February 2019
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[op-ed snap] Safety nets

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Banning of Unregulated Deposit SchemesOrdinance

Mains level: Illicit deposit schemes spreading across the country and measures to curb them.


NEWS

CONTEXT

There have been recent events of chit fund frauds leading to savings of low-income Indian households have traditionally remained unprotected.

 Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance

  • It bars all deposit schemes in the country that are not officially registered with the government from either seeking or accepting deposits from customers.
  • The ordinance will help in the creation of a central repository of all deposit schemes under operation, thus making it easier for the Centre to regulate their activities and prevent fraud from being committed against ordinary people.
  • The ordinance allows for compensation to be offered to victims through the liquidation of the assets of those offering illegal deposit schemes.

Need for banning unregulated deposits

  • Popular deposit schemes such as chit funds and gold schemes, which as part of the huge shadow banking system usually do not come under the purview of government regulators, have served as important instruments of saving for people in the unorganised sector.
  • These unregulated schemes have also been misused by some miscreants to swindle the money of depositors with the promise of unbelievably high returns in a short period of time.
  • The Saradha chit fund scam in West Bengal is just one example of such a heinous financial crime against depositors.
  • An ordinance reflects a timely recognition of the need for greater legal protection to be offered for those depositors with inadequate financial literacy.

Effective Implementation Of Ordinance

  • Policymakers will have to make sure that the bureaucrats responsible for the on-ground implementation of the ordinance are keen on protecting the savings of low-income households.
  • There must also be checks against persons in power misusing the new rules to derecognise genuine deposit schemes that offer useful financial services to customers in the unorganised sector.
  • In fact, in the past, there have been several cases of politicians acting in cahoots with the operators of fraudulent deposit schemes to fleece depositors of their hard-earned money.

Conclusion

Another potential risk involved when the government, as in this case, takes it upon itself to guarantee the legitimacy of various deposit schemes is that it dissuades depositors from conducting the necessary due diligence before choosing to deposit their money. The passing of tough laws may thus be the easiest of battles in the larger war against illicit deposit schemes.

Banking Sector Reforms

[op-ed snap]Deodorizing waste

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Increasing pollution due to untreated waste and need of waste management as a policy issue


NEWS

CONTEXT

India’s cities are drowning in waste — but no one is bothered.

Effects of contaminated water

  • The World Bank estimates that more than a fifth of all communicable diseases in India (21%) are caused by contaminated water.
  • It attributes one in ten deaths in India to diseases or infections directly or indirectly transmitted through water.
  • Over 500 children die every day in India due to diarrhoeal diseases.

Nitrogen, a growing pollutant

  • According to a study by the Indian Nitrogen Group,  the amount of reactive nitrogen in a bulk of the water bodies in India is already twice the limit prescribed by WHO.
  • Nitrogen pollution from untreated sewage now outstrips nitrogen pollution from the Indian farmer’s urea addiction.

Clean India’s addition to nitrogen pollution problem

  • Under the mission, in the past four years alone, over nine crore toilets have been constructed.
  • Of these, only 60 lakh are in urban areas, where one assumes they are connected to some sort of sewage system.
  •  A study done by the Centre for Science and Environment in 30 cities in Uttar Pradesh found that only 28% of toilets in these cities were connected to a sewage system.
  • The rest will be generating fecal sludge, sewage and septage which has no place to go.
  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 63% of urban sewage flowing into rivers is untreated.
  • Up to a third of the installed sewage treatment capacity is fully or partly dysfunctional

Sewage management is missing from agenda

  • Of the 99 cities in the ‘Smart Cities’ mission, which are collectively spending ₹2 lakh crore over five years (from 2015), only 2.4% of the money is going to be spent on waste management.
  • AMRUT covers a much larger spread — 500 so-called ‘mission cities’ across the country. Of these, only 217 pitched for a sewage treatment plant as an AMRUT project.

No access to water

  • According to NITI Aayog’s composite water management index report released last year, 75% of households do not have access to drinking water on premises, 70% households lack piped water (potable or otherwise) and as many as 20 cities will effectively use up all available water resources by 2020!

Conclusion

  • Sewage and waste need to come centre stage in our policy debates. Elections may be fought on ‘bijli, Sadak, paani’ (power, roads, water) but no election is fought over naali (drain). Unless that happens, we run the real risk of eventually either choking or being poisoned by our own waste.

 

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Explained: Decoding the OIC’s invite to ‘Guest of Honour’ India

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OIC

Mains level: Implications of India’s invite to OIC


News

  • India overcame a five-decade-old hurdle to get itself invited to Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) meet.
  • It is a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world.
  • The meeting will be held in Abu Dhabi on March 1 and 2, for which Swaraj has been invited by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the UAE as the “Guest of Honour”.

Why the OIC matters

  • The OIC — formerly Organisation of Islamic Conference — is the second largest inter-governmental organisation in the world after the UN, with a membership of 57 states in four continents.
  • The OIC describes itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world”.
  • Its stated objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.

Membership of OIC

  • The OIC has reserved its membership for Muslim-majority countries.
  • Russia, Thailand, and couple of other small countries have Observer status.
  • At the 45th session in May 2018, Bangladesh, the host country, had suggested that India, where more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live, should be given Observer status.
  • However Pakistan had opposed the proposal.

Why India is the Guest of Honour?

I. Improved ties with UAE, Saudi

  • The first-time invitation to India to be a Guest of Honour at the Plenary, especially at a time of heightened tensions with Pakistan is a significant diplomatic victory.
  • The invitation indicated “the desire of the enlightened leadership of the UAE to go beyond our rapidly growing close bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level”.
  • It is considered as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE.

II. Hosting the Prince

  • The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was a very special Chief Guest at the 68th Republic Day celebrations in 2017.
  • It was the first time that India laid out the Republic Day red carpet for a leader who was neither a Head of State nor Head of Government.
  • The invite may be an important outcome of the MBS visit, apart from being an indication of New Delhi’s improved ties with both Saudi and the UAE, and the Gulf region as a whole.

But, it has been pro-Pak on J&K

  • The OIC has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, and has issued statements criticizing the alleged Indian activities in the state.
  • The 2017 session of the Council of OIC Foreign Ministers had adopted a resolution “reaffirming the unwavering support… for the Kashmiri people in their just cause.
  • At the 2018 meeting in Dhaka, however, “J&K” figured in only one of the 39 resolutions adopted, that too, along with 12 other states or regions worldwide.
  • Pakistan had complained about the Dhaka Declaration, and accused Bangladesh of circulating the text very late.

A new India-Pak tussle is expected

  • Indeed, India has excellent relations individually with almost all member nations of the OIC.
  • This is a reason why it can at times afford to not take the statements issued by the group as a whole seriously.
  • Despite the invitation to MEA — who can be expected to bring up the terrorist attacks in India in her address — it is important to watch what line the OIC takes on J&K in its final declaration.
  • It is certain that Pakistan would be making every effort and behind-the-scenes negotiations for a statement on Kashmir, perhaps using last year’s report of the UN Human Rights Office that criticized India.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Afghanistan launches new export route to India through Iran

Note4students

Mains Paper 2:IR| Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Chabahar Port

Mains level: Significance of Chabahar Port for India


News

  • Afghanistan began exports to India through the Chabahar as the landlocked, war-torn nation turns to overseas markets to improve its economy.

Afghan Exports to India

  • 23 trucks carrying 57 tonnes of dried fruits, textiles, carpets and mineral products were dispatched from western Afghan city of Zaranj to Iran’s Chabahar port.
  • The consignment will be shipped to the Indian city of Mumbai.
  • The Iranian port provides easy access to the sea to Afghanistan and India has helped developed this route to allow both countries to engage in trade bypassing Pakistan.

Afghanistan, a new trade partner

  • India has sent 1.1 million tonnes of wheat and 2,000 tonnes of lentils to Afghanistan through Chabahar.
  • Both countries established an air corridor in 2017.
  • Afghan exports to India stood at $740 million in 2018, making it the largest export destination.

To read more about Chabahar Port, navigate to the page:

Chah Bahar, Its significance and the impediments in taking it ahead

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

[pib] All India Citizens Survey of Police Services

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of the Survey

Mains level: Policing Reforms


News

All India Citizens Survey of Police Services

  • A globally accepted way to assess the impact or outcomes of such endeavors is through a holistic analysis of services rendered to the public, through public perception surveys conducted by professional and independent agencies.
  • Such surveys are globally tested tools for improving service delivery in policing and enhancing public satisfaction.
  • With the above aim and to further strengthen the good governance practices in the working of police, Ministry of Home Affairs has commissioned the Bureau of Police Research and Development to conduct this pan-India survey.
  • The survey will be conducted through the National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi.

Aims and Objectives

  • To understand public perceptions about Police
  • Gauge the level of non-reporting of crimes or incidents to Police
  • The position on ground relating to crime reporting & recording
  • Timeliness and quality of police response and action, and
  • To assess citizens’ perception and experience about women and children’s safety

Conduct of the Survey

  • The survey will commence in March, 2019 and cover a representative sample of 1.2 lakh households spread over 173 districts across the country.
  • It will be based on the National Sample Survey framework.
  • All States and UTs would be included in this survey and will be completed in 9 months.

Expected Outcomes

  • The outcome of the survey is expected to bring out useful suggestions for stakeholders in formulating and implementing appropriate policy responses.
  • It will imbibe changes in the functioning of police at the cutting edge and for improve crime prevention and investigation.
  • It will cater to transformation in community policing, improvement in the access to the justice and increased/ appropriate resource allocation for police in a systematic manner.
Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

India to have own DNS for safe browsing

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Security| Basics of cyber security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DNS

Mains level: Data Localization and its implications


News

  • The government will soon roll out a public Domain Name Server, or DNS, for India aimed at providing a faster and more secure browsing experience for Internet users in the country, while ensuring that citizens’ data is stored locally.

What is DNS?

  • A DNS is a like a phonebook for the Internet.
  • Humans access information online through domain names, like abcd.com or pqrs.co.in etc.
  • Web browsers interact through Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
  • DNS translates domain names to IP addresses so browsers can load Internet resources.

Indian DNS

  • The roll-out will be executed by the National Informatics Centre – the technology arm of the government.
  • NIC is already using the public DNS within the government network.
  • The users are not mandated to shift to India public DNS. A user is free to choose any DNS.
  • The government’s public DNS, Indian users’ data would be stored within the country, thereby creating a move for Data Localization.

Utility of Indian DNS

  • The main aim of bringing our own public DNS is to ensure availability, particularly for smaller Interest Service Providers (ISPs) who don’t have credible DNS.
  • Bigger ones usually have their own DNS..
  • There are other open DNS servers, including Google Public DNS.
  • The government’s DNS would prevent users from visiting malicious websites.
  • If the government wants to block a website, there is a mechanism in place.
  • The Govt can send a list to the ISPs for reasons such as child porn or fake news, and they have to comply with the order.
Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Used Cooking oil as aviation fuel

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: RUCO Initiative

Mains level: Harnessing edible oils for biofuel production


News

  • Our household used cooking oil could help fly a jet in the near future.
  • Scientists have successfully tested the conversion of used edible oil into Bio-ATF
  • The CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum is looking for partners to commercialise the technology.

Cooking Oil as Bio-ATF

  • The Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum has successfully finished a pilot test to convert used cooking oil into bio-aviation turbine fuel (Bio-ATF).
  • The used cooking oil can be blended with conventional ATF and used as aircraft fuel.
  • The Institute collected used cooking oil from caterers and hotels in Dehradun for the pilot, which has now set the platform for commercial use of the technology.
  • The chemical composition of the used cooking oil is identical to other plant-based oils that have been converted to Bio-ATF.

Up for a fight test

  • The Bio-ATF derived from used cooking oil is yet to be tested on a flight.
  • The pilot test has proven that it is very similar to Bio-ATF derived from Jatropha oil.
  • A large quantity of Bio-ATF is needed for testing on an actual flight.

On lines with RUCO

  • The test assumes importance as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched the Repurpose Cooking Oil (RUCO) initiative to collect and convert used cooking oil into bio-fuel.
  • As many as 64 companies in 101 locations across the country have been identified for the purpose by FSSAI.
  • The food safety body says that by 2020, it should be possible to recover about 220 crore litres of used cooking oil for conversion into bio-fuel.

Back2Basics

RUCO Initiative

FSSAI unveils initiative to collect, convert used cooking oil into biofuel

Biofuel Policy

Arjuna Tree

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Arjuna Tree and its benefits

Mains level:  Not much


News

Arjuna Tree

  • The Arjuna is a large, buttressed tree that usually grows along river banks.
  • The arjuna tree (Terminalia arjuna) is best known for its medicinal properties and its importance to the charismatic grizzled giant squirrel, but it plays a special role in the river-forests of Karnataka’s Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary too.
  • A higher number of trees specific to riverine habitats thrive under the canopies of old arjuna trees.
  • The soil under these trees’ enormous canopies is also more moist and higher in organic carbon.
  • This makes a case to recognize it as a keystone species — one that plays a crucial role in the landscape and conserve large, old trees.

Why Keystone specie?

  • Scientists studied the plant species growing under the canopy of arjuna trees, as well as in areas without the trees.
  • This revealed a higher species diversity (44 species; some like the mahua tree Madhuca latifolia grew only under the canopy of arjuna trees) under these trees.
  • Similar riverine areas without arjuna trees housed only 26 species.
  • Areas devoid of the trees also had more species that were not native to riverine stretches.

Medicinal Use

  • The arjuna was introduced into Ayurveda as a treatment for heart disease by Vagbhata (c. 7th century CE).
  • It is used in the treatment of wounds, hemorrhages and ulcers, applied topically as a powder.

Gives out rich soil

  • The researchers also sampled soil properties under the trees as well as in areas without them.
  • This revealed that soil in areas under the canopy of the tree had higher organic carbon and moisture contents, probably due to the presence of the large canopy.
  • Put together, these factors prove that the arjuna is a crucial tree in the landscape.