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Start-up Ecosystem In India

Risks involved in Indian tech unicorns gaining at China’s expense

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UPI

Mains level : Paper 3- Bubble in tech start-ups

Context

Investment firms with a reputation for tracking and hunting unicorns — startups with billion-dollar-plus valuations are shifting their attention to India from China. While this cannot be good for China, the question remains over whether or not it is good for India either.

China’s crackdown on tech industry

  • Beijing has decided to crack down on the tech industry, wiping out $1.5 trillion in market value.
  •  The crackdown began with the abrupt suspension of the much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO) of Ant Group last November.
  •  China’s regulators stopped the ride-hailing company, Didi Chuxing, from accepting new users, as soon as it went public on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • There have been sweeping industry-wide changes, from anti-monopoly legislation to new rules governing data collection and use.
  • All of this has investors spooked.

How India can benefit from China’s crackdown on the tech industry?

  • Due to China’s crackdown, for the first time since 2013, the value of venture deals in India surpassed that of China.
  • Converging factors in India: If this keeps up, India will experience a veritable blessing of unicorns, thanks not only to the fact that the money fleeing China needs refuge, but to many converging forces within India itself.
  • India is the world’s second largest digital market.
  • The use of the United Payment Interface has made digital payments easier in a society that was — and still is — so tied to cash.
  • The pandemic lockdowns have driven an unusually large proportion of that digital population to spend an unusually large amount of time and spend money online.
  • This means that in a very short time, the need to serve this digital population has exploded.
  • The Chinese crackdown could not have come at a more opportune time.
  • Many startups are in a hurry to capitalise on the boom with many investors looking to capitalise them.

Concern: the risk of tech-bubble

  • When investors rush in to seek refuge because they are fleeing risk elsewhere, even if the refuge looks promising, they can contribute to a self-reinforcing cycle that ends up destroying the refuge.
  • Eager to get a piece of the action, each investor may over-value a company, far exceeding what is justifiable based on market fundamentals.
  • The stampede builds and soon you have the makings of a tech bubble.

Way forward for investors

  • Instead of reflexively chasing the next shiny startup in India, investors ought to ask a few questions.
  • Do the startups and the markets they serve have the capacity to scale up and do they justify sticking with them for a long period?
  • Has the Indian initial public offerings market really proven itself?
  • Are there enough large corporations that might buy these startups?
  • Can the under-investment in essentials, such as education, health and job market readiness, clog the talent pipeline?
  • Can the Indian government be trusted not to borrow a page from the government it would like to emulate — the Chinese state — and attempt a crackdown of its own?

Consider the question “Indian tech start-ups are dealing with the gush of capital owing to the convergence of certain factors. Examine these factors and also the concerns with such influx of capital.”

Conclusion

India desperately needs patient capital, skilled talent and appropriate technology to solve the country’s numerous fundamental problems laid bare by the pandemic. The last thing India can afford is a bubble that bursts and for all three to take flight and seek refuge in yet another country because no one wants to pick up the pieces of a popped bubble.

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Back2Basics: IPO

  • An initial public offering (IPO) refers to the process of offering shares of a private corporation to the public in a new stock issuance.
  • An IPO allows a company to raise capital from public investors.
  • The transition from a private to a public company can be an important time for private investors to fully realize gains from their investment as it typically includes a share premium for current private investors.
  • Meanwhile, it also allows public investors to participate in the offering.

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

Complex count: On caste census

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Caste Census, Census of India

Mains level : Alternatives to Caste Census

These days, many states are urging the Centre to include a caste-wise census in the Census of India to have substantial data for reservations of certain dominant caste groups.

Background

Caste census of Backward Classes difficult: Centre

Reaction by the Centre

  • In this backdrop, the Union government’s assertion in the Supreme Court that a census of the backward castes is “administratively difficult and cumbersome” may evoke varying responses.
  • There are two components to the Government’s stand:
  1. Jeopardizing the Census: It asserts that it is a policy decision not to have caste as part of the regular census and that, administratively, the enumeration would be rendered so complex that it may jeopardise the decennial census itself.
  2. Adding more vagueness: It cites the difficulties and complexities inherent in getting an accurate count of castes, given the mind-boggling numbers of castes and sub-castes, with phonetic variations and similarities.

This is the reason that the data from the 2011 SECC were not acted upon because of “several infirmities” that rendered them unusable.

Why is caste census not feasible?

  • Hurdle to casteless society: The idea of a national caste census is abhorrent when the stated policy is to strive for a casteless society.
  • Political polarization: Political parties with their base in particular social groups may find a caste enumeration useful, if their favoured groups are established as dominant in specific geographies.
  • Electoral impact: Politicians may find the outcome inconvenient, if the precise count turns out to be lower and has a negative bearing on perceptions about their electoral importance.

Limitations of SECC, 2011

  • Completeness and Accuracy: Even in the Censuses up to 1931, when caste details were collected, they were wanting in completeness and accuracy.
  • Lakhs of Caste: Further, the data contained 46 lakh different caste names, and if subcastes were considered, the ultimate number may be exponentially high.

Need for such census

  • Quantifiable data: It may also be a legal imperative, considering that courts want ‘quantifiable data’ to support the existing levels of reservation.
  • Basis for Affirmative actions: It will be useful to establish statistical justification for preserving caste-based affirmative action programmes.

These points do merit consideration, and even those clamouring for a caste census cannot easily brush them aside.

Way forward

  • A caste census need not necessarily mean caste in the census.
  • It may be an independent exercise, but one that needs adequate thought and preparation, if its ultimate goal is not for political or electoral purposes, but for equity in distribution of opportunities.
  • A preliminary socio-anthropological study can be done at the State and district levels to establish all sects and sub-castes present in the population.
  • These can be tabulated under caste names that have wider recognition based on synonymity and equivalence among the appellations that people use to denote themselves.
  • Thereafter, it may be possible to do a field enumeration that can mark any group under castes found in the available OBC/BC lists.

Conclusion

  • A caste census may not sit well with the goal of a casteless society, but it may serve, in the interim, as a useful, even if not entirely flawless, means of addressing inequities in society.

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North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Naga Peace Accord

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various Naga tribes

Mains level : Naga Peace Process

 

Tamil Nadu Governor has resigned as interlocutor for the Naga peace talks.

What is the Naga Peace Process?

(A) Issue

  • It refers to ongoing talks between the Indian government and Naga insurgent groups, in particular the NSCN(IM), since 1997 with the aim to sign a Naga Peace Accord.
  • The Naga insurgency, rooted in Naga nationalism, is one of the oldest insurgencies in the country.
  • The Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast never considered themselves part of British India, and on August 14, 1947, the Naga National Council (NNC) declared independence for Nagaland.
  • It formed an underground Government (NFG) and an Army in 1952, in response to which the Centre sent in the Army and enacted the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA.

(B) Shillong Agreement

  • After years of talks, the Shillong Accord was signed in 1976 with underground groups of Nagaland.
  • But it was rejected by many top NNC leaders on the ground that it did not address the issue of Naga sovereignty and forced Nagas to accept the Indian Constitution.
  • Since then the Naga groups have split into various factions.

(C) The Peace Accord

  • There have been nearly 100 rounds of talks.
  • In August 2015, the group signed a framework agreement with the Indian government for the Naga Peace Accord.

How did things go wrong?

  • Sources say even the various competencies of the accord had been agreed upon, although a few bones of contention remained.
  • The groups were insistent on a Naga constitution and were pushing for a Greater Nagalim stretching beyond the boundaries of the present Nagaland state.
  • The state panel rejected the demand for a separate flag and constitution outright, and warned that “any misadventure to disintegrate this great nation shall not be tolerated”.

Amid all this, what are the real issues?

  • The enthusiasm with which the framework agreement was announced led to unreasonable expectations of an imminent Accord.
  • There is no way the government would accept a separate constitution for Nagaland. This was never under discussion.
  • There was, indeed, an opinion that the flag could be given.
  • But that went off the table after August 5, 2019 when the Kashmiri flag was taken away.

Best way forward

  • It is important to understand that there cannot be an accord without the militant factions.
  • Some demands that need ironing out include one for a bicameral Assembly with at least 40 nominated members representing different tribes; absorption of cadres as local armed forces or in the Indian paramilitary.
  • There is a need for setting up of autonomous councils in Naga-dominated areas of neighbouring states; and the use of the Naga flag for at least customary events.

Must read:

[Burning Issue] Naga Peace Talks

 

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History- Important places, persons in news

In news: Battle of Chamkaur (1704)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Battle of Chamkaur

Mains level : NA

The new Punjab CM represents the Assembly constituency of Chamkaur Sahib, which is of significance in Sikh history.

For such history-related topics, one must not forget to note the contemporaries of a particular period.

The Battle of Chamkaur

  • The coalition forces of Mughals and hill rajas led by Wazir Khan, the Nawab of Sirhind, had laid siege to Anandpur Sahib in the hope of capturing Guru Gobind Singh in May 1704.
  • After seven months of fighting and heavy losses, the coalition forces offered a safe passage to the Guru and his followers.
  • The heads of the coalition pledged they would not harm the Guru, his family, or his soldiers.
  • The peace treaty was sent in the name of Emperor Aurangzeb himself.
  • But when Gobind Singh and his followers stepped out of the Anandpur Sahib fort on the night of December 20, they were attacked.
  • Historically, this was where that Guru Gobind Singh lost two of his elder sons in a battle with the coalition forces of Mughals and the hill rajas.

What happened at Chamkaur Sahib?

  • The Guru, accompanied by panj piaras (the five Sikhs he had initially baptised), his elder sons and around 40 soldiers, regrouped in a fortress-like two-storey house, with high compound walls made of mud.
  • They were surrounded by an army commandeered by Wazir Khan and Sher Mohammed Khan, the younger brother of Malerkotla’s chieftain.
  • The Guru sent out soldiers in small squads for hand-to-hand combat. Two such attacks were led by his sons, both of whom died fighting.
  • Three of the panj piaras — Mohkam Singh, Himmat Singh and Sahib Singh — too died fighting.

How did the battle conclude?

  • When very few soldiers were left, they decided the Guru should leave so that he could carry on his mission.
  • It was at the Chamkaur fort that panj piaras issued an edict (hukumnama) ordering the Guru to leave.
  • This was the first edict issued by panj piaras after the formation of the Khalsa on April 13, 1699.
  • Before leaving, the Guru gave his attire and distinguishing kalgi to Sangat Singh, a Mazhabi Sikh who resembled him.
  • Three other soldiers too left the fort, and went in separate directions. The following day, the enemy forced their way inside to find only two soldiers who fought till their last breath.
  • Five days later, Guru Gobind Singh’s two younger sons, aged nine and seven, were bricked alive for refusing to convert.

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International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Chang’e-5 Lunar Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chang'e 5 Mission

Mains level : NA

The Europlanet Society has released details from the samples brought back by China’s Chang’e-5 Lunar Mission in December 2020.

Chang’e-5 Lunar Mission

  • The Chang’e-5 lunar mission delivered to Earth nearly 2 kg of rocky fragments and dust from the Moon.
  • It had landed on an area of the Moon (the ‘far side’) not sampled by the American or Soviet missions nearly 50 years ago.
  • It thus retrieved fragments of the youngest lunar rocks ever brought back for analysis in laboratories on Earth.
  • The rocks are also different from those returned decades ago.

Key findings

  • 90% of the materials collected by Chang’e-5 likely derive from the landing site and its immediate surroundings, which are of a type termed ‘mare basalts’.
  • These volcanic rocks are visible to us as the darker grey areas that spilled over much of the nearside of the Moon as ancient eruptions of lava.
  • Yet 10% percent of the fragments have distinctly different, ‘exotic’ chemical compositions.

What are the exotic compositions?

  • The distinct 10% fragments may preserve records of other parts of the lunar surface as well as hints of the types of space rocks that have impacted the Moon’s surface.
  • Researchers have looked at the potential sources of beads of rapidly cooled glassy material.
  • They have traced these glassy droplets to extinct volcanic vents known as ‘Rima Mairan’ and ‘Rima Sharp’.
  • These fragments could give insights into past episodes of energetic, fountain-like volcanic activity on the Moon.

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

Arctic ice is disappearing: How clouds interact with sea ice change

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polynya

Mains level : Glaciers retreat at the Poles

Temperatures in the Arctic, for example, have been rising much faster than the rest of the planet. Experts, for the longest time, have attributed the crisis to how clouds interact with sea ice, essentially frozen seawater.

Role of Polynya

  • Decades of research have pointed that the losses in Arctic Sea ice cover allow for the formation of more clouds near the ocean’s surface.
  • New research by NASA has now shown that more heat and moisture is released through a large hole in sea ice called a polynya, which fuels the formation of more clouds.
  • This traps heat in the atmosphere and hinders the refreezing of new sea ice.

What is Polynya?

  • A polynya is an area of open water surrounded by sea ice.
  • It is now used as a geographical term for an area of unfrozen seawater within otherwise contiguous pack ice or fast ice.
  • It refers to a natural ice hole and was adopted in the 19th century by polar explorers to describe navigable portions of the sea.
  • There are two main types of polynyas:
  1. Coastal polynyas, which can be found year-round near the Antarctic and Arctic coasts and are mainly created by strong winds pushing the ice away from the coast, and
  2. Mid-sea or open-ocean polynyas, which may be found more sporadically in the middle of an ice pack in certain locations, especially around Antarctica.

What is the new research about?

  • The research stated that low clouds over the polynya emitted more energy or heat than clouds in adjacent areas covered by sea ice.
  • The polynya did refreeze, but only after the increased cloud cover and heat under the clouds persisted for about a week.
  • The extra clouds and increased cloud radiative effect to the surface remained for some time after the polynya froze.
  • The sea ice acts like a cap or a barrier between the relatively warm ocean surface and the cold and dry atmosphere above, so more heat and moisture from the ocean into the atmosphere.
  • This warming slows down the growth of the sea ice.

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Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

[pib] SAUBHAGYA Scheme completes 4 years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-SAUBHAGYA Scheme

Mains level : Rural and Urban Electrification

The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana – SAUBHAGYA Scheme has successfully completed four years of its implementation.

Progress till date

  • 82 crore households have been electrified since the launch of SAUBHAGYA till 31st March, 2021.

About SAUBHAGYA Scheme

  • The Saubhagya is a scheme to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.
  • It was launched in September 2017.
  • The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) is the nodal agency for the operationalization of the scheme throughout the country.

Objective

  • To provide energy access to all by last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining un-electrified households in rural as well as urban areas
  • To achieve universal household electrification in the country

Beneficiaries of the project

  • The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.
  • However, un-electrified households not covered under the SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 installments through electricity bill.
  • The solar power packs of 200 to 300 Wp with battery bank for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas, comprises Five LED lights, One DC fan, One DC power plug.
  • It also includes Repair and Maintenance (R&M) for 5 years.

Implementation process

  • For the easy and accelerated implementation of the Scheme, modern technology shall be used for household surveys by using Mobile App.
  • Beneficiaries shall be identified and their application for electricity connection along with applicant photograph and identity proof shall be registered on spot.
  • The Gram Panchayat/Public institutions in the rural areas may be authorised to collect application forms along with complete documentation, distribute bills and collect revenue in consultation with the Panchayat Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies.

Expected outcomes of the scheme

The expected outcome of the Scheme is as follows:

  • Environmental upgradation by substitution of Kerosene for lighting purposes
  • Improvement education services
  • Better health services
  • Enhanced connectivity through radio, television, mobiles, etc.
  • Increased economic activities and jobs
  • Improved quality of life especially for women

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