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[pib] Indian Naval ship Sahyadri reaches Darwin, Australia for exercise KAKADU 2018

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: Exercise Kakadu

Mains level: Participation of India in various bilateral and multilateral military exercises


News

Exercise KAKADU

  1. After having been deployed to the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean for over four months, which included representing Indian Navy in multinational exercises MALABAR 18 at Guam and RIMPAC 18 at Hawaii, INS Sahyadri entered the Port of Darwin, Australia to participate in Exercise KAKADU 2018
  2. Indian Navy’s participation in KAKADU 18 provides an excellent opportunity to engage with regional partners and undertake multinational maritime activities ranging from constabulary operations to high-end maritime warfare in a combined environment
  3. It is aimed at enhancing interoperability and development of common understanding of procedures for maritime operations

About the exercise

  1. Exercise KAKADU, which started in 1993, is the premier multilateral regional maritime engagement exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and supported by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
  2. The exercise is held biennially in Darwin and the Northern Australian Exercise Areas (NAXA)
  3. Exercise KAKADU derives its name from Kakadu National Park, which is a protected area in the northern territory of Australia, 171 km south-east of Darwin
  4. KAKADU 2018 is the 14th edition of the exercise
  5. During the exercise, professional exchanges in harbour and diverse range of activities at sea, including complex surface, sub-surface and air operations would enable sharing of best practices and honing of operational skills
Indian Navy Updates

[pib] Launch of National Mission on GeM

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Ministries & Departments of the Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Government e Marketplace (GeM)

Mains level: Benefits of centralised procurement in online mode


News

Mission to promote GeM use

  1. National Mission on Government e Marketplace (GeM) will be launched on 5th September 2018 to accelerate the adoption and use of GeM by major central Ministries, State Governments and their agencies
  2. The aim of the National Mission is to promote inclusiveness, transparency and efficiency in public procurement and achieve cashless, contactless and paperless transaction
  3. This will increase overall efficiency and lead to cost saving on government expenditure in procurement

About GeM

  1. The Government e Marketplace (GeM) platform provides online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all Central Government Departments and State Governments, Public Sector Units and affiliated bodies
  2. While all States and Union Territories are buying through GeM, 25 States and UTs have already signed a MoU to make procurement through GeM mandatory
Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] Why India needs a sports regulator

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Status of sports governance in India & need for an independent regulator


Context

India’s renewed interest in sports

  1. The narrative of Indian sport is undergoing a transformation
  2. Previously it was postulated that sport was not part of our “culture”
  3. First a handful, and then a flurry of our athletes, across disciplines, have now permanently demolished that myth

Calls for regulating sports sector

  1. Calls for better sports governance are hardly new
  2. The subject is one of the oldest tropes in the Indian sports narrative
  3. For too long, sports federations have enjoyed absolutist powers with little accountability and have used principles of “autonomy” to deflect accountability rather than self-govern responsibly
  4. Sports bodies play essential roles in the sports firmament and require autonomy and freedom from government interference

Sports sector on a new path

  1. Fed equally by social agendas and private profit-motives, it is simultaneously a national development project and an industry
  2. Federations have allowed private enterprise deep into their dens, with franchises “owning” teams and “buying” players, and broadcasters and sponsors becoming prominent stakeholders
  3. The public sector undertakings, for decades the primary (and often only) employers of sportspersons, are struggling to define their future roles—especially with their employees playing in professional leagues and turning coaches while still on government salaries

Problems that are being faced

  1. Players have no formal representation or voice through associations or unions, and, equally, often display little accountability or restraint themselves
  2. The government funds most of the training and development in the country, receives limited credit when it does things right

Futile reasons given for low progress of sports sector

  1. It is repeatedly lamented that sport was on the state list of the Constitution, compromising the ability to have a comprehensive, unified and coordinated national agenda
  2. But, the Constitution was written at a time when the sport was little more than a pastime or hobby and is, therefore, bunched with entertainment and amusements on the entry in the state list

Moving sports to concurrent list

  1. Besides enabling national policies and programmes, the movement of sport to the concurrent list will enable the creation of an independent and wide-ranging national sports regulator, along the lines of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi)
  2. This body could oversee, in the public interest, the activities not only of national sports federations but also state federations, equally important actors in a federated governance model
  3. The national sports regulator could also be tasked with overseeing elections to these bodies and establishing a permanent sports tribunal that is positioned to hear and resolve sports-related disputes knowledgeably, quickly and effectively

Way Forward

  1. Worldwide, this is a governance model that has received recognition and acceptance
  2. It is time for Indian sports governance to step up and deliver governance to the public
  3. The sooner everyone realizes this, the better prepared we will all be to enable India to take her rightful place in the sun in global sport

Law Commission calls for re-think on sedition clause

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 124A

Mains level: Broadening the Scope of Free Speech.


News

Considering Contempt of Government

  1. Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of a robust public debate in a vibrant democracy, said the Law Commission of India.
  2. The Commission published a consultation paper recommending that it is time to re-think or even repeal the provision of sedition (Section 124A) from the Indian Penal Code.
  3. The Commission has also posed the query that if contempt of court invites penal action, should “contempt of government” also attract punishment.
  4. The Commission asked whether it would be “worthwhile” to rename Section 124A and find a suitable substitute for the term sedition.

Right to Free Speech

  1. The Commission seeks to consider that right to free speech and expression is an essential ingredient of democracy.
  2. The Commission said an expression of frustration over the state of affairs cannot be treated as sedition.
  3. It recommended that India should not retain the British era clause to oppress Indians, whereas Britishers have themselves abolished the law in their country.
  4. It said every restriction on free speech and expression must be carefully scrutinized to avoid unwarranted restrictions.

Dissent is the safety valve of democracy, says SC

  1. The consultation paper was published a day after the Supreme Court lashed out at the forces while hearing a petition challenging the pan-India crackdown and arrests of five activists.
  2. For merely expressing a thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the government of the day, a person should not be charged under the Section.

Constructive Criticism is essential

  1. If the country is not open to positive criticism, there lies little difference between the pre- and post-Independence eras.
  2. Right to criticize one’s own history and the right to offend are rights protected under free speech.

Way Forward

  1. In a democracy, singing from the same songbook is not a benchmark of patriotism.
  2. People should be at liberty to show their affection towards their country in their own way.
  3. While it is essential to protect national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech, the Commission said in its consultation paper.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

New ranking based on innovation

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ARIIA

Mains level: Boosting innovation ecosystem in India


News

Context

  1. The Centre announced another annual ranking of higher educational institutions, based on how they fare in terms of innovation.
  2. The new ranking – named Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) – will be formally launched on October 15, the birth anniversary of former President APJ Abdul Kalam.

ARIIA

  1. Ministry of HRD announced the new ranking, which will work parallel to the overall ranking of institutions captured by the annual National Institutional Ranking Framework.
  2. ARIIA – named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee – will focus on:
  • budget expenses and revenues generated;
  • facilitating access to advance centres;
  • ideas of entrepreneurship;
  • innovation ecosystems supported through teaching and learning and
  • innovative solutions to improve governance of the institution.
  1. There is a slight distinction between research which is crucial in the NIRF framework – and innovation: research produces new knowledge while innovation puts that knowledge to use.
Innovation Ecosystem in India

Quota is State-specific, rules the Supreme Court

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Judgment of the SC, Judges Cases

Mains level: Debate over Reservations.


News

Context

The Constitution Bench was answering a reference made to it in Bir Singh versus Delhi Jal Board, a 2013 case, on the legal question whether a Scheduled Caste person from a State would be accorded the same concessions in employment in another State.

Pan-India reservation rule applies to Delhi

  1. Reservation is State-specific, but Delhi is a ‘miniature India’ where the “pan-India reservation rule” applies according to the Supreme Court.
  2. A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi unanimously held that a person belonging to a Scheduled Caste in one State cannot be deemed to be a Scheduled Caste person in relation to any other State to which he migrates for the purpose of employment or education.
  3. The benefits of reservation provided for by the Constitution would stand confined to the geographical territories of a State/Union Territory.
  4. This is in respect to which the lists of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes have been notified by the Presidential Orders issued from time to time.

Dissenting opinion

  1. But Justice Banumathi, in a separate opinion, dissented with the majority opinion on the point that the pan-India reservation rule for Delhi was fully in accord with the constitutional structure of a federal polity.
  2. She said the very object of the constitutional scheme of upliftment of the SCs/STs of these Union Territories would be defeated if pan-India reservation is allowed in Union Territories like Delhi.
  3. However she agreed that reservation should be State-specific.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Heavy discharge of Waters from China threatens Arunachal

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Brahmaputra Water Dispute, Course of Brahmaputra in India.

