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[op-ed snap] Signs of a turnaround: on RBI’s Financial Stability Report

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RBI financial stability report, Prompt corrective action.

Mains level: NPA problem and solution


Context

  1. According to the recently released Financial Stability report, The fog of bad loans shrouding the banking sector appears to be lifting after a long period of sustained stress.

Signs of turnaround

  1. The Reserve Bank of India’s Financial Stability Report reveals the first half-yearly decline in the ratio of gross non-performing assets (GNPA) to advances since September 2015.
  2. The ratio across all scheduled commercial banks has eased to 10.8% as of end-September 2018, from 11.5% in March, with both public sector and private sector lenders posting drops in the key indicator of bad loans.
  3. A stress test for credit risk at banks that models varying levels of macro-economic performance shows that for the baseline assumption, the GNPA ratio would narrow to 10.3% by March 2019.
  4. According to the FSR, among the broad sectors, the asset quality of industry sector improved in September 2018 as compared to March 2018 whereas that of agriculture and retail sectors deteriorated

Concerns

PSB still have higher level of bad loans

  1. State-owned banks continue to have higher levels of bad loans than their private sector peers and are projected to show slower improvements over the second half of the fiscal.
  2. The GNPA ratio for public sector banks (PSBs) is posited to only inch lower to 14.6% by March, from 14.8% in September.
  3. One reason is that PSBs have a disproportionately higher share of bad loans from among large borrowers, who accounted for almost 55% of loans advanced by all banks as of September. The GNPA ratio for this category at PSBs was 21.6%, compared with just 7% at private banks.

PSB may still fail to maintain the PCA

  1. Despite projections of a recovery, 18 SCBs, including all public sector banks under the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework, may fail to maintain the required capital adequacy ratio under a two SD (standard deviation) shock to the GNPA ratio, unless capital infusion takes place and banks improve their performance, according to RBI’s analysis.
  2. One SD shock equals approximately a two-percentage point increase in the GNPA ratio.
RBI Notifications

[op-ed snap]: Burden of Victory

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: Nothing much

Mains level: India-Bangladesh bilateral relations.


News

  • Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina has won a fourth term in the just concluded elections, which makes her the longest serving head of government that the nearly 50-year-old country has known.

Details of the elections

  1. Awami League took 288 of the 300 elected seats in the 350-member JatiyaSangsad, the Bangladeshi Parliament, and as a result will get to nominate its candidates to most of the remaining seats, all of which are reserved for women.
  2. With just seven seats of its own, the Opposition Jatiya Oikiya Front has been wiped out.

Why Sheikh Hasina Won?

  • Economic progress:Despite all the troubles in Bangladesh, one reason why voters have reposed their trust in her for the third consecutive term — one term was in the ’90s — is because of the country’s economic progress which has provided jobs and in turn contributed to what are South Asia’s best social indicators.
  • Weak opposition: The main opposition leader Khalida Zia is in jail

Importance of the Victory for India

  1. As a friend of Hasina, Delhi is clearly happy at the election outcome.
  2. PM Modi was the first foreign leader to call and congratulate her on the victory.
  3. Ties between the two countries have never been better, leading Modi to describe it as the “golden era” in bilateral relations.
  4. India has made trade concessions to Bangladesh, invested more money in the country, and is in the midst of several infrastructure and connectivity projects.
  5. The Hasina government has shut down camps of terrorist groups operating in India’s Northeast from safe havens in Bangladesh. The only outstanding issue between the two is the Teesta river waters sharing agreement. India has rightly stayed out of the internal tumult over the last five years or more.

Way forward

  1. With great power comes great responsibility.
  2. It is now up to Prime Minister Hasina to ensure that her government uses its sweeping mandate not to stamp out, but to strengthen, a multi-party democracy, individual freedoms, and the rule of law in Bangladesh.
  3. The last five years saw the Hasina government take an authoritarian turn, jailing opponents, stifling dissent, and generally responding to all criticism badly.
  4. Repression can lead to a rejection of democratic politics.
  5. The alternative, as is evident at many places in the world, could be much worse than what Bangladesh has experienced in the past.
  6. To begin with, she has to heal a country rattled by political divisions and violence.
  7. The Election Commission should conduct a fair investigation into allegations of rigging to restore faith in the poll process.
  8. Hasina should reach out to the Opposition. Her otherwise impressive record has been marred by her government’s authoritarian character.
  9. The victory is a chance for Ms. Hasina to mend her ways, to be more inclusive and run a government that respects the rule of law, the basic rights of citizens and institutional freedom.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Integrating the island

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing much

Mains level: Rising importance of the Andaman Sea and the need to step up efforts in the region’s development


Context

  • Recently PM modi visited Andaman Islands.

What did he do in Andaman ?

  1. PM Modi has recently renamed three islands in Andaman & Nicobar. The three islands — Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island — will now be called Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Shaheed Dweep and Swaraj Dweep.
  2. He also hoisted a 150-feet-high national flag at Port Blair to mark the 75th anniversary of freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose’s declaration of the formation of the Azad Hind government in 1943.

Andaman has always been a neglected Island

  1. Prime Ministers of India rarely travel to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  2. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi visited in 1984 and 1986 respectively and Manmohan Singh went there in early 2005 to review the tsunami relief operations.
  3. For political Delhi, the island chain was at best a remote outpost acquired by default from the departing British Raj.
  4. That attitude filtered down the entire system of governance in Delhi. For India’s continentalist security establishment, weighed down by difficult land borders to the north and the west, the Indian Ocean is a distant domain.
  5. The nation’s island territories — the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the east and the Lakshadweep to the west — barely figure on Delhi’s mental map.

How will PM modi’s visit change the scenario?

  • Historical

Modi’s decision to time his visit with the 75th anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose flying the tricolour in Port Blair has helped highlight the role of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India’s freedom struggle.

  • Geopolitical
  1. The story of Bose, Japan and the Azad Hind government underlines the enduring geopolitical significance of the Andaman Island chain and its waters.
  2. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were the site of contestation between European colonial powers — Portugal, the Netherlands, France and Britain.
  3. Britain, which occupied the islands at the end of the 18th century in search of a permanent military base, put them on the back burner in the 19th.
  4. From a potential platform for power projection, the islands became a penal colony for the Raj. The challenge for Britain came this time from the first Asian great power in the modern age — Japan.
  5. The imperial Japanese forces raced through Malaya, ousted Britain from Singapore, Burma and the Andaman Islands.
  6. It took the combined efforts of the British Empire , the US and nationalist China to reverse Japanese aggression.
  7. After the Second World War, the partition of India and the Cold War between America and Russia, the Andamans became marginal to the new geopolitics.
  8. Today as a rising China projects its economic and military power into the Indian Ocean, any strategy for regional balance would necessarily involve the economic and military development of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  9. As in the Second World War, so in the current juncture, it would involve considerable cooperation between India and its major strategic partners.
  • Economic
  1. That in turn leads us to the third imperative — of ending the deliberate isolation of the island chain and promoting economic development, tighter integration with the mainland, strengthening military infrastructure, regional connectivity and international collaboration.
  2. The Modi government has initiated some important steps in that direction, including on internet connectivity, visa liberalisation, tourism, building new ports, agreements for cooperation with neighbouring countries in South East Asia.

 

Way Forward

  1. Any large-scale development would inevitably raise questions about preserving the pristine environment of the Andamans and protecting its vulnerable indigenous populations.
  2. As the NDA government seeks to accelerate economic development and enhance the military potential of the Andamans, there will be many challenges ahead. But none of them are unique to India.
  3. As it tries to turn the outpost in the Andamans into a strategic hub, Delhi can draw much from the wealth of international experience on the sustainable transformation of fragile island territories.
Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] ISRO launches Samwad with Students initiative

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SwS Initiative

Mains level: Outreach of various ISRO’s initiatives


News

  • As part of the enhanced outreach programme of ISRO, a new platform named “Samwad with Students” (SwS) was launched in Bengaluru.

Samwad with Students (SwS) Initiative

  1. Through the initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India to capture their scientific temperament.
  2. The new conversation mission will inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.
  3. During the Samwad, the students are briefed about Indian space programme and their benefits to the common man.
  4. The Q&A session was followed on a series of topics ranging from rockets, satellites, Chandrayaan, Gaganyaan and various space applications.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] No Agri Export Zones (AEZs) after 2004

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AEZs

Mains level: Measures towards doubling farmer’s income and issues associated


News

AEZs under stress

  1. In all 60 Agri Export Zones (AEZ) were notified by the Government till 2004 – 05.
  2. In December 2004, an internal peer review conducted by Department of Commerce concluded that the notified AEZs had not been able to achieve the intended objectives.
  3. It was decided that there will be no creation of new AEZs, unless there were strong and compelling reasons.
  4. No new AEZs have been set up after 2004.
  5. All the notified AEZs have completed their intended span of 5 years and have been discontinued.

Agri Export Zone (AEZ)

  1. Nodal Agency: Ministry of Commerce
  2. The concept of Agri Export Zone (AEZ) was introduced in 2001, through EXIM Policy 1997-2001.
  3. It aims to take a comprehensive look at a particular produce/product located in a contiguous area for the purpose of developing and sourcing the raw materials, their processing/packaging, leading to final exports.
  4. The concept hinged primarily on convergence of existing Central and State Government schemes to take care of financial interventions required at various stages of value chain; partnership among various stakeholders’ viz. Governments, farmer, processor, exporter etc.; and focus on targeted products and areas to identify required policy interventions.
  5. All these activities did take place in certain respects in the notified Agri Export Zones.
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS)

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IBMS

Mains level: Road Infrastructure maintenance in India


News

  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has inventorized 1,72,517 bridges/structures under Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS).

Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS)

  1. The IBM System has been established to develop the data in digital form, to identify, survey and inventorize the number of bridges and other structures on National Highways.
  2. It crucially aims to identify the distressed bridges which need immediate attention and to sensitize the concerned implementation agency for taking corrective measures such as repair, rehabilitation reconstruction/ new construction etc.

Working of the IBMS

  1. During inventory creation each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or National Identity Number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on an National Highway, State Highway or is a district road.
  2. Then the precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, the bridge is assigned a Bridge Location Number.
  3. Thereafter, engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way etc are collected and are used to assign a Bridge Classification Number to the structure.
  4. These are then used to do a structural rating of the structure on a scale of 0 to 9, and each bridge is assigned a Structural Rating Number.
  5. The rating is done for each component of the structure like integral and non integral deck, superstructure, substructure, bank and channel, structural evaluation, deck geometry, vertical clearance, waterway efficiency etc.
  6. In addition to the structural rating, the bridges are also being assigned Socio-Economic Bridge Rating Number which will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area in its vicinity.
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

Japan announces withdrawal from International Whaling Commission

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  International Whaling Commission

Mains level: Killing of various animal species in name of culture and international efforts against it


News

  • Japan announced its withdrawal from the international Whaling Commission (IWC) conservation body on December 26, 2018.

Background

  1. Some countries under the umbrella of scientific research are continuously killing the whales and selling meat and producing whale oil, which has brought various whales under the category of endangered species and are vanishing day by day.
  2. Japan, Iceland and Norway are some of the countries recorded with largest number of commercial whaling.
  3. Japan was an IWC member since 1951.

Reasons for Japan’s Withdrawal

  1. Japan has been practicing commercial whale hunting for past 30 years under a scientific programme, granted as an exception under the IWC ban.
  2. Small-scale whaling is traditional in some parts of Japan, but whale meat was only ever popular in the postwar period.
  3. Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes.
  4. Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales.

Back2Basics

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

  1. The IWC is an Inter-Governmental Organisation set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) signed in Washington, D.C in 1946.
  2. It aims to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
  3. The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world.
  4. The body is the first piece of International Environmental Legislation established in 1946.
  5. Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were almost driven to extinction.
  6. 89 countries have the membership of in IWC and all the member countries are signatories to this convention.
  7. India is a member state of the IWC.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

No new Engineering Colleges from 2020

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mohan Reddy Committee Recommendations

Mains level: State of technical education in country and measures required to improve it


News

  • A government committee, headed by IIT-Hyderabad chairman B V R Mohan Reddy has advised the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to stop setting up new colleges from 2020 and review the creation of new capacity every two years after that.

Mohan Reddy Committee Recommendations

  1. The panel in its report has suggested that no additional seats should be approved in traditional engineering areas such as mechanical, electrical, civil and electronics.
  2. It suggested that institutes should be encouraged to convert current capacity in traditional disciplines to emerging new technologies.
  3. This recommendation has been justified on the ground that current capacity utilization in traditional disciplines is just 40% as opposed to 60% seat occupancy in branches such as computer science, aerospace engineering and mechatronics.
  4. The committee has urged the AICTE to introduce UG engineering programmes exclusively for artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, quantum computing, data sciences, cybersecurity and 3D printing and design.
  5. As for approving additional seats in existing institutions, the committee has suggested that the AICTE should only give approvals based on the capacity utilization of concerned institute.

Why such move?

  1. A study in Dec. 2017 has found there were no takers for 51 per cent of the 15.5 lakh B.E/B.Tech seats in 3,291 engineering colleges in 2016-17.
  2. The investigation found glaring gaps in regulation, including alleged corruption; poor infrastructure, labs and faculty; non-existent linkages with industry; and absence of a technical ecosystem to nurture the classroom.
  3. All this, it found, accounted for low employability of graduates.
  4. A few weeks later, the AICTE had announced its decision to reduce the intake in courses with poor admissions by half from the academic year 2018-19, a move aimed at addressing the mismatch.
  5. Following this, the total number of B.Tech and M.Tech seats this year, across all AICTE-approved institutes, dropped by 1.67 lakh – the sharpest fall in five years and almost double of what was witnessed in 2017-18.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Centre to introduce Commercial Space Activities Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: 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: Space Activities Bill 2017

Mains level: Regulating private space activities in India


News

  • The Centre is likely to introduce a Bill to commercialise space activities in the budget session this year.

Space Activities Bill 2017

  1. It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India.
  2. The Bill aims to facilitate the overall growth of space activities in India with higher order participation of public, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders.
  3. The Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
  4. As few start-ups in India have shown interest in space activities there is an urgent need for a legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.
  5. It will help the Centre establish a regulatory mechanism through an appropriate body to authorize and license space activities.

Key Propositions of the Bill

  1. The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  2. A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  3. The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  4. The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  5. It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  6. It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  7. It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  8. If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

Issues with the Bill

  1. The Bill does not address space-based activities separately.
  2. Instead, it tries to cover large swaths of the space value chain in one go.
  3. In fact, the very definition of “space activity” could throw up complications.
  4. The definition puts every space object under its ambit, meaning even hardware that carries GPS receivers could require a license.
  5. The Bill could also affect navigation services provided by companies such as Google Maps, Ola and Uber.

Navigate to this page for additional readings:

[Burning Issue] Draft Space Activity Bill 2017

ISRO Missions and Discoveries