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Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

Why India’s Steady Exports Are At A Record High?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NMP

Mains level : Paper 3- Need for export facilitation

Context

First-quarter growth in India’s gross domestic product (GDP) stands at 20.1 %. This however still means that GDP in the first quarter was 9.2 % below its level two years ago.

Export: Challenges

  • The key driver of growth in the coming quarters will be exports riding on the rapidity of recovery in major markets.
  • There are two serious worries here.
  • 1) Bullwhip element: This could cause an immediate ramp-up in demand for steel and other such upstream elements in global supply chains, with a corresponding damp down in the months to come.
  • In this connection, although the rates under the scheme for remission of duties and taxes on exported products (RODTEP) were finally notified in mid-August.
  • Steel, pharma and chemicals get no rebate at all, although many products using these inputs do.
  • The scheme looks like a subsidy to selected sectors disguised as duty rollback, which can get India into trouble at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • These excluded products need the rebate if they are to survive in a fiercely price-competitive global market in the months to come.
  • 2) Container shortage: A crippling shortage of sea-borne containers has afflicted key large-volume products in the Indian export basket (tea, basmati rice, furniture, garments).
  • Sea-freight subsidy: At a time when container rates have shot up, there is surely a case for a sea-freight subsidy (for a limited period).
  • Even more urgently, the estimated 25,000-30,000 containers locked up at different ports owing to customs disputes need to be unloaded into warehouses and these containers freed.

Can National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) spur growth?

  • Even if the expected 88,000 crore of revenue under NMP is realized during the current year, it is intended to feed only a small part of the infrastructure expenditure budgeted for the year.
  • It is the latter that will have to drive growth. Monetization is merely a funding source.
  • The scheme offers a participation incentive to states with a 33% matching transfer from the Centre for revenues that states realize under the scheme.
  • This matching transfer could well have the perverse consequence of states under-achieving the potential value realizable. 
  • Volume II of the NMP document refers to the Scheme for Special Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure announced in October 2020.
  • It offered states an interest-free loan with bullet repayment after 50 years to complete stalled capital projects, or settle the outstanding bills of contractors.
  • The NMP demands clear and well-thought-through processes, with sufficient transparency and safeguards in the form of regulatory structures.

Conclusion

For now, the need of the hour is export facilitation.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Afghan exit- not the end of the road for the U.S.

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Implications of Afghanistan exit for the US

Context

The debate has abruptly shifted to the future of the United States after its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Background of the US presence in Afghanistan

  • The terrorist attacks of 9/11, which was a game-changing global experience, led the U.S. to enter Afghanistan.
  •  The terrorist attacks transformed the geopolitics of the world.
  • The most powerful country in the world, which had the capacity to destroy the world many times over, became powerless before a few terrorists.
  •  Once the responsibility of the attack was traced to Osama bin Laden and the terrorists in Afghanistan, it was imperative for the U.S. to retaliate by overthrowing the Taliban regime.

How US presence in Afghanistan benefited the region

  • After accomplishing its mission the US was not able to withdraw because the Afghanistan government was unable to withstand the onslaught of the Taliban and other terrorist groups.
  • Even neighbouring countries, including India, were strongly in favour of continuing the American presence.
  • The US presence helped to provide a certain stability for Afghanistan.
  • The result of their presence was the prevalence of relative peace in the region except that Pakistan fattened the Taliban with American largesse.
  • The U.S. presence in Afghanistan had succeeded in containing the dangers of terrorism for two decades.

Way forward for the US and the rest of the world

  • The US is still the most powerful economic and military power around which the whole constellation of the world rotates.
  • Democratic world leadership: The world has a stake in ensuring that a democratic nation leads the world rather than an expansionist dictatorship which has no public opinion to restrain it.
  • Maintain the US leadership: The free world has a responsibility to maintain the American leadership of the world till a wiser and more benign alternative is found.

