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[op-ed snap] Ensure a minimum income for all

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UBI

Mains level: Debate surrounding Universal Basic Income


News

Context

  • The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) is gaining ground globally.
  • It has supporters among the political left and right, and among proponents as well as opponents of the free-market economy.

Working of the UBI

  • The UBI is neither an antidote to the vagaries of market forces nor a substitute for basic public services, especially health and education.
  • Besides, there is no need to transfer money to middle- and high-income earners as well as large landowners.
  • However, there is a strong case for direct income transfers to some groups: landless labourers, agricultural workers and marginal farmers who suffer from multi-dimensional poverty.
  • These groups have not benefited from economic growth.
  • They were and still are the poorest Indians. Various welfare schemes have also failed to bring them out of penury.

Credit Alternatives

  • A case in point is the access to institutional credit issued by banks and cooperative societies.
  • According to NSSO data from the 70th round, institutional credits account for less than 15% of the total borrowing by landless agricultural workers; the figure for marginal and small farmers is only 30%.
  • These groups have to borrow from moneylenders and adhatiyas at exorbitant interest rates ranging from 24 to 60%.
  • As a result, they do not stand to benefit much from the interest rate subsidy for the agriculture sector. Likewise, the benefits of subsidised fertilizers and power are enjoyed largely by big farmers.
  • In urban areas, contract workers and those in the informal sector face a similar problem.

Alternative Schemes

  • A UBI requires the government to pay every citizen a fixed amount of money on a regular basis and without any conditionalities.
  • Crucial to the appeal for such a demand for a UBI — is that millions of people remain unemployed and are extremely poor, despite rapid economic growth in the last three decades.
  • The government has already unfolded a limited version of the UBI in the form of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) which promises ₹6,000 per annum to farmers who own less than 2 hectares of land.

How UBI will work?

  • An income support of, say ₹15,000 per annum can be a good supplement to their livelihoods — an amount worth more than a third of the average consumption of the poorest 25% households, and more than a fourth of the annual income of marginal farmers.
  • This additional income can reduce the incidence of indebtedness among marginal farmers, thereby helping them escape moneylenders and adhatiyas.
  • Besides, it can go a long way in helping the poor to make ends meet.
  • At high levels of impoverishment, even a small income supplement can improve nutrient intake, and increase enrolment and school attendance for students coming from poor households.

Better productivity

  • In other words, income transfers to the poor will lead to improved health and educational outcomes, which in turn would lead to a more productive workforce.
  • It seems to be a good idea to transfer the money into the bank accounts of women of the beneficiary households.
  • Women tend to spend more of their income on health and the education of children.
  • The effect of an income transfer scheme on unemployment is a moot point. In principle, cash transfers can result in withdrawal of beneficiaries from the labour force.

Encourages employment

  • The income support suggested above is not too large to discourage beneficiaries from seeking work.
  • In fact, it can promote employment and economic activities. Moreover, such a scheme will have three immediate benefits.
  • One, it will help bring a large number of households out of the poverty trap or prevent them from falling into it in the event of exigencies such as illness.
  • Two, it will reduce income inequalities.
  • Three, since the poor spend most of their income, a boost in their income will increase demand and promote economic activities in rural areas.

Income Transfer: A better Alternative?

  • Nonetheless, an income transfer scheme cannot be a substitute for universal basic services.
  • The direct income support to the poor will deliver the benefits mentioned only if it comes on top of public services such as primary health and education.
  • This means that direct transfers should not be at the expense of public services for primary health and education.
  • If anything, budgetary allocation for these services should be raised significantly.
  • Programmes such as the MGNREGS should also stay. With direct income support, the demand for the programmes will come down naturally.
  • However, in the interim, it will serve to screen the poorest in the country and give them a crucial safety net.

Targeting beneficiaries

  • The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 can be used to identify the neediest.
  • Groups suffering from multidimensional poverty such as the destitute, the shelter-less, manual scavengers, tribal groups, and former bonded labourers are automatically included.
  • The dataset includes more than six crore landless labourers.
  • It also includes many small farmers who face deprivation criteria such as families without any bread-earning adult member, and those without a pucca house.
  • The other needy group, small farmers, missing from the SECC can be identified using the dataset from the Agriculture Census of 2015-16.
  • The Aadhaar identity can be used to rule out duplications and update the list of eligible households.

Limited corpus: The only hurdle

  • As an approximation, the number of eligible households is 10 crore.
  • That is, even in its basic form, the scheme will require approximately ₹1.5 lakh crore per annum.
  • The PM-KISAN Yojana can be aligned to meet a part of the cost.
  • Moreover, the tax kitty can be expanded by reintroducing wealth tax.
  • Nonetheless, the required amount is beyond the Centre’s fiscal capacity at the moment.
  • Therefore, the cost will have to be shared by States. States such as Telangana and Odisha are already providing direct income support to their farmers.
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

Explained: How a Prisoner of War must be treated

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Geneva Convention

Mains level: Prospects of the Geneva Convention


News

Background

  • India has demanded the immediate return of IAF pilot Wg Cdr Abhinandan captured by Pakistan after his Mig-21 fighter aircraft was shot down in PoK during a dogfight with Pakistani fighter jets.
  • India has also lashed out at the “vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention”.
  • A look at the provisions of the Geneva Conventions:

The Geneva Conventions

  • The 1949 Geneva Conventions are a set of international treaties that ensure that warring parties conduct themselves in a humane way with non-combatants such as civilians and medical personnel, as well as with combatants no longer actively engaged in fighting, such as prisoners of war, and wounded or sick soldiers.
  • All countries are signatories to the Geneva Conventions.
  • There are four conventions, with three protocols added on since 1949.

Does the captured pilot count as a prisoner of war?

  • The provisions of the conventions apply in peacetime situations, in declared wars, and in conflicts that are not recognised as war by one or more of the parties.
  • Even though India and Pakistan have been careful not to use the ‘w’ word for the operations each has conducted on the other’s territory over two successive days.
  • India has said its airstrikes were a “non-military” intelligence-led operation — both sides are bound by the Geneva Conventions.
  • This means the IAF officer is a prisoner of war, and his treatment has to be in accordance with the provisions for PoWs under the Geneva Conventions.

What are the provisions for PoWs?

  • The treatment of prisoners of war is dealt with by the Third Convention or treaty.
  • Its 143 articles spread over five sections and annexure are exhaustive, and deal with every kind of situation that may arise for a captive and captor, including the place of internment, religious needs, recreation, financial resources, the kinds of work that captors can make PoWs do, the treatment, and the repatriation of prisoners.
  • The Third Convention is unambiguous about how prisoners must be treated: “humanely”.
  • And the responsibility for this lies with the detaining power, not just the individuals who captured the PoW.

What rights is a PoW entitled to?

  • Article 14 of the Convention lays down that PoWs are “entitled to in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour”.
  • In captivity, a PoW must not be forced to provide information of any kind under “physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion”.
  • Refusal to answer questions should not invite punishment. A PoW must be protected from exposure to fighting.
  • Use of PoWs as hostages or human shields is prohibited, and a PoW has to be given the same access to safety and evacuation facilities as those affiliated to the detaining power.
  • Access to health facilities, prayer, recreation and exercise are also written into the Convention.
  • The detaining power has to facilitate correspondence between the PoW and his family, and must ensure that this is done without delays.
  • A PoW is also entitled to receive books or care packages from the outside world.

Releasing prisoners

  • Parties to the conflict “are bound to send back” or repatriate PoWs, regardless of rank, who are seriously wounded or sick, after having cared for them until they are fit to travel”.
  • The conflicting parties are expected to write into any agreement they may reach to end hostilities the expeditious return of PoWs.
  • Parties to the conflict can also arrive at special arrangements for the improvement of the conditions of internment of PoWs, or for their release and repatriation.
  • At the end of the 1971 war, India had more than 80,000 Pakistani troops who had surrendered to the Indian Army after the liberation of Dhaka.
  • India agreed to release them under the Shimla Agreement of 1972.

Monitoring the Geneva Conventions

  • The Geneva Conventions have a system of “Protecting Powers” who ensure that the provisions of the conventions are being followed by the parties in a conflict.
  • In theory, each side must designate states that are not party to the conflict as their “Protecting Powers”.
  • In practice, the International Committee of the Red Cross usually plays this role.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Cabinet approves promulgation of Ordinance to amend SEZ Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy| Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  SEZ Policy (2005)

Mains level:  Reconsidering the SEZ Policy in India


News

Trusts can set up SEZ

  • Trusts now can approach the government to set up units in special economic zones as the Cabinet has approved the promulgation of an Ordinance for amendment to the SEZ Act, 2005.
  • The definition of “person” as defined in the SEZ Act would now to include trust.
  • The present provisions of the Act do not permit ‘trusts’ to set up units in SEZs.

Benefits

  • The amendment will enable a trust to be considered for grant of permission to set up a unit in SEZs.
  • The amendment would also provide flexibility to the central government to include ‘trusts’ in the definition of a ‘person’, any entity that the central government may notify from time to time.
  • This will facilitate investments in SEZs.

Defining a person for SEZ

  • Currently, the definition of “person” includes an individual, whether resident in India or outside India, a Hindu undivided family, co-operative society, a company, whether incorporated in India or outside India, a firm, proprietary concern, or an association of persons or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, local authority and any agency, office or branch owned or controlled by such individual.

Back2Basics

SEZs

  • SEZs are major export hubs in the country as the government provides several incentives including tax benefits and single-window clearance system.
  • The developers and units of these zones enjoy certain fiscal and non-fiscal incentives such as no licence requirement for import; full freedom for subcontracting; and no routine examination by customs authorities of export/import cargo.
  • They also enjoy direct and indirect tax benefits.
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

Cabinet approves Petroleum Ministry joining of IEA Bioenergy TCP

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IEA Bioenergy TCP

Mains level: Various initiatives for waste to energy conversions


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the joining of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas to International Energy Agency’s Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme as its 25th member.
  • The other members are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the US, and the EU.

Harnessing bioenergy sources

  • Bioenergy is renewable energy made available from materials derived from biological sources.
  • Biomass is any organic material which has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy.
  • As a fuel it may include wood, wood waste, straw, and other crop residues, manure, sugarcane, and many other by-products from a variety of agricultural processes.

About the TCP

  • Bioenergy TCP is an international platform for co-operation among countries with the aim of improving cooperation and information exchange between countries that have national programmes in bioenergy research, development and deployment.
  • IEA Bioenergy TCP works under the framework of International Energy Agency (IEA) to which India has “Association” status since 30 March 2017.

Why join the TCP?

  • The primary goal of joining is to facilitate the market introduction of advanced biofuels with an aim to bring down emissions and reduce crude imports.
  • Benefits of participation in TCP are shared costs and pooled technical resources.
  • It also provides a platform for policy analysis with a focus on overcoming the environmental, institutional, technological, social, ‘and market barriers to the near-and long-term deployment of bioenergy technologies.

Tasks under TCP

  • The R&D work in IEA Bioenergy TCP is carried out carried out within well-defined 3-years programmes called “Tasks”.
  • Each year the progress of the Tasks is evaluated and scrutinized and each 3 years the content of the Tasks is reformulated and new Tasks can be initiated.
  • Technical persons from Public sector Oil Marketing companies will also be contributor in the Tasks participated by MoP&NG.

General Benefits

  • The benefits of participation in IEA Bioenergy TCP are shared costs and pooled technical resources.
  • The duplication of efforts is avoided and national Research and Development capabilities are strengthened.
  • There is an information exchange about best practices, network of researchers and linking research with practical implementation.

Benefits for India

  • Engagement with International Agencies will also apprise the Ministry of the developments taking place Worldwide in Biofuel sector, provide opportunity of personal interaction with innovators/ Researchers and help in bringing suitable policy ecosystem.
  • In addition, after becoming member, India can participate in other related Tasks focussing on Biogas, Solid waste Management, Biorefining etc. which could be participated by relevant Ministries/ Departments/ Organizations of the Country.
Biofuel Policy

Second phase of fame to electrify public transport

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: FAME Scheme

Mains level:  Issues related to the (possible) early adoption of the EVs in India.


News

  • The second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (hybrid) Electric vehicles (FAME) scheme will come into force from April 1, 2019 with the Union Cabinet nod.
  • The scheme will be in effect for a period of three years at a proposed budget of Rs 10,000 crore.

FAME India II Scheme

  • The scheme is the expanded version of the present scheme titled ‘FAME India 1’ which was launched in April 2015.
  • The phase two of the scheme plans to support ten lakhs electric two-wheelers, five lakhs electric three-wheelers, 55 thousands four-wheelers and 7,000 buses.
  • The main objective is to encourage faster adoption of EVs by way of offering upfront incentive on the purchase and also by way of establishing a necessary charging Infrastructure.
  • The largely increased allocation for the new phase is a sign of the critical importance that India’s policy makers are currently placing on shifting to an all-electric Indian mobility sector.

Focus areas

  • In this phase two, emphasis is on electrification of the public transportation that includes shared transport.
  • The second phase will also not provide any incentive for passenger cars used for personal use.
  • In the two-wheelers segment, however, the focus will be on the private vehicles.
  • Demand Incentives on operational expenditure mode for electric buses will be delivered through State/city transport corporation (STUs).
  • In 3W and 4W segment incentives will be applicable mainly to vehicles used for public transport or registered for commercial purposes.
  • To encourage advanced technologies, the benefits of incentives will be extended to only those vehicles which are fitted with advanced batteries like a Lithium Ion.

Necessary charging infrastructure

  • It also proposes for establishment of charging infrastructure, whereby about 2700 charging stations will be established in metros, other million-plus cities, smart cities and cities of hilly states across the country.
  • It will ensure availability of at least one charging station in a grid of 3 km x 3 km.

Impact

  • Inclusion of buses, taxi and e-rickshaws under Fame 2 will play a critical role to promote EVs.
  • The transition to electric buses is expected to not only help reduce carbon footprint but also save fuel.
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

How the Moon got ‘sunburns’: A result of sheer magnetism

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: ARTEMIS Mission

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


News

  • The Moon has visible ‘sunburns’, or distinctive patterns of swirls on its surface.
  • NASA has now analysed data to show that these are a result of interactions between the Sun’s damaging radiation with pockets of lunar magnetic field.

Sunburns on Moon

  • Every object, planet or person travelling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation.
  • Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.
  • The Sun releases a continuous outflow of particles and radiation called the solar wind.
  • Because the solar wind is magnetised, Earth’s natural magnetic field deflects the solar wind particles so that only a small fraction of them reach the planet’s atmosphere.
  • But the Moon has no global magnetic field; magnetised rocks near the lunar surface do create small, localised spots of magnetic field.

‘Magnetic Sunscreen’

  • The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen.
  • Under these miniature magnetic umbrellas, the material that makes up the Moon’s surface, called regolith, is shielded from the Sun’s particles.
  • As those particles flow toward the Moon, they are deflected to the areas just around the magnetic bubbles, where chemical reactions with the regolith darken the surface.
  • This creates the distinctive swirls of darker and lighter material.

About ARTEMIS Mission

  • ARTEMIS stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun (ARTEMIS).
  • The mission is focusing on measuring pickup ions from the exosphere, the electrostatic charging of the surface, the plasma wake, and the interaction of the solar wind with remnant crustal magnetic anomalies.
  • It also uses lunar orbit as a platform to observe the solar wind and (around full Moon) the distant terrestrial magnetotail.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries