[op-ed of the day] Partnership lessons

Mains Paper 3 : Investment Models |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Lessons from UK in following PPP


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

As India deepens private participation in infrastructure through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), it is an opportune moment to explore the lessons from the UK, the pioneer in the use of PPPs and privatisation in infrastructure.

 

Public service analysis after following PPP model

1.Health and education –
  • A National Audit Office (CAG equivalent) assessment of the UK’s pioneering Private Finance Initiative (PFI) found that schools and hospitals built with PFI are 40 per cent and 60 per cent more expensive than their respective public sector alternatives.
  • Using the government’s lower borrowing cost to discount the cost of projects, it found that very few PFI projects would have passed the Value for Money test.
  • It concluded that the country had “incurred billions of pounds in extra costs for no clear benefit”.

2.Railways, water and sewage

  • The balance sheet on service quality is not much better.
  • Over 2000-11, the reliability and punctuality of British rail increased from 88 to 91 per cent, a small increment given the advances in digital technology and massive public investments.
  • Skimping on investments on the less salient parts of the privatised water and sewerage utilities has taken its toll on the environment.

Favouring nationalisation

An early 2018 poll by Legatum Institute found that 76-83 per cent favoured renationalising the railways, energy, and water industries.

The Labour party has announced that it would renationalise the utilities. Finally, in his 2018 Budget speech, after 716 projects since 1992, the Chancellor of Exchequer formally brought down the curtain on PFI saying he would never sign a PFI contract.

Relevance for India

1.The difference in public sector efficiency  –

  • In the UK, the starting point in terms of efficiency and service quality was high, and corruption in service delivery low.
  • The Indian public sector suffers from peculiarly Indian constraints.
  • Political interference in recruitment, competitive trade union activity (witness the posters in every railway station), rigidities on salaries and writs in courts on service matters, reduce the efficiency of personnel management in the public sector.
  • Activities of oversight agencies — Vigilance, Comptroller and Auditor General etc — cause extreme risk aversion in decision taking, reducing efficiency of procurement and operational decisions.

A stronger case for PPP

  • The starting point in India may often be a public agency which is inefficient, corrupt at the point of contact with the citizen and providing very poor service.
  • With a much lower starting point, it is quite conceivable that private providers may be operationally more efficient and give better service.
  • To that extent, the case for PPP is stronger in India than in the UK.

Weak regulatory approach

  • On the other hand, the regulatory capacity in India is weaker.
  • The unambiguous lesson from the UK is that capable regulators could not prevent asset stripping and skimping on investments.
  • There is nothing to suggest that this would not be repeated in India.
  • Also, using PPP purely for off-balance sheet financing to reduce the short-run fiscal deficit, is penny-wise and pound-foolish because the cost of borrowing of the private sector is much higher.

Way forward for PPP

1.Improve service quality – For a start, PPP must not be a short cut only to save money or bridge fiscal gaps or transfer risks; it should be used to improve service quality or bring efficiency improvements.

2. Careful selection –

  • Second, project design and the PPP components need to be carefully chosen.
  • For instance, outsourcing labour-intensive and customer-service operations, while retaining pricing and investment in public hands, may bring in efficiencies without under-investment or over-pricing.
  • Given the higher cost of private capital, and the inevitability of delays and related cost over-runs, construction is best financed with public borrowing though the operating asset could then be privately operated.

3. Principles for renegotiations –

  • Third, since it is impossible to write perfect long-term contracts, renegotiations are inevitable.
  • Clear principles and a mechanism for renegotiations without moral hazard need to be planned for

Back2basics

A PPP Project means a project based on a contract or concession agreement, between a Government or statutory entity on the one side and a private sector company on the other side, for delivering a service on payment of user charges. The rights and obligations of all stakeholders including the government, users and the concessionaire flow primarily out of the respective PPP contracts.

Unlike private projects where prices are generally determined competitively and Government resources are not involved, PPP projects typically involve transfer of public assets, delegation of governmental authority for recovery of user charges, private control of monopolistic services and sharing of risks and contingent liabilities by the Government.

The justification for promoting PPP lies in its potential to improve the quality of service at lower costs, besides attracting private capital to fund public projects. For creating a transparent, fair and competitive environment, the Government of India has been relying increasingly on standardising the documents and processes for award and implementation of PPP projects.

PPP Investment Models: HAM, Swiss Challenge, Kelkar Committee

[op-ed snap] Going local

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Critical review of data localisation policy for Indian economy


CONTEXT

A high-level government panel has recommended doing away with the requirement of foreign firms needing to store a copy of all personal data within India.

Background

  • Firms will now be able to store and process data abroad, though critical personal data will have to be processed and stored in the country.
  • This approach marks a significant departure from the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna committee report which had suggested that a copy of personal data must be stored in the country.
  • The panel’s decision comes after a rethink by the Reserve Bank of India, which earlier relaxed its April 2018 circular that had mandated that all payment data generated in the country be stored here.

Impact of rethink

This decision, which is likely to be welcomed by foreign companies, who would have seen a surge in costs to comply with these regulations, suggests that a more considered view on localisation norms is evolving in India.

The arguments in favour of data localisation are straightforward — it will address questions on privacy and security, enable greater governmental access to data, and help develop local data infrastructure.

Costs associated with data localisation

But on each of these issues, it is not very clear if the benefits from localisation outweigh the costs.

 1.No strong data protection law – For instance, in the absence of a strong data protection law, questions of privacy and security are unlikely to be addressed.

2. Bilateral Treaties are better – And while there are reasonable arguments to be made in favour of law enforcement having greater access to data, especially when it is not stored in India, interventions such as bilateral treaties aimed at addressing specific issues might be a more prudent approach.

3. Definition of critical Data

  • The next set of questions are likely to centre around what constitutes critical personal data.
  • The Srikrishna committee report had classified personal data pertaining to finances, health, biometric and genetic data, religious and political beliefs, among others, as sensitive personal data.

4. A single agency

  • It had envisaged a data protection agency which would list out further categories of sensitive personal data.
  • But it is debatable whether a single agency is best suited to draw up this list. As, globally, the framing of localisation norms has been largely contextual, driven typically by the type of data and the sector it relates to — in Canada, any data may be sensitive based on the context — sector-specific regulators might be better at identifying which data is sensitive.
Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

[pib] Seed Bankers for Conserving Native Crops

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 : Seed Vaults

Mains level : Preservation of native plant varities



News

  • Till date 1597 plants varieties have been registered with Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Right Authority and certificates of registration have been issued.

National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources

  • ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi is conserving seed germplasm for long-term conservation (at -20°C) in its National Genebank (NGB).
  • NGB has the responsibility of conservation of plant genetic resources for posterity and sustainable use including landraces and traditional varieties which are potential sources of agriculturally important genes.

Navigate to the page for:

Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Right Authority


Back2Basics

India’s seed bank at Chang La

  • At Chang La in the Himalayas, at a height of 17,300 feet, there is a storage facility with over 5,000 seed accessions.
  • One accession consists of a set of seeds of one species collected from different locations or different populations.
  • The vault is a joint venture of the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (under ICAR) and the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (under DRDO).
  • When a seed needs to be stored for few years, maintaining it at just 10 degree Celsius is enough.
  • But in the long run, for 10 to 20 years, they need to be kept at a minus 15 to minus 20 degree Celsius (range).
  • Chang La has a prevalent temperature in this sub-zero range.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

  • It is a facility located on a remote Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean and it houses the world’s largest collection of seeds.
  • The seeds can be of use in the event of a global catastrophe or when some species is lost due to natural disasters. It is therefore also referred to as the doomsday vault.
  • The storage rooms are kept at −18 °C (−0.4 °F). The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed aging.
  • The samples stored in the genebanks are accessible in accordance with the terms and conditions of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, approved by 118 countries or parties.
Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

[op-ed snap] Talks and terror: on Afghan peace talks

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Peace talks in afghanistan are not yielding required results


CONTEXT

The attack on Afghan vice presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh’s office in Kabul on Sunday that killed at least 20 people and injured 50, including Mr Saleh, is a grave reminder of the crisis the war-torn country is going through even amid attempts to find peace.

Background

  • Mr. Saleh, a former intelligence chief and a strong critic of the Taliban and Pakistan, is President Ashraf Ghani’s running-mate for the September 28 election.
  • And the irony is that the assault occurred a few hours after President Ghani officially launched his campaign in which he promised that “peace is coming”.
  • The message the insurgents are trying to send is that even the most fortified political offices in the country or its top politicians are not safe.
  • The insurgents have made it clear they will carry out their offensive irrespective of the peace process, especially when Afghanistan gets down to a full-fledged election campaign.

Peace initiatives

  • In recent months, even when the U.S. and Taliban representatives have held multiple rounds of talks in Doha, Qatar, insurgents have kept up attacks, both on military and civilian locations.
  • The Taliban appears to be trying to leverage these assaults to boost its bargaining position in the talks with the U.S.
  •  And the Kabul government’s inability to prevent them and the U.S.’s apparent decision to delink the negotiations from the daily violence are giving the insurgents a free run in many Afghan cities.

Problems before  Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan’s crises are many.
  • Half the country is either directly controlled or dominated by the Taliban.
  • In the eastern parts, the Islamic State has established a presence and the group targets the country’s religious minorities.
  • The government in Kabul is weak and notorious for chronic corruption.
  • Its failure to ensure the basic safety and security of civilians is in turn eroding the public’s confidence in the system.

Response by government

  • At present, the government appears beleaguered. Its security agencies are strained by the prolonged war. 
  • It is true that Afghanistan needs a political settlement.
  • The war has been in a stalemate for long.
  • The government, even with U.S. support, is not in a position to turn the war around.
  • The Taliban, on the other side, has expanded its reach to the hinterland, but not the urban centres.

Giving too much leeway to the Taliban

  • While a peace process is the best way ahead in such a scenario, the question is whether the U.S. is giving too much leeway to the Taliban in its quest to get out of its longest war.
  • The decision to keep the Afghan government out of the peace process was a big compromise.
  • The absence of a ceasefire even when talks were under way was another.

Conclusion

  • The result is that Afghans continue to suffer even when the Americans and the Taliban talks.
  • This has to change.
  • There has to be more pressure, both political and military, on the Taliban to cease the violence.
  • And the U.S. should back the Afghan government and the coming elections resolutely, while Kabul has to get its act together.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Non-pneumatic Anti-Shock Garment (NASG)

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About NASG

Mains level : Maternity healthcare in India



News

  • Project Sahara, an initiative in the state of Gujarat uses a unique technique to prevent maternal mortality due to excess bleeding.

Non-pneumatic Anti-Shock Garment (NASG)

  • Most mothers after child delivery suffer from postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) that leads to continuous and excessive bleeding.
  • The rapid loss of blood because of PPH reduces the body’s blood pressure and can even cause death.
  • The non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG) applies pressure to the lower body and abdomen, thereby forcing the blood that was getting accumulated in the pelvic area to other essential organs of the body.
  • The neoprene garment quickly stabilizes vitals and gives doctor enough time for treatment.

Why need NASG?

  • As such, in November 2018, Babu started a new project, called Sahara, that aimed at reducing haemorrhage-related maternal deaths by providing new mothers with a special suit —the NASG.
  • PPH-related deaths accounts for significant number of maternal mortality in India.
  • A lot of mothers become anaemic because of poor nutrition. This weakness compounds the damage caused by excessive and sudden bleeding.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Microdots technology for Vehicles

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 : Microdots

Mains level : Vehicular Safety



News

  • The government has come out with draft rules to make microdots mandatory in vehicles.
  • This move will also ensure that consumers have a way of identifying original parts from fake ones and that contributes to overall safety as well.

Microdots Technology

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued a draft notification on amending the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, and allowing motor vehicles and their parts, components, assemblies, sub-assemblies to be affixed with permanent and nearly invisible microdots.
  • These microdots can be read physically with a microscope and identified with ultraviolet light.
  • Microdots are a globally proven technology to ensure originality in spare parts of machines and components, including in the automobile sector.
  • The government has envisaged that with microdots becoming a permanent feature in vehicles, identifying them would become easier in case they are stolen.

How it works?

  • The microdots and adhesive are to become a permanent fixture/affixation which cannot be removed without damaging the asset itself.
  • The microdots are to comply with AIS 155 requirements, if affixed.
  • The technology involves spraying thousands of microscopic dots onto vehicles or other assets to form a unique identification.
  • Each microdot carries this identification which is registered to the owner, but is not visible to the naked eye.
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

GI tag in news:  Odisha’s Rasagola and Kodaikanal’s Malai Poondu Garlic

Mains Paper 3 : Intellectual Property Rights |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Significance of GI tagging


News

  • The Rasagola, a popular dessert of Odisha and Kodaikanal’s malai poondu Garlic has received the geographical indication tag from the Registrar of Geographical Indication.

About Odisha Rasagola

  • The registration was conferred to ‘Odisha Rasagola’ under Section 16(I) or of authorized Section 17(3)(c) of Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999.
  • The GI number 612 has been registered in favour of the Odisha Small Industries Corporation Limited (OSIC Limited), a government of Odisha undertaking and Utkal Mistanna Byabasayee Samiti, a traders’ organisation, in the foodstuff category.
  • According to the application submitted to the Registrar of GI, ‘Odisha Rasagola’ is a sweet from the state of Odisha made of chhena (cottage cheese) cooked in sugar syrup.
  • This culinary is offered to Lord Jagannath as part of bhog since centuries.
  • Colour development of the ‘Odisha Rasagola’ is very specific, where without addition of external colour, various intensely-coloured rasagolas are prepared using the principle of caramelisation of sugar with specific methods of preparation.

History of Rasagola

  • Both Odisha and West Bengal have been contesting the origin of the rasagola.
  • Historical records submitted say the ‘Odisha Rasagola’ is associated with world famous Puri Jagannath Temple.
  • As per Record of Rights, this is the duty of Bhitarachha Sebaka. It is mentioned in Bhitarachha Sebara Niyama and published in Record of Rights, Part‐III, Orissa Gazette.
  • The reference of rasagola is found in the late 15th-century Odia Ramayana written by Balaram Das.
  • Balaram Das’s Ramayana is known as Dandi Ramayana or Jagamohana Ramayana as it was composed and sung at the Jagamohana of the Puri Temple.
  • In its ‘Ajodhya Kanda’, another religious script, one comes across elaborate descriptions of chhena and chhena‐based products including Rasagola.


About Kodaikanal’s malai poondu Garlic

  • Also known by its scientific name Allium Sativum, this particular garlic is known for its medicinal and preservative properties. It is grown in the Kodaikanal Hills, Dindugul district.
  • It has anti-oxidant and anti-microbial potential, which is attributed to the presence of higher amount of organosulfur compounds, phenols and flavonoids compared to other garlic varieties.
  • Its usually white or pale yellow and each bulb weighs 20-30g on an average.
  • According to the GI application, Kodaikanal Hill Garlic cultivation is done twice in a year, once around May and for second time in November depending upon the suitability of the climate.
  • The hill altitude, the misty condition and the soil prevailing in the Kodaikanal region are responsible for its medicinal property and the long storage shelf life of the garlic.

Back2Basics

Geographical Indications in India

  • A Geographical Indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • This tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.
  • Recently the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India.
  • The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis Act for protection of GI in India.
  • India, as a member of the WTO enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS Agreement. See also the Paris Convention, the Madrid Agreement, the Lisbon Agreement, the Geneva Act.
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

RoboBee X-Wing

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 : RoboBee X-Wing

Mains level : Applications of Nanotechnology



News

RoboBee X-Wing

  • The Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory in Cambridge has claimed to have made possible the “lightest insect-scale aerial vehicle so far to have achieved sustained, untethered flight.
  • The robot can sustain a flight for less than a second. It is essentially a flying machine, which can flap its wings 120 times a second and is half the size of a paperclip.
  • Initially, the researchers called this lightest centimetre-sized vehicle, “RoboBee”, but with the current advancement which makes it possible for RoboBee to fly untethered, its name has been upgraded to “RoboBee X-Wing”.

Working

  • The robot weighs 259 mg and uses 110-120 milliwatts of power using solar energy, matching the “thrust efficiency” of similarly sized insects such as bees.
  • Much like aircraft, the robot is heavier than the air it displaces — a concept referred to as “heavier-than-air flight”.
  • However, when objects become smaller, achieving a heavier-than-air flight becomes more complicated.

Why make insect like robot?

  • Studying the mechanisms that insects use to flap their wings and navigate in the air is a matter of interest to biologists.
  • Flapping-wing robots can help in addressing questions related to the evolution of flight, the mechanical basis of natural selection and environmental monitoring.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology