February 2019
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[op-ed snap] Interim bailout: RBI surplus to govt

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Role of RBI & various functions performed by it

Mains level: Issue of transfer of surplus reserves and various factors associated with it and need for institutionalisation of such transfer.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The central board of the Reserve Bank of India decided to transfer an interim surplus of ₹28,000 crore to the Centre.

Background

  • Together with the ₹40,000-crore final surplus share for 2017-18, which the Centre received in the first half, the total receipts from the RBI this fiscal will be a tidy ₹68,000 crore.
  • Government strapped for finances and struggling to meet the revised fiscal deficit target of 3.4% of GDP, the RBI’s largesse will be handy.
  • The total surplus received by the Centre for 2018-19 is substantially higher than the ₹50,000 crore it got from the RBI in 2017-18, and this is the second successive year the central bank is making an interim transfer: last year it transferred ₹10,000 crore.

Concerns With Such an Arrangement

  • Though there is nothing wrong in a shareholder demanding an interim dividend payout, the fact is that the Centre is advancing a receipt from the next fiscal to bail itself out in the current one.
  • Should the RBI decide not to repeat this practice, the government’s revenues will suffer because as much as ₹82,911 crore has been budgeted on this count for the next fiscal.
  • the government’s revenues will suffer because as much as ₹82,911 crore has been budgeted on this count for the next fiscal.
  • Again, the central bank is not like a corporate enterprise, nor can the government compare itself with a company shareholder.
  • The RBI’s income and surplus growth cannot be measured in commercial terms since a large part of it comes from statutory functions it has to perform as a regulator.

Recent Changes in Surplus Transfers and dividend receipts

  • The large payout this fiscal is bound to raise eyebrows, especially because of the recent history of conflict between the RBI and the Centre over the sharing of the former’s accumulated reserves as a dividend with the Centre.
  • Though the practice of an interim payout started under Mr. Patel, there are inevitable questions over whether there was pressure from the Centre now for the transfer of a higher sum than last year.
  • Centre had in the Interim Budget bumped up receipts under this head from the central bank, nationalised banks and other financial institutions to ₹74,140 crore from the original estimate of ₹54,817 crore made in the 2018-19 Budget.

Way Forward

  • There will, hopefully, be a system and a structure in place once the committee under former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan, that is now reviewing the economic capital framework for the RBI, submits its report.
  • It was constituted to de-personalise and institutionalise a system for the sharing of the RBI’s surpluses with the government.
RBI Notifications

[op-ed snap] Clean power

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Name of air pollutants notified

Mains level: Financing clean energy and cost of non complinace of such measures


NEWS

CONTEXT

The effort to clean up India’s thermal power plants running on coal has never really taken off, despite the Ministry of Environment notifying emission limits for major pollutants such as suspended particulate matter, sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury in December 2015.

Notification Regarding Pollution Control

  • Ministry of Environment notified emission limits for major pollutants such as suspended particulate matter, sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury in December 2015.
  • Considering that the cumulative impact of these pollutants on the health and well-being of people is severe, the Centre should have followed up the notification with a viable financial plan to help power plants acquire pollution control technologies.
  • The economics favours such an approach for the larger plants.
  • For the smaller, older units, scaling down generation during the winter months when pollutants accumulate may prove beneficial.
  • Originally, the compliance deadline was set for 2017, but that was missed and the plan now is to achieve the norms by 2022.

Cost of Non-Compliance

  • Greenpeace India, suggest the estimated cost of non-compliance by the original deadline has been about 76,000 premature deaths.
  •  The Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy, put the positive outcomes from achieving pollution control at coal-fired plants by 2025 at potentially 3.2 lakh lives saved from premature death, and 5.2 crore respiratory hospital admissions avoided in the next decade.
  • The latest proposal from the Power Ministry to provide the equivalent of over $12 billion (about ₹88,000 crore), mainly to remove sulphur from coal plant emissions, becomes important.

