August 2018
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[op-ed snap] The reversal of no-detention policy is regressive

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: Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE)

Mains level: Possible effects of scrapping of no-detention policy (NDP) and why it is needed


Context

No detention policy scrapped

  1. Parliament has recently amended the RTE to effectively cancel the NDP and allow for detention of children in classes III, V and VIII
  2. This amendment enables one of the most regressive actions possible in education
  3. The education policy in this country has taken many steps forward in the past few decades. This is one big step back

NDP a ray of hope

  1. Till the no-detention policy (NDP) of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE) came into force, failure and detention were an intimate part of the lives of students
  2. Detention didn’t help any of them learn any better in the slightest; it made things worse

Impact of detention

  1. The effects of flunking are immediately traumatic to the children and the retained children do worse academically in the future, with many of them dropping out of school altogether
  2. Among students at similar achievement levels, those who are detained do not learn more than those who are promoted
  3. Detained children are almost four times more likely to be from disadvantaged backgrounds
  4. The threat of detention is not a motivating force in any way for children to learn
  5. Detention has deeply damaging social and psychological effects
  6. Detention is completely dysfunctional educationally and deeply corrosive psychologically

Addressing issues of children should be the priority

  1. School education is often an intense struggle for many children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds
  2. The system fails in addressing the issues of these children and teaching them well

Way Forward

  1. Punishing children with no power to protest for the failure of everyone else in the system is just a convenient and cynical transfer of culpability
  2. It would be difficult to find another educational practice on which the evidence is so unequivocally negative
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Scaled-up solutions for a future of water scarcity

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: water crisis in India and steps that can be taken to reduce expolitation of natural resources


Context

India’s water problems increasing

  1. Precious evolutionary living resources, natural infrastructure, are going extinct
  2. While we thoughtlessly build artificial infrastructure, we forget that this kills natural infrastructure which took evolution aeons to create and cannot be engineered
  3. Forests, rivers, mountains, aquifers and soil are being lost at an alarming rate
  4. Today, India is in the midst of a suicidal water crisis as urban and rural landscapes go thirsty

Root of the problem

  • First, cities today are vast agglomerations that continue to spread, with bursting populations of tens of millions
  1. They are huge parasites on water, food, energy and all other resources
  2. High densities of our cities do not allow for water harvesting to fill the gap
  3. Invasive schemes like dams to service these large cities and the huge needs of agriculture have caused extreme ecological devastation
  • Second, in our global market economies, the products and services that are derived from natural infrastructure have often led to the terminal loss of the source itself
  1. The global free market, and with it the scale of human intervention, now exceeds the scale of the planet
  2. These resources (forests, mountains, floodplains and rivers) are often lost to the greed of governments, institutions, corporations and individuals
  3. This is a long-term loss for short-term gain

Using non-invasive schemes

  1. They can provide a perennial supply of water to large populations in cities and towns
  2. Engage the natural landscape
  3. Sustain ecological balance and
  4. Have major economic and health benefits

Some examples of non-invasive schemes

  • Floodplains of rivers are exceptional aquifers where any withdrawal is compensated by gravity flow from a large surrounding area and can be used as a source of providing water to cities
  1. Some floodplains, such as those of Himalayan rivers, contain up to 20 times more water than the virgin flow in rivers in a year
  2. Since recharge is by rainfall and during late floods, the water quality is good
  3. If we conserve and use the floodplain, it can be a self-sustaining aquifer wherein every year, the river and floodplain are preserved in the same healthy condition as the year before
  4. Land on the floodplains can be leased from farmers in return for a fixed income from the water sold to cities
  5. The farmers can be encouraged to grow orchards/food forests to secure and restore the ecological balance of the river ecosystem
  • Forested hills are a result of evolution over millions of years. They are not polluted and sit on a treasure of underground aquifers that contain natural mineral water comparable to that found in a mountain spring
  1. This is because the rain falls on the forest and seeps through the various layers of humus and cracked rock pathways, picking up nutrients and minerals and flows into underground mineral water aquifers
  2. If a scheme of ‘conserve and use’ is applied correctly, it would allow a forest (like Asola Bhatti in Delhi) to be sustained as a mineral water sanctuary
  3. About 30 sq.km of the forest could then provide enough natural mineral water to 5 million people in the city
  4. This water can substantially improve the health of citizens and preserve forests at the same time

Way Forward

  1. Such non-invasive, local, large-scale ‘conserve and use’ projects till now have not been part of our living scheme
  2. The evolutionary resources once lost, will be lost forever
  3. It is time we understood this is natural infrastructure bequeathed to us by nature and start preserving it
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Prudent increase: on RBI’s rate hike

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Monetary Policy Committee, Repo Rate

Mains level: Impact of global events on Indian economy


Context

MPC hikes Repo rate

  1. The decision by the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee to raise benchmark interest rates again by 25 basis points is a prudent one
  2. This is the second successive rate increase in as many months, a response to mounting uncertainties on the inflation front

Why the increase?

  1. Continuing volatility in crude oil prices, the recent softening notwithstanding, and its vulnerability to geopolitical tensions and supply disruptions is one of the main risks to the inflation outlook
  2. Among the RBI’s other concerns are:
  • volatile global financial markets
  • possibilities of fiscal slippage at the Central and State levels
  • the likely impact of the increase in the minimum support price for Kharif crops
  • the staggering impact of upward revisions to house rent allowance paid by State Governments

Global developments & their risk

  1. Rising trade protectionism threatens to impact investment flows, disrupt global supply chains and hurt all-round productivity
  2. Depreciation in the value of most currencies against the strengthening dollar have rippled through many major advanced and emerging economies, spurring inflation across these markets

Way Forward

  1. The MPC’s primary remit is to ensure that retail inflation stays firmly within a band of 2-6%, and preferably anchored at 4% over the medium term
  2. With inflation widely accepted as a hidden tax on the poor, the containment of price gains justifiably ought to be the raison d’etre of monetary policy
Monetary Policy Committee Notifications

GI logo, tagline launched

GI logo, tagline launched

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: issues relating to intellectual property rights

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Geographical Indications (GI)

Mains level: IPR regime in India


News

GI gets an ID

  1. Commerce and Industry Minister launched a logo and tagline for Geographical Indications (GI) to increase awareness about intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the country
  2. The initiative would help promote awareness and importance of GI products

About GI products

  1. A GI product is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicraft and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory
  2. Darjeeling Tea, Tirupati Laddu, Kangra Paintings, Nagpur Orange and Kashmir Pashmina are among the registered GIs in India
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

[pib] Cabinet approves Policy Framework for exploration and exploitation of Unconventional Hydrocarbons

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the new policy

Mains level: Hydrocarbon exploration in India


News

Context

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the policy to permit exploration and exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons such as Shale oil/gas, Coal Bed Methane (CBM) etc.
  2. It will be carried out under the existing Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs), CBM contracts and Nomination fields to encourage the existing Contractors in the licensed/leased area to unlock the potential of unconventional hydrocarbons in the existing acreages.

Provisions of the new policy

  1. The fiscal and contractual terms of the policy provide for ring-fencing of Petroleum Operations and cost recovery of new hydrocarbon discoveries in PSC block.
  2. Additional 10% rate of Profit Petroleum/ Production Level Payment (PLP) in case of CBM contract, over and above the existing rate of Profit Petroleum/PLP is to be shared with Government on new discoveries.
  3. For nomination blocks, NOCs will be allowed to explore and exploit unconventional hydrocarbons under the existing fiscal and contractual terms of exploration/lease license.

Benefits:

  1. This policy will enable the realization of prospective hydrocarbon reserves in the existing Contract Areas which otherwise would remain unexplored and unexploited.
  2. With this policy dispensation, new investment in Exploration and Production (E&P) activities and chances of finding new hydrocarbon discoveries and resultant increased domestic production thereof is expected.
  3. Exploration and exploitation of additional hydrocarbon resources is expected to spur new investment, impetus to economic activities, additional employment generation and thus benefitting various sections of society.
  4. This will lead to induction of new, innovative and cutting-edge technology and forging new technological collaboration to exploit unconventional hydrocarbons.

Uniform Licensing Regime

  1. As per existing contractual regime of PSCs, existing Contractors are not allowed to explore and exploit CBM or other unconventional hydrocarbons in already allotted licensed/leased area.
  2. Similarly, CBM Contractors are not allowed to exploit any other hydrocarbon except CBM.
  3. With the approval of this policy, there will be complete shift from ‘One hydrocarbon Resource Type’ to ‘Uniform Licensing Policy’ which is presently applicable in Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP) and Discovered Small Field (DSF) Policy.

Shale gas basins in India

  1. Presence of Shale oil/gas has a strong possibility in basins such as Cambay, Krishna- Godavari (KG), and Cauvery etc. where mature organic rich Shale exists.
  2. An area of 72,027 sq. km. held under PSCs of Pre- New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP)/NELP regime and 5269 sq. km area under CBM contracts has been opened up for simultaneous exploration and exploitation of conventional or unconventional hydrocarbons.

[pib] Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS) to support Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Particulars of CFS

Mains level: Facilitating Indian defence manufacturers abroad


News

Context

The Union Cabinet has approved the first extension of Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS) to support Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad.

Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS)

  1. The scheme envisages GoI to provide counter guarantee and interest equalization of 2 % to EXIM Bank to offer concessional finance to any foreign Govt. or foreign Govt. owned or controlled entity if any Indian entity, succeeds in getting contract for the execution of a project.
  2. Under the Scheme, EXIM Bank extends credit at a rate not exceeding LIBOR (avg. of six months) + 100 bps. The repayment of the loan is guaranteed by the foreign govt.
  3. Under the CFS, the GoI supports Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad since 2015-16.
  4. Since the objectives of the Scheme continue to be relevant, it is proposed to extend the Scheme for another five years from 2018 to 2023.

Major Impact

  1. Earlier, Indian entities were not able to bid for large projects abroad since the cost of financing was very high for them.
  2. Bidders from other countries such as China, Japan, Europe and US were able to provide credit at superior terms, i.e., lower interest rate and longer tenures which works to the advantage of bidders from those countries.
  3. Also, by having projects of strategic interest to India executed by Indian entities, the CFS enables India to generate substantial backward linkage induced jobs, demand for material and machinery in India and also a lot of goodwill for India.

Implementation Strategy and Targets

  1. Under the Scheme, MEA selects the specific projects keeping in view strategic interest of India and sends the same to Department of Economic Affairs (DEA).
  2. The strategic importance of a project to deserve financing under this Scheme, is decided, on a case to case basis, by a Committee chaired by Secretary, DEA.
  3. The Deputy National Security Adviser is also a member of this Committee.
  4. Once approved by the Committee, DEA issues a formal letter to EXIM Bank conveying approval for financing of the project under CFS.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

[pib] Nationwide ‘State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index’ released

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Index, PAT

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index

  1. Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) has released the ‘State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index’, which assesses state policies and programmes.
  2. The nationwide Index is a joint effort of the NITI Aayog and BEE.
  3. Aim: To create awareness about energy efficiency as a resource and also to develop an action plan for energy conservation initiatives.

Energy Conversation Guidelines

  1. These were also released for energy intensive industries that are covered under the Government’s Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT)
  2. As a part of Indo-Japan Energy Dialogue, Energy Conservation Centre of Japan (ECCJ) and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) have developed Energy Conservation Guidelines for energy intensive industries covering both large as well as MSMEs.

Particulars of the Index

  1. The State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index has 63 indicators across Building, Industry, Municipality, Transport, Agriculture and DISCOM with 4 cross-cutting indicators.
  2. The Index examines states’ policies and regulations, financing mechanisms, institutional capacity, adoption of energy efficiency measures and energy savings achieved.
  3. The required data was collected from the concerned state departments such as DISCOMs, Urban Development Departments, etc., with the help of State Designated Agencies (SDAs) nominated by the BEE.
  4. States are categorized based on their efforts and achievements towards energy efficiency implementation, as ‘Front Runner’, ‘Achiever’, ‘Contender’ and ‘Aspirant’.
  5. The ‘Front Runner’ states in the inaugural edition of the Index are: Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Rajasthan based on available data.

Back2Basics

Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme

  1. Nodal Agencies: Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) under the Ministry of Power,
  2. It isscheme under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) as a part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) launched in 2012.
  3. In 2012, the Government had set targets to save energy in eight energy intensive sectors, under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  4. Those eight Energy Intensive Sectors included are Chlor-alkali, Pulp & Paper, Textile, Aluminum, Thermal Power plants, Fertilizer, Iron & Steel and Cement.
  5. It is a market based mechanism in which sectors are assigned efficiency targets. The Industries which successfully surpass the assigned targets are given incentives in the form of energy saving certificates (ESCert).
  6. These ESCerts are tradable at two energy exchanges i.e, Power Exchange India and Indian Energy Exchange.
  7. Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) is the Market Regulator and Bureau of Energy Efficiency is Administrator for the trading of ESCerts.
  8. Implementation: In 3 cycles-
  • PAT cycle I (2012-13 to 2014-15): It was applicable on eight energy intensive sectors which account for 33% of India’s primary energy consumption.
  • PAT cycle II (2016 to 2018-19): It shall include 3 new sectors i.e, petroleum refineries, discoms and railways, along with the previous 8 energy intensive sectors of PAT cycle I.
  • PAT cycle III (2017-2020): It shall include 116 new units under it and have been given a reduction target of 1.06 million tonnes of oil equivalent.

