Mission Shakti (Anti-Satellite Missile Test)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Shakti, ASAT

Mains level: Strategic significance of the Mission Shakti 


News

  • In an incremental advance, India has successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test, named Mission Shakti.
  • India becomes the fourth country in the world to demonstrate the capability to shoot down satellites in orbit.
  • So far, only the United States, Russia and China have this prowess.

Mission Shakti

  • While Mission Shakti may have targeted an object in outer space, India has long developed the ability to intercept incoming missiles.
  • In 2011, a modified Prithvi missile mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile with a 600-km range.
  • The DRDO-developed Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor Missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode.
  • The interceptor missile was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.

What are low earth orbit satellites?

  • The Indian satellite that was shot down was a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite.
  • These are satellites roughly at an altitude of 2,000 kilometres from the earth and that’s the region where the majority of satellites are concentrated.

ASAT through history

  • ASAT is the technological capability to hit and destroy satellites in space through missiles launched from the ground.
  • ASAT weapon systems have a long history and were a product of the Cold War hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • They came back into popular currency after China conducted an anti-satellite missile test on Jan 2007.
  • The target was a Chinese weather satellite — the FY-1C – that sailed at an altitude of 865 km. (537 mi).
  • A year later, the US launched ‘Operation Burnt Frost,’ the code name to intercept and destroy a non-functioning satellite named USA-193.

Why target satellites?

  • Satellites are extremely critical infrastructure of any country these days. A large number of crucial applications are now satellite-based.
  • These include navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, stock markets, weather forecasting, disaster management, and military applications etc.
  • Destroying a satellite would render these applications useless.
  • It can cripple enemy infrastructure, and bring it down on knees, without causing any threat to human lives.

Problem of space debris

  • Anything launched into the space remains in space, almost forever, unless it is specifically brought down or slowly disintegrates over decades or centuries.
  • Satellites that are past their life and are no longer required also remain in space, orbiting aimlessly in some orbit.
  • According to the NASA, there were 19,137 man-made objects in space that were large enough to be tracked.
  • These included active and inactive satellites, rockets and their parts, and other small fragments.
  • A satellite that is destroyed by a missile disintegrates into small pieces, and adds to the space debris.
  • The threat from the space debris is that it could collide with the operational satellites and render them dysfunctional.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India reassures global community after ASAT tests

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: India’s stance for peaceful use of space applications 


News

  • India assured the world that it did not violate any international treaty or understanding with the anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile testing.

A message to the world

  • While the government has conceded that India has long had ASAT capabilities, this is the country’s first demonstration to the world.
  • It has shown that it is capable of bringing down a satellite, and disrupting communication.
  • Because the test was carried out on a satellite placed in the low-earth orbit, one might question whether India can hit any satellite.
  • Targeting satellites in the higher orbits, however, is only a matter of scale of powering the rockets enough to go deeper in the space.

Defying the taboo

  • Destroying space infrastructure like satellites is also taboo in the international community just like the use of a nuclear weapon.
  • Almost every country agrees that space must not be used for wars and has spoken against weaponisation of space.
  • There are international treaties governing the use of space that mandate that outer space and celestial bodies like the Moon, must only be exploited for peaceful purposes.

Outer Space Treaty of 1967

  • The Outer Space Treaty, to which India is a signatory, prohibits countries from placing into orbit around the Earth “any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction”.
  • Among its principles, it bars states party to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.
  • The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all state parties to the treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes, says the treaty.

Indian stance

  • There are at least four more multilateral treaties that deal with specific concepts agreed to in the Outer Space Treaty. None of these, however, prohibits the kind of test that India carried.
  • India believes in peaceful use of the common outer space that belongs to humanity.
  • India is not in violation of any international law or treaty to which it is a party or any national obligation.
  • The MEA said the A-SAT test was not directed against any country and that India plans to play a role in future in drafting global laws on prevention of arms race in outer space.
  • As is mandatory for any missile test, India did issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to airline authorities across the world informing them about an impending missile test.
  • MEA reiterated India’s support of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) in the Conference on Disarmament “where it has been on the agenda since 1982.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap]A bridge to nowhere

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Problems marginalized section is facing due to diversion of payments under direct benefit transfer


News

CONTEXT

Poor are facing problems due to diverted payments and aadhar based payment system.

Background

  • The mass diversion of LPG subsidies to Airtel wallets that came to light in 2017.
  • Many of the wallets were unwanted, or even unknown to the recipients. Those affected, fortunately, included millions of middle-class Airtel customers who protested when the goof-up emerged.

What is diverted payments?

  • This is an instance of what might be called “diverted payments” — bank payments being redirected to a wrong account, without the recipient’s consent or knowledge.
  • diverted payments have become a widespread problem in recent years, not so much for the middle class as for powerless people such as old-age pensioners and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers.
  • The main culprit is the Aadhaar Payment Bridge System (APBS).

ABPS

  • The basic idea of the APBS, an offspring of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), is that a person’s Aadhaar number becomes her financial address.
  • Instead of having to provide multiple account details (say, her name, bank account number and IFSC code) to receive a bank transfer, she only has to provide her Aadhaar number.

Introducing Bank account into ABPS

  • Induction of a bank account into APBS involves two distinct steps, both of which are meant to be based on informed consent.
  • First, the account must be “seeded” with the customer’s Aadhaar number.
  • Second, it must be connected to the NPCI mapper — a step known as “mapping”.
  • In cases of multiple accounts for the same person, the APBS automatically sends money to the latest-mapped account.
  • When the Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) was launched Aadhaar numbers were seeded into these accounts without proper verification.

Problems and challenges with ABPS

  • Haphazard seeding continued well beyond 2014 because the government wanted to bring all direct benefit transfer (DBT) payments — pensions, scholarships, subsidies, MGNREGA wages, and so on — under the Aadhaar payments umbrella.
  • Thus the groundwork required for APBS to work — reliable seeding of bank accounts with Aadhaar — had simply not been done when the APBS was rolled out.

1.Problems with E-KYC

  • The seeding mess, it seems, was sought to be cleaned up by making “e-KYC” compulsory.
  • To enforce e-KYC, many banks used the “ultimatum method”: a deadline was set, and people’s accounts were blocked when they missed the deadline.
  • Compulsory e-KYC became a nightmare for poor people, for a number of reasons:
    • Some did not know what they were supposed to do.
    • Others had problems of biometric authentication.
    • Others still struggled with inconsistencies between the Aadhaar database and the bank database.
    • Among the worst victims were old-age pensioners.
    • To this day, in Jharkhand, many pensioners are struggling to understand why their pension was discontinued after e-KYC was made compulsory.

2.Forcing of ABPS

  • APBS was forced on millions without consent.
  • Mapping (the induction of an Aadhaar-seeded account into the APBS), according to NCPI and UIDAI guidelines, should be based on an explicit request from the customer.
  • This gives a measure of protection to educated middle-class customers. It ensures, for instance, that they know which account their money is being directed to by the APBS.
  • For poor people, however, consent is a fiction.
  • In Jharkhand at least, bank accounts have been mass-mapped onto the APBS without any semblance of consent.

Impact of diverted payments

  • The result of this premature and coercive imposition of the APBS is that diverted payments have become a serious problem in Jharkhand.
  • For example, recent victims include Premani Kunwar, an elderly widow in Garhwa district who died of hunger on December 1, 2017, two months after her pension was diverted by the APBS to someone else’s account.
  • Others affected are MGNREGA workers.
  • Already discouraged by delays in wage payments, they have to contend now with diverted payments and other pathologies of the APBS.

Other Problems with ABPS

  • rejected payments — another nightmare for powerless DBT recipients.
  • Second, these problems are magnified by a pervasive lack of accountability.
  • When people have problems of diverted or rejected payments, they have no recourse.
  • Third, none of this seems to perturb the agencies that are promoting the APBS and related financial technologies.
  • nobody appears to be in charge of enforcing the consent norms and other “guidelines” issued by the NPCI.

Conclusion

The RBI may be the nominal regulator, but the real action is at the NPCI, the UIDAI and other strongholds of the Aadhaar lobby.The UIDAI did take cosmetic damage control measures from time to time in the last two years. Judging from Jharkhand’s experience, however, the pathologies of the APBS continue to cause havoc on the ground. An independent and participatory review of the system is long overdue.

 

 

 

Aadhaar Card Issues

[op-ed snap]Maximum gambit

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of Universal basic income.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and challenges in the implementation of universal basic income as suggested by NYAY.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Congress party’s has promised of transferring ₹6,000 a month to poor households

Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY)

  • This would be a flat transfer of ₹6,000 a month to identified poor households.
  • There has been little word on how the Congress expects to finance NYAY.
  • A ballpark estimate of the fiscal expenditure, to transfer ₹72,000 every year to the poorest 20% of the approximately 25 crore Indian households, would be ₹3.6 lakh crore.
  • This is twice the estimated amount set aside for food subsidy and five times that for fertilizer subsidy in the 2019-20 Union Budget.

No details on financing the scheme

  • It is not clear whether the Congress, should it come to power, will cut back on other subsidies and programmes in order to finance NYAY.
  • There is also the additional problem of the identification of the poor — the Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011 is the most comprehensive exercise for this, but it has been riven by reliability and authenticity issues and has only been partially released to the public as yet.
  • By having an inbuilt provision of targeting the beneficiaries, NYAY can fall short as other programmes have, such as the targeted public distribution system.

Prospects Of NYAY

  • An unconditional transfer of a specified minimum income support to the poor will go a long way in helping address immediate needs related to health, education and indebtedness.
  • A large section of the targeted poor would include landless workers and marginal farmers in rural areas, and unemployed youth in families engaged in menial labour in urban areas.
  • Besides shoring up income to meet such basic needs and pushing wages upwards, the transfer scheme can help spur demand and consumption in rural areas in particular.

Challenges in the scheme

  • There are disincentives inherent in the scheme as well.
  • A section of the beneficiaries could withdraw themselves from employment.
  • this could be mitigated by the expected overall spur in demand in the economy through consumption, and by the rise in real wages consequent to the shrinking of the labour market.

Conclusion

  • Limited cash transfers in the form of direct farm income support in States such as Telangana and Odisha have helped ameliorate agrarian crises.
  • This was the reason why the BJP-led government came up with the PM-KISAN Yojana as a countrywide scheme.
  • A massive programme such as NYAY, however, has no precedent. It might give a fillip to the Congress election campaign, but much more homework is required for its implementation.
  • A dole is not a magic bullet; it can only be one among a clutch of robust and prudent welfare policies.

Explained: How researchers used science to show Bengal famine was man-made

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Indian History| All syllabus

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bengal Famine

Mains level: Bengal Famine: causes and consequences


News

  • The Bengal famine of 1943-44 was not caused by an agricultural drought but was man-made.
  • Researchers have proved this using old weather data and modern simulation methods to reach a conclusion long acknowledged by historians.

Soil moisture & famine

  • The research reconstructed agricultural droughts and established a link between famines and agricultural droughts in India in the half-century between 1870-2016.
  • Precipitation data from 1901 onwards was available from the IMD.
  • They estimated a measure called soil moisture percentile, or SMP. When the SMP was less than 20, it was categorised as drought.

British Policy Failure

  • The Bengal famine was completely due to the failure of policy during the British era.
  • The simulations showed that a majority of famines were caused by large-scale and severe soil moisture droughts that hampered food production.
  • Out of six major famines during the period (1873-74, 1876, 1877, 1896-97, 1899, 1943), the researchers concluded that the first five were linked to soil moisture.
  • All but two of the famines were found consistent with the drought periods identified by the analysis.
  • The exceptions were 1873-1874 and 1943-1944.