Planning Financing Pollution Control Measures

  • A viable financial mechanism must be evolved to remove pollutants in existing and upcoming power plants.
  • Stop further long-term investments in a dirty fuel such as coal that contributes to carbon emissions.
  • The burden of incorporating pollution control should fall on the beneficiary-user, which in simple terms would translate into a tariff hike.
  • Achieving speedy implementation of the new processes covering both public and private power producers may require some form of immediate governmental support, such as grants.
  • Because, power producers that have borrowed from several institutions, including state-funded ones, are reported to be under severe financial stress.

Way Forward

  • India’s coal use represents just over 54% of the present energy mix, and the fuel will continue to retain a high share of the overall generation.
  • The challenge, therefore, is to identify the right instruments to fund the entire exercise, in the interests of pollution control and extending electricity access to the unreached.
  • A positive spin-off from sulphur-removal will be, since it can yield commercially significant quantities of synthetic gypsum.
  • The benefits of clean air to public health would make the investment well worth the effort.

 

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The importance of being humane

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The ratification of anti-torture convention is related to Human Rights and India has not ratified it.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Custodial torture is global, old and stubborn. Opposition parties must make a new anti-torture legislation part of their common programme.

History of torture by Power

  • The Arthashastra prescribes mental torture through swear-words with or without physical assaults.
  • Death by a thousand cuts was ancient China’s speciality.
  • Their modern avatar in Japan’s World War II of biological and chemical experimentation on humans — prisoners, mainly Chinese — in Unit 731 stop the blood-flow to one’s heart.

Worldwide convention against Torture

  • Meeting on December 10, 1984, the UN General Assembly stirred the world’s conscience. It adopted the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Better known as the UN Convention against Torture, it sought to prevent torture around the world.
  • It “required states to take effective measures to prevent torture and forbade them from transporting people to any country where there is a reason to believe they will be tortured (refoulement)”.
  • Most significantly, the Convention made state parties to undertake that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” will be “invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict”.

The Indian Case

  • India took 13 years to sign the Convention, but sign it did, on October 14, 1997,
  • Unless a convention is ratified and followed or preceded by domestic legislation that commits the ratifying party to compliance, the original signing carries no meaning. India has not ratified.
  • A state which signs the Convention has to have a domestic law on the subject to outlaw and prevent custodial torture. Without such a law, there is no meaning to signing the Convention.

History of Anti-torture legislation in India

  • UPA II government introduced a Prevention of Torture Bill in the Lok Sabha in 2010 and had it passed.
  • A select committee of the Rajya Sabha. The committee gave its report recommending the Bill’s adoption later the same year. Citing National Human Rights Commission figures of reported torture cases, the report said the figures showed custodial torture was rising.
  • It lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
  • In reply to a question (May 11, 2016) whether the government was planning to ratify the Convention, the Minister of State for Home did not answer either in the positive or negative but spoke of amending Sections 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession) and 331 of the Indian Penal Code.
  •  A PIL was moved in the Supreme Court in 2016 asking it to get Parliament to move forward in the matter. After a full day’s exclusive hearing in the case, the court has reserved its orders.

Way Forward

  • In a matter that concerns ‘life and liberty’, the Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution’s guarantees.
  • It is imperative that the democratic opposition makes the ratification of the Convention and a new anti-torture legislation part of its common programme.
  • The 17th Lok Sabha must take a stand on this matter. It has a choice: to join the civilised world in moving away from ancient barbarism or stay in the dungeons of blinding, benumbing brutality.
Human Rights Issues

[pib] KUSUM Scheme

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 KUSUM

Mains level: Possible benefits and outcomes of the scheme discussed in the newscard.


News

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved launch of Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) Scheme with the objective of providing financial and water security to farmers.

 KUSUM Scheme

  1. The scheme would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands.
  2. It was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19.

Component of KUSUM Scheme

The proposed scheme consists of three components:

Component-A

  • Renewable power plants of capacity 500 KW to 2 MW will be setup by individual farmers/ cooperatives/panchayats /farmer producer organisations (FPO) on their barren or cultivable lands.
  • The power generated will be purchased by the DISCOMs at Feed in tariffs determined by respective SERC.

Component-B

  • Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
  • Individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Solar PV capacity in kW equal to the pump capacity in HP is allowed under the scheme.

Component-C

  • Solarization of 10 Lakh Grid-connected Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps is included in this component,
  • Individual farmers will be supported to solarise pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP.
  • Solar PV capacity up to two times of pump capacity in kW is allowed under the scheme.
  • The excess available energy will be sold to DISCOM.

Expected outcomes

  1. The Scheme will have substantial environmental impact in terms of savings of CO2 emissions.
  2. All three components of the Scheme combined together are likely to result in saving of about 27 million tonnes of CO2 emission per annum.
  3. Further, Component-B of the Scheme on standalone solar pumps may result in saving of 1.2 billion liters of diesel per annum and associated savings in the foreign exchange due to reduction of import of crude oil.
  4. Besides increasing self-employment the proposal is likely to generate employment opportunity equivalent to 6.31 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers.
Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

[pib] GeM Start-up Runway and SWAYATT Initiative

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  GeM, SWAYATT, StartUp Runway

Mains level: Benefits of centralised procurement in online mode


News

GeM Start-up Runway

  1. Launched on 19th February 2019, “StartUp Runway” is a unique concept initiated by GeM to promote entrepreneurship through innovation.
  2. This program is an opportunity for Startups to reach out to the Government Buyers by offering products and services that are unique in concept, design, process and functionality.
  3. DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) certified Startups are invited to offer their products/services for procurement on GeM.
  4. It seeks to support technology development, research and innovation by ensuring a conducive policy environment for industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
  5. It aligns with Government’s philosophy to turn Job-seekers into job-creators.

SWAYATT Initiative

  1. It is an initiative to promote Start-ups, Women and Youth Advantage Through eTransactions on Government e Marketplace (GeM).
  2. This will bring together the key stakeholders within the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem to Government e-Marketplace the national procurement portal.

Back2Basics

Government e-Marketplace

  1. GeM is a one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  2. GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  3. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  4. The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India

Note4Students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India

Mains level:  Menace of narcotic drugs in India


News

  • An addiction plague has steadily swallowed India a/c to a study conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
  • The study, named “National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India” is a first of its kind as it gives pan-India and state-level data.

National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India

  1. The survey report, which was submitted to the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on noted that 5.7 crore people in the country suffered from alcohol related problems.
  2. The survey spanned all the 36 states and UTs of India and citizens between the ages of 10 to 75 responded to the questions set in the study regarding substance abuse.
  3. The intoxicant categories that were studied are as follows: alcohol, cannabis (bhang and ganja/charas), opioids (opium, heroin and pharmaceutical opioids), cocaine, amphetamine type stimulants (ATS), sedatives, inhalants and hallucinogens.

Magnitude of Substance use in India

I. Alcohol

  1. Of the 16 crore people who consumed alcohol across the country, prevalence of alcohol consumption was 17 times higher among men than among women.
  2. More than four lakh children and 1.8 million adults needed help for inhalant abuse and dependence.
  3. The male to female ratio of alcohol users in India is 17:1 and most men consume either ‘desi’ liquor (30 per cent) or Indian Made Foreign Liquor (30 per cent).
  4. A total of 5.2 per cent of the population indulge in harmful alcohol use, means that every third drinker in the country is in dire need of medical help in curing his/her addiction.

II. Cannabis (Bhang, Ganja & Charas)

  1. According to the survey, over 3.1 crore Indians (2.8%) reported to have used any cannabis product in last one year.
  2. Although, the usage of Bhang use is more common than Ganja or Charas but in case of addiction, the number of dependent users is higher for addicts of Ganja and Charas.
  3. Cannabis consumption is higher than the national average in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.
  4. In Punjab and Sikkim, the prevalence of cannabis use disorders is considerably higher (more than thrice) than the national average.

III. Heroin, Opium & others

  1. At the national level, Heroin is most commonly used substance followed by pharmaceutical opioids, followed by opium (Afeem).
  2. However, in case of harmful dependence, more people are dependent on Heroin than other similar drugs like Afeem.
  3. Of the total 60 lakh users of Heroin and Afeem, majority of them are from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

IV. Sedatives and inhalants

  1. Less than 1% or nearly 1.18 crore people use sedatives, non medical or non prescription use. However, what is more worrying that its prevalence is high among children and adolescents.
  2. At national level, there are 4.6 lakh children that need help against the harmful or dependence over inhalants.
  3. This problem of addiction of children is more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana.
  4. Cocaine (0.10%) Amphetamine Type Stimulants (0.18%) and Hallucinogens (0.12%) are the categories with lowest prevalence of current use in the country.

V. Addicts who inject drugs

  1. According to the survey, there are 8.5 lakh people in the country who inject drugs (PWID).
  2. Users of opium based drugs report high incidence of injecting drugs (heroin 46% and pharmaceutical opioids 46%), a large number of these drug users report risky injecting practices.
  3. This risky practice more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Argentina becomes 72nd country to sign solar agreement

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Solar Alliance

Mains level: India’s initiatives for transition towards Renewable Energy


News

  • Argentina has become the 72nd country to sign the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
  • Countries which have recently signed the agreement until now include India, France, Australia, UAE, UK, Japan amongst others.

About ISA

  1. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a group of 121 solar resource-rich countries with headquarters in Gurugram, India.
  2. The agreement was opened for signature during the COP22 at Marrakech on November 15, 2016.
  3. The organisation aims to deploy over 1,000 gigawatt of solar energy and mobilise more than USD 1,000 billion into solar power by 2030.

India-Argentine Relations

  1. With India–Argentina trade just touching $ 3 billion in the last ten years, leaders of both sides agree to increase their cooperation further to improve economic relations.
  2. They are celebrating the 70th year of the establishment of diplomatic ties between.
  3. Both agreed on cooperation in the agriculture sector, trade and investments, defence, Lithium Mining and Space.
Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

Rajasthan gears up for social accountability Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill, 2019

Mains level: Best practices of bringing transparency and accountability in administration


News

  • Rajasthan state government is all geared up to bring Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill, 2019.
  • The Bill would ensure accountability of public functionaries and authorities for timely delivery of goods, services and disposal of their grievances on time.

Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill, 2019

  1. The draft bill aims at ensuring provision of quality individual goods and public goods and services in a time bound manner.
  2. It says that every person/group of persons shall have the right to be mandatorily informed about the planning, implementation and expenditure of delivery of all goods and services through a comprehensive and open architecture for information dissemination.

Aim and Objectives

  1. The draft bill aims at ensuring provision of quality individual goods and public goods and services in a time bound manner.
  2. The Bill includes provisions for citizens’ charter, public hearing, social audit and information and facilitation centres.
  3. The new accountability law would incorporate the provisions of the Guaranteed Delivery of Public Services Act and the Right to Hearing Act.

Time bound grievance redressal

  1. Every person/group of persons shall have the right to file a grievance, obtain a dated acknowledgement receipt and ensure the redress of such grievances as per provisions of this Act.
  2. It provisions that every complainant shall have the right to participate in a block level open public hearing in the presence of concerned officials within 14 days of filing the grievance.
  3. The complainant shall have the right to disposal of the grievance and the receipt of a written Action Taken Report within 30 days of filing the grievance.
  4. In case of not getting satisfactory response, the complainant shall have the right to appeal against the decision taken on his/her grievance to an independent appellate authority at the District/Divisional and State Level.
Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc