Bills/Act/LawsDOMRExplainedGovt. SchemesHistorical Sites in NewsIOCRMains Onlyop-ed of the dayop-ed snapPIBPrelims OnlyPriority 1SC JudgementsSpecies in NewsStates in News
January 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

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

[op-ed of the day] The many problems of delayed data

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Delays in NCRB data release, Increasing crime reporting, role played by the media.

Context

Delay in releasing the crime data by NCRB reduces the utility of the data for the policymakers.

Formidable challenges faced by NCRB

  • The First-Casual approach of the States: The first is the lackadaisical approach of some of the States in providing data.
    • The NCRB merely assembles the figures it receives from the State police forces and does not tinker with them to reach a predetermined conclusion.
    • States’ irregularity: Data collection hits a roadblock when a few States either don’t bother to send the figures or send them much after the volume is published.
  • The second-Utility of the released data: The second problem is that questions are raised over the utility of the data.
    • There was a two-year delay in releasing the crime statistics for 2017.
    • Just two months after it was published, the ‘Crime in India’ (CII) 2018 report was released.
    • Reduced utility from a policy point of view: These numbers are only relevant to researchers, not policymakers as it does not carry us far in understanding what is happening on the ground.
    • A fossilised CII is meaningless.
  • The third- Third problem lies with the police and the public.
    • The Reluctance of the police to register the complaint: The police are notorious the world over for not registering complaints.
    • They do this so that they can present a false picture of a decline in crime.
    • The reluctance of the public: The public is also not very enthusiastic about reporting crimes to the police.
    • Catch-22 situation: Public is fearful of being harassed at the police station or do not believe that the police are capable of solving the crime. This is a Catch-22 situation.

Crimes difficult to bury

  • The positive role played by the media: However, the problem has declined slightly over the years due to public awareness and intense media scrutiny.
    • There are a few classes of offences which are becoming increasingly difficult to bury. This is attributable to the extraordinary interest evinced by the media in reporting crime.
  • The crimes which are difficult to bury: The following cases of crime are becoming difficult to bury.
    • Homicide: The first category of crimes that is difficult to bury is of homicides.
    • Matter of distress: India reports an average of 30,000 murders every year (29,017 were registered in 2018). Every murder is a matter of distress.
    • Nevertheless, the stabilisation of the figure at 30,000 is a mild assurance.
    • The corresponding figure for the period in the U.S. was around 16,200.
    • Need to study the US decline: Though the U.S. has about one-third of India’s population, the reported decline in murders in many major U.S cities is worth studying.
    • Crime against women: The common man in India does not lag behind others in reacting strongly to attacks on hapless women and men.
    • The growth of the visual media possibly explains this welcome feature in Indian society.
    • The hope of a decrease in crime: The nationwide outrage over the gang-rape in Delhi and the subsequent tightening of laws on sexual crimes generated the hope that attacks against women would decrease.

The issue of under-reporting

  • Under-reporting of crime in rural areas: In 2018, there were 33,356 rapes, a higher number than the previous year.
    • But these figures do not fully reflect realities on the ground.
    • There is still the unverifiable suspicion that while in urban areas sexual violence cases are reasonably well-reported, the story is different in rural India.
    • The role played by money and caste: Money power and caste oppression are believed to play a significant role in under-reporting.
    • What is more significant is that a substantial number of such crimes are committed by the ‘friends’ and families of victims.

Conclusion

  • To be fair to the NCRB, we must concede that the organisation has more than justified its existence. The CII is used extensively by researchers.
  • Need for educating the people on realities of crime and its reporting: There is scope for more dynamism on the NCRB’s part, especially in the area of educating the public on the realities of crime and its reporting.
  • Greater pressure on the States to stick to a schedule: The NCRB will also have to be conscious of the expectation that it should bring greater pressure on States to make them stick to schedules and look upon this responsibility as a sacred national duty.

 

WTO and India

 [op-ed snap] How to protect trade in a tug of war between nations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Cause of the emergence of trade disputes and how can emerging economies negotiate the deals

Context

Developing countries have argued for decades that the rules governing international trade are profoundly unfair. But similar complaints are now emanating from the developed countries that established most of those rules.

