Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 5 2017


Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] U.S., Germany slam India for NGO funding norms

[2] HC upholds life for 11 in Bilkis Bano case

[3] Rise & fall of Swachh cities


 Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Different clocks

[2] The long arc to Ankara

[3] The scale of progress, so far


 Economy [The Hindu]


[1] Higher coal tax may benefit economy: IMF

[2] Equity ETFs rise on investor interest

 Indian Express

[1] Road to bankability


 Live Mint


[1] Advice and dissent on India’s fiscal path


 Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1] U.S., Germany slam India for NGO funding norms

The Hindu

Context

UN Human Rights Council members questioned India’s Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA),  Armed Forces Special Powers Act, criminalisation of homosexuality and the exclusion of marital rape in Indian laws on sexual violence.

Issues highlighted

The attack on the FCRA act came from nearly a dozen countries, mostly from Europe. The charge was led by the U.S. and Germany, who called the Act and the government’s actions “arbitrary”.

Australia, Ireland, Norway, South Korea, Denmark and the Czech Republic were among other countries calling for a review of the FCRA that has led to the licences of about 14,000 of NGOs being cancelled because of alleged violations.

The government also faced criticism on violence against religious minorities from a number of countries. Pakistan’s statement was the sharpest, accusing India of failing to protect minorities “especially Muslims” from “mob violence” and “attacks by extremist groups affiliated to the government.”

Attacks on Africans in India appeared as a new subject of concern at the HRC proceedings.

India’s counter stand

Supported by a rights-oriented constitutional framework, secular polity, independent judiciary, free and vibrant media, vocal civil society, and a range of national and State-level commissions that monitor compliance with human rights, India continues with its endeavours towards observance of human rights.

 [2] HC upholds life for 11 in Bilkis Bano case

The Hindu

Context

THE BOMBAY High Court on Thursday upheld the life imprisonment of 11 men convicted for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

What has happened?

The court convicted police personnel and doctors under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) and Section 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment) of the Indian Penal Code.

Bilkis’s supplementary statement was not recorded as soon as the police were informed of the rape, the court said, adding that the police had “gagged the mouth of Bilkis so that her cry for justice would not be heard by anybody”.

The court observed that Bilkis was not sent for medical examination on the day that she reported the incident.

 [3] Rise & fall of Swachh cities

The Hindu

Context

Why did some cities rise and others fall in the ‘Swachh Survekshan-2017’ ranking?

What has happened?

Chandigarh slipped to the 11th spot from number 2 last time, which the Mayor blamed on ‘public feedback’.

Indore got to the top spot among all the entries due to a “mega public movement and wholehearted people’s participation.

Tiruchirapalli slipped from third rank in 2016 to sixth. It is still the cleanest in the south zone among cities with fewer than 10 lakh people. Officials said the slip was due to the participation of a greater number of cities this year.

Tirupati, making an entry at number nine into the national top 10, scored with a mix of beautification measures and proliferation of public toilets. The temple town also bet on WoW (Well-being out of Waste), increasing door-to-door waste collection, waste segregation, placing litter bins at commercial complexes and using GPS-fitted dumpers, besides starting a biogas plant.

Visakhapatnam, ranked third this year, built over 12,000 individual household toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission and was certified Open Defecation-Free by the Quality Council of India.

Mysuru City Corporation lost precious marks for failing to complete 406 individual toilets on time and fell to 5th rank from first. Surat rose to number four from six, after it segregated waste more, covering 300 societies, cleaned roads, bridges, underpasses and gardens twice a week and ordered compulsory cleaning of all public and private buildings.

Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, ranked 22, got an overall score of 1,605 out of 2,000 based on citizen feedback, municipal self declaration and on-site observation. Over 2.3 lakh citizens voted in the city, which was ahead of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai.


 Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1] Different clocks

The Hindu

Context

Madhya Pradesh has decided to shift its financial year that now runs from April 1 to March 31, to align it with the Gregorian calendar year — that is, January 1 to December 31

Technical difficulties

The next State Budget will be presented in December or January, but the State’s transition plan for the changeover isn’t clear beyond its intent to speed up spending of funds earmarked in its Budget for the 12 months until March 2018, so that they are utilised by December 2017.

M.P. may start 2018 with a clean slate but will have to wait till February for clarity on the Union government’s priorities for the coming year and till April for Central funds.

It will, in addition, be a fresh nightmare for firms adapting to the Goods and Services Tax regime that will be introduced in the middle of this financial year. Additional uncertainties and differing tax deadlines for States are not likely to enthuse investors

Committee

Centre had appointed a committee under former Chief Economic Adviser Shankar Acharya on the desirability and feasibility of changing the fiscal year in line with the calendar year, aligning it with the practice in most countries as well as multilateral agencies. Its recommendations are still not in the public domain.

 [2] The long arc to Ankara

The Hindu

Context

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in India earlier this week and tried to give a boost to sagging ties between Delhi and Ankara.

What has happened?

His visit came against the backdrop of his narrow win in a referendum on April 16 which gave him sweeping executive powers as President giving rise to fears about a lack of adequate safeguards for democratic rights in Turkey.

Given his growing regional and global isolation as he seems intent on dismantling the secular traditions of Turkey, Mr. Erdoğan has been trying use Islamism to shore up his credibility.

Political issues

His visit to India was also informed by this larger agenda. Ahead of his trip, he had suggested a “multilateral dialogue” on Kashmir, even offering to mediate between India and Pakistan

Not that this was a surprise as Mr. Erdoğan has been a vocal supporter of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s position on Kashmir. During his visit too, the only India-related terrorism he referred to was the threat from Naxalism.

On India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Turkish stance has been to push for Pakistan’s case along with India’s.

Towards that end he was willing to support India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, even as he called for major institutional reforms. The story is complicated as Turkey is a member of the group called Uniting for Consensus which opposes expansion of permanent membership in the Security Council. And this group includes Pakistan.

India host Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades just before Mr. Erdoğan’s arrival but Vice President Hamid Ansari also recently visited Armenia, a country which accuses Turkey of having killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. Turkey does not recognise Cyprus, the northern part of which is under Turkish occupation since 1974.

Focus on economic issues

Mr. Erdoğan clearly wanted to keep the focus on economic and trade ties as he was accompanied by a large business delegation. At a time when Europe is not so welcoming to Turkey, new markets in Asia are needed. India and Turkey have decided to increase their bilateral trade from $6.4 billion to $10 billion by 2020. The two nations are also exploring cooperation in areas such as construction, infrastructure development, renewable energy, and tourism.

 [3] The scale of progress, so far

The Hindu

Context

Agenda 2030, a comprehensive development agenda, was adopted in the United Nations General Assembly by member states on September 25, 2015.

However, since it’s not binding on member nations, there is apprehension that it may end up becoming another of the Millennium Development Goals, which were only partially achieved.

UN and SDGs tracking

The High-level Political Forum comprising the political representatives (heads of states or ministers) of the members meets every July at the UN in New York to review progress on Agenda 2030. The Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), — voluntary and country driven — form the basis of this review.

In 2016, 22 presented their performance review on sustainable development goals (SDGs). This year, 44 nations including India have volunteered. The themes of review this year are Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 and 17 of Agenda 2030, respectively.

The process in India

In India, the process is led by NITI Aayog, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a think tank attached to Ministry of External Affairs, and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Civil society is anxious as it wonders whether it will have a say in the official VNR report. However, Indian civil society led by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) — an umbrella CSOs’ platform — has geared up for a shadow report on SDGs.

The government has already identified existing programmes and policies which are linked to different goals under SDGs.


 Economy [The Hindu]


[1] Higher coal tax may benefit economy: IMF

The Hindu

Context

An annual Rs. 150 per tonne increase in tax on coal from 2017 to 2030 could prevent over 2.7 lakh deaths from air pollution, raise GDP by 1% by 2030, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12% and generate net economic benefits of about 1% of GDP, according to IMF.

Details

Outdoor air pollution from fossil and non-fossil sources prematurely killed an estimated 0.53 people per 1,000 of the population in 2010 in India, or about 6.5 lakh in total.

Fossil fuel taxes can provide a significant source of easily-collected revenue, which is especially valuable when revenues from broader taxes on labour, capital, and consumption are insufficient due to a large concentration of economic activity occurring in the informal sector.

 [2] Equity ETFs rise on investor interest

The Hindu

Context

Equity exchange-traded funds (ETFs) saw significant growth in the financial year 2016-17 (FY17) with the total assets under management (AUM) increasing three-fold on the back of higher demand from both retail and institutional investors.

Why is it growing?

The key drivers of the increase in AUM of equity ETFs are increasing popularity of ETFs among retail investors, investments by pension funds including Employees’ Provident Fund Organization in equity through the ETF route and the Government of India using the ETF route for disinvestment.

What is ETF?

ETF is a fund comprising a group of securities, which is traded like an individual stock on an exchange. A retail investor can buy ETFs for as little as Rs. 100 and then trade on the exchange with a minimum trading lot of one unit and carry significantly lower fund management costs.

