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Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

International Solar Alliance plans bank to fund energy access

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Solar Alliance

Mains level: India’s initiatives for transition towards Renewable Energy


News

  • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is going to propose a new bank exclusively for financing energy access to billions.

About the ISA Bank

  1. The bank is still at the ideation stage.
  2. ISA has asked the Asian Development Bank to prepare a concept note.
  3. A public-private partnership is being thought of for the proposed, which will work for 1.2 billion people who lack access to energy as well as the 2.4 billion who lack access to clean energy.

Why need such bank?

  1. According to a recent World Bank report, 600 million people would continue to have no access to energy even in 2040.
  2. Those using kerosene and other fuels that are costlier than renewable options.
  3. The bank would need to prioritise these groups and develop a mechanism.
  4. Existing banks do not focus on universal energy access those still deprived are the poorest of the poor.
  5. Hence ISA needs special finance mechanism which can target these people.

For additional reading, please navigate to the page:

ISA plans global solar bank to finance $150 billion of power projects

Centre proposes to hike monthly pensions for the elderly poor, disabled and widows

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre & States & the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NSAP

Mains level: Condition of elderly persons and need for care and rehabilitation


News

Proposed hike in Pensions

  1. The Rural Development Ministry has proposed that the monthly pensions under NSAP.
  2. For the elderly poor, disabled and widows pensions are to be increased from the current ₹200 to ₹800.
  3. For those above the age of 80, the proposal is to increase the pension from ₹500 to ₹1,200 a month.

National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP)

  1. The NSAP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Ministry of Rural Development.
  2. It came into effect from 15th August,1995 represents a significant step towards the fulfillment of the DPSP in Article 41 of the Constitution.
  3. It aims to provide financial assistance to the elderly, widows and persons with disabilities in the form of social pensions.
  4. It currently covers more than three crore people who are below the poverty line (BPL), including about 80 lakh widows, 10 lakh disabled and 2.2 crore elderly.
  5. Those who are older than 80 years are paid ₹500 per month, while the rest are given ₹200 per month. These amounts have not been revised since 2007.
  6. State governments add their own contribution, ranging from less than ₹500 to ₹2000 per month.
  7. The scheme will need a total budget of ₹30,000 crore in order to increase the pension amounts to ₹800 and ₹1200.

SECC: A must need reference

  1. The government aims to enact a comprehensive social security and protection programme to reach every household of old, widows, orphaned children, divyaang and deprived as per the Socio Economic Caste Census.
  2. However, the NSAP uses BPL Criteria to identify beneficiaries.
  3. If SECC data was used to determine the number of people covered under the scheme instead of the current BPL criteria, coverage would double to about six crore people.
  4. Several States, including Rajasthan, Telangana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, have already shifted to SECC data for their own pension schemes.

Aadhaar Card Issues

Indians can use Aadhaar to visit Nepal, Bhutan

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Travel norms mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: India’s ties with Nepal and Bhutan


News

  • Aadhaar cards are now valid travel documents for Indians under 15 and over 65 travelling to Nepal and Bhutan, according to a Home Ministry communique.

New norms for Nepal

  1. Indian citizens going to Nepal and Bhutan don’t need a visa if they have a valid passport, a photo identity card issued by the government of India or an election ID card issued by the Election Commission.
  2. Earlier, persons over 65 and under 15 could show their PAN card, driving licence, Central Government Health Service (CGHS) card or ration card, but not the Aadhaar, to prove their identity and visit the two countries.
  3. The Aadhaar card has now been added to the list.
  4. A certificate of registration issued by the Embassy of India, Kathmandu, to Indian nationals is not an acceptable travel document for travelling between India and Nepal.
  5. However, the emergency certificate and identity certificate issued by the Indian Embassy in Nepal will be valid for single journey for travelling back to India.
  6. Article 7 the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship allows free movement of people between the two nations on a reciprocal basis.

Other rules

  1. Teens between 15 to 18 years will be allowed to travel between India and Nepal on the basis of an identity certificate issued by the principal of their school in a prescribed form.
  2. In case of a family (like husband, wife, minor children and parents) travelling together, all persons will not be required to carry relevant documents (such as a passport or an election ID) if one of the adult members has valid travel papers.
  3. The other family members must have some proof of their identity with a photograph and their relationship as a family, such as a CGHS card, ration card, a driving licence or an ID card issued by school/college.

Why such move?

  1. About six lakh Indians live in Nepal, according to data by the Ministry of External Affairs.
  2. Nepal shares a border of over 1,850 km with five Indian states — Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

A case for Bhutan

  1. Indian nationals travelling to Bhutan need to have either an Indian passport with minimum validity of six months or a voter identity card issued by the Election Commission of India.
  2. Bhutan, which shares borders with the Indian states of Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal, has about 60,000 Indian nationals, employed mostly in the hydroelectric power and construction industry.
  3. In addition, between 8,000 and 10,000 daily workers enter and exit Bhutan everyday in border towns.
  4. The 1949 Treaty of Friendship between India and Bhutan allows for free movement of people between the two nations on a reciprocal basis.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Global alliance of companies to eliminate plastic waste launched

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AEPW

Mains level: Issues related to plastic waste.


News

  • An alliance of global companies launched a new organisation to help eliminate plastic waste, especially in the ocean.

Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW)

  1. The AEPW comprises of about 30 companies, which pledged over $1 billion to eliminate plastic waste across the world.
  2. The aim is to develop solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and promote a circular economy by utlising used plastics.
  3. The Alliance has been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner.
  4. Designed as a non-profit organization, the Alliance includes companies from across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa as well as the Middle East are part of the Alliance.
  5. Member companies include those that make, use, sell, process, collect and recycle plastics, as well as chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies, also called the plastics value chain.
  6. From India, Reliance Industries will advance efforts towards a sustainable future.

Focus areas of AEPW

  • Infrastructure development to collect and manage waste and increase recycling
  • Innovation to advance and scale up new technologies that make recycling and recovering plastics easier and create value from post-use plastics
  • Education and engagement of governments, businesses, and communities to mobilize action;
  • Clean-up of concentrated areas of plastic waste in the environment, particularly the major conduits of waste, such as rivers, that carry land-based waste to the ocean.

Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

[op-ed snap] Taxed through trade policies, farmers need stable income policy

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Agriculture| Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the recent efforts by government to raise farmer’s income.

Mains level: The news-card analyses how the farmers in India are implicitly taxed through restrictive marketing and trade policies, in a brief manner.