Why are developed countries complaining now?

  • Competition: A simple but inadequate explanation is “competition.”
    • Turning tide: In the 1960s and 1970s, industrialized countries focused on opening foreign markets for their goods and set the rules accordingly.
    • Since then, the tide has turned.
  • Left behind communities in developed countries
    • Cheap labour-an advantage: One reason why emerging-market producers are competitive is that they pay workers less.
    • Job creation in services by developed countries: To replace lost manufacturing jobs, developed economies have been creating jobs in services.
    • Not everyone has moved to the service sector job: Unfortunately, not everyone in developed countries has been able to move to good service jobs.
    • Efforts by the left-behind bring back the manufacturing job: The left-behind former manufacturing communities have a voice in the capital city now, and it wants to bring back manufacturing.
    • Yet this explanation, too, is incomplete. The ongoing US-China trade war is not about manufacturing, it is about services.
  • Services a reason behind US-China dispute: Much of the US dispute with China is not about manufacturing. It is about services.
  • Emerging market competition increasing in services: Although eight of the top ten service exporters are developed countries, emerging-market competition is increasing.
    • New services related rules: This increased competition from emerging markets is prompting a major push by advanced-economy firms to enact new service-related trade rules.
    • An opportunity to protect the developed country producers: The new rules will ensure continued open borders for services. But it will also be an opportunity to protect the advantages of dominant developed-country producers.

Trade disputes- The combined effects of the two factors

  • There are no easy trade deals anymore.
    • Two conflicting factors: In sum, two factors have increased the uneasiness over international trade and investment arrangements.
    • First-Left behind community: Ordinary people in left-behind communities in developed countries are no longer willing to accept existing arrangements.
    • They want to be heard, and they want their interests protected
    • Second-emerging economy demanding access to service sector: At the same time, emerging-economy elites want a share of the global market for services and are no longer willing to cede ground there. So, there is no easy trade deal anymore.
  • Trade disputes-exercise in power politics
    • High tariffs and ram tactics: Threats of sky-high tariffs to close off markets, for example, and battering-ram tactics to force “fairer” rules on the weaker party.
    • The important difference from the past: One important difference is that the public in emerging markets is more democratically engaged than in the past.
    • Short timed victory: Any success that rich countries have in setting onerous rules for others today could prove pyrrhic.
    • No consensus on the rules: For one thing, it is unclear that there is a consensus on those rules even within developed countries. For example- rules to regulate social media.

Way forward

How should developed countries respond to domestic pressures to make trade fairer?

  • Demand lower tariffs from developed countries: For starters, it is reasonable to demand that developing countries lower tariffs steadily to an internationally acceptable norm.
  • Challenge the discriminatory barriers: Discriminatory non-tariff barriers or subsidies that favour their producers excessively should be challenged at the World Trade Organization.
  • Go for less intrusive treaties: To go much beyond these measures—to attempt to impose one’s preferences on unions, regulation of online platforms, and duration of patents on other countries—will further undermine the consensus for trade.
    • Less intrusive trade agreements today may do more for the trade tomorrow

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

[op-ed snap] Examining the slowdown

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Reasons for the slowdown in the Indian economy, declining household saving, consumption driven growth.

Context

Setting aside the gloomy projections based on short-term economic trends, the long-term and comparative evidence reveal interesting trends about the health of the Indian economy.

Performance of the Indian economy after 1991

  • Higher growth plateau reached after 1991: After the 1991 economic reforms, the Indian economy reached a higher growth plateau of 7% compared to a prior rate of 3. 85%.
    • The high growth rate during 2003-2011: India witnessed a high growth momentum during 2003-04 and 2010-11 with a period average of 8.45% (GDP with base 2004-05) or 7% (base 2011-12).
    • Ups and downs after 2012: The momentum lost steam in 2011-12 and 2012-13, gradually picked up again gradually to reach the 8% mark in 2015-16, and then started falling consistently to reach 6.63% in 2018-19.
    • Structural dimension? This trend suggests that India’s current growth challenge has a structural dimension as it began in 2011-12.
  • Comparison with China and the world
    • Average at 7.07% after 2011-12: Despite these fluctuations from 2011-12, on average, India clocked a growth rate of  7.07% from 2011 to 2019, a decent figure compared to China’s and the world’s economic growth rates.
    • Whereas like India, the growth of the world economy was fluctuating since 2011, China’s growth declined consistently from 10.64% in 2010 to 6.60% in 2018.

Why couldn’t India’s growth momentum be sustained after 2010-11?

  • Analysis of five variables: To answer the above question, an in-depth analysis of trends in five key macroeconomic variables was done for two different periods: 2003-04 to 2010-11 and 2011-12 to 2018-19.
    • Consumption.
    • Investment.
    • Savings.
    • Exports.
    • Net foreign direct investment (NFDI) inflows.
  • What emerged from the analysis: The results reveal that compared to 2003-2011, investment and savings rates and exports-GDP ratio declined in the 2011-2019 period.
    • How much the investment declined? The investment rate declined from 34.31% of GDP in 2011-12 to 29.30% in 2018-19.
    • Household vs. corporate sector decline: The investment decline was caused mainly by the household sector and to some extent by the public sector, but not the corporate sector.
    • The decline in investment compensated by NFDI: The slump in the domestic investment rate in the 2011-2019 period was compensated by increased NFDI inflows.
    • On average, NFDI inflow was 1.31% of GDP during 2011-2019 compared to 0.89% during 2003-2011.

Why tax-cut not help the economy

  • The justified policy of reviving the housing sector: The decline in household sector investment justifies the package of measures introduced by the Central government to revive the housing sector.
  • Why corporate tax cut won’t help much? The questionable policy, however, is the steep cut in the corporate income tax rate from 30% to 22%, aimed at boosting private investment.
    • Given that the corporate investment rate has not eroded severely during 2011-2019, the tax cut would help economic revival.
    • Lost opportunity to spur rural consumption: A part of the largesse offered to Corporate India could have been used to spur rural consumption.

What the decline in saving rate mean?

  • Importance of savings: The savings rate declined almost consistently from 27% of GDP to 30.51% between 2011 and 2018.
    • This was also caused by a significant fall in the savings of the household sector in financial assets. Corporate savings did not fall.
    • Why the fall in household financial savings needs to be increased? The fall in household financial savings is alarming and needs to be arrested.
    • Savings are required to meet the requirements of those who want to borrow for their investment needs.
    • Saving-investment relation: Lower household savings imply lesser funds available in the domestic market for investment spending.
  • Economic growth powered by consumption: The decline in household savings has pushed up private final consumption expenditure consistently
    • Private final consumption rose from 56.21% of GDP in 2011-12 to 59.39% in 2018-19.
    • Consumption driven economic growth in 2011-19: The increase in private consumption suggests that economic growth during 2011-2019 was powered by consumption, not investment.
    • Investment driven growth during 2003-2011: In contrast, during 2003-2011, growth was powered by investments.
  • So, declining saving rate means a slowdown in the economy may not be due to structural issues.
    • Re-examination of popular view: Thus, the popular view that economic slowdown was caused due to a slowdown in consumption demand needs to be re-examined.
    • There is no concrete evidence to suggest that the economy is facing a structural consumption slowdown.

Export-GDP ratio decline and what it means

  • Export-GDP decline from 24.54% to 19.74%: India’s exports-GDP ratio declined from 24.54% to 19.74% during 2011-2019.
  • A trend similar to the rest of the world: The decline started from 2014-15, coinciding with a similar trend in the world export-GDP ratio.
    • However, the drop in India’s exports was significantly larger than the world, a cause for concern.
    • The exports- and NFDI-GDP ratio has deteriorated sharply and consistently in China after 2006.
  • Indian economy doing better than China: Sharp decline in China’s export-GDP and NFDI-GDP, together with the consistent fall in China’s GDP growth after 2010, proves that the Indian economy is doing better than China.

Conclusion

The popular view that the slowdown in the Indian economy is due to the structural problems needs a re-examination in the view of the decline in investment in tandem with the world.

 

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

Explained: Fiscal Marksmanship

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fiscal Marksmanship

Mains level : Signs of economic slowdown in the country

Over the past few years, many have questioned the government’s fiscal marksmanship.

What is fiscal marksmanship?

  • Fiscal marksmanship essentially refers to the accuracy of the government’s forecast of fiscal parameters such as revenues, expenditures and deficits etc.
  • In other words, if the difference between what the government projected as the likely tax revenues in the Budget and the actual figures a year later is large then it reflects poor fiscal marksmanship.
  • In the Indian context, this term gained popularity after Raghuram Rajan, then India’s Chief Economic Advisor stressed on fiscal marksmanship in the Economic Survey for the year 2012-13.
  • He had defined fiscal marksmanship as “the difference between actual outcomes and budgetary estimates as a proportion of GDP”.

Why does fiscal marksmanship matter?

  • The salience of Budget numbers lies in their credibility.
  • The central purpose of publicly disclosing the Budget or the annual financial statement in a democracy and seeking approval from the legislature is to make the policymaking and governance transparent and participatory.
  • Everyone knows that Budget numbers are forecasts and estimates, and as such, unlikely to tally exactly with the actual numbers a year later.
  • But there is an underlying belief among people that when the government states, say, that its revenues will grow by 12% or that its fiscal deficit will remain within the FRBM Act’s mandate as it is based on genuine calculations.
  • However, if these fiscal forecasts turn out to be way off the mark repeatedly, it will undermine the credibility of the Budget numbers and indeed the Budget presentation itself.

Why is India’s fiscal marksmanship being questioned?

Typically, the fiscal marksmanship tends to get dented every time the economy faces a bump during the financial year.

  • For instance, as a result of the extent of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, budget forecasts in the ensuing years did take a hit.
  • The latest trigger has been the wide discrepancy between what the last couple of budgets — first the interim budget for 2019-20 (presented in February 2019) and then the full budget for 2019-20 (presented in July 2019).
  • It expected the nominal GDP growth to be in 2019-20 and what the First Advance Estimates (FAE), released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in January 2020.
  • For instance, the July 2019 Budget expected nominal GDP to grow by 12% in 2019-20 but the FAE expect the nominal GDP to grow by just 7.5% (which by the way is a 42-year low).
  • Since all budget calculations are based on the nominal GDP, it is expected that this wide variance in nominal GDP will reflect across the board in the coming Budget.

Impact on revenue

  • The government’s revenues are unlikely to grow anywhere close to the last Budget’s expectation.
  • Indeed, the revenue shortfall is expected to be anywhere between Rs 2 lakh crore to Rs 5 lakh crore.
  • As a result, either the fiscal deficit will overshoot from the budgeted number or the expenditure numbers will be much lower than promised.

Why has fiscal marksmanship worsened?

  • As mentioned earlier, when an economy’s growth slows down (or picks up) sharply within a year, it is possible that the fiscal forecasts for that year go down (or up) substantially.
  • However, such changes do not happen too often.
  • In the recent past, however, there is one structural change that appears to be contributing to poor fiscal forecasts by the government.
  • This structural change was the government’s decision in January 2017 to advance the presentation of the Union Budget by a whole month.
  • Accordingly, the Union Budget for 2017-18 was presented on February 1 instead of the last working day of February (28th or 29th), as was the norm till then.
  • It meant that the First Advance Estimates, which used to come by January end (after taking into account the economic activity of the first three quarters of the financial year), had to be brought out by the start of January.
  • This, in turn, essentially meant that the estimate of the key nominal GDP data for the current year — on the base of which next year’s nominal GDP and other estimates were to be made — had to be made using the first two quarters of the current fiscal year.

Why didn’t the government course-correct and project slower economic growth in July 2019 when it presented the full Budget for 2019-20?

  • It is unclear why this was not done. But could be two or three possible reasons.
  • One, the FM may have favoured continuity over the Interim Budget estimates instead of providing a starkly different set of estimates.
  • Two, and a related reason, could be that the government did not have enough time to make the adjustment because it may have required redoing the whole Budget afresh.
  • Or third, because perhaps the government did not recognise the severity of the economic slowdown that has been underway.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Reintroduction of African Cheetahs in Indian forests

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asiatic and African Cheetah

Mains level : Translocation of Species and its impacts

 

The Supreme Court lifted its seven-year stay on a proposal to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat on an experimental basis. The plan was to revive the Indian cheetah population.

Asiatic cheetahs in India

  • In 1947, Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh of Deoghar of Koriya, Chhattisgarh — who was infamous for shooting over 1,150 tigers — reportedly killed the last known Asiatic cheetah in India.
  • In that year, a few miles from Ramgarh village in the state, the Maharaja killed three of the animals — brothers — during a night drive.
  • After that, the Maharaja’s kin continued to report the presence of a few stragglers in the forests of Surguja district, including a pregnant female, up until the late 1960s.
  • Some more unconfirmed sightings were reported in 1951 and 1952, from the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border and Chittoor district.
  • The latter sighting is generally accepted to be the final credible sighting of a cheetah in India. In 1952, the cheetah was officially declared extinct from India.

African cheetah and Asiatic cheetah

  • Before Namibia, India had approached Iran for Asiatic cheetahs, but had been refused.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.
  • From 400 in the 1990s, their numbers are estimated to have plummetted to 50-70 today, because of poaching, hunting of their main prey (gazelles) and encroachment on their habitat.
  • ‘Critically endangered’ means that the species faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Why does NTCA want to reintroduce cheetahs?

  • A section of conservationists has long advocated the reintroduction of the species in the country.
  • Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognised as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.
  • The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times.
  • India now has the economic ability to consider restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.

Why was the project halted?

  • The court was also worried whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favourable clime as far as abundance of prey is concerned.
  • Those who challenged the plan argued that the habitat of cheetahs needed to support a genetically viable population.

What did court say?

  • The Supreme Court made it clear that a proper survey should be done to identify the best possible habitat for the cheetahs.
  • Every effort should be taken to ensure that they adapt to the Indian conditions.
  • The committee would help, advice and monitor the NTCA on these issues. The action of the introduction of the animal would be left to the NTCA’s discretion.

Wetland Conservation

10 more wetlands from India get the Ramsar site tag

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ramsar sites in India

Mains level : Ramsar Convention

Ramsar has declared 10 more wetland sites from India as sites of international importance.

News Ramsar Wetlands

With this, the numbers of Ramsar sites in India are now 37 and the surface area covered by these sites is now 1,067,939 hectares.

  1. Maharashtra gets its first Ramsar site (Nandur Madhameshwar) ,
  2. Punjab which already had 3 Ramsar sites adds 3 more (Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve, Nangal) and
  3. UP with 1 Ramsar site has added 6 more (Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar).

Why conserve wetlands?

  • Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
  • They are, in fact, are a major source of water and our main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.

Back2Basics

Ramsar Convention

  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (better known as the Ramsar Convention) is an international agreement promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
  • It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem.
  • The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
  • Traditionally viewed as a wasteland or breeding ground of disease, wetlands actually provide freshwater and food, and serve as nature’s shock absorber.
  • Wetlands, critical for biodiversity, are disappearing rapidly, with recent estimates showing that 64% or more of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900.
  • Major changes in land use for agriculture and grazing, water diversion for dams and canals and infrastructure development are considered to be some of the main causes of loss and degradation of wetlands.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

 India’s imports of palm oil — dynamics of the trade with Malaysia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Types of palm oil, its uses

Mains level : Impact of import restrictions of palm oil

 

India has cut import duty on crude palm oil (CPO) and refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) palm oil, and also moved RBD oil from the “free” to the “restricted” list of imports.

A move against outspoken Malaysia

  • Curbing palm oil imports has been construed as retaliation against Malaysia’s PM Mahathir Mohamad, who has criticised India’s internal policy decisions such as the revocation of the special status for J&K and CAA.
  • Malaysia has also been sheltering since 2017 the Islamic preacher Zakir Naik who is wanted by India on charges of money laundering, hate speech, and links to terror.

Has India banned import of Malaysian palm oil because of political reasons?

  • Not really. The import of RBD palm oil has been restricted, not banned — and this is from all countries, not just Malaysia. Also, CPO can still be imported freely.
  • Under the trade classification system that India follows, except for goods that can be imported only by state trading enterprises all goods whose import is not restricted or prohibited are traded freely.
  • Normally, a special licence is required to import a restricted good. The government has neither specified what the restrictions entail nor issued any licences.
  • However, it has been reported that vessels carrying RBD palm oil are stuck at several ports because buyers have been asked to shun the product.

How much palm oil does India import?

  • India imported 64.15 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of CPO and 23.9 lakh MT of RBD in 2018-19, the bulk of which was from Indonesia.
  • India imported $10 billion worth of vegetable oil in 2019-20, making it the country’s fifth most valuable import after mineral oil ($141 bn), gold ($32 bn), coal ($26 bn), and telecom instruments such as cell phones ($17 bn).

Why does India need so much palm oil?

  • It is the cheapest edible oil available naturally.
  • Its inert taste makes it suitable for use in foods ranging from baked goods to fried snacks.
  • It stays relatively stable at high temperatures, and is therefore suitable for reuse and deep frying. It is the main ingredient in vanaspati (hydrogenated vegetable oil).
  • However, palm oil is not used in Indian homes.
  • That, and the fact that CPO continues to be imported, makes it unlikely that the decision to restrict refined palm oil imports will impact food inflation immediately.

Who will be impacted by the decision?

  • Indonesia and Malaysia together produce 85% of the world’s palm oil, and India is among the biggest buyers.
  • Both Indonesia and Malaysia produce refined palm oil; however, Malaysia’s refining capacity equals its production capacity — this is why Malaysia is keen on exporting refined oil.
  • Indonesia, on the other hand, can supply CPO, which would allow India to utilise its full refining capacity.

Why import Crude Palm Oil?

  • The CPO that India imports contains fatty acids, gums and wax-like substances. Refining neutralises the acids and filters out the other substances.
  • The filtrate is bleached so that the oil does not change colour after repeated use. Substances that may cause the oil to smell are removed physically or chemically.
  • This entire process increases the value of a barrel of crude oil by about 4%.
  • Additionally, there are costs to transporting the crude, which makes it more cost-effective to import the refined oil.
  • But the refining industry has been demanding that the import duty on refined oil be increased, which would make importing crude oil cheaper than importing refined oil.
  • The decision to restrict imports of refined oil will benefit refiners, which include big-ticket names like the Adani Wilmar group.

Will restricting imports of RBD palm oil help farmers?

  • Restricting refined oil imports will not help farmers directly, as they are not involved in the process of refining.
  • However, the restrictions have caused refined palm oil prices to increase. If prices continue to hold, farmers will get a better realization for their crop.
  • But the timeframe over which the changes in import policy will have an effect on domestic crop realization is fairly long, given that palm trees take over four years to provide a yield.
  • Also, if the demand is met entirely by importing and refining CPO, farmers will be left out of the picture.

How will Malaysia be affected?

  • Malaysia has said that it cannot retaliate against India because it is “too small”.
  • With imports to its largest market restricted (India bought over 23% of all CPO produced by Malaysia in 2019), Malaysian palm oil futures fell by almost 10% in January, although it has recovered since then.
  • India and Malaysia signed a free trade agreement — Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement — in February 2011.
  • In 2018, Malaysia exported 25.8% of its palm oil to India.
  • If India does not issue licenses for importing refined oil, Malaysia will have to find new buyers for its product.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Spitzer Space Telescope

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Spitzer Telescope

Mains level : Significant feats of the mission

 

NASA’s Spitzer Mission, which studied the universe in infrared light for more than 16 years, will come to an end since it is low on fuel and has been drifting away from Earth for a few years now.

Spitzer Space Telescope

  • The Spitzer Space Telescope is a space-borne observatory, one of the elements of NASA’s Great Observatories that include the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray.
  • Using different infrared wavelengths, Spitzer was able to see and reveal features of the universe including objects that were too cold to emit visible light.
  • Apart from enabling researchers to see distant cold objects, Spitzer could also see through large amounts of gas using infrared wavelengths to find objects that may otherwise have been invisible to human beings.
  • These included exoplanets, brown dwarfs and cold matter found in the space between stars.
  • Spitzer was originally built to last for a minimum of 2.5 years, but it lasted in the “cold” phase for over 5.5 years. On May 15, 2009 the coolant was finally depleted and the “warm mission” began.

Major discoveries

  • Spitzer also studied some of the most distant galaxies ever detected.
  • The light from these galaxies reached us after traveling for billions of years, enabling scientists “to see those objects as they were long, long ago”.
  • Hubble and Spitzer in 2016 identified and studied the most distant galaxy ever observed.
  • Using these two telescopes, scientists were able to see a bright infant galaxy as it was over 13.4 billion years ago, roughly 400 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was less than 5% of its current age.
  • It assisted in the discovery of planets beyond our solar system, including the detection of seven Earth-size exo-planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1.
  • Three of its seven planets were located in the “habitable zone,” where the temperature might be right for liquid water to exist on the planets’ surfaces.

Other landmarks

  • Spitzer has logged over 106,000 hours of observation time.
  • Thousands of scientists around the world have utilized Spitzer data in their studies, and Spitzer data is cited in more than 8,000 published papers.
  • Spitzer’s primary mission ended up lasting 5.5 years, during which time the spacecraft operated in a “cold phase,” with a supply of liquid helium cooling three onboard instruments to just above absolute zero.
  • The cooling system reduced excess heat from the instruments themselves that could contaminate their observations.
  • This gave Spitzer very high sensitivity for “cold” objects.
  • In July 2009, after Spitzer’s helium supply ran out, the spacecraft entered a so-called “warm phase.”
  • Spitzer’s main instrument, called the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), has four cameras, two of which continue to operate in the warm phase with the same sensitivity they maintained during the cold phase.

Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

[pib] Bhuvan Panchayat V 3.0

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bhuvan Panchayat V 3.0, SISDP Project

Mains level : Utility of geospatial data in governance

The Bhuvan Panchayat V 3.0 web portal was recently launched.

Bhuvan Panchayat Version 3.0

  • For better planning and monitoring of government projects, the ISRO has launched the Bhuvan Panchayat web portal’s version 3.0.
  • For the first time, a thematic data base on a 1:1000 scale for the entire country is available with integrated high resolution satellite data for planning.
  • In the project that will last for at least two years, ISRO will collaborate with the gram panchayat members and stakeholders to understand their data requirements.
  • The third version of the portal will provide database visualisation and services for the benefit of panchayat members, among others.
  • The project is meant to provide geo-spatial services to aid gram panchayat development planning process of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
  • The targeted audiences for this portal are Public, PRIs and different stakeholders belonging to the gram panchayats.

About SISDP Project

  • Space based Information Support for Decentralised Planning at Panchyayat level (SIS-DP) is a national initiative of preparing basic spatial layers useful in planning process for local self governance.
  • ISRO launched SISDP project to assist Gram Panchayats at grassroot level with basic planning inputs derived from satellite data for preparing developmental plans, its implementation and monitoring the activities.
  • The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) is the lead centre to execute the project in collaboration with various State Remote Sensing Centres.
  • SISDP phase I Project was successfully concluded in the year 2016-17.
  • Under Phase II, this project shall be implemented shortly with a enhanced scope of updating geodatabase with latest high resolution remote sensing data and spatial data analytics.
  • For the first time, thematic database on 1:10,000 scale for the entire country is available with high integrated High Resolution satellite data for planning.

Indian Navy Updates

[pib] Operation Vanilla

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HADR, Op Vanila

Mains level : NA

Indian navy will perform HADR operations in Madagascar under ‘Operation Vanilla’.

Operation Vanilla

  • Indian Navy Ship Airavat whilst mission deployed in the Southern Indian Ocean has been diverted to Antsiranana based on request recieved from Madagascar.
  • The ship will undertake Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) mission as part of ‘Operation Vanilla’.
  • It has been launched to provide assistance to the affected population of Madagascar post devastation caused by Cyclone Diane.