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Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

RBI circular to banks on loan defaulters quashed

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IBC

Mains level : Effectiveness of regulatory mechanism for stressed assets resolution

  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court has struck down a Feb-2018 RBI circular giving lender banks six months to resolve their stressed assets or move under the Insolvency Code against private entities who have defaulted in loans worth over Rs. 2000 crore.

About the RBI circular

  • Through a notification issued on Feb 12, 2018 the RBI laid down a revised framework for the resolution of stressed assets, which replaced all its earlier instructions on the subject.
  • Banks were required to immediately start working on a resolution plan for accounts over Rs 2,000 crore, which was to be finalised within 180 days.
  • In case of non-implementation, lenders were required to file an insolvency application.
  • RBI termed it necessary to substitute the existing guidelines with a harmonized and simplified generic framework for resolution of stressed assets.

What did the revised framework replace?

  • The circular went into effect on the same day that it was issued, and all existing schemes for stressed asset resolution were withdrawn with immediate effect.
  • The circular was ostensibly intended to stop the “evergreening” of bad loans the practice of banks providing fresh loans to enable timely repayment by borrowers on existing loans.
  • The RBI warned banks that not adhering to the timelines laid down in the circular, or attempting to evergreen stressed accounts, would attract stringent supervisory and enforcement actions.

Issues with the circular

  • The companies argued that the circular was arbitrary and discriminatory, and therefore, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • Several companies from the power and shipping sectors had challenged the circular, arguing that the time given by the RBI was not enough to tackle bad debt.
  • The government had earlier asked the RBI to make sector-specific relaxations in the timeline for the implementation of the circular.
  • Power producers, for instance, had argued that the RBI’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach was impractical since the sector had to confront external factors that were beyond its control.
  • These factors included the unavailability of coal and gas, and problems arising out of the failure of state governments to honour power purchase agreements.

Impact of SC’s relaxation

  • The order provides immediate relief to companies that have defaulted in repayments, especially those in the power, shipping and sugar sectors.
  • However, many financial sector experts argued that the verdict could delay the process of stressed assets resolution, which had of late picked up pace.
  • Since banks will have the choice of devising resolution plans or going to the National Company Law Tribunal under the IBC, the urgency that the RBI’s rules had introduced in the system could be impacted.

GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

GI tag for Kandhamal and Erode Turmeric

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kandhamal and Erode Turmeric

Mains level : GI Indications and their importance

  • ‘Kandhamal Haldi’, a variety of turmeric indigenous to southern Odisha, has earned the GI tag.
  • Earlier this month, Erode turmeric also got a GI tag from the Geographical Indication Registry.

Kandhamal Haldi

  • Kandhamal in Odisha’s southern hinterland is famed for its turmeric, a spice that enjoys its pride of place in an array of cuisines.
  • The agricultural product also stands out for its healing properties and arresting aroma.
  • The GI tag was primarily developed with the purpose of recognising the unique identity connecting different products and places.
  • For a product to get GI tag it has to have a unique quality, reputation or characteristic which is attributable to its geographic origin. ‘Kandhamal Haldi’ has been placed under Class-30 type

Other associated facts

  • The Kandhamal turmeric was accorded the tag on the state’s Foundation Day.
  • Odisha, on April 1 1936, was carved out as a separate state in the then British India on a linguistic identity.

Erode turmeric

  • Erode turmeric is a rhizome, both finger and bulb obtained from the Erode local cultivar.
  • In its claim for uniqueness, the application said the mean length of the fingers of Erode turmeric was about 4.15cm and the mean circumference was about 3.03cm.
  • The mean bulb length of the mother rhizome is about 4.54cm and the mean circumference is 6.54cm.
  • Quality parameters of the turmeric included 2.5 to 4.5% of curcumin content, a golden yellow colour and resistence to pests after boiling.

Back2Basics

Geographical Indications in India

  • A Geographical Indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • This tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.
  • Recently the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India.
  • The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004. There are a total of 325productsfrom India that carry this indication.
  • Darjeeling Tea, Mahabaleshwar Strawberry, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Banarasi Sarees and Tirupati Laddus are some of the GIs.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis Act for protection of GI in India.
  • India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS Agreement. See also the Paris Convention, the Madrid Agreement, the Lisbon Agreement, the Geneva Act.

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

SEBI mulls SRO for investment advisers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SRO and its mandate

Mains level : Regulation of capital markets in India

  • The SEBI has proposed a self regulatory organisation (SRO) for the growing number of investment advisers to address issues related to the quality of advice given to investors by such entities.

What is Self Regulatory Organisation?

  • An SRO is the first-level regulator that performs the crucial task of regulating intermediaries representing a particular segment of securities market on behalf of the regulator.
  • An SRO would be seen as an extension of the regulatory authority of the SEBI and would perform the tasks delegated to it by the SEBI.
  • The role of an SRO is developmental, regulatory, related to grievance redressal and dispute resolution as well as taking disciplinary actions.

Why need SRO?

  • SEBI is in receipt of a large number of complaints alleging charging of exorbitant fees, assurance of returns, misconduct etc. by investment advisers.
  • Incidentally SEBI has said that there was a need for an SRO for mutual fund distributors — that currently register with Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI).
  • It was aimed to bring in consistency in industry practices and also to take disciplinary action against alleged malpractices such as mis-selling of products and churning of portfolio.

Expected functions

  • SEBI has proposed the strengthening of the existing regulatory framework for SROs by introducing features such as a governing board with public interest directors and a clear policy for arbitration and dispute resolution.
  • The regulator has proposed a governing board with at least 50% public interest directors along with 25% representation each of shareholder directors and elected representatives.
  • Further, the governing board can appoint a managing director or chief executive officer to manage the daily affairs of the SRO.

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

Systematic Investment Plan (SIP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SIP

Mains level : Not Much

What is SIP?

  • A SIP is a way to invest in mutual funds wherein a fixed sum of money is put into a mutual fund scheme at a specified date every month.
  • It is considered to be investor-friendly and an efficient manner of investing in the capital markets as one can start investing with small monthly contributions instead of first building a huge investment corpus.
  • It is a hassle-free manner of investment as well since one can issue standing instructions to the bank for a specified amount to be transferred to the fund house/distributor every month at a pre-determined date.

How can one start a SIP?

  • There are two ways of starting an SIP. One can use the direct way of investing though the fund house or go through a distributor.
  • For direct plans, an investor can go to the website of the fund house for the scheme in which the SIP has to be started.
  • All the fund houses have a link on their portals for investors who want to start an SIP.
  • Typically, only the PAN and/or Aadhaar is needed to open an account.
  • Thereafter, one can select the scheme, SIP amount, starting date and duration of SIP.
  • If one opts for a distributor, then the same process can be done online on the distributor’s portal.

Benefits of a SIP

  • Timing the market is the most difficult thing when it comes to equity investment. SIPs, in a way, address this issue.
  • SIPs capture every rise and fall of the market and hence, an investor need not worry about the level of the market.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

[op-ed snap] Deepening insecurity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASAT

Mains level : Relevance of arms race and disproportionate cost of it.

CONTEXT

Indian PM announced that India had carried out a successful anti-satellite missile test (ASAT), Mission Shakti. It might lead to a arms race in the subcontinent.

Reliance on  Deterrence to enhance security

  • After ‘Mission Shakti’ — India’s anti-satellite test — there is a feeling that India needs this form of deterrence for its security.
  • To be visibly strong in order to deter any enemy from attacking is a concern that goes back to pre-historic times.
  • But when this ancient urge is exerted by nations with nuclear weapons, it must be an occasion to revisit the arms race, the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine and their long-term implications.

The emergence of the doctrine of deterrence

  • The doctrine emerged during the Cold War in the mid-20th century when the U.S. and the erstwhile U.S.S.R. had stockpiled so many nuclear weapons that if launched, the weapons could destroy both nations many times over.
  • Since there was eventually a ‘détente’, or a relaxation of hostilities between the two, it is tempting to think that MAD is a valid doctrine that should continue to be applied by all countries with nuclear weapons capability.

HIgh spending on Arms

  • Globally, the annual spend on armaments is now estimated to stand at about $1.7 trillion.
  • Estimates of the total number of nuclear weapons in the world range from 15,000 to 20,000, with each one of these weapons being far more powerful than the bombs dropped by the U.S. on Japan in 1945.
  • The U.S. and Russia still maintain about 1,800 nuclear weapons in a state of high alert, ready for launch within minutes.
  • According to the Global Peace Index, in 2017, the economic impact of violence globally was estimated at about $14.76 trillion, which was 12.4% of global GDP.
  • Since 2012, there has been a 16% increase in the economic impact of violence largely due to the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Does deterrence work?

  • It is vital to note that having competing weapons, in terms of quality and quantity, has not acted as a deterrent either in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or in the Syrian war or the prolonged conflict in Colombia.
  • What did finally end the conflict in Colombia, after almost 50 years, was a protracted process of negotiation between all parties of the conflict.
  • The Global Peace Index also shows that over the last 70 years the per capita GDP growth has been three times higher in more peaceful countries.
  • This is partly why, compared to 10 years ago, 102 nations are spending less on the military as a percentage of their GDP.
  • According to the website of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons.

Mutually assured destruction’s impact

  • Theoretically, MAD is supposed to eliminate the incentive for starting a conflict but it also makes disarming almost impossible.
  • This is partly why, long after the Cold War ended, the U.S. is poised to spend enormous amounts of money over the next 10 years in updating and modernising its nuclear arsenal.
  • The tragic irony of this trend is that nuclear defence actually deepens insecurity in both countries by causing millions of lives to perpetually be at the risk of instantaneous annihilation.

Opposition to MAD Doctrine

  • All through the Cold War and even now, the MAD doctrine has been opposed on both moral and practical grounds by a variety of disarmament and peace groups.
  • The most prominent of these, War Resisters’ International (WRI), which will turn 100 in 2021, has 90 affiliated groups in 40 countries. Such groups ceaselessly serve as a counter to all those who glamorise or justify war or an arms race.
  • Above all, they constantly draw attention to the fact that the only true security lies in dissolving enmity by going to the roots of any conflict.

Conclusion

Once the joy about India’s technological achievements, in the realm of missiles, has settled down, perhaps attention can shift to the much bigger challenge of seeking answers to a key question: what really makes us, the world a whole, more secure?

Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap]Ensuring access to justice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basic knowledge of the issues in Judiciary

Mains level : The news-card analyses the issues relating to the single bench of Supreme Court and lawyers fooling people and how to correct this malpractice.

CONTEXT

The Supreme Court should reconsider setting up Benches in different States in keeping with the recommendations of the Law Commissions (125th Report and 229th Report).

Background

  • At an informal meeting, all of the then sitting judges of the Supreme Court advised the then Chief Justice of India to decide against the request of the then Central government to sit in other places in the country under Article 130 of the Constitution.
  • The reason judges decided against it was because we felt that the authority of the Supreme Court would get diluted.

Problem with this reasoning

  • Many High Courts in this country have different Benches for meting out justice without ‘justice’ being ‘diluted’.
  • For example, the Bombay High Court has four Benches — in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji (Goa) — and the quality of its decisions or status have certainly not been diluted thereby.

The logic behind the number of benches

  • The number of Benches depends on the size of the State,
  • the idea being to facilitate easier access to justice.

Consequences of single Bench

1.Quality Of Lawyers

  • First, the Supreme Court sitting only in Delhi has resulted in excellent lawyers from other High Courts not appearing before the Supreme Court, possibly because it casts too large a monetary burden on their clients, many of whom are impoverished.
  • Second, all lawyers, whatever their calibre or competence, who happen to be in Delhi now appear in the Supreme Court.
  • Some of the good lawyers who were able to leave lucrative practices in the High Courts have settled down in Delhi, but they have established a monopoly, and, as a result, charge unconscionable fees even from charitable concerns — sometimes even when they do not appear at the hearing.
  • This is also true of litigating lawyers at all levels of the judicial system.

2.Reducing to District Court Level

  • The third fallout of the failure to act under Article 130 is that the Supreme Court in Delhi has been flooded with work and been reduced to a District Court instead of a Court of Final Appeal and Constitutional Court as envisaged under the Constitution.

Lawyers fooling people

  • Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases do not charge any fees for their services and render services free of cost.
  • They generally obtain a blank cheque from the victim which is filled in after credit of the compensation to the bank account of the victim.
  • Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases thus take huge money as a percentage of compensation amount awarded towards victim compensation.
  • This is illegal, being a champertous agreement.
  • Incidentally, according to a study carried out by a research organisation, Vidhi, in the Delhi High Court, more than 70% of the delays in the disposal of cases are attributable to lawyers, a major reason being sometimes unjust pleas for adjournments.

Way Forward

  • To hound out the corrupt lawyers from the system at all levels so that justice may be truly rendered to the public.
  • First, the Supreme Court should reconsider setting up Benches in different States in keeping with the recommendations of the Law Commissions (125th Report and 229th Report).
  • Second, the Bar Council of India should exercise its powers under the Advocates Act, 1961 more effectively.
  • If not, the disciplinary jurisdiction must be returned to the judiciary as was the position prior to the Advocates Act, 1961 by repealing the 1961 Act.
  • Third, lawyers should be made irrelevant by referring more cases to trained mediators, as the Supreme Court has done in the Ayodhya dispute.

 

Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

Livestock Census

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Livestock Census

Mains level : Role of livestocks in India’s agricultural sector

  • India has the world’s second largest human population at 121 crore and it leads the world in livestock population at 125.5 crore.
  • The 20th round of the Livestock Census is to be held very soon.

Livestock Census in India

  • The importance of a livestock census was first recognised in 1919, 47 years after human counting was started in 1872.
  • It is held by Animal Husbandry Statistics Division under Min. of Agriculture and Farmers welfare.
  • It is conducted quinquennially (every five years).
  • The ongoing 20th round of the Livestock Census involves about 50,000 enumerators and 10,000 supervisors.

What data is being captured?

  • The current round is counting a larger number of species besides the regular cattle such as mithun, yak, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, dogs, rabbits, elephants and poultry birds.
  • It is counting stray and abandoned animals as well.
  • The data being captured includes the breed of each animal along with sex, age, productivity, use etc.
  • This exercise extends to other animals such as horses, pigs, mules, camels and poultry too.
  • Supplementary data on the owners of livestock are also being collected and compiled. These include information on occupation, income, landholding, education etc. to support holistic planning.

Why count livestock?

  • Livestock is not only an integral part of the agriculture economy supporting the rural livelihood but also a rudimentary element of our socio-cultural milieu.
  • Our cultural heritage endows great importance to owning and rearing livestock as an inseparable part of an inclusive universe.
  • Accurate, reliable data therefore become the sine qua non for planning and development of the sector — and counting sheep or any other animal becomes the foundation for a peaceful growth.

To be held digitally

  • To streamline the process and eliminate error, the ongoing 20th Livestock Census is harnessing the technological innovations of the digital age.
  • There is complete elimination of paper, which has been replaced with tablet computers.
  • The 50,000-odd enumerators are capturing the multiple parameters of the Census data on computer tablets and uploading it to the server after online validation by the supervisor, resulting in real-time compilation and updating.
  • The National Informatics Centre has developed the Android-based mobile application with various features of data entry module.
  • The software is not only enabling simultaneous monitoring of the operations but also developing various analytical reports that are useful for a dynamic planning process for an equally dynamic livestock sector.

Loopholes

  • The feeder livestock is counted by no permanent administrative institution, a process that lacks bare resources.
  • The Census becomes a burden and goes unnoticed as general awareness about it stays low, especially in urban areas.

Electoral Reforms In India

[pib] Community Radio Stations and SWEEP

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SVEEP, Community Radio Stations

Mains level : Ensuring Voters awareness

  • In a first of its kind initiative, the ECI has reached out to over 150 Community Radio stations from across the country to help educate and inform the voters.
  • The main purpose of the workshop was for training and capacity building of Community Radios for voter education and awareness.

Community Radio Stations

  • Community radio is a radio service offering a third model of radio broadcasting in addition to commercial and public broadcasting.
  • They serve geographic communities and communities of interest.
  • They broadcast content that is popular and relevant to a local, specific audience but is often overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters.
  • Community radio stations are operated, owned, and influenced by the communities they serve.

