May 2019
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[op-ed snap] No apology, please

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Court's order for apology for a political meme might affect freedom of speech.


CONTEXT

The Supreme Court vacation bench has granted bail to Priyanka Sharma of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in West Bengal. This was scrupulously correct, because bail is a right except in special circumstances, where the accused is deemed to be likely to misuse her freedom to interfere with the course of justice. The Supreme Court has always expanded the contours of free speech. Its insistence on an apology on a political meme is distressing.

Background

  • Initially, the bail granted was conditional upon Sharma tendering an immediate apology for sharing a bizarre meme online, showing West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
  • The final order was softened to restore Sharma’s liberty without a pre-condition, but it required her to apologise after being set free.

Problem with such conditions

This rider was deeply problematic on multiple counts.

1.Situation based Order –

  • First, the court appears to have asked for an apology because the post was made by a political worker during elections, though situational matters generally do not concern the process of justice.
  • What is deemed to be just today should be deemed so for all time.

2. Second, Sharma’s counsel has argued that she had only re-posted a pre-existing meme.

  • The judicial remand of Sharma for 14 days was a travesty of justice, especially by a government that, ironically, claims to be pushing for a more liberal space.
  • The judicial action, without doubt, was out of proportion with the act of forwarding a meme, and the demand for an apology by the highest court, as a condition following her release, heaps insult upon injury.
  • While the court is correct in observing a principle of natural justice, which requires a balance in the rights of individuals, Sharma’s alleged transgression cannot have been probed sufficiently in a single hearing.
  • To require her to apologise when her transgression has not been sufficiently established militates against natural justice.

Setting A Dangerous Precedent

  • Though the order states that “it shall not operate as a precedent”, if the need for an apology is eventually upheld, the effects would be catastrophic, for all satire is political in nature and intent.
  • Cartoonists would have to publicly repent every morning, shortly after newspapers land on the doorsteps of readers.
  • Stand-up comics could apologise in the evenings, after the show.
  • Theatre and cinema producers and directors dealing in political issues (and what is drama if it is not political?) would have to send pre-emptive apologies to the powers that be before their shows opened.
  • And satire would be declared dead on arrival.

Conclusion

The meme shared by Sharma was merely bizarre, even if it involved a political personality. If producers of real political satire could be prosecuted until they apologised, it would be the death of free speech.

 

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

[op-ed snap] Missing demand: on economic slowdown

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : New GDP series

Mains level : Industrial slowdown and it's effects


CONTEXT

A welter of data collectively and individually point to one worrying conclusion: economic momentum across sectors is slowing in the widening absence of that key ingredient, demand.

Slowdown across the economy

The decline in the automobile sector –

  • Domestic sales of cars, commercial vehicles and two wheelers all contracted in April, from a year earlier, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has reported.
  • The decline of almost 16% in total automobile industry sales is an indication that consumption demand across markets — urban and rural, institutional and individual — is petering out.
  • While sales of commercial vehicles, a fair proxy for overall economic activity, slid 6% last month, a 16.4% drop in demand for two-wheelers extended the segment’s slump into the new financial year, mirroring the rippling rural distress.
  • The data on passenger vehicles, which saw the steepest drop in almost eight years, add to the gloom.
  • Car sales shrank almost 20% amid a protracted slump that shows no signs of a reversal.

Output decline in various sector

The latest industrial output figures from the government serve to underscore the widespread nature of the demand drought.

The decline in IIP – The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for March shows output fell 0.1% from a year earlier to a 21-month low, with the use-based classification revealing a weakening that spared none of the six segments.

Shrink in capital Goods sector – The capital goods sector shrank by 8.7% on the back of an 8.9% contraction in the preceding month.

Fall in consumer durables – Output of consumer durables fell 5.1% from a year earlier, and growth in consumer non-durables production slid to 0.3% from the 14.1% pace in March 2018.

Drag in manufacturing – Manufacturing, which has a weight of almost 78% in the index, continues to be the biggest drag, with output contracting by 0.4% after shrinking by a similar extent in February.

Overall, the sector’s growth slowed to 3.5% in the last fiscal, from 4.6% in 2017-18.

Conclusion by data

  • Overly optimistic GDP growth Rate – The composite picture that emerges from all these numbers belies the CSO’s implicit fourth-quarter GDP growth assumption of 6.5%, and paints it as overly optimistic.
  • Unstable global conditions – With global headwinds strengthening in the backdrop of an escalating trade war between the two largest economies, the U.S. and China, and rising tensions in West Asia beginning to push up energy costs from the top oil-exporting region, Indian policymakers have to contend with an external sector that would likely only add to the domestic pressures, most certainly in the near term if not in the longer.
  • Need for a normal monsoon – The distress in the farm sector may just ease marginally if the monsoon does turn out to be “near normal” as forecast last month, and could help spur a demand revival in the rural hinterland.

Conclusion

Still, the new government that emerges after May 23 must spare little time in drawing up appropriate policy measures that not only help reinvigorate demand but also ensure that such a revival is robust, across-the-board and enduring.

Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[op-ed snap] Facing the climate emergency

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : There is need of radical change in bringing awareness regarding impacts of climate change.


CONTEXT

A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. shows that global warming during the past half century has contributed to a differential change in income across countries.

Changes due to global warming

  • Already wealthy countries have become wealthier and developing countries have been made poorer in relative terms during this time.
  • India’s GDP growth penalty between 1961 and 2010 is in the order of 31% for the period, whereas Norway gained about 34% on a per capita basis.
  • More recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has reported that, worldwide, the abundance of species has reduced by at least one-fifth, about a million species are under threat of extinction in the next few decades and 85% of wetlands have been lost.

Instances of collusion against climate change warnings

  • What we have, moreover, are numerous instances of elite networks that are taking advantage of the situation to consolidate their control.
  • Collusion among corporations – These networks often involve governments actively or quiescently colluding with fossil fuel companies, agro-industrial elites, financial elites and other big businesses that are ignoring climate change and making a fast buck often even from the growing disasters.
  • Subsidy to fossil fuels – The International Monetary Fund estimates in a recent working paper that fossil fuel subsidies were $4.7 trillion in 2015 and estimated to be $5.2 trillion in 2017.
  • Power Struggle in the Arctic – The Arctic is melting rapidly and the tenor of the recent discussions among Arctic countries suggests that even as increasing glacier melt is responsible for opening up shipping in the area, superpowers are angling to access wealth from the oil, gas, uranium and precious metals in the region.
  • Case study –  Recent example is the draft Indian Forest Act of 2019, which enhances the political and police power of the forest department and curtails the rights of millions of forest dwellers.

Movement to bring changes

  • Luckily  we are witnessing is a large-scale movement for “planet emergency”, climate and ecology.
  • Greta Thunberg has been leading this among school-going children, and Extinction Rebellion has been organising “die-ins” in many parts of Europe and now in Asia.
  • Their non-violent civil disobedience is just what is needed and it is indeed inspiring to see children and grandparents protest together.
  • People’s movements, whether made up of students or adults, cannot be ignored for long and governments will have to pay attention.

Spread of misinformation

  • The atmosphere now has concentrations of over 415 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, compared to 280 ppm in pre-industrial times.
  • But then, fossil fuel companies and politicians have known about climate change for at least 30 years.
  • They have funded misinformation regarding climate directly, taking lessons from tobacco companies that propagated lies for decades about cigarettes being safe.

Conclusion

  • We are now at a stage where we need major overhaul of our lifestyles and patterns of consumption.
  • The U.K. Parliament became the first recently to declare a climate emergency.
  • It remains to be seen if appropriate actions will follow this declaration.
  • When a 16-year-old speaks with far greater clarity and conviction than the thousands of dithering policy wonks who have been debating for over three decades, we know the politics of the climate crisis must undergo a radical transformation.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] 7th Economic Census 2019

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Economic Census

Mains level : Importance of the Economic Census



News

  • In the run up to upcoming 7th Edition of Economic Census, a national training workshop of the Master Trainers was organized by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI).
  • The census is to begin in June this year.

7th Economic Census -2019

  • The 7th Economic Census -2019 is being conducted by MoSPI to provide disaggregated information on various operational and structural aspects of all establishments in the country.
  • MoSPI has partnered with Common Service Centres, CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, a Special Purpose Vehicle under the MEITY as the implementing agency for 7th
  • An IT based digital platform for data capture, validation, report generation and dissemination will be used in this Economic Census.

About Economic Censuses

  • In 1976, Government of India launched a plan scheme called Economic Census and Surveys.
  • It is the census of the Indian economy through counting all entrepreneurial units in the country which involved in any economic activities of either agricultural or non-agricultural sector which are engaged in production and/or distribution of goods and/or services not for the sole purpose of own consumption.
  • It provides detailed information on operational and other characteristics such as number of establishments, number of persons employed, source of finance, type of ownership etc.
  • This information used for micro level/ decentralized planning and to assess contribution of various sectors of the economy in the gross domestic product (GDP).

Censuses till date

  • Total Six Economic Censuses (EC) have been conducted till date.
  • In 1977 CSO conducted First economic census in collaboration with the Directorate of Economics & Statistics (DES) in the States/UTs.
  • The Second EC was carried out in 1980 followed by the Third EC in 1990. The fourth edition took place in 1998 while the fifth EC was held in 2005.
  • The Sixth edition of Economic Census was conducted in 2013.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[pib] Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)

Mains Paper 3 : Disaster Management |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GFDRR

Mains level : Disaster management in India



News

  • India is unanimously chosen as co-chair of the Consultative Group (CG) of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) for the fiscal year 2020.
  • The decision was taken during the CG meeting of GFDRR held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery

  • GFDRR is a global partnership that helps developing countries better understand and reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change.
  • GFDRR is a grant-funding mechanism, managed by the World Bank that supports disaster risk management projects worldwide.
  • It is presently working on the ground with over 400 local, national, regional, and international partners and provides knowledge, funding, and technical assistance.

India and GFDRR

  • India became member of CG of GFDRR in 2015 and expressed its interest to co-chair in last meeting of CG held in October 2018.
  • India’s candidature was backed by its consistent progress in disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the country and its initiative to form a coalition on disaster resilient infrastructure.
  • This is the first time that India has been afforded the opportunity of co-chairing the CG meeting of GFDRR.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

NASA’s Artemis to put first woman on Moon

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ARTEMIS Mission

Mains level : About the NASA Mission



News

  • NASA’s plans for the first woman on the lunar surface in 2024 in its ambitious plan named Artemis.

Artemis Mission

  • ARTEMIS stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of Moon’s Interaction with the Sun.
  • As the name suggests, the two spacecraft will measure what happens when the Sun’s radiation hits our rocky moon, where there is no magnetic field to protect it.
  • Artemis is also the Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister of the god Apollo.
  • The Apollo program famously put the first men on the lunar surface in the 1960 and 70s.

Work in progress for Artemis

  • The program is still very much in its infancy.
  • NASA has been developing a rocket and crew capsule to take people into deep space, those vehicles still have yet to actually carry any astronauts.
  • NASA is developing new hardware including new lunar landers, in order for this project to be a success.
  • Fifty years after the first person set his foot on the moon, NASA will also reveal three lunar rocks that Neil Armstrong picked using tongs to pile about 20 rocks into a specialized collection box.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Services Trade Restrictiveness Index by OECD

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : STRI

Mains level : Ease of doing business in India



News

  • India has found problems with the current method under which the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranks countries based on their services trade policies, indicating the outcomes are biased and counter-intuitive.

Services Trade Restrictiveness Index

  • Launched in 2014, the Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI), computed by the OECD, is now available for 2018 for a total of 45 economies (36 OECD and the rest non-OECD) and 22 sectors.
  • The STRI helps to identify which policy measures restrict trade.
  • It provides policy makers and negotiators with information and measurement tools to improve domestic policy environment, negotiate international agreements and open up international trade in services.
  • It can also help governments identify best practice and then focus their domestic reform efforts on priority sectors and measures.
  • The STRI database is based on regulations currently in force. STRI indices take the value from 0 to 1, where 0 is completely open and 1 is completely closed.
  • The STRI Simulator enables policy makers and experts to explore the impact of a change at a detailed level for each measure, and to compare a specific country with a range of other selected countries in a particular sector.

Issues with the Index

I. Bit of impracticality in the index

  • The index has a large number of problems associated with it, including some significant design issues that render it impractical for use, a study commissioned by the Commerce Ministry found.
  • For example, the index seems to show the Indian services sector as one of the most restrictive, particularly in policy areas like foreign entry..
  • This seems surprising as since 1991, the one area that has seen maximum liberalisation in India is FDI.”

II. Liberalisation of FDI not considered

  • There are both theoretical and empirical inconsistencies in the OECD methodology.
  • For example, change in regulatory measures in one policy area can lead to dramatic changes in the STRI in another policy area which is not very useful for policy purposes.
  • It seems obsolete that India’s foreign entry restrictions are being classified as being the most restrictive derecognizing the 1991 reforms.
  • In addition, the data seems to have been generated by rather arbitrary procedures and reflects a developed country bias.

Way Forward: Building consensus

  • India has approached several developing countries during the recently-concluded WTO talks in New Delhi to try to build consensus around the new method of measuring trade restrictiveness in the services sector.
  • The manufacturing trade has a well-documented system of classification of commodities through which we can tell exactly what the commodity is and also what the applied tariffs and effective tariffs are, and, hence, see how restrictive any country’s policies are.
  • The problem in services is that for a long time there wasn’t any way to know whether a country’s policies were restrictive.

Summary report for India:

Click here to download

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.