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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 9 February



Front Page / NATIONAL

[1]. In a first, SC issues contempt notice against HC Judge Karnan

[2]. Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand

Editorial/OPINION

[1]. Growing insecurity in Afghanistan

[2]. Getting back home, safely 

ECONOMY

[1]. RBI opts for flexibility to ‘move in either direction’

[2]. Credit Policy: Is it a hit, miss or well left?

[3]. India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo

[4]. Digital payment costs are a hindrance

Indian Express

[1]. Salt to the wound

Live Mint

[1]. RBI signals end of rate cut cycle


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. In a first, SC issues contempt notice against HC Judge Karnan


In a first, SC issues contempt notice against HC Judge Karnan


The Hindu

Context

Bench directs him to forthwith refrain from undertaking any judicial or administrative work and return all his official files to the Calcutta HC Registry

What has happened?

A seven-judge Bench of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move, issued contempt of court notice against sitting Calcutta HC judge C.S. Karnan for impeding justice administration and bringing discredit to the judicial institution of the country by writing scurrilous (making scandalous claims) letters about sitting and retired judges

  • The Bench has directed Justice Karnan to forthwith refrain from undertaking any judicial or administrative work and return all his official files to the Calcutta HC Registry.

Show-cause notice

The Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, ordered Justice Karnan to appear in person before it on February 13 to show cause to the court why contempt proceedings should not be taken against him.

Constitutional power

Supreme Court as the apex judiciary is empowered under Articles 129 read with its extraordinary powers under Article 142 (2) to punish a member of the High Court and subordinate judiciary for contempt.

Article 129: The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself

Article 142: Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery, etc

  1. The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe
  2. Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself

 


[2]. Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand


Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand


The Hindu

Context

India is looking to have more than six times the number of earthquake sensors in Uttarakhand to better understand the geology of the region and the evolution of Himalayan earthquakes

What has happened?

The National Centre for Seismology has got the approvalfor a project to install 100-150 seismometers in the Garhwal-Kumaon region [the key region in the Himalayas and known to be seismically active] for testing purposes and to better understand the geology of the region and the evolution of Himalayan earthquakes.

  • Cost: Though funds were still not available, the entire project would unlikely exceed ₹10 crore

Present situation

Currently, there are only about 20 stations, maintained by different research agencies that track earthquake activity

Garhwal-Kumaon region

This region is known to be seismically active because it lies at the junction of two tectonic plates — the Himalayan and the Eurasian Plate — pushing against each other

  • Major quakes in the region include the 1991 Uttarkashi quake of magnitude 6.8 that killed 700. It was followed by a quake of similar intensity that hit Chamoli in 1991 and killed 100.

Backdrop

On 6th Feb 2017, Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand registered a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Though it didn’t cause damage, seismologists say its magnitude was “significant,” and residents in several parts of north India felt the tremors. The latest development can be seen in this context.

 

 


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. Growing insecurity in Afghanistan


Growing insecurity in Afghanistan


The Hindu

Context

The blast near the Supreme Court premises in Kabul that left at least 20 people dead, underscores the growing insecurity in Afghanistan

Article highlights the increasing frequency of attacks by Taliban in Afghanistan, its gradual consolidation as a strong insurgent force and the consequent inability of the elected government to stand against it

Author suggests

To turn its fortunes around in the 15-year-old civil war,

  • Afghanistan needs to strengthen the administration: Mr. Ghani should initiate the administrative reforms he had promised and put up a stronger, united fight against terrorist groups
  • Seek out help: Kabul should seek more help and a higher level of commitment from other countries, including the U.S., in combating terror

 


[2]. Getting back home, safely 


Getting back home, safely


The Hindu

Context

Despite extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations of its citizens abroad, India still needs to institutionalize best practices

Issue: Capacity building in conducting evacuation operations

A stark improvement

In the first few paragraphs, author cites the extraordinary evacuation conducted in April 2015 under Operation Raahat& compares it with the shoddy evacuation scenario of 850 Indian nationals during civil war in South Yemen in 1986, describing how far we have come

 Significance of capacity building

The increasing size and complexity of the diaspora requires the government to expand capacity and improve procedures.

  • Size of diaspora: More than 11 million Indians now reside abroad and 20 million travel internationally every year
  • Political instability:As political instability rattles the West Asian region, which hosts more than seven million Indians, the government can no longer rely on heroic efforts by individual officials or quick-fix solutions

What needs to be done?

  • Learning from the experience: The government will need to build on its rich experience in conducting more than 30 evacuation operations since the 1950s.
    • Policy-oriented research: By supporting policy-oriented research at universities and think tanks to document the memory of senior officials, the government would also facilitate the transmission of their expertise to younger officials
  • Avoiding a jugaad: The government must avoid the jugaad approach. Every evacuation case is unique, given the specific nature and location of the crisis, but this should not preclude an analytical attempt to formulate a blueprint that lists core tasks for all operations
    • Preparing a manual: An inter-ministerial committee should prepare a manual with guidelines that establish a clear chain of command and division of competencies; identify regional support bases, assembly points and routes for evacuation; develop country-specific warden systems to communicate with expatriates; and establish evacuation priority and embarkation criteria

 Embarkation: Itis the process of loading a passenger ship or an airplane with passengers or military personnel, related to and overlapping with individual boarding on aircraft and ships

  • Training India’s diplomats: India’s diplomatic cadre must be given specific training to operate in hostile environments
    • To achieve this, the government could instruct the police or army to train Indian Foreign Service probationers to operate in war zones; conduct frequent evacuation simulations and emergency drills; and create rapid reaction teams of Indian security personnel to be deployed to protect diplomatic staff and installations abroad
  • Working closely with countries having a sizeable expatriate population: The success of future operations will also rely on New Delhi’s willingness to work together with friendly governments. India will have to invest in cooperative frameworks that facilitate coordination among countries that have large expatriate populations in West Asia, in particular Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and among leading powers with evacuation capacity in the Indian Ocean region.
  • Assigning a greater role to army: The government will have to assign a greater role to its armed forces, in particular by strengthening the Navy and Air Force’s capacity to operate in tandem with civilian authorities
    • Developing a NEO doctrine: It should, for example, direct the military to develop a non-combatant evacuation (NEO) doctrine, designate the Integrated Defence Staff as the nodal organisation to improve inter-services and civil-military coordination, direct the services to conduct more multilateral NEO exercises, and adapt military modernization plans to increase capacity for out-of-area deployment and evacuation.

Using technology

  • Inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism: To minimize redundancies, the government must institutionalize a permanent inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism for emergency evacuations, incentivise inter-agency cross-posting of officials dealing with diaspora affairs, and encourage State governments to create regional contingency plans.

 

  • Establishing a permanent civil reserve fleet: To avoid cost inflation and delays, the government must establish a permanent civil reserve air fleet that pools aircraft from all Indian airlines based on pre-established requisition and reimbursement procedures.
  • Monitoring the diaspora: The government will have to invest in new technologies to better monitor the diaspora’s profile and mobility. This can be achieved by
    • Encouraging more diplomatic missions to provide online consular registration forms
    • Developing an online registration system for overseas travelers
    • Utilizing social media
    • By making the Aadhaar card compulsory to facilitate biometric identity verification and reduce identity fraud during evacuation

 Managing public opinion during crisis: The government must expand efforts to manage public opinion and be able to conduct a quiet diplomacy that is crucial to safely extricate Overseas Indians from conflict zones. To reduce domestic pressures,

    • It should embed media representatives more frequently in such missions
    • Reassure the diaspora by ensuring that high-level political representatives are personally engaged
    • Avoid raising expectations by clearly distinguishing Indian citizens from people of Indian origin

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that India has extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations, but to secure the lives and assets of Indians abroad, the government must avoid an ad hoc approach and seek to institutionalize best practices, improvecoordination and capabilities, both diplomatic and military


 


ECONOMY


[1]. RBI opts for flexibility to ‘move in either direction’


RBI opts for flexibility to ‘move in either direction’


The Hindu

Context

Bond yields climb after debt market participants are surprised by central bank’s shift to ‘neutral’ monetary stance

What has happened?

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to keep the key policy rate, the repo rate, unchanged at 6.25% citing uncertainties caused by demonetisation

Rest of the article covers general points. You can give it a go-through


 


[2]. Credit Policy: Is it a hit, miss or well left?


Credit Policy: Is it a hit, miss or well left?


The Hindu

Context

For the already available beneficial impact of liquidity on cost of funds, RBI’s stance of no cut would have seemed harder on the economy

Highlights of the bimonthly policy

  • Accommodative to neutral: The tweaking of stance to “neutral” is this policy’s headline and is being seen as reducing the chances of a future rate cut
  • RBI’s formula: The other interesting highlight is RBI’s formula for transmission of policy rate to banks which lays stress on bank NPA resolution, recapitalization of banks and making small savings rates responsive to Government market borrowing rates

Liquidity

Author states that on the liquidity front, India has witnessed a sea of liquidity at banks courtesy DeMo, taking the excess liquidity in the system to a staggering 2 lac crappx


 


[3]. India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo


India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo


The Hindu

Context

India will make a presentation to World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo and India Inc. on New Delhi’s proposal for a global pact to boost services trade

Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement

The proposed Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement at the WTO-level aims to ease norms including those relating to movement of foreign skilled workers/professionals across borders for short-term work

Objectives of TFS

  • Portability of social security contributions: Ensuring portability of social security contributions
  • Ensuring non-restrictive fees: Making sure fees or charges for immigration or visas are reasonable, transparent, and non-restrictive (or impairing the supply of services) in nature
  • Creation of a single window mechanism for foreign investment approvals
  • Cross-border insurance coverage: Ensure cross-border insurance coverage to boost medical tourism, publication of measures impacting services trade and timely availability of relevant information in all the WTO official languages as well as free flow of data/information for cross-border supply of services

FA vs TFS

Government will specify that the proposed services pact is similar to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods adopted by the WTO Members in 2014 to ease customs norms for boosting global goods trade.

  • The proposed TFS pact is also about ‘facilitation’ – that is “making market access ‘effective’ and commercially meaningful and not about ‘new’ (or greater) market access.”

Barriers to services

World Bank data shows the growing share of services in the world economy, however, global trade flows in services remain subject to numerous border and behind-the-border barriers.

Read More: TFA


 


[4]. Digital payment costs are a hindrance


Digital payment costs are a hindrance


The Hindu

Context

Article lists the views of the TRAI chief that he expressed during the India Digital summit hosted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India

Views

  • The surge in digital payments in the country, driven largely by short-term incentives, will become sustainable if the costs of making such payments are addressed
  • No cost for cash: Everyone can provide incentives in the short run and see a rise and once those incentives go, they will decline. What is important from a citizen’s perspective is that cash doesn’t have any costs. If I have ₹100 in my pocket, I get ₹100 worth of goods. But if I have to pay somebody ₹1 or ₹2 for paying the same digitally, it’s not fair
  • Issue of cost: Digital financial transactions are not sustainable unless you address the issues of cost, convenience and confidence
  • Referring to the merchant discount rate (MDR) levied on transactions done through credit and debit cards, TRAI chief said there is no relationship between the charges and the ‘work done’ to justify them.
    • Drawing a parallel with the telecom sector, the regulator drew attention to ‘the work done principle’ used to determine how much one operator pays another as termination charges.
  • Building confidence: While people are getting more comfortable with digital payments, the TRAI chief said it is important to build confidence in the systems and ensure that all relevant software is tested for cyber-security and other security risks.
  • Reduced charges: The regulator has reduced the charges of USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data)-based payments made on mobile phones.


Indian Express


[1]. Salt to the wound


Salt to the wound


Indian Express

Context

Government could have undone the damage of demonetisation through the budget. The opportunity has been missed in deference to the whims of global finance

 In the first few paragraphs, author has conveyed the sentiment that the Union Budget could have partially undone the damage inflicted by demonetization but it has failed to do so

Damage by demonetization

Author states the damage that has been done by demonetization move of the government

  • Contraction in aggregate demand
  • Slowdown of overall growth
  • Impact on the informal sector

Contractionary budget: An opportunity lost

Author states that by boosting demand in the economy through larger government expenditure, budget could have provided some relief but instead it took following step,

  • Rate of Growth halved: The rate of growth of total government expenditure has been halved, from about 12 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17 (RE) to just 6 per cent b/w 2016-17 (RE) to 2017-18 (BE). As a proportion of GDP, total expenditure is slated to fall between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

 Author’s contention

Union Budget could have given a spur to the economy by utilizing the deposits lying idle with the banks, as credit demand from borrowers has not picked up. Government should have issued fresh securities to the banks and used the money for spending but it would have contributed to the fiscal deficit (as govt needs to pay interest for the money borrowed from the banks in lieu of securities) and hence government didn’t do so

  • Donald Trump is busy imposing trade restrictions, and hence snatching employment through a “beggar-my-neighbour” policy from other countries, including India.
  • Countering Trump: Our country should be countering Trump’s protectionism and preventing job losses by imposing trade restrictions of its own, and in the shadow of such restrictions, increasing the domestic market through larger fiscal deficits, backed by requisite capital controls

 


Live Mint


[1]. RBI signals end of rate cut cycle


RBI signals end of rate cut cycle


Live Mint

Context

RBI has restored its credibility by emphasising its determination to bring down inflation closer to 4% and focus on macroeconomic stability

Issue: RBI keeps the repo rate unchanged in the 6th Bimonthly policy review

Right decision

As per author, RBI, emphasizing its determination to bring down inflation closer to 4% on a durable basis and focus on macroeconomic stability, has restored its credibility, which many felt the Indian central bank was losing

Backdrop

Since January 2015, the RBI has cut its policy rate by 175 basis points to 6.25%.

Ground for a rate cut

Author states that the biggest push for yet another rate cut at this point has been a sharp drop in retail inflation. It dropped to 3.41% in December from 3.63% in the previous month—its lowest since November 2014

Why RBI stuck to the previous policy rate?

