[op-ed snap] Making CSR work: On Companies Act amendments

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

CONTEXT

Amendments to the Companies Act have made non-compliance with CSR norms a jailable offence for key officers of the company, apart from hefty fines up to ₹25 lakh on the company and ₹5 lakh on the officer in default.

Evolution of CSR

  1. It was first encouraged as a voluntary contribution by business
  2. 6 years ago it evolved into a co-option of the corporate sector to promote inclusiveness in society 
  3. Now it has become an imposition

Issues with amendments

  1. The committee headed by the Corporate Affairs Secretary has proposed that non-compliance be decriminalised and made a civil offence. CSR is a means to partner corporates for social development and such penal provisions are not in harmony with the spirit of CSR.
  2. CSR should not be treated as another tax on businesses.
  3. The government should not micromanage and tie-down businesses with rules and regulations that impose a heavy compliance burden.

Problems with CSR

  1. Filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs show that in 2017-18, only a little over half of those liable to spend on CSR have filed reports.
  2. The average CSR spend by private companies was just ₹95 lakh compared to ₹9.40 crore for public sector units.

Way ahead

  1. Compliance will improve as corporates imbibe CSR culture fully.
  2. The committee’s suggestion to offer a tax break for expenses on CSR may incentivise companies to spend.
  3. It has also recommended that unspent CSR funds be transferred to an escrow account within 30 days of the end of the financial year.

Conclusion

CSR is not the main business of a company they should rightly be focusing their energies on the business rather than on social spending.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Issues & Development

[op-ed snap] Popular anxiety

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Sex ratio as a major population issue


CONTEXT

Prime Minister called “population explosion” a challenge in his Independence Day speech. 

Facts

  1. India’s headcount is over 1.3 billion. It is headed even higher.
  2. The number might stabilize in a few years ahead. From data between 2013 to 2016, the country’s total fertility rate has fallen to an estimated 2.2. This figure is only marginally higher than 2.1, the replacement rate of the existing population.

Challenges

  1. Failure to arrest and reverse a trend in population: the gender gap. India has approximately 930 females per 1,000 males. 
  2. The ratio is even worse if we look at new births. The country’s sex ratio at birth declined from 900 females per 1,000 males in 2013-15 to 896 in 2015-17.
  3. Male preference among parents is not unique to India. Of the 201 countries listed on the United Nations Human Sex Ratio chart for 2018, India is at No. 191. There exist worse performers. 

Conclusion

We are heading for a gender crisis if a balance is not restored.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] A jan andolan for water

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Water conservation - Jal Jeevan Missiojn


CONTEXT

This Independence Day,  the Prime Minister announced the Jal Jeevan Mission, which plans to supply water to all households by 2024. 

Importance of the mission

  1. For many years, the central and state governments have been making efforts to increase access to safe and adequate drinking water.
  2. Household water supply issues – Though the basic quantity of drinking water in rural India has been provided through hand pumps etc.,  household water supply remains a challenge. A low percentage of rural Indian households have access to this service.
  3. Institutional unity – Institutions for water at both the Centre and state governments have been fragmented, with several ministries in Delhi and departments in states dealing with different aspects of water management. Jal Shakti Mantralaya to integrate the management of water resources is a landmark step. 
  4. Source conservation – Inadequate attention to sustain the source of the water. Instead of simple and local measures like creating rainwater harvesting structures, the emphasis has been more on maximizing the pumping of water and distributing it through pipes. Many of the systems have either shut down or function suboptimally as the groundwater source has dried up.
  5. Decentralization –
    1. Provision of drinking water was viewed primarily as an engineering solution, with schemes planned and executed by the public health and engineering departments. 
    2. Programs like the Swajal project in UP and WASMO program in Gujarat demonstrated that water can be most efficiently managed at the lowest appropriate level. 
    3. Single village ground water-based schemes would be managed by the community itself through the setting up of a village water and sanitation committee. Local innovations such as solar-based schemes will be encouraged.
  6. Household water – household wastewater amounts to about 75% of the amount of water supplied.
    1. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, huge quantities of household wastewater will be generated across the country.
    2. It is planned to include a mandatory provision under the Jal Jeevan Mission for the effective channeling and treatment of household wastewater through appropriate and low-cost drainage and treatment systems. 

Extensive information, education, and communication will be needed to create a jan andolan for water management.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Giving shape to an elusive strategic concept

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Chief of Defence staff - analysis


CONTEXT

Prime Minister announced appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This could have a far-reaching impact on the management of defence in India.

Why CDS

    1. Long-awaited move – The issue of efficient management of higher defence organisation came into focus after the Kargil war in 1999 when K. Subrahmanyam task force highlighted the systemic issues affecting our national security structures; such as poor coordination and technological inadequacies.
    2. Group of Ministers (GoM) in the early 2000s reviewed national security management. Though many of their recommendations were implemented, Defence management recommendations were not implemented.
    3. Decision making process – Armed forces are not formally involved in decision-making on defence planning and strategy. Service Headquarters are not within the Ministry of Defence; they are treated more like attached offices. 
    4. New age military conflicts –The concept of military conflict extends beyond land, air and sea, into the space, cyber, electronic and information. Effective defence preparedness requires a ‘jointness’ of these forces. It also requires a prioritisation of the weapons requirement and optimisation of their resource allocations.
    5. GOM Recommendations – 
      1. Integrating the armed forces headquarters into the Ministry of Defence (MoD)
      2. Appointment of a CDS
      3. CDS was to administer tri-service institutions such as the Andaman and Nicobar Command
    6. Strategic advice – CDS would provide coordinated military advice to the Defence Minister. He would develop the national defence strategy from a national security strategy
    7. Established institution – Many democracies have the institution of a CDS or its equivalent, with varying degrees of operational control over their armed forces.
    8. Accountability – It arises from the greater participation of the military in defence decision-making alongside the civilian bureaucracy
    9. Defence acquisition –  The CDS can contribute to rational defence acquisition decisions by preventing redundancy of capacities among the services and making best use of available financial resources.

 

 

Challenges posed by CDS

  1. Authority of service chiefs – there is an apprehension that a CDS would undermine the authority of the three service chiefs over their forces. The establishment of theatre commands under the CDS in many countries reinforced this fear. 
  2. An all-powerful CDS would distort the civil-military balance in our democracy.

Role of CDS

  1. Developing multi-domain military strategies
  2. Strengthening tri-service synergies 
  3. Enabling perspective planning

Way ahead

  1. India should pursue the objective of indigenisation. India is still among the top arms importers. 
  2. There must be procedures to ensure that every acquisition is structured in a way as to strengthen our indigenous technological capacities.
  3. Eventually, the three Service headquarters would need to be suitably integrated into the Ministry of Defence.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Explained: India’s doctrine of Nuclear No First Use

Mains Paper 3 : External State & Non-State Actors: Challenges To Internal Security. |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the doctrine

Mains level : Time-test of India's NFU doctrine


News

  • Raksha Mantri has said that while India has strictly adhered to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) of nuclear weapons, it can be reconsidered on future circumstances.
  • It was not immediately clear if policymakers are willing to revisit it.

Doctrine in making

  • A commitment to not be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict has long been India’s stated policy.
  • India first adopted a “No first use” policy after its second nuclear tests Pokhran-II, in 1998.
  • In August 1999, the govt. released a draft of the doctrine which asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of “retaliation only”.
  • Pakistan, by contrast, has openly threatened India with the use of nuclear weapons on multiple occasions beginning from the time the two nations were not even acknowledged nuclear powers.

No First Use doctrine

  • Among the major points in the doctrine was “a posture of No First Use”, which was described as follows:
  1. Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”.
  2. India’s nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.
  3. Also in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.
  4. Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority. (The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council. The Political Council is chaired by the PM.)
  5. India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  6. India would continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.
  7. India remains committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.

Why in news?

  • The successive governments are following Vajpayee’s doctrine and have directly or indirectly reaffirmed their commitment to NFU.
  • However, the doctrine has been questioned at various times by strategic experts in domestic policy debates, and the idea that India should revisit this position has been put forward at various high-level fora.
Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

India gets its first national essential diagnostics list

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Medical diagnosis


News

National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL)

  • India has got its first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL) finalised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • With this, India has become the first country to compile such a list that would provide guidance to the government for deciding the kind of diagnostic tests that different healthcare facilities in villages and remote areas require.
  • NEDL aims to bridge the current regulatory system’s gap that does not cover all the medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic device (IVD).
  • The list is meant for facilities from village till the district level.

How are diagnostics regulated?

  • In India, diagnostics (medical devices and in vitro diagnostics) follow a regulatory framework based on the drug regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945.
  • Diagnostics are regulated under the regulatory provisions of the Medical Device Rules, 2017.

Why need NEDL?

  • Diagnostics serve a key role in improving health and quality of life.
  • While affordability of diagnostics is a prime concern in low, middle-income countries like India, low cost, inaccurate diagnostics have made their way into the Indian market which has no place in the quality health care system.
  • NEDL builds upon the Free Diagnostics Service Initiative and other diagnostics initiatives of the Health Ministry to provide an expanded basket of tests at different levels of the public health system.

Benefits

  • The implementation of NEDL would enable improved health care services delivery through evidence-based care, improved patient outcomes and reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure; effective utilisation of public health facilities.
  • It would help in effective assessment of disease burden, disease trends, surveillance, and outbreak identification; and address antimicrobial resistance crisis too.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Tamil Yeoman declared state butterfly of TN

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tamil Yeoman

Mains level : Significance of Insects



News

  • The state of Tamil Nadu has recently declared Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa thais)as its state butterfly to symbolise its rich natural and cultural heritage, in a move aimed at boosting the conservation efforts of the attractive insects.

Tamil Yeoman

  • Locally known as Tamil Maravanmeaning ‘Tamilian Warrior’, the canopy butterfly, usually sized between 60 and 75mm, belongs to the family of brush-footed butterflies or the Nymphalid.
  • The winged wonder, with its natural zigzag patterns near its bright orange-coloured wings and its aesthetic dots, has always been a fascination for local nature enthusiasts.
  • It was chosen for its cultural identity linking the state through its name and is abundance in hilly areas.
  • Endemic to the biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, Tamil Yeoman is usually seen at the foothills and moist evergreen forests of the state’s mountainous regions.
  • Known to have a straight flight with few wing beats and long glide, the butterfly is actively spotted in forest streams too.

Other state species

  • This is the latest addition to Tamil Nadu’s existing symbols from the natural world – palmyra as the state tree, gloriosa lily as the state flower, emerald dove as the state bird, jackfruit as the state fruit and Nilgiri tahr as the state animal.
  • With the latest policy initiative, it has become the fifth India state after Maharashtra (Blue Mormon), Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern birdwings) and Kerala (Malabar banded peacock) to bestow a state emblem status to one of its colourful insects.

Why state designation to butterflies?

  • Butterflies are great bio-indicators of an ecosystem as they are highly sensitive to environmental conditions such as temperature, sunlight, humidity and rainfall patterns.
  • Butterflies are not only great pollinators but also play a crucial role in the food chain.
  • Their presence, patterns and migration assist in mapping the climatic health of a region and are they are perhaps the most studied insect group across the world.
  • Tamil Nadu’s naturally elongated geographical placement combined with the presence of Eastern and the Western Ghats generate a variety of habitats with diverse ecological conditions allowing plenty of ‘butterfly hotspots’.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Sustainable agriculture: Going beyond Soil Health Cards

Mains Paper 3 : E-Technology In The Aid Of Farmers |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Soil organic carbon (SOC)

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

Context

  • Agriculture supports roughly half of India’s population and is the key to its food security.
  • We have, indeed, avoided the spectre of food shortages, thanks to our farmers increasing production using modern inputs and technology developed by agriculture scientists.
  • But there has been a collateral cost to this — in the form of overexploitation of our natural resources, especially soil and water — which has brought issues of sustainability to the fore.

Issues relating to sustainable agriculture

  • The first is falling groundwater tables on which the PM himself has recently focussed attention.
  • The second is the depleting organic matter content in our soils.
  • The third one is a much broader concern of climate change; its impact on monsoon rainfall vagaries or temperature spikes during the cropping season doesn’t require elaboration.

(Note: This article’s focus is limited to the second issue.)

Soil organic carbon (SOC)

  • Soil organic carbon (SOC) is extremely important for agriculture.
  • About 58% of organic matter mass exists in the form of carbon.
  • The percentage of organic matter in the soil can, thus, be estimated by simply multiplying the SOC% by a conversion factor of 1.72 (100/58).

Why is SOC important?

  • While farmers may apply urea or di-ammonium phosphate, adequate SOC levels is what makes the nitrogen and phosphorous from these chemical fertilizers bio-available to crops.
  • Organic matter is also the source of food for the microorganisms that help increase the porosity and aeration of soils.
  • The soil’s moisture holding capacity, too, goes up with higher carbon levels, thereby reducing water runoff.
  • Simply put, SOC levels have direct correlation with soil productivity and, by extension, sustainability of agriculture.

How it is linked to Climate Change?

  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide is stored in the form of SOC through the process of absorption in crop production and plant residue retention in soil.
  • This sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide can, indeed, be a powerful mitigating measure for climate change.
  • But in the last four years, based on sample testing results under the Centre’s Soil Health Card Scheme, the picture emerging isn’t all that encouraging.
  • SOC levels are found to be very low in most parts of India.
  • The soils in temperate climates have better carbon levels. It is quite the opposite in hot and tropical atmospheric areas such as ours, where the soils tend to lose carbon through decomposition (mineralization) of plant residues.
  • Rising temperatures from climate change further aggravates the situation.

How to ascertain adequate SOC levels?

  • SOC levels matter can be raised through higher retention of farm residue and adding organic matter from outside.

Step I: Proper crop selection

  • Plants, we know, take atmospheric carbon dioxide and convert it into food through photosynthesis process.
  • Ideally, only crops producing more aboveground and root mass – which contribute to long-term productivity by enhancing soil organic matter – should be grown.
  • But farmers, being rational economic agents, will go only for crops that give higher and assured returns, even if in the short run.
  • A change in cropping patterns, to ensure high SOC and long-term productivity, will not take place unless the desired alternative crops are remunerative.
  • It calls for appropriate policy intervention, including encouragement to set up agri-processing units for such crops, which will, in turn, make it profitable for farmers to grow them.

Step II: Proper retention of farm residues

  • Even the aboveground mass remaining after harvesting of the grain and dried stalks needed for fodder should be returned to the soil as much as possible.
  • This requires scientific crop residue management.
  • Burning of crop stubble has a negative impact not just on environment and human health, but also on soil fertility.
  • The crop residue when burnt, instead of raising SOC through mixing with the soil, gets converted into carbon dioxide.
  • A strategy focused on both in situ and ex situ management of residue is necessary today.
  • Currently, it is being sought to address the issue through subsidised provision of implements such as Happy Seeder, Super-Straw Management System attachment, mulcher and chopper-shredder.
  • But all this is mostly in areas closer to the national capital. For sustainable farming and improving soil health, we need all states to pitch in.

Step III: Adding organic matter from external sources

  • Use of compost must be promoted.
  • There is definitely a case to subsidize building of vermicompost pits or ‘Nadep’ mud/clay brick tanks using money from MGNREGA and other schemes.
  • Even urban green waste and manure from sewage treatment plants can be returned to farm soils.
  • There is clear evidence that when nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is used in conjunction with farm yard manure, the fertilizer response ratio itself goes up with rising SOC levels.

 Step IV: Crop Rotation

  • Farmers, however, are hesitant to cultivate pulses for lack of a proper system of government procurement at minimum support prices, unlike that for wheat and paddy.
  • In the rice-wheat system, planting of legumes, either as a summer or full replacement crop in the kharif/rabi season, is most needed.
  • Legumes have root nodules harbouring rhizobium bacteria that fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.
  • This nitrogen also helps bind and retain carbon in the soil for a longer time.
  • Inclusion of pulses in the public distribution system would go a long way in promoting the cause of soil health as well as nutritional security for our masses.

Step V: Promoting Zero Tillage

  • The use of no-till implements deserves a big push. Organic carbon is retained in large soil aggregates.
  • Deep ploughing equipment that break these aggregates cause SOC loss, whether through runoff with water or evaporation as carbon dioxide.
  • Zero-till seed drills, Happy Seeders and Direct Seeded Rice machines will ensure minimal disturbance of aggregates and less depletion of organic matter.

Way Forward

  • We need to launch a comprehensive awareness programme for enhancing the organic matter content of soils, with specified and time-bound targets.
  • The very act of monitoring and measuring outcomes will help focus attention on this important aspect.
  • Farming should, of course, be profitable. But it must also be sustainable.
Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

[pib] Four New Products get GI Tag

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 Geographical Indication (GI) under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has recently registered 4 new GIs:
  1. Palani Panchamirtham from Palani Town in Dindigul District of Tamil Nadu
  2. Tawlhlohpuan and
  3. Mizo Puanchei from the state of Mizoram and
  4. Tirur Betel leaf from Kerala

Palani Panchamirtham

  • PalaniPanchamirtham, an abishegaPrasadam, from Palani Town is one of the main offerings in the Abisegam of Lord Dhandayuthapani Swamy, the presiding deity of the Temple.
  • It is a combination of five natural substances, namely, banana, jaggery sugar, cow ghee, honey and cardamom in a definite proportion.
  • It is prepared in a natural method without addition of any preservatives or artificial ingredients and is well known for its religious fervour and gaiety.
  • This is the first time a temple ‘prasadam’ from Tamil Nadu has been bestowed with the GI tag.

Tawlhlohpuan

  • Tawlhlohpuan, a medium to heavy, compactly woven, good quality fabric from Mizoram is known for warp yarns, warping, weaving & intricate designs that are made by hand.
  • Tawlhloh, in Mizo language, means ‘to stand firm or not to move backward’. Tawlhlohpuan, which holds high significance in the Mizo society, is produced throughout the state of Mizoram, Aizawl and Thenzawl town being the main centre of production.

Mizo Puanchei

  • Mizo Puanchei, a colourful Mizo shawl/textile, from Mizoram, is considered as the most colourful among the Mizo textiles.
  • It is an essential possession for every Mizo lady and an important marriage outfit in the state.
  • It is also the most commonly used costume in Mizo festive dances and official ceremonies.
  • The weavers insert the designs and motifs by using supplementary yarns while weaving to create this beautiful and alluring textile.

Tirur betel vine

  • Tirur betel vine from Kerala is mainly cultivated in Tirur, Tanur, Tirurangadi, Kuttippuram, Malappuram and Vengara block panchayaths of Malappuram District.
  • It is valued both for its mild stimulant action and medicinal properties.
  • Even though it is commonly used for making pan masala for chewing, it has many medicinal, industrial and cultural usages and is considered as a remedy for bad breath and digestive disorders.

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

Why GI tag?

  • GI is an indication 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.
  • GI products can benefit the rural economy in remote areas, by supplementing the incomes of artisans, farmers, weavers and craftsmen.
  • India’s rural artisans possess unique skills and knowledge of traditional practices and methods, passed down from generation to generation, which need to be protected and promoted.
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

[pib] Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vedanta Philosophy

Mains level : Indian Philosophy


News

  • The President of India has awarded this year’s Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman to various dignitaries.

Details of the award

  • The distinction is conferred on persons once a year on the Independence Day (15 August) in recognition of their substantial contribution in the field of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Pali, Prakrit, Classical Oriya, Classical Kannada, Classical Telugu and Classical Malayalam.
  • The award introduced in the year 2002, is given to selected young scholars in the age group of 30 to 45 years.
  • The Presidential award carries a certificate of honour, a memento and a onetime cash prize of Rs.1 lakh.

About Maharshi Badrayan Vyas

  • Badarayana was an Indian philosopher about whom almost no personal details are reliably known.
  • He wrote the foundational philosophical treatise Vedanta school of philosophy.
  • Badarayana is regarded as having written the basic text of the Vedanta system, the Vedāntasūtra a.k.a. Brahmasūtra.
  • He is thus considered the founder of the Vedānta system of philosophy.
  • The date of Badarayana and his Brahma Sutras is uncertain. Different scholars have dated the Brahma Sutras variously from 500 BCE to 450 BCE.
History- Important places, persons in news