June 2018
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[op-ed snap] Managing the turbulence in India-US relations

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CAATSA, 2+2 dialogue

Mains level: Secondary sanctions policy of the US and its possible impacts on India


Context

Hard times for India-US relationship

  1. The US has asked all countries, including India, to reduce oil imports from Iran to zero by 4 November
  2. If India fails to do this, its companies will face the same sanctions as any other violator of this American diktat
  3. This comes against the backdrop of more potential friction building up between the two countries
  4. India is in the process of purchasing S400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia which could mean more sanctions for New Delhi, as per a US law called “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA)
  5. In addition to these issues, US President Donald Trump has been quite vocal about the tariffs imposed by India on American goods
  6. Also, the proposed 2+2 dialogue has been canceled unilaterally by the US

What can India do in these turbulent times?

  1. India needs to make a clear distinction between the sanctions that it will face on account of importing oil from Iran and those that will result from India’s defense partnership with Russia
  • There are many private companies involved in the process of importing oil from Iran, primarily in the shipping, insurance and refinery sectors which by the fear of being cut off from the US will most likely pull out of Iran
  • By hurting India’s defense acquisitions from Russia, the US is putting itself in the line of fire as India is the world’s largest arms importer and the US has made rapid strides in this market in the past decade. Future deals with the US could be affected by this move
  • American objectives are far clearer in the case of Iran where Mr. Trump wants to significantly degrade Iranian capabilities to acquire nuclear weapons and to interfere in other countries in the region

What is the US policy?

  1. American sanctions are always more effective in countries which are economically integrated with America than those which are not
  2. The US uses its economic and military links as leverage in its non-proliferation goals
  3. The US seeks the support of other countries to build a tighter multilateral sanctions regime
  4. When this support doesn’t come voluntarily, the US uses secondary sanctions to extract coerced support from other countries
  5. Being cut off from the American market and financial system is too high a cost to pay for defending a country like Iran

Way forward

  1. India’s acquisition of Russian-made S400 missile systems can be managed at the level of the government and public sector, with little role for private companies
  2. This suggests that India should stay firm on the S400 deal
  3. On Iran, New Delhi may not be left with many options
  4. The Indian response will have to be in light of the American threat of secondary sanctions for importing Iranian oil
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Monsoon covers country fortnight early

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Monsoon dynamics, westerly winds, western disturbances

Mains level: Role played by the monsoon in Indian economy


News

Early monsoon arrival

  1. The Southwest monsoon has now covered the entire country, a fortnight ahead of its normal schedule of mid-July
  2. This has happened for the first time since 2015

Monsoon advance in India

  1. The monsoon trough will lie over the Himalayan foothills in the first week of July
  2. There was strong interaction between monsoon currents and dry westerly winds, which brought thundershowers and revived monsoon
  3. This was also supported by strong western disturbances, making the advance quicker
Monsoon Updates

IMF suggests India three steps to sustain high growth rate

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Monetary Fund

Mains level: Steps that need to be taken to sustain high growth momentum in India


News

Projections for India

  1. The International Monetary Fund suggested India can sustain high growth rate by carrying out banking sector reforms, simplifying and streamline GST, and renewing impetus on reforms
  2. Growth is projected at 7.4% in FY 2018-19 and 7.8 percent in FY 19-20, respectively

Suggested measures

To revive a bank credit and enhance the efficiency of credit provision

  • by accelerating the cleanup of the bank and corporate balance sheets and enhancing the governance of public sector banks

To continue fiscal consolidation and to lower elevated public debt levels

  • This needs to be supported by simplifying and streamlining the goods and services tax (GST) structure

Over the medium-term, renew impetus to reforms of key markets

  • Labor and land, as well as improving the overall business climate would be crucial to improving competitiveness maintaining high level of growth in India
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

Global funding watchdog hands 10-point plan to Pakistan

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FATF

Mains level: International initiatives to combat terror financing and black money


News

FATF action on Pakistan

  1. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has unanimously agreed to put into effect its February decision to place Pakistan in the greylist for inaction against terror funding
  2. It has laid out a 10-point action plan for compliance with its guidelines
  3. Pakistan’s failure in implementing the elaborate action plan may result in it being included in the blacklist next year

Important highlights of the plan

  1. The country has been instructed to take measures demonstrating that UN-designated terrorists and banned terror outfits are deprived of their resources and their sources of funding are choked
  2. Pakistan will have to take steps to ensure that terror funding risks are properly identified, assessed and that supervision is applied on a risk-sensitive basis
  3. It will also be required to show that remedial measures are being taken to prevent financial institutions from indulging in money laundering and terror funding
  4. The country will have to take stringent action against illegal financial operations, identify cash couriers and enforce controls on illicit movement of currency

Back2Basics

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  1. FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdiction
  2. The FATF is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas
  3. The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system
  4. The FATF has developed a series of Recommendations that are recognised as the international standard for combating of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  5. The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally
  6. The FATF’s decision-making body, the FATF Plenary, meets three times per year
Black Money – Domestic and International Efforts

RBI steps in as rupee hits record low

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RBI tools for maintaining the value of rupee, current vs capital account convertibility

Mains level: Impact of global factors on the price of Indian currency & overall economy


News

Rupee hits a record low

  1. The rupee breached the 69-a-dollar mark for the first time ever in early trade
  2. This prompted the central bank to intervene in the currency market that enabled the domestic unit to cut losses
  3. It is estimated to have sold dollars about $700-800 million through state-owned banks

Reasons for fall of rupee

  1. Rising crude oil prices
  2. Looming trade war fears
  3. Capital outflows from the emerging markets
  4. Markets were partly under pressure due to the derivatives expiry

RBI intervention

  1. India’s $ 413 billion foreign exchange reserves act as a cushion
  2. RBI intervenes to cut volatility in currency prices

Back2Basics

Read more about Capital & Current account convertibility here:

Capital and Current Account Convertibility in India

Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

Rising temperature to cut living standards of 600 million Indians

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Actual impact of climate change on India in coming years


News

One-third Indians at risk

  1. Six hundred million Indians could see a dip in living standards by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise at their current pace
  2. India’s average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1°C to 2°C by 2050, even if preventive measures are taken along the lines of those recommended by the Paris climate change agreement of 2015
  3. If no measures are taken, average temperatures in India are predicted to increase by 1.5°C to 3°C

Impact on states

  1. Seven of the 10 severest or most vulnerable ‘hotspots’ in India would be located in Maharashtra
  2. The rest would be in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
  3. In the absence of major climate mitigation, nearly 148 million Indians will be living in these severe hotspots in 2050

Basis for study

  1. Economists at the World Bank correlated these climate projections with household consumption data (a proxy for living standards) in Nepal, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and extrapolated it to 2050
  2. Using publicly available climate models that project how rising temperatures will affect rainfall and seasons, the researchers conclude that if emissions continued at the current pace, India could see a 1.5% decline in its GDP by 2030
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Development without Felling/Cutting of Trees

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NBCC

Mains level: Example of re-location and transplantation of trees at mass level 


News

  1. Last weekend, over 1,500 people protested in South Delhi against the proposed cutting of over 14,000 trees for a project by the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC).
  2. The NBCC/CPWD will re-work the design and plans for the remaining redevelopment of the 7 GPRA colonies to avoid felling/cutting of trees.

Tree Re-location and Transplantation

  1. NBCC has already floated an Expression of Interest for the acquisition of tree re-location/transplantation equipment and for engaging services of trained professional entities in this respect.
  2. Further, Citizens groups will be invited to suggest where transplanted trees will be planted.
  3. It may be clarified that these will not be saplings but trees of 8-12 feet height.
  4. The LG of Delhi has been advised to set up a Group of Experts/concerned citizens to interact on environmental issues and for specific further actions to be taken in respect of these colonies.

Back2Basics

National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC)

  1. It is a Navratna organization under category I, is a Central Public Sector undertaking which trades publicly in the market and is largely owned by Government of India.
  2. It engages in the Real Estate Development & Construction business and also provides Project Management Consultancy.
  3. NBCC has also undertaken overseas projects in countries like Iraq, Libya, Nepal, Mauritius, Turkey, Botswana, Republic of Maldives, Republic of Yemen et al.
  4. NBCC is also designated as the implementing agency for executing projects under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY), Solid Waste Management (SWM) and developmental work in North Eastern Region.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] NITI Aayog to Release First Delta Ranking under the Aspirational Districts Programme

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aspirational District Programme, Delta Ranking

Mains level: Read the attached story.


 News

Delta Ranking

  1. NITI Aayog will release the First Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme
  2. The ranking will measure the incremental progress made by districts between March 31, 2018, and May 31, 2018.
  3. The districts have been ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure through 49 key performance indicators.
  4. The rankings are publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
  5. The Delta ranking seeks to highlight the Districts who have achieved incremental progress between the months of March 2018 and May 2018.

Back2Basics

Aspirational District Programme

  1. The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is a essential retreat from India’s previous development strategies in its ownership, scope, and scale based on “One-size-fits-all” approach.
  2. 115 districts were chosen by senior officials of the Union government in consultation with State officials on the basis of a composite index of the following:
  • deprivation enumerated under the Socio-Economic Caste Census,
  • key health and education performance indicators and the state of basic infrastructure
  1. A minimum of one district was chosen from every State.
  2. The areas under the programme that have been targeted for transformation are education, health and nutrition, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, basic infrastructure and skills.
  3. There is no financial package or large allocation of funds to this programme
  4. Its aim is to leverage the resources of the several government programmes that already exist but are not always used efficiently.
NITI Aayog’s Assessment

[pib] Cabinet approves capital infusion in Export Credit Guarantee Corporation Ltd.

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ECGC

Mains level: Various initiatives by government to boost trade and exports 


News

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the capital infusion of Rs.2000 crore for strengthening of  Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC)

How will it benefit?

  1. The infusion would enhance insurance coverage to MSME exports and strengthen India’s exports to emerging and challenging markets like Africa, CIS and Latin American countries.
  2. With enhanced capital, ECGC’s underwriting capacity and risk to capital ratio will improve considerably.
  3. With a stronger underwriting capacity, ECGC will be in a better position to support Indian exporters to tap new and unexplored markets.
  4. Increased capital infusion will help ECGC to diversify its product portfolio and provide cost effective credit insurance helping exporters to gain a stronger foothold in the difficult markets.
  5. Covers from ECGC will help in improving competitive position of India exporters in International markets.
  6. More than 85% of customers benefitted by ECGC’s covers are MSMEs.

 Back2Basics

Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India (ECGC)

  1. The ECGC Limited is a company wholly owned by the Government of India based in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  2. It provides export credit insurance support to Indian exporters to facilitate exports from the country and is controlled by the Ministry of Commerce, GoI.
  3. The ECGC offers credit insurance schemes to exporters to protect them against losses due to non-payment of export dues by overseas buyers due to political and / or commercial risks.
  4. ECGC covers exports to around 200 countries in the world.
  5. The ECGS:
  • Offers insurance protection to exporters against payment risks
  • Provides guidance in export-related activities
  • Makes available information on different countries with its own credit ratings
  • Makes it easy to obtain export finance from banks/financial institutions
  • Assists exporters in recovering bad debt
  • Provides information on credit-worthiness of overseas buyers
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Centre proposes new body to replace UGC

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: Particulars of the draft HECI, UGC, TSR Subramanian Committee Reforms

Mains level: Considering the ineffectiveness of UGC, the idea of setting up HECI has come forward to improve the scope of regulation of Educational Institutions.


 News

The Centre has placed in the public domain a draft Bill for a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) – aimed at replacing the University Grants Commission – for eliciting suggestions from educationists.

Draft Higher Education Commission of India – a Regulator

  1. HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology.
  2. The draft HECI India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018, takes away funding powers from the proposed regulator and gives it powers to ensure academic quality and even close down bogus institutions.
  3. HECI will be in charge of ensuring academic quality in universities and colleges, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) – or another mechanism that will be put in place later – will be responsible for funding universities and colleges.
  4. Once UGC is replaced by HECI, the technical education regulator AICTE and the teachers’ education regulator NCTE will also be reformed on similar lines.
  5. The new regime separates the academic and funding aspects of higher education.

Shutting Bogus Institutions

  1. The Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions.
  2. It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law (including state list).
  3. Non-compliance could result in fines or even a jail sentence.
  4. Till now, the UGC had no such powers. All it could do was to release a list of bogus institutions and not recognise their degrees.

Who will be the new staff?

  1. UGC staff would be retrained to adapt to the HECI regime, which will be fully digital and would do away with file work.
  2. The HECI will have a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 12 other members, including ex-officio members, eminent academics and a doyen of industry.

Back2Basics

UGC (University Grants Commission)

  1. The University Grants Commission of India (UGC India) is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  2. The UGC has two primary responsibilities:
  • providing funds to educational institutions; and
  • coordinating, determining and maintaining standards in institutions of higher education.

Its main functions are:

  • promoting and coordinating education in universities,
  • determining and maintaining standards for teaching, examination and research in universities,
  • framing regulations on minimum standards for education,
  • disbursing grants to universities and colleges,
  • liaising between the CG, State governments and higher educational institutions, and
  • advising the CG and State governments on possible policy measures to improve higher education in India.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Additional 6.5MMT Strategic Petroleum Reserves at Chandikhol in Odisha and at Padur, Karnataka

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Locations of SPR

Mains level: Initiatives for ensuring energy security


 News

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of additional 6.5 Million Metric Tonne (MMT) Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facilities at two locations, i.e. Chandikhol in Odisha and Padur in Karnataka, including construction of dedicated SPMs (Single Point Mooring) for the two SPRs.
  2. The SPR facilities at Chandikhol and Padur will be underground rock caverns and will have capacities of 4 MMT and 2.5 MMT respectively.

Generating more employment through PPP

  1. The in-principle approval is to take up the project under PPP model to reduce budgetary support of Government of India.
  2. The terms and conditions of such participation would be determined by M/oP&NG in consultation with Ministry of Finance after conducting road shows to elicit requirements of the market, including prospective investors.
  3. The construction phase of the SPRs is likely to generate significant direct & indirect employment opportunities in the states of Odisha and Karnataka.

Back2Basics

Strategic Petroleum Reserve Programme

  1. The Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve (ISPR) is an emergency fuel store.
  2. Strategic crude oil storages are at 3 underground locations in Mangalore, Visakhapatnam and Padur (near Udupi).
  3. All these are located on the east and west coasts of India which are readily accessible to the refineries.
  4. These strategic storages are in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and serve in response to external supply disruptions.
  5. FM Arun Jaitley in his 2017-18 budget speech has announced that two more such caverns will be set up Chandikhole in Jajpur district of Odisha and Bikaner in Rajasthan as part of the second phase.
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

[pib] 500th death anniversary of the great saint and poet, Kabir

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Philosophy of Kabir and Kabir Panth

Mains level: Role of Kabir and various other saints during Bhakti Movement.


News

Sant Kabir

  1. Kabir was a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement and his verses are found in Sikhism’s scripture Guru Granth Sahib.
  2. His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu bhakti leader Ramananda.
  3. Kabir is known for being critical of both Hinduism and Islam, stating that the former was misguided by the Vedas, and questioning their meaningless rites of initiation such as the sacred thread and circumcision respectively.
  4. Kabir suggested that True God is with the person who is on the path of righteousness, considered all creatures on earth as his own self, and who is passively detached from the affairs of the world.
  5. Kabir’s legacy survives and continues through the Kabir Panth (“Path of Kabir”), a religious community that recognizes him as its founder and its members are known as Kabir panthis.
  6. Kabir’s poetry is very famous in popular culture as ‘Dohas’.
History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] Ujjwala Revolution

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: Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Mains level: Success of Ujjwala Yojana


 News

Adoption of LPG has received a boost

  1. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) has completed two years of operation.
  2. During this time the number of LPG connections has crossed 4 crore, and LPG penetration in India has risen from 56% in 2014 to 80%.
  3. It is worth considering the usage pattern of PMUY customers who have been in the system for a year or more and have been buying four or more cylinders a year.

Proved by IOCL Data

  1. Data from the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), which has given out almost half of the Ujjwala connections, suggest that between May 2016 and April 2017, IOCL enrolled 85.47 lakh Ujjwala customers.
  2. From May 2016 to April 2018, the average cylinder consumption of these customers was 4.4 per year, including the installation cylinder.
  3. One in five Ujjwala customers who enrolled in May 2016 is using seven cylinders annually, thus matching the national per capita consumption of 6.8 cylinders in 2017-18.

Role of “Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat”

  1. By sharing the vision of early adopters and ironing out service issues, the LPG Panchayats being held at village levels across India are helping more and more people appreciate the advantages of clean fuel.
  2. The adoption of LPG has received a boost with supplies ramping up and service improving.

Increased LPG Distributors

  1. In April 2014, there were 13,896 LPG distributors across India. This number is now 20,227.
  2. Another 3,750 distributorships will be commissioned in 2018-19.
  3. Similarly, the loan deferment policy, which has allowed the recovery of loan amounts from Ujjwala customers, has been deferred for their next six refills starting April 1, 2018.
  4. This allows customers to avail of the subsidy during this period.

Back2Basics

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

  1. PMUY is a welfare scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to provide LPG connections to families below the poverty line, guided by the strong commitment to bring about changes in the life of poor women and also protect their health
  2. Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is used to identify the beneficiaries (adult woman of a BPL family) and is given a deposit free LPG connection with a financial assistance of Rs.1600 per connection by the centre
  3. This scheme will help prevent pollution and facilitate the healthy atmosphere in the families of poor people.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Target incomes, not prices

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct & indirect farm subsidies & minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: The newscard highlights the drawbacks in MSP policies


Context

Bumper harvest last year- a no mean achievement

  1. Good rains, excessive sowing and the bumper harvest last year produced gluts in the market that sent the prices of many crops, and therefore farm incomes, crashing.
  2. None of the economic tools available for protecting farm incomes — the price support scheme, the price stabilisation fund and the market intervention scheme — was employed to the best advantage.
  3. Quick and precise adjustments to the export and import rules could have arrested the price fall by diverting the excess supplies to overseas markets.
  4. But the changes required were not carried out in time. Instead, inflows of imports were allowed to go on, which worsened the price situation.

MSP issue

  1. This year’s Budget promised that the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) would be at least 150% of production costs, a longstanding demand of farmers and recommendation of experts.
  2. Even if the market prices fall below the MSP, as they did for major Kharif crops in 2017, the government will procure the produce on MSP.
  3. And if it does not procure, it will provide a mechanism to ensure payments, equal to the gap between the MSP and the market price, would reach farmers.
  4. The intention of assuring 50% profit margin over the cost of production is to make farming remunerative.
  5. On the formula for calculating production costs for plugging into the MSP formula, farmer groups and the government are not as yet on the same page.
  6. But howsoever production costs are calculated, simply announcing higher MSPs will not raise farmer incomes. The system is not geared for scaling up procurement.

Procurement Issue

  1. For several crops last year, the quantities procured were small portions of the total produce.
  2. Although MSPs are announced for more than 20 crops, noteworthy procurement is conducted for three: paddy, wheat and sugarcane.
  3. Further, procurement frequently takes places at prices below the MSP, as is happening this year, according to reports.
  4. Finally, small and vulnerable farmers usually do not get paid MSPs at all, as they sell their produce to aggregators, not directly in mandis.

Ignoring Economics as a whole

  1. In these circumstances, and given an imminent general election, the government is likely to take recourse to payments compensating for the difference between market prices and the MSP to appear farmer-friendly.
  2. In principle, it is only right and fair that the government pay reparations to farmers. The gluts, depressed market prices and mounting farmer losses are a direct consequence of the malfunction in agri-pricing policies.
  3. But price differential payments, no matter what mechanism is used for calculating and distributing them, would be yet another example of economic policies that get drafted purely on political appeal, without full grasp of the underlying economic principle, and backfire badly.

Ground situation: a Demand-supply mismatch

  1. The MSP of paddy for the 2018-19 kharif season will have to be raised 11-14%, cotton 19-28%, and jowar 42-44% if the MSP pricing formula of 1.5 times the cost is employed.
  2. A rational response of farmers looking at this menu of MSPs would be to sow more jowar in the next season. The promise of profits is greatest for jowar and it will unwittingly lead to increased jowar production.
  3. There’s no reason the demand for jowar would also rise.
  4. A demand-supply mismatch would be inevitable which would send the market prices for jowar way below the announced MSP, calling for significantly expanded jowar procurement at MSP.
  5. The trouble is, pricing policies distort market prices and send the wrong signal to farmers on what to produce and how much. Our inept policy system fails to correct such situations, which then spiral out of control.
  6. But if the problem is volatile incomes, the solution must target incomes, not prices.

Way Forward

  1. The impression was that the farmers’ long march to Mumbai a few months back forced urban India to reassess its position on the severity of the agrarian distress.
  2. But advantaged Indians have begun questioning the logic of fiscal support for farmers on the grounds that it is unfair to make the majority pay to keep afloat a high-cost, low productivity, income-tax exempt sector that contributes just 17-18% of the country’s GDP.
  3. They forget that the agriculture sector engages more than 50% of the total workforce, and that agri-prices, and therefore farm incomes, are not free-market driven.
  4. The current farm crisis is purely because of policy failure. Fiscal space must be found for providing income support this year to the most vulnerable farmers at least.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] Citizens, non-citizens, minorities

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, National Register of Citizens

Mains level: NRC updation in Assam and what repurscussions it can have on other parts of India as well as South Asia


Context

Updating of the National Register of Citizens

  1. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is intended to be supportive of religious minorities facing persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan
  2. But members of those communities living in the three countries do not seem to welcome the proposed amendment
  3. There are fears that the proposed amendment would make the communities it represents more insecure, not less
  4. It would embolden political forces that would like to evict them from their lands and force them to leave Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and cross into India

Minority dynamics in South Asia

  1. Developments in India have long affected the plight of minorities across the border
  2. The suspicion of dual loyalty has been a persistent source of anxiety and fear for minority communities in the Subcontinent
  3. There are many instances of communal conflict in India creating a backlash against minorities in Bangladesh

What is the contention about?

  1. People whose names will not appear in the final NRC in Assam are likely to face a gloomy future
  2. They have long been subjects of suspicion of being false nationals
  3. The NRC will now officially bestow on them the status of stateless citizens or of non-citizens with no rights

Nehru-Liaquat Pact of April 1950

  1. It was a bilateral agreement between the two governments on the security and the well-being of minorities
  2. Its main goal was to reassure “minority populations of their security within the country and to discourage them from migrating”
  3. The Pact even provided an institutional infrastructure — including provincial and district minority boards — to address the concerns of threatened minorities
  4. Thanks to this Pact, large numbers of minority migrants who had crossed the Partition’s border because of communal violence felt encouraged to return to their homes on the other side

History of minority safeguards

  1. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 — conventionally thought of as the foundational event of the modern international state system — included safeguards for religious minorities
  2. Concluding minority treaties was the instrument of choice for the protection of minorities during the early part of the 20th century when the unraveling of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman empires had led to the emergence of a number of new minority situations in the reconfigured political space
  3. In the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the great powers assigned the task of enforcing the minority protection clauses of those treaties to the League of Nations
  4. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rights of minority communities have featured in a number of bilateral agreements
  5. The European Union also emphasizes the bilateral mode of addressing tensions arising out of the minority question

Way Forward

  1. There is an illusion of unilateralism that marks Indian policy right now
  2. Abandoning the illusion of unilateralism may be the first step in creating a durable regime of minority protection in the subcontinent
Citizenship and Related Issues

Maternity perks may cost 1.8 million Indian women their jobs

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Maternity Benefits Law

Mains level: Impact of increased duration of maternity leave on the indusctrial sector as well as women workforce and reasons behind low participation of women in workforce


News

Opposite effect of Maternity law

  1. A new law to improve maternity benefits for women in India’s workforce and encourage them to further their careers is likely to have the opposite effect
  2. The law, which makes India the most progressive country after Canada and Norway in enabling women to stay on in the workforce, will probably lead to job losses and discourage smaller businesses and start-ups from hiring women
  3. Maternity Benefits Law entitles women working in the organized sector to 26 weeks paid maternity leave, up from 12 weeks

Job losses to happen

  1. An estimated 1.1 million to 1.8 million women will lose their jobs across 10 sectors in the financial year to March 2019 because of the law
  2. If this estimate is computed across all the sectors, the job loss number would be an estimated 10-12 million across all sectors
  3. Post-maternity retention could cost 80 percent to 90 percent of the annual salary for white-collar employees, and up to 135 percent of annual salary for blue-collar employees

Share of women in workforce decreasing

  1. The share of women in the workforce has shrunk to around 24 per cent in the fiscal year ended 2016 from 36 percent a decade earlier
  2. McKinsey and Co. estimates more than $700 billion could be added to the country’s gross domestic product by 2025 if more women were in jobs

Reasons behind shrinking women workforce

  1. In socially conservative India, women are often discouraged from pursuing a career
  2. Better-educated women from wealthier families aren’t encouraged to work and it’s usually when a man’s salary falls short that a woman seeks a job
  3. Many drop out to take care of older family members or children
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

India votes against draft decision on chemical weapons use at OPCW meet

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Chemical Weapons Convention

Mains level: India’s track record in nuclear disarmament and its current position across various international groupings and organizations


News

Addressing the threat from chemical weapons

  1. India has voted against the draft decision on addressing the threat from chemical weapons use at a special conference of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
  2. India has a view that the draft decision of such far-reaching importance and implications should be the end result of a comprehensive and extensive consultation
  3. India believes that on an issue of such grave importance, the consultations conducted by the sponsors remain incomplete

About the conference

  1. The conference has been called by the UK, the US and the West to have discussions on upholding the global ban against the use of chemical weapons
  2. The UK has reportedly proposed to consider empowering the OPCW to identify the organization or government responsible for chemical attacks in addition to its existing power of carrying out the investigation into such cases
  3. The special session is being held in the backdrop of the widespread concern over reports of use of chemical weapons in Malaysia, the UK, Northern Ireland, Syria and Iraq

Chemical Weapons Convention

  1. The global ban against chemical weapons is the fundamental goal for which the Chemical Weapons Convention has been adopted
  2. The use of chemical weapons is reprehensible and contrary to the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention

Back2Basics

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

  1. OPCW is an intergovernmental organization and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997
  2. The OPCW, with its 193 member states, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, and oversees the global endeavor for the permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons
  3. The organization promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction
  4. Verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by member states and onsite inspections
  5. The OPCW has the power to say whether chemical weapons were used in an attack it has investigated
  6. The organization was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”
Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

India prepares quest to find a trillion-dollar nuclear fuel on the Moon

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology| Awareness in the fields of Space

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Helium-3

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

India’s hunt for Helium-3 Isotope on Moon

  1. India’s space program wants to go to the south side of the moon.
  2. India is planning to study the potential for mining a source of waste-free nuclear energy that could be worth trillions of dollars.
  3. The mission would solidify India’s place among the fleet of explorers racing to the moon, Mars and beyond for scientific, commercial or military gains.
  4. The rover landing is one step in an envisioned series for ISRO that includes putting a space station in orbit and, potentially, an Indian crew on the moon.
  5. The government has yet to set a timeframe.

Helium-3

  1. Solar winds have bombarded the moon with immense quantities of helium-3 because it’s not protected by a magnetic field like Earth is.
  2. The presence of helium-3 was confirmed in moon samples returned by the Apollo missions, and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who walked on the moon in December 1972, is an avid proponent of mining helium-3.
  3. That isotope is limited on Earth yet so abundant on the moon that it theoretically could meet global energy demands for 250 years if harnessed.
  4. It is thought that this isotope could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor since it is not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products.
  5. That’s enough to meet the world’s current energy demands for at least two, and possibly as many as five centuries.
  6. An estimated value of helium-3 is about $5 billion a ton, meaning 250,000 tons would be worth in the trillions of dollars.

Initiative by other countries

  1. China is the only country to put a lander and rover on the moon this century with its Chang’e 3 mission in 2013. The nation plans to return later this year by sending a probe to the unexplored far side.
  2. In the U.S., President Donald Trump signed a directive calling for astronauts to return to the moon, and NASA’s proposed $19 billion budget this fiscal year calls for launching a lunar orbiter by the early 2020s.
  3. The US equivalent of NASA will launch a rover in October to explore virgin territory on the lunar surface and analyze crust samples for signs of water and helium-3.

ISRO’s budget more economic than any other

  1. ISRO’s estimated budget is less than a 10th of US – about $1.7 billion – as accomplishing feats on the cheap has been a hallmark of the agency since the 1960s.
  2. The upcoming mission will cost about $125 million – or less.

What is India’s mission

  1. The Chandrayaan-1 craft, launched in October 2008, completed more than 3,400 orbits and ejected a probe that discovered molecules of water in the surface for the first time.
  2. The upcoming launch of Chandrayaan-2 includes an orbiter, lander and a rectangular rover.
  3. The six-wheeled vehicle, powered by solar energy, will collect information for at least 14 days and cover an area with a 400-meter radius.
  4. The rover will send images to the lander, and the lander will transmit those back to ISRO for analysis.
  5. A primary objective, though, is to search for deposits of helium-3.

Major Hurdles

  1. To be sure, there are numerous obstacles to overcome before the material can be used – including the logistics of collection and delivery back to Earth and building fusion power plants to convert the material into energy.
  2. Those costs will be very high.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] NITI Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurs Platform

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Role of women and women’s organization.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WEP

Mains level: Promotion of Women Entrepreneurship in India


News

Why in news?

  1. NITI Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurs Platform (WEP) signed five separate Statement of Intent (SoIs) with Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank Limited, Indiabulls Housing Finance Limited, SREI Infrastructure Finance Limited, Sreemanta Sankar Mission and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).
  2. The SoIs signed with financial institutions will provide financial assistance to women entrepreneurs and address the finance-related challenges faced by them through WEP.

About WEP

  1. The WEP is an initiative under the NITI Aayog which was launched on March 8, 2018, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.
  2. The WEP intends to undertake this task through its partner organizations, private as well as public organizations;
  • by bringing their existing as well as new women-specific initiatives on a single platform, which in turn will also address knowledge gaps,
  • promote partner connects and will increase the outreach of partner programmes.
  1. Through its partner organizations, WEP aims to create opportunities and support women in order to help them realize their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale up innovative initiatives, and chalk out sustainable and long-term strategies for their businesses.
  2. NITI CEO announced the setting-up of a Women Entrepreneurship Platform in NITI Aayog at the conclusion of the 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held in Hyderabad in 2017 with an overarching theme of ‘Women first, Prosperity for All’.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] President inaugurates Udyam Sangam-2018

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Udyam Sangam, Sampark Portal

Mains level: Various initiatives for MSME developmemt


News

Udyam Sangam-2018

  1. The President of India inaugurated the Udyam Sangam-2018, being organised by the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) to celebrate the 2nd United Nations Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day (27th June)
  2. On this occasion, he also launched the Solar Charkha and MSME Sampark Portal.
  3. The Udyam Sangam-2018 is an important effort in developing effective eco-systems for MSME sector.
  4. The Sangam will provide representatives of finance, training and educational institutions, industry, media, state governments and NGOs an opportunity to engage in extensive discussions to strengthen the eco-systems in this sector.

Sampark Portal

  1. ‘Sampark Portal’ is a digital platform to connect five lakh job seekers with recruiters
  2. It will be very useful in developing skill-pool and in enabling trained youth to know about different employment opportunities.

India’s MSME Sector

  1. MSME sector is called the backbone of our economy.
  2. This sector is the second largest employment provider after the agricultural sector.
  3. Our demographic dividend shall be most gainfully utilized in this very sector.
  4. This sector generates more employment opportunities at a lower cost of capital.
  5. And the most important thing about this sector is that it creates jobs in rural and backward areas.
  6. This sector could help in achieving the goal of inclusive growth through empowerment of weaker sections and decentralization of development.
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.