[op-ed snap] Universities and patents

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: National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)

Mains level: National IPR Policy 2016 & how it has helped in promoting IP awareness and filing


Context

UGC mandate for IP centres

  1. In its biggest push to create entrepreneurial universities, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has now asked all universities in India to set up Intellectual Property (IP) Centres
  2. The UGC’s call to universities has come after a series of policy directives to introduce awareness about IP in higher educational institutions

Less manpower available

  1. As universities line up to set up these centres, they will face a strange human resources problem
  2. Despite the policy push to have more IP, we do not have enough IP professionals in the country
  3. The dearth of IP professionals is a problem related to the field of intellectual property itself
  4. Its recent rise to prominence in the international arena, thanks to various international treaties and trade agreements, along with with the legal-centric approach where law schools and colleges are the only institutions which mandate teaching these subjects, are reasons why the supply of IP professionals is not keeping pace with demand

Role of IP

  1. Patents help universities to improve their ranking, establish an innovation ecosystem, incubate knowledge-based start-ups, earn additional revenue and measure research activity
  2. The number of patents applied for, granted and commercialised by universities and institutes is factored in in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings
  3. Whether a higher educational institute has an innovation ecosystem could also have a bearing, with the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, awarding up to 24 points to an institute which sets up an innovation ecosystem and has a facility for identifying and promoting IPRs
  4. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) model curriculum for its member institutions lays emphasis on the need for IPR education in technical institutes

Opportunity for job creation as well as leading the world

  1. There is a great opportunity now that should not be missed
  2. India has a poor patent agent density, with only about 2,000 registered patent agents currently in practice
  3. The Central government conducts the only competitive examination in the country to check a person’s proficiency in IP
  4. Any Indian citizen with a bachelor’s degree in science or technology can take the examination
  5. Upon clearing it the person is entitled to practice before the Patent Office as a registered patent agent
  6. Qualifying the exam allows science graduates to draft, file and procure patents from the Patent Office on behalf of inventors
  7. Fine-tuning the patent agent examination to cater to the growing IP needs of the country can be a successful way to build a band of professionals and create career opportunities

Other steps that can be taken

  1.  In a dynamic field such as intellectual property, in order to create a band of qualified IP professionals, there should be a push towards post-qualification continuous education as well
  2. To achieve this, the format, membership, syllabus and the frequency of the patent agent examination will need to be addressed
  3. This will not only increase the number and quality of IP professionals in the country but also become a new career choice for graduates with a degree in science and technology

Way forward

  1. India has witnessed significant changes in IPRs since the introduction of the National IPR Policy in 2016
  2. The new policy has pushed universities to file more patents
  3. The ambitious goal set by India’s IPR Policy rests on how universities embrace patents
Intellectual Property Rights in India

[op-ed snap] India’s neglected groundwater crisis

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Water Development Report, UNESCO, NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index (CWMI)

Mains level: India’s dual challenge of groundwater conservation and interventions that can be made to prevent a water crisis


Context

Importance of groundwater & declining levels

  1. Groundwater is one of the most important water sources in India accounting for 63% of all irrigation water and over 80% of rural and urban domestic water supplies
  2. The UNESCO World Water Development Report states that India is the largest extractor of groundwater in the world
  3. NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report states that the majority of states have scored less than 50% in the source augmentation of groundwater resource index
  4. Fifty-four percent of India’s groundwater wells have declined over the past seven years, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020
  5. India faces a dual challenge: to regulate the growing demand for groundwater while replenishing its sources

Reasons behind the groundwater crisis

  • Subsidies on electricity
  1. Subsidies on electricity are thought to play a central role in the Indian groundwater crisis
  2. The vast majority of groundwater pumps are unmetered, and if charged, are billed at a flat, non-volumetric, and highly subsidized tariff
  3. This flat rate is responsible, at least in part, for inefficient usage and excessive withdrawal of groundwater
  • MSP declaration
  1. The government encourages farmers to produce water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane through increased minimum support prices (MSP)
  2. Research indicates that although MSP has led to assured incomes, it has also led to groundwater depletion, income inequality and unsustainable agriculture

Possible interventions

  • Reducing electricity subsidies
  1. An analysis of panel data across 370 districts in India found that a reduction in electricity subsidy was correlated with a decrease in groundwater extraction
  2. On average, a 10% reduction in electricity subsidy generated a 6.7% decrease in groundwater extraction
  3. In order to avoid adversity on farmers, the government(s) can limit the electricity subsidy offered to farmers and compensate them with a direct cash transfer for every unit they save
  4. This provides farmers an incentive to use groundwater judiciously without any additional cost to the government
  5. The government of Punjab has entered into a partnership with a private company to conduct a randomized evaluation to test this model
  • Encouraging farmers to adopt micro-irrigation techniques
  1. Techniques such as drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers can be used
  2. According to the CWMI report, adopting micro-irrigation techniques can save roughly 20% of the groundwater used annually on irrigation in India
  3. A study by has shown that the adoption of drip irrigation increased in areas where less water-intensive crops such as banana, grapes and coconut were grown
  4. The adoption of drip irrigation was higher in regions where water and labour were scarcer
  5. It would be prudent for policymakers and researchers to encourage adoption of drip irrigation practices and rigorously evaluate its impact on groundwater levels in such areas
  • Creating a bottom-up approach to conserve groundwater
  1. This can be done by empowering the local community to become active participants in managing groundwater
  2. In line with this, the central government in its 12th five-year plan proposed a policy of participatory groundwater management (PGM), which involves a collaborative approach among government departments, researchers, NGOs and community members
  3. The plan involves training community workers to carry out aquifer mapping and implement innovative ways to use groundwater conservatively with the local community

Way forward

  1. Groundwater has helped India overcome food shortage in the 1960s by playing an instrumental role in ushering in the green revolution
  2. The NITI Aayog CWMI report is a timely reminder of the need for policymakers and researchers to come together and conduct rigorous evaluations in order to understand what works and what doesn’t work for groundwater conservation
  3. Systematic analysis of groundwater conservation methods must be conducted to forestall the water crisis
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Assault on Aravallis

Related image

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Geographical features & their location

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aravali ranges (location, unique features)

Mains level: How does Aravali mountain range help in pollution reduction in Delhi NCR and Indo-Gangetic plain in general


Context

Degradation of Aravali Mountain Range

  1. The Supreme Court has reprimanded the Rajasthan government for its failure to check illegal mining in an over 100-hectare range of the Aravalli mountains
  2. India’s oldest mountain range has lost nearly a fourth of its hills
  3. The apex court referred to a report of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) — the body that advises it on forest-related matters — which pointed out that 31 of the 128 hills in the Aravallis “have vanished”

Impact of the loss

  1. It could be a reason for the rising pollution levels in the National Capital Region (NCR)
  2. In the past two decades, several studies have pointed out that the denudation of the hills is leading to the drifting of desert sands towards the plains
  3. Last year, a study by the Wildlife Institute of India pointed out that the shrinking green cover in the Aravallis is a major reason for the increase in the intensity of dust storms in the Indo-Gangetic plains

Importance of Aravali

  1. Extending for nearly 700 km from Banaskantha in Eastern Gujarat to Southern Haryana, through Rajasthan and Delhi, the Aravallis have played a major role in shaping the terrain of large parts of north-western India
  2. For more than three billion years, its hills have moderated the velocity of winds that blow towards North India and resisted the advance of the Thar Desert towards the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain

What needs to be done?

  1. SC’s strictures on mining in the range should be followed in letter and spirit
  2. Illegal construction in the Aravalli hills needs to be stopped
  3. The censure should apply to the Haryana government as well

Way forward

  1. The warning bells rung by the latest CEC report should make the two state governments change their ways
  2. While the Aravallis’ role as a green lung for the NCR should, in itself, be the compelling reason to halt its degradation, the other ecosystem services it provides demand the strict application of the principle of sustainable development to regulate activities such as mining and construction
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

India among nations that face grave danger to soil biodiversity: WWF

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the Report

Mains level:  Conservation of Soil


News

Context

  • India’s soil biodiversity is in grave peril, according to the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas prepared by the World Wide Fund for Nature

Soil Biodiversity

  1. Millions of microbial and animal species live and make up soils, from bacteria and fungi to mites, beetles and earthworms.
  2. Soil biodiversity is the total community from genes to species, and varies depending on the environment.
  3. The immense diversity in soil allows for a great variety of ecosystem services that benefit the species that inhabit it, the species (including us) that use it, and its surrounding environment.

Higher risk for India

  1. The WWF’s ‘risk index’ for the globe — indicating threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change.
  2. Soil biodiversity encompasses the presence of micro-organisms, micro-fauna (nematodes and tardigrades for example), and macro-fauna (ants, termites and earthworms).
  3. The findings were part of the bi-annual Living Planet Report 2018.
  4. It shows India among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk.
  5. Coloured red on the Atlas, these include Pakistan, China, several countries in Africa and Europe, and most of North America.

Rising Ecological Footprint in India

  1. Since 1960, the global ecological footprint has increased by more than 190%.
  2. The two key drivers of biodiversity loss were the over exploitation of natural resources and agriculture, the WWF added in its report.
  3. India’s per capita ecological footprint is less than 1.75 hectares/person (which is in the lowest band, among countries surveyed).
  4. However its high population made it vulnerable to an ecological crisis, even if per-capita consumption remained at current levels, the WWF warned.

Other Threats

  1. A key aspect of this year’s report is the threat to soil biodiversity and pollinators such as bees.
  2. 150 million bee colonies were needed to meet the pollination requirements of about 50 million hectares of agricultural land in India, whereas only 1.2 million colonies are present.
  3. The population of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles has dwindled by an average of 60% from 1970 to 2014, and fresh-water species have declined by 83% in the same period.
  4. Globally, the extent of wetlands was estimated to have declined by 87% since 1970.

Summary of the Living Planet Report 2018

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

India’s 1st container movement on inland waterways begins

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NW-1, Jal Vikas Marg Project

Mains level: Enhancing cargo transport with the help of Inland Waterways


News

Context

  • India’s first container vessel movement on the river Ganga (National Waterways-I) has began with the Inland Waterways Authority of India transporting container cargo belonging to the food and beverages giant PepsiCo (India) from Kolkata to Varanasi.

Particulars of the Shipment

  1. The vessel MV Rabindranath Tagore is transporting 16 containers equivalent to 16 truckloads of food and snacks through the river Ganga, and will reach Varanasi in 9-10 days.
  2. It will make its return journey with fertilizers from IFFCO that will be procured from its Phulpur plant near Allahabad.

Benefits

  1. The cargo movement to the east and northeastern states will become easier with the new mode of transportation through waterways.
  2. The container cargo transport reduces handling cost, allows for easier modal shift, decreases pilferage and damage, besides enabling cargo owners to lessen their carbon footprints.

About NW-1

  1. The central government is developing NW-1 (River Ganga) under Jal Marg Vikas Project form Haldia to Varanasi (1,390 km) at about Rs 5,369 crore with the technical and financial assistance from the World Bank.
  2. The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels with a capacity of 1,500-2,000 Tonnes.
Inland Waterways

India, Japan sign $75 billion currency swap agreement

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: Particulars of the BSA

Mains level: India-Japan economic relations


News

Context

  • India and Japan Monday concluded a $75 billion Bilateral Swap Arrangement (BSA), a move that will help in bringing greater stability in foreign exchange and capital markets in the country.

Bilateral Swap Arrangement (BSA)

Why Currency Swap?

  1. RBI’s foreign currency reserves have shrunk from over $426 billion in April
  2. The rupee has depreciated the most among Asian currencies amid emerging market volatility triggered by rising US interest rates, pricier crude, geopolitical concerns and intensifying protectionism and trade wars.
  3. It has fallen over 13% since start of 2018, having recovered from 74.48 to the dollar earlier this month to close at 73.41.
  4. The arrangement will be used only when required, and will help meet short-term liquidity mismatches.
  5. India has taken several steps to contain its current account deficit, which could swell to an estimated 2.8% of GDP, and is seen as the root cause of rupee volatility.
  6. Conversely, Japan can also seek dollars from India in exchange for yen.

Other measures to keep CAD

  1. Some of the measures taken by the government to attract foreign capital include the review of certain restrictions on FPI investment in debt.
  2. It is promoting exports through hike in customs duty to curtail imports of non-essential items, relaxations in the policy for external borrowings and issuance of offshore rupee bonds (Masala Bonds) etc.

What it means for India?

  1. The BSA will allow India to pay for any loans that it borrows from Japan in Indian rupees, rather than borrowing a third-party acceptable currency like the US dollar.
  2. It will also allow the country to make any interest or principal payments in domestic currency.
  3. This, in turn, will increase the demand for the national currency in the forex market, making it more valuable, and stabilizing the rupee-to-dollar ratio.

Benefits of Currency Swap

  1. The BSA will aid in bringing greater stability to foreign exchange and capital markets in India
  2. This facility will enable the agreed amount of foreign capital being available to India for use as and when need arises.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[pib] Statue of Unity

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Statue of Unity

Mains level: Not Much


News

Context

  • The Prime Minister will dedicate the world’s tallest statue, the “Statue of Unity”, to the Nation, today on October 31, 2018.

About Statue of Unity

  1. It is located facing the Narmada Dam, at Kevadiya in Gujarat
  2. The monument along with its surroundings occupies over 20,000 square metres, and is surrounded by a 12 square km artificial lake.
  3. It is the world’s tallest statue with the height of 182 metres (597 ft) designed by Ram V. Sutar and designed and executed by Larsen & Toubro.
  4. The total height of the statue from its base will be 240-metre consisting base level of 58 meters and statue of 182 meters.
  5. It is constructed with steel framing, reinforced cement concrete, and bronze cladding.
  6. The statue needed 75,000 cubic metres of concrete, 5,700 tonnes of steel structure, 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel rods, 22,500 tonnes of bronze sheets for construction.
  7. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), a special purpose vehicle was established by the Government of Gujarat for its construction and the outreach programme was carried out across India starting December 2013.
History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] INS Tarangini returns after Vogage across the World

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Lokayan 2018, INS Tarangini

Mains level: Not Much


News

Context

  • The sail training ship of Indian Navy, INS Tarangini based at Kochi, returned after a seven month long sailing across the world.

Lokayan 18

  1. The Voyage named “Lokayan 18” was flagged off on 10 Apr 18 from Kochi in INS Tarangini.
  2. During the voyage, the ship has proudly ‘shown the flag’ and highlighted the diverse culture of India across 15 ports in 13 countries.
  3. The ship sailed across the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, Strait of Gibraltar, North Atlantic Ocean, Bay of Biscay, English Channel and North Sea, right up to Norway before commencing her homeward passage back to Kochi.
  4. The ship also participated in the culminating event of the ‘Three Festival Tall Ships Regatta’ at Bordeaux, France.
  5. Over the years, INS Tarangini has been extensively deployed for long voyages away from her base port of Kochi, which includes one circumnavigation of the globe (2003-04) and three previous ‘Lokayans’ (2005, 2007 and 2015).

About INS Tarangini

  1. INS Tarangini is a three masted ‘square rigged’ barque which carries a total of 20 sails.
  2. She is the First Sail Training Ship in Indian Navy and was commissioned on 11 Nov 1997.
  3. In her 21 years of glorious service, she has sailed over 2,20,000 nautical miles to date across the world’s oceans.
  4. She is the first of two Sail Training Ships in the First Training Squadron, the other being INS Sudarshini.
  5. The primary role of these Sail Training Ships is to develop character and professionalism, as well as inculcate the qualities of initiative, courage, resilience and spirit amongst the Sea Trainees.
  6. The ship also imparts practical training to them, primarily on navigation, sailing and seamanship.
Indian Navy Updates

[op-ed snap] Tech taxes are the wrong solution to real problems

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Tech tax, SEP, Finance bill, OECD

Mains level: Levy of tech taxes in various countries and how it would affect digital economy


Context

Increased focus on tech taxes

  1. “Tech tax” can be described as finding ways to tax capital income and IP [intellectual property] income
  2. The concept of a tech tax is gathering momentum
  3. The European Union (EU) has been grappling with it since March this year India introduced it in the Finance Act 2018
  4. Australia is considering it and so are a number of other countries
  5. These moves take aim at legitimate problems which will grow in scale as IP comes to play an increasingly important role in traditional sectors such as automobile

Problems in taxing digital economy

  1. The digital economy’s combination of intangible capital and disaggregated business models creates an almighty headache for governments when it comes to taxation
  2. Businesses that depend on monetizing user data for revenue, for instance, may realize millions of dollars of value from a tax jurisdiction without having a significant, taxable presence in it
  3. The revenue can be registered to dummy head offices set up in low tax jurisdictions
  4. The difficulty of pricing intangible capital accurately undercuts measures such as the arm’s length principle meant to keep companies reasonably honest when indulging in transfer pricing for tax avoidance purposes

Digital economy does not favour developing countries

  1. New technologies can have downsides for developing economies
  2. They show a bias towards skill and education when it comes to job creation
  3. This reduces the labour arbitrage advantage developing economies have
  4. The overall shift in income distribution from labour to IP doesn’t help

Other issues that have affected trust in the digital economy

  1. The Russian misinformation campaign via social media during the 2016 US presidential election
  2. The difficulty of keeping fake news in check
  3. User data privacy missteps
  4. The disconnected realities that tech evangelists seem to inhabit

Raises urbanization but at the cost of poor

  1. In 2011, San Francisco city phased out the payroll tax and replaced it with a gross receipts tax—a popular move with tech companies since they often have large workforces before they have revenue
  2. The tactic worked and tech companies flooded into formerly blighted parts of the city
  3. The unemployment rate fell by almost two-thirds over the next few years
  4. But with the growth came disruption as gentrification pushed poor residents out of their houses and home prices rocketed to well over the national average

India’s position in this regard

  1. India has introduced the ‘significant economic presence’ (SEP) concept in the Finance Act this year
  2. It means that if a company has a SEP in India, it has tax liabilities here whether it is based here or not

The problem in applying SEP concept

  1. The problem is creating thresholds that don’t stifle competition or open New Delhi up to accusations of protectionism
  2. An even bigger problem is finalising such a regulatory change without becoming entangled in existing bilateral tax treaties

Way forward

  1. The transnational nature of digital businesses demands a multilateral response rather than a patchwork of rivalrous measures
  2. This is difficult at a time when protectionism is on the rise, but all the more important for it
  3. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s work on a new framework for base erosion and profit shifting could be used to shape an effective response to the digital economy
Net Neutrality & The Debate Around It

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: India, China and the INF Treaty

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: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Mains level: Recent trend of USA’s disregard of bilateral and multilateral treaties and its impact on India as well as global geopolitics


Context

USA’s withdrawal from INF Treaty

  1. US President Donald Trump recently announced about American plans to withdraw from the three-decade-old missile treaty with Russia
  2. The treaty that Trump wants to discard is the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that was concluded in 1987 by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev
  3. It has been hailed as one of the most important arms control agreements between Washington and Moscow

Provisions of the treaty

  1. Under the INF treaty, the US and Soviet Union agreed not to develop, produce, possess or deploy any ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 km
  2. It exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range

Importance of the treaty

  1. The INF treaty helped address the fears of an imminent nuclear war in Europe
  2. It also built some trust between Washington and Moscow and contributed to the end of the Cold War

Loopholes in the treaty

  1. It left the other nuclear weapon powers free to develop ground-based intermediate-range forces
  2. In the age of nuclear superpowers, it did not seem to matter
  3. Since then, many countries have developed missiles in the range of 500 to 5,500 km, including India, Pakistan and North Korea
  4. Nearly 90 per cent of China’s vast missile armoury — estimated at around 2,000 rockets — is in the intermediate range and would be illegal if Beijing were to be a part of the INF treaty

Root cause of USA’s withdrawal

  1. Although the US cites Russian violations of the INF treaty as the immediate cause for the withdrawal, coping with China’s massive rocket force appears to be the more important reason for the decision
  2. The expansive Chinese land-based intermediate range missile forces threaten the American naval ships deployed in the Western Pacific and target US military bases in Japan
  3. The vulnerability of American military presence in the Pacific to Chinese missiles, in turn, undermines the credibility of American security commitment to its Asian allies

Inclusion of China in the treaty

  1. In announcing the intent to withdraw, Trump said the only way to sustain the treaty is for Russia to stop the violations and China to join the INF treaty
  2. China has already rejected the proposition
  3. It has always refused to join the US-Russian arms control agreements

Impact of a pan-Asia INF treaty on India

  1. If the US deploys a new INF in Asia, to enhance its capacity to deter China, Beijing is bound to react
  2. The focus of a potential new arms race appears to be less on traditional nuclear-armed missiles, but precise hypersonic missiles (which travel at least five times the speed of sound) equipped with conventional warheads
  3. India has an effort underway on hypersonic missiles — part indigenous and part in collaboration with Russia to build on the supersonic Brahmos missiles that travel more than twice as fast as sound
  4. As the US conflict with Russia deepens, Delhi’s partnership with Moscow on advanced military systems will come under increasing scrutiny and pressure
  5. Russia’s tightening military embrace with China also casts a shadow over defence ties between Delhi and Moscow
  6. Delhi, then, will have to think long and hard about its missile programme by focusing on the urgent need to ramp up the domestic effort as well as diversify its international collaboration on hypersonic weapons

Way forward

  1. India needs a significant force of hypersonic missiles to better control escalation to the nuclear level if there is another Doklam-like military confrontation with China
  2. Delhi will also have to cope with the inevitable proliferation of hypersonic systems in its neighbourhood
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] From uncertainty to crisis: On Sri Lanka Elections

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka & how it could affect India


Context

New government in Sri Lanka

  1. Sri Lanka’s fragile process of democratic recovery is in peril
  2. Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa, his political rival, as the new Prime Minister
  3. This was done by the President in order to resolve a deepening political dispute between himself and Mr. Wickremesinghe

Impact of this move

  1. This act has only pushed Sri Lanka into an unprecedented constitutional crisis, beginning a potentially dangerous phase of an on-going three-cornered power struggle among three leaders
  2. At the centre of the crisis is the lack of clarity as the new Prime Minister seems to have been appointed without a constitutionally valid vacancy for the position
  3. The sudden developments in Sri Lanka have thrown into uncertainty the few steps that the country finally took this year to address post-war issues of transitional justice and rehabilitation, which it had committed to at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015

Constitutional provisions

  1. The constitutional provision that Mr. Sirisena has cited in the official letter to Mr. Wickremesinghe does not grant the President authority to remove a Prime Minister from office
  2. Section 42(4) of the Constitution merely enables the President to appoint a PM
  3. The President has taken the position that since he is the appointing authority, he also has the implicit power to sack the PM
  4. Mr. Wickremesinghe has dismissed the constitutional validity of the presidential action and has argued that he still commands a majority in Parliament
  5. His line of argument is that only Parliament has the constitutionally sanctioned authority to decide whether he could continue in office as PM or not
  6. It also suggests that as long as there is no no-confidence motion passed in Parliament against him and the cabinet, his position as PM cannot be invalidated by the President at his will

19th Constitutional Amendment 

  1. The argument seems to have derived its salience in the context of the 19th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, passed in 2015
  2. The 19th Amendment has restored the Westminster framework of the relationship between the head of state, the PM, and Parliament
  3. It curtailed powers of the President under the 1978 Constitution (the original) as well as the 18th Amendment passed in 2010
  4. Among the presidential powers taken away by the 19th Amendment, which is valid, is the one pertaining to the President’s powers over the PM
  5. The 19th Amendment, which created a dual executive, made the PM’s position secure from the arbitrary actions of the President
  6. Thus, the office of the PM falls vacant only under limited circumstances. Death, voluntary resignation, loss of support in Parliament, rejection by Parliament of the budget, and ceasing to be an MP are these circumstances
  7. Sacking by the President is certainly not in this list

Future of democracy uncertain

  1. What is in doubt is the constitutionality of a series of actions by Mr Sirisena
  2. And if they are valid at all, they set a bad precedent for future constitutional governance in Sri Lanka
  3. Contrary to the letter and spirit of the 19th Amendment, no PM will be secure in his/her position against arbitrary dismissal by the President
  4. These circumstances also warrant judicial intervention to resolve the constitutional doubt

Way forward

  1. The Sri Lankan presidency remains the country’s most powerful office despite the restrictions introduced by the 19th amendment of 2015
  2. Delhi, which had been openly relieved at Sirisena’s election, should be prepared to deal once again with a politician who describes India as an “elder brother” but appears to derive great pleasure from provoking India-China rivalry

With inputs from editorial: Storm in Colombo

Sri Lanka’s Constitution – Strides in the Right Direction

Nature pushed to the brink by ‘runaway consumption’, says WWF

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the Report

Mains level:  Read the attached story


News

Triggering another Mass Extinction

  1. Uncontrolled consumption has decimated global wildlife and has triggered a mass extinction and exhausted Earth’s capacity to accommodate humanity’s expanding appetites, warned WWF.
  2. From 1970 to 2014, 60% of all animals with a backbone — fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals — were wiped out by human activity.
  3. WWF said all this in its “Living Planet” report, based on an ongoing survey of more than 4,000 species spread over 16,700 populations scattered across the globe.

Statistics are Scary

  1. For freshwater fauna, the decline in population over the 44 years monitored was a staggering 80%.
  2. Regionally, Latin America was hit hardest, seeing a nearly 90% loss of wildlife over the same period.
  3. Another dataset confirmed the depth of an unfolding mass extinction event, only the sixth in the last half-billion years.
  4. Measured by weight, or biomass, wild animals today only account for 4% of mammals on Earth, with humans (36%) and livestock (60%) making up the rest.
  5. Back-to-back marine heatwaves have already wiped out up to half of the globe’s shallow-water reefs, which support a quarter of all marine life.

Before it’s too late

  1. Even if we manage to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius coral mortality will likely be 70 to 90% said the report.
  2. Half-a-century of conservation efforts have scored spectacular successes, with significant recoveries among tigers, manatees, grizzly bears, bluefin tuna and bald eagles.
  3. But the onslaught of hunting, shrinking habitat, pollution, illegal trade and climate change — all caused by humans has been too much to overcome, he acknowledged.
  4. This ‘great acceleration’ as termed by WWF is marked by exponential growth over the last 50 years in the use of energy, water, timber, fish, food, fertilizer, pesticides, minerals, plastic.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Maharashtra sets up Housing Corporation for PMAY

Note4Students

Mains Paper2: Governance| Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: MahaHousing Initiative

Mains level:  Housing for All


News

MahaHousing

  1. The Maharashtra state cabinet has approved the formation of MahaHousing (Maharashtra Housing Development Corporation), a dedicated housing corporation to implement the PMAY in the state.
  2. It plans to build 19.40 lakh houses by 2022.
  3. A separate mechanism was needed to speed up the process of building houses in the stipulated time frame.
  4. The projects are being implemented by the Housing Department, Maharashtra Affordable Housing and Development Authority (MHADA), and local civic bodies.
  5. The projects also include public-private partnership and joint ventures.
  6. Projects for economically backward classes, low income and middle income groups will get an FSI (floor Space index) of 2.5, while those in green zones or no-development zones will get 1 FSI.

Structure and Functioning

  1. MahaHousing will work till 2022, or till the time PMAY continues.
  2. The CM will be its president, while the Housing Minister will be the additional president.
  3. A non-government member will be joint president.
  4. A government-appointed CEO will work as its managing director. The entire staff of the corporation will be outsourced.
  5. Funding for MahaHousing will be raised from share investment by MHADA, Slum Rehabilitation Authority, Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd. and other interested government bodies.
  6. Besides, the corporation is allowed to raise money through loans from banks and financial institutions.
Housing for all – PMAY, etc.

Children under 15 at serious risk from polluted air: WHO

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: Details of WHO Report

Mains level: Impact of Air Pollution on Child Health


News

WHO report on Air Pollution and Child Health

  1. Every day about 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 (1.8 billion children) breathe polluted air that puts their health and development at serious risk, the WHO said in a new report.
  2. It attributed deaths of about 600,000 children under 15 years of age in 2016 to the joint effects of ambient and household air pollution.
  3. It reveals that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children.
  4. Air pollution also impacts neurodevelopment and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer.
  5. Children exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
  6. The report was published on WHO’s first ever global conference on Air Pollution and Health.

What makes children more Vulnerable?

  1. One reason why children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants.
  2. They also live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.
  3. In addition, newborns and small children are often at home.
  4. If the family is burning fuels like wood and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting, they would be exposed to higher levels of pollution.
Air Pollution

Odisha launches disaster alert system for its coast

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EWDS

Mains level: Need for Weather forecasting precision and vulnerability mapping of Coastal States


News

Context

  • The Odisha government has launched the Early Warning Dissemination System, the first-of-its-kind technology in India, to simultaneously warn coastal communities and fisherfolk about impending cyclone and tsunami through siren towers.

Early Warning Dissemination System (EWDS)

  1. The EWDS, a collaborative effort of the Central and State governments, has been implemented under the assistance of World Bank.
  2. It comprises technologies such as satellite-based mobile data voice terminals, digital mobile radio, mass messaging system and universal communication interface for interoperability.
  3. The innovative warning system would alert people about disasters such as floods and cyclone.
  4. Fishermen fishing in deep sea can also be reached via mass SMS on their mobile phones through EWDS.
  5. It is a part of the last-mile connectivity programme under National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project and aims to inform the last man living near the sea in case of an impending cyclone.
  6. Six coastal districts —Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Puri and Ganjam — have been covered under the EWDS.
  7. Sirens will go off from 122 towers installed along the 480-km-long coast of the State if a button is pressed in the State emergency centre in Bhubaneshwar.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] CCTN System

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CCTN System

Mains level: ICT initiatives to contain the crime and track criminals through a nationwide system


News

Context

  • The Union Home Ministry has inaugurated the two-day conference on “CCTNS–Good practices and Success Stories” organised by National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS)

  1. The CCTNS is a project under Indian government for creating a comprehensive and integrated system for effective policing through e-Governance.
  2. The system includes nationwide online tracking system by integrating more than 15,000 police stations across the country.
  3. The project is implemented by National Crime Records Bureau.
  4. The concept of CCTNS was first conceived in the year 2008 by the then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram in the aftermath of 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Functioning of CCTNS

  1. CCTNS aims to integrate all the data and records of crime into a Core Application Software (CAS), which is presently spreading across 29 states and 7 union territories of India.
  2. CAS was developed by the Bangalore based IT firm, Wipro.
  3. It needs to integrate different software and platforms followed by different states and to digitise records of those states which have not digitized their police records.
  4. The project also involves training of police personnel and setting up of citizen portal to provide services to citizens.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] CSIR develops Green Crackers and E-crackers

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Tackling air pollution with greener alternatives


News

Less Polluting Crackers

  1. CSIR scientists has developed Less Polluting Firecrackers which are not only environment friendly but 15-20 % cheaper than the conventional ones
  2. These crackers have been named as SWAS, SAFAL and STAR.
  3. It has unique property of releasing water vapour and /or air as dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions and matching performance in sound with conventional crackers.

I. SWAS (Safe Water Releaser)

  • SWAS crackers eliminates usage of (KNO3) Potassium nitrate and Sulphur with consequent reduction in particulate matter (30-35%) SO2 and NOx.
  • It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA.
  • STAR eliminates usage of KNO3 and S with consequent reduction in particulate matter (35-40%), SO2 and NOx. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA.
  • SWAS has been tested for shelf life upto 3 weeks with consistent performance.

II. SAFAL (Safe Minimal Aluminium)

  • SAFAL has minimal usage of aluminium (only in flash powder for initiation) with consequent significant reduction in particulate matter(35-40 %) compared to commercial crackers.
  • It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 110-115 dBA.
  • PESO has been approached to analyse and test SWAS/STAR/SAFAL from point of view of safety, stability and other related issues.
  • Also functional prototypes of flower pots for substitution of BaNO3 (Barium nitrate) by low cost eco-friendly materials have been developed with significant reduction in particulate matter (30-35%).

III. STAR (Safe Thermite Cracker)

  • STAR has the capability to eliminate the usage of KNO3 and S with a consequent reduction in particulate matter (35-40 per cent), SO2 and NOx.

E-Crackers

  1. CSIR-CEERI, being an electronics laboratory, is developing safe and pollution free technology of electronic crackers (E-crackers) to meet latent social aspiration of enjoying fireworks.
  2. It includes various products like E-Ladi, E-Anar, system for E-cracker show etc. At present CSIR-CEERI is ready with the laboratory level prototype of E-Ladi.
  3. E-Ladi is based on high-voltage electrostatic discharge to generate light/sound effect.
  4. It is triggered by providing heat to the thermal switch which will give the excitement of firing the conventional cracker.
  5. The E-Ladi is also programmable to give various light/sound effect.

Working of E-Ladi

  1. High voltage generator is capable of producing very high voltage using the concept of tesla coil.
  2. These pods are connected in parallel to achieve desired light/sound pattern.
  3. The controller block consists of a pulse generator and a solid state device based circuit to control the switching of these pods.
  4. The second version of this prototype will include compact form factor and thermal actuation arrangement.

Other developments

  • CSIR-NEERI has also planned to use area source control through development of new systems called PURE-WAYU as also photochip material for local dust control.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The importance of Asia-Europe cooperation

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: ASEM, ASEAN, G20, BRICS

Mains level: Relevance of ASEM in recent geopolitical situation


Context

ASEM 12th conference

  1. Recently, the two-day biennial 12th ASEM was held in Brussels
  2. Titled ‘Global Partners for Global Challenge’, it deliberated on how Asia and Europe could work together to safeguard and preserve multilateralism and issues relating to global commons through multilateral dialogues

About ASEM

  1. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is the highest platform for Asia-Europe dialogue
  2. Established in 1996, ASEM functions as an informal inter-governmental dialogue platform
  3. Through five rounds of expansion, it has registered a two-fold increase in membership, from 26 in 1996 to 53 in 2018
  4. ASEM’s potential lies in the fact that it encompasses 60% of the world population, more than half of global trade, and around two-thirds of global gross domestic product
  5. It consists of four United Nations Security Council members, all BRICS members except South Africa, and 12 of the G20 member states
  6. It also includes two regional organizations, the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Secretariat and the European Commission

India’s dialogue mechanism with Europe

  1. India’s cooperation with post-war Europe goes back to the 1950s when the European Union’s (EU’s) precursor, the European Economic Community, was established
  2. India has had its own summit mechanism with the EU from 2000, which was further consolidated with the 2004 India-EU strategic partnership agreement

Relevance of ASEM

  1. Ongoing shifts in global power and geo-economics, and convulsions in the liberal international order, make ASEM increasingly relevant
  2. Both Asia and Europe are wary of the uncertainties being created by the US
  3. Rising protectionist trade policies, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, and Trump’s disregard for multilateral dialogue pose significant common challenges
  4. Post-Brexit EU is likely to be more focused on Asia and recent trends indicate that it is keen to be more integrated with Asian growth
  5. The EU has recently released a policy document on fostering physical, economic, digital, and people-to-people connectivity between Asia and Europe
  6. Major European countries such as France and Germany are getting more involved in Asian security dynamics too

Opportunity for India

  1. Relations with both China and the US have been a tightrope walk for India
  2. China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) and Trump’s tariff barriers and H-1B visa issue are prime areas of concern for India
  3. ASEM countries should find common ground on trade liberalization and reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers
  4. Even on critical strategic issues with economic ramifications such as Iran, India, China, and the EU are largely on the same page
  5. The EU strategy is a good omen for Asian countries which have been looking for a rule-based and transparent multilateral cooperation mechanism that can yield quality investments for greater intra-regional, regional, and inter-regional connectivity

Way forward

  1. ASEM could play a key role in bringing Asian and European countries closer on a range of issues
  2. This is significant at a time when the US is disrupting the gains of globalization
Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

[op-ed snap] Protecting the central bank’s independence

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RBI roles, MPC

Mains level: Debate regarding the independence of RBI


Context

RBI deputy governor’s recent speech

  1. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor Viral Acharya’s A.D. Shroff Memorial Lecture was the second occasion within a month when he chose to deliver a strong message
  2. This time, it was on the importance of the central bank’s independence
  3. His earlier remarks at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, were focused on the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework

At the right time

  1. Acharya’s comments on the importance of the independence of central banks are timely as the issue is being widely debated globally
  2. US President Donald Trump has often criticized the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates
  3. European Central Bank president recently raised the issue of the threat to central banks’ independence from governments
  4. The most recent example of what can happen when the government obstructs the central bank is Turkey where government interference led to significant overheating in the economy and now requires painful adjustments

Difference in approaches

  1. The basic difference between the approach of a government and central bank is that the latter is not bound by short-term targets
  2. The government will always want the economy to grow at a faster rate
  3. But it’s the job of the central bank to have the “punch bowl” removed when the party starts warming up so that the economy remains on a sustainable growth path
  4. Use of its powers of money creation and setting the cost of money for short-term benefits can be disastrous for the economy

The importance of independence

  1. It is important that central banks have the institutional wherewithal to take independent decisions in order to be able to maintain price and financial stability
  2. It is also in the interest of the government that the central bank is seen as taking independent decisions as it may be able to reap the benefits of convincing voters about the importance of investing in macroeconomic stability
  3. Macroeconomic stability can only be attained by allowing the central bank autonomy in decision-making and delivery of its core functions

MPC framework & its results

  1. The present government got the legislation passed to make RBI an inflation targeting central bank with a monetary policy committee (MPC)
  2. The experience so far of adopting the flexible inflation targeting framework is encouraging
  3. If the MPC manages to keep inflation around the 4% mark in the medium term, it will significantly benefit the economy
  4. It will not only strengthen macroeconomic stability but will also lower borrowing cost with a reduction in inflation risk premium
  5. RBI has also done well by not diluting the mechanism for resolution of stressed assets and the PCA framework

Way forward

  1. Since they have become more powerful, and their decisions have wider implications for the public at large, central banks should be prepared to answer more questions
  2. They will have to constantly explain their position and convince financial markets that what they are doing is right for the economy, especially at a time when the basic premise of conducting monetary policy is being questioned
RBI Notifications

[op-ed snap] From Plate to Plough: Sardar’s unfinished task

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Food processing & related industries in India- scope & significance, location, upstream & downstream requirements, supply chain management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Operation Flood, White revolution

Mains level: Contribution of Sardar Patel in India’s freedom movement as well as the development of dairy sector


Context

The unveiling of the Statue of Unity

  1. On October 31, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil the world’s tallest statue, the “Statue of Unity,” in the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Patel’s contribution to Indian dairy farmers

  1. In 1942, safety concerns drove the colonial government to tap a private dairy, Polson, in order to procure milk from Kaira district in Gujarat and supply it to Bombay, some 350 km away, where the Britishers were stationed
  2. This marked the beginning of the government’s Bombay Milk Scheme (BMS) and the creation of a market for Kaira’s milk producers
  3. But this established Polson’s monopoly over the Bombay market, as a seller. Polson also became a monopsony, as a buyer from Kaira farmers
  4. As a monopolist and monopsonist, the company extracted large rents by squeezing the prices it offered the farmers, who approached Sardar Patel for help
  5. Patel urged them to organise cooperatives and cut supplies to Polson
  6. In 1945, agitated farmers held a 15-day strike against BMS. They spilled milk on the streets, instead of supplying it to Polson
  7. The Bombay market was opened for direct supply of milk from Kaira farmers. This access to a lucrative market incentivised farmers, and they formed the first farmers’ integrated dairy cooperative — the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union, which was registered in 1946

White Revolution in India

  1. Verghese Kurien, the father of the White Revolution, joined the cooperative as a general manager and set up the first processing plant at Anand to convert excess buffalo milk into milk powder and cheese — a technological wonder at that time
  2. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964  urged Kurien to spread the message of Kaira’s business model across India
  3. As a result, the architecture of “Operation Flood” was laid down, and a new institution, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), was formed on July 16, 1965, with Kurien as its chairman
  4. Kurien spearheaded the operation by compressing the value chain and scaling-up vertical coordination between farmers, processors and consumers through cooperatives
  5. He mobilised funds through sale proceeds of skimmed milk powder and butter donated by the European Economic Commission, loans from the World Bank, and subsidies from the government and invested them in strengthening the dairy value chain
  6. Operation Flood (1970-96) has had a significant impact on milk production

De-licensing of the dairy sector

  1. In 2002 that the dairy sector was fully de-licenced by the Central government
  2. This created competition and the processing capacity created by the private sector outstripped the cooperative’s capacity
  3. India is now the world’s largest milk producer

Concerns regarding processing and quality of milk

  1. The organised cooperatives and private sector are still processing less than a quarter of milk production in India
  2. Food safety concerns with regard to milk remain

Way forward

  1. Today, the farmers have to suffer low prices of farm produce, ranging from milk to pulses and oilseeds and cotton
  2. The government has announced minimum support prices (MSPs) based on a formula that gives at least 50 per cent margin over Cost A2+FL
  3. But, market prices remain 10 to 50 per cent below these MSPs
  4. The real tribute to Patel would be to carry out large-scale structural reforms in agri-markets that can ensure a higher percentage of the consumer’s rupee going to farmers, be it through cooperatives, or any other marketing channel
Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments