India signs ‘Christchurch Call to Action’

Mains Paper 3 : Social Media Networks & Internal Security |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Christchurch Call to Action

Mains level : Regulating role of social media against organized terrorism



News

  • To combat online extremism, India has decided to sign an international call initiated by the governments of France and New Zealand along with top social media companies after the Christchurch attacks.

Christchurch Call to Action

  • The dissemination of such content online has adverse impacts on the human rights of the victims, on our collective security and on people all over the world was declared by the 17 signatory countries.
  • The Call outlines “collective”, “voluntary” commitments from Governments and online service providers intended to address the issue of terrorist and violent extremist content online.
  • The document highlights, “All action on this issue must be consistent with principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.
  • While the document stresses on the need to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of free speech of citizens of any country, the US has decided not to sign the document amid free speech concerns.
  • The meeting held in Paris was attended by representatives of online giants like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon.

The document states that the governments/signatories should commit to:

  • Counter the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism by strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of societies to enable them to resist terrorist and violent extremist ideologies, including through education, building media literacy to help counter distorted terrorist and violent extremist narratives, and the fight against inequality.
  • Ensure effective enforcement of applicable laws that prohibit the production or dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and international human rights law, including freedom of expression.
  • Encourage media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist events online, to avoid amplifying terrorist and violent extremist content.
  • Support frameworks, such as industry standards, to ensure that reporting on terrorist attacks does not amplify terrorist and violent extremist content, without prejudice to responsible coverage of terrorism and violent extremism.
  • Consider appropriate action to prevent the use of online services to disseminate terrorist and violent extremist content, including through collaborative actions, such as:

The documents draw in the online service providers to commit to:

  • Take transparent, specific measures seeking to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content and to prevent its dissemination on social media and similar content-sharing services.
  • Provide greater transparency in the setting of community standards or terms of service, including by:
  • Outlining and publishing the consequences of sharing terrorist and violent extremist content;
  • Describing policies and putting in place procedures for detecting and removing terrorist and violent extremist content.

With inputs from:

India Today

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Person in news: Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Mains Paper 1 : Modern Indian History |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Mains level : Social reforms in Colonial India



News

Context

  • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was the 19th century intellectual giant whose bust was vandalized by some political goons in Kolkata.
  • However he was perhaps the first Indian reformer to put forward the issues of women.
  • Vidyasagar’s Bengali primer, Borno Porichoy, remains, more than 125 years after his death in 1891, the introduction to the alphabet for nearly all Bengali children.
  • Michael Madhusudan Dutt, the 19th century pioneer of Bengali drama, described Vidyasagar as having “the genius and wisdom of an ancient sage, the energy of an Englishman and the heart of a Bengali mother”.

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

  • One of Bengal’s towering cultural icons, and among the greatest personalities of the Bengal Renaissance, Vidyasagar was a polymath who reconstructed the modern Bengali alphabet and initiated pathbreaking reform in traditional upper caste Hindu society.
  • He studied Sanskrit grammar, literature, Vedanta philosophy, logic, astronomy, and Hindu law for more than 12 years at Sanskrit College in Calcutta, and received the title of Vidyasagar — Ocean of Learning — at the age of just 21.
  • Privately, he studied English literature and philosophy and was appointed principal of Sanskrit College on January 22, 1851. He was all of 31 years old then.

Reforms by Ishwar Chandra

I. Widow Remarriage

  • The focus of his social reform was women — and he spent his life’s energies trying to ensure an end to the practice of child marriage and initiate widow remarriage.
  • He followed in the great reformist tradition of Raja Ram Mohun Roy (1772-1833), and argued, on the basis of scriptures and old commentaries, in favour of the remarriage of widows in the same way as Roy did for the abolition of Sati.
  • His earliest effort at social reform, however, came in the second half of 1850 when, in a paper on the evils of child marriage.
  • He launched a powerful attack on the practice of marrying off girls aged 10 or even younger, pointing to social, ethical, and hygiene issues, and rejecting the validity of the Dharma Shastras that advocated it.
  • He showed that there was no prohibition on widows remarrying in the entire body of ‘Smriti’ literature (the Sutras and the Shastras).

II. Campaign against polygamy

  • Alongside the campaign for widow remarriage, he campaigned against polygamy.
  • In 1857, a petition for the prohibition of polygamy among Kulin Brahmins was presented to the government with 25,000 signatures, led by the Maharaja of Burdwan.
  • The mutiny of the sepoys resulted in the postponement of action on this petition, but in 1866, Vidyasagar inspired another petition, this time with 21,000 signatures.
  • In the 1870s, the great rationalist, wrote two brilliant critiques of polygamy, arguing to the government that since polygamy was not sanctioned by the sacred texts, there could be no objection to suppressing it by legislation.

Impact of his reformist zeal

  • Vidyasagar’s first pamphlets in Bengali on widow remarriage created a tremendous stir in Hindu society.
  • Two thousand copies were sold out in a week, and a reprint of another 3,000 copies also did not last.
  • These were unprecedented sales figures for a book at that time.
  • On October 14, 1855, Vidyasagar presented a petition to the Government of India praying for early passing a law to remove all obstacles to the marriage of Hindu widows and to declare the issue of all such marriages to be legitimate.

Fruitful outcomes

  • On July 16, 1856, The Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, known as Act XV, was passed.
  • Inspired by Vidyasagar, a number of literary men produced dramas advocating the remarriage of widows, both in Bengal and elsewhere.
  • In 1864, Jyotiba Phule succeeded in persuading a Saraswat Brahmin widow to remarry.
  • In 1866 Vishnu Shastri Pandit translated Vidyasagar’s book on widow remarriage into Marathi.
History- Important places, persons in news

Reserve Bank proposes 24×7 NEFT money transfer

Mains Paper 3 : issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NEFT, RTGS, IMPS

Mains level : Promoting digital transactions in India


News

  • The RBI has proposed to examine the possibility of extending availability of National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) round-the-clock on all the seven days of the week — 24×7 basis — to facilitate beyond the banking hour fund transfer.
  • Besides, the central bank will also examine the possibility of extending the timings for Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transactions.

What are NEFT and RTGS?

I. NEFT

  • NEFT is an electronic funds transfer system maintained by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Started in November 2005, the setup was established and maintained by Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT).
  • NEFT enables bank customers in India to transfer funds between any two NEFT-enabled bank accounts on a one-to-one basis. It is done via electronic messages.
  • Unlike Real-time gross settlement (RTGS), fund transfers through the NEFT system do not occur in real-time basis.

II. RTGS

  • RTGS are specialist funds transfer systems where the transfer of money or securities takes place from one bank to any other bank on a “real time” and on a “gross” basis.
  • Settlement in “real time” means a payment transaction is not subjected to any waiting period, with transactions being settled as soon as they are processed.
  • “Gross settlement” means the transaction is settled on one-to-one basis without bundling or netting with any other transaction.
  • “Settlement” means that once processed, payments are final and irrevocable.

What are the current limits?

  • Customers can transfer anywhere between Rs 1 and Rs 25 lakh via NEFT (for HDFC Bank; varies from bank to bank) through net banking in a day.
  • Through RTGS, they can transfer between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 25 lakh through net banking in a day.
  • However, as of now, these online transactions are not available on Sundays, on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month and on bank holidays.
  • On working days, NEFT is available between 8 am and 7 pm (varies from bank to bank) except on working Saturdays (8 am and 1 pm) and hence they restrict customers’ ability to carry out such transactions.
  • Online RTGS transactions are available for lesser hours. It can be done till 4 pm (varies from bank to bank).

Current options available

  • Customers can currently transfer money through Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) round the clock but the maximum amount allowed is Rs 2 lakh.
  • If RBI makes NEFT 24×7, it will not only ease the fund transfer for customers round the clock but will also take some load-off the bank branches for executing such transactions.
RBI Notifications

Global Drug Survey Report 2018

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GDS

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

  • A global survey of recreational drug-use, which for the first time polled respondents from India, has found that Indians — more than from other nationalities — are seeking help to reduce their alcohol intake.

Global Drug Survey

  • The Global Drug Survey (GDS) is an anonymised online survey that uses a detailed questionnaire to assess trends in drug use and self-reported harms among regular drug users and early adopters of new trends.
  • The survey is not designed to determine the prevalence of drug behaviour in a population.
  • It throws light on stigmatized behaviours and health outcomes of a hidden population that is otherwise difficult to reach.
  • GDS use its data and expertise to create digital health applications delivering screening and brief interventions for drugs and alcohol.
  • GDS also produces a range of drug education materials for health and legal professionals, the entertainment industry and the general public.

Drugs menace in India

  • Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis were the most common stimulants used by Indians.
  • Of the nearly 1,00,000 respondents from 30 countries, Indians reported ‘being drunk’ on an average of 41 times in the last 12 months — behind the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Australia and Denmark in that order but well above the global average of 33 times.
  • Indian respondents to the survey, conducted online October-December 2018, appeared more than other nationalities eager for help with reducing their alcohol intake.
  • According to the 2019 GDS, 51% of the respondents wanted to ‘drink less’ in the following year and 41% ‘wanted help to do so’ — again the highest percentage among other countries.
  • About 6% of the female Indians surveyed reported seeking ‘emergency medical treatment’ in the last 12 months. The global female average was about 13%.
  • None of the males in India reported seeking medical treatment, compared to the global average of 12%.

Less cannabis

  • Only 2% sought emergency medical treatment after using cannabis.
  • Similar to alcohol use, 51% said they wanted to use ‘less cannabis’ in the following year; more than any other nationality and well above the global average of 31%.
  • Alcohol and tobacco apart, the most used drugs globally were cannabis, MDMA (or Ecstacy), cocaine, amphetamines, LSD (or ‘acid’), magic mushrooms, benzodiazepines, prescription opioids, ketamine, nitrous oxide.
  • The survey also found that globally approximately 14% (11,000) reported being taken advantage of sexually while intoxicated in their lifetime and 4% in the last 12 months.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Graphite mining in Arunachal Pradesh

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 : Graphite and its properties

Mains level : India-China Border Issues


News

  • Arunachal Pradesh has asked the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to explore the possibility of surveying and drilling for minerals along the India-China border.

What is Graphite?

  • Graphite is a naturally-occurring form of crystalline carbon.
  • It is a native element mineral found in metamorphic and igneous rocks.
  • It is extremely soft, cleaves with very light pressure, and has a very low specific gravity.
  • It is the only non-metal element that is a good conductor of electricity.
  • It is also known as a dry lubricant for its greasy feel.

Why mine in Arunachal?

  • Beijing is carrying out “massive” mining activities very close to the border in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Arunachal could be the leading producer of graphite, going a long way in cutting down India’s import of the mineral.

Arunachal holds highest deposits of graphite

  • The GSI presented the status of mineral deposits in Arunachal Pradesh at the meeting.
  • Data showed that the State has 35% of the total graphite reserves in India – the highest in the country.
  • The GSI’s 2013 report showed Arunachal Pradesh sits on 43% of the country’s graphite resources followed by Jammu & Kashmir (37%), Jharkhand (6%), Tamil Nadu (5%), and Odisha (3%).
  • But in terms of resources, Tamil Nadu led with 37% followed by Jharkhand with 30% and Odisha with 29%.
Coal and Mining Sector

[op-ed snap] Green is cool

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICAP

Mains level : Analysis of ICAP


CONTEXT

India — as the fastest growing and rapidly urbanising economy — is projected to have the strongest growth in cooling demand worldwide. While India’s soaring demand in this sector is in line with the country’s developmental needs, it does portend significant environmental, social and economic concerns.

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  • The government’s launch of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) on March 8 is a bold response to addressing India’s future cooling needs while neutralising its impacts.
  • ICAP most visibly is about enhancing access to cooling amenities, optimising demand and efficient cooling practices and technologies.

 

Space cooling sector – The space cooling sector, which represents a dominant share of India’s current and future cooling needs, the underlying thrust is to enable thermal comfort and well-being for all citizens by providing affordable and reliable cooling options, maintaining reliable electricity grids, and enhancing climate resilience of buildings and homes.

Focus on Vulnerable Section – The thrust is on ensuring that the vulnerable populations, particularly children and the elderly, are not exposed to undue heat stresses.

Energy efficient approach – To maximise the cooling load reduction and possible benefits for this sector, ICAP proposes an approach that first reduces the cooling energy demand through climate appropriate and energy efficient building design, then serves the demand through energy efficient appliances and finally, controls and optimises the demand through demand-side and user adaptation strategies, such as adaptive thermal comfort.

Climate appropriate designs for affordable housing – The plan lays special emphasis on enabling thermal comfort for the economically-weaker sections through climate-appropriate designs of affordable housing, and low-cost interventions to achieve better thermal insulation (such as cool roofs).

Benefits of ICAP

  1. Enhancing Productivity – The benefits of the proposed actions extend to enhancing nationwide productivity, reducing heat-islands in urban areas, mitigating peak-load impacts and reducing the stress on the power systems — much of this would also free up capital for other developmental priorities.

2. Integrated Cold chain Infrastructure –

  • Within the cold chain sector, ICAP proposes development of an integrated cold chain infrastructure with the appropriate market linkages, supported by adequate training and up-skilling of farmers and professionals.
  • The co-benefits include economic well-being of farmers and reducing food losses thus strengthening food security and alleviating hunger-related issues.

3. Training and certification –

  • Driving skill-building of the services sector through training and certification is an important target identified by the plan.
  • It also presents an opportunity for providing increased employment, better livelihoods, and safer working practices for the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) sector.

4. Building R&D ecosystem –

  • ICAP’s emphasis on an innovative R&D ecosystem aims to drive the nation towards better utilisation of public-funded R&D efforts that solve pressing issues related to the environment — and quality of life.
  • The plan also positions India’s cooling challenge as an opportunity for the nation to demonstrate leadership in areas related to innovation. It also supports the Make in India campaign through indigenous production of cooling equipment and refrigerants.

5. Impact on SDGs –

  • The benefits of ICAP could impact several SDGs — good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.
  • The onus is now on the various stakeholders to work collaboratively, with the right policy and market levers, to lead the country towards a cooling transformation that exemplifies sustainable and responsible cooling for all.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] All out at sea

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Naval Exercises

Mains level : India's endeavor in Indian Ocean is defense oriented.


CONTEXT

In recent weeks, a series of bilateral exercises with regional navies in the Indian Ocean have demonstrated the Indian Navy’s resolve to preserve operational leverage in India’s near seas.

List of Naval Exercises

  • In April, in their biggest and most complex exercise, Indian and Australian warships held drills in the Bay of Bengal.
  • This was followed by a much-publicised anti-submarine exercise with the U.S. Navy near Diego Garcia.
  • Last week, the Indian Navy held a joint exercise ‘Varuna’ with the French Navy off the coast of Goa and Karwar. even as two Indian warships participated in a ‘group sail’ with warships from Japan, the Philippines and the United States on return from a fleet review in Qingdao.

Reasons for numerous exercises

1. China’s increasing naval footprint

  • For many, the trigger for India’s newfound zeal at sea is the rapid expansion of China’s naval footprint in the Indian Ocean.
  • Military outposts – Beyond commercial investments in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, China has established a military outpost in Djibouti, a key link in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Base for non-peacekeeping missions – Reports suggest the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is planning an expansion of its logistics base for non-peacekeeping missions, raising the possibility of an operational overlap with the Indian Navy’s areas of interest.
  • Control over key nodes – As some see it, Djibouti portends a future where China would control key nodes skirting important shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, allowing the PLA’s Navy (PLAN) to dominate the security dynamic.

2. South Asian Navies increasing  Presence

  • Meanwhile, South Asian navies have been making their presence felt in the seas of the subcontinent.
  • In a quest for regional prominence, Sri Lanka has positioned itself as a facilitator of joint regional endeavours, expanding engagement with Pacific powers which includes the Royal Australian Navy and the U.S. Navy.
  • With China’s assistance, Pakistan too is becoming an increasingly potent actor in the northern Indian Ocean, a key region of Indian interest.
  • Beijing has also been instrumental in strengthening the navies of Bangladesh and Myanmar, both increasingly active participants in regional security initiatives.

3. Looking for partnerships

  • Widely acknowledged as the most capable regional maritime force, the Indian Navy has played a prominent role in the fight against non-traditional challenges in the Indian Ocean.
  • While its contribution to the counter-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (including in cyclone-hit Mozambique) has been substantial, a paucity of assets and capacity has forced the Navy to seek partners willing to invest resources in joint security endeavours.

4.African focus

  •  Chinese investments in port infrastructure in Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Mozambique have grown at a steady pace, even as PLAN has sought to expand its presence in the western Indian Ocean.
  • In response, India has moved to deepen its own regional engagement, seeking naval logistical access to French bases in Reunion and Djibouti, where the second phase of ‘Varuna’ will be held later this month.

Conclusion

Defensive stand – Yet, India’s Indian Ocean focus makes for an essentially defensive posture.

No strategic gains – Notwithstanding improvements in bilateral and trilateral naval engagements, it hasn’t succeeded in leveraging partnerships for strategic gains.

Power equation favouring China – With India’s political leadership reluctant to militarise the Quadrilateral grouping or to expand naval operations in the Western Pacific, the power-equation with China remains skewed in favour of the latter.

Only risk management approach – For all its rhetoric surrounding the ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, New Delhi is yet to take a stand on a ‘rules-based order’ in littoral-Asia. A wariness for sustained operations in China’s Pacific backyard has rendered the Indian Navy’s regional strategy a mere ‘risk management’ tactic, with limited approach to shape events in littoral-Asia.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

[op-ed snap] IBC hits and misses

Mains Paper 3 : issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IBC

Mains level : Gains and losses of IBC


CONTEXT

Even as the time taken for resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) continues to exceed the outer limit prescribed under the law, the process is yielding better outcomes in a shorter time frame as compared to the erstwhile regime.

Background

  • In FY19, financial institutions recovered close to Rs 70,000 crore through resolution under the IBC, estimates rating agency Crisil.
  • This works out to a recovery rate of 43 per cent.
  • In comparison, recoveries under the preceding regime through various channels — debt recovery tribunals, securitisation and reconstruction of financial assets, and enforcement of the securities interest act (SARFAESI) and Lok Adalats — stood at Rs 35,000 crore in FY18.

Cause of concerns

  • The time taken for successful resolution continues to exceed that envisaged in the law.
  • Under the law, the insolvency resolution process is to be completed in 180 days, which can be extended by another 90 days to a maximum of 270 days. But, of the 1,143 cases that are currently outstanding under the IBC, 362 cases or 32 per cent are pending for more than 270 days.
  • In a few of the big ticket cases, the resolution process has exceeded 400 days.

Reasons For delay

  • Part of the delay in resolution can be attributed to the absence of buyers, differences between members of the committee of creditors, as well as legal challenges mounted by existing promoters not willing to let go of their companies.
  • Then, there are issues of institutional capacity which need to be addressed.

Conclusion

  • However, despite these delays, Crisil estimates that it takes around 324 days for cases to be resolved under the IBC — in comparison, as per the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019, it took 4.3 years under the earlier regime.
  • In the months after the IBC kicked in, operational creditors had taken the lead in initiating the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRPs) against errant debtors.
  • But thereafter, financial institutions stepped up.
  • In fact, in the quarter ended March 2019, the number of CIRPs initiated by financial creditors exceeded those initiated by operational creditors. But it is difficult to say whether this trend will continue after the Supreme Court ruling on the RBI’s February 12 circular.
  • The quashing of the circular has opened the door for banks to tackle the issue of bad loans outside the IBC process, a route they might prefer.
Banking Sector Reforms