November 2019
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Economic Indicators-GDP, FD, etc

[op-ed snap] Never the twain shall meet: Why gap between WPI and CPI based inflation wideningop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Inflation

Mains level : Inflation - CPI, WPI divergence


Context

The retail inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index touched a 16 month high at 4.62%. The wholesale price inflation measured by the Wholesale Price Index is on the verge of entering the negative territory. The gap between the two is currently the widest in two years.

Data

  • In October, wholesale price inflation dropped to 0.16%. 
  • Most analysts expect WPI inflation to decline further in the coming months, weighed by a base effect.

WPI

  • Wholesale price deflation signals that producers lack pricing power and maybe offering discounts at a time consumer expenditure has dropped to an 18 quarter low in the April-June period. 
  • Automakers offered heavy discounts during the festive season to break the trend of falling sales. 
  • Factory output data for September also showed that the production of both consumer durables and consumer non-durables contracted during the month. Overall output shrank to its lowest level at least in seven years.

Reasons for high CPI

  • CPI and WPI are two different sets of indicators with varied compositions. 
  • Manufactured items have the highest weight of 64.23% in WPI, while fuel and primary articles have 13.15% and 22.62% weight, respectively. 
  • Food and beverages have the highest weight of 54.18% in CPI. Services sectors such as health, education, and amusement have a combined weight of 27.26%. 
  • So the supply shortage of onions and tomatoes due to floods and unseasonal rains has a disproportionate impact on the overall retail inflation than wholesale price inflation. 
  • A spike in crude oil prices or a rise in other commodity prices would drive WPI based inflation up faster than the CPI-based inflation. 

CPI – Food inflation

  • Retail food inflation often mimics wholesale food inflation as the price rises are first reflected in the wholesale market than in the retail market.
  • In October, retail food inflation quickened to 7.89% following similar print in wholesale price inflation in September at 7.47%.

It led to…

  • The WPI based inflation has lost the primacy that it once enjoyed in economic policy debates when RBI signed the monetary framework pact with the Centre in 2015. 
  • Now, the RBI is mandated to only achieve the medium-term target for CPI inflation of 4% within a band of two percentage points.

Back2Basics

Inflation in India: CPI, WPI, GDP Deflator, Inflation Rate

Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Disqualified, yet qualified: On Karnataka rebel MLAsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Anti Defection


Context

While upholding the Karnataka Speaker’s orders disqualifying 17 defectors this year, the Supreme Court has allowed the former legislators to contest the by-elections to Assembly seats. 

Karnataka scene – What happened in the past

    • Most of them had tried to resign from their respective parties in July. It was seen as a ploy to bring down the JD(S)-Congress regime of H.D. Kumaraswamy. 
    • The suspicion was that they would get ministerial positions as soon as BJP formed a BJP government. The then Speaker kept them at bay for days by refusing to act on their resignations. 
    • Ultimately, he disqualified all of them and said the disqualification would go on till 2023 — the end of the current Assembly’s term. 
    • The Speaker’s stance was quite controversial as it created a conflict between resignation and disqualification. 
    • Now, his argument that resignation could not be an excuse to evade a disqualification has been accepted. 
    • The Speaker was also hoping to keep the defectors out of any alternative regime as members disqualified for defection are barred from becoming ministers until they get re-elected.

What happens now

    • The former Janata Dal (S) and Congress MLAs are free to contest the polls.
    • They may reap the benefits of their crossover by getting a ticket from the ruling BJP.

Welcome move

    • On the one hand, resignation does not take away the effect of a prior act that amounts to disqualification. 
    • On the other, Speakers are not given a free pass to sit on resignation letters indefinitely. 
    • Under Article 190(3), a provision under which the Speaker has to ascertain the “voluntary” and “genuine” nature of a resignation before accepting it, the court is clear that it is a limited inquiry to see if the letter is authentic and if the intent to quit is based on free will. 
    • Once it is demonstrated that a member is willing to resign out of his free will, the Speaker has no option but to accept the resignation, the court said.
    • This ends the argument that the Speaker is empowered to consider the motives and circumstances whenever a resignation is submitted. 
    • The verdict bemoans the fact that Speakers tend not to be neutral, and that change of loyalty for the lure of office continues despite the anti-defection law. 

Conclusion

Identifying its weak aspects and strengthening the law may be the answer.

Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

[op-ed snap] Letting in lightop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Judicial accountability


Context

The Supreme Court’s decision to open the office of CJI to scrutiny under the Right to Information Act is welcome. The ruling comes nine years after the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of bringing CJI’s office under RTI. 

The judgement – accountability

  • The Court appeared as a litigant before its judicial avatar and argued against transparency and eventually ruled against itself. 
  • Supreme Court has insulated itself from public scrutiny and gives little insight into its own functioning.
  • The verdict pushes towards greater judicial accountability. 
  • The process of judicial appointments is often complicated by the reluctance of the court to make the reasons and compulsions behind its decisions public. 
  • While the government discloses its reasons for not accepting the collegium’s recommendations, the judiciary’s defence remains absent from the public debate.

Limited by

  • The verdict binds the court to accept applications seeking information but the process of obtaining it may not be easy. 
  • The ruling allows for an ordinary citizen to seek information on appointments, transfers of judges to the high courts and Supreme Court. 
  • But the reasons behind these recommendations could still be clouded in secrecy as the decisions of the collegium are largely based on reports of the Intelligence Bureau which is exempted from providing information under RTI. 
  • The verdict itself asks information commissioners to keep in mind the right to privacy and the independence of the judiciary while deciding on RTI requests. 
  • Justice NV Ramana cautions that the RTI must not be used as a tool of surveillance against the court.

Way ahead

  • The transition to transparency may not be easy. It hinges on the actions of the chief justice of India, as the administrative head of the court. 
  • Even when former CJI Dipak Misra decided that collegium decisions will be published on the Supreme Court website, CJI Ranjan Gogoi signalled a departure from the practice after 256 decisions were published. 
  • Just two months ago, the collegium issued an unusual statement that thought “it would not be in the interest of the institution to disclose the reasons for the transfer.”
History- Important places, persons in news

Explained: How Guru Nanak’s ‘Langar’ is helping UN achieve its ‘zero hunger’ goalExplainedPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Langar

Mains level : Zero Hunger With Langar initiaitve



It is reported that Guru Nanak’s ‘Langar’ is contributing to achieve the SDG 2nd goal of Zero Hunger in African countries and is bringing down ‘preventable children deaths’ due to malnutrition.

What is Langar?

  • Langar refers to a system of developing a community kitchen, where people irrespective of their caste, religion and social status sit together on the floor and have food.
  • The word ‘langar’ has its origin in Persian, and means a public eating place where people, especially the needy, are given food.
  • The institution of langar finds its roots in two teachings of Sikhism — ‘Naam japo, kirat karo, vand chako’ (pray, work and share with others whatever you earn) and ‘Sangat aur pangat’ (eat sitting together in rows on the floor).
  • The langar kitchen at Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar feeds nearly a lakh people a day daily.
  • In Delhi, Sri Bangla Sahib gurdwara kitchen serves langar to 45,000-50,000 persons a day.

What is the link between Guru Nanak and langar?

  • Guru Nanak in his teenage had served some hungry sages on his way out of his own money purposed for buying grocery.
  • On being questioned, Nanak said that he did a ‘Sacha Sauda’ by feeding hungry men, which he said was ‘the most profitable deal’ for him.
  • Currently, Gurdwara Sacha Sauda stands at Farooqabad in Sheikhupura district of Pakistan, which is where Guru Nanak is believed to have fed those sadhus.
  • At Kartarpur, his final resting place, Guru Nanak had later established a dharamsal where food is served without discrimination.

How have other Sikh gurus contributed to this tradition?

  • The second Sikh guru Angad Dev and his wife Mata Khivi played a crucial role in strengthening the tradition of langar.
  • The third Sikh Guru, Amar Das, too devoutly followed ‘sangat aur pangat’ and anyone who used to come to meet him, was first served langar.
  • It is said that even when Emperor Akbar came to meet him, Guru suggested he should first have langar sitting with everyone on the floor, which Akbar accepted.

Zero Hunger With Langar

  • Several Sikh organisations like Khalsa Aid, Langar Aid, Midland Langar Seva Society and others are now branching out to other countries where langar is used to provide nutritious meals to the undernourished.
  • One such organisation is ‘Zero Hunger With Langar’ which is specifically working in two African countries — Malawi and Kenya — which are among the countries with the highest malnutrition rates among children and feature in the UN’s target list.

Why such move?

  • There are 821 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and biodiversity loss.
  • Over 90 million children under 5 (years) are dangerously underweight. Undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa, as well as in South America.
  • In 2017, Asia accounted for nearly two-thirds, 63 per cent of world’s hungry and nearly 151 million children under 5 22 per cent, were stunted in 2017 across the world.

Impact of the movement

  • Attendance in primary schools and nurseries has improved considerably. More than 90 per cent malnutrition-free status is achieved in Malawi.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

ArrokothPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arrokoth and other Kupier Belt objects

Mains level : New Horizons mission



The most distant space object ever seen up close has been recently named as ‘Arrokoth’.

(Note: It was earlier nicknamed as Ultima Thule)

Arrokoth

  • The International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Center, the global body for naming Kuiper Belt objects have given this name.
  • It was discovered in 2014 with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
  • Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by the snowman figured ice mass in December 2018, some 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto.
  • The New Horizons team of NASA proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Center.
  • For the New Horizons team it took some months to finalise this name. In the language of the Powhatan tribe, Arrokoth means “sky”.
  • The team got the approval from the elders of the Powhatan tribe to assign it to their new found “baby”.

About New Horizons mission

  • NASA launched the New Horizons mission in January 2006.
  • After crossing by Pluto in 2015, in 2019 it flew by Arrokoth. This remains the “farthest flyby ever conducted.”

Back2Basics

Kuiper Belt

  • The Kuiper Belt is a disk-shaped region found in the outer solar system, past the orbit of Neptune.
  • It is known as the third zone of the solar system, after the zone hosting the gas planets in our solar system.
  • It contains hundreds of millions of small icy bodies that are thought to be left over material from the formation of the outer planets.
  • At least three dwarf planets are located in the Kuiper belt: Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.
  • Also, some of the solar system’s moons are thought to have originated there, such as Neptune’s Triton and Saturn’s Phoebe.
e-Commerce: The New Boom

Project ZeroPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project Zero

Mains level : Regulating e-commerce in India


E-com giant Amazon has announced to bring “Project Zero” to India.

Project Zero

  • “Project Zero” introduces additional proactive mechanisms and powerful tools to identify, block and remove counterfeits goods on Amazon website.
  • It aims to ensure that customers receive authentic goods when shopping on Amazon.
  • Over 7,000 brands have already enrolled in Project Zero across US, Europe and Japan.
  • A number of Indian brands participated in a pilot to help the company test the experience in India.

Functioning

  • It combines Amazon’s advanced technology and innovation with the sophisticated knowledge that brands have of their own intellectual property and how best to detect counterfeits of their products.
  • It does so through three powerful tools: Automated protections, self-service counterfeit removal tool and product serialization.
  • Product serialization is enabled by a unique code that brands apply within their manufacturing and packaging process.
  • It allows Amazon to individually scan and confirm the authenticity of every single purchase of a brand’s enrolled products through Amazon’s marketplace.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Butterflies survey in Western GhatsPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness



The Western Ghats is still home to large varieties of butterflies points out a survey in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS).

Highlights of the survey

  • The survey was done jointly by the Forest and Wildlife Department in association with the Ferns Nature Conservation Society (FNCS).
  • The survey was mainly aimed at assessing the butterfly diversity in the forest areas of the region, which is vulnerable to climatic changes.
  • Researchers sighted 191 species, 12 of which are endemic to the biodiversity-rich region.
  • The first-time sighting of Silver forget me not, Common three ring, and Brown onyx was also recorded.
  • The diversity was very rich in areas where plants such as Mikania micrantha and Lantana camera remained dominant.

Significance of butterflies

  • Butterflies are one of the best bio-indicators.
  • The sighting of 191 species of butterflies is an evidence of a healthy butterfly habitat in the region.
  • But the degradation of the riparian forest in many part of the region may adversely affect the butterfly habitat in the near future.
  • The diversity of butterflies is affected where alien invasive plants such as Senna spectabilis invade other endemic plants.

Species in news: Pteropsaron indicumPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pteropsaron indicum

Mains level : NA



Scientists have reported the discovery of the new species of signal fish, the first one of the genus recorded in Indian waters.

Pteropsaron indicum

  • The species named Pteropsaron indicum was collected by trawlers at a depth of 70 metres during a marine biodiversity survey.
  • Signal fishes are tiny and fragile and are often found in waters below 50 m. Pteropsaron indicum is one of the distinctly larger species of signal fish.
  • It has a unique colour pattern and an interesting behaviour that allows it to communicate with others of the same species by flipping its highly specialised dorsal fins.

Yellow bands

  • The new fish sports three distinct bright yellow bands on a pale greyish pink background.
  • The body and head are criss-crossed with dark margins of large-scale pockets.
  • It is also characterized by three extended dorsal fin spines, a high number of vertebrae and a relatively large body size.

Why study them?

  • Signal fishes are a poorly studied group of benthic species found in deep sandy habitats, usually close to coral reefs.
  • They are known to flip up their extended dorsal fins to signal each other.
  • The discovery of the species indicates the presence of patchy corals off the Kerala coast and therefore with a lot of conservation value.