[pib] Re-structuring of the Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board (ASRB)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance |Ministries & Departments Of The Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASRB

Mains level:  Not Much


News

Context

The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for restructuring of Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board (ASRB).

Background

  1. In November 1973, the Cabinet approved inter alia setting up of Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board with a whole-time Chairman.
  2. It was aimed to function as an independent recruitment agency in recruitment to various scientific positions in Agricultural Research Service and Research Management Positions of ICAR/DARE.
  3. In view of the significant increase in work load of ASRB the membership was increased from one to three of ASRB.

Details

  1. The ASRB will now be a 4 Member body instead of 3 Members. It will have a Chairperson and 3 Members.
  2. ASRB would be for a period of three years or till attainment of 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.
  3. For the purpose of autonomy, secrecy, accountability and efficient functioning ASRB shall be delinked from ICAR and to be attached with Dept. of Agricultural Research & Education (DARE) under Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare.
  4. The budget head for ASRB may also be delinked from ICAR and be created under DARE, and the ASRB may have its own cadre of administrative staff in the secretariat and have independent administrative control.

How will this impact?

  1. The four Member body comprising of one Chairperson and three Members would help in expediting the work and functioning of ASRB.
  2. It would support in expediting the recruitment process which would be beneficial for the agrarian community and agriculture at large.
  3. Moreover, it will ensure more transparency and efficiency in recruitment of meritorious scientists to various scientific positions in lCAR, the premier agency for agricultural research and education in the country.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Common Service Centres to implement Ayushman Bharat

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: SCSs, CSC 2.0

Mains level: Utilising Digital India infrastructure for AB-NHPM


News

Context

Common Service Center (CSC) and National Health Accounts (NHA) signed a MoU to implement the Ayushman Bharat scheme through three-lakh CSCs across the country.

Quick recap of AB-NHPM

Ayushman Bharat is the National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor vulnerable families (around 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage of up to ₹5 lakh (per family per year) for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

How would it facilitate?

  1. According to the MoU, a beneficiary can now visit the nearby CSC to get the benefit of this scheme and CSC will help the beneficiary to identify his name in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare database and his entitlement for the scheme.
  2. The CSCs will help the beneficiary to scan/ upload his KYC documents for verification of his/ her identity and claim his/ her entitlement.
  3. The beneficiary will also have facility to print his/ her Ayushman Scheme card through the centre which will be his/ her base source claim.
  4. CSCs will also provide requisite information about the scheme and promote the same.

Back2Basics

Common Service Center (CSC)

  1. Nodal Agency: Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), Government of India.
  2. Aim: The CSCs would provide high quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services, in the areas of e-governance, education, health, telemedicine, entertainment as well as other private services.
  3. CSCs are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
  4. CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a SPV incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 by the MeitY to monitor the implementation of the CSCs.
  5. CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:
  • Digital infrastructure as Utility to Every Citizen
  • Governance and services on demand
  • Digital empowerment of citizens
  1. Components of CSCs
  • Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) to provide service to the rural consumer in villages.
  • The agency designated by the State – State Designated Agency (SDA)—to facilitate implementation of the Scheme within the State.
  • Banking Correspondent Agents / Customer Service Points to deliver various banking and financial services.

CSC 2.0

  1. Under the Digital India programme, at least one CSC (preferably more than one) is envisaged in 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats for delivery of various electronic services to citizens across rural India.
  2. CSC 2.0 is a service delivery oriented entrepreneurship model with a large bouquet of services made available for the citizens through optimum utilization of infrastructure already created in the form of SWAN, SSDG, e-District, SDC, and NOFN/BharatNet.

 

Digital India Initiatives

NASA’s newest planet hunter starts operations

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: TESS

Mains level:  Missions and its objectives


News

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

  1. After a successful launch in April this year, NASA’s newest planet hunter, the TESS has now started its search for planets around nearby stars.
  2. TESS is NASA’s latest satellite to search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.
  3. The mission will spend the next two years monitoring the nearest and brightest stars for periodic dips in their light.
  4. TESS is expected to transmit its first series of science data back to Earth in August, and thereafter periodically every 13.5 days, once per orbit, as the spacecraft makes it closest approach to Earth.
  5. These events, called transits, suggest that a planet may be passing in front of its star.
  6. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets using this method, some of which could potentially support life.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries