Bills/Act/LawsDOMRExplainedGovt. SchemesHistorical Sites in NewsIOCRMains Onlyop-ed of the dayop-ed snapPIBPlaces in newsPrelims OnlyPriority 1SC JudgementsSpecies in NewsStates in News
November 2018
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] The China-Pakistan love affair in troubled waters

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPEC, Belt & Road initiative

Mains level: New challenges for CPEC and Sino-Pak bilateral relations


Context

Strain in Sino-Pak relationship

  1. Recently, the Chinese consulate in Karachi came under attack with three gunmen trying to enter it and killing four people in the process
  2. The Balochistan Liberation Army took responsibility for the attack
  3. This attack is part of a series of assaults on Chinese projects and personnel in the restive province of Balochistan over the years as China’s footprint has grown in the region

Turmoil in Balochistan

  1. Balochistan sits at the very heart of the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China’s flagship investment project in Pakistan
  2. Despite being rich in minerals, gas and coal, Balochistan is Pakistan’s most impoverished region, resulting in perpetual political turmoil
  3. Baloch nationalists have gained traction by accusing Islamabad of pursuing exploitative policies and never giving the region its rightful share
  4. The ongoing tussle between security forces and Baloch nationalists has made the region’s security precarious, diminishing the region’s economic prospects

Importance of CPEC for Pak as well as China

  1. China has come up with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as part of which it plans to link its western Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan
  2. With a network of highways, railways and pipelines in conjunction with energy, industrial and other infrastructure development projects, the CPEC aims to enhance connectivity across Pakistan and as well as the country’s overall economic growth prospects
  3. CPEC is being talked about as a potential game changer as it could revive the economic profile of a region that has traditionally been an economic backwater
  4. The CPEC is as much about China’s growing strategic bond with Pakistan as it is about Beijing’s efforts to stem the growing tide of insurgency and radicalism from flowing into its own territory
  5. It is hoping that by generating economic growth and opportunities in Pakistan, it will be able to manage its troubled provinces

Challenges for CPEC increasing

  1. There is growing domestic political opposition in Pakistan—not only from Baloch nationalists but also due to widening differences between provinces and the central government—over the allocation of investments
  2. This has been exacerbated by Pakistan’s economic crisis, which has seen Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves rapidly depleting and the country facing a mounting balance-of-payments crisis, requiring about $12 billion to meet its liabilities
  3. CPEC has been blamed for part of this problem, with imports of heavy machinery and other equipment resulting in Pakistan’s massive trade deficit

Global challenges for China & Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is facing a difficult global environment on the whole
  2. Its relationship with the US has nosedived under the Donald Trump administration which has warned the International Monetary Fund against lending money to Pakistan, arguing that a bailout package could not be used to settle Chinese debts
  3. China is also coming under growing global criticism for its BRI projects with nations as diverse as Thailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Maldives all voicing complaints about the terms of the loans from China
  4. China’s debt trap diplomacy is facing a global pushback

Way forward

  1. Though Chinese interests have been repeatedly targeted over the years, Beijing so far has continued to repose its faith in the Pakistani government’s ability to manage the security situation so as to guarantee Chinese investment
  2. Recent attacks in Balochistan merely emphasize that challenges for CPEC and for the China-Pakistan economic relationship are only going to mount in the future
  3. Some kind of a reset in Sino-Pak engagement is inevitable

Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] A reinstated right to property will protect the poor

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Right to property, DPSP, Article 300-A

Mains level: Need for reinstating the right to property in India


Context

Demands for Right to Property

  1. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 seeks to correct a historical wrong cemented during the colonial era
  2. The lack of land rights has ensured that generations of tribal cultivators have got a raw deal from governments as well as banks
  3. Now there is a demand for property rights from the farmers from Maharashtra as well as other states

History of the right to property

  1. It is well known that the Indian Constitution originally recognized the right to property as a fundamental right
  2. That right came under attack beginning with the first amendment in 1951
  3. Many of the subsequent laws that undermined property rights were hidden away from judicial scrutiny in the Ninth Schedule
  4. Another big blow came during the epic legal battles after the nationalization of banks in 1969
  5. The Morarji Desai government eventually scrapped the fundamental right to property with the forty-fourth amendment in 1978
  6. In its place came Article 300-A that makes it possible for a citizen to be dispossessed without compensation through an act of legislation

Reasoning for scrapping right to property

  1. Successive governments chipped away at the right to property by arguing that it was an obstacle in the way of pursuing the social justice agenda embedded in the directive principles of state policy
  2. Consider the issue of farmland
  3. It was very unequally divided when India became an independent country because of the colonial institution of zamindari
  4. The estates kept growing in size as indebted peasants were dispossessed after loan defaults
  5. The implicit assumption all the way till the right to property was removed from the list of fundamental rights was that it was essentially a concern of the rich
  6. The poor had little stake in property rights

Need for reinstatement

  1. First, the poor have neither the legal resources nor the political heft to fight laws or administrative orders that allow governments to take over their land
  2. Second, the poor do not have enough opportunities to make a living in formal jobs in case they are forcibly separated from their property

Advantages of giving property rights

  1. There is now a lot of research that shows how property rights help the poor
  2. The security of property provides incentives for a small farmer to invest in his land or a slum dweller to spend on basic infrastructure
  3. Secure property rights allow the poor to raise capital by offering the property as collateral to formal lenders
  4. The poor also have a stake in better property rights—from land titling to legal safeguards

Way forward

  1. Property rights today are a tool of inclusion rather than exclusion
  2. Its reinstatement discussion needs to enter the mainstream of Indian policy discourse

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] The three bin solution

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various laws for waste management in India and the need for segregating hazardous waste from household waste


Context

Need for better solid waste management

  1. With changing lifestyles, our homes are awash with different chemicals and products which, often without us being aware, are corrosive, explosive, flammable or toxic
  2. These are dangerous wastes that need to be kept out of the wet and dry waste streams
  3. They are harmful not only for our health but also for the environment if not disposed of properly

Lead exposure risk

  1. Leftover paints and varnishes are examples of common polluting wastes in homes
  2. They often contain toxic heavy metals and flammable solvents
  3. Lead, a highly toxic metal, is found in lead-based paints which are often used on walls, toys and art supplies
  4. Young children are particularly vulnerable as even low levels of lead exposure can cause cognitive disabilities in children
  5. WHO lists lead exposure as one of the top 10 environmental health threats globally
  6. Many countries have phased out lead from their paints. In November 2016
  7. India brought in a regulation which allowed a maximum of 90 ppm lead content in paints
  8. A study by Toxic Links published in October 2018 shows that the concentration of lead in paints manufactured by small and medium enterprises in India remains very high
  9. They found paint samples with as high as 199,345 ppm lead content — more than 2,000 times the maximum limit

Rules for safe disposal of different kinds of wastes

  1. There are rules galore for domestic hazardous waste with quite a bit of overlap in coverage for different types of waste
  2. Domestic hazardous waste comes under the ambit of Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016
  3. Hazardous waste generated by industries and large offices is separately covered under the Hazardous Waste Rules 2016
  4. Some biomedical waste is included in the definition of domestic hazardous waste, but only waste from healthcare establishments is covered under the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules 2016
  5. Similarly E-waste Management Rules 2016 are applicable to e-waste including computers, printers, TV, fluorescent and other mercury-containing lamps, while lead acid batteries from home inverters and cars come under Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules 2001

Weak implementation

  1. It is the responsibility of the municipal authorities under the SWM Rules 2016, to collect hazardous waste quarterly or periodically, and/or set up deposit centres, where such waste can be dropped off by waste generators
  2. The authorities must also ensure safe storage of the waste and its transportation to the hazardous waste disposal facility
  3. But the rules lose their significance because there are hardly any deposit centres for domestic hazardous waste
  4. The Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016 require safe disposal of only healthcare waste
  5. While only 10-25 per cent of biomedical waste is infectious or hazardous, if not properly handled, it presents the physical, chemical and microbiological risk to the general population as well as those who handle this waste
  6. Discarded hazardous medical waste leads to the unintended release of drug-resistant microorganisms in the environment

Drug resistance increasing

  1. According to the WHO, in 2016, 490,000 persons developed multi-drug resistant TB globally and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well
  2. A WHO report also shows that there were 65,000 cases of multidrug-resistant and Rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis in India in 2017

Way forward

  1. With changing lifestyles, our homes are awash with different chemicals and products which, often without us being aware, are corrosive, explosive, flammable or toxic
  2. These are dangerous wastes that need to be kept out of the wet and dry waste streams
  3. They are harmful not only for our health but also for the environment if not disposed of properly
  4. People should start keeping three bins for waste: Dry, wet and hazardous

Tax Reforms

Govt moves to redraft Direct Tax Laws to modernize income tax

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Direct and indirect taxes

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

  • The government will take a fresh look at modernizing the Income Tax Act, 1961, after an earlier effort by a six-member task force got derailed.

New propositions

  1. The new direct tax law is expected to make taxation more progressive, wherein the tax burden will be higher on those with better payment capacity.
  2. This approach was evident in the government’s choice of tax rates when it reformed indirect taxation by ushering in the goods and services tax (GST).
  3. Luxury items are subject to the highest rate of 28%-plus cess and mass use items are either exempted or are kept in the 5% GST slab, although a four-slab system risked making GST more complex.

Issue over Inheritance Tax

  1. The task force is however, unlikely to propose the difficult-to-implement inheritance tax.
  2. Although it may be easier to say that one should tax the rich more, implementing an inheritance tax is complex.
  3. It can only lead to high-income earners getting resettled elsewhere.

Other Measures

  1. The union government has appointed a task force, which will advise the government on drafting a new direct tax law that suits India’s economic requirements.
  2. The government has so far attempted to phase out corporate tax concessions, reduce corporate tax rates for small businesses to 25% and give relief to small income earners by lowering tax rates.
  3. The government also plugged some of the massively abused loopholes in the bilateral tax treaties with Mauritius to prevent tax-evaded money coming back into the country in the form of foreign direct investment.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Why gene editing of babies is problematic

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR-Cas9, Gene editing

Mains level: Gene editing, its advantages and issues involved.


News

Context

  • Recently a Chinese researcher created an international sensation with his claim that he had altered the genes of a human embryo that eventually resulted in the birth of twin girls.
  • If proven, it would be the first instance of human offspring having been produced with specific desired attributes, using newly-developed tools of gene “editing”.
  • In the case of the new-born Chinese babies, the genes were claimed to be “edited” to ensure that they do not get infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Gene editing

  1. Genes contain the bio-information that defines any individual.
  2. Physical attributes like height, skin or hair colour, more subtle features and even behavioral traits can be attributed to information encoded in the genetic material.
  3. An ability to alter this information gives scientists the power to control some of these features.
  4. Gene “editing” — sometimes expressed in related, but not always equivalent, terms like genetic modification, genetic manipulation or genetic engineering — is not new.
  5. It is widely practised in agriculture, to increase productivity or resistance to diseases, etc.
  6. But even in agriculture, genetic modification is a subject of major debate, especially in developing countries, including India.

CRISPR Technology

  1. CRISPR (short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology is a new and the most efficient, tool for gene “editing” developed in the last one decade.
  2. The technology replicates a natural defence mechanism in bacteria to fight virus attacks, using a special protein called Cas9.
  3. CRISPR-Cas9 is a simple, effective, and incredibly precise technology.

How it works?

  1. CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanism on DNA strands that contain genetic information.
  2. The specific location of the genetic codes that need to be changed, or “edited”, is identified on the DNA strand, and then, using the Cas9 protein, which acts like a pair of scissors, that location is cut off from the strand.
  3. A DNA strand, when broken, has a natural tendency to repair itself.
  4. Scientists intervene during this auto-repair process, supplying the desired sequence of genetic codes that binds itself with the broken DNA strand.

Loopholes in Gene Editing

  1. The technology was used to solve a problem potential infection to HIV that already has alternative solutions and treatments.
  2. It was not necessary to tamper with the genetic material, which can have unintended, and as yet unknown, consequences.
  3. There is no way to verify the claims or whether the “editing” was carried out in the proper manner.
  4. The technology is extremely precise, but not 100% precise every time.
  5. There is a possibility that some other genes also get targeted. In such scenarios, unintended impacts cannot be ruled out.
  6. If regulatory approvals were obtained, then there will be data and information gaps about the experiment.

Ethical uses

  1. The most promising use of the CRISPR technology is in treatment of diseases.
  2. For example, in sickle cell anaemia, a single gene mutation makes the blood sickle-shaped.
  3. This mutation can be reversed using gene editing technology.
  4. In such cases, the genetic codes of just one individual are being changed to cure a disease.

Ethics at Stake

  1. Gene “editing” capabilities now exist with hundreds of researchers and laboratories across the world.
  2. Tampering with the genetic code in human beings is more contentious.
  3. Leading scientists in the field have for long been calling for a “global pause” on clinical applications of the technology in human beings, until internationally accepted protocols are developed.

Core of the Issue

  1. The Chinese researcher has done is to edit the genes of an embryo. Such a change would be passed on to the offspring.
  2. The aforesaid experiment has been basically making changes in the genome of the next generation.
  3. If we allow this, nothing stops people with access to CRISPR technology to produce babies with very specific traits.
  4. There is this highly problematic issue of trying to produce “designer” babies or human beings.

RBI Notifications

RBI can transfer Rs 1-lakh crore to govt: report

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Debate regarding the independence of RBI


News

  • The Reserve Bank of India has “more than adequate” reserves and that it can transfer over Rs 1-lakh crore to the government after a specially constituted panel identifies the “excess capital”.

Background

  1. Multiple reports had claimed that the government is eyeing the extra cash which will help it in the run-up to the elections.
  2. This comes amidst falling GST collections and little borrowing window left for the government, as it has already used up close to 96 percent of borrowings as of end October.
  3. By taking the money from the RBI, the government will only increase its fiscal deficit, as it will have to issue bonds to the central bank.
  4. The government for the second year in a row has pegged fiscal deficit at 3.3 per cent of GDP this fiscal year.

Excess Capital from RBI

  1. The proposed committee on the RBI’s economic capital framework (ECF) to identify Rs 1-3 lakh crore which is 0.5-1.6 per cent of GDP as excess capital.
  2. As per its stress tests, the central bank can transfer Rs 1-lakh crore to the government if the transfer is limited to passing excess contingency reserve.
  3. It can go up to Rs 3-lakh crore if the total capital is included.
  4. It further said this level will be 75 per cent higher than the average of BRICS economies, excluding India.

Statutory Provisions for Transfer

  1. The statutes do not prohibit transfer of excess capital to the government, pointing out that the RBI Act places no bar as long as government maintains Rs 5 crore of reserve funds under Sec 46 of the RBI Act.
  2. While Section 47 enjoins the RBI to credit its annual surplus to the national exchequer, after provisions, it does not place any restrictions on further transfers.
  3. The RBI’s contingency reserves at 7 percent are higher than the BRICS (excluding India) average of 2 per cent.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] Logix India 2019

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Logix India

Mains level:  Logistics sector of India


News

  • Union Minister of Commerce & Industry has launched the logo and brochure of Logix India 2019.

Logix India 2019

  1. The logistics event is being organized by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) as a major initiative to improve logistics cost effectiveness and operational efficiencies for India’s global trade.
  2. Over 20 countries are sending delegations to explore logistics partnerships with India and FIEO is focusing on logistical solutions for difficult to reach markets.
  3. Over 100 international delegates are expected to attend Logix India 2019.
  4. FIEO will also focus on investment opportunities in infrastructure development, warehouse consolidation, technology integration and IT enablement and skilling of manpower at the three-day meet.
  5. Logix India will enable effective international trade logistics and help provide efficient and cost-effective flow of goods on which other commercial sectors depend.

India’s Logistics Sector

  1. India ranked 44 in the World Bank Logistics Performance Index 2018.
  2. As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, India’s logistics industry which is worth around USD 160 billion is likely to touch USD 215 billion in the next two years.
  3. This sector provides employment to more than 22 million people and is expected to grow at the rate of 10.5 per cent over the next 5 years.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

[pib] Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti

Mains level: India’s indigenous defence industry


News

  • Raksha Mantri has launched ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’ which showcases salient inventions and innovations achieved by DRDO, Defence PSUs and Ordnance Factories (OFs).

Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti

  1. As part of the ongoing initiatives to enhance self-reliance in defence, the Department of Defence Production has instituted a new framework titled ‘Mission Raksha GyanShakti’ which aims to provide a boost to the IPR culture in indigenous defence industry.
  2. The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) has been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and implementing the programme.
  3. The event brought out that the end objective of ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’ is to inculcate IP culture in Indian defence manufacturing ecosystem.
  4. The IPR has emerged as a key ingredient of an ecosystem which stimulates innovation and ingenuity.

Defense IPRs in India

  1. An IP Facilitation Cell was established in April this year which has worked tirelessly to achieve ambitious targets of training 10,000 personnel of OFB and DPSUs on IPR and to facilitate filing of at least 1,000 new IPR applications.
  2. This has resulted in successful filing of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) applications.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[pib] NPCC is now a Miniratna

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NPCC

Mains level: Contribution of India’s PSUs


News

  • National Projects Construction Corporation Limited (NPCC) has been conferred with the status of Miniratna: Category –I by the Government of India.

About NPCC

  1. NPCC, a schedule ‘B’ CPSE under the administrative control of Ministry of Water Resources RD & GR, has also been awarded ISO 9001:2015 Certification.
  2. The Corporation, incorporated in 1957, is a premier construction company having mandate with creation of infrastructure to provide impetus for economic development of the country.
  3. The Corporation is making continuous profit since 2009-10,  having positive networth for the last six years and has ambitious business plan with enhanced order book position of Rs. 11833 crore.
  4. The empowerment of Miniratna Status to NPCC will help the company in taking speedy decisions by enhancing the delegation of powers to the Board.