September 2018
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[op-ed snap] For a world free of chemical weapons

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: Chemical Weapons Convention

Mains level: India’s efforts in limiting the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons


Context

Chemical weapons convention

  1. The Chemical Weapons Convention Act was enacted in 2000 to give effect to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction
  2. In 2010, the Act was amended to widen the scope of Section 9 to give the Centre power to appoint any of its own officers, other than those of the National Authority, as enforcement officers
  3. The convention was signed by the government on January 14, 1993

Definition of chemical weapons

  1. The Act defines chemical weapons as toxic chemicals, including munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm
  2. The definition includes in its ambit “any equipment” specifically designed for employing chemical weapons

Provisions of the act

  1. The Act defines chemical weapons and empowers the Centre to set up a National Authority to act as the “national focal point” for effective liaison with organisations and other state parties on matters relating to the Convention and for fulfilling the obligations of the country
  2. The Authority’s functions include regulation and monitoring the development, production, processing, consumption, transfer or use of toxic chemicals or precursors as specified in the Convention, among others
  3. The Authority is also empowered to issue directions and even close down facilities which violate the Convention
  4. It can liaise with other countries to seek or give assistance and protection against the use of chemical weapons

Inspection authority provided by the act

  1. Section 19 of the Act gives full power of inspection of any person who is engaged in the production, processing, acquisition, consumption, transfer, import, export or use of any toxic chemical or discrete organic chemical
  2. Inspections extend to any place where any chemical weapon, old chemical weapon, or abandoned chemical weapon is located, or where a chemical weapon production facility exists
  3. The Act allows inspections teams to conduct “challenge inspections” of chemical facilities in the company of an Observe
  4. An enforcement officer under the Act shall also accompany the team

Restrictions on transfer

  1. Section 16 of the original Act contains provisions for restriction on transfer of any toxic chemical or precursor
  2. This has been amended to provide that no person shall transfer to, or receive from, a state which is not a party to the Convention any toxic chemicals

[op-ed snap] Post office solutions: the challenges facing India Post Payments Bank

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Inclusive growth & issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IPPB

Mains level: A new era of banking via payment banks and challenges faced by them


Context

Launch of IPPB

  1. Amidst some fanfare, PM Modi launched the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB), a financial service provider that will operate under the country’s age-old postal department
  2. The primary rationale behind the public payments bank idea is to help in the government’s goal of achieving financial inclusion by providing savings, remittance, and payments services to the rural and unorganised sectors of the economy
  3. It is also hoped that the payments bank idea will help reinvigorate the postal system, which has a wide network of branches across India
  4. All the 155,000 post offices in the country are expected to be linked to the IPPB system as early as in December this year

Services that will be provided by payments bank

  1. The government-owned payments bank will be able to accept deposits of up to ₹1 lakh from customers but without the rights to use these funds to advance risky loans at higher interest rates
  2. It plans to offer a variety of other financial services to people
  3. The payments bank will also have a digital platform that is expected to make financial services more accessible even from remote locations

Challenges in its operation

  1. A big challenge facing the new public payments bank is whether it can manage to earn the profits required to survive as a standalone business entity
  2. Given the severe restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on how payments banks, in general, can employ their funds, the odds seem to be stacked against the IPPB at the moment
  3. The IPPB promises to pay an interest rate of 4% to its savings account customers
  4. To generate revenues, it plans to charge fees on money transfers and other financial services while investing idle customer deposits in safe government securities in order to earn interest
  5. The IPPB is also likely to face stiff competition from private companies, which are generally more nimble in adapting to business realities and far more customer-friendly compared to the government-owned behemoths
  6. With increasing competition, the IPPB’s revenues and margins are also likely to come under pressure

Way Forward

  1. Banks have traditionally stayed away from the business of pure deposit banking unless customers have been willing to pay for these services
  2. The payments bank model is still untested even though prominent private companies such as Airtel and Paytm have shown interest in the space
  3. The new payments bank could usher in a new era of rapid financial inclusion across rural India
Differentiated Banks – Payment Banks, Small Finance Banks, etc.

[op-ed snap] 2+2 = ?: On India-US defence relationship

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: COMCASA, 2+2 dialogue

Mains level: Renewed vigour in India-US relationship and its advantages for India


Context

Successful 2+2 dialogue

  1. The India-U.S. defence relationship has been given a significant boost with the three agreements signed after the inaugural 2+2 Dialogue in Delhi
  2. These are:
  • the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
  • “hotlines” between the Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries
  • the first tri-services military exercises between the two countries

Importance of COMCASA

  1. COMCASA is the third of four “foundational”, or enabling, agreements signed by India after more than a decade of negotiations
  2. It is perceived as an inevitable consequence of a large amount of U.S. defence hardware it has been purchasing
  3. This will increase, going forward, given the U.S. decision to include India in the top tier of countries entitled to Strategic Trade Authorisation (STA-1)

Limiting China’s expansion

  1. Both sides agreed to cooperate on fighting terrorism, advancing “a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” and promoting sustainable “debt-financing” in the region
  2. The last two points are clearly aimed at Beijing’s role in the South China Sea and the Belt and Road Initiative projects, respectively

Concerns that remain

  1. While trade was addressed, India did not receive a clear-cut assurance of its GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) status being restored, or of waivers on steel and aluminium tariffs imposed by Washington
  2. U.S. officials said clearly that they expect India to increase imports of American oil and gas as well as aircraft in order to wipe out the trade surplus India enjoys
  3. The U.S.’s other demand, to “zero out” oil imports from Iran by November, is simply unreasonable
  4. It would hurt India dearly not only because of costs at a time when the dollar is strengthening and fuel prices are going up but also in terms of its substantial engagement with Iran
  5. No public statement was made on what the U.S. will do on India’s investment in the Chabahar port once its full sanctions kick in on November 4
  6. American officials also gave no firm commitment in their statements that India will receive a waiver to purchase Russian hardware, beginning with the S-400 missile system

Way Forward

  1. The 2+2 discussions, held after two previous cancellations this year, brought much-needed focus on the India-U.S. relationship after months of drift and occasional discord
  2. India appears to have taken a leap of faith on its own concerns, expecting that the Trump administration will come through on waiving sanctions and being more flexible on trade issues
  3. Delhi must work with Washington in the next few months to ensure that the benefits from the 2+2 dialogue don’t add up only on the other side
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[pib] Various IT initiatives by Indian Railways to improve train operations and provide better passenger experience

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various IT initiative mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: The newscard provides an overview of various ICT initiatives by Indian Railways.


News

Context

  1. Indian Railways has always focused on adoption of new technologies to improve train operations and provide better passenger experience to its customers.
  2. In this series, IR has introduced various IT initiatives.

Real Time Train Information System (RTIS)

  1. Railways have experimented with tracking of trains using GPS devices with these GPS devices located in the locomotive.
  2. For a sustainable solution, a Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) is being implemented, whereby GPS tracking devices would communicate using satellite communications.  The trials have been successful.
  3. Apart from this, data logger systems already available in track circuited stations are being used at major interchange points to capture arrival/departure information on trains.

Computerised Train Signal Register

  1. In an effort to computerise the transactions of the station master, a Computerised Train Signal Register is going live at 650 stations.
  2. This enables arrival/departure information to be transmitted to the Control Office Application (COA) and the National train Enquiry System (NTES) directly from the station master’s desk.

Handheld Terminals for TTEs

  1. Handheld Terminals (HHTs) are being provided to the Train Ticket Examiners (TTEs) to be able to check the reserved coaches, allot the vacant berths and transmit information on available berths to the subsequent stations.
  2. The HHT can also access the ticketing application and collect excess fares as per rules.
  3. The terminal can potentially connect to a Point of Sale (POS) machine and charges can be collected digitally.

Modernisation of Ticketing Website (IRCTC)

  1. Over the last four years, the capacity of the website has increased to 20,000 tickets per minute starting from 2000 tickets per minute in 2014, a ten-fold increase.
  2. Apart from the capacity, the entire user experience has been improved substantially with the launch a new interface with easier navigation and standard views that enable the passengers to transact smoothly.
  3. New features have been added that enable better planning of journeys aiding the passenger to obtain confirmed tickets.

Paperless Unreserved Ticketing through Mobile Phones

  1. Paperless Unreserved ticketing on mobile phones was launched on 25.12.2014 at Mumbai.
  2. This has eliminated the need for passengers to stand in queue for getting tickets for journey in unreserved compartments of trains.
  3. The ticket is delivered on the Mobile Phone and is embedded with QR Code.
  4. This service has added to passenger convenience.  About 4 lakh passengers per day are booking tickets on Mobile phones.

Indian Railway e-Procurement System (IREPS):

  1. Complete tendering activity of Indian Railways for procurement of goods, services & works and e-auction of scrap sale is on IREPS.
  2. IREPS system is largest such G to B portal in India.
  3. It has helped in achieving objectives of transparency, efficiency and improving of ease of doing business.
  4. 90,000 vendors have registered themselves on IREPS website.
  5. Central Vigilance Commission has recognized and awarded the system under “Vigilance Excellence Award – 2017” for outstanding contribution in the category of “IT initiatives for transparency in the organization”.
Railway Reforms

[pib] India and France sign an implementation agreement on “MOBILISE YOUR CITY” (MYC)

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MYC

Mains level:  Urban Transportation as major source of air pollution.


News

Context

  • India and France have signed an implementation agreement on “MOBILISE YOUR CITY” (MYC).

Mobilize Your City (MYC) 

  1. It is part of an international initiative which is supported by the French and the German Governments and was launched at 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in December, 2015.
  2. Based on a proposal made by AFD in 2015, the EU has agreed to provide funds of Euro 3.5 million through the AFD (Agence Française de Développement) to contribute to specific investments and technical assistance components within the programme in India.
  3. The MYC aims at supporting three pilot cities viz. Nagpur, Kochi and Ahmedabad in their efforts to reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions related to urban transport.
  4. This will be done by implementing urban mobility plans at local level and to help India at national level to improve their sustainable transport policy.

 Components of the Programme

  1. The three pilot cities selected under the programme as well as MoHUA will benefit from the Technical Assistance activities. The main components of the proposed assistance are:
  • to support planning and implementation of sustainable urban transport projects,
  • support to strengthening institutional capacity for regulating, steering and planning urban mobility, and
  • learning and exchange formats with other cities across India for exchanges on best practices.
  1. The details of the project activities will be worked out by AFD in consultation with MoHUA and the three partner cities including institutions such as the respective Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for Smart Cities, the Municipal Corporations and any transport authority or transport related SPV.
Air Pollution

IMA moots ethics code overhaul

Note4students

Mains Paper 4: Ethics | Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Reforms required in health sector


News

Ethical Studies for Doctors

  1. Can an individual doctor advertise, have a website to promote her practice to compete with aggressively marketed corporate hospitals?
  2. Should the donation of cadaver organs be made mandatory for all?
  3. Is it important for medical students to study ethics throughout the duration of the MBBS course?
  4. Marking a bold departure from the existing code of ethics that covers the medical profession, the IMA is in the process of redefining the code in order to ensure a much more contemporary outlook.

Redefining the Code of Medical Ethics

  1. The current code of medical ethics by the Medical Council of India dates back to 2002.
  2. Much has changed in the medical field since then and many relevant topics do not find a mention in the present code.
  3. IMA would be releasing a handbook on the redefined code of medical ethics.
  4. The handbook would comprise 24 topics that either need to be reviewed or find no mention in the current code.
  5. The code would subsequently be submitted to all the relevant Central Ministries – health, medical education, law and justice and the MCI – for consideration.

