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[op-ed snap]Good jobs, not Universal Basic Income, are needed for a good society

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: universal Basic Income

Mains level: Debate surrounding Universal Basic Income and alternatives such as good jobs.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Neither is quotas in limited government jobs, nor raining down cash on farmers and informal workers in the garb of universal basic income are solutions for the Indian economy’s failure to create more good jobs at the bottom of the pyramid.

Need for Universal Basic Income

  • The fear is that unless fundamental economic structures are changed, further advances of technologies into the realms of “Industry 4.0″ will deprive even larger numbers of people of opportunities for work from which they can earn adequate and steady incomes.
  • UBI and its many variants—quasi-UBI and income supplements for targeted groups—treat only the symptoms of the disease.
  • The root cause of the disease is that many people do not have work that provides adequate incomes.
  • The “gig” economy is creating many opportunities for earning incomes. However, the incomes are insecure and often insufficient. Moreover, the conditions in which people have to work to earn their incomes are not always satisfactory.

What is a good Job?

  • A good job implies a contract between the worker and society.
  • The worker provides the economy with the services it needs. In return, society and government must create conditions whereby workers are treated with dignity and can earn adequate incomes.
  •  Good jobs require good contracts between workers and their “employers”.
  • Therefore, the government, to discharge its responsibility to create a good society for all citizens, not only for investors, must regulate contracts between those who engage people to work for the enterprise and those who do the work, even in the gig economy.

Good Jobs Instead Of UBI

  • The solution is not to endow workers with a UBI—that way leads to dependency, unfulfillment, depression and marginalization.
  • Employers to employ more numbers of less-skilled workers and pay them well. If they are provided good working conditions and opportunities to learn and grow, they will lead more satisfying lives.
  • To increase the productivity of firms, too often governments subsidize labour-replacing, capital-intensive technologies, rather than pushing innovation in socially more beneficial directions to augment rather than replace less skilled workers.”
  • India’s political leaders are challenged to provide more good jobs for the country’s huge number of young jobseekers.
  • Panic solutions are quotas for everyone in the limited numbers of government jobs and raining down cash to farmers and workers in informal sectors in the garb of “universal basic income”.

Way Forward

  • Economists and policymakers must go to fundamental principles: one, “fairness” for workers must be a stronger principle than “flexibility” for employers.
  • Reduce the number of labour regulations but be very firm about the essential regulations to ensure good incomes and good working conditions.
  • Two, tax incentives should be directed towards hiring of less-skilled workers, rather than attracting more capital investments that displace workers, so that people at the bottom of the pyramid can step on to the formal escalator for upward mobility in society.

 

Direct Benefits Transfers

[op-ed snap] Cities at crossroads: Small town, cleaner future

CaseNote4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

Mains level: This article analyses how big cities can learn waste management from small cities and towns


NEWS

CONTEXT

Small and mid-size cities and towns of India are showing the way on how to manage solid waste by getting communities to segregate waste and keeping the waste streams separate.

The case study of Suryapet

  • The earliest and the best success story was of Suryapet, a city in Telangana, located 136 km east of Hyderabad, with a population of a little over one lakh.
  • A single individual, S A Khadar, the commissioner of Suryapet municipal corporation, demonstrated personal leadership which made a big difference.
  • He managed all of the Suryapet’s wet and dry waste (32 tonnes daily at that time) on a half-acre site within the city, earning a gross income of Rs 1 lakh per month from vermi-composting and recycling.
  • He began by winning the hearts of his sanitary workers by prompt satisfaction of minor demands, such as granting leave and/or reassignment of workplaces.
  • Next, he wooed the residents, one mohalla or street or commercial area at a time, by organising daily meetings on morning rounds from six to nine am before beginning his office work. Residential pockets that gave 100 per cent unmixed waste earned token gifts.
  • The commissioner got banks to fund new tractor-trailers (which can unload waste mechanically) for self-help groups by guaranteeing their monthly repayments to banks from the city payments to their SHGs for waste collection services.
  • Open drain cleaning was done in the afternoons. Soggy silt went directly into a wheelie-bin and then into a dedicated leak-proof collection vehicle which unloaded the silt and the debris for widening the road shoulders of all radial roads.
  • The Suryapet experience clearly shows that citizens can be incentivised to give wet and dry wastes unmixed when they see clear administrative will and primary collection vehicles designed to accept and transport wastes unmixed.

The case study of Karjat

  • Within two days of joining, Kokare commissioner of the municipal council of Karjat, strictly enforced Maharashtra’s ban on plastic carry bags. These are now replaced by sari-cloth bags which cost Rs 6 per bag.
  • Handcart vendors use bags made out of newspapers.
  • What is amazing is how he persuaded Karjat residents, already enjoying doorstep waste collection, to cooperate in giving 36 kinds of waste separately on different days of the week! This is probably a global first.

Secret of success

  • The secret of the success of Kokare and Khadar, is passion and daily personal supervision, both going around the city every morning before office hours to meet, persuade and exhort citizens to cooperate.
  • In Karjat, after initial warnings, doorstep collectors refuse to collect mixed waste and also report the person. The same evening, an official comes and grills the person on where they dumped their uncollected mixed waste.
  • Such intense individual effort is especially required at the start. Once word gets around, cooperation is easier.

Other examples

  • In Namakkal (population of 55,000) in Tamil Nadu, pushcart collection workers have been manually separating mixed waste into wet and dry, daily at the doorstep of each household, rather than attempt behaviour change.
  • Alappuzha in Kerala was recently recognised by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for its decentralised system of waste management.
  • In these and many more small towns, the secret of success is meticulous micro-planning, committed leadership at the administrative level and receptive and engaged communities. The objective is clear — a litter-free, bin-free and dump-free city.

Lessons for metro cities

  • Big cities scoff at small towns leading the way and claim that their own waste volumes are unmanageable. But even in large metropolitan cities, populations of most wards are smaller than of these towns. Decentralisation and effective use of delegated power at the ward level is crucial if micro-planning and implementation is to work with cooperation from RWAs. Only then can we find a collective solution to the challenges of solid waste management in our larger cities.

 

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] Smart farming in a warm world

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Climate change threat to Indian agriculture and moving towards climate resilient agri practices.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Many areas are facing drought in recent years like Bundelkhand. There is a need to introduce alternatives.

Changes in rainfall and weather and it’s impact

  • Bundelkhand was once blessed with over 800-900 mm rainfall annually, but over the last seven years, it has seen this halved, with rainy days reported to be down to just 24 on average in the monsoon period.
  • There is hardly any greenery in many villages, making it difficult for farmers to even maintain cattle.
  • Hailstorm has been destroying crop in recent years, with the arhar crop failing completely in 2015. Farmers are increasingly abandoning their lands and heading to nearby towns to find work as labourers.

Vulnerability due to Monsoon

  • India is fortunate to have the monsoon, but it is also uniquely vulnerable to rising temperatures, with the country ranked 14th on the Global Climate Risk Index 2019.
  • The country has over 120 million hectares suffering from some form of degradation.
  • According to one estimate, they may face a 24-58% decline in household income and 12-33% rise in household poverty through exacerbated droughts.
  • With rain-fed agriculture practised in over 67% of our total crop area, weather variability can lead to heavy costs, especially for coarse grains (which are mostly grown in rain-fed areas).
  • A predicted 70% decline in summer rains by 2050 would devastate Indian agriculture.
  • Within 80 years, our kharif season could face a significant rise in average temperatures (0.7-3.3°C) with rainfall concomitantly impacted, and potentially leading to a 22% decline in wheat yield in the rabi season, while rice yield could decline by 15%.

Solutions

  • Promotion of conservation farming and dryland agriculture, with each village provided with timely rainfall forecasts, along with weather-based forewarnings regarding crop pests and epidemics in various seasons, is necessary.
  • Our agricultural research programmes need to refocus on dryland research, with adoption of drought-tolerant breeds that could reduce production risks by up to 50%.
  • A mandate to change planting dates, particularly for wheat, should be considered, which could reduce climate change induced damage by 60-75%,
  • There needs to be an increase in insurance coverage and supply of credit. Insurance coverage should be expanded to cover all crops, while interest rates need to be subsidised, through government support and an expanded Rural Insurance Development Fund.

Loss of forest land

  • India is estimated to have lost over 26 million hectares of forest land and 20 million hectares of grasslands/shrublands between 1880 and 2013.
  • , insufficient coordination between the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) has led to institutional apathy towards alarming air pollution levels in the metros.
  • India hosts over 172 globally threatened species, primarily in reserve forests where they have little meaningful protection against wildlife crime and forest protection, given limited budgets for anti-poaching.

Reforming IFS

  • The Indian Forest Service would also benefit from restructuring, in order to make it equivalent to the police and the army, albeit in the environmental domain.
  • State-of-the-art training to its personnel must be provided, and specialisation should be encouraged in wildlife, tourism and protection for new recruits.
  • Deputations from other services will no longer do; this needs to remain a specialised service.
  • heritage towns should be given more attention — cities like Sawai Madhopur, Bharatpur, Chikmagalur and Jabalpur, which are adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries, need to be converted into green smart cities with upgraded waste recycling processes.
  • The Van Dhan Yojana, as adopted by the State government in Rajasthan, can be scaled up towards building a green mission to save our non-protected forests (outside the existing national parks and sanctuaries).

Way forward

  • Prudent investments and policy reform can help make India resilient to climate change.
  • Any adaptation to ongoing climate change will require that climate justice.
  • This is not a blame game — this can be induced by expansion of joint research and development partnerships (like the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center), pairing India’s emerging smart cities with green cities in the West.
  • India needs to decarbonise, there is no doubt about that. But the West needs to pay its bills too.

 

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

ICJ rejects UK’s claim of sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chagos Archipelago (map based)

Mains level: Decolonization of IOR


News

  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has said in an advisory opinion that Britain has an obligation to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago.
  • The Chagos Islands are home to the U.S. military base of Diego Garcia, under lease from the United Kingdom since the 1960s.

Ending Decolonization

  • The ICJ concluded that the decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed, as a result of Britain’s continued administration of the Chagos Islands.
  • The continued administration of the territory by the U.K. amounted to a “wrongful act”, which was not consistent with the right to the people of self determination.
  • The judges concluded that any detachment of part of a colony had to be based on the freely expressed and genuine will of the people.

Why UK needs Chagos?

  • The defence facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to protect people here in Britain and around the world from terrorist threats, organised crime and piracy.
  • Britain says that the islands will be returned to Mauritius when they are no longer needed for defence purposes.

Why ICJ intervened?

  • In his statement, the judge also noted that the original agreement had not allowed for third party involvement in the territory.
  • The base’s construction led to the displacement of some 1,500 people, who have been unable to return to the islands.

1965 pact

  • Under an agreement struck in 1965, in return for compensation to Mauritius and fishing rights, Britain has maintained control of the islands.
  • It has continued to do so despite efforts by Mauritius to regain control, and UN resolutions requiring it to complete the decolonization of Mauritius.
  • The ICJ held public hearings in September 2018 in the case after Britain was defeated in its attempt to halt a UNGA resolution calling for the UN’s highest court to delivery an advisory opinion on the issue.
  • In June 2017, the UNGGA adopted a resolution calling on the ICJ to delivery an advisory opinion on whether the continued administration by UK was lawful.
  • The UNGA win by Mauritius against the U.K., and the U.S.  was seen as a major blow to Britain.

Questioning its legitimacy

  • The legacy of colonialism and whether the kind of agreements struck between colonial powers and their colonies in the final stages cannot be legitimate.
  • While Britain contended that Mauritius freely consented to the detachment of the archipelago, Mauritius maintained that the choice faced was no choice at all.
  • The leadership of its independence movement had been forced into agreeing to the 1965 separation of the islands, fearful that if they did not do so, independence would not be granted.

Indian Stance

  • India too supported Mauritius in its case, with India’s Ambassador to the Hague telling the court last year that a historical survey of facts placed the archipelago as part of Mauritian territory.
  • Regarding the process of decolonization of Mauritius, it remains incomplete both technically and in substance as long as the Chagos Archipelago continues to be under the colonial control.

Conclusion: On Advisory Opinions

  • The ICJ which last week heard from India and Pakistan on the contentious case of Kulbushan Jadhav, can also deliver advisory opinions.
  • Unlike the Jadhav case, which is binding and non-appealable, advisory opinions are not binding, though they do carry substantial legal weight and are mostly adhered to.
  • However, there have been several occasions in which they have not been: such as the 2003 advisory opinion which obligated Israel to stop building the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Indian Ocean Power Competition

Banks may set repo rate as benchmark for lending

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MCLR, Repo Rate

Mains level: Role of RBI & various functions performed by it.


News

  • Most commercial banks in India are likely to select RBI’s repo rate as the external benchmark to decide their lending rates, from April 1.
  • The repo rate is the key policy rate of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Deciding lending rates

  • Banks had four options from which to choose the external benchmark: the repo rate, the 91-day Treasury bill, the 182-day T-bill or any other benchmark interest rate produced by the Financial Benchmarks India Private Ltd (FBIL).
  • A few other banks confirmed that the repo rate is the ideal candidate for the external benchmark. At present, the repo rate is 6.25%.
  • The marginal cost of fund based lending rate (MCLR) is currently the benchmark for all loan rates.
  • Banks typically add a spread to the MCLR while pricing loans for homes and automobiles.

Why repo?

  • The RBI has mandated that the spread over the benchmark rate to be decided by banks at the inception of the loan should remain unchanged through the life of the loan.
  • It should remain unchanged unless the borrower’s credit assessment undergoes a substantial change and as agreed upon in the loan contract.
  • If the lending rates are linked to the repo rate, any change in the repo rate will immediately impact the home and auto loan rates, since RBI has mandated the spread to remain fixed over the life of the loan.

Benefits of Repo Rate

  • It will make the system more transparent since every borrower will know the fixed interest rate and the spread value decided by the bank.
  • It will help borrowers compare loans in a better way from different banks.
  • Under the new system, a bank is required to adopt a uniform external benchmark within a loan category so that there is transparency, standardisation and ease of understanding for the borrowers.
  • This would mean that same bank cannot adopt multiple benchmarks within a loan category.

Back2Basics

Repo Rate

  • Technically, Repo stands for ‘Repurchasing Option’.
  • It refers to the rate at which commercial banks borrow money from the RBI in case of shortage of funds. It is one of the main tools of RBI to keep inflation under control.
  • When we borrow money from the bank, they charge an interest on the principal. Basically, it is cost of credit.
  • Similarly, banks too can borrow money from RBI during cash crunch on which they must pay pay interest to the Central Bank. This interest rate is repo rate.

MCLR

  • Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate (MCLR) is the minimum interest rate, below which a bank is not permitted to lend. RBI can give authorization for the same in exceptional cases.
  • MCLR replaced the earlier base rate system to determine the lending rates for commercial banks.
  • RBI implemented it on 1 April 2016 to determine rates of interests for loans.
  • It is an internal reference rate for banks to decide what interest they can levy on loans.
  • For this, they take into account the additional or incremental cost of arranging additional rupee for a prospective buyer.
Banking Sector Reforms

Offshore Wind: The sleeping giant has been stirred

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Challenges for harnessing offshore wind energy


News

  • India’s offshore wind energy sector is hoping for a new lease of life with the draft offshore wind energy lease rules

Unmet challenges

  • The offshore wind energy comes with expensive challenges like resource characterization, sub-sea installation, turbine foundation and development of long transmission infrastructure.
  • India is ill-prepared to meet these challenges due to the lack of technological knowhow and studies to assess resources.
  • The country, nevertheless, jumped on to the bandwagon with its ‘National Offshore Wind Policy’ in 2015.
  • And, as is the trend in India, the government set ambitious targets — a capacity of 5 GW by 2022 and 30 GW by 2030.

Progress till date

  • FOWIND, or the Facilitating Offshore Wind in India, is a Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)-led consortium that hoped to bring to India its leanings from the European experience.
  • The preliminary assessments estimated tremendous potential along the coasts in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
  • It was also handed the responsibility of the first demonstration project or the First Offshore Wind Project in India (FOWPI).
  • The first round of geotechnical, geophysical, ground investigation and metocean assessments was conducted by national Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) and by FOWPI.
  • The latter led the first Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-based wind profiling in the Gulf of Khambhat, which began in November 2017.

What the government did

  • Instead in April 2018, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released an expression of interest (EOI) to get the lay of the land.
  • Despite considerable interest that the conservative EOI drew, no tender was issued.
  • In parallel, with the slowdown in the onshore wind industry, the excitement around offshore wind energy fizzled out very soon.

Draft Lease Rules for Offshore Wind

  • The MNRE in 2019 released Draft Lease Rules for Offshore Wind.
  • The regulations apply to leasing of offshore blocks anywhere between 100 and 500 square metres within the exclusive economic zone off the Indian coast.
  • The lease for prospecting can be for up to five years, for developers to undertake necessary assessments and feasibility studies.
  • Project development activities will be allocated a 30 year lease, with a facility to extend for five more years.
  • It talks about compensation to the developer in case the central government pre-emptively procures the energy generated and also permits curtailment if issues with grid stability or security arise.

Promises of the rules

  • The lease rules have also included social and environmental caveats rigidly stating that the development of the farm wind should not in any way affect the livelihood of the coastal population.
  • It should not lead to the deterioration of local flora and fauna.

Various loopholes

  • The National Offshore Wind Policy lays the onus of development of transmission infrastructure (till the sub-station on land) on the developer.
  • Large investments in offshore structures and transmission facilities will result in uncompetitive high tariffs – something Indian power procurers do not have the stomach for.
  • Second, there has been no mention on port augmentation and utilization for the purposes of offshore wind project development.
  • Functional ports close to offshore farms are essential to reduce costs. They could also help in operation and maintenance, repowering and decommissioning.
  • Neither the policy nor the regulations discuss upgrading or redesigning existing ports.
  • If India is serious about offshore wind, it must set up dedicated ports. Europe, for example, has 10 such ports.
  • Further, there is no visibility on whether the energy procurers will even buy the electricity generated at the high tariffs that offshore wind projects will inevitably yield.

Way Forward

  • There are several reasons for India to diversify to offshore wind, the primary one being the contentious nature of land in India.
  • A close second is that the best wind potential sites in the country are filling up.
  • Further offshore wind development in India is egged on by the tremendous potential, an underutilized manufacturing capacity and a thirst for more energy.
  • These worries might need to be addressed with government-backed guarantees in long-term power-purchase agreements.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

India successfully test-fires Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: QRSAM and its specification

Mains level: Developing missile arsenal


News

  • India has successfully test-fired two indigenously developed Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air missiles (QRSAM) from a test range off the Odisha coast.
  • The trials were conducted by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from Launch Complex 3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur.

About QRSAM

  • This missile has been developed to replace the ‘Akash’ missile defence system, and has 360-degree coverage, light weight, high mobility and shorter second reaction time as compared to ‘Akash’.
  • It also uses solid fuel propellant and has a stated range of strike range of 25-30 km with capability of hitting multiple targets.
  • It is capable of hitting the low flying objects.
  • It successfully demonstrated the robust Control, Aerodynamics, Propulsion, Structural performance and high manoeuvering capabilities thus proving the design configuration.
  • Radars, Electro Optical Systems, Telemetry and other stations have tracked the Missiles and monitored through the entire flights.
Indian Missile Program Updates

[pib] Exercise Sampriti – 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ex Sampriti

Mains level:  India-Bangladesh strategic relations


News

Exercise Sampriti-2019

  • It is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and this will be the eighth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.
  • As part of the ongoing India Bangladesh defence cooperation, the joint military exercise will be conducted at Tangail, Bangladesh.
  • The exercise is aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies.
  • The exercise will involve tactical level operations in a counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under the UN mandate.
  • In addition to understanding each other in tactical level operations, emphasis will also be laid for greater cultural understanding to strengthen military trust and cooperation between the two nations.
Indian Army Updates