  • Deflation: The drop in inflation has been primarily driven by deflation in the prices of vegetables and pulses and excluding food and fuel, inflation remained at 4.9% for four months at a stretch, since September
  • Crude prices: Among others, a rise in international crude prices has contributed to this. The MPC did not want to take any chances

Give the rest of the article a go-through


 


 

Categories
Daily Quiz

Daily Quiz : UPSC Prelims Marathon – February 9



[WpProQuiz 34]


 

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial – An instruction manual (SOP) for Evacuation



An instruction manual (SOP) for Evacuation


Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (09.Feb. 2017)


Introduction

 

In 1986, South Yemen was being engulfed in a civil war that threatened the lives of thousands of foreigners living there. While Britain, France and the Soviet Union coordinated to jointly evacuate their nationals, the 850 Indians in the country were forced to wait for several more days until New Delhi finally managed to convince a merchant ship to pick them up.

Fast forward 30 years in April 2015, when Yemen was on fire, the Indian government successfully conducted Operation Raahat to evacuate almost 5,000 Indians and nearly 1,000 citizens from 41 other countries.

India has now extensive experience conducting evacuation operations;India has conducted more than 30 evacuation operations across Africa, Asia, and Europe, including its largest-ever civilian airlift of 110,000 people from the Persian Gulf in 1990

Rising Challenges in Protecting a Growing Diaspora

  • However, given  the  lack  of  any  formal  doctrine  or  emergency  plan,  the  success of India’s missions has mostly been due to the individual sacrifices of officials from its diplomatic corps, flagship carrier, and armed forces.
  • As more than  11  million  Indians  now  reside  abroad,  and  more  than  20  million travel overseas each year, the government will no longer be able to rely on heroic, ad hoc efforts and quick-fix solutions.
  • Lingering and emerging challenges, including a lack of standard operating procedures and inadequate coordination, will only intensify as evacuation operations become larger in scope and public scrutiny increases.

Building on India’s Experience and Expanding Capacity – Making of a Manual

Studying India’s history, best practices and lessons learned will help institutionalise them and avoid the need to reinvent the wheel every time a crisis erupts. By supporting policy-oriented research at universities and think tanks to document the memory of senior officials, the government would also facilitate the transmission of their expertise to younger officials.

  • The Indian  government  should  employ  significant  diplomatic  and  military   resources to assess its evacuation operations and institutionalize best practices;
  • Develop standard operating procedures, including emergency doctrines through an inter-ministerial committee to establish clear chain of command and division of competencies.
  • Identify regional support bases, assembly points and routes for evacuation; develop country-specific warden systems to communicate with expatriates; and establish evacuation priority and embarkation criteria.
  • train and prepare its diplomatic cadre to operate in hostile environments, and increase coordination with other governments;
  • Conduct frequent evacuation simulations and emergency drills; and create rapid reaction teams of Indian security personnel to be deployed to protect diplomatic staff and installations abroad.
  • assign a  greater  role  to  the  armed  forces,  strengthening  their  capacity  to  plan and deploy in tandem with civilian authorities;
  • direct the military to develop a non-combatant evacuation (NEO) doctrine, designate the Integrated Defence Staff as the nodal organisation to improve inter-services and civil-military coordination, direct the services to conduct more multilateral NEO exercises, and adapt military modernisation plans to increase capacity for out-of-area deployment and evacuation.
  • establish a  permanent  coordinating  mechanism  that  facilitates  communication  and  joint  operations  across  national,  regional,  and  international levels and bureaucratic and military levels;
  • designate a civilian air reserve fleet for evacuation operations to reduce the burden on Air India, whose staff also requires specific training;
  • explore new  communication  technologies  to  develop  consular  platforms to identify, monitor, and contact citizens abroad, offering them real-time updates on evacuation procedures; and
  • Embed media representatives more frequently in such missions, reassure the diaspora by ensuring that high-level political representatives are personally engaged, and avoid raising expectations by clearly distinguishing Indian citizens from people of Indian

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial – Bilateral Relations: India-Afghanistan



Click here to Download Daily Editorial PDF (09 Feb. 2017)


Bilateral Relations: India-Afghanistan


Context

There was a blast near the Supreme Court of Afghanistan premises in Kabul that left at least 20 people dead, showing the growing insecurity in Afghanistan. This has huge security implications for India too.

Before we probe into that, let us consider all the aspects of the India-Afghanistan relations.

Background of Bilateral Relations

  • India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links, since times immemorial, the people of Afghanistan and India have interacted with each other through trade and commerce.
  • It was a focal point of the Silk Road and migration.
  • It is important geo-strategic location connecting East and the West Asia.

Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA)

  • Indo-Afghan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2011.
  • Through which India provides assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance to rebuild indigenous Afghan capacity in different areas, encouraging investment in Afghanistan’s natural resources, providing duty free access to the Indian markets for its exports.
  • India aims for an Afghan-led Afghan-owned, broad based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation and advocates the need for sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community.

Economic Relations

  • India recognizes Afghanistan as a junction of trade route between Central, South, East and West Asia. This gives immense possibilities for India.
  • India has undertaken a series of measures to achieve full potential through Preferential Trade Agreement signed in March 2003 under which India allowed duty concessions, and removed custom duties for all Afghan products.
  • With the operation of Chabahar Port in Iran, Afghan exports would receive further boost, as a new transit route for trade.
  • Steel Authority of India is setting a plant in Afghanistan’s Hajigak iron ore reserves.

Cultural Relations

  • ICCR Scholarships for Afghan students for education and technical skills.
  • Technical Capacity building programs of ITEC and ICAR for Afghan mid-career officers.
  • Sister City relations:
    • Kabul – New Delhi
    • Kandahar – Mumbai
    • Ajmer Sharif – Herat
    • Hyderabad – Jalalabad
    • Ahmadabad – Asadabad
    • State of Assam – Province of Helmand

The cities will be connected through tourism, student and faculty exchange programs.

Developmental Projects

  • Developmental Assistance of $2 billion, a strong signal of India’s commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
  • Afghan-India Friendship Dam, also called as Salma Dam on Hari River in Herat Province is a multipurpose dam built by India.
  • Afghanistan Parliament building, Restoration of Stor Palace.
  • India has even decided to donate 1000 buses to Afghanistan to improve its transport system.

Given this background, the instability or bomb and suicide attacks in Afghanistan have security concerns for India.

Security Concerns for India

  • After the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban leaders escaped to Pakistan tribal areas in the FATA and NWFP along AF-Pak border. SWAT valley is under the control of Taliban. The Taliban’s territorial control has grown in strength. Last year it had briefly overrun the northern city of Kunduz and threatened to attack several other population centres. The Kashmiri militants work hand-in-glove with them.
  • There is presence of ISIS in the region has direct security implications for India. The ISIS has established some presence in the country and declared a “province” of the ‘Caliphate’ in eastern Afghanistan — Wilayat Khorasan.According to a UN report, 2016 was the bloodiest year for Afghan civilians since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001. India has embassies and consulates in Afghanistan that can harm their lives.
  • Afghanistan is part of the “Golden Crescent” – a mountainous region in the area of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan where opium has been grown for hundreds of years where Drug trafficking is a major issue in Afghanistan and has severe implications on India, as drug generated income fuels terrorism.
  • TAPI pipeline project that aims to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. A friendly, stable regime in Kabul is geopolitical insurance against the ever-growing Indian energy demands.
  • It is important to note that Afghanistan not only serves security and economic interests but is also closely tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence. India’s ability to mentor a nascent democracy will go a long way to demonstrate to the world that India is indeed a major power, especially a responsible one

AF-Pak Relations

  • Afghanistan’s peaceful future depends upon a great extent to the stable regional environment with Pakistan at the core. Even the unstable Afghanistan threatens Pakistan complicating the Pak’s ability to repair its weak economy and suppress dangerous militancy.
  • But due to its conflicts with India, Pakistan prefers an unstable Afghanistan than a strong Afghanistan closely aligned with India. That’s why it is supporting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network which worsen the region.
  • Also, Pakistan’s willingness to accommodate Afghanistan oriented militant groups is motivated by a fear of provoking militants to incite violence in Punjab. This paralyzing fear persists despite Pakistan’s desire to defeat the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

What can be done?

  • In the wake of attacks which lead to huge loss of life and economic assets Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghanishould strongly condemn and criticise Pakistan for sheltering terrorists like Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Haqqani network who carry out attacks against Afghanistan at all the international forum.
  • Jointly and commonly confront the challenge of terrorism emanating from. India could empower Afghanistan by giving more arms, small weapons, spares, more attack helicopters, transport helicopters, tanks, artillery and ammunition to deal with the insurgency and attacks by Taliban operating from Pakistani soil.
  • India could extend additional financial aid.
  • Pakistan should be pressurized to remove restrictions that inhibit the transportation of goods through Pakistan to and from Afghanistan, including from India. With regard to trade, there should be a more concerted and energetic international effort to enable Afghanistan to take fuller advantage of its geographic position as a crossroads between central, southern and western Asia
  • Washington will need to step up diplomacy in South Asia, and it needs to consider how to decrease Pakistan’s fear of India and how to improve U.S. ties with New Delhi without alarming Islamabad.
  • A trilateral mechanism of dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India can enhance mutual understanding and identify areas for potential collaboration

Conclusion

The Ghani government had initially sought an agreement with the Taliban and reached out to Pakistan, which has some influence over the group. But this yielded nothing.

Kabul failed to cash in on an internal power struggle within the Taliban after the 2015 disclosure about the death of its leader, Mullah Omar. The Taliban survived the death of Omar’s successor, Mullah Mansoor, in a U.S. drone strike.

  • Ghani should initiate the administrative reforms he had promised and put up a stronger, united fight against terrorist groups.
  • Kabul should seek more help and a higher level of commitment from other countries, including the U.S., in combating terror.

A weakening of the civilian government and its capacity to ensure security is not in the interest of any global power.As an essential part of South, Central and West Asia, Afghanistan’s stability and development is a key determinant to the realisation of the “Asian century”. The full realisation of Afghanistan’s and India’s fraternity is necessary for this endeavour.


 

 

Categories
Mains Marathon

Answered: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – February 1



1.What are the findings of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) on the derailment of the Indore-Rajendranagar Express? Discuss. (GS 2)

इंदौर-राजेंद्रनगर एक्सप्रेस के पटरी से उतर जाने पर रेलवे सेफ्टी (सीआरएस) आयोग का क्या निष्कर्ष है? इसके निष्कर्षों पर चर्चा करें।

The Hindu

Suggested Answer:

Indore-Rajendranagar Express derailed near Kanpur in November 2016 and this led to death of nearly 140 people. The preliminary findings of Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) in this were:
1. Carriage and wagon defects were the main cause.
2. There were variations in the wheel gauges of two coaches, leading to derailment.
3. The carriages were kept running beyond their useful life.
Railways have witnessed several train accidents in the past few years.
CRS annual report for 2012-13 identified the following as responsible for these accidents:
1. Failure of railway equipment.
2. Laxity in administration and dereliction of duties by the railway staff.
3. Rail fractures due to non-replacement of old rails.
4. Non-railway factors such as sabotage in LWE areas etc.
The Kakodkar committee on Railway safety found out that out of the 441 derailments it analysed, only 15% were the result of sabotage. Others were factors whose rectification was in control of the Railway administration.
The Way Forward:
1. Recommendations of Kakodkar committee should be implemented in real earnest.
2. Filling the vacancies of front line staff which is responsible for proper functioning of trains.
3. Replacing the old coaches with modern Linke-Hoffman-Busche coaches and replacing the old rails periodically.
4. Leveraging technology such as ultrasonic flaw detection to identify potential accidents and prevent them.
5. Modern signalling systems and automatic braking system in case a red signal is breached. This is present in European railway systems but not yet in Indian Railways.
6. Government has recently taken several steps such as launching TRINETRA, which is a terrain imaging system that works on infrared, optical devices and radar and assists drivers in fogs and conditions of limited visibility.
7. The Bharatmala initiative and Setu Bharatam project have been launched to eliminate all level crossings throughout the country. This will entail building railway under bridges and over bridges.
8. A Railway Sanrakshna Kosh has been launched to pool funds for implementing these safety measures.
Indian Railways transports 23 million passengers daily, a number equivalent to the entire population of Australia. It carries 1 billion tonnes of freight, half of which is coal. It is precisely due to this enormous scale of operations that there is an urgent need to identify and remove the obstacles that prevent the Railways from being a safe mode of transportation and the lifeline of India.


2.Will a “debt relief scheme for the population with loans below a certain income threshold” qualify to be a populist measure? Are subsidies by their very nature populist? (GS 3)

क्या एक “निश्चित आय सीमा से नीचे ऋण के आबादी का ऋण राहत योजना” एक लोकलुभावन उपाय हो सक्ता है? क्या सब्सिडी स्वभाव से ही लोकलुभावन है?

Live Mint

Suggested Answer:

Schemes are objective in nature. Factors such as the timing of launch, target beneficiaries and the intent of the policymakers decide whether a scheme qualifies to be a populist measure or not.
Therefore, any scheme, including a debt relief scheme for populations with loans below a certain income threshold, would qualify to be a populist measure if:

  1. It is launched just before elections are to be announced, specifically to appease poor voters.
    2. It is not economically sound and will just create a feel-good factor for the beneficiaries.
    3. Has been launched in order to soften the blow created by another harsh policy decision, or as a diversion from an important issue.

Debt relief schemes are essential:
1. In times after droughts, especially when half of Indian agricultural area is rain-fed and dependent on vagaries of monsoon.
2. When wages have stagnated due to subdued global growth, while inflation is rising.
3. When there are massive, concentrated job losses in specific sectors and there are not enough jobs that require the skill-sets of those retrenched workers.
4. After natural hazards such as earthquakes or landslides, since they result in massive loss of property and livelihood.

In such cases, if debt-relief is not provided, it leads to mental stress, affects the health of the debtor and the family, leads to social tensions and clashes, and leads to suicides in worst cases. Thus, debt-relief itself cannot qualify to be a populist measure unless it satisfies the three aforementioned conditions.

Subsidies are entitlements granted in cash or kind to the citizens or industries in order to keep the prices of a commodity low, for purchasing in case of citizens or for selling in case of industries. For example, fertilizer subsidies are provided to urea companies so that they can sell urea at low cost to the farmers. On the other hand, LPG cylinders are sold at market prices, and the eligible households get the subsidy amount in their bank accounts (via PAHAL DBT).

Subsidies create a level playing field between those who are less privileged and those who are more. They are meant to elevate the quality of life of citizens or to make available essential goods and services to all sections of the population who cannot afford it.
Thus, subsidies inherently are not populist. It is the nature of subsidies granted, as well as the intended beneficiaries, that decide whether a subsidy is populist.

There are productive subsidieswhich reach the intended beneficiary and cause an improvement in the quality of life or standard of living. An example is the Direct Benefits Transfer for LPG cylinders (PAHAL scheme).

Unproductive subsidies are those that cause undue harm to the Exchequer or the environment without substantial benefits to the intended beneficiaries. Examples are – free electricity to run agricultural pumps (Which lead to overexploitation of groundwater), subsidized urea (which skews the N:P:K ratio and decreases soil fertility) etc. The latter also affects cropping patterns and jeopardises food security.
Another example is the de-facto subsidy on EPFO interest rates, the benefits of which accrue to the middle class instead of the lower classes and the poor, for which it was originally intended.

Removing such subsidies is political suicide since these come to be seen as entitlements by successive generations. This was evident when government had to roll-back the proposed changes regarding taxing 40% of the PF corpus on withdrawal after backlash from the middle-class voters.

Thus, it is essential to introduce schemes and subsidies with a built in time limit after which they will cease to operate, and making renewal of these schemes and subsidies subject to outcomes and the result-gap that needs to be bridged. Periodic reviews of such schemes and subsidies, with a bi-partisan support to data-driven policy making, is the need of the hour.


3.“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” Critically examine. (GS 4)

“सीखने के बारे में एक अछी बात है की कोई भी यह आप से दूर नहीं ले जा सकती है।” गंभीर रूप से जांच करें।

Suggested Answer:

Learning is an act of assimilating knowledge and experience. It happens every time a person ponders over something that s/he has heard or read or experienced. It is not limited to mere bookish knowledge.

The learning process takes place in the mind, and is stored in the mind itself. This places a great responsibility on the individual, because this learning can then be used either for betterment, or for worse.

For example, learning about the basics of how human body works can help even a normal person identify day-to-day problems, common illnesses, and improper diet and make lifestyle changes for his/her betterment. This leads to a virtuous cycle wherein that person gains fitness while transmitting the same learning to his/her friends and relatives.

A person who has learnt how to make explosives has a choice regarding whether to use his knowledge for creating controlled explosives for productive purposes such as mining etc, or to use it for nefarious purposes such as making bombs that will kill people.

On the other hand, learning can be a painful experience as well, never always beautiful. For example, suffering from an accident while learning how to ride a bicycle is a painful experience for a child. However, this painful process is what enables the child to learn to ride in the first place. Essentially, it is a rite of passage.

Thus, the beauty of learning does not lie in the fact that it cannot be taken away. The beauty of learning lies in the opportunities and choices that it gives people, and the enlightenment that people derive as a result. The beauty lies in knowing that we have the ability to gain knowledge and change ourselves as well as our surroundings for the betterment of ourselves and the world.


 

Categories
Exam Updates Notification

Notification: Indian Economic Service and Indian Statistical Service Examination, 2017



The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has issued a notification announcing examination date and procedure for applying for Indian Economic Service/Indian Statistical Service Examination, 2017 on its official website.


Download the Notification Here


Around 44 posts in Indian Economic Service (15 posts), and Indian Statistical Service (29 posts) would be filled through the Exam.


The last date to apply for the examination is March 3, 2017.


The Indian Economic Service/Indian Statistical Service Examination will be conducted in two stages:

1) Written exam (1000 marks)

2) Viva voce (200 marks).

Note: Candidates are required to apply online only by using the website www.upsconline.nic.in


 

Categories
UPSC Preparation Guide UPSC Preparation Strategy

UPSC Mains: Optional Strategy-2 ENGLISH LITERATURE



Read the Previous post on : ENGLISH LITERATURE Optional Strategy for UPSC Mains


This Article is contributed by a ForumIAS User VSH_DU2015. She is currently pursuing her PhD in English at University of Leeds, UK. She joined ForumIAS a few years ago when she was an M.Phil scholar at University of Delhi and entertained the idea of preparing for CSE. But, the moment she passed her M.Phil and bought all books, she subscribed to websites like ForumIAS ? 


I will show a sample of how an answer is supposed to be written in English Mains paper.


This question is from Section A of Paper I, that came in 2013 Mains. Word limit was 150.

 


Q. The impact of the French Revolution on the English Romantic poets.


 

Answer: [Words:167] [Nobody counts your answers word-by-word, so 5-10 words increase/decrease doesn’t at all matter! But not substantial decrease/increase]

The classic Marxist interpretation of the French Revolution is that it constituted a change from an old feudal order to a new capitalist order and, in essence, amounted to the triumph of the middle-class over the aristocracy. Thus one can say that the most crucial aspect of French Revolution was an increased sense of human agency. Inspired by the Revolution, in the Romantic period, we encounter literature that rejected old literary conventions and tried to find new forms of expression. For e.g. William Blake welcomed French Revolution as an agent that would sweep away old exploitative patterns of social relations; The Lyrical Ballads by Coleridge and Wordsworth, marked a withdrawal from public life and celebrated the subjective insight of the poet, which aided by nature tried to bring a pattern in life. Similarly, Byron showed a desire to strike out a new path, surpassing conventional morality. Based on these examples one can say with confidence that the French Revolution was central to the English Romantic poets.


  • Understanding of the main literary trends during the period with reference to the authors prescribed.
  • Questions on the social and cultural background to the period.
  • First hand reading of the text along with their ability to examine
    literacy problems critically.


These three are most crucial points while taking English Literature as an optional. Are you already preparing?


Please stick to any one book, either Albert which I suggested in my previous post or whatever you’re already referring to. Use bullet points to divide different points but don’t use sub-headings/bullet points otherwise. Literature answers are supposed to be paragraphic. Your syllabus doesn’t mention the word limits for this exam, so just keep it within 300-500 for each important socio-political point.


I think sticking to Forum is a rather good idea as my office computer shows a pop up every time anything happens on anything I visit regularly.


All the Best 🙂



 

Categories
Newspaper

Must Read News Articles – February 9


Archives




The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


In a first, SC issues contempt notice against HC Judge Karnan: Bench directs him to forthwith refrain from undertaking any judicial or administrative work and return all his official files to the Calcutta HC Registry.

Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand: India is looking to have more than six times the number of earthquake sensors in Uttarakhand to better understand the geology of the region and the evolution of Himalayan earthquakes.


Editorial/OPINION


Growing insecurity in Afghanistan:  The blast near the Supreme Court premises in Kabul that left at least 20 people dead, underscores the growing insecurity in Afghanistan.

Getting back home, safely: Despite extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations of its citizens abroad, India still needs to institutionalise best practices.


ECONOMY


RBI opts for flexibility to ‘move in either direction’: Bond yields climb after debt market participants are surprised by central bank’s shift to ‘neutral’ monetary stance.

Credit Policy: Is it a hit, miss or well left?: For the already available beneficial impact of liquidity on cost of funds, RBI’s stance of no cut would have seemed harder on the economy.

India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo: India will make a presentation on Thursday to World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo and India Inc. on New Delhi’s proposal for a global pact to boost services trade.

Digital payment costs are a hindrance: TRAI: The surge in digital payments in the country, driven largely by short-term incentives, will become sustainable if the costs of making such payments are addressed.


Indian Express


RBI signals end of rate cut cycle: RBI has restored its credibility by emphasising its determination to bring down inflation closer to 4% and focus on macroeconomic stability.


Live Mint


Salt to the wound: Government could have undone the damage of demonetisation through the budget. The opportunity has been missed in deference to the whims of global finance.


Categories
Mains Marathon

Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – February 9



Read the following questions and answer them by clicking on the links in not more than 200 words

Time: 30 Minutes

Kindly review each others answers.


1.Why have the tribal bodies protested against reservation for women in local municipalities in Nagaland? Discuss the steps taken by the government to tackle the situation. (GS 1)

आदिवासी संगठनो ने नगालैंड में स्थानीय नगर पालिकाओं में महिलाओं के लिए आरक्षण के खिलाफ क्यों विरोध किया है? सरकार द्वारा उठाए गए कदमों पर चर्चा करें।

The Hindu


2.Why was the idea of a centralized Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency (PARA) suggested in the Economic Survey? From where would the funding for PARA come from? (GS 3)

सेंट्रलाइज्ड पब्लिक सेक्टर रिहैबिलिटेशन एजेंसी (पारा) का विचार आर्थिक सर्वेक्षण में क्यों दिया गया था? पारा को धन कहाँ से आयेगा?

Indian Express


3.What is Carbon tax? What are the problems faced by India in adopting a high carbon tax regime in India? (GS 3)

कार्बन टैक्स क्या है? भारत में एक उच्च कार्बन टैक्स आजमाने में क्या समस्याएँ हो रही है?

Live Mint