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[op-ed snap] Hope with concerns in 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic economy terms like Fiscal Deficit, etc.

Mains level: The newscard discusses upcoming challenges, related to the Indian Economy, in a brief manner.


Context

  • Globally, the growth rate in 2018 was high, particularly in the United States. But strong signs of a trade war emerged, dimming hopes of faster international trade. Domestically, the first quarter growth rate was high.
  • But signs are not good for the balance of the year. The rupee underwent a severe shock as crude oil prices rose, and abated after a fall in oil prices. While prices fell, agrarian distress accentuated.

India’s Growth forecast-

  • India’s growth rate in 2018-19 is forecast at 7.4% by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). But it looks to be a touch-and-go situation. More likely, it will be slightly lower.
  • Even though the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has stabilised, much will depend on the pickup in the investment rate.
  • The international environment is not that conducive for growth in our foreign trade; this will have an impact on our exports and, therefore, growth.
  • Perhaps the growth rate will be between 7.2% and 7.5%.

What are our major concerns?

1.       Investment ratio

  • The growth rate depends on the investment rate and the productivity of capital or its inverse incremental capital-output ratio.
  • It depends upon a multiple number of factors such as quality of labour, which again depends on education and skill development levels, and technology, which is constantly changing.
  • For ensuring a sustained high growth, we need to raise the investment ratio and keep the incremental capital-output ratio at 4.
  • The Gross Fixed Capital Formation ratio has fallen from 35.8% in 2007-08 to 28.5% in 2017-18.
  • The journey to raise the investment ratio is not going to be easy. A tranquil political and economic environment needs to be nurtured.

 

2.      Banking system

  • An important factor affecting economic growth is the condition of our banking system. Today, banks are responsible both for short-term and long-term lending. Their inability to lend affects the availability of working capital as well as capital expenditures.
  • Non-performing assets (NPAs), including stressed assets, as a proportion of loans of public sector banks stood at 16.7% as of March 2018. As many as 11 public sector banks are under Prompt Corrective Action (PCA). This restricts the lending abilities of these banks.
  • Added to this, the non banking financial company (NBFC) system is also under stress. This is partly a reflection of the stress in the banking system since most NBFCs borrow from banks.
  • Recapitalisation of public sector banks will partly solve the problem. It is not clear at this point how much it will help in adding to lending capacity.
  • Some have advocated providing more capital to banks outside the PCA framework as that will increase their lending capacity immediately.
  • The decision to pump in more capital to public sector banks must be completed soon.
  • The growth rate in the industrial sector will depend on how quickly the banking system comes back to normalcy.

3.      Employment growth

There is a great concern about the inadequate growth of employment.

  • One question that is asked is that if growth is around 7%, why is there no corresponding growth in employment?
  • We need to keep two factors in mind. Growth can occur either as a result of increase in investment or because of better utilisation of existing capacity.
  • But growth caused by improved efficiency of utilisation of existing capital can lead only to a marginal increase in employment. Much of the growth seen in the last few years is of the latter variety.
  • Second, the increase in employment seen in the period between 2004-05 and 2009-10 was because of the rapid growth of the information technology (IT) and financial sectors.
  • The IT sector has slowed down. The financial sector is under stress.
  • The IT sector growth rate is not likely to pick up significantly as this industry is undergoing many structural changes.

4.     External sector

  • India’s external sector has grown and is well integrated with the rest of the world. India’s trade in goods and services as a percentage of GDP has grown to 42% of GDP.
  • However, there are vulnerabilities as seen in September-October 2018, when the value of the rupee suddenly plummeted when crude oil prices rose and there were simultaneously capital outflows.
  • In April-November 2018, India’s exports of goods grew by 11.6%. However, we need to note that exports growth was 5.2% (2016-17) and 9.8% (2017-18).
  • Strong growth in exports is a must if we have to keep the current account deficit (CAD) at a manageable level.
  • The forecast for world trade and output is not encouraging. There are too many uncertainties which include an intensification in the trade war.
  • Along with export promotion, we also need to contain some of our large imports. A watch on India’s CAD is critically important if we have to achieve growth with stability.