Why need community radios?

  • Community radio plays an important role in dissemination of information about government schemes and policies to the common people in local languages.
  • India is a land of diversity in terms of language, social practices, dialects and culture, a community radio can be a powerful tool to revive culture and languages that are dying.
  • It can help give voice to the voiceless in the backward community.

About Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP)

  • It is the flagship program of the Election Commission of India for voter education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India.
  • Since 2009, it has been working towards preparing India’s electors and equipping them with basic knowledge related to the electoral process.
  • SVEEP is designed according to the socio-economic, cultural and demographic profile of the state as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CCIT

Mains level : Countering militancy and cross-border terrorism in India

  • In the wake of growing threats and acts of terrorism across the world, India and Bolivia have called for an early finalization of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism

  1. CCIT is a proposed treaty which intends to criminalize all forms of international terrorism and deny terrorists, their financiers and supporters access to funds, arms, and safe havens.
  2. The CCIT was proposed by India in 1996.
  3. CCIT provides a legal framework which makes it binding on all signatories to deny funds and safe havens to terrorist groups.
  4. The original draft that was tabled in 1996 included following major objectives:
  • To have a universal definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will adopt into their own criminal law
  • To ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps
  • To prosecute all terrorists under special laws
  • To make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offence worldwide.

Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

International Solar Alliance

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Solar Alliance

Mains level: India’s renewable energy commitments and efforts in that direction


News

  • Bolivia has joined the framework agreement establishing International Solar Alliance (ISA).
  • India is reaching out to the `Lithium Triangle’ in South America- Argentina, Bolivia and Chile seeking the rare metal Lithium to realize its goal.

About International Solar Alliance

  • The ISA is an alliance of more than 121 countries, most of them being sunshine countries, which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  • The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • The alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization.
  • The alliance is also called International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (IASPA).
  • The ISA is to be headquartered in India.
  • The initiative was launched by PM Modi at the India Africa Summit and a meeting of member countries ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015.

[op-ed snap]The next revolution

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:IEA

Mains level: Suggestion to increase dependence on renewable energy to follow sustainable development.


News

CONTEXT

The current trajectory is fundamentally antithetical to the objective of sustainable development.And, because time is of the essence.

Background

  • Today, every projection of India’s energy future draws the same broad conclusion.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA), multinationals like Exxon-Mobil, BP or Shell, the erstwhile Planning Commission, or now the NITI Aayog Conclusion is that
    • The forecast is that energy demand will move on an upward curve.
    • Indigenous supplies will fail to keep pace with this increase in demand;
    • Energy imports will rise in absolute and relative terms.
    • The environment will face increasing stress.
    • Coal will dominate, oil and gas will have significance; renewables, whilst on a rising trend, will account for a relatively inconsequential share and air pollution, depleting water tables and extreme weather conditions will presage ecological collapse.

Data Regarding Usage

  • India will import 95 per cent of its oil requirements; 60 per cent of its gas requirements and 30 per cent of its coal requirements (despite the fact that it contains the fifth largest deposits of coal in the world).
  • India will meet its Paris commitments to reduce GHG emissions by 35 per cent in 2035 relative to 2005.
  • It will be one of the largest absolute emitters of pollutants in the world.

Reasons

1.Abundance of Coal

  • Coal is abundantly available — it is the cheapest of fuels and there are no competitive substitutes for liquids as a fuel for mobility.

2.High cost for renewables

  • The costs of transitioning to renewables — whether calculated in terms of the sunk costs of stranded thermal power assets or the creation of transmission and distribution infrastructure to overcome the problem of “intermittency” (the sun does not shine all the time; nor does the wind blow with regularity) are huge.

3.Technology and other constraints

  • There are technological (that is, storage or carbon sequestration) and regulatory (conservation norms, emissions standards) issues to overcome before clean energy can be brought to scale.

How to overcome dependence on energy imports

  • We have to ask the counterfactual and contemplate the counterintuitive — “What institutional, economic, technological, financial and collaborative steps must be taken to flip the ratio between fossils and renewables in the energy basket of emergent India?

Way forward

  • A few early steps must be taken by the new government to start this process.

1.Replacing the Current views on energy sectors

    • This lens provides a disaggregated picture and encourages a siloed approach to energy governance.
    • It does not facilitate a holistic overview of the linkages between the different components of energy (oil, gas, coal, renewables, nuclear, hydro, bio, non-commercial);
    • Nor between fuel usage, electricity, mobility, industry, and agriculture, on the one hand, and, ecology on the other.
    • A general equilibrium macro model is required that captures such linkages and enables decision-makers to consider the systemic implications of changes in one or more of these variables.

2.Creating appropriate Instituions

  • We have to create the appropriate institutional structures of decision-making.
  • The current structure of multiple “energy” ministries (petroleum, coal, renewables, power, atomic) should be collapsed into one omnibus Ministry of Energy and Environment.
  • This will enable integrated decision making; it will also provide a platform for collaborative public-private and constructively “disruptive” innovation.
  • Besides, it will also bring sustainability to the fore of policy.

3.Legislate Environment Act

  • The government should use its newly derived mandate to legislate an “Energy and Environment Security” Act.
  • The purpose should be to engage the public in the larger debate on how to weaken if not break the current unhealthy nexus between economic growth, energy demand and environmental degradation.
  • It should be to elevate the objective of wreaking an energy “discontinuity” into a national priority.

 

 

[op-ed snap] Kartarpur focus

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Challenges in talks to formulate the kartarpur corridor


NEWS

CONTEXT

India and Pakistan announced in November they would operationalise a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan’s Punjab.

Optimistic Background

  • It was hailed as a step forward in an otherwise fraught relationship.
  • Prime Minister appeared to share the optimism when he likened the initiative’s potential to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Challenges in the formulation of the corridor

  • There has been round upon round of wrangling between the two governments over every detail like
    •  The number of pilgrims to be accommodated,
    • The security restrictions.
    • The documentation and mode of transport to be used by pilgrims.

 

  • The base of the differences is the deep distrust between the two governments
    • A chasm that has deepened in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the Balakot strike.
    • Pakistan Prime Ministers administration feels it should be given more credit for having cleared the Kartarpur proposal
    • For its part, New Delhi refuses to acknowledge Pakistan’s overture, and has made it clear the corridor will have no connection with furthering bilateral talks on other issues.
  • Meanwhile, security agencies have voiced concerns about a possible attempt by Pakistan’s military establishment to use the corridor to fuel separatist Khalistani sentiment.

 

  • Khalsitan Concerns
    • The government’s decision now to postpone the next round of technical talks, which were scheduled for April 2, is driven mainly by those concerns.
    • In particular the inclusion of some known Khalistan activists in a gurdwara committee that would interact with pilgrims from India.
    • Last week, the Ministry of External Affairs summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner and sought clarifications on the “controversial elements” on the committee, and said the next meeting would only be held after it receives Pakistan’s response.

Balancing security and corridor

  • While none of the government’s concerns is unwarranted, it could not have been unprepared when it embarked on the corridor proposal.
  • Pakistan’s support to separatist Sikh groups goes back several decades.
  • India must work to secure its border from the threat even as it opens the gates for thousands of pilgrims to travel to Pakistan.
  • National security must get priority.
  • But for this, there must be an effort by all stakeholders in India — the Centre, the State government and the leadership of the BJP, the Akalis and the Congress — to resist scoring political points against one another.

Way Forward

  • Modalities and technical issues, such as on the numbers, eligibility and identity proof required for the trip to Kartarpur Sahib, should be ironed out by both governments.
  • Putting off meetings is hardly a constructive solution, given the proposed opening by November to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Banking Sector Reforms

[op-ed snap] Setting limits

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RBI functioning, reserves of RBI, Basel norms, BIS

Mains level: The tussle between RBI & the government and the need for its early resolution for sending correct signals in the economy.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The former governor of the RBI, Raghuram Rajan, has reignited the debate on the autonomy or independence of the country’s central bank by suggesting that it was perhaps an opportune time to set statutory limits to protect the term of the governor.

Background

  • The former RBI chief’s remarks appear to have been framed in the context of the exit late last year of Urjit Patel, well before the end of his term, after a spat with the government, as well as his own uneasy relationship during his three-year tenure.
  • He said that imposing checks on the government’s powers was important to secure operational independence and to put an end to constant interference by the sovereign, to achieve the broader objective of price and financial stability.

Need for autonomy

  • Some of his predecessors, too, have in the past pitched for a secure five-year term for the RBI Governor,
  • Arguing that a full service central bank — like the one India has — with a mandate not just for monetary policy but also oversight of the financial sector, besides currency management and payments and settlements, needs to be autonomous.

The conflict between the government and central bank regarding policy measures

  • The bank and government have differed often over how to achieve its goals
    1. Especially on interest rate management
    2. The approach to resolving the issue of bad loans.
  • It is not unusual to see such differences globally — like in the US.
  • Where President, Donald Trump, unhappy with the US Federal Reserve’s stance on interest rates, has issued threats to the world’s most powerful central bank chairman, Jerome Powell.

Reasons and nature of conflicts

  • These conflicts are naturally given
    1. The shorter political horizon of elected governments
    2. The need for central banks to take a non-political medium-term approach to achieve price or financial stability.
  • The 2008 financial crisis further
    1. Underlined the importance of macro-economic stability.t
    2. And that the policies for achieving it are inter-linked.s
    3. Signalling the importance of having a strong central bank free of political compulsions.

Ways to ensure autonomy

1. Making it accountable to parliament

  • One institutional response to ensure that and to shield the central bank from growing political assaults is to make it directly accountable to the Parliament without being dependent on funding,
  • like the way the US Fed derives its powers from the Congress.

2.Ensuring accountability

  • But that statutory protection to the RBI and its chief must be accompanied by an accountability mechanism.
  • Simply put, there is merit in central bank independence — not unbridled — as there are macro economic gains which would accrue besides boosting policy credibility.

Conclusion

  • Ultimately, as the first Indian governor of the RBI, CD Deshmukh, said seven decades ago, it is not the constitution of the institution that matters, but the spirit in which the partnership between the ministry of finance and the bank is worked.
  • The success of the partnership will, in the final analysis, depend on the manner in which the government asks to be served and provides opportunities accordingly.
  • It is the display of such a spirit by any government that will be critical to the future of India’s public institutions, including the RBI.

History- Important places, persons in news

Ramappa temple for world heritage site

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Arts and Culture| Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ramappa Temple, UNESCO

Mains level: India’s rich cultural treasure and ways to preserve it


News

Ramappa Temple to get the tag

  • Telangana may get its first UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it may be the Ramappa Temple at Palampet near Warangal than any of the Qutb Shahi era sites in Hyderabad.
  • The Qutb Shahi monuments of Hyderabad, Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar have been on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites from September 2010.
  • The Ramappa Temple’s application filed as ‘The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways’ has been fast-tracked from April 2014.
  • Earlier, the Ramappa Temple was part of a ‘serial nomination’ along with the Thousand Pillar Temple, Swayambhu Temple and Keerti Thoranas of Warangal Fort.

About the temple

  • The Ramappa Temple is a jewel of the Kakatiya era and it stands out.
  • An inscription in the temple dates it to the year 1213 AD and says it was built by a General Recherla Rudra, during the period of the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva.
  • The Siva temple is perhaps the only one in the country that is known by the name of the architect rather than the king who commissioned it or its presiding deity.
  • The stunning dance sculptures and friezes of the temple appear as if they have been machined into shape on black dolomite, rather than being chiseled.
  • The temple is built on a valley and it rests on bricks that are scientifically shown to float in water.

Agencies involved

  • The property is evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) then provides advice on conservation of the site, and training.
  • After all these steps, the World Heritage Committee evaluates the site and decides to inscribe it or send back the nomination.
  • It remains to be seen whether the Ramappa temple will win the prized inscription at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee meeting to be held in Azerbaijan this year.

Back2Basics

UNESCO

  1. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.
  2. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms etc.
  3. UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information.
  4. It designates projects and places of cultural and scientific significance, such as:
  • Global Geoparks Network
  • Biosphere reserves (Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB), since 1971)
  • City of Literature
  • Endangered languages and linguistic diversity projects
  • Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
  • Memory of the World International Register, since 1997
  • Water resources management (International Hydrological Programme (IHP), since 1965)
  • World Heritage sites
  • World Digital Library

UNESCO World Heritage Committee

  • The World Heritage Committee selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • It monitors the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 states parties that are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
  • India is NOT a member of this Committee.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Malham Caves

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Geographical features & their location

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Malham Cave

Mains level: Features of the cave


News

  • Israel unveils world’s longest salt cave.

Malham Caves

  • Malham is one of 150 caves in Mount Sodom, at the southern part of the Dead Sea, that are made of pure salt.
  • Mount Sedom sits near the Dead Sea, a shrinking salt lake (and lowest point on Earth) that extends into Jordan, Israel and the occupied West Bank.
  • A large part of the cave’s interior is covered by a fine dust that blows in from the desert.
  • Massive slabs of salt, some amber-colored from dust and minerals, stick out in dramatic formations.
  • A thin slab appearing to have been sliced out is nicknamed “The Guillotine,” while twin slabs that look like a pair of tablets in a different hall have earned the title of “The Ten Commandments.”
  • Israeli researchers say they have discovered the world’s longest salt cave near the desert site where, according to the Bible, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.

How old is it?

  • Radiocarbon dating suggests it’s about 7,000 years old, its many passages carved by the very occasional rain storms that pass through the region.
  • Even now, Malham continues to grow when water flows in and dissolves more of the salt.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dhole)

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Dhole and its habitat

Mains Level: Read the attached story 


News

  • A recent study has discovered a reduction in Dhole occupancy in Karnataka’s Western Ghats, from 62 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2015.

Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dhole)

  • The dhole is on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in India.
  • Globally, dholes have disappeared from approximately 82 percent of their former range.
  • The Western Ghats perhaps supports the largest dhole population in the world and is therefore a critical conservation landscape for the species.

Various threats

  • Massive infrastructural initiatives in the area, human intrusion in protected zones, change in land-use pattern, forest fragmentation and loss of forest cover are some of the reasons for the decline in dhole population.
  • The presence of semi-feral, free-ranging domestic dogs in unprotected forest areas might be another reason for the decline in dhole occupancy.
  • Free-ranging dogs affect dholes as they compete with dholes for similar resources like prey animals.
  • Moreover, these dogs often carry lethal and non-lethal disease pathogens that could result in the spread of diseases in the dhole population.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Ocean heat hits record high: UN

Note4Students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: State of Climate Report

Mains level: Oceanic warming


News

  • Ocean heat hit a record high in 2018, the United Nations has said.

State of the Climate Report

  • In its latest State of the Climate overview, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reaffirmed that the last four years had been the hottest on record.
  • 2018 saw new records for ocean heat content in the upper 700 metres.
  • The UN had data for heat content in the upper 700 metres of the ocean dating back to 1955.
  • About 93 percent of excess heat — trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels – accumulates in the world’s oceans.
  • It proves what we have been saying that climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it.

About World Meteorological Organization

  • The WMO is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 192 Member States and Territories.
  • It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), the roots of which were planted at the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress.
  • Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950, WMO became the specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology.
  • The Secretariat, headquartered in Geneva, is headed by the Secretary-General.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

IIT Madras converts petroleum waste toluene into useful product

Note4students

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Toluene

Mains level: Not much


News

What is Toluene?

  • Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber.
  • It is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with the smell associated with paint thinners.
  • Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings.

Converting Toluene into Benzene

  • Using platinum nanocatalyst, a team of researchers at the IIT-M has successfully converted petroleum waste-product toluene into benzoic acid.
  • Toluene when oxidised gets converted into benzoic acid.
  • Benzoic acid is used as a food preservative (E210) and medicine for fungal/bacterial infection.
  • Toluene is converted into benzoic acid through selective and controlled oxidation in the presence of a catalyst — binaphthyl-stabilised platinum nanoparticles (Pt-BNP).
  • Also, a green oxidant (70% aqueous tert-butyl hydroperoxide or TBHP) is used for converting toluene into benzoic acid.