Immediate cause of such Famines

  • During World War II, market supplies and transport systems were disrupted. This is attributed to British policies, and prioritization of distribution of supplies to the military and other select groups.
  • Occupation of Burma by Japan in 1942 resulted in restriction on rice imports from Burma.
  • Restriction on inter-state trade of rice and other food grains at the time further aggravated the issue.
  • Hoarding of rice stocks by traders and farmers in anticipation of speculative rise in rice prices in future as rice shortage was becoming evident.
  • In early 1943, military and political events adversely affected Bengal’s economy, which was exacerbated by refugees from Burma.
  • Additionally, wartime grain import restrictions imposed by the British government played a major role in the famine.
History- Important places, persons in news

Govt. notifies new rules for drugs, clinical trials

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019

Mains level:  Measures for ethical clinical trials of medicines in India


News

  • The Union Health Ministry has notified the Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019 aimed at promoting clinical research in the country.

Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019

  • The rules will apply to all new drugs, investigational new drugs for human use, clinical trials, bio-equivalence studies and ethics committees.
  • The rules has reduced time for approving applications, which has now come down to 30 days for drugs manufactured in India and 90 days for those developed outside the country.
  • Also, in case of no communication from Drugs Controller General of India, the application will be deemed to have been approved.
  • As per the new rule, the requirement of a local clinical trial may be waived for approval of a new drug if it is approved and marketed in any of the countries (EU, U.K., Australia, Japan and U.S.) specified by the Drugs Controller General with the approval of the government.
  • The new rules will ensure patient safety and an ethics committee will monitor the trials and decide on the amount of compensation in cases of adverse events.
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

India’s carbon dioxide emissions up 5%: IEA Report

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Air Pollution


News

  • India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, a 4.8% rise from last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

About IEA

  • The International Energy Agency is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.
  • The IEA was initially dedicated to responding to physical disruptions in the supply of oil, as well as serving as an information source on statistics about the international oil market and other energy sectors.
  • The IEA acts as a policy adviser to its member states, but also works with non-member countries, especially China, India, and Russia.

The Global Energy & CO2 Status Report

  • India’s emissions growth this year was higher than that of the United States and China — the two biggest emitters in the world.
  • This was primarily due to a rise in coal consumption.
  • China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.
  • India’s per capita emissions were about 40% of the global average and contributed 7% to the global carbon dioxide burden.
  • The United States, the largest emitter, was responsible for 14%.

Defying NDCs

  • As per its commitments to the UNFCCC, India has promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
  • It has also committed to having 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and, as part of this, install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • However the IEA report showed that India’s energy intensity improvement declined 3% from last year even as its renewable energy installations increased 10.6% from last year.
  • India says it will cost at least $2.5trillion (Rs. 150 trillion approx.) to implement its climate pledge, around 71% of the combined required spending for all developing country pledges.

Soaring demands for fossil fuels

  • Global energy consumption in 2018 increased at nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.
  • Demand for all fuels increased, led by natural gas, even as solar and wind posted double digit growth.
  • Higher electricity demand was responsible for over half of the growth in energy needs.
  • The United States had the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide. Gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971.
Air Pollution

Global Energy Transition Index

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Energy Transition Index

Mains level: Move towards clean energy


News

  • India has moved up two places to rank 76th on a global energy transition index, released by World Economic Forum (WEF).

Global Energy Transition Index

  1. The WEF has ranked 115 economies on how well they are able to balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.
  2. The WEF index considers both the current state of the countries’ energy system and their structural readiness to adapt to future energy needs.
  3. The ‘transition readiness’ component of the index has taken into account six individual indicators:
  • capital and investment,
  • regulation and political commitment,
  • institutions and governance,
  • institutions and innovative business environment,
  • human capital and consumer participation, and
  • energy system structure

India’s Performance

  • India is amongst the countries with high pollution levels and has a relatively high CO2 intensity in its energy system.
  • India has made significant strides to improve energy access in recent years, and currently scores well in the area of regulation and political commitment towards energy transition.
  • It suggested there was a ground for optimism regarding India despite the current outdated energy system not being ready for transition, because an enabling environment is being built to support future transition.
  • While India has scored low in terms of system performance (ranking 97 and 86, respectively), it ranks considerably higher when it comes to readiness (45 and 61, respectively).
  • Overall, India has moved up two places from 78th last year.
  • China is ranked even lower than India at 82nd position, though it ranks very high at seventh place in the world for regulation and political commitment.
  • Despite its low ranking, India is the second best in the BRICS block of emerging economies, with Brazil being the best at 46th place globally.
  • However, India is the only amongst the five economies to improve its rank since last year.

Global Scenario

  • Sweden remains on the top on this annual list and is followed by Switzerland and Norway in the top three.
  • Among major economies, the United Kingdom (UK) is ranked seventh.
  • Singapore has been ranked thirteenth, while Germany, Japan and the US have bagged the seventeenth, eighteenth and the twenty-seventh place respectively.
  • Within Asia, Malaysia is ranked highest at 31st, Sri Lanka is 60th, Bangladesh 90th and Nepal 93rd.

Challenges ahead

  • The biggest challenge facing attempts to future proof global energy is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters.
  • Continued uses of coal for power generation in Asia, increasing commodity prices and slower-than-needed improvements in energy intensity have contributed to this year’s stagnation in performance.
  • The WEF said fossil fuels’ share of total primary energy supply at 81 per cent has been constant over the past three decades.
  • Also, the global CO2 emissions are expected to have increased by more than 2 per cent in 2018, the highest since 2014.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Sharda Peeth Corridor

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sharda Peeth Corridor (Location, importance)

Mains level: India-Pakistan Cultural Relations


News

  • The Pakistan government has approved a proposal to establish a corridor that will allow Hindu pilgrims from India to visit Sharda Peeth an ancient Hindu temple and cultural site in POK.
  • India had already sent a proposal to Pakistan to open the temple corridor.
  • The corridor when opened will be the second religious tract after Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan-controlled territory that will connect the two neighbouring nations.

Sharda Peeth Corridor

  • Established in 237 BC during the reign of Ashoka, the 5,000-year-old Sharada Peeth is an abandoned temple and ancient centre of learning dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning.
  • Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, Sharada Peeth was one of the foremost temple universities of the Indian subcontinent.
  • After Partition in 1947, the temple went under the control of Pakistan.
  •  It is about 150km from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, and about 130km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • It is also one of the three famous holy sites for Kashmiri Pandits, the other two being the Martand Sun Temple in Anantnag and the Amarnath temple.
  • Kashmiri Pandit organisations have been demanding opening of the Sharda Peeth corridor for many years now.

Importance of the peeth

  • The peeth is also considered a historical seat of learning, and was once at par with the ancient seats of learning at Nalanda and Takshila.
  • Kashmiri Pandits consider Sharada as their “kuldevi” or principal deity.
  • The Sharada Peeth is believed to be one of the foremost temple universities of the subcontinent between the 6th and 12th centuries CE.
  • There are competing theories about when it was built, but it has been suggested that the temple is over 5,000-year-old.
History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] Foreign policy needs consensus

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India’s relationship straining due to state’s interference in foreign policy issues and effects of it.


Context

CONTEXT

States play an important role in foreign policymaking. A consensus based approach is required for benefit of subcontinent,

Background

  • One of the interesting foreign policy ideas that this government unveiled early in his tenure, was to enhance the role of states in India’s engagement with the world.
  • The NDA government created a “states division” in the Ministry of External Affairs to facilitate the international interactions of the state governments on a range of issues
    • from promoting trade and tourism to attracting foreign investments.
    • It has also hosted visiting dignitaries in state capitals.

Effects of Challenges  in integrating states with foreign policy in past

  • The problem of finding common ground with state chief ministers on developing effective neighbourhood policies has not disappeared.
  • In West Bengal, then CM wrecked carefully prepared visit by Prime Minister  to Bangladesh in 2011.
  • Although the state government officials had participated in the negotiation of an agreement on sharing the Teesta river’s waters, CM vetoed the agreement hours before the PM’s meeting with Sheikh Hasina.
  • It brought into stark relief Delhi’s inability to deliver on initiated agreements.
  • In Tamil Nadu, the imperative of keeping the Dravidian parties happy made it hard for Delhi to pursue a sensible policy towards Sri Lanka.
  • Under pressure from Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu, including senior figures like P Chidambaram, PM Singh cancelled plans to attend the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo.

Changes in policy discourse due to the majority in parliament

  • As part of his early tours in the neighbourhood, Modi travelled to Sri Lanka and launched intensive dialogue with both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities.
  • A majority in the Lok Sabha helped Modi to prevent the Sri Lanka policy becoming a hostage to Chennai politics.

Questions regarding the future of foreign policy if a coalition government is formed in 2019

  • Can the next government pursue productive engagement with Colombo if its survival depends on support from the Dravidian parties?
  • Can a weak coalition in Delhi balance the explosive political dynamic in Assam on the citizenship issue with the need to strengthen the partnership with Dhaka?
  • Can the next government consult the chief ministers of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to improve strained ties with Nepal?

Conclusion

  • Prospects for a sensible neighbourhood policy can’t rest solely on having single-party governments at the Centre and “responsible” CMs in the border states.
  • India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.
  • If the political classes choose to turn every problem in the neighbourhood into a domestic contestation, Delhi’s adversaries will continue to gain ground in India’s neighbourhood.
  • The current intense politicisation of ties with Pakistan might seem like an exception. But similar dangers lurk on all of India’s frontiers.

 

[op-ed snap]Paradigm shift for TB control

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level:Tamilnadu pilot model to curb TB infection as a guide to other initiatives.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Tuberculosis (TB) remains the biggest killer disease in India, outnumbering all other infectious diseases put together — this despite our battle against it from 1962, when the National TB Programme (NTP) was launched.

Background

  • In 1978, the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) began, giving BCG to all babies soon after birth and achieving more than 90% coverage.
  • In 1993, the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was launched, offering free diagnosis and treatment for patients, rescuing them from otherwise sure death.
  • However, treatment is not prevention. Prevention is essential for control.

The effectiveness of these programmes

  • Yet, when evaluated in 1990, the NTP and the EPI had not reduced India’s TB burden.
  • Why did the NTP and the EPI fail?
    • Visionary leaders had initiated a BCG vaccine clinical trial in 1964 in Chingelpet district, Tamil Nadu.
    • Its final report published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in 1999.
    • It held that BCG did not protect against TB infection or adult pulmonary TB, the ‘infectious’ form.
    • BCG immunisation does prevent severe multi-organ TB disease in young children, and must be continued but will not control TB.
  • By 2014-15, the RNTCP was found to be very successful in reducing mortality, but failing to control TB. Why?
    • From when a person becomes infectious to when he/she turns non-infectious by treatment, there is a gap of several weeks during which the infection saturates contacts in the vicinity.
    • Delays in care seeking and diagnosis are the result of lack of universal primary health care.

Tamil Nadu Pilot Model to control TB infection

  • Tamil Nadu is planning to implement new strategy in one revenue district, Tiruvannamalai.
  • To ensure public participation — a missing element in the RNTCP — the new model will be in public-private participation mode.
  • The Rotary movement, having demonstrated its social mobilisation strengths in polio eradication, will partner with the State government in the TB control demonstration project.
  • Tiruvannamalai, a pioneer district in health management, was the first in India (1988-90) to eliminate polio using the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
  • The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and the National Health Mission will lead all national, State and district health agencies, district and local administration, departments of education, social welfare and public relations and government medical college.
  • The Rotary will ensure the participation of all players (health and non-health) in the private sector.