5.      Agrarian distress

  • The future growth also depends on the performance of agriculture. Agrarian distress is widespread.
  • Strangely, the fall in prices of agricultural products and raising outputs, for instance the case with respect to vegetables, particularly onion, there has been huge wastage.
  • The important requirement in this context is not only the financial capacity of the government to procure but also adequate physical arrangements to procure and store.
  • Loan waivers are at best short-term solutions. The fundamental problem is one of increasing productivity and enabling farmers to achieve increased output and better prices. There is also a basic weakness that we have to address.
  • The average size of landholding is so small that any amount of increase in productivity will not give adequate income. Farmers have to think in terms of consolidation of landholdings so that they can get the benefits of larger size.
  • Small farmers will also have to think in terms of higher value-added products like vegetables.

Way Forward

  1. A combined attack to increase productivity, consolidate landholdings and improve marketing is needed to assure farmers of better income.
  2. Thus there are five concerns viz raising the investment ratio; putting the banking system back on the rails; employment generation through better growth; enhancing export growth to contain the CAD; and removing agrarian distress by increasing productivity and consolidation of small landholdings.
  3. These issues need to be addressed comprehensively, if we have to achieve sustained high growth.

[op-ed snap] A case of unprincipled criminalization

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these scheme

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ordinance Making Power of President, Bail Provisions of the ordinance

Mains level: Triple Talaq and issues related to it. Uniform civil code debate.


Context

The content of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 (Triple Talaq Bill) clearly reflects a sectarian overtone that even attempted to mislead the public by distorting the Supreme Court judgment in Shayara Bano’s case (2017).

Background

Key provisions of the Bill:

The Bill makes all declaration of Talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.

1.Definition: It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.  Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

2.Offence and penalty: The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine.  (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)  The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by: (i) the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or (ii) any person related to her by blood or marriage.

3.The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused. The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.

4.The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared). Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute.  The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate.

5.Allowance: A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.  The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.

6.Custody: A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.

Significance:

  1. Time has come to put an end to the suffering of Muslim women who have been at the receiving end of instant talaq for several years. More than 20 Islamic countries have already banned the practice.

Criticism-

The Bill is a classic case of an unfair and deceptive legislative move with a populist agenda, which in a country like India should call for a novel and effective judicial scrutiny.

  • First of all, in the emblematic judgment in Shayara Bano the majority on the Bench had invalidated the practice by terming it as unconstitutional.
  1. However,the Bill proposes to criminalise an act which is non est in the eye of the law.
  2. The disproportionate punishment of imprisonment for three years for a civil wrong without even a civil consequence due to the Supreme Court’s judgment is antithetical to the very idea of principled criminalisation.
  3. Paradoxically, it was in 2018 that the top court has ostensibly developed this concept by way of the verdicts on homosexuality (Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India) and adultery (Joseph Shine v. Union of India).
  • Second, the majority verdict in Shayara Bano did not direct the government or Parliament to criminalise triple talaq or “to give effect to the order”, as implied in the Bill.
  1. There was no need to do so either, as the judgment got effectuated on its own. The judgment had no intention to create any deterrent, since the very act of triple talaq is void ab initio, according to the Supreme Court.
  2. The Bill thus tries to distort the intent and content of what the court said in Shayara Bano case.
  3. The Bill assumes validity for an action which the court invalidated, and as such the very thematic premise for the Bill is artificial, erroneous and even contemptuous.
  4. The settled legal principle in India that no ill motive could be attributed to legislation would require a revisit, when politics overweighs constitutionalism.
  • Third, criminalisation of triple talaq, can only motivates to resort to other methods of divorce which do not fall within the ambit of the Bill or to simply desert his wife.
  1. Thus the Bill does not serve the Muslim woman’s interest.

