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Issues related to Economic growth

Triggering a Global Financial Crisisop-ed of the day

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Suggestions to avoid next global financial crisis.


Context

Although we could not have predicted it, Covid-19 was not the reason, but just the trigger for the ongoing financial crash as all we needed was the proverbial straw to break the finance sector’s back

Economic sudden stop

  • Not just any trigger: Covid-19 was not just any trigger as it gave birth to the concept of the economic “sudden stop.” When the global equity markets dropped on 31 January 2020 following the WHO declaration of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern, El-Erian (2020) warned the investors on 2 February 2020 that they should snap out of the “buy the dip” mentality.
    • Pointing out two vulnerabilities, namely structurally weak global growth and less effective central banks, he introduced the concept of “sudden stop” economic dynamics.
  • What is sudden stop? It can be considered as an abrupt onset of a deep recession.
    • Supply and demand shock: In the case of Covid-19, it is a sudden stop of economic activity resulting in supply and demand shocks to the global economy as major cities in infected countries, more than 100 and counting, are put on lockdown.
    • And, add to that the deepening oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
  • On 8 March 2020 in New York, the futures markets opened and oil futures (both Brent and WTI) are trading about 21% down, gold is above $1,700 per ounce, and all United States (US) equity index futures are trading about 4% down.
  • Long terms treasury yield at historical lows: What is worse is that with the long-term US Treasury yields at their historical lows (10-year yield below 0.5% and 30-year yield below 1%), the capital markets are frozen (not to mention many oil projects that will go bust at these prices).

Disorderly non-financial private sector debt leading to dire consequences

  • A disorderly global non-financial private sector debt deleveraging, which is likely to lead to deep global debt deflation, followed by a recession (and possibly a depression).
    • Which could result in creating financial and economic instabilities, and further tensions in international relations with dire consequences for emerging and developing countries, not to mention developed countries.
  • Difference in developed and developing countries debts: While in developed and high-income developing countries, the non-financial private sector is more over-indebted, in middle-income and low-income developing countries, the public sector is more over-indebted.
  • Impact on developed economies: Given that the global non-financial private sector debt deleveraging has already started, the public sector debts of the developed and high-income developing countries will also go up and the governments’ ability to rescue their economies will also decline in these countries.
  • Impact on funding for climate change: Furthermore, this will severely constrain the governments’ ability to spend on climate change-related projects to address the potentially catastrophic effects for many years to come, diminishing our hopes to make the necessary investments and innovations to address the now existential climate crisis on time will diminish.
  • The corona factor: The measures we have to take to control the spread of Covid-19 before a cure is found will further challenge the financial system, as people stop earning an income and businesses go bankrupt.

Way forward

  • Three authorities solution: In the suggested framework, there would be three authorities to maintain a deposit account at the central bank in each country
    • 1. A deleveraging authority for leverage reduction.
    • 2. Lastenausgleich (based on German Currency Reforms) authority for capital levies.
    • 3. Climate authority for financing needs in developing national climate plans.
    • These national authorities should be globally coordinated through the appropriate United Nations agencies.
  • Control the three authorities: The Lastenausgleich authority would be under the finance ministry, whereas the deleveraging and climate authorities would be not-for-profit corporations promoted by the government.
  • Capitalisation issue: The government would capitalise the deleveraging and climate authorities by the Treasury-issued zero-coupon perpetual bonds.
  • The deleveraging authority would then sell its equalisation claims to the central bank in exchange for an increased balance in its deposit account at the bank, while the climate authority would wait until the deleveraging concludes.
    • Further, the climate authority would not be allowed to open deposit accounts to its borrowers to ensure that it would be a pure financial intermediary, not a bank.
  • Framework: Assuming that a globally agreed-upon debt reduction percentage that would bring the global non-financial sector leverage well under 100% is determined and that all countries agree to act simultaneously, the framework is as follows
    • (i) the financial institutions comprising the banks and non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) write down all the loans and debt securities on both sides of their balance sheets by the required percentage;
    • (ii) the deleveraging authority compensates the banks and NBFIs for the loss if any; and
    • (iii) the deleveraging authority pays each qualified resident their allocated amount less than the debt relief if any.
    • If an NBFI gain after the above debt reduction, it should owe equalisation liabilities to the deleveraging authority of its jurisdiction.
    • Note that as all debts mean all debts, public sector debts will also be written down by the same percentage except the official debts of the sovereigns that fall out of the scope of our proposed framework and should be handled by other means.
  • After deleveraging: After deleveraging the balance of the deleveraging authority account at the central bank goes down whereas the total balance of the bank accounts (reserves) at the central bank goes up by the total payment made by the deleveraging authority.
    • Hence, the base money goes up by the total payment of the deleveraging authority.
    • Since NBFIs and residents cannot maintain deposit accounts at the central bank, they have to be paid through a bank which creates deposits for the NBFIs and residents against reserves.
    • Hence, the broad money goes up by the amount of the payment to the NBFIs and residents.
  • Issue of multi-currency balance sheet: One issue is that in many countries, the bank and NBFI balance sheets are multi-currency balance sheets.
    • However, the deleveraging authority payments are in domestic currency, which may create currency risk for some banks and NBFIs.
    • Backed by the central banks, the globally coordinated national deleveraging authorities should stand ready to intervene to avoid potential crises.
  • Condition to spend on climate bonds: The authorities would require their domestic banks and other financial institutions to spend an internationally agreed-upon percentage of their newly found money, if any, after the deleveraging on the interest-bearing, finite-maturity bonds the national climate authorities would issue.
    • Since the promoter of the climate authority is the government, the bonds of the climate authority would have the same credit with the government bonds, and the central bank would accept the climate authority bonds in its open market operations.
  • Climate authority bonds as reserves: Therefore, the climate authority bonds would be the main tool to manage the reserves and deposits created through the equalisation claims.
    • In addition, the climate authority bonds could be used for the greening of the financial system through the investment of foreign exchange reserves of the central banks proposed by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS 2019).
  • Progressive wealth tax collection: Lastly, equipped with a “globally coordinated wealth registry” (Stiglitz et al 2019), the Lastenausgleich authorities would collect progressive wealth taxes from the owners of real and non-debt financial assets for the equalisation of burdens.
    • While a part of these taxes could be used to retire some of the equalisation claims and the corresponding reserves and deposits created in the deleveraging process, another part could be transferred to the climate authorities, and the rest could be spent in the interests of the society.
Judicial Reforms

The Hidayatullah exampleop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Requirement of cooling off period for accepting the government office post-retirement by the judges to ensure the independence of judiciary.


Context

It has been recently announced that the President has nominated former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, to the Rajya Sabha. However, the time has come for us to ask a difficult question: Should judges stop accepting post-retirement jobs offered by the government, at least for a few years after retiring, because accepting such posts could undermine the independence of the judiciary?

The issue of post-retirement employment of the judges

  • Retirement age of judges: Unlike federal judges in the US, judges in India do not hold office for life. They remain in office until they reach the retirement age — 65 for Supreme Court judges and 62 for high court judges.
  • Protection against arbitrary removal: These judges do not hold their offices at the “pleasure” of the President. In other words, they cannot be arbitrarily removed by the government once they are appointed, and can only be impeached by a supermajority of both houses of Parliament “on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.
  • Difficult impeachment process: The impeachment process is a very difficult one and never in the history of independent India has a judge been impeached, though attempts have sometimes been made to do so. Judges, therefore, enjoy security of tenure while holding office, which is essential for maintaining judicial independence.
  • How retirement of judges could undermine judicial independence? The retirement of judges threatens to undermine judicial independence.
    • This is because some judges — not all — are offered post-retirement employment by the government. It is often feared that a judge who is nearing retirement could decide cases in a manner that pleases the government in order to get a favourable post-retirement position.

Not an unprecedented move

  • Former CJI Gogoi is certainly not the first retired judge to be appointed to political office.
  • In 1952, Justice Fazl Ali was appointed the Governor of Orissa, shortly after retiring from the Supreme Court.
  • In 1958, Chief Justice M C Chagla resigned from the Bombay High Court in order to become India’s Ambassador to the US at Prime Minister Nehru’s invitation.
  • In April 1967, Chief Justice Subba Rao resigned from the Supreme Court to contest elections for President.
  • In 1983, Justice Baharul Islam resigned from the Supreme Court to contest as a Congress (I) candidate for a Lok Sabha seat, after ruling in favour of Bihar’s Congress (I) chief minister, Jagannath Mishra, in a controversial case where Mishra had been accused of criminal wrongdoing and misuse of office.
  • In more recent times, Chief Justice P Sathasivam was appointed the Governor of Kerala. There are many other such examples.

Why restrictions about employment were not included in the Constitution?

  • The Constitution provides that a retired Supreme Court judge cannot “plead or act in any court or before any authority within the territory of India”.
  • Constituent assembly debate: In the Constituent Assembly, K T Shah, an economist and advocate, suggested that high court and Supreme Court judges should not take up an executive office with the government, “so that no temptation should be available to a judge for greater emoluments, or greater prestige which would in any way affect his independence as a judge”.
    • However, this suggestion was rejected by B R Ambedkar because he felt that the “judiciary decides cases in which the government has, if at all, the remotest interest, in fact, no interest at all”.
  • Government is the largest litigant in the courts: In Ambedkar’s time, the judiciary was engaged in deciding private disputes and rarely did cases arise between citizens and the government. “Consequently”, said Ambedkar, “the chances of influencing the conduct of a member of the judiciary by the government are very remote”.
    • This reasoning no longer holds today because the government is one of the largest litigants in the courts.

Question of independence of the judiciary

  • The question of constitutional propriety: In the words of India’s first Attorney General, M C Setalvad, all this raises “a question of constitutional propriety” relating to the independence of the judiciary.
  • After all, could the government not use such tactics to reward judges who decide cases in its favour?
  • Public perception of compromised judiciary: Further, if a judge decides highly controversial and contested cases in favour of the government and then accepts a post-retirement job, even if there is no actual quid pro quo, would this not lead to the public perception that the independence of the judiciary is compromised?

Law Commission recommendations

  • In its 14th report in 1958, the Law Commission noted that retired Supreme Court judges used to engage in two kinds of work after retirement:
    • Firstly, “chamber practice” (a term which would, today, mean giving opinions to clients and serving as arbitrators in private disputes).
    • Secondly, “employment in important positions under the government”.
  • The Law Commission frowned upon chamber practice but did not recommend its abolition.
  • Ban on post-retirement government employment: It strongly recommended banning post-retirement government employment for Supreme Court judges because the government was a large litigant in the courts.
    • The Commission’s recommendations were never implemented.

Conclusion

It is about time that we start expecting the judges of our constitutional courts to follow CJI Hidayatullah’s excellent example in which he had accepted government job only after the cooling period of several years.

 

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

A revival of multilateralism, steered by Indiaop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Opportunity for India to assume global leadership in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic


Context

A leadership role by India in mobilising world collaboration would be in keeping with its traditional activism globally.

Challenges and two aspects associated with it.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out in sharp relief the compelling reality that has been staring us in the face for the past several years.
  • This reality has two aspects.
  • First aspect: That most challenges confronting the world and likely to confront it in the future are cross-national in character. They respect no national boundaries and are not amenable to national solutions.
  • Second aspect: These challenges are cross-domain in nature, with strong feedback loops.
    • A disruption in one domain often cascades into parallel disruptions in other domains.
    • For example, the use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides may promote food security but have injurious health effects, undermining health security.
    • Whether at the domestic or the international level, these inter-domain linkages need to be understood and inform policy interventions. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect this awareness.

Rise in nationalism

  • Need for multilateral approach: The intersection of cross-national and cross-domain challenges demand multilateral approaches.
    • They require empowered international institutions of governance.
    • Underlying these must be a spirit of internationalism and solidarity, a sense of belonging to common humanity.
  • Moving in the reverse direction-Rise of nationalism: Over the past decade and more, the world has been moving in the reverse direction. There has been an upsurge in narrow nationalism, an assertion of parochial interests over the pursuit of shared interests and a fostering of competition among states rather than embracing collaboration.
  • The global challenge of COVID-19: COVID-19 has brought these deepening contradictions into very sharp relief. This is a global challenge which recognises no political boundaries. It is intimately linked to the whole pattern of large-scale and high-density food production and distribution.
  • Health crisis turned into economic crisis: It is a health crisis but is also spawning an economic crisis through disrupting global value chains and creating a simultaneous demand shock. It is a classic cross-national and cross-domain challenge.

How countries are dealing with COVID-19 and possible outcomes

  • No coordination at the international level: But interventions to deal with the COVID-19 crisis are so far almost entirely at the national level, relying on quarantine and social distancing. There is virtually no coordination at the international level.
  • Blame game at the international level: We are also seeing a blame game erupt between China and the United States which does not augur well for international cooperation and leadership.
  • The hopeful outcome of international cooperation: While this is the present state of play, the long-term impact could follow alternative pathways.
    • One, the more hopeful outcome would be for countries to finally realise that there is no option but to move away from nationalistic urges and embrace the logic of international cooperation through revived and strengthened multilateral institutions and processes.
  • The depressing outcome of intense nationalist trends: The other more depressing consequence may be that nationalist trends become more intense, countries begin to build walls around themselves and even existing multilateralism is further weakened.
    • Institutions such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization which are already marginalised may become increasingly irrelevant.
    • There could be a return to autarkic economic and trade policies and an even deeper and more pervasive anti-globalisation sentiment.
  • Depression decade ahead: Unless there is a conscious effort to stem this through a reaffirmation of multilateralism, we are looking at a very depressing decade ahead.
    • This is when the world needs leadership and statesmanship, both in short supply.
  • Contrast with the financial crisis: This is in contrast to the U.S.-led response to the global financial and economic crisis of 2008 when the G-20 summit was born and a coordinated response prevented catastrophic damage to the global economy.

Leadership role for India

  • Is there a role here for India which is a key G-20 country, the world’s fifth-largest economy and with a long tradition of international activism and promotion of rule-based multilateralism?
  • In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the recent Economic Times Global Business Summit are to be welcomed.
    • While speaking of the COVID-19 crisis, he said, “Like today, the world is facing a huge challenge in the form of Corona Virus. Financial institutions have also considered it a big challenge for the financial world. Today, we all have to face this challenge together. We have to be victorious with the power of our resolution of ‘Collaborate to Create’.”
    • He went on to observe that while the world today is “inter-connected, inter-related and also interdependent”, it has “not been able to come on a single platform or frame a Global Agenda, a global goal of how to overcome world poverty, how to end terrorism, how to handle Climate Change issues.”
  • From “Equal distance” to friendship with all: Modi lauded government’s policy of seeking friendship with all countries as contrasted from the earlier policy of non-alignment. He seemed to suggest that non-alignment was a defensive policy which advocated “equal distance from every country”.
    • Now, he claimed, India was still “neutral” — presumably meaning non-alignment — “but not on the basis of distance but on the basis of friendship”.
    • He cited India’s friendship with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and with the U.S. as well as Russia.

India’s foreign policy

  • Non-alignment: Mr Modi may wish to distinguish his foreign policy from that of his predecessors, but what he describes as its “essence” is hardly distinguishable from the basic principles of Indian foreign policy since Nehru.
  • Non-alignment was not defensive: India’s non-alignment was anything but defensive. The international peace-keeping contribution that the Prime Minister referred to has its origins in Nehru’s sense of international responsibility.
  • Friendship with all: India has always professed its desire to have friendly relations with all countries but has been equally firm in safeguarding its interests when these are threatened.
  • Mutually beneficial partnership: India’s non-alignment did not prevent it from forging strong and mutually beneficial partnerships with major countries.
    • The India-Soviet partnership from 1960-1990 is an example just as the current strategic partnership with the U.S. is.
  • Foreign policy rooted in a civilisational sense: The foreign policy of his predecessors had been rooted in India’s civilisational sense, its evolving place in the international system and its own changing capabilities.
    • Their seminal contributions should be acknowledged and built upon rather than proclaim a significant departure.

Move in line with traditional foreign policy

  • The Prime Minister’s plea for global collaboration to deal with a densely interconnected world is in line with India’s traditional foreign policy.
    • Move in keeping with traditional activism on a global scale: A leadership role in mobilising global collaboration, more specifically in fighting COVID-19 would be in keeping with India’s traditional activism on the international stage.
  • Commendable SAARC move: The Prime Minister has shown commendable initiative in convening leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nations for a regional collaborative effort on COVID-19.
    • International initiative: This should be followed by an international initiative, either through the G-20 or through the U.N.

Way forward

  • Reformed and Strengthened U.N. should be India’s agenda: The Prime Minister made no reference to the role of the U.N., the premier multilateral institution, as a global platform for collaborative initiatives. There may have been irritation over remarks by the UN Secretary-General on India’s domestic affairs and the activism displayed by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act controversy.
    • The U.N. Secretary General’s statement on India’s domestic affairs and activism by UN Secretary-General on India’s domestic affairs should not influence India’s long-standing commitment to the U.N. as the only truly inclusive global platform enjoying international legitimacy despite its failings.
    • If one has to look for a “single platform” where a Global Voice could be created, as the Prime Minister suggested, surely a reformed and strengthened U.N. should be on India’s agenda.
  • Opportunity for India in the pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic presents India with an opportunity to revive multilateralism, become a strong and credible champion of internationalism and assume a leadership role in a world that is adrift. The inspiration for this should come from reaffirming the wellsprings of India’s foreign policy since its Independence rather than seeking to break free.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

PCR Test for Diagnosis of the COVID-19Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polymerase Chain Reaction Test

Mains level : Coronovirus outbreak and its mitigation


 

The diagnosis of COVID-19 can be done with the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test which is explained as under:

The PCR Test

  • It uses a technique that creates copies of a segment of DNA. ‘Polymerase’ refers to the enzymes that make the copies of DNA.
  • Kary Mullis, the American biochemist who invented the PCR technique, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.
  • The ‘chain reaction’ is how the DNA fragments are copied, exponentially — one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
  • However, SARS-COV-2 is a virus made of RNA, which needs to be converted into DNA. For this, the technique includes a process called reverse transcription.
  • A ‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme converts the RNA into DNA. Copies of the DNA are then made and amplified.
  • A fluorescent DNA binding dye called the “probe” shows the presence of the virus. The test also distinguishes SARS-COV-2 from other viruses.

Various Stages:

1) Collection and transport

  • Testing centre takes swabs from nasal cavities and back of the throat (pharynx), and puts samples in a “virus transport medium”, which contains balanced salts and albumin to prevent the virus from disintegrating.
  • Sample is then transported in cold storage to the testing lab.

2) Extraction of viral RNA

  • Coronaviruses have large single-stranded RNA genomes.
  • Testing lab extracts the RNA from the samples, using commercially available kits.

3) Putting THE RNA in THE PCR mix

  • Extracted RNA is added to a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) mix.
  • This includes the ‘master mix’, which contains a ‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme that converts the RNA into DNA.
  • Master Mix contains Taq polymerase, the enzyme that creates copies of the DNA, nucleotides, as well as other elements such as magnesium — an ion of which is needed to amplify the DNA.
  • The PCR mix also contains ‘reagents’ such as ‘primers’ and ‘probes’.
  • Primers are particular strands of DNA that are designed to bind with the DNA that is to be copied; probes are used to detect the specific sequence in the DNA sample.
  • Finally, the PCR mix consists of a “housekeeping” gene — a normal human gene (RNAse P) that is used to ensure that samples were properly collected, and RNA extracted.

4) Amplification of the viral DNA

  • Sample, in its PCR mix, is put into tubes or plates, which are then put in a thermal cycler machine that is used to conduct the PCR process.
  • First, the RNA is converted into DNA. Then the process of copying the genes starts.
  • The thermal cycler heats and cools the mixture with the sample, alternating between three temperatures — for melting the DNA to separate the two strands.
  • The thermal cycler runs 30-40 such cycles in order to amplify the DNA to check for the virus.

5) Testing against controls

  • Amplified DNA is tested against a positive control, which usually consists of genes of the virus cloned into plasmid, and a negative control, which is a ‘known’ sample that has tested negative for the virus earlier.
  • RNase P should show amplification, positive control should be positive, negative control should be negative, and then whatever result you get for the specimen, is the correct result.
  • In order for a test to be valid before the result is released, certain ‘validity criteria’ have to be met.
  • If the housekeeping gene (RNase P) is positive, positive control is positive, negative control is negative, and the sample does not show any PCR positive result, the sample is declared negative.
  • If the PCR result is positive, the patient has COVID-19.
Nuclear Energy

Dumping of radioactive Nuclear WastePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Heavy Water

Mains level : Nuclear pollution


In a controversial move, Japan has decided to dump the radioactive heavy water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Sea.  The dumping of nuclear waste is considered to be the easiest way to get rid of it.

What is Heavy Water?

  • Heavy water (deuterium oxide) is a form of water that contains a larger than normal amount of the hydrogen isotope deuterium rather than the common hydrogen that makes up most of the hydrogen in normal water.
  • Heavy water is used in certain types of nuclear reactors, where it acts as a neutron moderator to slow down neutrons.
  • Slowed neutrons are more likely to react with the fissile uranium-235 than with uranium-238 which captures neutrons without fissioning.

Where is Fukushima waste?

  • It is currently being stored in large tanks, but those are expected to be full by 2022.
  • Almost 1.2 million liters of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is to be released into the ocean.
  • The contaminated water has since been used to cool the destroyed reactor blocks to prevent further nuclear meltdowns.

Hazards of the nuclear contamination

  • Radioactive pollution in the ocean has been increasing globally — and not just since the disaster at Fukushima.
  • Radiation levels in the sea off Fukushima were millions of times higher than the government’s limit of 100 Becquerel.
  • A single Becquerel that gets into our body is enough to damage a cell that will eventually become a cancer cell.
  • Even the smallest possible dose, a photon passing through a cell nucleus, carries a cancer risk. Although this risk is extremely small, it is still a risk.

Who else dumped radioactive water into oceans?

The dumping of nuclear waste in drums was banned in 1993 by the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution. But discharging liquid contaminated with radiation into the ocean is still permitted internationally.

  • The lion’s share of dumped nuclear waste came from Britain and the Soviet Union, figures from the IAEA show.
  • By 1991, the US had dropped more than 90,000 barrels and at least 190,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste in the North Atlantic and Pacific.
  • To this day, around 90% of the radiation in the ocean comes from barrels discarded in the North Atlantic, most of which lie north of Russia or off the coast of Western Europe.
Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Nominated members of Rajya SabhaPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nominated members in RS

Mains level : Ethical issue involved


Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi has been nominated as a member of Rajya Sabha.

Nominated members in RS

  • As per the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution of India on 26 January 1950, the Rajya Sabha was to consist of 216 members of which 12 members were to be nominated by the President and the remaining 204 elected to represent the States.
  • The present strength, however, is 245 members of whom 233 are representatives of the states and union territories and 12 are nominated by the President.
  • The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution; one-third of its members retire every second year.
  • The 12 nominated members of the Rajya Sabha are persons who are eminent in particular fields, and are well known contributors in the particular field.
  • The nominated members are usually amongst persons having special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art and social service.

Constitutional provisions

  • 80(1)(a) of Constitution of India makes provision for the nomination of 12 members to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India in accordance with provisions of Arts.80(3).
  • 80(3) says that the persons to be nominated as members must be possessing special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following namely : Literature, science, art and social service.

Earlier CJIs in other Offices

  • Justice Hidayatullah was appointed vice-president nine years after his tenure as CJI ended (1979).
  • Justice Ranganath Mishra was appointed six years after his retirement (1998).
  • Justice Bahraul Islam served as a member of the Rajya Sabha several years before he was elevated to the SC (1983).
  • Justice Subba Rao, who contested for the post of president (and lost to Zakir Hussain) was roundly criticised for the decision at that time.

Issues with CJI’s appointment

  • Late Arun Jaitley cautioned, in 2012, that “pre-retirement judgments are influenced by a desire for a post-retirement job”. Perhaps, those words were never more relevant than they are today.
  • The immediacy and hurried nature of the present appointment, barely four months after Justice Gogoi retired, is bound to give rise to questions about its context.
  • It was a tenure that inspired much scrutiny; a tenure which saw the repeated use of sealed envelopes, the contents of which were known only to the government; a tenure which recorded a significant and frequent number of judgments in favour of the executive.

What were the alternatives?

  • Several appointments to administrative bodies require a cooling-off period for individuals so as to eliminate the possibility or suspicion of a conflict of interest or quid pro quo.
  • Officials who retire from sensitive positions are barred from accepting any other appointment for a period of time, normally two years.
  • These cooling-off periods in posts are premised on the snapping off of the nexus between previous incumbency and new appointment by the interposition of a sufficient time gap.
River Interlinking

Danube-Oder-Elbe CanalPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rivers mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Not Much


 

Environmental organisations from across central and Eastern Europe have criticised a major project intending to link three rivers and provide seamless navigation between three of Europe’s peripheral seas, according to a statement.

Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal

  • For centuries Europe’s rulers have dreamed of construction of a huge Y-shaped canal connecting the Elbe, Oder and Danube rivers, most of which would be on Czech territory.
  • The Canal intends to connect the Danube, Oder and Elbe rivers and thus provide another navigable link from the Black Sea to the North and Baltic Seas.
  • The Main-Danube Canal already provided a navigable connection between the Black Sea and the North Sea.
  • Several hundred kilometres of artificial waterways would have to be built for the canal, according to the statement.
  • Critics have called on the European Commission to ensure that the project be excluded from EU funding, and not be included as part of the Trans-European Transport Network.
History- Important places, persons in news

Persons in news: Sheikh Mujibur RahmanPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sheikh Mujib and his legacy

Mains level : NA


March 17 is the birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-1975), the founding leader of Bangladesh and the country’s first Prime Minister.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1950.jpg

  • Before joining politics, Rahman studied law and political science in Kolkata and Dhaka and agitated for Indian independence.
  • He is referred to as Sheikh Mujib or simply Mujib, the title ‘Bangabandhu’ meaning ‘friend of Bengal’.
  • In 1949, he joined the Awami League, a political party which advocated greater autonomy for East Pakistan.
  • A popular leader in East Pakistan, Rahman played an important role in the six-point movement and the Anti-Ayub movement.

Role in Bangladesh liberation

  • In 1970, his party secured an absolute majority in the Pakistani general elections; the country’s first, winning more seats than all parties in West Pakistan, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party.
  • The election results were not honoured; leading to a bloody civil war, and Sheikh Mujib declared Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan on March 26, 1971.
  • The declaration coincided with a ruthless show of strength by the Pakistani military, in which tanks rolled out on the streets of Dhaka and several students and intellectuals were killed.
  • India under then PM Indira Gandhi provided full support to Rahman and Bangladesh’s independence movement, resulting in the creation of a sovereign government at Dhaka in January 1971.

His legacy

  • Rahman, who had been arrested and taken to West Pakistan, returned to Bangladesh after being freed in January 1972.
  • For the next three years, Rahman held the new country’s prime ministerial post, and became a celebrated icon in India as well, admired for his moving speeches and charismatic personality.
  • On 15 August 1975, Rahman was killed in a military coup along with his wife and three sons, including 10-year-old Sheikh Russel.
  • His daughters, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, survived as they were abroad at the time.
Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[pib] Essential CommoditiesPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Essential Commodities Act, PSF

Mains level : Read the attached story


The Price Monitoring Division (PMD) in the Department of Consumer Affairs is monitoring the retail and wholesale prices of 22 essential food commodities due to increased panic buying by customers.

Essential Commodities Act

  • The ECA is an act which was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which if obstructed owing to hoarding or black-marketing would affect the normal life of the people.
  • The ECA was enacted in 1955. This includes foodstuff, drugs, fuel (petroleum products) etc.
  • It has since been used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.
  • Additionally, the government can also fix the maximum retail price (MRP) of any packaged product that it declares an “essential commodity”.
  • The list of items under the Act includes drugs, fertilizers, pulses and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products.
  • The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and takes them off the list once the situation improves.

How ECA works?

  • If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is spiking, it can notify stock-holding limits on it for a specified period.
  • The States act on this notification to specify limits and take steps to ensure that these are adhered to.
  • Anybody trading or dealing in the commodity, be it wholesalers, retailers or even importers are prevented from stockpiling it beyond a certain quantity.
  • A State can, however, choose not to impose any restrictions. But once it does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity.
  • This improves supplies and brings down prices. As not all shopkeepers and traders comply, State agencies conduct raids to get everyone to toe the line and the errant are punished.
  • The excess stocks are auctioned or sold through fair price shops.

Ex: The Union Government has brought masks and hand-sanitisers under the ECA to make sure that these products, key for preventing the spread of Covid-19 infection, are available to people at the right price and in the right quality.

What about Food Items?

  • The items covered include rice, wheat, atta, gram dal, arhar dal, moong dal, urad dal, masoor, dal, tea, sugar, salt, Vanaspati, groundnut oil, mustard oil, milk, soya oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, gur, potato, onion and tomato.
  • Based on the deliberations, Government takes various measures from time to time to stabilize prices of essential food items which, inter-alia, include appropriately utilizing trade and fiscal policy instruments like import duty.
  • The govt. can impose stock limits and advise State for effective action against hoarders & black marketers etc. to regulate domestic availability and moderate prices.
  • The government utilizes the buffer of agri-horticultural commodities like pulses, onion, etc. built under Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) to help moderate the volatility in prices.

Back2Basics

Price Stabilization Fund (PSF)

  • The PSF was set up in 2014-15 under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Famers Welfare (DAC&FW) to help regulate the price volatility of important agri-horticultural commodities like onion, potatoes and pulses were also added subsequently.
  • Procurement of these commodities will be undertaken directly from farmers or farmers’ organizations at farm gate/mandi and made available at a more reasonable price to the consumers.
  • Losses incurred, if any, in the operations will be shared between the Centre and the States.
  • PSF provides for advancing interest-free loans to State Governments/ UTs and Central agencies to support their working capital and other expenses they might incur on procurement and distribution interventions for such commodities.
  • The scheme provides for maintaining a strategic buffer of the commodities for subsequent calibrated release to moderate price volatility and discourages hoarding and unscrupulous speculation.
  • The PSF is managed centrally by a Price Stabilization Fund Management Committee (PSFMC) which will approve all proposals from State Governments and Central Agencies.
  • The PSF is maintained as a Central Corpus Fund by Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), a society promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture for linking agriculture to private businesses and investments and technology.

With inputs from: http://www.arthapedia.in/index.php?title=Price_Stabilisation_Fund_(PSF)