Other steps to control TB infection

  • The Rotary will spearhead public education for behaviour modification, starting in all schools and continuing through to adults.
  • Progression to TB disease from infection can be prevented by giving World Health Organisation-recommended short-term ‘preventive treatment’.
  • Infection is silent, but diagnosable with the tuberculin skin test (TST).
  • Cohorts of schoolchildren (5, 10 and 15 years) can be tested and those TST positive given preventive treatment.
  • On March 13, 2018, the Prime Minister, who was inaugurating the End TB Summit, declared that India would end TB by 2025.

Way Forward

  • A strategy of simultaneously using all biomedical and socio-behavioural interventions can help in controlling infection.
  • Ending TB by 2025 is impossible but pulling the TB curve down by 2025 and sustaining the decline ever after is a possibility.
  • Tamil Nadu, an erstwhile global leader in TB research during the 1960s through the 1990s, will now become the global leader in TB control.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy

[op-ed snap]The point of having democracy

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Secularism

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issue of nationalism, secularism in democracy and how to revive vision of prosperous India.


Context

 

CONTEXT

While elections may be an integral part of democracy, surely they are not its end. The people, and the content of their lives matter more. However, going by the actions of political parties when in power and their pronouncements when they are not, the end of democracy gets overlooked in the political process in India.

The relevance of  Nationalism and secularism in democracy

  • Two constructs have repeatedly been projected by the main political formations in the country. These are nationalism and secularism.
  • The concepts of nationalism and secularism have proved to be quite that in the use to which they are put by India’s political parties.
  • Actually, it is possible for nationalism and secularism to be part of state policy even in the absence of democracy.
  • Thus both Iran under the last Shah and Iraq under Saddam Hussein ran a secular state, though they were both dictators.
  • The People’s Republic of China is so nationalist that even its socialism is said to be imbued with ‘Chinese characteristics’.
  • Its state is not just secular but avowedly atheist. However, it is not a democracy.
  • What is at stake here is that democracy is meant to be something more than just nationalism and secularism.

Nationalism and securing the national interest

  • Once we have imagined ourselves as a democratic community we must defend our national interest.
  • Threats to India come from two sources.
    • There are authoritarian regimes in the region that are hostile to India.
    • Second, the western powers have captured global bodies to promote their economic and political interests, for which think of the multilateral agencies that attempt to prise open India’s market without yielding the West’s to migration.

Secularism and its maintenance

  • A democracy cannot allow any religious influence on the state’s actions.
  • However, there is a reality in India today that requires a contextual understanding.
  • This would require the secular state to go beyond this limited brief to protect religious minorities.
  • The relevance of this is brought home by an incident that took place on Holi day when a gang of hoodlums, attacked without provocation, a Muslim family including young children with iron roads in broad daylight in Gurugram outside the national capital.

History of Political response to construct of nationalism and secularism

  • Nationalism or national pride has shown itself to be a means to establish Hindu majoritarian rule, a project with potentially destructive consequences for the country.
  • For its part, over the past 30-plus years the Congress party has often resorted to a sham secularism, the high mark of which came in the form of its response to the Supreme Court ruling on the Shah Bano case.
  • Some years earlier, at the moment of the ending of colonial rule, Nehru had stated that it was an opportunity to create a “prosperous, democratic and progressive” India.

Is Just society a possibility for India?

  • In the close to three-quarters of a century since, the goal of Indian democracy had been articulated prosperity is not in sight for the vast majority.
  • On the other hand, a section of Indians has surged ahead economically.
  • For the rest of the country, however, it is an ongoing struggle to earn a living.
  • A just society must seem far away to these Indians.
  • But a just society by just means is no longer a pipe dream, it is entirely feasible, and in our times at that.
  • The pathway to it lies in adopting the right public policies, and it is in the hands of India’s political parties to do so.

Addressing economic Growth

  • Public policy should now shift gear to launch an assault on the capability deprivation which underlies India’s low human development indicators.
  • The poorly educated millions are helplessly caught in the eddies of a market economy.
  • Their skills do not match what is required for them to earn a decent living.
  • Overcoming this requires two actions to be undertaken.
    • It would require committing resources to education and training and then governing their use.
    • The second task of public policy in India at this moment is to raise the tempo of economic activity. Jobs are an issue.

Way Forward

  • The government cannot create jobs directly but it can create the preconditions.
  • It does so through public investment and macroeconomic policy.

Conclusion

Amateurish economic management is responsible for rising unemployment. India’s political parties cannot say that the pathway to the ends of democracy has not been shown to them. If they fail to take the country there, they must assume responsibility.

Explained: How rocks in Meghalaya cave connect Northeast monsoon to El Niño

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of World’s Physical Geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: El Nino, Karst Topography

Mains level: Impact of El-Nino


News

A new study led by researchers from a US university, on the rock formations in a cave near Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, has found new evidence to suggest that India’s winter rainfall are influenced by the state of the ocean waters in the faraway Pacific.

El Niño & monsoons

  • India’s summer monsoon which brings in about 70% of annual rainfall in the country, is already known to be heavily influenced by the variability in sea-surface temperatures of Pacific Ocean.
  • This is a condition referred to as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
  • A warmer than usual Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America, is known to suppress the monsoon rainfall in India.

Connection with retreating Monsoon

  • This relationship is not so strongly established with the winter monsoon, also called as the northeastern monsoon, which occurs during the months of October, November and December.
  • It is vital for several regions in the Northeast and India’s eastern coast.
  • More than 50% of the annual rains in coastal Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema, Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, and Kerala comes during these winter months.
  • ENSO is known to have an impact on the winter monsoon as well but is weaker and opposite.
  • The warming of sea-surface waters, for example, is seen to help winter rainfall rather than suppressing it.
  • The impact varies in time and space. The influence is weaker in October and stronger in November and December.