Conclusion

  1. By trying to segregate a particular mode of divorce in a particular community and to punish the men of that community alone, the Centre is trying to shatter two fundamental tenets of the Indian Constitution — equality in the eye of the law and secularism.
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] A look at how the poorest fared under the present government

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Transport & marketing of agricultural produce & issues & related constraints

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: APMC Act, Economic survey

Mains level: Rural distress and ways to resolve it


Context

Data Paradox on Rural distress-

  1. The data on wages/incomes of manual casual workers clearly suggests that not only have they seen a secular deceleration in growth rates of wages since this government took over, but also that there does not appear to be any sign of these improving, despite the signs of recovery suggested by the aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) numbers.
  2. The data on wages from the Labour Bureau based on the Wage Rates In Rural India series, it provides wage data for various occupations, it is safe to assume that general agriculture labour and general non-agricultural labour occupational groups are representative of the two categories of casual workers.

Real wage growth of various categories of rural workers since 2014

  1. Since May 2014, real wages of agricultural labourers have grown at the rate of 0.77% per annum until October 2018, whereas it has grown only at 0.02% per annum for non-agricultural labourers.
  2. For construction workers, who form among the largest group of workers outside agriculture, real wages during the same period has declined by 0.24% per annum.
  3. For all agricultural occupations together, the growth rate of real wages during this period is 0.55% per annum.
  4. Since November 2016, real wages of casual workers are almost stagnant with almost no growth.
  5. It is important to note that the current spell of stagnation in real wages is the longest and the worst in the past three decades.
  6. Clearly, the crisis in the countryside is not just for the farmers who cultivate but also for wage workers who depend on availability of jobs in agriculture and outside agriculture.

Why does rural India continue to witness stagnant and declining real wages?

  1. Primarily because the agrarian economy, which drives the rural economy, has been under severe stress.
  2. Declining crop prices continue to remain a worry for agricultural income, with wholesale and retail prices for most crops showing a declining trend in the past five months.
  3. Even non-food crops have gone through a price collapse.
  4. Non-agricultural sector of the rural economy is doing worse than the agricultural economy.
  5. A large part of it is also because of the after-effects of demonetization and goods and services tax, which continue to affect the rural non-farm economy.

Contrary to the rosy picture

  1. The trends in wage growth are clearly contrary to the rosy picture of a recovering and buoyant economy projected by the government and suggests a far more serious crisis in rural areas than reflected by the agrarian crisis.
  2. For instance, Farmers from different parts of the country are knocking at the doors of Parliament in Delhi.

How to reconcile two diverging trends?

  1. While it is possible that wages continue to decline as overall growth rates continue to rise, it does imply that the growth rate is not inclusive and has bypassed the poorest sections.
  2. It certainly points towards a trend of increasing impoverishment and rising inequality, both of which are not good for the economy.
  3. However, it is also a strong indicator that the underlying factors, which caused demand deflation in rural areas leading to rural distress, continue to remain strong and relevant.

Way Forward

  1. Clearly, there is very little to suggest that either the growth has benefited the rural economy or that recent growth has reduced the extent of rural distress.
  2. This is not just a statistical issue, but is at the core of the promises made by this government to bring in improvements in the lives and livelihoods of the poorest.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: CCPI 2019

Mains Level: Performance of India in CCPI


News

  • The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019 recently released shows that only few countries have started working towards limiting global warming below 2°C or even at 1.5°C.

About CCPI

  1. The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) is an annual publication by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network Europe.
  2. Its aim is to put political and social pressure on those countries that have, until now, failed to take ambitious action on climate protection, and to highlight those countries with best practice climate policies.
  3. It evaluates the climate protection performance of 60 countries, responsible for over 90% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

India’s Performance

  1. India ranks 11th in this year’s CCPI, improving its standing by three places compared to the previous edition.
  2. Most notably India improved its performance in the Renewable Energy category, joining the group of medium
  3. However, national experts argue that plans to build new coal-fired power plants may pose a risk of offsetting positive developments in the renewable energy sector.
  4. Comparatively low levels of per capita GHG emissions and a relatively ambitious mitigation target for 2030 give India an overall high rating in the emissions category.

Global Performance

  1. Morocco has been named the second best performing country after Sweden in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).
  2. With the connection of the world’s largest solar plant to the grid, Morocco is on track for achieving its target of 42% installed renewable energy capacities by 2020.
  3. Sweden is in top position, followed by Morocco and Lithuania in the CCPI 2019.
  4. The bottoms five in the list are Saudi Arabia, U.S., Iran, South Korea and Taiwan.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover lands on moon’s far side

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chang’e-4

Mains level: Space Objects and their significance


News

  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover scripted history when it made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.

Chang’e-4 Mission

  1. Chang’e-4 named after a Chinese moon goddess and comprising a lander and a rover, touched down at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude on the far side of the moon.
  2. The lunar explorer landed on the far side of the moon and has already sent back its first pictures from the surface.
  3. The pioneering achievement is another demonstration of China’s ambitions to be a space power.
  4. The robotic spacecraft is carrying instruments to analyse the unexplored region’s geology and will conduct biological experiments.
  5. The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on December 8 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province.
  6. It landed on the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitken basin and then sent back a picture of the landing site shot by one of the monitor cameras on the probe’s lander, marking the world’s first image taken on the moon’s far side.
  7. The scientific tasks of the Chang’e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon.

What makes it special?

  1. The far side has been extensively photographed by spacecraft, starting with a Soviet probe in 1959, but no probe had ever made a soft landing onto it.
  2. Scientists around the world have not been able to conduct close observations and surveys of the region for decades.

South Pole of the Moon

  1. Tidal forces on Earth slow the moon’s rotation to the point where the same side always faces Earth.
  2. The other side, most of which is never visible from Earth, is the far side of the moon.
  3. Since the moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces Earth.
  4. The far side of the moon is the hemisphere that never faces Earth, due to the moon’s rotation.
  5. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “dark side of the moon,” even though it receives just as much sunlight as its Earth-facing side.

About Chang E

  1. Named after the goddess of the moon in Chinese legends, the first Chang’e spacecraft was launched in 2007 to verify China’s lunar probe technology, obtain lunar images and perform scientific surveys.
  2. The Chang’e 2 followed in 2010 to carry out high-definition imaging of the moon and investigate landing conditions for the Chang’e 3.
  3. Chang’e 3 landed on the moon in 2013.
  4. Chang’e 3 released the first Chinese lunar rover, Yutu, on the moon and worked there for around 1,000 days.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

A paper sensor that can detect freshness of milk

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievement of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ALP test

Mains level: Working and utility of the quality test


News

  • Scientists at IIT Guwahati have developed a simple paper kit that can test freshness of milk and tell how well it has been pasteurized.

Why such move?

  1. Milk is highly perishable and prone to action of enzymes and microorganisms inherently present in it.
  2. Although pasteurization, freezing and preservation using additives are widely used to prevent spoilage, perishability of milk is still a concern.
  3. There is no easy way to know if milk is fresh or stale or how effective is the pasteurization.
  4. Being a widely consumed food, the safety of milk is of prime concern to consumers.
  5. Tests used in dairies and dairy industries are time consuming and need sophisticated equipment like spectrophotometers.
  6. The new detection kit could make testing easy and fast.

Paper Kit

  1. A milk enzyme, Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), is considered to be an indicator of milk quality because its presence even after pasteurization indicates presence of microbes that may not have been rendered inactive with pasteurization.
  2. Researchers used ordinary filter paper to prepare the detector.
  3. The filter paper was cut into small discs using office punch and impregnated with chemical probes that preferentially react with ALP.
  4. The ‘probes’ used are antibodies that specifically bind to ALP.
  5. When ALP comes into contact with the probe, it turns white paper disc into a coloured one.

How it works?

  1. The paper discs are soaked in 4-carboxybenzene diazonium solution and then chemically treated to expose-COOH groups on the diazonium.
  2. The -COOH groups then attach to NH2 groups on anti-ALP probe molecules.
  3. Thus the anti-ALP probes are fixed on paper.
  4. When a drop of milk is poured on the tiny paper disc, the ALP in milk reacts with probes, resulting in change of colour.
  5. The colour change on paper discs is then photographed by a smartphone camera and images processed to obtain corresponding colour values.
  6. These values are then compared with standard data stored in the phone.  Thus not only the presence of ALP could be detected but the amount of it in milk could also be measured.
Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

[pib] India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway

Note4Students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the Highway

Mains Level: Importance of proposed project


News

India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway

  1. The 1360 km long highway project is an initiative pertaining to India, Myanmar and Thailand.
  2. India is undertaking construction of two sections of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar namely,
  • Construction of 120.74 km Kalewa-Yagyi road section, and
  • Construction of 69 bridges along with the approach road on the 149.70 km Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section.
  1. The works on both these sections were awarded on Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode in May 2018.
  2. The scheduled time for completion of both the projects is three years from the date of commencement at the project site by the executing agency.
  3. The above mentioned both the projects are being funded by Government of India under grant assistance to the Government of Myanmar.
  4. A Motor Vehicles Agreement along with protocols for regulating and facilitating movement of cargo and passenger vehicular traffic is under inter-governmental negotiations between India, Myanmar and Thailand.

Utility of the Project

  1. The road is expected to boost trade and commerce in the ASEAN–India Free Trade Area, as well as with the rest of Southeast Asia.
  2. India has also proposed extending the highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Back2Basics

EPC Model

  1. Under this system the entire project is funded by the government.
  2. The EPC entails the contractor build the project by designing, installing and procuring necessary labour and land to construct the infrastructure, either directly or by subcontracting.
  3. Under EPC model the contractor is legally responsible to complete the project under some fixed predetermined timeline and may also involve scope for penalty in case of time overrun.
  4. In EPC as all the clearances, land acquisition and regulatory norms have to be completed by the government itself and the private players do not have to get itself involved in these time taking procedures.

For more reading Investment Models, navigate to page:

Recent PPP models (EPC, HAM ) an analysis

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Southeast Asia

[pib] Cabinet approves revision in list of Scheduled Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Tribes mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Not Much


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of an amendment bill namely in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 so as to modify the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) of Arunachal Pradesh.

Changes will be made in list of STs of Arunachal Pradesh

  • Deletion of ‘Abor’ in serial No. 1, as it is the same as ‘Adi’ in Serial No. 16.
  • Replace Tai Khamti’ instead of ‘Khampti’ at serial No. 6.
  • Inclusion of ‘Mishmi-Kaman’ (Miju Mishmi), Idu (Mishmi) and Taraon (Digaru Mishmi) in serial No. 8.
  • Inclusion of Monpa, Memba, Sartang, Sajolong (Miji) in serial No. 9 in lieu of ‘Momba’.
  • Inclusion of ‘Nocte’, “Tangsa’, Tutsa’, ‘Wancho’ in lieu of ‘Any Naga Tribes’ in serial No. 10 in list of Scheduled Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.

Rationale behind the proposed Amendments

  • Deletion of Abor – Removal of duplication
  • Replace Khampti – There is no tribe called ‘Khampti’
  • Inclusion of Mishmi-Kaman, Idu and Taraon – Existing entry is only of ‘Mishmi’.  There is reportedly no such community.
  • Inclusion of Monpa, Memba, Sartang, Wancho – Existing entry is of ‘Any Naga Tribes’.  These are reportedly the only Naga tribes in the State.
  • Inclusion of Nocte, Tangsa, Tutsa, Wancho – Existing entry is of ‘Any Naga Tribes’.  These are reportedly the only Naga tribes in the State.
Tribal Development