July 2018
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[op-ed snap] Overdue correction: on revisiting the Companies Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Companies Act, 2013

Mains level: Changes required in Companies Act, 2013 in order to improve ease of doing business


Context

Panel to review Companies Act

  1. The Centre has announced the constitution of a committee to revisit several provisions of the Companies Act, 2013
  2. This 10-member committee appointed by the Corporate Affairs Ministry has been tasked with checking if certain offences can be ‘de-criminalised’
  3. This is being done as some of the provisions in the law are so tough that even a spelling mistake or typographical error could be construed as a fraud and lead to harsh strictures

Committee’s mandate

  1. The Uday Kotak panel has been tasked to assess whether some of the violations that can attract imprisonment (such as a clerical failure by directors to make adequate disclosures about their interests) may instead be punished with monetary fines
  2. It will also examine if offences punishable with a fine or imprisonment may be re-categorised as ‘acts’ that attract civil liabilities
  3. The committee has also been asked to suggest the broad contours for an adjudicatory mechanism that allows penalties to be levied for minor violations, perhaps in an automated manner, with minimal discretion available to officials

Mindset behind the changes

  1. The government hopes such changes in the regulatory regime would allow trial courts to devote greater attention to serious offences rather than get overloaded with cases as zealous officials blindly pursue prosecutions for even minor violations
  2. Industry captains had red-flagged the impact of such provisions on the ease of doing business, and investor sentiment in general
  3. The rethink is perhaps triggered by the fact that private sector investment is yet to pick up steam and capital still seeks foreign shores to avoid regulatory risks

Way forward

  1. The 2013 law entailed the first massive overhaul of India’s legal regime to govern businesses that had been in place since 1956 and was borne of a long-drawn consultative process
  2. The decision to build in harsh penalties and prison terms for corporate misdemeanours in the 2013 law was influenced by the high-pitched anti-corruption discourse that prevailed in the country at that moment in time
  3. But a trust deficit between industry and government owing to stray incidents of corporate malfeasance should not inhibit normal business operations
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] Making crop insurance work for Indian farmers

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | e-technology in the aid of farmers

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

Mains level: Use of ICT in agriculture and allied activities


Context

Crop damage by changing weather

  1. In recent months, several places in north India experienced unseasonal dust and thunderstorms, followed by unseasonal rains
  2. This has cost lives and led to extensive crop damage
  3. With freak weather events becoming more common, protection of farmers against these risks figures prominently in the government’s agricultural policy

Agriculture sector impact

  1. Mitigating risk in the agricultural sector has a direct implication for agricultural productivity and farmer welfare
  2. It also intersects with some of the key sustainable development goals (SDGs), such as ending poverty, achieving food security and curbing hunger

Using technology in agriculture

  1. The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) has funded a number of studies that explore the feasibility of using ICTs in the field of agricultural risk mitigation
  2. A 3ie-funded study conducted by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute demonstrates how to capitalize on the availability of low-cost internet and the rising use of smartphones
  3. The novel picture-based insurance (PBI) product welds technology with weather index based insurance (WBI)
  4. Farmers are asked to take pictures from the same site with the same view frame two to three times a week throughout the cropping season. The series of images thus created helps insurance agencies examine the condition of the crops
  5. Based on the assessment, payments for losses are directly issued to the farmers’ bank accounts
  6. Additionally, the application also provides customized agricultural advisory to farmers by experts, ensuring continual interaction
  7. Another study by the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) examines the PMFBY in Karnataka, which incorporates the use of mobile technology to record and upload the crop-cutting experiments (CCE), a mechanism to determine the overall yield of the village
  8. The use of ICT is expected to quicken compilation of data, verification and faster settlement of a claim

Other benefits of ICT

  1. The use of mobile-based technology can also help allied activities
  2. ICTs can address not only supply side and process-related bottlenecks but also influence behaviour change on the demand side
  3.  For example, ICTs such as the PBI that require farmers to participate may induce farmers to develop a vigilant attitude towards any loss of crop
  4. Formative and process evaluations of ICT-based programmes, usually done at the beginning of a programme spanning over a few months, can help policymakers take prompt programme-specific decisions
  5. By identifying various challenges, such evaluations can lead to better programme selection and design that are cost-effective

Way Forward

  1. Impact evaluations that are based on counterfactuals with a large sample size, and conducted over a longer period, can surely inform scaling up and replicability of such programmes
  2. And in turn, the resultant socioeconomic impact will help farmers across India
Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: India and Trump’s world

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, G-7

Mains level: Trump’s new international relations stance & its impact on India


Context

America’s changed international relations policy

  1. A day before he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump put the European Union — whose members are some of America’s oldest allies and friends — at the top of the list of America’s foes
  2. His outburst against the EU might be shocking, but it is part of an emerging pattern
  3. Trump quarrelled with America’s leading economic partners in the G-7 summit last month on issues relating to trade
  4. At the summit of the world’s most powerful military alliance — the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Trump accused Germany of being “totally controlled by Russia”
  5. Trump warned the NATO allies that if they did not contribute more to the collective defence burden, America would go its own way

Trump’s list of political demolitions in Europe

  1. One is the so-called special relationship between America and Britain. For nearly a century, the Anglo-American partnership has been the strongest bilateral relationship in the world
  2. Two, he is threatening to dismantle NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance
  3. Three, despite the huge resistance at home and in Europe, Trump seems determined to enhance the engagement with Putin’s Russia
  4. Fourth, he is sustaining the pressure on EU and China to change the terms of economic engagement with the United States

Impact of trump on India’s diplomacy

  1. Trump is compelling India to rethink its longstanding foreign policy assumptions
  2. The consensus on economic globalisation and a relative harmony among the major powers — which defined the post Cold War era — is now breaking down
  3. The tensions between the US and Russia and Moscow’s deepening embrace of Beijing have certainly created problems for India

What’s in store for India?

  1. As a late convert to economic globalisation, India will have much to lose, if the current trading order breaks down
  2. Claiming that it is “WTO compliant” is a poor strategy when the big boys are changing the trading rules

What does India need to do?

  1. Delhi needs a flexible negotiating strategy founded in a more ambitious internal reform agenda
  2. Equally important is the need for India to come to terms with Trump’s deconstruction of the “West”
  3. It is rarely that a dominant power seeks to overthrow the status quo
  4. Trump is doing precisely that in questioning the utility of the collective Western institutions built after the Second World War and demanding a re-arrangement of burdens and benefits between the US and its partners
  5. Delhi must avoid conflict with the powers with which it has serious disputes
  6. It also needs to lift self-imposed limits on security cooperation with the powers that are ready to boost India’s material power

Way Forward

  1. Through the 20th century, India’s foreign policy has been shaped by the impulse to stand up against the West — initially against colonialism and later against Western security alliances
  2. In the 21st century, India’s efforts to construct closer relations with the US, have been slowed by the presumed political centrality of retaining “strategic autonomy” from the West
  3.  In these troubled times, transactional diplomacy, and not political posturing, holds the key to achieving India’s ambitious national goals
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

BrahMos tested in extreme weather conditions

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BrahMos missile

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

BrahMos passes extreme weather test

  1. The supersonic cruise missile BrahMos was successfully test-fired under extreme weather conditions, as part of the service life extension programme for the Army.
  2. The missile followed the designated trajectory and the key components functioned perfectly.
  3. BrahMos has again proved its all-weather capability, flying in sea state 7, with waves as high as nine meters. (Sea state is the degree of turbulence at sea, generally measured on a scale of 0 to 9 according to average wave height).

Back2Basics

BrahMos

  1. BrahMos is a joint collaboration between India and Russia and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against the surface and sea-based targets
  2. It has a strike range of around 290 km and is described as the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile.
  3. The range of the supersonic missile was initially capped at 290 km as per the obligations of the Missile Technology Control Regime
  4. Since India’s entry into the club, the range has been extended to 450 km and the plan is to hit 600km.
  5. The Army and the Navy have already inducted the missile, while the air-launched variant is undergoing trials.
Indian Missile Program Updates

[pib] CIC bilingual Mobile app launched for complaints and appeals

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chief Information Commissioner and Particulars of the App

Mains level: Not Much


 News

CIC App

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has launched a newly updated version of a mobile app in Hindi also, – “CIC App”, which is available in Google Play Store and Apple store with the following features:

  1. Applicant can submit his/her 2nd Appeal(s)/ Complaint(s) / link paper(s) in both the languages i.e. in Hindi and English
  2. The appellant can search and trace dak, 2nd Appeal/Complaint in both the languages.
  3. Real-time status is available in both the languages (Hindi & English)
  4. Appellant can download a copy of Hearing notice, Facilitation memo & decision.

Back2Basics

Central Information Commission

  1. The Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act is the authorised body, established in 2005 by the Government of India.
  2. It acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer due to either the officer not have been appointed, or because the respective Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
  3. The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
  4. CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

U.N. agrees first-ever global compact for migration

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the compact

Mains level: Problem of illegal migration


 News

“Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” is underway

  1. For the first time ever, United Nations member states, except the U.S., have agreed on a deal to better manage international migration, address its challenges, strengthen migrant rights and contribute to sustainable development.
  2. The agreement will be formally adopted by world leaders in Morocco in December 2018.
  3. It held more than a year of discussions and consultations among member states, local officials, civil society and migrants themselves.
  4. It does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it. It is not legally binding.
  5. This comprehensive framework comprises a range of objectives, actions and avenues for implementation, follow-up and review, all aimed at facilitating safe, orderly and regular migration while reducing the incidence and impact of irregular migration.