Context

  • Many experts have observed that the farmers in India are implicitly taxed through restrictive marketing and trade policies. They, however, need a stable income policy.

Higher minimum support prices (MSPs) not a solution

  • The attempt to woo farmers by announcing higher minimum support prices (MSPs) based on 50 per cent margin over paid out costs plus imputed value of family labour (cost A2+FL) has fallen flat as market prices of most of those commodities remain 20 to 30 per cent below MSPs.
  • Procurement by government agencies has been limited, as they already have overflowing stocks that they cannot offload without incurring massive losses.
  • The meagre budgetary provisions under the PM’s AASHA scheme to lift market prices have, therefore, failed to erase farmers’ gloom.
  • In any case, the MSP policy cannot reach more than 20 per cent of peasantry even with augmented procurement of pulses and oilseeds, and, therefore, cannot be a solution to farmers’ distress.

Loan waiver not a viable decision either

  • The loan waiver, which the Congress president is promising, will also not benefit more than 30 per cent of the peasantry, who have access to institutional credit.
  • Already, the bill from loan waivers announced by some state governments is touching about Rs 1.8 trillion (lakh crore).
  • The policy of zero-interest on loans too is riddled with loopholes, leading to massive diversion of funds out of agriculture.

State governments innovating new ways

  • Many state governments are trying to innovate with new ways of reaching the largest number of farmers.
  • Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme, which gives Rs 4,000/acre to land-owning farmers for two seasons in a year, is costing the state exchequer roughly Rs 12,000 crore per annum.
  • It appears to have reached more than 90 per cent farmers, and yielded political dividends.
  • However, many experts have criticised it saying that it is pro-big farmers and neglects tenants.
  • The KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) scheme of Odisha attempts to respond to this criticism and accordingly promises to include not only land-owning farmers (up to 5 acres) but also tenants and agri-labourers.
  • While land-owning small and marginal farmers, 30.17 lakh in number, accounting for 92 per cent of farming households in Odisha, will get Rs 5,000/family for five seasons, the tenants and agri-labourers (estimated to be 10 lakh in number) who have no land records will get one-time payment of Rs 12,500/family, and vulnerable families (another 10 lakh) will get one-time payment of Rs 10,000/family.
  • With some support for life insurance and interest-free loans up to Rs 50,000, the scheme is likely to cost about Rs 10,180 crore over three years.
  • There is the major challenge of identifying who is a tenant and who is an agri-labourer, as tenancy is not legally allowed in Odisha. So, no legal records exist.

Implications

  • It is important to track and evaluate the performance of these two schemes (Rythu Bandhu and KALIA) as they have not only important budgetary implications but are also a pointer towards a new policy innovation.
  • West Bengal and Jharkhand are also moving in this direction, and media reports suggest that Centre too is contemplating a variant of a similar scheme.
  • If it does so, it would indicate a tectonic shift in policy from promising higher MSPs or loan waivers to direct income/investment support to farmers.
  • This shift will be better for the country as it is more predictable and less market distorting.

Concerns raised over such schemes

  • Macroeconomists and investors are worried about how much such schemes will cost.
  • Will it be fiscally sustainable and what impact will it have on investments in due course.
  • Is India not becoming a welfare state even before generating enough wealth?
  • The experts however view that these efforts are not “doles” but atonement for not reforming agriculture sector, especially its marketing and trade policies, which remain highly distorted, restrictive and pro-consumer, often at the cost of farmers.

Indian farmers have been “implicitly taxed” through restrictive marketing and trade policies

  • One of the key findings of a mega ICRIER-OECD study on agricultural policies in India (2018) is that the producer support estimate (PSE) for India was minus (-) 14 per cent of gross farm receipts, on an average for the years 2000-01 to 2016-17.
  • This implies that Indian farmers have been “implicitly taxed” through restrictive marketing and trade policies that have an in-built consumer bias of controlling agri-prices.
  • If one calculates the sum involved in this “implicit taxation”, it amounts to Rs 2.65 trillion (lakh crore) per annum, at 2017-18 prices, for 2000-01 to 2016-17.
  • Cumulatively for 17 years, this comes to roughly Rs 45 trillion at 2017-18 prices.
  • No country in the world has taxed its farmers so heavily during this period.
  • This is nothing short of plundering of farmers’ incomes.

 Conclusion

  • Until India reforms its agri-marketing laws and frees agri-markets, it is time to atone through a structured and stable income policy for farmers for at least the next five years.

NITI Aayog’s Assessment

[op-ed snap] This is not the future we want

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the NITI Aayog recently released ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’.

Mains level: The news-card analyses many environment and livelihood related contradictions in NITI Aayog’s strategy for 2022, in a brief manner.


Context

  • NITI Aayog recently released the ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ document in 2018.
  • The strategy aims to achieve a ‘New India’ by 2022, when the country celebrates its 75th year of Independence.

About the Plan

  • The NITI Aayog’s‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ document has many progressive objectives.
  • It follows the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Inclusion, sustainability, participation, gender equality and other important issues find mention.
  • However, NITI Aayog’s strategy for 2022 is replete with environmental and livelihood related contradictions.

Positive directions vis-à-vis the environment

The strategy has many positive directions vis-à-vis the environment, such as:

  • A major focus on renewable energy.
  • Organic farming (with the zero budget natural farming model developed by Maharashtrian farmer Subhash Palekar being singled out for national application).
  • Increasing forest cover.
  • Reducing pollution and waste.
  • A chapter titled ‘Sustainable environment’ states: “The objective is to maintain a clean, green and healthy environment with peoples’ participation to support higher and inclusive economic growth through sustainable utilization of available natural resources.”
  • It focuses on air pollution, solid waste management, water pollution, and forestry.

Limitations: Many missing issues

  • However, it is puzzling why these above mentioned four issues are singled out from amongst the much larger number of environmental issues India faces.
  • Some other issues do find mention elsewhere, such as arresting land degradation and soil erosion, and water conservation.
  • But many are missing, such as the urgent need to conserve a range of non-forest ecosystems.
  • Since colonial times, forests have remained predominant in the minds of decision-makers, as indicated by the fact that India still has only a Forest Department and no dedicated entity for grassland, marine and coastal, wetland, mountain, and desert conservation.
  • The increasing presence of toxic chemicals around us finds no mention.
  • Most importantly, the absence of an integrated, comprehensive view on how ecological issues can be integrated into all sectors indicates that this is still not core to the mindset of our planners.

Current form of Economic growth is un-sustainable

  • There is total absence of an understanding in the document that the current form and goal of economic growth is inherently unsustainable.
  • For more than three decades, governments have been promising that with environmental safeguards, growth can be made sustainable.
  • There is no indication that this is anywhere near achievable, much less achieved.
  • In 2008, the Confederation of Indian Industry indicated that India was already using twice of what its natural resources could sustain, and that more than half its biocapacity had already been eroded.

Contradictions in the document: Few Alarming features

(a) Proposal of doubling of the extent of mining

  • One of the biggest ecological and social disasters in India is mining, especially the large-scale open-cast type.
  • NITI Aayog ignores this when it proposes a doubling of the extent of mining.
  • The only concession is the suggestion to bring in “cutting-edge” technology to “limit environmental damage” but that will not solve the fundamental need to deforest areas.

(b) Tourism

  • Another major sector with horrendous environmental impacts is tourism, as witnessed by virtually all our groaning hill stations and the ruin that areas like Ladakh, Kutch and the island regions are facing.
  • Yet, NITI Aayog recommends doubling the number of domestic tourist visits to over 3,200 million from 1,614 million in 2016.

(c) Mega river valley projects

  • The document also urges prompt completion of a host of mega river valley projects that have proved to be ecological nightmares, including Pancheshwar in the fragile Himalaya, the Ken-Betwa link in Madhya Pradesh, and dozens in the Northeast that are going to choke up rivers and are being pushed ahead despite strong local opposition.

(d) Farming

  • While mentioning of organic farming, there is no clear direction to phase out chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • The objective of sustainable farming is undermined by the mention of the following: “Phase out old varieties of seeds and replace them with hybrid and improved seeds”.
  • This is the kind of Green Revolution approach that has caused huge loss of agricultural biodiversity and resilience amongst small farmers.
  • There is also no focus on dryland farming though most farmers are engaged in this.
  • There is positive mention of organic farming models for replication, but nothing on the amazing work of dryland farmers (such as the Dalit women of the Deccan Development Society in Telangana) showing productive, sustainable, biodiverse agriculture with millets and women as the fulcrum.

(d) Single-window clearance of infrastructure projects

  • One of the most alarming features of the document is its stress on rapid, single-window clearance of infrastructure and other projects.
  • Any decent ecological assessment of a project needs a year of study (over all seasons), so the 180 days limit it suggests will mean short-cuts.
  • This rush also means compromising on crucial processes of social assessment, public hearings, and participatory decision-making, as already seen in the last few years.
  • There is nothing on the need to seek consent from local communities, though this is mandated under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.

Way Forward

  • Governments in the last few years have a dismal record of safeguarding the environment and the livelihoods of Adivasis and other communities.
  • They have found ways to bypass constitutional and policy safeguards these vulnerable sections are supposed to enjoy.
  • Without a strong, unambiguous commitment to upholding these protections, and putting communities at the centre of decision-making, India @ 75 is going to be an even more unequal, unjust, and conflict-ridden society than India @ 50.
  • This is not the future we want.Instead, we can learn from the many alternative initiatives for food, water, energy, housing, education and health existing across India, which show the way to more just and sustainable livelihoods and ways of living.

MGNREGA Scheme

[op-ed snap] Fabrication and falsification

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Social Justice|Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out oftheir design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of MGNREGA.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the gross violation in the implementation of MGNREGA.


Context

  • A recent study have found that data manipulation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is leading to gross violations in its implementation.

Background

  • At present, crores of people in India are struggling to navigate a host of vulnerabilities to eke out a living.
  • A lack of dignified employment, non-payment of adequate wages on time and insufficient food mean that a poor family remain in a dicey situation and staring at starvation.

Issue

  • In recent years, there have been at least 74 reported starvation deaths, with 60 cases having occurred in the last two years across parts of India; a lot of them have been in Jharkhand.
  • Based on a directive by the Union Ministry of Rural Development, the Jharkhand government issued a report on 18 deaths.
  • Hastily produced and in insensitive language, the report concludes that none of these deaths was due to starvation or connected to MGNREGA — a lazy, convenient denial of any correlation.
  • If implemented the proper way, MGNREGA, among other measures, can go a long way in improving the life and the livelihoods of poor.
  • The governments in the State and Centre are demonstrating alarming indifference in this matter and is covering up realities by curating information to suit its false narrative.
  • Such curation starts from suppressing information at the source, to deliberately manipulating and obfuscating data to perpetrate falsehoods.

How the manipulation of information is leading to Ethical and Legal violations?

  • The MGNREGA is a demand-driven programme, i.e., work must be provided within 15 days of demanding work failing which the Centre must pay an unemployment allowance (UA).
  • A UA report is generated but rarely implemented.
  • Numerous ground reports across the country suggest that because of a funds crunch, field functionaries do not even enter the work demanded by labourers in the MGNREGA Management Information System (MIS).
  • This is information suppression at the source.
  • Lack of offline alternatives to capture work demand from labourers means that data on the MIS are being treated as the gospel truth.
  • Even this under-registered demand is being dishonoured by the government.
  • Although work demand data (in person days) and employment-generated data are available at a panchayat level, aggregate data at the national level are only presented for employment generated.
  • Thus, under-registered national demand is captured but intentionally not reported.
  • By doing this, the Central government is trying to hide its violation of the extent of under-provision of work.

Key findings of the study

  • To estimate the extent of under-provision,work demand and employment generated for over 5,700 panchayats across 20 States (for 2017-18 and the first three quarters of 2018-19) was analysed.
  • It was found that this year, the employment generated was about 33% lower than the registered work demand, and last year, about 30% lower.
  • If this large-sample trend holds true for the country, then a conservative minimal allocation required this year is about ₹85,000 crore.
  • After 99% of the original allocation got exhausted earlier this month, 250 Members of Parliament and citizens wrote to the Prime Minister, following which the Centre’s revised allocation now stands at a paltry ₹61,084 crore.
  • Despite this revision, 16 States still show a negative balance which shows the continued lack of funds.
  • Further, the Centre’s oft-repeated claims of the “highest ever allocation” are dubious and meaningless because if the allocation does not honour work demand, as is the case here, it is a violation of the Act.

Government’s manipulation of data causing more problem

  • Contrary to the Central government’s claims of there being more than 90% payments on time, the study found of more than 9 million transactions that only 21% payments were made on time in 2016-17.The trend continued in 2017-18.
  • Further, the Central government alone was causing an average delay of over 50 days in the disbursement of wages to labourers.
  • The mandate is to pay wages within 15 days else workers are entitled to a delay compensation.
  • While this delay by the Central government (called stage 2 delays) is captured in the system, it is intentionally suppressed to avoid paying delay compensation which is another violation of the Act.

A case of insensitivity

  • The Union Ministry of Finance in Aug,2017 acknowledged the accuracy of the study’s findings and stated that delays in payments were directly linked to lack of “[un]availability of funds”.
  • This glaring lacuna was argued in the Supreme Court in a recent PIL (Swaraj Abhiyan vs. Union of India) where the judgement categorically stated: “The wages due to the worker in terms of Stage 2 above must be transferred immediately and the payment made to the worker forthwith failing which the prescribed compensation would have to be paid.
  • The Central Government cannot be seen to shy away from its responsibility… The State Governments and Union Territory Administrations may be at fault, but that does not absolve the Central Government of its duty”.
  • In court, the Central government, agreed to calculate Stage 2 delays, and pay compensation, but the judgement (dated May 18, 2018) has still not been implemented.
  • This not only reflects contempt of court by the Central government but is also an insensitive assault on people and a deliberate hiding of the truth.
  • In the process, countless lives are getting silently buried in fabricated statistics.

Way Forward

  • Such falsification and a manipulation of information by the government is increasing starvation and agrarian distress in India, and isleading to a gross violation of the MGNREG Act.

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Explained: The search for a Lokpal

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act

Mains level: Read the attached story


Context

  1. For decades, India has made efforts to appoint an anti-corruption ombudsman.
  2. Last week, the Supreme Court “requested” a search committee to suggest by February-end a panel of names for appointment of the country’s first Lokpal.
  3. A look at how these efforts have unfolded, from Bills in 1970s to an Act in 2013, followed by a search committee and an SC deadline

Background

  1. Amid repeated demands for an ombudsman, many attempts were made at legislation, with Lokpal Bills introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008, but none of these was passed.
  2. It was four decades after the introduction of the first Bill that the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was enacted in December 2013.
  3. This was the fallout of a public movement for a Jan Lokpal Bill, initiated by activist of India Against Corruption movement.
  4. Under pressure at a time when it was facing several allegations of corruption, the then UPA government brought the Bill and it was passed after several hurdles.

Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act

  1. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was notified on January 1, 2014.
  2. It provides for establishing a body to be called the Lokpal and headed by a Chairperson, who is or has been a Chief Justice of India, or is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court, or an eminent person who fulfils eligibility criteria as specified.
  3. Of its other members, not exceeding eight, 50% are to be judicial members, provided that not less than 50% of the members belong to the SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, and women.

Various Provisions

  1. Inquiry Wing: Lokpal will have an “Inquiry Wing, headed by the Director of Inquiry, for the purpose of conducting preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  2. Prosecution Wing: It will also have a “Prosecution Wing headed by the Director of Prosecution for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act”.
  3. For states, the Act says: Every State shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta for the State, if not so established, constituted or appointed, by a law made by the State within a period of one year from the date of commencement of this Act.

Jurisdiction of Lokpal

  1. The Lokpal Act covers a wide range of public servants — from the Prime Minister, ministers and MP, to groups A, B, C and D officers of the central government.
  2. These are to deal with complaints against public servants; the chairperson and members of the Lokpal too come under the definition of “public servant”.

Taking PM under purview

  1. Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint” in respect of the PM, the Act says.
  2. However, it does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the PM relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
  3. Also, complaints against the Pm are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of inquiry and at least 2/3rds of the members approve it.
  4. Such an inquiry against the PM (if conducted) is to be held in camera.
  5. If the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

Undue delay for implementation

  1. Once the Bill was passed, applications were invited on January 17, 2014 for filling up the post of Chairperson and eight posts of members.
  2. The same day, the search committee rules were notified, but appointments to the committee were not made. Lok Sabha elections followed, and a new government was formed in May 2014.
  3. The same year, the NGO Common Cause filed a petition in the Supreme Court, and later a contempt petition, over the delay.

What next

  1. Once the search committee submits its recommendation for the Lokpal and its members, a selection committee will consider those names and forward them to the President for his consideration.
  2. The selection committee is chaired by the PM, and its members are the Lok Sabha Speaker, LoP in LS, the CJI or a Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist as nominated by the President.
  3. Under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, a Lokayukta is to be appointed in every state within one year of the passing of the Act, but several states are yet to appoint such an institution.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO to launch satellite to help MHA in securing borders

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of external state & non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Satellite technology and its prospects in securing Borders


News

  • A satellite will be launched by the ISRO exclusively for the Home Ministry to help it strengthen its frontiers with Pakistan and Bangladesh among others.

Securing Borders

  1. The move is part of recommendations made by a task force on the use of space technology in improving border management which have been accepted by Home Minister.
  2. To execute the project in a time bound manner, a short, medium and long-term plan has been proposed for implementation in five years in close coordination with the ISRO and the Defence Ministry.
  3. Major recommendations of the report are to build capacity in border guarding forces to use space resources for security, operational planning and border infrastructure development.
  4. In short term, immediate needs of border guarding forces will be met by procurement of high resolution imagery and the hiring of bandwidth for communications.
  5. In mid-term, one satellite is being launched by the ISRO for exclusive use of the MHA.

Ground Network using space technology

  1. The MHA will develop ground segment and network infrastructure to share satellite resources by user agencies, develop a central archival facility for storing various imagery resources and dissemination of the same to user agencies.
  2. Deployment of the CAPF in remote areas will be also coordinated by satellite communications.
  3. IRNSS-based GPS will provide navigation facilities for operational parties in high altitude, remote and difficult borders and LWE areas.
  4. The Border Security Force has been designated as lead agency for implementation of ground segment and network infrastructure, including the establishment of the archival facility.
  5. Island development, border security, communication and navigation, Geographic Information System (GIS) and operations planning system, and border infrastructure development are the areas identified for use of space technology.

A Special Task Force

  1. The MHA has created a task force to identify areas for use of space technology in improving border management.
  2. The task force headed by Joint Secretary (Border Management), having members from the BSF, the Department of Space and BM division of the Home Ministry.

Way Forward

  1. India shares land borders with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  2. This project will strengthen island and border security and facilitate development of infrastructure in border/island areas.

Air Pollution

Methanol-blending in petrol reduces carbon dioxide emission: ARAI study

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Controlling vehicular pollution


News

Govt to support research on methanol blending

  1. Methanol (M-15) blended with petrol and used in the existing BS-IV standard cars reduces carbon dioxide emission, a study conducted by Pune-based group.
  2. M-15 is a mixture of 15% Methanol with Gasoline.
  3. According to the ARAI, the study evaluated emissions in real-world conditions and used 15 per cent M-15 blend in vehicles and tested them for 3,000 km.
  4. The finding has been submitted Transport Ministry to support further research on methanol blending as the government aims to increase fuel blending to 20 per cent by 2030.

Why such move?

  1. India imports ₹7 lakh crore worth of crude oil every year.
  2. Using alternative fuels, we can divert ₹2 lakh crore for farmers to boost agriculture.

Fuel replacement plan and its benefits

  1. Adopting methanol in this scale would bring down pollution in the country by more than 40 per cent.
  2. By adopting methanol, India can have its own indigenous fuel at the cost of approximately ₹19 per litre, at least 30 per cent cheaper than any available fuel.
  3. According to NITI Aayog, at least 20 per cent diesel consumption can be reduced in the next 5-7 years and will result in a savings of ₹26,000 crore annually.
  4. Also, ₹6,000 crore can be saved annually from reduced bill in LPG in the next three years itself.
  5. Methanol blending with petrol will further reduce the fuel bill by at least ₹5,000 crore annually in the next three years.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] World Integrated Medicine Forum 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Integrated Medicine Forum

Mains level: Functions of the forum


News

World Integrated Medicine Forum 2019

  1. Union Ministry for AYUSH will inaugurate the 2nd World Integrated Medicine Forum 2019 on the ‘Regulation of Homeopathic Medical Products; Advancing global collaboration’.
  2. The organizers of the forum are the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, under the Ministry of AYUSH.
  3. International drug regulators dealing with homeopathic/traditional medicines from various countries are expected to participate.

Aims and Objectives

  1. The regulation of homeopathic medicinal products is highly variable worldwide, ranging at a national level from highly advanced to none whatsoever.
  2. There is a tension between different regulatory needs: on the one hand there is a need for standardization, harmonization and reducing complexity;
  3. On the other hand there is need for a pluralistic regulatory system, which respects the specific characteristics of homeopathy as a holistic, patient-centred medical system.
  4. The forum will explore and illustrate the potential benefits and pitfalls of bi-lateral/multilateral collaboration and advance global cooperation on a synergistic basis.

[pib] National Museum of Indian Cinema

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NMIC

Mains level: Role of Indian Cinema in making India a soft power


News

  • Hon’ble PM Modi has inaugurated the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) in Mumbai.

National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC)

  1. The state-of-the-art Museum aims to take its visitors through an absorbing journey of over a century of Indian cinema in a story telling mode with the help of visuals, graphics, artifacts, interactive exhibits and multimedia expositions.
  2. The creation of the Museum has been guided by the Museum Advisory Committee headed by Shri Shyam Benegal.
  3. The Museum is housed in two buildings – the New Museum Building and the 19th century historic palace Gulshan Mahal – in the Films Division campus in Mumbai.

New Museum Building has four Exhibition Halls which encapsulate:

  1. Gandhi & Cinema: It not only depicts the movies made on the life Mahatma Gandhi but also showcases the deep impact his life had on cinema.
  2. Children’s Film Studio:  it gives visitors, particularly children, an opportunity to explore the science, technology and art behind filmmaking.
  3. Technology, creativity & Indian cinema: it showcases the creative use of technology by Indian film makers over the years to produce cinematographic impact on the silver screen.
  4. Cinema across India: it showcases the charismatic kaleidoscopic presence of the vibrant cinematographic culture across India.

Gulshan Mahal

  1. It is an ASI Grade-II Heritage Structure which has been restored as part of the NMIC project.
  2. The displays present here showcase the journey of over a hundred years of Indian cinema.
  3. It is divided into 9 sections viz. The Origin of Cinema, Cinema comes to India, Indian Silent Film, Advent of Sound, The Studio Era, The impact of World War II, Creative Resonance, New Wave and Beyond and Regional Cinema.

Importance of Indian Cinema

  1. The Indian Cinema has a big role in enhancing India’s soft power, its  credibility and building the Brand India across the world.
  2. Through Cinema important social issues such as sanitation, women empowerment, sports etc are now reaching to people.
  3. Cinema plays an important role in nation Building and strengthens the feeling of Ek Bharat Shresth Bharat.
  4. The film Industry has a huge potential of contributing in the growth of Tourism in the country.

Various measures for Film Industry

  1. Government is working to provide facility of ‘Ease of Filming’ by putting in place a Single Window Clearance system, for Film Shooting approvals in different parts of the country.
  2. It is also working on amending Cinematograph Act 1952 to check the problem of Film Piracy.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Limits of class

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources..

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the RTE Amendment Bill.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and challenges in the recently passed RTE amendment bill, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The RTE Amendment Bill, recently passed in Rajya Sabha, has again triggered the periodic debate between anti-detentionists (votaries of No-Detention Policy) and detentionists.
  • The amendment allows states to decide whether to withdraw automatic promotion at the end of 5th and 8th grades, which is the point of contention.

Arguments of Detentionists and Anti-detentionists

(a) Detentionists

  • Detentionists argue that if children know that they will automatically pass, they don’t study, thus learning achievements come down.
  • Since Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) is not implemented seriously, if no-detention is practised then certificate of elementary education will certify no learning.

(b) Anti-detentionists

  • Anti-detentionists argue that fear of failure causes stress and trauma and failure demotivates and pushes children out of system.
  • That stigma of failure mainly harms Dalit and tribal children.
  • They also argue that detention will weaken many other provisions of RTE, like admission in age-appropriate class.
  • According to them, “failing children does not make them learn” and that no-detention is claimed to produce improved learning achievements.

Why Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) cannot be implemented?

  • The shortage of teachers and lack of training are cited as the main reasons for failure of the implementation of CCE.
  • Though these claims are true, a fundamental contradiction in the RTE is ignored in this debate.
  • Unless that contradiction is removed, the CCE cannot be implemented in its true spirit.

The case of term “Class” in RTE

  • “Class” is a very important term in the RTE. The norms for teachers, teacher-pupil ratio, infrastructure and elementary education, are all defined in terms of class.
  • “Elementary education,” according to the RTE means the education from first class to eighth class.
  • Regarding the admission of a child above six years, the act demands that “he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age”.
  • The act is aware that such a child may not be at par with other children in the class, implying that class is associated with some standards of learning.
  • The act itself is “to provide for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years”.
  • Reading this together with the definition of elementary education will give the duration of “class” as one year.

From these and other references to “class” in the act, it can be conclusively established that:

  • Duration of study in a class is one year.
  • A class has its specific curriculum in which learning expectations increase as the order of class increases.
  • That the school is organised class-wise.

Promotion to the next class is not a matter of age

  • Though the RTE does not say anything about textbooks, we do know that they are written class-wise.
  • Therefore, promotion to the next class is not a matter of age, but of learning achievements; implying that the very concept of class as used in RTE contains the idea of detention, if need be.
  • With this definition of class and elementary education, the ideas of no-detention and admission in age-appropriate class completely de-emphasise learning expectations.
  • All that remains is eight years in the school, that too if the child is admitted in class one.

Contradictions in “no-detention” policy

  1. For the child admitted in “a class appropriate to age”, all that remains is attaining the age of 14 years. This happens because “no-detention” is introduced in a school system defined in terms of class.
  2. CCE demands that assessment should be continuous and it should feedback into pedagogy to help the child learn better.

CCE is not for promotion or its denial

  • With age-appropriate admission and no-detention, children in any given class are bound to be at different levels of achievement.
  • If the CCE is to help every child learn, then it cannot be based on the same tasks and assessment criteria for the whole class. But that is precisely the demand of class-wise teaching.
  • CCE on the other hand, demands individual attention in assessment and pedagogy.
  • Therefore, the class-wise structure of curriculum and school on one hand, and CCE on the other, pull the system in opposite directions.

Two ways to resolve this contradiction

(a) Accept the true definition of class or grade

 

  • That implies, to complete a defined curriculum in one year, and detention on unsatisfactory completion. This is what the government has done.

 

  • While this is retrograde and hardly improves learning, it resolves the contradiction in the teachers’ minds, and allows them to practice the age old authoritarian rigid system in its true glory.

(b) Working out the implications of a pedagogically sound CCE

The other way is to carefully work out the implications of a pedagogically sound CCE and take on the arduous task to reform the system to implement it.

That would require:

  • defining elementary education in terms of learning standards;
  • organising curriculum as a free-paced learning path, and not boxed into classes;
  • organising schools as ungraded heterogeneous learning groups, composed of children at various levels; and
  • introduce the ideas of self-learning and peer group learning, a necessity to manage a heterogeneous learning group.

Conclusion

  • All this will require systemic reforms and to prepare teachers for this change through massive and serious in-service professional development.
  • Although this is the difficult path, but it does not contain internal contradictions, and may solve the problem of low quality.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap]Diagnosing the job crisis

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Social Justice|Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the problem of India’s MSME sector, in a brief manner.


Context

  • It has been observed by some experts that the regulatory framework that has choked MSMEs has contributed to the farm crisis and quota demands in India.
  • And that farm loan waivers, migration restrictions and10 per cent economically backward reservation in government jobs does not represent a sustainable approach.

Overhauling India’s MSME sector

  • The only way to create millions of jobs with decent wages is a policy re-imagination of the rights, needs, and treatment of formal MSME entrepreneurs.
  • The average employer in India is not a formal MSME or somebody large like Marico, Lupin or the Tatas, but an informal MSME because the present regulatory framework are not pro-informal sector MSME.
  • Fewer than 2 per cent of our 63 million MSME’s are formal.

Labour market interventions in MSMEs can be by:

  • Taking the long view:a 10-year plan is not 10-one-year plans for formalisation, urbanisation, industrialisation, financialisation and human capital.
  • Recognise progress made:6 million new formal enterprises and 30 million new social security payers in the last three years), and
  • Get bolder with structural interventions that matter most to MSME entrepreneurs.

India’s problem is no longer jobs but wages

  • Creating millions of well-paying jobs needs ending killing of millions of MSMEs (small but formal employers that will grow and pay the wage premium because of enterprise productivity).

Formalisation of MSMEs need

  • lower regulatory framework,
  • labour law rationalisation,
  • e-governance, and
  • education effectiveness
  • all in turn need civil service reform.

Way Forward

  • The only solution to helping farmers is having less of them and making the remaining productive — US farms with more than $1 million in sales are only 6 per cent of farms but produce 66 per cent of output.
  • The need of the hour is to have enough formal MSME employers.

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

[op-ed snap] How India’s economy smoothly navigated troubled waters

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy|  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the present situation of Indian economy.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the challenges of Indian Economy and its present situation w.r.t global economic challenges, in a brief manner.


Context

  • According to several economic experts, Indian economy is on a recovery path. However, for several others, the economic outlook is still gloomy.

Positive side of Indian Economy

  • The advance estimates of national income indicate that real gross domestic product (GDP) will grow at 7.2% in FY 2018, up from 6.7% last year.
  • The advance estimates, based on data for the first six months and up to November for some indicators, are a fair assessment of the likely outcome.
  • The earlier projections of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are also all higher than the advance estimates.
  • Hence, barring any major shock in the next 10 weeks, it is quite likely that the year will end with at least 7% growth.
  • This robust growth is also fairly diversified with more than 8% growth in manufacturing and 9% growth or more in electricity and other utilities, construction, and public services.
  • It is particularly encouraging that the growth upturn is being led by the recovery of investment instead of debt-financed consumption as in the recent past.
  • After stagnating for several years, quarterly growth of gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) has been recovering since the second quarter of FY 2017.
  • It is now estimated to grow by 12.2% in real terms in FY 2018 compared to 7.6% in FY 2017.
  • The investment rate, which had declined to 31%, is now estimated to be back up to 33%.
  • Further, implementation of the 2016 Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and progress on resolutions under the National Company Law Tribunal are important reforms.

Low Rate of Inflation: Mixed blessing

  • The consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate is now down to only 2.2% and the wholesale price index (WPI) inflation rate is 3.8%.
  • However, the decline in inflation is mainly on account of the decline in food and fuel prices.
  • Fuel prices are unlikely to harden any time soon, unless events in West Asia deliver a political shock. This has been a great boon for oil importing countries such as India.
  • However, whether the decline in food prices, which implies a shift in the terms of trade against agriculture, is an unmixed blessing in the present context of widespread distress among farmers is a question to be pondered over.
  • Also, core inflation (excluding food and fuel prices) is still close to 6%.
  • This presents a dilemma for monetary policy.
  • RBI’s mandate is to contain the CPI inflation rate at around 4%, but can it ignore the stickiness of core inflation around 6%, especially when central and state government spending is likely to pump-prime demand in the run-up to general elections?

Major deterrent to growth

(a)NPA

  • There is still a long way to go in tackling the problem of stressed assets and high levels of non-performing assets in public sector banks which is a major deterrent to growth.
  • There is also a return to discretionary interventions, demonstrated among other things by the arbitrary raising of tariffs in the last budget.
  • These will adversely impact growth in FY 2019.

(b)Elections

  • In the coming few months, experts are of the view that there’s expected surge in pre-election public spending.
  • Combined with a significant shortfall in tax revenues, especially goods and services tax (GST) revenues, this will lead to several fiscal deficit targets of the central and state governments being breached.
  • On the other hand, the past record of political business cycles suggests that there could be a sharp decline in public spending in the post-election period.
  • These swings in public spending can be destabilizing and adversely affect growth in FY 2019.

 

(c)Challenging External Environment

  • Far more worrying than the above discussed domestic issues is a very challenging external environment.
  • 2018 was the year of great decline. Everything declined: inflation, commodity prices, asset prices, growth.
  • While the decline in inflation is welcome, the decline in growth has now raised fears of deflation in advanced economies.
  • The IMF Data Mapper, which maps growth throughout the world, looks pretty scary.
  • More than half the globe is a dark region shrouded in grey (below 3% growth) or black (negative growth).
  • Soothing shades of green, representing robust growth, are seen only in Asia and a few countries in Africa.
  • Emerging markets and developing countries in Asia grew at 6.5% while sub-Saharan Africa grew at 3.1%.
  • Among major economies, growth declined in 2018 and is expected to decline further in 2019 in the US, European Union, Japan and China.
  • Together, they account for almost two-thirds of the world economy.

Underlying these gloomy numbers is the emergence of multiple risks such as:

  • The trade war between Trump-led US and China;
  • Tensions between US and its European allies, Canada and Mexico;
  • Confrontation in West Asia between the Trump-led coalition of the US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the tacit alliance of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Syria.
  • The potential spike in oil prices if that confrontation escalates and financial outflows from emerging markets in response to political uncertainties and rising US interest rates are the other major risks.

Effect on Indian Economy

  • India stands out for sailing smoothly through these troubled waters so far.
  • It remains the fastest growing major economy in the world.
  • However, being well integrated with the world economy, India cannot continue to grow rapidly as global growth declines.
  • The trade deficit, up from 1.7% of GDP in 2016-17 to 3.0% in 2017-18, is projected to rise further to 3.5% in 2018-19, thereby completely offsetting the expansionary impact of the fiscal deficit.
  • The net reduction of nearly $30 billion in foreign exchange reserves since 1 April 2018 is also a consequence of the gloomy global economic environment.

Way Forward

  • These adverse external factors, combined with the domestic challenges mentioned earlier, will pull growth down to less than 7% in FY 2019.
  • It could decline further in the event of a major negative shock such as a failed monsoon or a spike in global geopolitical tensions.

History- Important places, persons in news

What is Goa’s ‘Opinion Poll Day’?

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Modern Indian History | Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Goan Asmitai Dis

Mains level: Goan freedom struggle and its consolidation


News

Background

  1. Goa celebrated its 52nd ‘Asmitai Dis’ (Identity Day) or Opinion Poll Day on January 16.
  2. It was on this date in 1967 that Goans voted against merging with Maharashtra and chose to remain a Union Territory.
  3. Though referred to as an ‘opinion poll’, the vote was in fact a plebiscite.

Goan Liberation

  1. Soon after Goa’s liberation from colonial Portuguese rule in 1961, murmurs began of a merger with Maharashtra on grounds of cultural similarity.
  2. The argument was that Konkani was a dialect of Marathi and not an independent language.
  3. With factions who wanted a merger with Maharashtra, a plebiscite was held.
  4. On January 16, 1967, Goans voted against merging with Maharashtra and chose to remain a Union Territory.

Row for Plebiscite

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru had promised that Goa would get to decide its own future, but he had passed away in May 1964.
  2. Delegations from both sides met PM Shastri in New Delhi, but Shastri himself passed away in Tashkent in January 1966, before a decision could be made.
  3. In May 1966, Goan protagonists succeeded in convincing new PM Indira Gandhi that Assembly elections could not be a referendum on the merger question and that an ‘opinion poll’ was necessary.

Passing the Opinion Poll Act

  1. In December 1966, Parliament passed the Goa, Daman and Diu (Opinion Poll Act), 1966.
  2. It aimed to provide for the taking of an opinion poll to ascertain the wishes of the electors of Goa, Daman and Diu with regard to the future status thereof and for matters connected therewith.
  3. On voting day, voters were asked to put a tick against the ‘rose’ symbol if they were in favour of a merger, and a tick against the ‘two leaves’ symbol if they were not in favour.

Goa saves itself from merger

  1. Poll was held on January 16, 1967 and Goa stood as independent UT.
  2. Soon afterward began demands for statehood for Goa; however, it was only on May 30, 1987, that Goa became India’s 25th state. Daman and Diu continue to be Union Territories.
  3. Konkani was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution on August 20, 1992 (71st Amendment).
  4. Interestingly though, until 2018, the state government did not officially celebrate Opinion Poll Day.

Back2Basics

Referendum

  • Referendum is a process by which a government refers any issue of public importance including a constitutional amendment and right to self determination to the people for the approval by popular vote.

Plebiscite

  • It is a kind of referendum held by the government on the strength of the right to self determination enjoyed by the section of people.
  • The outcome of Plebiscite may or may not be legally binding on the government.
  • Since it has the potential to disturb the territorial integrity of a country.

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Renewable energy in India: Why rooftop remains the most untapped solar source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Benefits of Solar Rooftops

Mains level: SRTs as an alternative to DISCOM power


News

Background

  1. Most developed economies started their solar programmes by targeting household rooftops; as a result, they now have a sizable share of installations in the residential rooftop segment.
  2. China and India, on the other hand, have used large-scale solar installations in an effort to quickly achieve scale and simultaneously push down costs.
  3. In the case of India, this focus on large utility-scale solar seems to have become an unintended obstruction in the development of the rooftop segment.

Tapping the Rooftop potential

  1. India, though, does have an ambitious plan for solar rooftop or SRT, as it is called: a target of 40 gigawatts (GW) capacity by 2022.
  2. But so far, the achievement has fallen short of the goal.
  3. According to the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), only 2,158 megawatt (MW) of SRT systems had been installed in the country till December 2018.

Household use is far less

  1. The shortfall in capacity is compounded by the fact that a large proportion—70 per cent—of the installed rooftop systems is for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers.
  2. Residential consumers account for less than 20 per cent of the total installed capacity.
  3. There are clear economic considerations behind industrial and commercial consumers’ preference for rooftop systems.
  4. Solar rooftop power is cheaper than grid-supplied electricity.
  5. These consumers have the financial resources to make the necessary investments, which are sizable, to install SRT systems.

The RESCO Model

  1. The commercial users also have access to the Renewable Energy Service Company (RESCO) model.
  2. It is a model in which developers install the system on the consumers’ premises and sign a long-term contract to sell them electricity, under which they do not need to make any investments.

Benefits of SRTs

  1. Distributed solar rooftop systems, installed on individual residences, offer many advantages.
  2. They help minimize transmission and distribution losses, as the generated power is consumed locally.
  3. In large cities, they can act as a back-up, replacing polluting diesel generator sets.
  4. Solar rooftop can be harnessed for demand-side management (for example, time-of-day pricing to match household demand with solar generation).
  5. With falling solar prices and steadily increasing tariffs of distribution companies (discoms), SRT systems are being seen as financially attractive.
  6. SRT systems can offer reduced power bills for households; the gains may increase as tariffs are likely to keep going up.
  7. They provide environmentally friendly, inexpensive back-up supply of power (compared to DG sets), a big advantage, given the persistent supply interruptions in most places.
  8. They can result in lower transmission and distribution losses and improved grid management, since the generation is close to the point of consumption.

Problem of Finance

  1. Instead of these much needed policy initiatives and administrative interventions, the government has largely relied on subsidies to drive SRT installation.
  2. Most prospective customers either do not have the savings to cover the upfront costs, or are simply unwilling to invest, given the relatively large amount.
  3. Also, most customers do not have access to bank financing.
  4. Loans need to be made available, which requires significant capacity building of retail bank branches.

Various Policy Initiatives

  1. In recent years, the government has taken steps to improve the availability of loans for SRT projects.
  2. The RBI has identified solar rooftop as a priority sector for lending.
  3. Eight public sector banks have included SRT systems under their housing or housing improvement loans.
  4. Multilateral banks are providing concessional loans against sovereign guarantee to public sector banks to support subsidized lending to the segment.

Way Forward

  1. It is clear that SRT systems provide multiple benefits—to households, to the grid and even to discoms; promoting them, therefore, is a desirable policy goal.
  2. Solar rooftops, however, also face several challenges, as indicated in the preceding section: lacklustre growth, little consumer awareness, lack of innovative government policies or attention, bureaucratic hassles, and limited support from discoms.
  3. Sustained and broad-based efforts are required to promote SRTs.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Great Indian Bustard may be extinct soon

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GIB and its habitat

Mains level: Conservation of Great Indian Bustard


News

Only 50 Great Indian Bustards left in the wild

  1. The GIB’s last remnant wild population of about 50 in Jaisalmer district accounts for 95% of its total world population.
  2. No progress has been made on the proposal for establishing a captive breeding centre at Sorsan in Kota district and a hatchery in Jaisalmer for conservation of the State bird of Rajasthan.

Great Indian Bustard

  1. The Great Indian Bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, can weigh up to 15 kg and grow up to one metre in height.
  2. It is considered the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
  3. For long, conservationists have been demanding to secure this population, warning that the bird might get extinct in the coming decades.
  4. It would become the first mega species to disappear from India after Cheetah in recent times.
  5. Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states.
  6. However, with rampant hunting and declining grasslands, their population dwindled.
  7. In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Protection Measures:

  • Birdlife International uplisted this species from Endangered to Critically Endangered (2011)
  • Protection under CITES Appendix I
  • Protection under Schedule I Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002
  • Project Great Indian Bustard (Rajasthan):  aims at identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project in Tripura

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SCATFORM Project, JICA

Mains level:  SCATFORM Project


News

  • Tripura has launched a project for Sustainable Catchment Forest Management at Hatipara in West Tripura.

Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project

  1. The project is jointly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Government of India.
  2. It aims to improve quality of forest in the catchment area by sustainable forest management, soil and moisture conservation and livelihood development.
  3. The Tripura Forest Department (TFD) is the Executing Agency of the Project.
  4. Eighty per cent of the project would be funded by JICA while Government of India would fund 20 per cent of the project value.

Details

  1. The SCATFORM project has got provisions to built 1,447 check dams in hilly terrains of Tripura.
  2. This new project has got many components including fisheries, agriculture, forest, tourism etc.
  3. 1,447 check dams would be constructed in hilly terrains of the state to make sure that there is no chance of a flood in the plains.
  4. The water this conserved would be used for agricultural purposes and for fisheries and poultry farming (ducks).

About JICA

  1. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is established by a specific law as an incorporated administrative institution under the Government of Japan.
  2. It aims to promote international cooperation as the sole Japanese governmental agency in charge of ODA implementation.
  3. JICA is the world’s largest bilateral donor agency.
  4. JICA works as a bridge between Japan and emerging countries, and provides assistance in the form of loans, grants and technical cooperation, so that the emerging countries can strengthen their capabilities.
  5. JICA funded projects became operational in Tripura in 2007 with an initial earmarked fund of Rs. 4 crores.

Tax Reforms

Cabinet nod to integrated e-filing and centralised processing centre

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPC-ITR 2.0

Mains level: IT returns facilitation through technology measures


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved corpus sum for integrated e-filing and centralised processing centre-2.0, a Project-of the Income Tax Department.

CPC-ITR 2.0

  1. The broad objectives of the project include a faster and accurate outcome for the taxpayer, first-time-right approach, enhancing the user experience at all stages, and improving taxpayer awareness and education through continuous engagement.
  2. It various functionalities such as pre-filling of ITR and acceptance by taxpayer as a means to improve accuracy and to reduce refund/processing turnaround time drastically.
  3. The decision will ensure horizontal equity by processing returns filed by all categories of taxpayers across the country in a consistent, uniform, rule-driven, identity blind manner.
  4. This will assure fairness in tax treatment to every taxpayer irrespective of their status.

Utility of the System

  1. The proposal ensures the continuation of the IT Department’s goal towards business transformation through technology.
  2. The E-filing and CPC projects have enabled end to end automation of all processes within the Department using various innovative methods to provide taxpayer services and to promote voluntary compliance.
  3. At present, it takes around 63 days to deal with income tax return process but this will be completed just in one day after the success of the ‘integration project’.
  4. Through digital media platform, we can provide rapid facilities to taxpayers, be it real-time processing of income tax returns, ease in filing accurate returns, resolve grievances of taxpayers and spread awareness.