Conclusion

Much has been written about a post-American world for some years now. But it looks that the demise of America, as Mark Twain said about the reports of his own death, is greatly exaggerated.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Common Prosperity Drive in China

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Common Prosperity Drive in China

Mains level : Comparison of Chinese and Indian economic policy

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for China to achieve “common prosperity”, seeking to narrow a yawning wealth gap that threatens the country’s economic ascent and the legitimacy of Communist Party rule.

What is ‘Common Prosperity’?

  • “Common prosperity” was first mentioned in the 1950s by Mao Zedong, founding leader of what was then an impoverished country.
  • The idea was repeated in the 1980s by Deng Xiaoping, who modernized an economy devastated by the Cultural Revolution.
  • Deng said that allowing some people and regions to get rich first would speed up economic growth and help achieve the ultimate goal of common prosperity.
  • Common prosperity is not egalitarianism. It does not mean “killing the rich to help the poor”.

Components of the drive

  • The push for common prosperity has encompassed a wide range of policies, that includes curbing tax evasion and limits on the hours that tech sector employees can work to bans on for-profit tutoring in core school subjects, and strict limits on the time minors can spend playing video games.

Why in news now?

  • China became an economic powerhouse under a hybrid policy of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, but it also deepened inequality, especially between urban and rural areas, a divide that threatens social stability.
  • This year, Xi has signaled a heightened commitment to delivering common prosperity, emphasizing it is not just an economic objective but core to the party’s governing foundation.
  • A pilot program in Zhejiang province, one of China’s wealthiest, is designed to narrow the income gap there by 2025.

How will it be achieved?

  • Chinese leaders have pledged to use taxation and other income redistribution levers to expand the proportion of middle-income citizens, boost incomes of the poor, “rationally adjust excessive incomes”, and ban illegal incomes.
  • Beijing has explicitly encouraged high-income firms and individuals to contribute more to society via the so-called “third distribution”, which refers to charity and donations.
  • Several tech industry heavyweights have announced major charitable donations and support for disaster relief efforts.
  • Other measures would include improving public services and the social safety net.

What will be the economic impact?

  • Chinese leaders are likely to tread cautiously so as not to derail a private sector that has been a vital engine of growth and jobs.
  • This goal may speed China’s economic rebalancing towards consumption-driven growth to reduce reliance on exports and investment, but policies could prove damaging to growth driven by the private sector.
  • Increasing incomes and improved public services, especially in rural areas, would be positive for consumption, and a better social safety net would lower precautionary savings.
  • The effort supports Xi’s “dual circulation” strategy for economic development, under which China aims to spur domestic demand, innovation, and self-reliance, propelled by tensions with the United States.

Try answering this PYQ from CSP 2020:

Q.One common agreement between Gandhism and Marxism is :

(a) The final goal of a stateless society

(b) Class struggle

(c) Abolition of private property

(d) Economic determinism

 

Post your answers here.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Vanniyar movement in Tamil Nadu

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vanniyar Movement

Mains level : Reservation issues

The government in Tamil Nadu has announced the construction of a memorial in Villupuram to people killed in police firing and clashes in 1987, during a movement demanding reservation for the Vanniyar community.

Vanniyar Movement

  • Vanniyar are one of the largest and most consolidated backward communities in the state.
  • They had raised massive protests in the mid-1980s demanding 20% reservation in the state, and 2% in central services.
  • Their movement was backed by the Justice Party as well as the Self-Respect Movement.
  • The agitation began in 1986 with activists sending hundreds of letters and telegrams to then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran seeking an audience.
  • As there was no response from MGR and the then Rajiv Gandhi government, agitators started demonstrations in community strongholds, then went on to blockading rail and road traffic.

The 1987 deaths

  • The Vanniyars declared an agitation from September 17 to 23, 1987, which turned violent.
  • At least 21 protesters were killed, mostly in police firing, and also in clashes with members of Scheduled Caste communities.
  • While this shook the state establishment, there was no immediate solution.

Reservation granted

  • After 1989, the OBC quota was split into two: Backward Castes and Most Backward Castes.
  • Vanniyars were categorized among the MBCs with 107 other communities, with 20% reservation.
  • Three decades later,10.5% reservation was granted for Vanniyars within the 20% MBC quota.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

What is Glue Grant Scheme?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Glue Grant Scheme

Mains level : Not Much

Forty Central universities will kick off the implementation of innovative measures such as the academic credit bank and the glue grant meant to encourage multidisciplinary in UG courses.

Glue Grant Scheme

  • Under the glue grant, announced in this year’s budget, institutions in the same city would be encouraged to share resources, equipment and even allow their students to take classes from each other.
  • This is the first step for multidisciplinary.
  • We intend to start this from the second semester of the current academic year.
  • Ultimately, faculty will be able to design joint courses.
  • This also meant that institutions need not duplicate work by developing the same capacities, but would be able to build on each other’s expertise.

Credit bank

  • The first step would be the academic credit bank, which would have to be adopted separately by the academic council of each university to kick off implementation.
  • To start with, the system would allow students to attain qualifications by amassing credits rather than specific durations on campus.
  • A certain number of credits would add up to a certificate, then a diploma and then a degree, allowing for multiple entries and exit points.
  • Students can earn up to 40% of their credits in online Swayam classes, rather than in the physical classroom. In the future, these credits will hold validity across different institutions.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Dinosaur Footprints found in Thar desert

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dinosaur species mentioned

Mains level : Not Much

In a major discovery, footprints of three species of dinosaurs have been found in the Thar desert in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district.

Details of the footprints

  • The footprints, made in the sediment or silt of the seashore, later become permanently stone-like.
  • They belong to three species of dinosaurs — Eubrontes cf. giganteus, Eubrontes glenrosensis and Grallator tenuis.
  • While the giganteus and glenrosensis species have 35 cm footprints, the footprint of the third species was found to be 5.5 cm.
  • The dinosaur species are considered to be of the theropod type, with the distinguishing features of hollow bones and feet with three digits.
  • All three species, belonging to the early Jurassic period, were carnivorous.
  • Eubrontes could have been 12 to 15 metres long and weighed between 500 kg and 700 kg, while the height of the Grallator is estimated to have been two metres, as much as a human, with a length of up to three metres.

Key findings

  • The discovery of dinosaur footprints prove the presence of the giant reptiles in the western part of the State, which formed the seashore to the Tethys Ocean during the Mesozoic era.
  • Careful geological observations enabled the scientists to interpret ancient environments in which the rocks of the footprints, which were once soft sediments, were deposited.
  • Geochemical analyses and calculation of weathering indices showed that the hinterland climate was seasonal to semi-arid during the deposition of the footprints.
  • Fieldwork in the Kutch and Jaisalmer basins has suggested that after the main transgression during the early Jurassic period, the sea level changed several times.
  • Spatial and temporal distribution of sediments and traces of fossils and post-depositional structures provided an indication to this phenomenon.

Significance

  • These trace fossils are significant to ascertain how life started and evolved after the mass extinction of species, including dinosaurs, at the end of the cretaceous period around 65 million years ago.
  • This research also illustrates the evidence of a fluvial freshwater palaeo-environment and tropical palaeo-climate, indicating the presence of a tropical forest and a huge network of rivers.

No matter what, try this PYQ:

Q.The term “sixth mass extinction/sixth extinction” is often mentioned in the news in the context of the discussion of (CSP 2018):

(a) Widespread monoculture Practices agriculture and large-scale commercial farming with indiscriminate use of chemicals in many parts of the world that may result in the loss of good native ecosystems.

(b) Fears of a possible collision of a meteorite with the Earth in the near future in the manner it happened 65million years ago that caused the mass extinction of many species including those of dinosaurs.

(c) Large scale cultivation of genetically modified crops in many parts of the world and promoting their cultivation in other Parts of the world which may cause the disappearance of good native crop plants and the loss of food biodiversity.

(d) Mankind’s over-exploitation/misuse of natural resources, fragmentation/loss, natural habitats, destruction of ecosystems, pollution, and global climate change.

 

Post your answers here.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)