The new horizon of multilateralism

  1. It reflects the shared understanding by governments that cross-border migration is an international phenomenon and that effective management of this global reality requires international cooperation to enhance its positive impact for all.
  2. It also recognises that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection.
  3. It does not dictate. And it fully respects the sovereignty of States.
  4. This compact demonstrates our ability to come together on issues that demand global collaboration, however complicated and contentious they may be.
  5. The implementation of the Compact will bring safety, order and economic progress to everyone’s benefit.
Rohingya Conflict

Upgraded Vikas engine will soon boost ISRO’s rockets

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Vikas Engine

Mains level: All missions of the ISRO are important from examination point of view.


News

Adding more thrust

  1. The Vikas engine will improve the payload capability of PSLV, GSLV and GSLV Mk-III launch vehicles.
  2. The space agency has improved the thrust of the Vikas engine that powers all of them.

Main beneficiary: GSLV Mk III

  1. The main beneficiary of the high-thrust Vikas engine is said to be the heavy-lifting GSLV-Mark III launcher, which ISRO expects will now put 4,000-kg satellites to space.
  2. This would be the third Mk-III and the first working one to be designated Mk III Mission-1 or M1.
  3. The first MkIII of June 2017 started with a 3,200-kg satellite and the second one is being readied for lifting a 3,500-kg spacecraft.
  4. The Vikas engine is used in the second stage of the light lifting PSLV; the second stage and the four add-on stages of the medium-lift GSLV; and the twin-engine core liquid stage of Mk-III.

Soon to be replaced

  1. ISRO will phase out Vikas by replacing it first in Mk-III with a cleaner and safer semi-cryogenic engine.
  2. The semi-cryo engine is ready for trial; its stage has just been approved
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

In knotty problems

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

Prelims level: Jute Cultivation in India, I-CARE programme

Mains level: The news card highlights the need for revitalizing the labour intensive Jute Industry in India


News

Jute Sector is declining

  1. The outcry and ban against plastic bags and single-use plastic packaging holds potential for the jute sector.
  2. But more than the 100-year-old sector, supporting five million families at the farm and the industry-level, may not be in a position to benefit from this opportunity.
  3. The availability of quality raw jute and shrinking acreage on the one hand and the failure of most jute mills to modernise has left the sector dependent on government-support like packaging reservations.
  4. Primitive, labour-intensive cultivation methods and retting (drenching raw jute in water to extract the fibre) — a crucial determinant in raw jute quality — creates problems.

The Jute Foundation (TJF)

  1. It is trying to address many issues pertaining to the environment-friendly product.
  2. It is trying to engage all stakeholders –farmers, workers, mills, research organisations and consumers.
  3. TJF initiative is being introduced for the industry to work jointly with research and development agencies like IJIRA (Indian Jute Industries’ Research Association) and others to develop thin and slim jute shopping bags.

Jute Production in India

  1. West Bengal is India’s single largest raw jute cultivator producing almost 75 % of the crop in Nadia, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts.
  2. But acreage had stagnated amid low productivity and falling prices of the cash crop.
  3. The I-CARE programme unveiled by the National Jute Board and the Jute Corporation of India in 2015 seeks to address this issue by introducing a pilot project on retting technologies aimed at increasing farmers’ returns.
Plantation Agriculture – RISPC, Tea Act, etc.

Be cautious in shifting to DBT, RBI tells States

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: Not Much

Mains level: Issues with DBT


News

Central bank’s report details benefits, pre-conditions for implementation

  1. Acknowledging the problems that have been experienced by three Union Territories (UTs) in the implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for food subsidy, the RBI has advised States that are planning to shift to cash transfer to be cautious while effecting the migration.
  2. As for the processes to be followed by States prior to DBT execution, the RBI has referred to certain pre-conditions mentioned in the Central government’s 2015 food subsidy rules.
  3. The pre-conditions include complete digitisation and de-duplication of the beneficiary database and seeding of bank account details and Aadhaar numbers in the digitised database.

Problems outlined by RBI

  1. In its report on State finances, the RBI referred to problems such as inadequacy of transfers to maintain pre-DBT consumption levels, insufficiency of last-mile delivery mechanisms and a weak grievance redressal system.
  2. At present, three UTs — Puducherry, Chandigarh and urban areas of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli — are implementing the mode of cash transfer.
  3. The beneficiaries have the choice of buying food grains from the open market.
  4. In view of complaints of the poor finding it difficult to get rice under the DBT, the Puducherry government, early this year, approached the Centre to permit it to revert to the old system of supplying rice.

Benefits of DBT

  1. On the question of whether cash transfer is an alternative to the public distribution system (PDS), the RBI has stated that the cash transfer mode reduced the need for large physical movement of food grains.
  2. Further, given the wide inter-State and intra-State variations in food consumption habits, the DBT provides “greater autonomy” to beneficiaries to choose their consumption basket, apart from enhancing dietary diversity.
  3. Another reason for promoting the concept of DBT is to reduce the leakage in the PDS, as the Central government has to absorb a huge food subsidy bill under the National Food Security Act (NFSA)
Direct Benefits Transfers