(A) For Advertisement

  1. The current MCI norms do not allow doctors to publicise their practice through any type of advertising.
  2. Big private hospitals are constantly promoting their set ups through advertisements in all mediums.
  3. Hence it is essential for individual doctors, especially those who have just begun practice, survive such competition.
  4. The IMA believes that any publicity material should be ethical and approved after scrutiny by the respective State medical councils.

(B) For Doctor-assisted Suicide

  1. Presently doctors cannot give consent for deciding on pulling the plug.
  2. This decision can only be taken by relatives.

(C) For ARTs

  1. Ethical issues around Assisted Reproductive Technology and surrogacy also find a mention in the handbook.
  2. The IMA states that doctors should ethically ensure that surrogates and egg donors are not exploited.

(D) For Organ Donation and Transplants

  1. The IMA also recommends that cadaver organ donations (from brain dead people) must be made compulsory for all unless an individual specifically states that he or she does not want to become an organ donor.
  2. Cadaver organ donations are currently carried out in India only when an individual has explicitly expressed a wish to donate or with the consent of immediate relatives in cases of brain death, creating a shortage of cadaver organs for transplants.
  3. India carries out a high number of living donor transplants as compared to cadaver organ donations.
  4. Presently we have a long waiting list of patients for organ transplants.
Medical Education Governance in India

Tourism Ministry sanctions new projects in Kerala under Swadesh Darshan

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Swadesh Darshan Scheme, Rivers mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Enhancing Tourism Potential in Kerala


News

Context

  • Union Ministry of Tourism on sanctioned Malanad Malabar Cruise Tourism Project under Swadesh Darshan Scheme for development of a rural circuit in Kerala.

Malanad Malabar Cruise Tourism Project

  1. The project will be focusing on the development of water-based thematic cruise experiences in and around Valapattanam and Kuppam Rivers of Kannur District.
  2. Three thematic cruises being developed under this project will be on Valapattanam and Kuppam River.
  • The first cruise on Valapattanam River will be Malabari Cuisine and Culinary Cruise (Muthappan Cruise) which will start from Valapattanam and will cover a distance of 40 Km to reach Munambu Kadavu in Valapattanam River.
  • There will be another cruise in Valapattanam River- Theyyam Cruise– which will begin from Valapattanam and will go up to Pazhayangadi in Valapattanam River.
  • The third cruise will be a Mangrove Cruise in Kuppam River covering a distance of 16 Km from Pazhayangadi to Kuppam.
  1. The cruises under the project will be operated under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.
  2. Under the project the union ministry will be providing funds for development of basic infrastructure facilities such as Passenger Terminals, Boat Terminals, Bio Toilets, Wi-Fi facility, Drinking Water Facilities, Floating Markets for local produce among others etc.

Waterways in Kerala

  1. Waterways have been an important mode of transport in Kerala from the time immemorial.
  2. The total length of the navigation route in Kerala is 1900 km.
  3. Kerala has 44 Rivers and 7 Backwater regions.
  4. Water-based tourism is getting prominence all over the world. Kerala is blessed with wide stretches of water bodies. However, the potential of these is not tapped properly till date.

Back2Basics

Swadesh Darshan

  1. India’s rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for development of tourism and job creation in the country
  2. This can be achieved only through an integrated approach by providing engaging experiences for distinct categories of tourists i.e. Domestic and International
  3. In due recognition to this the Government of India, Ministry of Tourism (MoT) launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme (Central Sector Scheme) for integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country in 2014-15
  4. Various themes which are unique and specific to the area can include beaches, culture, heritage, wildlife etc.
  5. Such theme based tourist circuits are developed in a manner that supports communities, provides employment and fosters social integration without comprising upon the environmental concerns and provides unique experiences to the tourists
  6. This scheme is envisioned to synergise with other Government of India schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India, Make in India etc. with the idea of positioning the tourism sector as a major engine for job creation and economic growth.
Tourism Sector

Atal Pension Yojana indefinitely extended, scope broadened

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre & States & the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Atal Pension Yojana

Mains level: Welfare measures for Elderly Population


News

Context

  1. The Union Cabinet has decided to indefinitely extend the Atal Pension Scheme, which lapsed in August.
  2. But seeing the mass participation in this runaway-success scheme, the cabinet has decided to extend it and keep it open-ended.

Atal Pension Yojana

  1. It is a social security scheme launched by the government in 2015 to provide a defined pension between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.
  2. Now the scheme will expand its focus to target individuals, instead of households.
  3. According to government data, over 1 crore people have benefited from the government’s flagship scheme.
  4. The scheme, which was earlier for four years, lapsed in August 2018.

New Propositions

  1. Union Cabinet decided to double the accident insurance and relaxed the age criteria by five years to further incentivise the scheme.
  2. To further incentivise people’s participation in the scheme the government had decided to relax the age criteria for participation in the scheme.
  3. Earlier, people of age 18 to 60 years were entitled to enroll in the scheme. But looking at the rise in average age-expectancy, now it has relaxed it further to 65 years.
  4. All accounts opened after August 28 will have an accident insurance limit of Rs 2 lakh, double the earlier Rs 1 lakh limit.

India agrees to end PISA boycott, to participate in 2021

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: PISA, OCED

Mains level: Competency of Indian Education System in the World.


News

PISA

  1. PISA introduced in the year 2000 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) tests the learning levels of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science.
  2. The test is carried out every three years.
  3. India stayed away from PISA in 2012 and 2015 on account of its dismal performance in 2009, when it was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries.
  4. Having not participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) since 2012, India has now decided to end its boycott of the examination.
  5. The ministry will dispatch a team of officers to Paris this year to negotiate India’s terms of participation in 2021 with OECD.

Why did India boycott PISA?

  1. The decision to boycott PISA was taken by the UPA government, which had blamed “out of context” questions for the poor show in 2009.
  2. The country, subsequently, chose to not participate in the 2012 and 2015 cycle.
  3. As on date, there are 80 countries participating in PISA, including China and Vietnam.

Why Chandigarh?

  1. Chandigarh was selected for three reasons. Foremost is its compact area.
  2. Second, govt. wanted to keep number of languages (in which the test has to be administered) to a minimum. As Chandigarh schools students are taught in Hindi and English.
  3. Third, Chandigarh has a record of performing well in learning assessments.
  4. In addition to schools in Chandigarh, the HRD Ministry is keen that all Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs), funded and run by the Centre, also take the test.

Assessment through PISA

  1. PISA is a competency-based test.
  2. The PISA assessments were started in 2000, but India made its debut in the “extended cycle” of the test for 2009 with 16,000 students from 400 schools across Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  3. In 2012, schools of Shanghai in China topped the reading, mathematics and science test, followed closely by Singapore.
  4. In 2015, Singapore, Japan and Estonia were ranked as top three countries, in that order.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

JanDhan Yojana made an open-ended scheme

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy | Inclusive growth & issues arising from it

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Changes in the PMJDY

Mains level: Financial Inclusion


News

Context

  1. The Cabinet has given its nod to turn the Pradhan Mantri JanDhan Yojana (PMJDY) into an open-ended scheme with higher insurance cover and double the overdraft (OD) facility.
  2. This is being done to continue the scheme also known as the National Mission on Financial Inclusion beyond August 28, 2018.

Whats new?

  1. The Centre has shifted its emphasis from “each household” to “all adult individuals”.
  2. The Centre has decided to make it open ended, with the OD limit increased to ₹10,000 from the existing ₹5,000.
  3. In addition, no condition will be attached for any overdraft up to ₹2,000.
  4. The age range for availing the OD facility has been revised from the 18-60 years to 18-65 years.
  5. The accident insurance cover for new RuPay cardholders has been raised to ₹2 lakh.

Success of PMJDY

  1. Under the PMJDY, 32.41 crore accounts have been opened so far, with deposits worth ₹2 crore.
  2. It has been touted as the world’s biggest scheme by institutions such as the World Bank.
  3. Nearly 53 per cent of the account holders are women.
  4. Around 59 per cent belong to rural and semi-rural regions and about 83 per cent are Aadhar-seeded.
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges