[op-ed snap]A bridge to nowhere

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: Read the attached story

Mains level: Problems marginalized section is facing due to diversion of payments under direct benefit transfer


News

CONTEXT

Poor are facing problems due to diverted payments and aadhar based payment system.

Background

  • The mass diversion of LPG subsidies to Airtel wallets that came to light in 2017.
  • Many of the wallets were unwanted, or even unknown to the recipients. Those affected, fortunately, included millions of middle-class Airtel customers who protested when the goof-up emerged.

What is diverted payments?

  • This is an instance of what might be called “diverted payments” — bank payments being redirected to a wrong account, without the recipient’s consent or knowledge.
  • diverted payments have become a widespread problem in recent years, not so much for the middle class as for powerless people such as old-age pensioners and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers.
  • The main culprit is the Aadhaar Payment Bridge System (APBS).

ABPS

  • The basic idea of the APBS, an offspring of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), is that a person’s Aadhaar number becomes her financial address.
  • Instead of having to provide multiple account details (say, her name, bank account number and IFSC code) to receive a bank transfer, she only has to provide her Aadhaar number.

Introducing Bank account into ABPS

  • Induction of a bank account into APBS involves two distinct steps, both of which are meant to be based on informed consent.
  • First, the account must be “seeded” with the customer’s Aadhaar number.
  • Second, it must be connected to the NPCI mapper — a step known as “mapping”.
  • In cases of multiple accounts for the same person, the APBS automatically sends money to the latest-mapped account.
  • When the Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) was launched Aadhaar numbers were seeded into these accounts without proper verification.

Problems and challenges with ABPS

  • Haphazard seeding continued well beyond 2014 because the government wanted to bring all direct benefit transfer (DBT) payments — pensions, scholarships, subsidies, MGNREGA wages, and so on — under the Aadhaar payments umbrella.
  • Thus the groundwork required for APBS to work — reliable seeding of bank accounts with Aadhaar — had simply not been done when the APBS was rolled out.

1.Problems with E-KYC

  • The seeding mess, it seems, was sought to be cleaned up by making “e-KYC” compulsory.
  • To enforce e-KYC, many banks used the “ultimatum method”: a deadline was set, and people’s accounts were blocked when they missed the deadline.
  • Compulsory e-KYC became a nightmare for poor people, for a number of reasons:
    • Some did not know what they were supposed to do.
    • Others had problems of biometric authentication.
    • Others still struggled with inconsistencies between the Aadhaar database and the bank database.
    • Among the worst victims were old-age pensioners.
    • To this day, in Jharkhand, many pensioners are struggling to understand why their pension was discontinued after e-KYC was made compulsory.

2.Forcing of ABPS

  • APBS was forced on millions without consent.
  • Mapping (the induction of an Aadhaar-seeded account into the APBS), according to NCPI and UIDAI guidelines, should be based on an explicit request from the customer.
  • This gives a measure of protection to educated middle-class customers. It ensures, for instance, that they know which account their money is being directed to by the APBS.
  • For poor people, however, consent is a fiction.
  • In Jharkhand at least, bank accounts have been mass-mapped onto the APBS without any semblance of consent.

Impact of diverted payments

  • The result of this premature and coercive imposition of the APBS is that diverted payments have become a serious problem in Jharkhand.
  • For example, recent victims include Premani Kunwar, an elderly widow in Garhwa district who died of hunger on December 1, 2017, two months after her pension was diverted by the APBS to someone else’s account.
  • Others affected are MGNREGA workers.
  • Already discouraged by delays in wage payments, they have to contend now with diverted payments and other pathologies of the APBS.

Other Problems with ABPS

  • rejected payments — another nightmare for powerless DBT recipients.
  • Second, these problems are magnified by a pervasive lack of accountability.
  • When people have problems of diverted or rejected payments, they have no recourse.
  • Third, none of this seems to perturb the agencies that are promoting the APBS and related financial technologies.
  • nobody appears to be in charge of enforcing the consent norms and other “guidelines” issued by the NPCI.

Conclusion

The RBI may be the nominal regulator, but the real action is at the NPCI, the UIDAI and other strongholds of the Aadhaar lobby.The UIDAI did take cosmetic damage control measures from time to time in the last two years. Judging from Jharkhand’s experience, however, the pathologies of the APBS continue to cause havoc on the ground. An independent and participatory review of the system is long overdue.

 

 

 

Aadhaar Card Issues

[op-ed snap]Maximum gambit

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of Universal basic income.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and challenges in the implementation of universal basic income as suggested by NYAY.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Congress party’s has promised of transferring ₹6,000 a month to poor households

Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY)

  • This would be a flat transfer of ₹6,000 a month to identified poor households.
  • There has been little word on how the Congress expects to finance NYAY.
  • A ballpark estimate of the fiscal expenditure, to transfer ₹72,000 every year to the poorest 20% of the approximately 25 crore Indian households, would be ₹3.6 lakh crore.
  • This is twice the estimated amount set aside for food subsidy and five times that for fertilizer subsidy in the 2019-20 Union Budget.

No details on financing the scheme

  • It is not clear whether the Congress, should it come to power, will cut back on other subsidies and programmes in order to finance NYAY.
  • There is also the additional problem of the identification of the poor — the Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011 is the most comprehensive exercise for this, but it has been riven by reliability and authenticity issues and has only been partially released to the public as yet.
  • By having an inbuilt provision of targeting the beneficiaries, NYAY can fall short as other programmes have, such as the targeted public distribution system.

Prospects Of NYAY

  • An unconditional transfer of a specified minimum income support to the poor will go a long way in helping address immediate needs related to health, education and indebtedness.
  • A large section of the targeted poor would include landless workers and marginal farmers in rural areas, and unemployed youth in families engaged in menial labour in urban areas.
  • Besides shoring up income to meet such basic needs and pushing wages upwards, the transfer scheme can help spur demand and consumption in rural areas in particular.

Challenges in the scheme

  • There are disincentives inherent in the scheme as well.
  • A section of the beneficiaries could withdraw themselves from employment.
  • this could be mitigated by the expected overall spur in demand in the economy through consumption, and by the rise in real wages consequent to the shrinking of the labour market.

Conclusion

  • Limited cash transfers in the form of direct farm income support in States such as Telangana and Odisha have helped ameliorate agrarian crises.
  • This was the reason why the BJP-led government came up with the PM-KISAN Yojana as a countrywide scheme.
  • A massive programme such as NYAY, however, has no precedent. It might give a fillip to the Congress election campaign, but much more homework is required for its implementation.
  • A dole is not a magic bullet; it can only be one among a clutch of robust and prudent welfare policies.

Explained: How researchers used science to show Bengal famine was man-made

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Indian History| All syllabus

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bengal Famine

Mains level: Bengal Famine: causes and consequences


News

  • The Bengal famine of 1943-44 was not caused by an agricultural drought but was man-made.
  • Researchers have proved this using old weather data and modern simulation methods to reach a conclusion long acknowledged by historians.

Soil moisture & famine

  • The research reconstructed agricultural droughts and established a link between famines and agricultural droughts in India in the half-century between 1870-2016.
  • Precipitation data from 1901 onwards was available from the IMD.
  • They estimated a measure called soil moisture percentile, or SMP. When the SMP was less than 20, it was categorised as drought.

British Policy Failure

  • The Bengal famine was completely due to the failure of policy during the British era.
  • The simulations showed that a majority of famines were caused by large-scale and severe soil moisture droughts that hampered food production.
  • Out of six major famines during the period (1873-74, 1876, 1877, 1896-97, 1899, 1943), the researchers concluded that the first five were linked to soil moisture.
  • All but two of the famines were found consistent with the drought periods identified by the analysis.
  • The exceptions were 1873-1874 and 1943-1944.

Immediate cause of such Famines

  • During World War II, market supplies and transport systems were disrupted. This is attributed to British policies, and prioritization of distribution of supplies to the military and other select groups.
  • Occupation of Burma by Japan in 1942 resulted in restriction on rice imports from Burma.
  • Restriction on inter-state trade of rice and other food grains at the time further aggravated the issue.
  • Hoarding of rice stocks by traders and farmers in anticipation of speculative rise in rice prices in future as rice shortage was becoming evident.
  • In early 1943, military and political events adversely affected Bengal’s economy, which was exacerbated by refugees from Burma.
  • Additionally, wartime grain import restrictions imposed by the British government played a major role in the famine.
History- Important places, persons in news

Govt. notifies new rules for drugs, clinical trials

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: Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019

Mains level:  Measures for ethical clinical trials of medicines in India


News

  • The Union Health Ministry has notified the Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019 aimed at promoting clinical research in the country.

Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019

  • The rules will apply to all new drugs, investigational new drugs for human use, clinical trials, bio-equivalence studies and ethics committees.
  • The rules has reduced time for approving applications, which has now come down to 30 days for drugs manufactured in India and 90 days for those developed outside the country.
  • Also, in case of no communication from Drugs Controller General of India, the application will be deemed to have been approved.
  • As per the new rule, the requirement of a local clinical trial may be waived for approval of a new drug if it is approved and marketed in any of the countries (EU, U.K., Australia, Japan and U.S.) specified by the Drugs Controller General with the approval of the government.
  • The new rules will ensure patient safety and an ethics committee will monitor the trials and decide on the amount of compensation in cases of adverse events.
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

India’s carbon dioxide emissions up 5%: IEA Report

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Air Pollution


News

  • India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, a 4.8% rise from last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

About IEA

  • The International Energy Agency is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.
  • The IEA was initially dedicated to responding to physical disruptions in the supply of oil, as well as serving as an information source on statistics about the international oil market and other energy sectors.
  • The IEA acts as a policy adviser to its member states, but also works with non-member countries, especially China, India, and Russia.

The Global Energy & CO2 Status Report

  • India’s emissions growth this year was higher than that of the United States and China — the two biggest emitters in the world.
  • This was primarily due to a rise in coal consumption.
  • China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.
  • India’s per capita emissions were about 40% of the global average and contributed 7% to the global carbon dioxide burden.
  • The United States, the largest emitter, was responsible for 14%.

Defying NDCs

  • As per its commitments to the UNFCCC, India has promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
  • It has also committed to having 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and, as part of this, install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • However the IEA report showed that India’s energy intensity improvement declined 3% from last year even as its renewable energy installations increased 10.6% from last year.
  • India says it will cost at least $2.5trillion (Rs. 150 trillion approx.) to implement its climate pledge, around 71% of the combined required spending for all developing country pledges.

Soaring demands for fossil fuels

  • Global energy consumption in 2018 increased at nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.
  • Demand for all fuels increased, led by natural gas, even as solar and wind posted double digit growth.
  • Higher electricity demand was responsible for over half of the growth in energy needs.
  • The United States had the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide. Gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971.
Air Pollution

Global Energy Transition Index

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Energy Transition Index

Mains level: Move towards clean energy


News

  • India has moved up two places to rank 76th on a global energy transition index, released by World Economic Forum (WEF).

Global Energy Transition Index

  1. The WEF has ranked 115 economies on how well they are able to balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.
  2. The WEF index considers both the current state of the countries’ energy system and their structural readiness to adapt to future energy needs.
  3. The ‘transition readiness’ component of the index has taken into account six individual indicators:
  • capital and investment,
  • regulation and political commitment,
  • institutions and governance,
  • institutions and innovative business environment,
  • human capital and consumer participation, and
  • energy system structure

India’s Performance

  • India is amongst the countries with high pollution levels and has a relatively high CO2 intensity in its energy system.
  • India has made significant strides to improve energy access in recent years, and currently scores well in the area of regulation and political commitment towards energy transition.
  • It suggested there was a ground for optimism regarding India despite the current outdated energy system not being ready for transition, because an enabling environment is being built to support future transition.
  • While India has scored low in terms of system performance (ranking 97 and 86, respectively), it ranks considerably higher when it comes to readiness (45 and 61, respectively).
  • Overall, India has moved up two places from 78th last year.
  • China is ranked even lower than India at 82nd position, though it ranks very high at seventh place in the world for regulation and political commitment.
  • Despite its low ranking, India is the second best in the BRICS block of emerging economies, with Brazil being the best at 46th place globally.
  • However, India is the only amongst the five economies to improve its rank since last year.

Global Scenario

  • Sweden remains on the top on this annual list and is followed by Switzerland and Norway in the top three.
  • Among major economies, the United Kingdom (UK) is ranked seventh.
  • Singapore has been ranked thirteenth, while Germany, Japan and the US have bagged the seventeenth, eighteenth and the twenty-seventh place respectively.
  • Within Asia, Malaysia is ranked highest at 31st, Sri Lanka is 60th, Bangladesh 90th and Nepal 93rd.

Challenges ahead

  • The biggest challenge facing attempts to future proof global energy is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters.
  • Continued uses of coal for power generation in Asia, increasing commodity prices and slower-than-needed improvements in energy intensity have contributed to this year’s stagnation in performance.
  • The WEF said fossil fuels’ share of total primary energy supply at 81 per cent has been constant over the past three decades.
  • Also, the global CO2 emissions are expected to have increased by more than 2 per cent in 2018, the highest since 2014.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Sharda Peeth Corridor

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sharda Peeth Corridor (Location, importance)

Mains level: India-Pakistan Cultural Relations


News

  • The Pakistan government has approved a proposal to establish a corridor that will allow Hindu pilgrims from India to visit Sharda Peeth an ancient Hindu temple and cultural site in POK.
  • India had already sent a proposal to Pakistan to open the temple corridor.
  • The corridor when opened will be the second religious tract after Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan-controlled territory that will connect the two neighbouring nations.

Sharda Peeth Corridor

  • Established in 237 BC during the reign of Ashoka, the 5,000-year-old Sharada Peeth is an abandoned temple and ancient centre of learning dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning.
  • Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, Sharada Peeth was one of the foremost temple universities of the Indian subcontinent.
  • After Partition in 1947, the temple went under the control of Pakistan.
  •  It is about 150km from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, and about 130km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • It is also one of the three famous holy sites for Kashmiri Pandits, the other two being the Martand Sun Temple in Anantnag and the Amarnath temple.
  • Kashmiri Pandit organisations have been demanding opening of the Sharda Peeth corridor for many years now.

Importance of the peeth

  • The peeth is also considered a historical seat of learning, and was once at par with the ancient seats of learning at Nalanda and Takshila.
  • Kashmiri Pandits consider Sharada as their “kuldevi” or principal deity.
  • The Sharada Peeth is believed to be one of the foremost temple universities of the subcontinent between the 6th and 12th centuries CE.
  • There are competing theories about when it was built, but it has been suggested that the temple is over 5,000-year-old.
History- Important places, persons in news