  4. A goal of inclusion efforts is to improve women’s financial literacy, but the second lesson is that these efforts must also improve women’s digital literacy
  • Third, financial products are often not structured, distributed, or bundled to meet the needs of women
  1. Financial responsibilities differ between men and women, who are generally tasked with back-stopping and stretching the family budget
  2. Bundled solutions of savings, credit, and insurance could be designed to be more relevant to women’s financial lives
  • Extending emergency credit
  1. In markets with high card penetration, customers often have the option of linking their checking accounts to a credit card account for extra liquidity
  2. In emerging markets, adding microcredit to accounts could help women cover unexpected expenses and emergencies in their day-to-day management of the household finances
  3. Women also go through more life transitions than men, moving in and out of the workforce more frequently, so making it easier to reactivate dormant accounts could increase usage

Way Forward

  1. As the world nears the long-held goal of universal financial access, we can see the road ahead for eliminating the gender gap in basic access and increasing usage among all customers, by making financial services more digital, flexible, and relevant to both men and women’s lives
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

[op-ed snap] Huff and e-puff: On e-cigarette ban

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: e-cigarettes

Mains level: Toabcco usage in India & how to reduce it


Context

Delhi government’s plan to ban e-cigarettes

  1. In a recent hearing on a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court, the Delhi government said it was planning to ban e-cigarettes
  2. If it follows through, the NCT will join States such as Karnataka and Maharashtra in the ban
  3. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a stand against e-cigarettes

Is ban justified?

  1. The controversy exists partly because it is a new and rapidly evolving technology
  2. This makes it hard for researchers to study the health effects
  3. The evidence so far indicates that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes
  4. Because they heat a liquid to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol, instead of burning tobacco, they do not produce toxic tars
  5. A ban is not the right approach to regulate this technology, given that combustible cigarettes are freely available across India
  6. Completely banning the technology, while selling normal cigarettes, could take away a promising smoking-cessation aid

Are e-cigarettes completely safe?

  1. At high temperatures, e-cigarettes produce carcinogens such as formaldehyde
  2. Even the low doses in e-cigarette aerosols can be carcinogenic if inhaled for years
  3. They also increase the odds of lung disease and myocardial infarction, but to a lesser extent than normal cigarettes do

Making users drug addicts

  1. E-cigarettes can act as a gateway drug for young people
  2. E-cigarette users were more likely to turn into regular smokers eventually

Reducing the impact of tobacco

  1. E-cigarettes must be viewed from a “harm minimisation” perspective
  2. Combustible cigarettes are more noxious than electronic ones
  3. Switching from the combustible cigarettes to the e-cigarettes can only help addicts

Way Forward

  1. Instead of the ban, a more pragmatic option would be to regulate e-cigarettes tightly, by creating standards for the aerosols and banning underage and public use
  2. This would leave smokers with a therapeutic alternative while protecting youngsters from a gateway drug
Tobacco: The Silent Killer