Mains level:  India-China differences over Brahmaputra


News

Highest discharge of water in decades

  1. The Yarlung Zangbo (Tsangpo) was swelling with observed discharge of 9,020 cumec due to heavy rainfall in Tibet.
  2. This discharge from China, the highest in 50 years, is threatening to submerge at least 12 villages along the river Siang in Arunachal Pradesh.
  3. Hydrological experts said the unusually high discharge indicates sudden release of water from man-made barriers or a natural dam.
  4. Natural barriers are formed due to landslips caused by major earthquakes in the Tibetan region of China.
  5. Local authority has issued an advisory, warning the people of the 12 villages to be on alert because of the sudden surge in the water level in Pasighat Dist.
  6. The Siang has already eroded 12 acres in Borguli village while at least 10 families of Seram village nearby have dismantled their houses and shifted to a safer location.

Learning from the Past

  1. The risen level has indications of water being suddenly released from a natural or man-made dam.
  2. Earthquakes triggered landslides and dammed Tsangpo last year resulting in Siang’s water turning muddy.
  3. Many in India talked about sudden collapse of the earthen dam in the future leading to moderate to big flood downstream in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  4. But there was no serious follow-up action.
  5. The turbidity of Siang’s water last year was China’s plan to divert Tsangpo to the parched Xinjiang province via a 1,000 km tunnel.

Way Forward

  1. The situation is grim, and the government needs to come up with effective anti-erosion measures.
  2. The Central Water Commission needs to closely monitor the level and quality of Siang’s water.
  3. There is a lot of concern at the international, national and local levels about the geologically and strategically important Siang that impacts Bangladesh too.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The Nilgiri tahr climbs population charts

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read B2B

Mains level: The rise in numbers of the species is assign of successful conservation effort.


News

Nilgiri Tahr Population climbs ups

  1. A recent census has revealed that the population of the Nilgiri tahr (an endangered mountain goat) at the Mukurthi National Park has grown by an impressive 18% in the last two years, from 480 to 568.
  2. A count conducted in 2016 had put the population in the national park at around 480, but a revised count in 2017 pegged it at 438.
  3. Apart from the increase in numbers, the sex ratio, too, was encouraging. There are two adult females for every male.
  4. This indicates a viable breeding population, and hints at further population growth.
  5. The population estimation exercise, completed in May, was conducted jointly by the Forest Department and the Department of Zoology and Wildlife Biology, Government Arts College, Udhagamandalam.

Several threats

  1. The continuing spread of invasive species of flora, such as wattle and pine, and exotic weeds like scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius) and gorse diminishes grazing land.
  2. The impact of consumption of exotic weeds by the animals is still unknown.
  3. The rise in the animals’ population has led to a few herds migrating out of the national park.
  4. Incidences of hunting and poaching are also often.
  5. However the Forest Department was stepping up efforts to remove exotics, with wattle eliminated in over 125 hectares of Shola grasslands.

Back2Basics

Nilgiri tahr

  1. IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered
  2. The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) aka the Nilgiri ibex or simply ibex.
  3. It is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Southern India.
  4. It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
  5. The Nilgiri tahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests eco-region.
  6. At elevations from 1,200 to 2,600 metres (3,900 to 8,500 ft), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, locally known as sholas.
  7. Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population of this Tahr.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Now marriage certificate must for official work in Meghalaya

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: The newscard highlights unique matrilineal tradition of Khasi Community and government measures to protect these marriages.


News

Marriage certificate now Mandatory

  1. The State govt. in matrilineal Meghalaya has made it mandatory for married people to produce marriage certificates for all official purposes.
  2. The govt. has also decided to deny government jobs and benefits to men who have abandoned their families and are not providing for maintenance of their children.
  3. All govt. departments have been asked to ensure that individuals, if married, are made to submit copies of their marriage certificates for all official purposes.

Protecting women against broken marriage

  1. The step has been taken in view of increasing cases of broken marriages and women being forced to fend for themselves and their children.
  2. It was pointed out that the abandonment of families by men lead to a spike in school dropouts and juvenile crimes.
  3. It sought implementation of the Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2012.

Fight for maintenance

  1. The government’s order cannot stop divorce, but marriage certificates will help abandoned women fight for the maintenance of their children after their husbands abandon them.
  2. Most marriages in the Khasi society are not registered, and this makes it difficult for abandoned women to fight for the maintenance of their children.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Big data for farmers

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The potential of Soil health card scheme and how the use of big data can further leverage it


Context

Learnings from Aadhar

  1. When the Government of India introduced the Multipurpose National ID Card (MNIC) scheme in the early 2000s, it had a limited scope
  2. The MNIC was meant to be an ID card to “verify the citizenship of Indians and secure our borders”
  3. Then came Aadhaar, a paradigm shift, which re-imagined what a country can do with an ID system at scale — from targeting government subsidies to driving start-up business models
  4. Aadhaar is today ubiquitous, transforming service delivery and spurring innovation
  5. Can we think of a similar paradigm shift in the Soil Health Card (SHC) Scheme?

About SHC scheme

  1. The scheme, that was introduced in 2015, intended that every farmer receive a health card for their soils that tells them the status of the nutrients in it, and, as a result, guides them about the fertilisers they should apply to maximise their yields
  2. Labs collected samples, analysed them for 12 soil chemical parameters, recommended fertiliser dosages and printed these on the SHCs, which were given to farmers

Problems plaguing the scheme

  • Operational challenges plague the system
  1. The current “census” approach, where soil samples are collected from every 2×2 hectare parcel of land in irrigated areas (10×10 hectare in dry areas), and transported en masse for analysis in a dated network of wet chemistry labs, has put tremendous strain on the system, and the quality of soil analysis has suffered
  2. A Harvard study in Gujarat last year found accuracy issues in 300 of the 800 plots tested
  • The scheme’s current design oversimplifies the nutrient recommendations
  1. For example, if the health card shows that a farmer’s soil is deficient in zinc, it recommends topping up zinc
  2. Research shows that a crop’s “yield response” to a nutrient is far more complex than this
  3. It is determined not only by the deficiency of that nutrient, but also other variables — rainfall, production practices, the presence of other nutrients, soil acidity, and temperature
  4. The correct yield response can be predicted from a model with data on the above parameters, a system that the scheme currently does not use
  5. The simplistic recommendation based on a deficiency of that nutrient alone is often sub-optimal and can exacerbate the farmer’s problem, rather than solve it
  • The scheme underestimates its own potential
  1. Its large-scale collection of soil data sees little use outside of filling out a physical card
  2.  This vast repository of data aggregated from millions of samples remains largely isolated from researchers, start-ups and even state governments

Prospects of a soil information system 

  1. We can move to a sampling-based soil information system that reduces the need for the tens of millions of samples that strain our lab capacity, and produces better results four times faster, at half the cost
  2. We could develop predictive models using big data to provide recommendations to farmers that account for all the factors that affect a crop’s yield response
  3. The government can make these datasets available through an open API platform
  4. This could help start-ups to combine soil health card data with rainfall and irrigation data and deliver precision irrigation advisories to our farmers on their mobile phones
  5. Fertiliser companies, building upon such a platform, leveraging soils data, weather data, and farmer demand patterns, can shape the distribution of fertiliser blends in different districts

International example of the success of a similar system

  1. In data starved Tanzania, a version of such a platform already exists
  2. The Africa Soil Information Service uses machine learning to bring together various pieces of data (soil, climate, production practices) to enable the government and fertiliser companies determine what blended fertilisers could improve soil nutrition

Way Forward

  1. Stories of farm distress make headlines almost every day
  2. Farm data and intelligent digital platforms that build on the SHC programme and leverage big data analytics can provide a solution to farm problems
Soil Health Management – NMSA, Soil Health Card, etc.

[op-ed snap] The shale gas challenge

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia & the Indian sub-continent)

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shale gas, fracking, Directorate General of Hydrocarbons

Mains level: Pros & Cons of shale gas exploration and its role in reducing India’s oil import bill


Context

New hydrocarbon policy approved

  1. The Central government has approved a far-reaching policy that allows private and government players to explore and exploit unconventional hydrocarbons (including shale gas) in contract areas
  2. These areas were primarily allocated for extracting conventional hydrocarbons

Shale gas exploration a difficult task

  1. Shale gas is trapped under low permeable rocks
  2. A mixture of ‘pressurised water, chemicals, and sand’ (shale fluid) is required to break low permeable rocks in order to unlock the shale gas reserves
  3. The process requires around 5 to 9 million litres of water per extraction activity, posing a daunting challenge to India’s freshwater resources

Inadequate provisions to deal with low water availability

  1. The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) issued a guideline on environment management during shale gas extraction, stating that “overall volume of fracture fluid is 5 to 10 times that of conventional hydraulic fracturing” and “the (fracturing) activities are likely to deplete water sources and cause pollution due to the disposal of flowback (produced) water”
  2. The guideline falters and states that these challenges will be dealt while granting environmental clearances as per the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process
  3. The EIA process, however, does not differentiate between conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons
  4. Sensing this regulatory gap, the DGH in its guideline proposes five new reference points (term of references) relating to water issues in the fracking process that a project proponent must explain while applying for the environmental clearance
  5. However, these five reference points are not succinct to resolve the water-specific issues posed by the fracking activities

Why regulating water usage is important for India?

  1. The importance of clarity in water usage and the place of shale gas extraction in India is linked directly with water requirements of priority sectors like agriculture
  2. A recent study from Duke University observes that from 2011 through 2016, the water use per well in the U.S. increased up to 770% resulting in some shale wells consuming up to 42 million litres of water per well
  3. The study further conveys that over a period of time, the usage of water dramatically increases for extracting the same amount of shale gas from a well

A threat of ground & surface water contamination 

  1. Shale rocks are usually adjacent to rocks containing useable/ drinking water known as ‘aquifers’
  2. While fracking, the shale fluid could possibly penetrate aquifers leading to methane poisoning of groundwater used for drinking and irrigational purposes
  3. When shale fluid is injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock, 5-50% (depending on the local geology) of the fluid returns to the surface, known as ‘flowback water’ and the flow continues as oil and gas is pumped from the well
  4. The flowback water is usually methane-contaminated, and therefore it poses different recycling and leakage issues than usual wastewater

Guidelines ineffective on various fronts

  1. The DGH guideline states that a project proponent must “design and construct wells with proper barriers to isolate and protect groundwater”, but misses out on broadly describing the nature or properties of a barrier that can be considered ‘proper’ to isolate and protect the groundwater
  2. The DGH guideline touches upon the exclusive nature of the flowback water but neither proposes any substantive treatment method nor recognises the increase in flowback water during repeated extraction of shale gas from a well over a period of time

Way Forward

  1. Indian households and irrigation thrive on groundwater
  2. Implementation of the fracking processes without a consultative thought through process, especially on ‘water usage policy’, may result in larger issues including water stress, contamination of groundwater, and related health hazards
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

[op-ed snap] Is It Really Time For India to Shift Away From the Fiscal Deficit Debate?

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fiscal deficit, CAD, Quantitative easing

Mains level: Faling value of rupee & its associated effects


Context

The recent debate on loosening fiscal policy

  1. Last week, NITI Aayog vice-chairman is reported to have stated that he is more concerned about the rising trade deficit than the falling rupee
  2. The remedy suggested by him is “more exports”
  3. He warns that under the current circumstances, tightening fiscal and monetary policy at the same time would be asking for trouble

The connection between the trade deficit and the falling rupee

  1. The rupee’s depreciation would raise the landed prices of imports
  2. If imports are quoted in dollars, especially petroleum crude, the import bill goes up
  3. India imports nearly 75% of total oil requirements (half of the country’s imports)
  4. Though India’s exports would become cheaper and more attractive to foreigners as the rupee falls in value, in the short run, production of exports cannot be stepped up to take advantage of the depreciation
  5. Also, India’s exports are not as diversified as China’s
  6. With the festival season around the corner, India’s gold imports would rise

CAD likely to increase

  1. The current account deficit (CAD) or the net of inflows and outflows of foreign exchange would deteriorate to reach 2.8% of GDP in 2018-19 from 1.9% in 2017-18
  2. The basic balance (current account plus net flows of FDI) in the light of heavy pullout of hot money by portfolio investors is likely to be negative

RBI intervention approved by IMF

  1. The International Monetary Fund is concerned with the falling rupee and approves of RBI’s efforts towards stopping the fall in the rupee by using the reserves of $426 billion
  2. The two-way nature of exchange management, namely purchasing foreign exchange when the rupee is overvalued in 2017 to contain rupee appreciation and selling foreign exchange for arresting the further decline in rupee in the last few weeks, is appropriate
  3. Why such a policy? If the fall in the rupee is not stopped, the CAD would increase. That would further exercise pressure on the rupee and the currency would further depreciate regardless of outflow of hot moneys

Why ignoring fiscal deficit will not be a good option?

  1. Large economies like the USA, China and the European Union do not give much importance to the fiscal deficit
  2. The fact is that the world’s advanced economies, after the 2008 global recession, resorted to buying bad debts of banks under the name of quantitative easing for pumping in money to get out of the economic rut
  3. The near zero interest rate in the US and negative rates of interest in the Eurozone and Japan did not work
  4. Finding themselves caught in the liquidity trap, they switched onto a traditional Keynesian remedy of public expenditure
  5. India is not an advanced economy. Here, the conventional theory applies: fiscal and trade deficits are twins
  6. If an open economy spends more (aggregate demand exceeds aggregate supply), the excess demand spills over into external sector, leading to a trade deficit

Differences in calculating the fiscal deficit

  1. If state governments’ fiscal deficits are added to central government deficit, the nation’s actual deficit for 2017-18 is 7% of GDP
  2. If we go by the government’s definition though, it is only 3.5%
  3. In 2018-19, the IMF’s estimate is 6.6% of GDP, whereas the budget estimate is only 3.3%

Way Forward

  1. India cannot afford any fiscal indiscipline
  2. The central bank has done its job, having raised the policy interest rate and intervened in the currency market towards stabilising the exchange rate
  3. Now, it is the government’s turn. It should do what is expected of it: maintain fiscal stability
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART) Scheme

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: O-SMART scheme

Mains level: Importance of the Coastal Mapping


News

Context

  1. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for the umbrella scheme O-SMART at an overall cost of Rs.1623 crore.
  2. The scheme encompasses a total of 16 sub-projects addressing ocean development activities such as Services, Technology, Resources, Observations and Science.

O-SMART Scheme

  1. The services rendered under the O-SMART will provide economic benefits to a number of user communities in the coastal and ocean sectors, namely, fisheries, offshore industry, coastal states, Defence, Shipping, Ports etc.
  2. Currently, five lakhs fishermen community are receiving this information daily through mobile which includes allocation of fish potential and local weather conditions in the coastal waters.
  3. This will help in reducing the search time for fishermen resulting savings in the fuel cost.
  4. It seeks to address issues relating to SDG-14, which aims to conserve use of oceans, marine resources for sustainable development.
  5. It also provides necessary scientific and technological background required for implementation of various aspects of Blue Economy.
  6. The State of Art Early Warning Systems established Scheme will help in effectively dealing with ocean disasters like Tsunami, storm surges.
  7. The technologies being developed will help in harnessing the vast ocean resources of both living and non-living resources from the seas around India.
  8. A fleet of research vessels viz., Technology Demonstration vessel SagarNidhi, Oceanographic Research Vessel SagarKanya, Fisheries and Oceanographic Research Vessel SagarSampada and Coastal Research Vessel SagarPurvihave been acquired to provide required research support.

Objectives of the Scheme

The important deliverables during the next 2 years envisage include-

  • Strengthening of Ocean Observations and Modelling
  • Strengthening of Ocean Services for Fishermen
  • Setting up Marine Coastal Observatories for monitoring marine pollution in 2018
  • Setting up Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Plant (OTEC) in Kavaratti
  • Acquisition of 2 Coastal Research Vessels for Coastal research
  • Continuation of Ocean Survey and Exploration of Minerals and Living Resources
  • Technology Development for Deep Ocean Mining- Deep Mining System and Manned Submersibles and
  • Setting up Six Desalination Plants in Lakshadweep

Other ocean related activities at a glance

  1. India has been accorded pioneer status on deep-sea mining of Poly-Metallic Nodules [PMN] in an area of in the Central Indian Ocean [CIO] allotted by International Sea Bed Authority [ISBA]
  2. India’s ocean related activities are now extended from the Arctic to the Antarctic region covering large ocean spaces which have been monitored through a wide spectrum of in situ and satellite-based observations.
  3. India has also established a state-of-the art early warning systems for ocean disasters, viz, tsunami, cyclones, storm surges etc.
  4. India had also signed the Antarctic Treaty System and joined Commission of Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) for harnessing the resources.
  5. Besides, the ministry has been monitoring the health of coastal waters of India including shoreline changes and marine ecosystem.
  6. The others like Remotely Operated Submersible and soil tester, both capable of operation upto 6000 m. water depth, shallow bed mining systems are some of the cutting edge technologies developed.

[pib] Cabinet approves Revised Cost Estimate for setting up of India Post Payments Bank

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the IPPB, payments banks, etc.

Mains level: Extending banking services through all possible mechanisms is the need of hour and IPPB serves best example for this.


News

Context

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for revision of the project outlay for setting up of India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) from Rs. 800 crore to Rs. 1,435 crore.

India Post Payment Bank Project

  1. The IPPB is aimed to provide modes of payments/financial services through its technology enabled solutions which will be distributed by the post employees/last mile agents transforming them from mail deliverer to harbinger of financial services.
  2. The IPPB shall pay incentive/commission to the last mile agents ( Postal Staff and Gramin Dak Sewaks) directly in their accounts for providing IPPB services so as to motivate them to promote IPP8 digital services to the customers.
  3. A part of commission to be paid by IPPB to Department of Posts will be used for increasing the wherewithal of Post office

Details of the Project

  1. IPPB services shall be available at 650 IPPB branches and 3250 Access Points from 1st September 2018 and in all 1.55 lakh post offices (Access Points) by December 2018.
  2. The project will generate new employment opportunity for about 3500 skilled banking professionals and other entities engaged in propagating financial literacy across the country.
  3. The objective of the project is to build the most accessible, affordable and trusted bank for the common man; spearhead the financial inclusion agenda by removing the barriers for the unbanked and reduce the opportunity cost for the under banked populace through assisted doorstep banking.
  4. The project will supplement Government’s vision of “less cash” economy and at the same time promote both economic growth and financial inclusion.
  5. The robust IT architecture of IPPB has been built taking into consideration bank grade performance, fraud and risk mitigation standards and in line with the best practices from payments & banking domain.
Banking Sector Reforms

2+2 talks to focus on China

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: 2+2 Dialogue

Mains level:  India-US defence relations and its impact on India’s traditional partners.


News

First 2+2 Dialogue

  1. The first U.S.-India 2+2 dialogues next week in New Delhi will discuss regional and strategic issues of Asia.
  2. S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will be travelling to India for the dialogue, which has been postponed twice.

Ties with Russia at stake

  1. US is mindful of India’s legacy ties with Russia, but does not appreciate its continuing defence cooperation with it.
  2. It is not sure of granting a waiver to India from sanctions if it went ahead with the planned purchase of S-400 missile defence system from Russia.
  3. However the dialogue is meant to enhance defence requirements and alternatives for India

Focussed at countering China

  1. S. administration is expecting concrete outcomes such as concluding an enabling agreement on communication and expanding the scope of military exercises.
  2. It aims at operationalising India-U.S. partnership in Asia under the agenda.
  3. S. reiterated that its Asia Pacific policy is an inclusive strategy.
  4. Considering the OBOR and militarisation of the South China Sea, US emphasizes to have an alternative for economic and strategic partnership with agenda under the agenda.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Anti-lynching measures: social media sites to be held responsible

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Anti-lynching law –need, challenges


News

Context

  1. A panel headed by Union Home Secretary deliberated on measures to check incidents of lynching, submitted its report.
  2. From May-June, more than 20 people were lynched based on fake posts or rumors floating on various social media platforms.
  3. The panel have come to the conclusion that social media platforms  needed to act in a time bound manner.

Action for non-compliance

  1. Most social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter would be made accountable for not blocking such malicious posts/videos when brought to their notice.
  2. FIR could be lodged against their country heads” for non-compliance of government orders and they could be prosecuted under law.

Talks with stakeholders

  1. Govt have stepped up engagement with social media platforms.
  2. There is a provision in law which enables government to issue orders to remove objectionable content, block websites etc.
  3. Law enforcement agencies are to step up the act and monitor more proactively.
  4. The social media platforms were given a report showing their compliance with the various government orders.

Other Initiatives

  1. The Ministry has created a portal where people can report such videos and content and that can be forwarded by the NCRB (the nodal body) to States concerned for appropriate action.
  2. Earlier the Home Ministry issued advisories to States and Union Territories following Supreme Court’s directives to check incidents of lynching.
  3. The Centre asked states to appoint an officer in each district at the level of Superintendent of Police, set up a special task force to gather intelligence, and closely monitor social media contents to prevent mob attacks on suspicion of being child-lifters or cattle smugglers.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Monitoring of nutrition to go hi-tech in Rajasthan

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nutrition Month

Mains level: States strategies for countering malnutrition and related problems.


News

Smartphone based monitoring in Rajasthan

  1. Monitoring of nutrition and health-related services in the Anganwadi centres will go hi-tech in Rajasthan during September, observed as a “nutrition month”.
  2. With the mobile applications replacing the manual observation methods, smartphones will be supplied to all Anganwadi centres in the State to ensure success of nutrition programmes.

Boosting NNM implementation

  1. Rajasthan plans to implement NNM with a vision document for 2022, which is under formulation.
  2. This is to ensure convergence of work by all stakeholders for improving nutrition levels of women and children and reducing under-nutrition and low birth weight by 2% each year.
  3. The free milk distribution in schools for the students of Classes I to VIII along with the midday meals was also extended from three days to all days in the week.
  4. The declaration of September as a “nutrition month” forms part of the strategies for addressing the issue of under-nutrition and stunting.
Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

EU, India to collaborate on developing next generation influenza vaccine

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Horizon 2020

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

Horizon 2020

  1. The EU and Department of Biotechnology will collaborate in research and innovation for developing a next generation influenza vaccine to protect people worldwide.
  2. The joint effort aims to develop cost-effective and affordable influenza vaccine rapidly without compromising quality.
  3. In total, 30 million Euros (shared by both members) has been earmarked for research and innovation actions which aim at advancing the efficacy, safety, duration of immunity, and reactivity against an increased breadth of influenza strains.
  4. The projects require minimum three applicants from Europe (three different EU member states) or countries associated to the EU programme Horizon 20202) and minimum three applicants from India.
  5. The projects are also ‘Open to the World’ and thus applicants from other countries can join the EU-India consortia.

Importance of the Mission

  1. This joint call is another demonstration of the increased cooperation between the EU and India as committed by the leaders during the Summit in October 2017.
  2. In engaging jointly on this topic, India and the EU are contributing to an important global public health challenge.
  3. Improved influenza vaccines would help the international community to better prepare in the event of an influenza pandemic.
  4. The outcome of the project is expected to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3 to ensure health and well-being for all and boost the Indian National Health Mission.
  5. Seasonal flu vaccination is also high on the EU health agenda with the European Commission urging EU member states to commit to vaccinating 75 per cent of risk groups against seasonal flu each year.
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

NASA’s Spitzer telescope completes 15 years in space

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Spitzer Space Telescope

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


News

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope

  1. It was initially scheduled for 2.5-year primary mission has now completed 15 years of space exploration.
  2. With its infrared vision and high sensitivity, Spitzer has contributed to the study of some of the most distant galaxies in the known universe.
  3. Launched into a solar orbit in 2003, Spitzer has explored some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, revealed a new ring around Saturn, and peered through shrouds of dust to study newborn stars and black holes.

Important Discoveries

  1. It assisted in the discovery of planets beyond our solar system, including the detection of seven Earth-size exo-planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1.
  2. Three of its seven planets were located in the “habitable zone,” where the temperature might be right for liquid water to exist on the planets’ surfaces.

Other landmarks

  1. Spitzer has logged over 106,000 hours of observation time.
  2. Thousands of scientists around the world have utilized Spitzer data in their studies, and Spitzer data is cited in more than 8,000 published papers.
  3. Spitzer’s primary mission ended up lasting 5.5 years, during which time the spacecraft operated in a “cold phase,” with a supply of liquid helium cooling three onboard instruments to just above absolute zero.
  4. The cooling system reduced excess heat from the instruments themselves that could contaminate their observations.
  5. This gave Spitzer very high sensitivity for “cold” objects.
  6. In July 2009, after Spitzer’s helium supply ran out, the spacecraft entered a so-called “warm phase.”
  7. Spitzer’s main instrument, called the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), has four cameras, two of which continue to operate in the warm phase with the same sensitivity they maintained during the cold phase.

ISRO in quest of three astronauts for manned mission

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Gaganyaan

Mains level: India’s aspiration for a manned mission in Space


News

Quest for astronauts for 2022 mission

  1. The process for selecting three astronauts for India’s first manned space flight will begin at the earliest
  2. The astronauts would require at least three years for training.
  3. They could be from the air force or ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), or even a common man.
  4. But ISRO is preferring a pilots for the mission.
  5. The initial training will be done at the Institute for Aerospace Medicine in Bangalore.

Details of the Mission

  1. A seven-tonne orbital module consisting of a crew module with three astronauts and a service module would be sent into space in launch vehicle Mark-3.
  2. Within 16 minutes of its launch from Sriharikota, the module would reach the low-earth orbit at 400km, where it would remain for five to seven days.
  3. The astronauts would conduct micro-gravity experiments, which is the main purpose of the mission.
  4. On seventh day, the crew module would re-orient and separate itself from the service module. It would land on earth within 36 minutes, in the Arabian Sea, close to Ahmedabad.
  5. Both the crew escape system and the environment control of life support system are critical to ensure the safety of our astronauts.
  6. The mission would generate jobs for 15,000 people, of whom 13,000 would be from industries and a thousand from academic institutes.

Other Highlights

  1. Gaganyaan is set to be the cheapest human space mission ever The entire cost of the mission is estimated to be less than ₹10,000 crore.
  2. ISRO has also lined up 19 other missions till March 2019, including a small satellite launch vehicle, to be assembled in three days instead of the usual 60 days and by six people instead of 600.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries