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Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

India is setting a global example in meeting its Nationally Determined Contributions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emission intensity of GDP

Mains level : Paper 3- India is right on the path to achieve NDC under Paris Agreement

Context

Despite accomplishments, global pressures are intensifying on India to commit more towards the Conference of the Parties (COP26), scheduled for November 2021 in Glasgow.

India’s accomplishments

  • At the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (December 2020), India was the only G20 nation compliant with the agreement.
  • India has been ranked within the top 10 for two years consecutively in the Climate Change Performance Index.
  • The Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme is the world’s largest zero-subsidy LED bulb programme for domestic consumers.
  •  India provided leadership for setting up the International Solar Alliance, a coalition of solar-resource-rich countries, and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Why it is unfair to pressure India on climate action

We can attempt to answer the question by comparing the achievements of other countries vis-à-vis India’s performance.

  • Historical perspective: World Bank data for CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) over two decades since the Kyoto protocol informs that at the current rate, both China and the U.S. could emit five times more than India in 2030.
  • The U.K.’s emission levels could be more than 1.5 times that of India.
  • Brazil, with its dense forests, may end up at similar levels.
  • Latest efforts: Last year, China, the world’s largest GHG emitter, joined the ‘race to zero’ and targets carbon neutrality by 2060.
  • Interestingly, it hopes to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 for bending the emissions curve.
  • Recently, the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement and committed to reducing emissions by 50%-52% in 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.
  • The French government, during the novel coronavirus pandemic, set green conditions for bailing out its aviation industry.
  • However, the analysts say that no baseline for reducing emissions from domestic flights was fixed.
  • In Australia, complicated domestic politics prevented them from addressing the problem, despite the country being vulnerable, and stretches of the famous Great Barrier Reef having died in recent years.

India’s performance

  • Exceeding the NDC commitment: India is on track (as reports/documents show) to meet and exceed the NDC commitment to achieve 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based sources by 2030.
  • Reduction in emission intensity of GDP: Against the voluntary declaration for reducing the emission intensity of GDP by 20%-25% by 2020, India has reduced it by 24% between 2005-2016.
  • More importantly, we achieved these targets with around 2% out of the U.S.$100 billion committed to developing nations in Copenhagen (2009), realised by 2015.
  • Renewable energy expansion: India is implementing one of the most extensive renewable energy expansion programmes to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030.
  • Investment in green measures: As part of the fiscal stimulus after the pandemic, the Government announced several green measures, including:
  • a $26.5-billion investment in biogas and cleaner fuels,
  • $3.5 billion in incentives for producing efficient solar photovoltaic (PV)
  • and advanced chemistry cell battery, and $780 million towards an afforestation programme.
  •  India’s contribution to global emissions is well below its equitable share of the worldwide carbon budget by any equity criterion.

Conclusion

To sum up, India has indeed walked the talk. Other countries must deliver on their promises early and demonstrate tangible results ahead of COP26.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Taliban and new realpolitik

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Enduring features of international politics

Context

As the last American soldiers fly out of Kabul airport and the world adapts to the return of the Taliban, three uncomfortable but enduring features of international politics have come into sharp focus.

1) The normalisation of the Taliban by the International community

  • That victories on the battlefield have political consequences is one of the fundamental features of international politics.
  • There is no reason for India to be surprised at the rapid normalisation of the Taliban by the international community.
  • Whether it likes the new and victorious sovereign or not, a government has the obligation to secure its national interests — ranging from the protection of its citizens and property to maintaining the regional balance of power.
  • India is not immune to this essential principle of international relations and will find ways to protect its stakes in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

2) Future U.S. relations with the Taliban

  • The second enduring feature of world politics — that there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.
  • Convergence of interests: The US would want to explore if the Taliban can help secure long-term American interests in preventing a regrouping of international terror outfits like the al Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban on the other hand would want American and Western support in rebuilding Afghanistan.
  • It is by no means clear if such a deal can be clinched, given the big risks it presents to both sides.
  • The US engagement with the Taliban to counter the ISIS-K has been met with derision across the world.
  • Critics say all these groups are part of the same school of terror, driven by similar religious zeal and nurtured in Pakistan’s sanctuaries.

3) Exploit the differences between adversaries: Way forward for India

  • The third feature of international politics is that differences even among the closest of friends are natural and always offer openings to adversaries.
  • For India, the main interest is in preventing Afghan soil from being used by anti-India terror groups.
  • At least a section of the Taliban is eager to continue political and commercial engagement with India.
  • This is part of a natural quest for a diversified set of international partnerships.
  • India would be right to wait patiently on the Taliban’s ability to deliver on these promises and stand up against the Pakistan army’s pressures to keep India out.
  • Exploit the contradictions: India should not rule out contradictions between Pakistan and the terror groups it has nurtured as well as among various jihadi organisations.
  • Despite its powerful appeal, religious ideology has failed to build durable political coalitions within and across nations.

Conclusion

Given this history, it is unwise for Delhi to paint the external challenges arising from the Afghan tumult as a single coherent force. The Panchatantra has a more sensible strategy to offer — try and divide your potential adversaries and strengthen your internal unity.

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PPP Investment Models: HAM, Swiss Challenge, Kelkar Committee

The National Monetisation Pipeline may not help realise the best value for assets

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NMP

Mains level : Paper 3- National Monetisation Pipeline

Context

The Government has launched a National Monetisation Pipeline, or NMP  to sell the revenue streams of public assets over the next four years.

About NMP

  • Financing infrastructure: As outlined in the Union Budget, the NMP aims to mobilize resources for financing infrastructure.
  • Type of assets: The pipeline mostly includes railway stations, freight corridors, airports, and renovated national highway segments amounting to ₹6-lakh crore, or 3% of GDP in 2020-21.
  • The other two methods of raising resources are: setting up a development finance institution (DFI) and raising the share of infrastructure investment in the central and State Budgets.

Concerns

1) Not different from Disinvestment-Privatisation (D-P)

  • Asset monetization as defined in NMP is the same as the net present value (NPV) of the future stream of revenue with an implicit interest rate (whether it is a sale or lease of the asset).
  • Missed targets: Since D-P proceeds (revenues) have seriously missed the targets almost every year, how believable are the NMP targets? And how are they likely to perform differently?
  • If the NMP attempt to shore up public finances, such distress (fire) sale would find it difficult to obtain a “fair value” for public assets.
  • Would the market not factor in the dire state of the economy in beating down the prices, as in any distress sale?
  • The NMP document seems silent on how to overcome past mistakes.

2) PPP mode of implementation

  • The NMP outlines mainly two modes of implementing monetization: public-private partnership (PPP) and “structured financing” to tap the stock market.
  • PPP in infrastructure has been a financial disaster in India, as evident from what happened after the economic boom of 2003-08.
  • After the 2008 financial crisis, many PPP projects failed to repay bank loans leading to the piling up of non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks.
  • Further, the bulk of the lending was too politically connected to corporate houses and firms.
  •  India is still reeling from the legacy of that period without any easy and credible solutions in sight.

3) Stock market crash threatens the success of InvIT

  • An Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) is being mooted as an alternative means of raising finance from the stock market.
  • In principle, InvIT is much like a mutual fund, whose performance is largely linked to stock prices.
  • The disinvestment process began in 1991 in which the bundles of shares of public sector enterprises (PSEs) were sold by UTI in the booming secondary stock market to realize the best price.
  • However, as the market crashed in the wake of the Harshad Mehta scam, stalling and discrediting the disinvestment process for almost the entire decade.
  • Hence, it may be worth learning the lessons from the historical missteps before exploring the idea all over again by the current stock market boom
  • At present, the U.S. Fed committed to reducing its assets purchase program (known as quantitative easing), the “hot money” inflow that has fuelled Indian stock prices may dry up throwing up nasty surprises.

Thus, it seems unwise to anchor the acutely needed investment revival strategy on a discredited PPP model or on fickle Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) investment in a frothy stock market.

Suggestion: Monetise debt

  • With the financial system flush with liquidity with no takers for bank credit, finance the proposed investment — as envisaged in the Budget — by government borrowing.
  • With a negative 0.4% real interest rate (real interest rate is nominal interest rate minus inflation rate), domestic borrowing in home currency is a steal.
  • No Crowding out: Chances of crowding-out private investments are remote with a liquidity overhang in the market.
  • Low inflation risk: Inflation risk is also limited with little aggregate demand pressures (barring temporary bottlenecks due to localized lockdowns).
  • Rating downgrade risk:  If the debt is productively used to expand GDP (the denominator), rating downgrade risk due to the rising Debt-GDP ratio seems minimal.
  •  Moreover, rising external debt by fickle portfolio investors perhaps carries a greater risk to external instability.

Consider the question “How the National Monetisation Pipeline seeks to implement the asset monetisation? What are the challenges in asset monetisation?”

Conclusion

If reviving investment demand quickly is the real goal, debt monetisation seems a better option than asset monetisation.

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

India becomes 4th largest forex reserves holder globally

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forex reserves

Mains level : Balance of Payment/Trade

India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $835 million to touch a record high of $612.73 billion in the week ended July 16, 2021, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data showed.

Forex Reserves

India’s forex reserves cover:

  • Foreign Currency Assets (FCAs) (rose by $463 million to $568.748 billion)
  • Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (up by $1 million at $1.548 billion)
  • Gold Reserves (up by $377 million to $37.333 billion)
  • Reserve position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (up by $1 million at $1.548 billion)

(Note the descending order of the shares of various components of forex reserves. UPSC can go factual here.)

What is Foreign Exchange Reserve?

  • Foreign exchange reserves are important assets held by the central bank in foreign currencies as reserves.
  • They are commonly used to support the exchange rate and set monetary policy.
  • In India’s case, foreign reserves include Gold, Dollars, and the IMF’s quota for Special Drawing Rights.
  • Most of the reserves are usually held in US dollars, given the currency’s importance in the international financial and trading system.
  • Some central banks keep reserves in Euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, or Chinese yuan, in addition to their US dollar reserves.

Countries with the highest foreign reserves

Currently, China has the largest reserves followed by Japan and Switzerland. India has overtaken Russia to become the fourth largest country with foreign exchange reserves.

  1. China – $3,349 Billion
  2. Japan – $1,376 Billion
  3. Switzerland – $1,074 Billion
  4. India – $612.73 Billion
  5. Russia – $597.40 Billion

Why are these reserves so important?

  • All international transactions are settled in US dollars and, therefore, required to support India’s imports.
  • More importantly, they need to maintain support and confidence for central bank action, whether monetary policy action or any exchange rate intervention to support the domestic currency.
  • It also helps to limit any vulnerability due to sudden disturbances in foreign capital flows, which may arise during a crisis.
  • Holding liquid foreign currency provides a cushion against such effects and provides confidence that there will still be enough foreign exchange to help the country with crucial imports in case of external shocks.

Initiatives taken by the government to increase forex

  • To increase the foreign exchange reserves, the Government of India has taken many initiatives like AatmaNirbhar Bharat, in which India has to be made a self-reliant nation so that India does not have to import things that India can produce.
  • Other than AatmaNirbhar Bharat, the government has started schemes like Duty Exemption Scheme, Remission of Duty or Taxes on Export Product (RoDTEP), Nirvik (Niryat Rin Vikas Yojana) scheme, etc.
  • Apart from these schemes, India is one of the top countries that attracted the highest amount of Foreign Direct Investment, thereby improving India’s foreign exchange reserves.

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Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

What is the School Bubble Concept?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : School bubbles

Mains level : Not Much

The Karnataka government has proposed the ‘school bubble’ concept to mitigate the spread of the disease among children (aged below 18) attending offline classes at schools and pre-university colleges across the state.

It takes a village to raise a child.

-Anonymous

What are school bubbles?

  • School bubbles are physical classifications made between groups comprising a small number of students.
  • As per the concept, each such bubble will include students who tend to remain as a group during school hours throughout the term or an academic year.
  • The concept would help managements easily isolate a fewer number of students in case anyone gets infected.
  • For instance, a school bubble can include 30 students. If one among them gets infected, the others can self-isolate but the school need not be closed completely.
  • This would allow uninterrupted learning to others as well.

Why are school bubbles significant?

  • The concept of school bubbles, experts feel, will be more relevant to students studying in primary school or below.
  • These students will have more chances of peer-to-peer interactions on a daily basis.
  • With school bubbles in place, the risk assessment process to identify close contacts of a Covid-positive student will also get easier.

Is this concept completely new?

  • This has been successfully implemented at schools in the United Kingdom.
  • The government there has further relaxed social-distancing measures for students within a particular school bubble.
  • However, all members of the bubble are mandatorily subjected to RT-PCR tests if a student is infected.

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Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Leaded Petrol is officially eradicated

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Leaded Petrol

Mains level : Not Much

The use of leaded petrol has been eradicated from the globe, a/c to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

What is Leaded Petrol?

  • Tetraethyl-lead (TEL) is a petro-fuel additive, first being mixed with petrol beginning in the 1920s as a patented octane rating booster that allowed engine compression to be raised substantially.
  • This in turn caused increased vehicle performance and fuel economy.
  • The practice of adding tetraethyl lead to petrol had spread widely to all countries soon after its anti-knock and octane-boosting properties were discovered.
  • TEL is still used as an additive in some grades of aviation gasoline.

Issues with leaded petrol

  • Lead is toxic, affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
  • It affects the brain, liver, kidneys, and bones. Lead is measured in the blood to understand exposure.
  • Lead in bone is released into the blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing foetus.
  • More recent research has indicated that lead can damage the infant brain even at blood levels as low as 5 microunits per decilitre (μ/dl).

India’s tryst with leaded petrol

  • India was among those countries that took early action to phase out leaded petrol. The process of phase down that had started in 1994, got completed in 2000.
  • Initially, low-leaded petrol was introduced in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in 1994, followed by unleaded petrol in 1995.
  • The entire country got low-leaded petrol in 1997 while leaded fuel was banned in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • The final introduction of unleaded petrol in the entire country was mandated in April 2000.
  • This decision was also catalyzed by the Supreme Court order that had directed the introduction of unleaded petrol to enable the adoption of catalytic converters in petrol cars.

Significance of phasing out

  • It is a milestone that will prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths and save world economies over $2.4 trillion annually.
  • It has taken 100 years to stop the use of leaded fuel finally.

Try answering this PYQ:

Q.Lead, ingested or inhaled, is a health hazard. After the addition of lead to petrol has been banned, what still are the sources of lead poisoning? (CSP 2012)

  1. Smelting units
  2. Pens pencils
  3. Paints
  4. Hair oils and cosmetics

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 1 and 3 only

(c) 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

 

Post your answers here.

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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

What is Milky Sea Phenomenon?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Milky Sea Phenomenon

Mains level : NA

Some researchers would use satellites to study the elusive milky sea phenomenon.

What is the Milky Sea?

  • Milky seas, also called mareel, is a luminous phenomenon in the ocean in which large areas of seawater appear to glow translucently (in varying shades of blue).
  • Such occurrences glow brightly enough at night to be visible from satellites orbiting Earth.
  • They are a rare nocturnal phenomenon in which the ocean’s surface emits a steady bright glow.

Why do they glow?

  • Luminous bacteria cause the particles they colonize to glow.
  • The purpose of this glow could be to attract fish that eat them.
  • These bacteria thrive in the guts of fishes, so when their populations get too big for their main food supply, a fish’s stomach makes a great second option.

How do they occur?

  • It is typically caused by Noctiluca scintillans (popularly known as “sea sparkle”), a dinoflagellate that glows when disturbed and is found in oceans throughout much of the world.
  • Once their population gets large enough – about 100 million individual cells per millilitre of water – a sort of internal biological switch is flipped and they all start glowing steadily.

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Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Custodial Violence

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NCRB

Mains level : Paper 2- Police reforms

Context

Earlier this month, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana expressed concern at the degree of human rights violations in police stations in the country. He said that “the threat to human rights and bodily integrity is the highest in police stations”

Deaths in police custody

  • Improvement in the situation: A reality check shows that the picture is not so bleak and efforts are being made to improve the human rights protection regime in police stations.
  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data reveal that though the number of custodial deaths varies year to year, on average of about 100 custodial deaths have taken place every year between 2010 and 2019.
  • Of them, about 3.5 persons allegedly died due to injuries caused by policemen.
  • A judicial inquiry, which is mandatory for every suspicious custodial death, was conducted in 26.4 cases.
  • Though every death in custody needs to be prevented, suspicious deaths which bring disrepute to the police system must be rooted out completely.

Measures to reduce the instances of custodial violence

1) Reduce the number of arrests

  • As per the law, arrest for offences punishable up to seven years of imprisonment should be made only when such arrest is necessary to prevent the person from tampering with evidence, or committing any further offence, etc.
  • The Supreme Court held that each arrest must be necessary and justified; having the authority to arrest is alone not sufficient.
  • In Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014), it was held that despite the offence being non-bailable under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which relates to torture for dowry, arrest is not mandatory as per Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  • In Special Action Forum v. Union of India (2018), the Court further held that the police officer shall furnish to the magistrate the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest for further detention of the accused.
  • The purpose of these checks is to ensure that the police does not abuse the power of arrest.
  • NCRB data show that the ratio of the number of arrests to the number of IPC offences has decreased from 1.33 in 2010 to 0.96 in 2019.

2) Separate investigation from law and order

  • The National Police Commission (1977-81), the Law Commission in its 154th report (1996) and the Malimath Committee Report (2003), and the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh v. Union of India (2006), have recommended that the investigating police should be separated from the law-and-order police to ensure better expertise in investigation.
  • It is believed that a separate wing will do more professional investigation and will not use unwarranted methods to extract confession from the accused.
  • Though efforts have been made by some States in this direction, more resources are required in policing to implement the Court’s directions.

3) Increase the number of investigating officers

  • Unless investigating officers are increased in proportion to the number of serious offences, the quality of investigation may suffer.
  • The Malimath Committee’s recommendation that an investigating officer should preferably investigate no more than 10 cases every year needs to be implemented.
  • Subject expert officers: With the increase of newer types of crime like white collar crime and cybercrime, subject experts are needed to assist the police in the investigation.

4) Sensitise Police

  • The police officers must know that their mandate is to protect human rights and not violate them.
  • They need to be sensitised regularly and encouraged to employ scientific tools of interrogation and investigation like the lie detection test, narco test and brainfingerprinting test.

5) Display board on human rights

  • The CJI’s suggestion to install display boards on human rights to disseminate information about the constitutional right to legal aid and availability of free legal aid services may deter police excesses.

Steps taken to deal with the issue

  • Much has changed in the police consequent to the judgment in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1996) in which the Supreme Court laid down guidelines to check custodial torture.
  • Guidelines incorporated in CrPC: Most of these guidelines such as providing information to a friend or relative about the arrest, medical examination, and permission to meet a lawyer have now been incorporated in the CrPC.
  • CCTV Cameras installed:  In Paramvir Singh v. Baljit Singh (2020), the Supreme Court has directed States to cover more area of each police station under CCTV cameras and have storage facility of audio-video recording for 18 months.
  • Actions against guilty:  NCRB data show that on average about 47.2 criminal cases were registered annually against policemen in last 10 years.
  • Departmental action against errant officers is a rule in the police force, rather than an exception.
  • Compensation by NHRC: The National Human Rights Commission also oversees deaths in custody due to human rights violations and recommends compensation in appropriate cases.
  • Incentives linked with police reforms: The Home Ministry has recently linked the ‘police modernisation scheme’ with police reforms.
  • Unless sufficient action is taken by the State governments and the police authorities, incentives in the form of additional funds will not be released.

Consider the question “Human right violations in police stations is a cause for concerns. What are the reasons for such violations? Suggest the measures to curb it.”

Conclusion

Our commitment to the protection of human rights is unconditional and total. Many steps have been taken so far to check custodial violence and no stone shall be left unturned to eliminate such violence in toto.

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Free and Open Source Software

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FOSS

Mains level : Paper 3- Potential of FOSS

Context

Recognising its potential, in 2015, the Indian government announced a policy to encourage open source instead of proprietary technology for government applications. However, the true potential of this policy is yet to be realized.

Advantages of FOSS

  • Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) today presents an alternative model to build digital technologies for population scale.
  • Freedom to modify: Unlike proprietary software, everyone has the freedom to edit, modify and reuse open-source code.
  • Reduced cost and innovation: This results in many benefits — reduced costs, no vendor lock-in, the ability to customise for local context, and greater innovation through wider collaboration.
  • Use in public service delivery: We have seen some great examples of public services being delivered through systems that use FOSS building blocks, including Aadhaar, GSTN, and the DigiLocker.
  • FOSS communities can examine the open-source code for adherence to data privacy principles, help find bugs, and ensure transparency and accountability.

Challenges in adoption by government in GovTech

  • In 2015, the Indian government announced a policy to encourage open source instead of proprietary technology for government applications.
  • Several misconceptions remain in the understanding of FOSS, especially for GovTech.
  • Trust issue: “Free” in FOSS is perceived to be “free of cost” and FOSS is often mistaken to be less trustworthy and more vulnerable, whereas FOSS can actually create more trust between the government and citizens.
  • However, Many solutions launched by the government including Digilocker, Diksha, Aarogya Setu, Cowin — built on top of open-source digital platforms — have benefited from valuable inputs provided by volunteer open-source developers.
  • Such inputs have immensely helped in improving solutions and making them more robust.
  • Accountability issue: In the case of FOSS, there appears to be an absence of one clear “owner”, which makes it harder to identify who is accountable.
  • While this concern is legitimate, there are ways to mitigate it.
  • For example, by having the government’s in-house technical staff understand available documentation and getting key personnel to join relevant developer communities.

Way forward for greater adoption of FOSS in GovTech

  • Here is a four-step path to make this vision a reality.
  • 1) Incentivise FOSS in government: The government’s policy requires all tech suppliers to submit bids with open source options.
  • Suppliers also need to justify in case they do not offer an open-source option
  • Sourcing departments are asked to weigh the lifetime costs and benefits of both alternatives before making a decision.
  • While this serves as a good nudge, the policy can perhaps go a step further by formally giving greater weightage to FOSS-specific metrics in the evaluation criteria in RFPs, and offering recognition to departments that deploy FOSS initiatives, such as, a special category under the Digital India Awards.
  • 2) Create a repository of GovtTech ready solutions: a repository of “GovTech ready” building blocks that are certified for use in government and audited for security compliances is needed.
  • Creating a repository of ready-to-use “GovTech-ised” building blocks can help departments quickly identify and deploy FOSS solutions in their applications.
  • 3) Encourage FOSS innovation: FOSS innovations can be encouraged through “GovTech hackathons and challenges”, bringing together the open-source community to design solutions for specific problem statements identified by government departments.
  • One such challenge — a #FOSS4Gov Innovation Challenge — was recently launched.
  • 4) Create an institutional mechanism: A credible institutional anchor is needed to be a home for FOSS-led innovation in India.
  • Such an institution can bring together FOSS champions and communities that are scattered across India around a shared agenda for collective impact.
  • Kerala’s International Centre for Free & Open Source Software (ICFOSS) is a great example of such an institution.

Conclusion

With an IT workforce of more than four million employees, what we need is a concerted push to harness the biggest promise that FOSS holds.

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Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

Biofortified food can lead India from food security to nutrition security

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Food fortification

Mains level : Paper 3- Nutrition security through food fortification

Context

On August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that, by 2024, rice provided to the poor under any government scheme — PDS, mid-day-meal, anganwadi — will be fortified.

Need for nutrition security in India

  • 15.3 per cent of the country’s population is undernourished.
  • India has the highest proportion of “stunted” (30 per cent) and “wasted” children (17.3 per cent) below five years of age, as per the FAO’s recent publication, ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2021’.
  • These figures indicate that India is at a critical juncture with respect to nutritional security.
  • Other factors: Other factors like poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation, low levels of immunization and education, especially of women, contribute equally to this dismal situation.

India’s journey towards nutrition security

  • As per the ICAR website, they had developed 21 varieties of biofortified staples including wheat, rice, maize, millets, mustard, groundnut by 2019-20.
  • These varieties are not genetically modified.
  • These biofortified crops have 1.5 to 3 times higher levels of protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids compared to the traditional varieties.
  • A research team at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute in Mohali has also developed biofortified colored wheat (black, blue, purple) that is rich in zinc and anthocyanins.
  • The HarvestPlus program of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has been working closely with ICAR, to improve the access of the poor in India to iron-rich pearl millet and zinc-rich wheat.
  • Globally, more than 40 countries have released biofortified crops, benefitting over 48 million people.
  • Leveraging science to attack the complex challenge of malnutrition, particularly for low-income and vulnerable sections of society, can be a good intervention.

Challenges in securing nutrition security

  • Access to nutritious food is only one of the determinants of nutrition.
  • Other factors like poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation, low levels of immunization and education, especially of women, contribute equally to this dismal situation.
  • Need for a multi-pronged approach: In the long run, India needs a multi-pronged approach to eliminate the root cause of this complex problem.

Way forward: Multi-pronged approach

1) Focus on mother’s education

  • There is a direct correlation between a mother’s education and the well-being of children.
  • Targeted programs for improving the educational status of girls and reducing school dropout rates need to be promoted.
  • The Global Nutrition Report (2014) estimates that every dollar invested in a proven nutrition program offers benefits worth 16 dollars.

2) Scale-up innovation in biofortified food by supporting policies

  • Innovations in biofortified food can alleviate malnutrition only when they are scaled up with supporting policies.
  • This would require increasing expenditure on agri-R&D and incentivizing farmers by linking their produce to lucrative markets through sustainable value chains and distribution channels.
  • The government can also rope in the private sector to create a market segment for premium-quality biofortified foods.
  •  For instance, trusts run by the TATA group are supporting different states to initiate fortification of milk with Vitamin A and D. 

3) National awareness drive

  • A national awareness drive on the lines of the “Salt Iodisation Programme” launched by the government in 1962 can play an important role at the individual and community levels to achieve the desired goals of poshan for all. 
  • Branding, awareness campaigns, social and behavioral change initiatives, can promote the consumption of locally available, nutrient-dense affordable foods among the poor and children.

Consider the question” Access to nutritious food is only one of the determinants of nutrition, and fortified food can play important role in this direction. Suggest the other measures to ensure nutrition safety in India.” 

Conclusion

Biofortified food is a step in the right direction, however, other factors should also be given equal attention in securing national security in India.

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

Poultry Farm Establishment Rules

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pollution caused due to Poultry Industry

Mains level : Agricultural emission

Small and marginal poultry farmers in India will now have to take measures similar to their bigger counterparts to prevent environmental pollution, according to new guidelines issued recently by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

What are the new guidelines?

(A) Establishment

  • Consent to Operate: The new guidelines state that for establishing and operating a medium-sized poultry farm of 25,000-100,000 birds, a farmer will have to obtain a certificate of Consent. Permission will be valid for 15 years.
  • Designated Authority: This will have to be taken from the State Pollution Control Board or Committee under the Water Act, 1974, and the Air Act, 1981. The Animal Husbandry Department will be responsible for implementing the guidelines at the state and district level.
  • Location: A farm should be set up 500 metres away from a residential area, 100 metres from rivers, lakes, canals, and drinking water sources, 100 metres from national highways, and 10-15 metres from village footpaths and rural roads.

(B) Operational directives

  • Ventilated farms: The guidelines state that the poultry farm should have a ventilated room to reduce the gaseous pollution from the birds.
  • Wastewater management: Also, care should be taken so that poultry feces do not mix with running water or any other pesticide.
  • Manure generation: Farmers of small- and medium-sized poultry farms will have to arrange for manure. After use, the water from a poultry farm must be collected in a tank. The guidelines suggest using it in horticulture.
  • Disposal of deads: Emphasis has also been given to the daily removal of birds that die, through burial, without harming the environment. Burial should be done three metres above the groundwater level.

(C) Large/ Small Farmer

The new guidelines have defined who is a ‘large’ or ‘small’ poultry farmer in India.

  • Those who have 5,000-25,000 birds are small farmers.
  • Those who have more than 25,000 and less than 100,000 birds are medium farmers.
  • Those who have more than 100,000 birds are large farmers.

Why need such regulation?

  • Poultry, hatchery and piggery were considered ‘green’ by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in its guidelines of 2015.
  • This meant they were exempt from the air, water, and environmental protection laws.
  • Gaseous emissions and waste are major problems in poultry farming.
  • The feces of poultry birds emit gaseous ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane, all of which produce odors.

Poultry sector of India

  • According to the 20th Livestock Census 2020, there are 851.8 million poultry birds in India.
  • About 30 percent (250 million) of this is ‘backyard poultry’ or small and marginal farmers.
  • According to the 19th Livestock Census, the number of such farmers is about 30 million.
  • Chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, etc, are reared in poultry farms for meat and eggs. Chickens that are reared for eggs are called ‘laying hens’ or ‘layers’. Those reared for meat are called ‘broilers’.

According to the 20th Livestock Census, Tamil Nadu (120 million), Andhra Pradesh (107 million), Telangana (79 million), West Bengal (77 million), Maharashtra (74 million), Karnataka (59 million crores), Assam (46 million) and Kerala (29 million) have the highest poultry populations.

Try answering this PYQ:

Consider the following statements:

  1. Agricultural soils release nitrogen oxides into environment.
  2. Cattle release ammonia into environment.
  3. Poultry industry releases reactive nitrogen compounds into environment.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

Why is there a push for Asset Monetization?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asset Monetization

Mains level : Execution of NMP in spirit

Finance Minister has recently announced the framework for the National Monetization Pipeline (NMP) and its process is under discussion.

What is Asset Monetization?

  • Asset Monetization involves the creation of new sources of revenue by unlocking of the value of hitherto unutilized or underutilized public assets.
  • Internationally, it is recognized that public assets are a significant resource for all economies.
  • Many public sector assets are sub-optimally utilized and could be appropriately monetized to create greater financial leverage and value for the companies and of the equity that the government has invested in them.
  • This helps in the accurate estimation of public assets which would help in the better financial management of government/public resources over time.

What is the National Monetization Pipeline?

  • The NMP names a list of public assets that will be leased to private investors.
  • Only brown-field assets, which are assets that are already operational, are planned to be leased out under the NMP.
  • So, to give an example, an airport that is already operational may be leased out to an investor.
  • Assets that are yet to be developed, such as an undeveloped piece of land, for example, may not be leased out.
  • Importantly, there won’t be any transfer of ownership from the government to the private sector when assets are leased out.
  • The government only plans to cede control over its assets for a certain period of time, after which the assets must be returned to the government unless the lease is extended.

Will NMP help the economy?

  • Better control and utilization: Economists generally believe that scarce assets are better managed and allocated by the private sector than by the government. So to the extent that the NMP frees assets from government control, it can help the economy.
  • Freeing Capital: The government believes that leasing out public assets to private investors will help free capital that is stuck in these assets.
  • Infra generation: The government can use this money, in turn, to build fresh infrastructure under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP).
  • Economic boost: In fact, the proceeds from the NMP are expected to account for about 14% of the total outlay for infrastructure under the NIP. The government believes all this spending will boost economic activity.
  • A perfect model: Analysts also believe that the government has now through the NMP found the right model for infrastructure development.
  • Source of finance: The government, they say, is best suited to tackle the ground-level challenges in building infrastructure, while the private sector can operate and offer indirect finance to these projects through the NMP.

For example, say the government has invested thousands of crores in a road project. It may take the government decades to recover its investment through the annual toll revenues.  Instead, the government can recover a good chunk of its investment by leasing out the right to collect toll for the next 30 years to a private investor.

What are the risks?

  • Political lobbying: The allocation of assets owned by governments to private investors is often subject to political influence, which can lead to corruption. In fact, many in the Opposition allege that the NMP will favour a few business corporations that are close to the government.
  • Burden of opportunity cost: The expected boost to economic activity due to higher government spending may also need to be weighed against the opportunity costs. For one, the money that the government collects by leasing out assets comes from the pockets of the private sector. So higher government spending will come at the cost of lower private spending.
  • Legal uncertainties: The NMP also does not address the various structural problems such as legal uncertainty and the absence of a deep bond market that hold back private investment in infrastructure.
  • Sheer Privatization: There are also concerns that the leasing of airports, railways, roads and other public utilities to private investors could lead to higher prices for consumers. If the government merely cedes control of public utilities to private companies without taking steps to foster greater competition, it can indeed lead to poor outcomes for consumers.
  • Policy compulsion: The government’s past disinvestment projects such as the sale of Air India did not catch the fancy of investors owing to the stringent conditions set by the government. In the case of Air India’s sale, the buyers were supposed to possess a certain minimum net worth and stay invested in the airline for at least three years.

What lies ahead?

  • The success of the NMP will depend on the demand for brown-field government assets among private investors.
  • Many analysts also believed that the government was expecting buyers to pay too much for a debt-ridden Air India.
  • The pricing of assets and the terms of sale will thus determine the level of interest that private investors show for assets leased under the NMP.
  • In the past, doubts have been raised about the allocation of airports and other assets to certain private business groups (say Adani Group).
  • So the process that the government adopts this time to allocate assets may come under scrutiny. There is likely to be a demand for an open, competitive auction of assets.

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History- Important places, persons in news

PM inaugurates Jallianwala Bagh Memorial

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Mains level : Not Much

Prime Minister has virtually inaugurated the renovated Jallianwala Bagh complex in Amritsar.

What led to Jallianwala Bagh Massacre?

Protesting the contentious Rowlatt Act

  • The act officially known as the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act, 1919 was passed in 1919 by the Imperial Legislative Council.
  • It had authorized the British government to arrest anybody suspected of terrorist activities.
  • It also authorized the government to detain such people arrested for up to 2 years without trial.
  • It empowered the police to search a place without a warrant. It also placed severe restrictions on the freedom of the press.
  • The primary intention of colonial govt. was to repress the growing nationalist movement in the country.
  • The British were also afraid of a Ghadarite revolution in Punjab and the rest of the country.

The day

  • The massacre took place on 13 April 1919 when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Col. Reginald Dyer fired rifles into a crowd of Indians.
  • The civilians had assembled for a peaceful protest to condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.
  • Dyer without warning ordered his troops to fire at the unarmed crowd which included children as well.
  • The indiscriminate firing went on for about 10 minutes which resulted in the deaths of at least 1000 people and injured more than 1500 people.

Aftermath

  • In protest against the massacre, Rabindranath Tagore gave up his knighthood.
  • Gandhiji relinquished his title ‘Kaiser-e-hind’ bestowed on him by the British for his services during the Boer War in South Africa.
  • Michael O’Dwyer, the then Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, who had approved the actions of Dyer, was assassinated by Udham Singh in London in 1940 as revenge against the massacre.
  • The heroic treatment of Dyer’s heinous act again set a benchmark of colonial arrogance.

Hunter Commission for inquiry

  • In October 1919 the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, ordered the formation of a committee of inquiry into the events in Punjab.
  • Referred to as the Disorders Inquiry Committee, it was later more widely known as the Hunter Commission (Not to be confused with Hunter Education Commission).
  • Still, there are long-standing demands in India that Britain should apologize for the massacre.

Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy

BCG vaccine: 100 years and counting

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BCG, TB and other respiratory diseases

Mains level : Not Much

The first use of BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin), the vaccine against tuberculosis (TB) in humans have been completed for 100 years.

What is TB?

  • TB is a very ancient disease and has been documented to have existed in Egypt as early as 3000 BC.
  • It is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, belonging to the Mycobacteriaceae family consisting of about 200 members.
  • Some of these cause diseases like TB and leprosy in humans and others infect a wide range of animals. Mycobacteria are also widely dispersed in the environment.
  • In humans, TB most commonly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB), but it can also affect other organs (extra-pulmonary TB).

Yet not eliminated

  • Other historically dreaded diseases like smallpox, leprosy, plague, and cholera have been either eradicated or controlled to a large extent due to advances in science and technology.
  • However, TB continues to be a major public health problem in the world.
  • According to the WHO’s Global TB Report, 10 million people developed TB in 2019 with 1.4 million deaths. India accounts for 27% of these cases.

BCG Vaccine for TB

  • BCG was developed by two Frenchmen, Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin, by modifying a strain of Mycobacterium Bovis (that causes TB in cattle) till it lost its capacity to cause disease while retaining its property to stimulate the immune system.
  • It was first used in humans in 1921.
  • Currently, BCG is the only licensed vaccine available for the prevention of TB.
  • It is the world’s most widely used vaccine with about 120 million doses every year and has an excellent safety record.

BCG in India

  • In India, BCG was first introduced on a limited scale in 1948 and became a part of the National TB Control Programme in 1962.
  • India is committed to eliminating TB as a public health problem by 2025.

Effectiveness of BCG

  • One intriguing fact about BCG is that it works well in some geographic locations and not so well in others.
  • Generally, the farther a country is from the equator, the higher is the efficacy.
  • In children, BCG provides strong protection against severe forms of TB.
  • This protective effect appears to wane with age and is far more variable in adolescents and adults, ranging from 0–80%.
  • In addition to its primary use as a vaccine against TB, BCG also protects against respiratory and bacterial infections of newborns and other mycobacterial diseases like leprosy and Buruli’s ulcer.
  • It is also used as an immunotherapy agent in cancer of the urinary bladder and malignant melanoma.

Try answering this PYQ:

What is the importance of using pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in India? (CSP 2020)

  1. These vaccines are effective against pneumonia as well as meningitis and sepsis.
  2. Dependence on antibiotics that are not effective against drug-resistant bacteria can be reduced.
  3. These vaccines have no side effects and cause no allergic reactions

Select the correct answer using the given code below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

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Global Geological And Climatic Events

Hurricane Ida makes landfall in US

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hurricane (Tropical Cycolnes)

Mains level : Impact of frequent cyclonic landfalls

Hurricane Ida has made landfall in Louisiana, US as an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm.

What is a Hurricane?

  • A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern Pacific Ocean.
  • And a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or the Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as “tropical cyclones” or “severe cyclonic storms”.

What are Tropical Cyclones?

A Tropical cyclone is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterized by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain.

  • Cyclones are formed over slightly warm ocean waters. The temperature of the top layer of the sea, up to a depth of about 60 meters, need to be at least 28°C to support the formation of a cyclone.
  • This explains why the April-May and October-December periods are conducive for cyclones.
  • Then, the low level of air above the waters needs to have an ‘anticlockwise’ rotation (in the northern hemisphere; clockwise in the southern hemisphere).
  • During these periods, there is an ITCZ in the Bay of Bengal whose southern boundary experiences winds from west to east, while the northern boundary has winds flowing east to west.
  • Once formed, cyclones in this area usually move northwest. As it travels over the sea, the cyclone gathers more moist air from the warm sea which adds to its heft.

Try this question from CSP 2020:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Jet Streams occur in the Northern Hemisphere only.
  2. Only some cyclones develop an eye.
  3. The temperature inside the eye of a cyclone is nearly 10 degree Celsius lesser than that of the surroundings.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

 

Post your answers here.

Destruction caused

  • Strong Winds: Cyclones are known to cause severe damage to infrastructure through high-speed winds.
  • Torrential rains and inland flooding: Torrential rainfall (more than 30 cm/hour) associated with cyclones is another major cause of damages. Unabated rain gives rise to unprecedented floods.
  • Storm Surge: A Storm surge can be defined as an abnormal rise of sea level near the coast caused by a severe tropical cyclone.

Some (unexpected) benefits

Although Tropical cyclones are known for the destruction they cause, when they strike they also bestow certain benefits to the climatic conditions of that area such as

  • Relieve drought conditions
  • Carry heat and energy away from the tropics and transport it towards temperate latitudes
  • Maintain a relatively stable and warm temperature worldwide

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Also read:

[Burning Issue] Tropical Cyclones and India

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Soft power, India’s strength in Afghanistan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CDRI

Mains level : Paper 2- Afghanistan issue

Context

Over the past few weeks, there has been much talk about India’s diplomatic stakes being threatened by the changing political scenario in Afghanistan.

India’s role in Afghanistan’s development

  • India is currently the fifth-largest donor in Afghanistan.
  • India’s total development assistance over the years has been worth over $3 billion.
  • Soft and hard measures: India’s development cooperation with Afghanistan has encompassed both soft and hard measures.
  • Soft measures have helped build goodwill and greater people-to-people contact and has involved measures focusing on health, education, capacity development and food security, among others.
  • Many projects have been community-driven, thus helping engage a large section of people in development efforts.
  • Hard infrastructure examples include the parliament building which was inaugurated in 2015, financing the Delaram-Zaranj Highway as well as the 42 MW Salma Dam in Herat province.
  • India had also engaged in triangular cooperation under the US umbrella, cooperating with USAID on various programmes.
  • This includes Afghan Women’s Empowerment Programme, a collaboration between USAID and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) for providing vocational education for Afghan women.

How India’s approach differed from other donors?

  • Demand-driven approach: India follows a demand-driven approach, which implies that the sectors for investment are chosen by the recipient government.
  • Not condition based: although its aid is extended as a soft means to gain strategic leverage, it comes without political conditions.
  • In PPP terms, the value of the Indian rupee is often underestimated, meaning that the Indian rupee would be able to buy substantially more goods and services at adjusted exchange rates.
  • For example, a study by the Stimson Centre found out that even though Indian aid in 2015-16 totalled $1.36 billion, in PPP terms it could be pegged at over $5 billion.

Way forward

  • Adapt programs to new reality: At the Afghanistan Conference in Geneva in 2020, India announced several development projects.
  • New political developments in Afghanistan are unlikely to lead to a complete disconnect with India and its established socio-economic role.
  • However, India may need to adapt its programmes to new realities.
  • Diversify portfolio: There is still an infrastructure deficit in Afghanistan and a need for rebuilding and reconstruction.
  • As far as development cooperation is concerned, however, India needs to further diversify its portfolios.
  • Resilient Afghanistan to climate change: India can do much to build a more resilient Afghanistan with respect to climate change and disaster risk reduction with it spearheading global campaigns like CDRI.

Conclusion

India needs to establish itself as a neutral entity that is keen on the development of the region but ready to work with all parties concerned.

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Land Reforms

Agrarian reforms should go beyond meeting demands of the agitating farmers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Land reforms

Context

The farmers’ agitation in India has attracted worldwide attention and support.

Story of land reforms in India

  • Being a state subject, various states implemented reforms with varying degrees of effectiveness and equity.
  • Objectives: The objectives were the same: Abolition of feudal landlordism, conferment of ownership on tenants, fixing land ceilings, distribution of surplus land, increasing agricultural productivity and production, etc.
  • However, owing to manipulations in land records, much surplus land was not available for distribution among the landless tillers.
  • Less than one per cent of the total land in the country was declared as surplus.
  • The relevant criteria for land entitlement should have been employment and main source of income.

Change in social structure after land reforms

  • The ex-tenants, after getting land made use of several programmes —Green Revolution technology, bank nationalisation and priority sector lending, urbanisation and expanding urban markets.
  • They cornered a disproportionate share of various subsidies.
  • The tenant-turned-capitalist farmers formed political parties, which produced strong state-level leaders, who controlled state-level planning, fiscal policies and politics.
  • In place of a strong Centre and weak states, came a weak Centre and strong states.
  • Rich farmers have formed strong power blocs, with unquestioned clout and bargaining power, not only in north-western India but also in states like Maharashtra.

Need for agrarian reforms

  • Farmers are seeking legal safeguards against market fluctuations, especially against any downward pressure on agricultural prices.
  • While they welcome every rise in prices, they demand legal protection against price falls, a legitimate stance.
  • Even as agricultural prosperity must be promoted,it should not be just shared between farmers (especially rich ones) and urban consumers, but by all.
  • Farm workers, in particular, must benefit from it.

Reforms for farmworkers

  • Agricultural land should be pooled and equally distributed among farm households.
  • Non-farm households should not be permitted to hold farmland.
  • Land reforms should be a central subject; while agriculture can remain a state subject.
  • Such a programme will empower and enrich marginalised and excluded individuals and social groups.
  • It should be the kernel of a justiciable universal property right that must form an integral/inalienable part of Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.

Conclusion

The right to life is hollow without a right to livelihood. Through an effective land reforms programme, let’s build a prosperous India based on equity and justice.

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Disinvestment in India

Asset monetisation — execution is the key

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cost of capital

Mains level : Paper 3- Asset monetisation and challenges in it

Context

The government has announced an ambitious programme of asset monetisation. It hopes to earn ₹6 trillion in revenues over a four-year period.

About Asset monetisation

  • Unlike in privatisation, no sale of government assets is involved.
  • The government parts with its assets — such as roads, coal mines — for a specified period of time in exchange for a lump sum payment.
  • Asset monetisation will happen mainly in three sectors: roads, railways and power.
  • Other assets to be monetised include: airports, ports, telecom, stadiums and power transmission.
  • Two important statements have been made about the asset monetisation programme.
  • The focus will be on under-utilised assets.
  • Monetisation will happen through public-private partnerships (PPP) and Investment Trusts.

Challenges

1) Investors would prefer property utilised assets over underutilised assets

  • Suppose an asset is not being used adequately because it has not been properly developed or marketed well enough.
  • A private party may judge that it can put the assets to better use.
  • It will pay the government a price equal to the present value of cash flows at the current level of utilisation.
  • This is a win-win situation for the government and the private player.
  • The government gets a ‘fair’ value for its assets.
  • The private player gets its return on investment.
  • Increase in efficiency: The economy benefits from an increase in efficiency.
  • Monetising under-utilised assets thus has much to commend it.
  • However, in case of an asset that is being properly utilised, the private player has little incentive to invest and improve efficiency.
  • It simply needs to operate the assets as they are.
  • The private player may value the cash flows assuming a normal rate of growth.
  •  The cost of capital for a private player is higher than for a public authority.
  • The higher cost of capital for the private player could offset the benefit of any reduction in operating costs.
  • The government earns badly needed revenues but these could be less than what it might earn if it continued to operate the assets itself.
  • There is no improvement in efficiency.
  • The benefits to the economy are likely to be greater where under-utilised assets are monetised.
  • However, private players will prefer well-utilised assets to assets that are under-utilised.
  • That is because, in the former, cash flows and returns are more certain.

2) Valuation challenges

  • It is very difficult to get the valuation right over a long-term horizon, say, 30 years.
  •  For a road or highway, growth in traffic would also depend on factors other than the growth of the economy.
  • . If the rate of growth of traffic turns out to be higher than assessed by the government in valuing the asset, the private operator will reap windfall gains.
  • Alternatively, if the winning bidder pays what turns out to be a steep price for the asset, it will raise the toll price steeply.
  • The consumer ends up bearing the cost.
  • It could be argued that a competitive auction process will address these issues and fetch the government the right price while yielding efficiency gains.
  • But that assumes, among other things, that there will be a large number of bidders for the many assets that will be monetised.

3) Life of the returned asset may not be long

  • There is no incentive for the private player to invest in the asset towards the end of the tenure of monetisation.
  • The life of the asset, when it is returned to the government, may not be long.
  • In that event, asset monetisation virtually amounts to sale.
  • Monetisation through the PPP route is thus fraught with problems.

Way forward: InvIT route

  • Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvIT) are mutual fund-like vehicles in which investors can subscribe to units that give dividends.
  •  Monetisable assets will be transferred to InvITs.
  • The sponsor of the Trust is required to hold a minimum prescribed proportion of the total units issued.
  • InvITs offer a portfolio of assets, so investors get the benefit of diversification.
  • In the InvIT route to monetisation, the public authority continues to own the rights to a significant portion of the cash flows and to operate the assets.
  • So, the issues that arise with transfer of assets to a private party — such as incorrect valuation or an increase in price to the consumer — are less of a problem.

Key takeaways

  • Low cost of capital for public authority: In general, due to the low cost of capital for public authority, the economy is best served when public authorities develop infrastructure and monetise these.
  • InvIT route: Monetisation through InvITs is likely to prove less of a problem than the PPP route.
  • Monetise under utilised assets: We are better off monetising under-utilised assets than assets that are well utilised.
  • Monitoring authority should be set up: To ensure proper execution, there is a case for independent monitoring of the process.
  • The government may set up an Asset Monetisation Monitoring Authority staffed by competent professionals.

Consider the question “How asset monetisation is different from privatisation? What are the challenges in asset monetisation? Suggest the ways forward.”

Conclusion

Government must pay attention to the challenges in asset monetisation and use it in the proper way to increase the efficiency in the economy.

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Right To Privacy

Delhi HC observations on Right to be Forgotten

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 21

Mains level : Right to be Forgotten

The Delhi High Court upheld the view that the “Right to Privacy” includes the “Right to be Forgotten” and the “Right to be Left Alone”.

Right to be Forgotten in India

  • The Right to be Forgotten falls under the purview of an individual’s right to privacy, which is governed by the Personal Data Protection Bill that is yet to be passed by Parliament.
  • In 2017, the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in its landmark verdict.
  • The court said at the time that “the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution”.

What was the recent case?

  • The TV celebrity had moved Delhi High Court with the plea that orders be issued to Google and relevant entities to facilitate the removal of posts, videos, articles and any information related to incidents that he was involved.
  • His plea cited that his presence on the internet is a source of “utmost psychological pain” to him.

Legal issues

  • India does not have a law yet on right to be forgotten.
  • In the meantime, the Information Technology Rules, 2011 — which is the current regime governing digital data — does not have any provisions relating to the right to be forgotten.
  • The Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill was tabled in Parliament in 2019 and is being examined by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).

Key features of PDP Bill

  • Personal Data: Section 20 of the PDP Bill says that a ‘data principal’ — or the person who generates the data or to whom the information pertains — can rightfully ask a ‘data fiduciary’, which is any entity that stores or processes such data, to “restrict or prevent the continuing disclosure of his personal data” in specific circumstances.
  • Purpose of data: To seek the erasure of data, it is necessary to establish that it “has served the purpose for which it was collected or is no longer necessary for the purpose; was made with the consent of the data principal.
  • Right to be forgotten: The Bill says that the right to be forgotten can be enforced only on an order of an adjudicating officer following an application filed by the data principal.
  • Contravention with Free Speech: However, the decision on whether the right to be forgotten can be granted with respect to any data will depend on whether it contravenes “the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to information of any other citizen”.

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Corporate Social Responsibility: Issues & Development

Govt’s clarifications on CSR Expenditure

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CSR Expenditure rules

Mains level : CSR

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has clarified that companies have to ensure that funds transferred to implementing agencies are actually utilized for them to be counted towards mandatory CSR expenditure.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

  • CSR is a type of business self-regulation that aims to contribute to the societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature by engaging in or supporting volunteering or ethically-oriented practices.
  • It rests on the ideology of “give and take” i.e. to take scarce resources from the environment for running a business, and in turn to contribute towards economic, social, and environmental development.

CSR in India

  • India is the first country in the world to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory, following an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013 in April 2014.
  • Businesses can invest their profits in areas such as education, poverty, gender equality, and hunger as part of any CSR compliance.

All companies with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or net profit of Rs 5 crore or more, are required to spend 2 per cent of their average profits of the previous three years on CSR activities every year.

What is the recent clarification?

  • The MCA has clarified that excess Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure prior to FY21 cannot be set off against future CSR expenditure requirements.
  • Corporate donations to government schemes cannot be counted as CSR.
  • The ministry has also clarified that companies have to ensure that funds transferred to implementing agencies are actually utilized for them to be counted towards mandatory CSR expenditure.

Impact of the move

  • This clarification may impact donations to state government schemes which are often done for the sake of managing relationships with the government.

Earlier changes

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