Deducing monsoon variations from stalagmites

  • The latest study claims to have found new evidence to suggest that the state of Pacific Ocean do indeed impact the winter rains.
  • Their findings are based on more than three years of research on stalagmites (mineral deposits, mainly limestone, in caves) of the Mawmluh Cave, near Cherrapunji, in the East Khasi Hills district.
  • These solid stalagmite structures, or mineral deposits, are the result of slow but steady water dripping in the caves, and contain several thin layers of different kinds of minerals that get picked up while the water is flowing.
  • From a careful study of the composition of these stalagmites, scientists can deduce the amount of rainfall that could have happened over the caves in the past, or even whether the water was a result of local rainfall, or had flown in from a different place.
  • Using such techniques, the researchers in this case were able to estimate local variations in rainfall in the past, and then correlate it with old ocean records of the Pacific Ocean.

Stalagmites revives drought history

  • The stalagmites indicate the recurrence of intense, multi-year droughts in India over the last several thousand years.
  • Stalagmite records from monsoon regions, including India, are vital to understanding past variability in the global climate system and the underlying reasons for this variability.

Back2Basics

Karst Topography

  • Karst is a landscape which is underlain by limestone which has been eroded by dissolution, producing towers, fissures, sinkholes, etc.
  • Karst topography is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum.
  • It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes, caves etc.

Stalactite and Stalagmite

  • The water containing limestone in solution, seeps through the roof in the form of a continuous chain of drops.
  • A portion of the roof hangs on the roof and on evaporation of water, a small deposit of limestone is left behind contributing to the formation of a stalactite, growing downwards from the roof.
  • The remaining portion of the drop falls to the floor. This also evaporates, leaving behind a small deposit of limestone aiding the formation of a stalagmite, thicker and flatter, rising upwards from the floor.
  • Sometimes, stalactite and stalagmite join together to form a complete pillar known as the column.
Monsoon Updates

[pib] Young Scientist Programme (YUVIKA)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Young Scientists Programme

Mains level: Read the attached story 


News

Young Scientist Programme

  • ISRO has launched a special programme for School Children called “Young Scientist Programme” “YUva VIgyani KAryakram from this year.
  • The Program is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities.
  • The residential training programme will be of around two weeks duration during summer holidays and it is proposed to select 3 students each from each State/ UTs to participate in this programme covering state, CBSE, and ICSE syllabus.
  • Those who have just finished 9th standard (in the academic year 2018-19) and waiting to join 10th standard (or those who have started 10th Std just now) will be eligible for the programme.
  • The selection will be based on the 8th Std marks.
  • Students belonging to the rural area have been given special weightage in the selection criteria.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

World Food Programme

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WFP

Mains level: Not Much


News

  • Japan has donated 69 million dollars to the United Nations World Food Programme to provide vital aid to 28 countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, with the biggest shares of the money earmarked for Yemen and Iraq.
  • Japan is one of WFP’s top donors and has contributed $$958 million to the UN agency since 2014.

About World Food Programme

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
  • From its headquarters in Rome and from more than 80 country offices around the world, the WFP works to help people who cannot produce or obtain enough food for themselves and their families.
  • It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its executive committee.
  • WFP has been working in India since 1963, with work transitioning from food distribution to technical assistance since the country achieved self-sufficiency in cereal production.
Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Survey

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ADR

Mains level: Decriminalization of politics in India


News

  • A nationwide survey involving more than 2.7 lakh people revealed that for 41.34% respondents, distribution of liquor, cash and freebies was an important factor behind voting for a particular candidate in an election, according to the ADR.

ADR survey of India

  • This is the third all-India survey commissioned by the ADR.
  • 86% interviewees felt that candidates with criminal background should not be in Parliament or State Assembly.
  • 89% were willing to vote for a candidate with criminal records if the candidate had done good work in the past.

Evaluating Govt. Performance

  • The respondents rated the government’s performance on 31 listed issues as below average.
  • On a scale of one to five, the respondents gave an average of 2.58 for better public transport, followed by 2.53 on the issue of electricity for domestic use and 2.52 for drinking water.
  • The government’s performance on initiatives against river and lake water pollution was rated as 2.51; 2.48 for empowerment of women and security; just 1.37 on eradication of corruption; and 1.15 on the issue of terrorism.

Priorities of Voters

  • As per the survey, better employment opportunities (46.80%), better healthcare (34.60%) and drinking water (30.50%) were the top three priorities, followed by better roads (28.34%) and better public transport (27.35%).
  • Statewise, better healthcare was the highest priority in Assam (45.78%), Kerala (45.24%) and Rajasthan (43.13%) and drinking water was the most important factor for the respondents in Karnataka (50.42%), Andhra Pradesh (45.25%) and Kerala (44.77%).

About Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

  • The ADR is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization which works in the area of electoral and political reforms.
  • ADR aims at bringing transparency and accountability in Indian politics and reducing the influence of money and muscle power in elections.
  • National Election Watch (NEW) is a conglomeration of over 1200 organizations across the country.
  • ADR has become the single data point for information/analysis of background details (criminal, financial and others) of politicians and of financial information of political parties.
  • ADR has chosen to concentrate its efforts in the following areas pertaining to the political system of the country:
  1. Corruption and Criminalization in the Political Process
  2. Empowerment of the electorate through greater dissemination of information relating to the candidates and the parties, for a better and informed choice
  3. Need for greater accountability of Indian Political Parties
  4. Need for inner-party democracy and transparency in party-functioning
Electoral Reforms In India

PSLV-C45/ Emisat Mission

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the payload

Mains level: Unique features of the launch 


News

  • For the sheer number of ‘firsts’ to its credit, the scheduled PSLV-C45/Emisat mission scheduled will be a memorable one for the ISRO.

PSLV-C45/Emisat

  • C-45, which is set for lift-off from the second launchpad at Sriharikota, will mark the 47th flight of the PSLV.
  • It is meant for electromagnetic spectrum measurements, according to the ISRO.
  • It will be released into an orbit at 749 km.
  • EMISAT is primarily based on on the famous Israeli spy satellite called SARAL or (Satellite with ARgos and ALtika), and inherits its SSB-2 bus protocol for conducting sharp electronic surveillance across the length and breadth of India.
  • The satellite would serve as the country’s roving device for detecting and gathering electronic intelligence from enemy radars across the borders as it circles the globe roughly pole to pole every 90 minutes or so.
  • For the third successive PSLV mission, the ISRO plans to reuse the rocket’s spent fourth stage or PS4 to host short experiments.

Unique Features of PSLV-C45/Emisat

  • For one, it will be ISRO’s first attempt at placing payloads in three different orbits.
  • The chief payload the 436 kg Emisat will be injected into a 749 km orbit.
  • After that, the fourth stage of the rocket will be maneuvered to a 504 km orbit for releasing 28 international satellites.
  • Once that job is over, the fourth stage will be restarted and guided to an altitude of 485 km.
  • For the next six months, this stage will serve as an orbital platform for space-based experiments. This is another first for the ISRO. Normally, the spent stage simply becomes space junk.
  • The orbital platform will also sport solar panels, which too is a first.
  • The launch vehicle itself is a new variant, designated PSLV-QL. For the first time, ISRO will be employing four XL strap-on motors on the first stage.
  • The other two experimental payloads aboard the orbital platform are the Automatic Identification System (AIS), an ISRO payload for maritime satellite applications, and the Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS), meant to assist amateur radio operators.

Foreign satellites on-board

  • As many as 28 small foreign co-passenger satellites will also travel to space with it, but to a lower orbit at 504 km.
  • They include 24 small satellites from the U.S., among them 20 which are part of previous customer Planet Labs’ earth observation constellation.
  • The other four customers are from Lithuania, Spain and Switzerland.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Another look at fiscal transfers

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: State Finance Commission (SFC)

Mains level: Role of finance commissions in fiscal federalism and changes proposed


NEWS

CONTEXT

Concept of federalism

  • Federalism is an old concept.
  • It is well known that the efficiency of a government depends on, among other factors, its structure.
  • In large countries, it has been felt that only a federal structure can efficiently meet the requirements of people from different regions.

The reason behind the existence of the present form of federalism

  • In our country during the independence struggle, provincial autonomy was regarded as an integral part of the freedom movement.
  • However, after Independence, several compulsions, which included defence and internal security, led to a scheme of federalism in which the Centre assumed greater importance.
  • Also in the immediate period following Independence, when the Centre and all States were ruled by the same party and when many of the powerful provincial leaders migrated to the Centre, the process of centralisation gathered further momentum.
  • Economic planning at a nation-wide level helped this centralising process.

What is Fiscal Federalism?

  • Fiscal federalism is the economic counterpart to political federalism.
  • Fiscal federalism is concerned with the assignment on the one hand of functions to different levels of government, and with appropriate fiscal instruments for carrying out these functions on the other.
  • The Central government must provide national public goods that render services to the entire population.
  • A typical example cited is defence.
  • Sub-national governments are expected to provide goods and services whose consumption is limited to their own jurisdictions.

Determinations of Raising of Taxes by different units of government

  • An equally important question in fiscal federalism is the determination of the specific fiscal instruments that would enable the different levels of government to carry out their functions.
  • This is the ‘tax-assignment problem’ .
  • In determining the taxes that are best suited for use at different levels of government, one basic consideration is in relation to the mobility of economic agents, goods and resources.
  • It is generally argued that the de-centralised levels of government should avoid non-benefit taxes and taxes on mobile units.
  • This implies that the Central government should have the responsibility to levy non-benefit taxes and taxes on mobile units or resources.

Problems in assigning different  taxing responsibilities  to different levels of government

  • Different Constitutions interpret differently what is mobile and what is purely a benefit tax.
  • For example, in the United States and Canada, both Federal and State governments have concurrent powers to levy income tax.
  • On the contrary, in India, income tax is levied only by the Central government though shared with the States.
  • Recognising the possibility of imbalance between resources and responsibilities, many countries have a system of inter-governmental transfers.

The provision in Indian Constitution regarding the division of taxes

  • The Indian Constitution lays down the functions as well as taxing powers of the Centre and States.
  • It is against this background that the issues relating to the correction of vertical and horizontal imbalances have been addressed by every Finance Commission, taking into account the prevailing set of circumstances.
  • However, Central transfers to States are not confined to the recommendations of the Finance Commissions.
  • There are other channels such as those through the Planning Commission until recently as well the discretionary grants of the Central government.

Recent changes in the division of tax proceeds

  • The Fourteenth Finance Commission has broken new ground in terms of allocation of resources.
  • One of its major recommendations has been to increase the share of tax devolution to 42% of the divisible pool.
  • This is a substantial increase by almost 10 percentage points.
  • The commission has argued that this does not necessarily affect the overall transfers but only enhances the share of unconditional transfers.
  • Over years, the performance of the Central government is judged not only on the basis of actions taken which fall strictly in its jurisdiction but also on initiatives undertaken in the areas which fall in the Concurrent and even State lists.
  • Today, the Central government is held responsible for everything that happens, including, for example, agrarian distress.
  • The Planning Commission was replaced by the NITI Aayog, which was simply a think-tank with no powers of resource allocation.

Way Forward

  • The Constitution should be amended and the proportion of shareable taxes that should go to the States fixed at the desired level.
  • The shareable tax pool must also include cesses and surcharges as these have sharply increased in recent years.
  • Fixing the ratio at 42% of shareable taxes, including cesses and surcharges, seems appropriate.
  • Another possible route is to follow the practice in the U.S. and Canada: of allowing the States to levy tax on personal income, with some limitations.
  • Also once this power is given to the States, the transfers from the Centre need adjustment.
  • There are issues relating to horizontal distribution. An appropriate balancing of criteria is needed particularly in the context of the rise in unconditional transfers.
Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

[op-ed snap] A sour taste

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The crisis of delay in payment in sugar sector and how to deal with it.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Cane farmers everywhere are still awaiting full payments for their produce this season.

Background

  • There have been widespread protests.
  • The sugar commissioner  warned of stern action against defaulting mills.
  • Sugar mills in Maharashtra have paid only Rs 14,881.01 crore out of the Rs 20,653.02 crore that they owe to farmers.
  • The problem of arrears is even worse in Uttar Pradesh, where the unpaid cane dues of mills have crossed Rs 10,000 crore.
  • Maharashtra’s sugar commissioner’s office had threatened
    • To attach and auction properties of defaulting mills
    • To register criminal cases against their chairmen and directors.

Reasons for delay in payment

  • The inability to pay has to do with the economics of the industry.
  • A mill in UP is to buy cane at the state government’s “advised” price of Rs 325 per quintal.
  • The bare production cost of sugar at that rate is roughly Rs 34 per kg.
  • As against this, the ex-factory price of sugar is now Rs 31 per kg.
  • Many factories are actually selling below even this “minimum” price fixed by the Centre.
  • If the industry is going to lose a minimum of Rs 3 on every kilo of sugar sold, the total loss of 31 million tonnes.
  • That’s clearly not sustainable for mills.

Government’s Interventionist Policy

  • Governments, both at the Centre and in the states, have only made things worse.
  • It has done so by fixing cane prices out of sync with sugar realisations or setting monthly sale quotas
  • For March, mills have been given a target to sell 24.5 lakh tonnes (lt) of sugar, which is way above the 21.09 lt and 19.52 lt of actual sales undertaken in the same month in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
  • The underlying objective behind forcing mills to sell more sugar  has been to generate more liquidity to enable them to make cane payments.
  • But that has only ended up depressing prices further.

Way Forward

  • Cane prices have to be linked to average realisations of mills, both from sugar and primary by-products (molasses and baggase).
  • Farmers have the freedom to sell to any mill that may want to pay more.
  • If the government wants cane farmers to be paid more, it should credit that amount directly to their bank accounts and not force losses on the industry.
Sugar Industry – FRP, SAP, Rangarajan Committee, EBP, MIEQ, etc.

[op-ed snap]Parallel tracks on trade ties

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2: International relations| Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India-US trade relations.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the India-US trade relation in recent times, in a brief manner and impact of GSP review.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Recently US took decision to rescind the benefits Indian exports enjoy under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.

Is India Responsible for this?

  • It begins with the change in foreign direct investment (FDI) rules in India.
  • The tightened norms that came into effect on February 1 place several restrictions on e-commerce companies, including Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon.
  • The unexpected changes came after Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, paid over $16 billion to acquire Flipkart last May.
  • Trump notified Congress of his intention to slap punitive action on India by ending preferential treatment for the country’s exports.
  • Walmart’s reputation for killing small retail businesses influenced New Delhi’s decision to tighten the FDI rules.
  • Economic diplomacy can still defuse the situation and prevent the removal of the GSP benefits .

Background of trade tensions between the two countries

  • The simmering tensions go back to April 2018 when the United States Trade Representative (USTR) launched a review of New Delhi’s eligibility for the GSP programme.
  • New Delhi, in response to Washington’s 25% tariff hikes on steel and 10% levies on aluminium, immediately accused it of unfair trade practices, and, seeking to signal a muscular approach.
  • Bilateral talks since then have failed to ease tensions and India now stares at losing the GSP benefits.
  •  U.S. medical and dairy industries complained that New Delhi is not providing them “equitable and reasonable access to its market.
  •  Data localisation policies deepened the rift.

Tensions Due to Price control over drugs and medical devices

  • New Delhi’s use of price control measures against imported drugs and medical devices has grown noticeably.
  • US. manufacturers complain that in doing so, New Delhi has meted out differential treatment to them vis-à-vis domestic players.
  • The U.S. medical device industry wants price controls on cardiac stents and knee implants withdrawn and would like products to be treated on parity with domestic medical devices.
  • New Delhi has preferred to act against unreasonable price mark-ups through price controls when exactly the same  can be achieved through other types of policy alternatives.
  • The USTR is right in pointing out that price capping counts as a trade barrier.
  • New Delhi can easily address the concerns by replacing price controls with trade margin rationalisation measures.

Impact of losing GPS status

  • India is the largest beneficiary of the GSP.
  • The GSP is aimed at promoting economic development by allowing duty-free entry of products from designated beneficiary countries.
  • The immediate loss for India is preferential access at zero or minimal tariffs to the U.S. in case of about 1,900 products, or about half of all Indian products.
  • New Delhi has downplayed the impact of the proposed withdrawal of benefits, saying exports worth $190 million only are likely to be affected and that the tariff advantage was 4% or more on only 2,165 of a total of 18,770 tariff lines.
  • The loss to the economy would be much larger than what the Department of Commerce is projecting.
  • The actual loss will not be limited to the immediate tariff advantage.
  • Indian exporters are competing for market share in the U.S. with other low-income countries in industries where margins are wafer thin.
  • Even minor price hikes can drive significant drops in export volumes.
  • In which case, losing GSP access will be costlier than the projections.
  • Among price-sensitive products eligible for higher GSP benefits that risk losing out to competition from other countries are processed food, leather products, plastic products, building materials, tiles, hand tools, engineering goods, cycles and made-ups such as pillow/cushion sleeves and woven women’s apparel.

 

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States