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[op-ed snap] Caught napping

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nipah virus

Mains level : State should be proactuve to contain spread of nipah virus.


CONTEXT

A year after Kerala’s prompt action quickly brought the deadly Nipah virus infection outbreak under check in two districts (Kozhikode and Malappuram), the State has once again shown alacrity in dealing with a reported case.

Background

  • A 23-year-old student admitted to a private hospital in Ernakulam on May 30 tested positive for the virus on June 4.
  • But even as the government was awaiting confirmation from the National Institute of Virology, Pune, steps had been taken to prevent the spread of the disease by tracing the contacts, setting up isolation wards and public engagement.
  • Containing the spread of the Nipah virus is important as the mortality rate was 89% last year, according to a paper in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
  • The source of infection in the index case (student) remains unknown.

Circulation of virus

  • Due to fruit bats -If Kerala was taken by surprise by the first outbreak last year, its recurrence strongly suggests that the virus is in circulation in fruit bats.
  • After all, the virus isolated from four people and three fruit bats (Pteropus medius) last year from Kerala clearly indicated that the carrier of the Nipah virus which caused the outbreak was the fruit bat, according to the paper in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
  • The similarity between human and bat virus – Analysing the evolutionary relationships, the study found 99.7-100% similarity between the virus in humans and bats.
  • The confirmation of the source and the recurrence mean that Kerala must be alert to the possibility of frequent outbreaks.

Lack of proactiveness on part of the state

  • Even in the absence of hard evidence of the source of the virus till a few days ago, fruit bats were widely believed to be the likely candidates.
  •  No continuous monitoring and surveillance – That being so and considering the very high mortality rate when infected with the virus, it is shocking that Kerala had not undertaken continuous monitoring and surveillance for the virus in fruit bats.
  • Absence of a public health protection agency -One reason for the failure could be the absence of a public health protection agency, which the government has been in the process of formulating for over five years, to track such infective agents before they strike.

Way Forward

Not only should Kerala get this agency up and running soon, it should also equip the Institute of Advanced Virology in Thiruvananthapuram to undertake testing of dangerous pathogens. Known for high health indicators, Kerala cannot lag behind on the infectious diseases front.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Bolster the first line of defence”

Mains Paper 3 : Social Media Networks & Internal Security |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Police reforms are the key stone for internal security.


CONTEXT

In the wake of the 26/11 terrorist attack in 2008, a slew of measures were taken to strengthen the police forces, reinforce coastal security and decentralise the deployment of National Security Guard. However, after that, a complacency of sorts seems to have set in, mainly because there has been no major terrorist attack since then. Whatever upgradation of police has happened during the intervening period has essentially been of a cosmetic nature.

Challenges ahead for Police Forces 

1.ISIS –

  • The ISIS, which is committed to spreading “volcanoes of jihad” everywhere, recently perpetrated a horrific attack in Sri Lanka.
  • The organisation has made significant inroads in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and has sympathisers in other areas of the country.
  • It recently announced a separate branch, Wilayah-e-Hind, to focus on the Subcontinent.
  • In the neighborhood, the ISIS has support bases in Bangladesh and Maldives. The government has been playing down the ISIS’s threat.
  • It has been arguing that considering the huge Muslim population of the country, a very small percentage has been drawn to or got involved in the ISIS’s activities.
  • That may be true, but a small percentage of a huge population works out to a significant number and it would be naïve to ignore the threat.

Pakistan and militancy –

  • Pakistan has taken some half-hearted measures against terrorist formations in the country, which are euphemistically called non-state actors — largely due to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF.)
  • These measures are more for show than substance.
  • Besides, the ISI has been, for years, making well-orchestrated attempts to revive militancy in Punjab and trying to disrupt our economy by flooding the country with counterfeit currency.

Way Forward

  • It is necessary, therefore, that the country’s internal security is beefed up.
  • The first responders to a terrorist attack or a law and order problem is the police and, unfortunately, it is in a shambles.
  • Police infrastructure — its manpower, transport, communications and forensic resources — require substantial augmentation.
  • The directions given by the Supreme Court in 2006 appear to have created a fierce reaction in the establishment and led to a consolidation of, to use Marxist jargon, counterrevolutionary forces.
  • The government must appreciate that any effort to strengthen national security without reforming, reorganising or restructuring the police would be an exercise in futility.
Internal Security Architecture Shortcomings – Key Forces, NIA, IB, CCTNS, etc.

[op-ed snap] Going digital

Mains Paper 3 : Indigenization Of Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital payment system

Mains level : Nilekani's commiittee's report on digital payment.


CONTEXT

The payments ecosystem in India has seen a flurry of activity in the recent past. Post demonetisation, the shift towards digital payments has been particularly striking.

Low digital acceptance

Yet, acceptance, from an infrastructure perspective, continues to be low.

For instance, while debit card issuance has touched a billion, there are only about 3.5 million POS devices and two lakh ATMs that accept cards.

Against this backdrop, a committee headed by Nandan Nilekani has recommended several suggestions to broaden the acceptance infrastructure and deepen digital financial inclusion.

Committee’s recommendations

  1. The high cost of structures –
  • On the issue of acceptance, the committee notes that “high cost structures, including merchant fees, as well as limited financial service offering impede merchants from accepting digital payments”.
  • To address this, it has recommended reducing the interchange on card payments by 15 basis points hoping this will “increase the incentive for acquirers to sign-up merchants”.

2. Setting up a committee

  • Then there’s also the suggestion of setting up of a committee to review merchant discount rate and interchange on a regular basis.
  • Now, merchant acquisition is central to expanding the payment ecosystem.
  • But, rather than focusing more on the card-based ecosystem, perhaps greater emphasis could have been placed on the Aadhaar-enabled payment systems, which is likely to have greater appeal, especially in the rural hinterland.

3.No user charges on digital payments

  • There are also suggestions which call for ensuring no user charges for digital payments, and providing businesses tax incentives “calibrated on the proportion of digital payments in their receipts”.
  • These are eminently sensible recommendations. But implementation is likely to prove challenging.

Example – Take, for instance, the government’s decision to waive of fees on transactions less than Rs 2,000. Theoretically, a sound proportion. But, the roll-out was not as smooth as was expected.

4. Participation of non-banks in the payment system – The committee has also suggested that non-banks be encouraged to participate in payment systems.

Challenges

  • But, this is where questions over the existing payments architecture crop up.
  • As the inter-ministerial committee had pointed out earlier, there is need to distinguish between the RBI’s role “as an infrastructure institution providing settlement function from its role as regulator of the payments system”.
  • As the panel has said, the role of the regulator needs to evolve from being “largely bank centric”.
  • Non-banks are at an inherent disadvantage in the current payment ecosystem.

Conclusion

Perhaps, as the Nilekani committee notes, bringing in “non-banks as associate members to build acceptance infrastructure”, and allowing them access to settlement systems, might help create a level-playing field.

Digital India Initiatives

Explained: Dual Mandate in India

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dual Mandate, Due Constitution notification

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

  • The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha will commence very soon.
  • Some of MPs who won in the elections were elected from more than one constituency; some were already members of either Rajya Sabha or the legislature of a state.
  • These MPs are obligated vacate one of their seats.

Why vacate the seat?

  • Under section 33 of the RPA, 1951, a person is allowed to contest polls, whether a general election, more than one by-elections or biennial elections, from a maximum of two seats.
  • Before this law, candidates could run in any number of constituencies.
  • If candidates win both seats, they must vacate one within 10 days, triggering a by-election, as stated under section 70 of the Act.
  • Under the Constitution, an individual cannot simultaneously be a member of either Houses of Parliament (or a state legislature), or both Parliament and a state legislature, or represent more than one seat in a House.

Procedures and timelines for effect

I. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha

Article 101(1) of the Constitution read with Section 68(1) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951says:

  • If a person is elected simultaneously to both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, and if he has not yet taken his seat in either House, he can choose, within 10 days from the later of the dates on which he is chosen to those Houses, of which he would like to be a member.
  • The member must intimate his choice in writing to the Secretary to the ECI within the 10-day window, failing which his seat in Rajya Sabha will fall vacant at the end of this period [Sec 68(2), RPA 1951].
  • The choice, once intimated, is final. [Sec 68(3), RPA, 1951]
  • No such option is, however, available to a person who is already a member of one House and has contested the election for membership of the other House.
  • So, if a sitting Rajya Sabha member contests and wins a Lok Sabha election, his seat in the Upper House becomes automatically vacant on the date he is declared elected to Lok Sabha.
  • The same applies to a Lok Sabha member who contests an election to Rajya Sabha. [Sec 69 read with Sec 67A, RPA 1951]

II. Elected on two Lok Sabha seats

  • There is no one in this category in the new Lok Sabha. Under Sec 33(7) of RPA, 1951, an individual can contest from two parliamentary constituencies.
  • But, if elected from both, he has to resign one seat within 14 days of the declaration of the result, failing which both his seats shall fall vacant. [Sec 70, RPA, 1951 read with Rule 91 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961]

III. State Assembly and Lok Sabha

  • Article 101(2) of the Constitution along with Rule 2 of the Prohibition of Simultaneous Membership Rules, 1950, made by the President under this Article says:
  • Members of state legislatures who have been elected to Lok Sabha must resign their seats within 14 days “from the date of publication in the Gazette of India or in the Official Gazette of the State, whichever is later.
  • Failing this their seats in Lok Sabha shall automatically fall vacant.

*** What is ‘Due Constitution’ notification by ECI?

  • Sec 67 of the RPA, 1951, says that “the returning officer shall report the (election) result to the appropriate authority and the Election Commission.
  • The authority shall cause to publish in the Official Gazette the declarations containing the names of the elected candidates.
  • Sec 73 of the Act provides that the ECI shall publish in the gazette the names of all elected members in a notification, called ‘Due Constitution’ notification, whereafter Lok Sabha shall be deemed to be duly constituted.
Electoral Reforms In India

Gujarat launches India’s first Emission Trading Scheme

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emission trading

Mains level : Curbing air pollution


News

  • Gujarat has launched India’s first trading programme to combat particulate air pollution on World Environment Day 2019, which has air pollution as its theme.

Gujarat Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)

  • The programme is a market-based system where the government sets a cap on emissions and allows industries to buy and sell permits to stay below the cap.
  • It is initiated by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB).
  • It was designed with the help of a team of researchers from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the Economic Growth Center at Yale University and others.

Using Cap and Trade system

  • The government has set a cap on concentration of emissions for each industrial unit at 150 microgramme per cubic metre (ug/m3), which is the 24-hour average for emission standard set by the Central government for industrial units.
  • Globally, cap-and-trade systems have been used to reduce other forms of pollution, such as programmes that have successfully reduced sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the USA.
  • But the Gujarat programme is the first in the world to regulate particulate air pollution.

How actual trading happens?

  • Under the cap and trade system, the regulator first defines the total mass of pollution that can be put into the air over a defined period by all factories put together.
  • Then, a set of permits is created, each of which allows a certain amount of pollution, and the total is equal to the cap.
  • These permits are the quantity that is bought and sold.
  • Each factory is allocated a share of these permits (this could be equal or based on size or some other rule).
  • After this, plants can trade permits with each other, just like any other commodity on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX).

Benefits of ETS

  • The reason for trading is that in a cap and trade market, the regulator will measure pollution over a period of time and industries must own enough permits to cover their total emissions.
  • Factories who find it very expensive to reduce pollution, will seek to buy more permits.
  • Those who can easily reduce pollution are encouraged to do so because then they have excess permits to sell.
  • Eventually, after buying and selling by plants that find it cheap to cut pollution and those for whom it is expensive, most pollution is taken care of.
  • Whatever the final allocation, the total number of permits does not change so the total pollution is still equal to the predefined cap. And yet the costs to industry are decreased.

Existing regulations

  • Under existing regulations, every industry has to meet a certain maximum concentration of pollutants when it is operating.
  • They are tested occasionally and manually (one or two times a year). However, there is widespread non-compliance across India.
  • This is partly because penalties are rarely applied, in large part because they involve punishments such as closing down the entire plant which is not necessarily appropriate for small violations.
Air Pollution

India is now the lowest-cost producer of solar power

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IRENA

Mains level : Solar power cost in India


News

  • India is now the lowest-cost producer of solar power globally, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2018

  • The IRENA report revealed that the total installed costs of utility-scale solar PV in India is as low as $793 per kilowatt (kW) in 2018 which is 27 per cent lower than for projects commissioned in 2017.
  • Canada has the highest cost at $2,427 per kW.
  • IRENA analysed eight major solar PV markets from 2010 to 2018 which include China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.
  • From the analysis, it is concluded that costs have dropped by 80 per cent in India.

Why low-cost solar power in India?

  • Typically, the cost of hardware including inverters account for more than half of the total cost of setting up a solar PV project in India.
  • India has high solar potential that leads to improved asset utilization.
  • India imports majority of hardware for installation from China which is cheaper and helps cut the cost by a huge margin.
  • As the cost of land and labor is cheaper than the rest of the world, it also contributes to low-cost production of solar power in India.

About IRENA

  • The IRENA is an intergovernmental organisation mandated to facilitate cooperation, advance knowledge, and promote the adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy.
  • It is the first international organisation to focus exclusively on renewable energy, addressing needs in both industrialized and developing countries.
  • It was founded in 2009 & its statute entered into force on 8 July 2010 and is headquartered in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.
  • IRENA is an official United Nations observer.
Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

Fiscal Performance Index by CII

Mains Paper 3 : Government Budgeting |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CII, FPI

Mains level : FRBM


News

  • Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has come out with a ‘Fiscal Performance Index’ to assess quality of budgets presented by the Centre and state governments.

Fiscal Performance Index (FPI)

  • The composite FPI developed by CII is an innovative tool using multiple indicators to examine quality of Budgets at the Central and State levels.
  • The index has been constructed using UNDP’s Human Development Index methodology which comprises six components for holistic assessment of the quality of government budgets.

Why need such an index?

  • A single criterion such as the ‘fiscal deficit to GDP ratio’ does not tell us anything about the quality of the Budget.
  • Hence, the Government should use multiple indicators to measure the quality of Budgets at the Central and the State levels rather than a single indicator.

Components of FPI

  1. Quality of revenue expenditure: measured by the share of revenue expenditure other than interest payments, subsidies, pensions and defence in GDP
  2. Quality of capital expenditure: measured by share of capital expenditure (other than defence) in GDP
  3. Quality of revenue: ratio of net tax revenue to GDP (own tax revenue in case of States)
  4. Degree of fiscal prudence I: fiscal deficit to GDP
  5. Degree of fiscal prudence II: revenue deficit to GDP and
  6. Debt index: Change in debt and guarantees to GDP

Other measures of FPI

  • As per the new index, expenditure on infrastructure, education, healthcare and other social sectors can be considered beneficial for economic growth.
  • At the same time, tax revenues are sustainable sources of revenue for the government as compared to one-time income sources.
Government Budgets

‘Nal Se Jal’ Yojana

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nal Se Jal Scheme

Mains level : Ensuring safe drinking water for all


News

  • Hon’ble PM will soon launch Jal Se Nal Yojana in the entire country.

Nal Se Jal Yojana

  • Nodal Agency: Ministry of Jal Shakti
  • Aim: To provide piped drinking water to every rural home by 2024
  • It is a component of the government’s Jal Jivan Mission.

Why such scheme?

  • According to a 2018 NITI Aayog report, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  • By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss in the country’s GDP.
  • Studies also show that 84% of rural homes have no access to piped water, with more than 70% of the country’s water contaminated.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Swachh Bharat Mission impact on Groundwater

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SBM

Mains level : SBM impact on water contamination


News

  • Swachhata has affected all aspects of the environment – be it groundwater, surface water, soil or air – as well as health and well-being of the communities in ODF regions as per the report published by UNICEF.

Environmental Impact study by UNICEF

  • Under the “Environmental impact of the SBM on Water, Soil, and Food” by UNICEF, groundwater samples were collected and studied from ODF and non-ODF villages of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal.
  • The study found that, in terms of faecal contamination, non-ODF villages were, on average:
  1. 11.25 times more likely to have their groundwater sources contaminated (12.7 times more from contaminants traceable to humans alone)
  2. 1.13 times more likely to have their soil contaminated
  3. 1.48 times more likely to have food contaminated and 2.68 times more likely to have household drinking water contaminated.
  • The study findings indicated that these substantial reductions may potentially be attributed to the improvement in sanitation and hygiene practices.

IEC footprint study by Gates Foundation

  • IES stands for Information, Education and Communication.
  • The “Assessment of the reach and value of IEC activities under SBM (Grameen)” was conducted by Dalberg, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • It estimated the scale of IEC activities within the Mission and assessed associated monetary and in-kind costs, and outputs such as reach.
  • The study found that:
  1. SBM mobilized a spend equivalent worth INR 22,000 to 26,000 crores in monetary and non-monetary IEC activities.
  2. Of this spend equivalent, cash expenditure on IEC activities spent by the Government, private sector, and the development community was estimated to be between INR 3,500 – 4,000 crores.
  3. An average person living in rural India was exposed to between 2,500 – 3,300 SBM related messages over the last five years.
Swachh Bharat Mission