November 2019
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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

[oped of the day] Politics should not meddle with our official statisticsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Government statistics - reliability


Context

The National Statistical Office is making headlines over the non-release of the results of the 75th round (2017-2018) of the National Sample Survey (NSS). 

Reasons

    • It is said that the report revealed a decline in average monthly per capita consumer expenditure (MPCE) in real terms compared to 2011-12.
    • The government indicated that it is examining the feasibility of conducting the next survey in 2020-2021 and 2021-22.

Issues with official statistics

    • T.N. Srinivasan and others refer to these as India’s downfall “from being the world leader in surveys” to a country “with a serious data problem”. 
    • S.L. Shetty pointed out that India’s “official statistical collection machinery has been in decline for more than two decades”. 
    • Our governments have repeatedly interfered with various official statistics.

Statistics – India

    • Poverty reduction has been integral to independent India. The NSSs are the primary means to track household consumer expenditure and poverty. 
    • Led by P.C. Mahalanobis initially, several economists and statisticians contributed to the design and development of the NSS. 
    • American statistician Harold Hotelling has remarked, “No technique of random sample has, so far as I can find, been developed in the United States or elsewhere, which can compare in accuracy with that described by professor Mahalanobis.”

History of distortion

    • Beginning with the 1970s, political interference began to corrode trust in government statistics.
    • In 1973, B.S. Minhas resigned from the Planning Commission over differences on the misuse of data to present a rosy picture of the economy.
    • The 55th round (1999-2000) of the NSS stirred a controversy over the lack of inter-temporal comparability of its MPCE estimates.
    • Angus Deaton and Valerie Kozel pointed out that “the political right had an interest in showing low poverty, and the political left in showing high poverty, and this undoubtedly intensified the debate on survey design and led to the unfortunate compromise design that temporarily undermined the poverty monitoring system”.
    • The 66th round of the NSS (2009-10) showed that employment generation fell significantly short of the target of the 11th Five Year Plan. 
    • The government also delayed the fourth round of the National Family Health Survey, which was eventually held after the 2014 polls. 
    • The government delayed the release of the results of the 2017 Periodic Labour Force Survey that contested its employment claims. Two members of the National Statistical Commission resigned in protest. 
    • Unlike the 27th and 66th round when the results were released but superseded by fresh surveys, the Centre decided not to release the results of the 75th round of NSS.

Impact of politicisation

    • Several surveys and committees have seen their reports either delayed or trashed.
    • Revisions have eroded trust in national accounts. 
    • The government also delayed the release of several tables of the 2011 Census, which should have been made public.

Way ahead

    • Statistical institutions should be insulated from political interference.
    • The government’s contention that the NSSs are unable to capture changing patterns of consumption is not entirely untrue.
    • This calls for a way to shield statistical bodies from politics.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Avian BotulismPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avian Botulism

Mains level : Conservation of migratory birds in India



On November 10, visitors at Sambhar Lake, India’s largest inland saltwater lake located about 80 km southwest of Jaipur, spotted a very large number of dead birds.

Why and how did these birds die?

  • Nearly 10 days into the tragedy, the government is yet to determine the cause of the deaths.
  • The investigation so far points to Avian Botulism — a paralytic, frequently fatal disease caused by the ingestion of toxins — as a possible cause.
  • This has not, however, been officially confirmed.
  • After studying bird samples and on the basis of history, epidemiological observations, classical clinical symptoms and post-mortem findings, the most probable diagnosis is avian botulism.
  • The clinical signs exhibited by affected birds included dullness, depression, anorexia, flaccid paralysis in legs and wings, and neck touching the ground.
  • The birds were unable to walk, swim, or take flight. There was no rise of body temperature, no nasal discharge, no respiratory distress or any other sign.

Other possible reasons

  • After a Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court took cognizance of the bird deaths, the Rajasthan government listed four likely reasons.
  1. Viral infection
  2. Toxicity, as new area has been filled up after almost 20 years, and there could be higher concentration of salts along the edges
  3. Bacteriological infection
  4. Higher temperature and high water levels due to good monsoon might have led to an increase in intra-species and inter-species competition for resources.
  • The weaker individuals, exhausted from the long journey, perhaps were unable to compete, and may have succumbed to stress emanating from the shortage of food, susceptibility to disease/pollutants/toxins and other habitat-related factors in the wintering grounds.
  • In such an eventuality, it is expected that with fall of temperature and lowering of water levels, the incidence of such mortality will go down.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Space InternetPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Starlink network

Mains level : Concept of Space internet



The SpaceX, the world’s leading private company in space technology, last week fired a spray of 60 satellites into orbit. Following last week’s launch, the company has now deployed 122 satellites in orbit with a target of 12000 in all.

Space Internet

  • SpaceX announced the satellite Internet constellation in January 2015, and launched two test satellites in February 2018.
  • The Starlink network, as the project is called, is one of several ongoing efforts to start beaming data signals from space, and also the most ambitious.
  • This launch is the first operational batch of what is intended to eventually evolve into a constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites.
  • They are aimed at providing low-cost and reliable space-based Internet services to the world.

Why Space internet services?

  • This is mainly to ensure that reliable and uninterrupted Internet services is ensured across the world
  • Currently, about 4 billion people, more than half the world’s population, do not have access to reliable Internet networks.
  • And that is because the traditional ways to deliver the Internet — fibre-optic cables or wireless networks — cannot take it everywhere on Earth.
  • In many remote areas, or places with difficult terrain, it is not feasible or viable to set up cables or mobile towers.
  • Signals from satellites in space can overcome this obstacle easily.

Orbital Details

  • Space-based Internet systems have, in fact, been in use for several years now — but only for a small number of users.
  • Also, most of the existing systems use satellites in geostationary orbit.
  • This orbit is located at a height of 35,786 km over the Earth’s surface, directly above the Equator.
  • Satellites in this orbit move at speeds of about 11,000 km per hour, and complete one revolution of the Earth in the same time that the earth rotates once on its axis.
  • To the observer on the ground, therefore, a satellite in geostationary orbit appears stationary.
  • Owing to their lower height, their signals cover a relatively small area. As a result, many more satellites are needed in order to reach signals to every part of the planet.
  • Additionally, satellites in these orbits travel at more than double the speed of satellites in geostationary orbit — about 27,000 km per hour — to balance the effects of gravity.

So how will placing satellites in lower orbits help?

  • One big advantage of beaming signals from geostationary orbit is that the satellite can cover a very large part of the Earth.
  • Signals from one satellite can cover roughly a third of the planet — and three to four satellites would be enough to cover the entire Earth.
  • Also, because they appear to be stationary, it is easier to link to them.
  • But satellites in geostationary orbit also have a major disadvantage. The Internet is all about transmission of data in (nearly) real time.
  • However, there is a time lag — called latency — between a user seeking data, and the server sending that data.
  • And because data transfers cannot happen faster than the speed of light (in reality, they take place at significantly lower speeds), the longer the distance that needs to be covered the greater is the time lag, or latency.

Limitations

  • Three issues have been flagged — increased space debris, increased risk of collisions, and the concern of astronomers that these constellations of space Internet satellites will make it difficult to observe other space objects, and to detect their signals.
  • To put things in perspective, there are fewer than 2,000 operational satellites at present, and fewer than 9,000 satellites have been launched into space since the beginning of the Space Age in 1957.
  • Most of the operational satellites are located in the lower orbits.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) this year had to perform, for the first time ever, a “collision avoidance manoeuvre” to protect one of its live satellites from colliding with a “mega constellation”.
History- Important places, persons in news

Renaming of AgraPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Historical facts associated with Agra City

Mains level : NA


In another dramatic move after renaming Allahabad, the UP government is seeking to change the name of Agra to Agravan.

Agra and Agravan

  • The Greek astronomer, mathematician and geographer Claudius Ptolemy who lived in the 2nd century AD in the city of Alexandria in the Roman province of Egypt, is believed to be the first person to refer to the city of “Agra”.
  • In this it is easy to recognise the Yamuna, the river which after passing Delhi, Mathura, Agra, and other places, joins the Ganges, of which it is the largest affluent at Allahabad.
  • This was the account written by Ptolemy in his well known work ‘Geographia’ (The Geography), according to an 1885 translation by JW McCrindle titled, ‘Ancient India as Described by Ptolemy’.

Deriving the name

  • According to a thesis the earliest reference to Agra appears in the Mahabharata, where it is referred to as “Agravana”.
  • The thesis argued that in sources predating the Mahabharata, the city has been referred to as Arya Griha, or the home of the Aryans.
  • A/c to historians Agra derived its name from the Hindi word ‘agar’, which means ‘salt pan’.
  • The city is a part of Brijbhoomi the land associated with the birth and legendary activities of lord Krishna”.
  • Ptolemy might have thought that Agra was named after a Hindu king Agramesh or Agrameshwar, the thesis argued.
  • An alternative view holds that Agra was founded by Maharaja Agrasen or Ugrasen, the great grandfather of Krishna.

Establishment of the city

  • It is generally accepted that Agra was both an ancient city from the times of the Mahabharata and yet nevertheless Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the Muslim ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, founded Agra in the year 1504.
  • The website says that the “golden age” of the city began with the Mughals, when it was known as Akbarabad.
  • It served as the capital of the Delhi Sultanate in the early 16th century.
  • After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of the Marathas, and began to be called Agra, according to the website.
  • Agra has historic linkages with Shauripur of Jainism and Runukta of Hinduism of 1000 BC.
History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Mains level : Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and its aftermath



Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been passed by the Parliament after it was passed in Rajya Sabha today.

About the Bill

  • It seeks to make apolitical the trust that runs Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial by removing the clause pertaining to the President of INC as a permanent member of the trust.
  • The Bill also amends to include the Leader of Opposition recognised as such in the House of the People (Lok Sabha).
  • However, there is no such Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in that House as a member of the trust.
  • The Bill also amends that a nominated trustee may be terminated before the expiry of the period of five years by the Central Government.

Back2Basics

Explained: Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

[pib] Jansankhya Sthirata KoshPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various schemes mentioned

Mains level : Population control initiatives in India



Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK) an autonomous body under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, implemented the following schemes:

  1. Prerna Scheme (for delaying marriage, childbirth and spacing),
  2. Santushti Scheme (Public Private Partnership for sterilization services),and
  3. National Helpline (for information on family planning).

About JSK

  • Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK) is a registered society of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare started with a Rs 100 crore grant from government.
  • The society was established with the objective of highlighting the need for population stabilization. Its accounts can be audited by the CAG.
  • The “Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh” (JSK) (National Population Stabilisation Fund) has been registered as an autonomous Society established under the Societies Registration Act of 1860.
  • JSK has to promote and undertake activities aimed at achieving population stabilisation at a level consistent with the needs of sustainable economic growth, social development and environment protection, by 2045.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[pib] Farmers Clubs (FCs)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Farmers Club

Mains level : Easy credit facilities for Farmers


  • Till date, there are 24321 active FCs existing in different States/UTs.

Farmers’ Clubs (FCs)

  • FCs promoted by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) are grass root level informal fora organized by the rural branches of banks, NGOs, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), etc.
  • The programme is being implemented for the mutual benefit of the banks and the farmers.
  • The major objective is to promote “Development through credit, technology transfer, awareness and capacity building” of the farmers.
  • The clubs are beneficial for banks as well as line departments of the State Government for convergence of the programmes / schemes sponsored / implemented by them.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] Iran on the boil: on nationwide protestsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Iranian protests


Context

Nationwide protests broke out in Iran and pose a challenge to the Iranian regime.

Background

    • Troubles already – Iran is already struggling to fix a battered economy, hostile ties with the U.S. and waning influence in West Asia.
    • Trigger to protests – the government’s decision to raise the price of rationed fuel made thousands of people take to the streets.
    • Against the Islamic regime – The protesters chanted slogans against the Islamic regime, carried “Death to Khamenei” posters, in a direct challenge to the country’s Supreme Leader. 
    • Government response – Security personnel unleashed violence on the protesters and the government shut down the Internet. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s top paramilitary force, has threatened to crack down on the demonstrations.

Iran

    • Fuel – Iran still has one of the lowest fuel prices in the world. The rise was enough for people reeling under high inflation, joblessness, and a collapsing economy to take to the streets.
    • Nuclear deal – Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions has dealt a blow to Iran’s economy.
    • State of the economy – Inflation has risen to 40%. A quarter of Iran’s youth is unemployed. According to the IMF, the country’s economy is expected to contract by 9.5% this year. The currency, the rial, has plunged to record lows against the dollar.
    • State in the region – Iran’s influence in Lebanon and Iraq is being challenged by protesters. In Iraq, protesters burned an Iranian consulate. In Lebanon, protesters demand the resignation of the entire political class. 

Conclusion

    • In recent years, Iran has seen many protests and labor agitations. 
    • The regime’s response has always been to brand the protesters as counter-revolutionaries and blamed foreign hands.
    • Iran needs a lasting solution to address its revolting underbelly. It can’t violently suppress the protesters forever and needs to get the nuclear deal back on track.
Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Defection & dissentop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anti defection law/ 10th schedule

Mains level : Anti Defection law in spirit and letter


Context

The Supreme Court upheld the disqualification of 17 Karnataka legislators by then speaker. 

Judgment

    • On disqualification – The court validated the speaker’s decision to disqualify the MLAs.
    • Yes to polls – It permitted them to contest the by-polls. It set aside the speaker’s order barring the disqualified MLAs from contesting elections for the remainder of the assembly’s term.

Analysis of the judgment

    • By law – the verdict stays with the letter of the law. The Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution does not give the Speaker “the power to indicate the period for which a person is disqualified.”
    • Article 164(1)(B) – deals with the consequences of disqualification of an MLA and states that an MLA disqualified under the Tenth Schedule is also disqualified from being a minister for the rest of the term or where he contests any election. 
    • This provision permits an MLA disqualified under the Tenth Schedule to be re-elected to the House.

Is the legal approach correct and complete?

    • Strict legal reading took away the force of the anti-defection law. 
    • The intent of legislators – The 17 MLAs defected with a clear intention of triggering the collapse of the Congress-JD(U) government. They can now contest on a BJP ticket.
    • Power to impose penalties – Can the speaker or the court pass orders that are punitive against the disqualified legislators when the letter of the Constitution does not prescribe such penalties for their actions?
    • Double-edged sword – Such punishment could be a double-edged sword. Disqualification for the entire term can be used by ruling parties to manufacture a majority or by Opposition parties to punish dissent. 
    • The court decision is based on the fear that “extreme stand could have a chilling effect on legitimate dissent.”

Way ahead

    • The court bats in favor of a stronger anti-defection law. 

Back2Basics

Explained: Anti-Defection Law