As on March 2017, there were 47 equity ETFs trading in India out of which 34 were benchmarked to the Nifty family of indices. Of these funds, 13 ETFs track the benchmark 50-share Nifty. There are ETFs that track other indices as well like Nifty CPSE, Nifty Bank, Nifty Next 50, Nifty 100, Nifty PSU Bank and Nifty Quality 30 among others.


 Indian Express


[1] Road to bankability

Indian Express

Context

The conflict between the political narrative (the government cannot bail out the rich industrialists) and economic necessity (the need for a haircut by banks and the fact that interest compounding itself would have added 80 per cent to the corpus of bad loans in the last four years) makes choices hard and the way forward complicated.

What needs to be done?

Financing micro enterprises

 There are about 50 million MSMEs contributing to about 38 per cent of India’s GDP, 40 per cent of national exports, 45 per cent of manufacturing output and 20 per cent of employment. Formal credit will make their businesses more stable.

Old private sector banks (OPSB)

We have 13 OPSBs with 4 per cent share of banking assets. Their transformation will greatly aid the modernisation of Indian banking.

Non-bank finance companies (NBFC)

The sluggishness and constraints of public sector banks provide a space for the NBFCs to operate in India. The RBI should raise minimum capital requirements of the NBFCs to, say, Rs 100 crore and impose some listing requirement for the NBFC or its holding company within three to five years. Bigger NBFCs will be able to reach unserved segments better and will also be more robust.

Public sector banks

There is a need to change the concept of government ownership away from 51 per cent to becoming the single largest owner, as was even recommended in the Narasimham Committee report. This will address the triple issues of governance reform, HR reform and capital constraints.

Cooperative banks

We need to push the JAM trinity and relook at the need for the cooperative bank sector.

Payments banks

The RBI created two new bank categories — small banks and payments bank. In my view, the history of small banks in India is a history of failure. Payments banks, however, are an interesting innovation but, in their current form, they are an unviable business proposition. They are allowed to only accept deposits of Rs 1 lakh or less and invest these in government securities and make money by participating in the payments business. They can then also address the gap in funding to micro enterprises, currently dependent on the traditional money lenders.

National Housing Bank (NHB)

The NHB should be merged with the RBI, like the FMC was merged with SEBI.


 Live Mint


[1] Advice and dissent on India’s fiscal path

Livemint

Context

The report of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) review committee (chaired by N.K. Singh) prescribes a fiscal path over a six-year period of fairly severe fiscal tightening going up to the year 2023.

Issues

Time Frame

There is a commitment that the outstanding debt of general government in India, summing across Centre and states, will not exceed 60% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2023, and that the Central component of this will not cross 40% of GDP.

It prescribes the FD path only for the Centre, and only up to 2022-23, it does not in fact carry a fiscal vision going beyond six years.

The medium-term debt and FD targets have to be specified, and the consistency requirement between the two formally upheld, since debt is the accumulation of fiscal deficits over time, mediated by the nominal rate of GDP growth.

Anomalies in Fiscal deficit target

The FRBM committee’s target for the general government FD is set at 5% of GDP (there is some confusion about how the FD target will be split between the Centre and states, with chapter 4 saying 2.5% each, but chapter 5 showing states going down to 2% by 2023, and further down to 1.7% by 2025).

The nominal GDP growth rate assumed is 11.5%. Staying with general government for the moment, an FD held steady at 5% will move the economy at that nominal GDP growth rate towards a resting debt level of 48.5% of GDP. So is 48.5% of GDP the eventual debt target visualized by the committee? If so, that is at odds with chapter 4, which strenuously strives to establish 60% as the prudent level for debt—as a target, not just as a ceiling.

The FD target of 5%, through a back-of-the-envelope calculation first used by the 12th Finance Commission, is based on very uncertain estimates of the household financial savings rate.

Debt target

The national debt target of 60% is split into 40% for the Centre, 20% for states. The states’ debt target has been set (roughly) at where their debt level currently stands. State borrowing through securities is under the operational control of the Centre.

The debt target of 40% for the Centre is arrived at through an econometric exercise, unfortunately modelled on a long-discredited 2010 paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

Revenue deficit (RD)

The committee prescribes a target of 0.8% of GDP for the Centre, but there is no need for a separate RD limit. Dual limits on the FD and RD were adopted in India so as to protect capital expenditure, given by the difference between the FD and the RD.

Categories
Daily Quiz

Daily MCQs: UPSC Prelims Marathon May 5


[WpProQuiz 147]

Categories
DOWNLOADS

ForumIAS Current Affairs Magazine: Prelims Special: Science & Technology

Hello Friends,

ForumIAS is coming up with a series of subject wise current affairs magazines, with current affairs coverage from September, 2016 to February 2017.


Download the Science & Technology Current Affairs Magazine below:


 


Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Lokpal debate


GS2 – Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

Context

  • The Supreme Court recently said the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013 is a “workable piece of legislation” and it was not justifiable to keep its operation pending.
  • As per the Act, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha will be part of the Lokpal selection panel. At present, there is no Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. A parliamentary standing committee’s report on proposed amendments is still under consideration primarily on the very issue.
  • Even though the Lokpal Bill was passed by Parliament in 2013 and came into effect in 2014, the Lokpal is not being appointed by the government.

What is the issue on Leader of Opposition?

  • The selection panel consists of the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, and an eminent jurist chosen by them.
  • The court has noted that the Act provides for the selection committee to make appointments even when it is truncated due to a vacancy.
  • It has made it clear that the fact that some amendments have been proposed and a parliamentary panel has submitted a report would not constitute a legal bar on enforcing the existing law.
  • The court has rightly refused to read down the provision on the Leader of the Opposition to mean “the leader of the largest party in the opposition”. At the same time, it is curious that an amendment to this effect is pending since 2014, even after it was endorsed by the parliamentary committee in its December 2015 report.
  • Provisions relating to the selection of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Central Bureau of Investigation Director have been amended to treat the leader of the largest opposition party as the Leader of the Opposition in the absence of anyone recognised as such. The delay in passing this simple amendment is inexplicable.
  • Another provision relating to the declaration of assets by public servants was amended last year in the said Act.
  • There is no law, except a direction from the chair when G.V. Mavalankar was Speaker, that says recognition is given only to a party that has won 10% of the seats in the Lower House. Note it down, your favourite Laxmikant has been wrong.
  • A 1977 Act on the salary of the Opposition Leader defines the position as the leader of the largest party in the opposition and recognised as such by the Speaker.
  • An inescapable inference is that the country does not have an anti-corruption ombudsman not due to any legal bar, but due to the absence of political will.

 What is Lokpal?

  • A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest. The concept of an ombudsman is borrowed from Sweden.
  • The Lokpal has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament and central government employees in cases of corruption.
  • The term “Lokpal” was coined by Dr. L.M.Singhvi in 1963. The concept of a constitutional ombudsman was first proposed in parliament by Law MinisterAshoke Kumar Sen in the early 1960s.
  • The first Jan Lokpal Bill was proposed by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969, but did not pass through the Rajya Sabha.
  • Subsequently, ‘lokpal bills’ were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, again by Ashoke Kumar Sen, while serving as Law Minister in theRajiv Gandhi cabinet, and again in 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed. Forty five years after its first introduction, the Lokpal Bill is finally enacted in India on 18 December 2013.
  • The Lokpal Bill provides for the filing, with the ombudsman, of complaints of corruption against theprime minister, other ministers, and
  • TheAdministrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended the enacting of the Office of a Lokpal, convinced that such an institution was justified, not only for removing the sense of injustice from the minds of citizens, but also to instill public confidence in the efficiency of the administrative machinery.

 Anna Hazare movement

Jan Lokpal Bill demanded by civil society has following features –

  • To establish a central government anti-corruption institution calledLokpal, supported by Lokayukta at the state level.
  • As is the case with theSupreme Court of India and Cabinet Secretariat, the Lokpal will be supervised by the Cabinet Secretary and the Election Commission. As a result, it will be completely independent of the government and free from ministerial influence in its investigations.
  • Members will be appointed by judges,Indian Administrative Service officers with a clean record, private citizens and constitutional authorities through a transparent and participatory process.
  • A selection committee will invite short-listed candidates for interviews, the video recordings of which will thereafter be made public.
  • Every month on its website, theLokayukta will publish a list of cases dealt with, brief details of each, their outcome and any action taken or proposed. It will also publish lists of all cases received by the Lokayukta during the previous month, cases dealt with and those which are pending.
  • Inquiry has to be completed within 60 days and investigation to be completed within six months. Lokpal shall order an investigation only after hearing the public servant.
  • Losses to the government by a corrupt individual will be recovered at the time of conviction.
  • Government office-work required by a citizen that is not completed within a prescribed time period will result inLokpal imposing financial penalties on those responsible, which will then be given as compensation to the complainant.
  • Complaints against any officer ofLokpal will be investigated and completed within one month and, if found to be substantive, will result in the officer being dismissed within two months.
  • The existing anti-corruption agencies [CVC], departmental vigilance and the anti-corruption branch of the [CBI] will be merged intoLokpal which will have complete power authority to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
  • Whistle-blowerswho alert the agency to potential corruption cases will also be provided with protection.

    Government Bill

  • The historic Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was passed by Indian Parliament paving the way for establishment of a Lokpal (Ombudsman) to fight corruption in public offices and ensure accountability on the part of public officials, including the Prime Minister, but with some safeguards.
  • Lokpal was to consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50% will be judicial members 50% members of Lokpal shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.
  • Selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal through a selection committee consisting of PM, Speaker of Lok Sabha, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI. Eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on basis of recommendations of the first four members of the selection committee “through consensus”.
  • Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants. All entities (NGOs) receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs 10 lakh per year are under the jurisdiction of Lokpal. Centre will send Lokpal bill to states as a model bill. States have to set up Lokayuktas through a state law within 365 days.
  • Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any central investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
  • A high-powered committee chaired by the PM will recommend selection of CBI director. The collegium will comprise PM, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India PM has been brought under purview of the Lokpal, so also central ministers and senior officials.
  • Directorate of prosecution will be under overall control of CBI director. At present, it comes under the law ministry.
  • Appointment of director of prosecution to be based on recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission.
  • Director of prosecution will also have a fixed tenure of two years like CBI chief.
  • Transfer of CBI officers investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of watchdog.
  • It incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending.
  • It lays down clear timelines for preliminary enquiry and investigation and trial. Provides for special courts Public servants will not present their view before preliminary enquiry if the case requires ‘element of surprise’ like raids and searches.
  • It grants powers to Lokpal to sanction prosecution against public servants.
  • CBI may appoint a panel of advocates with approval of Lokpal, CBI will not have to depend on govt advocates

Arguments in favour of Lokpal

  • Six years ago, in April 2011, Anna Hazare began a hunger strike to establish a strong Jan Lokpal Bill to fight all-pervasive corruption.
  • Thereafter, for more than two years until the 2013 elections, the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement of Team Anna, riding the wave of popular discontent and anger against the governing class, brought a weak government to its knees and governance to a standstill.
  • Caving in to enormous public pressure, Parliament passed the Lokpal Act in 2013. Four years down the line, this act, perhaps the only one enacted post-Independence due to direct “people power”, stagnates in the statute books, ignored by the civil society that earlier vigorously rooted for its implementation.
  • Significantly, the act, even in its present moribund state, is being whittled down with amendments, such as the one in 2016 which eliminates the earlier statutory requirement for public servants to disclose the assets of their spouses and dependent children, although it is well-known that illegally acquired assets are usually in the names of family members.
  • Similarly, the government’s proposed amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) — which requires the Lokpal to seek government sanction not only for prosecuting public servants but even retired public officials — is clearly designed to weaken the Lokpal.
  • The Lokpal Act has invested the inquiry and prosecution wings of the Lokpal with the powers presently exercised by the CBI, the last thing that the political executive would concede willingly. The CBI today is an outfit with an unmistakeable aura of menace, with everyone in the hierarchy from ministers downward holding the agency in fearful awe.
  • No government would want an investigating agency functioning under an unaccountable entity to monitor not only government servants but also MPs and the top political executive including the PM.
  • How does one ensure the impartiality and fairness of a Lokpal armed with a police investigative agency that functions free of political regulation? Will the inherent tensions between the anti-corruption agency, the Lokpal and the government adversely affect governance?
  • Only time will tell, but as matters stand today, these issues are irrelevant as the governing elite are in no mood to see a functioning Lokpal.

Arguments against Lokpal

  • Lokpal and Lokayuktas were a bad idea since they sought to create a parallel investigation structure and were borne out of the belief that no system that had anything to do with the government—even if it was autonomous like the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)—was capable of delivering justice while a body of civic-minded ladies and gentlemen would be able to do so.
  • Compared to the Lokpal that was being pushed by activists like Anna Hazare, the new Act is a lot better.
  • In the original bill, the Lokpal could cancel licences after an investigation—while that may have looked desirable, it created a system parallel to the one run by courts.
  • Both the central government and the Lokpal, for instance, have jurisdictions over the same employees; and how does the Centre’s plan to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to safeguard decision-making square with the Lokpal’s mandate?
  • The fact that an autonomous CVC is not considered good enough to ensure the CBI functions independently, similarly, is worrying.
  • In any case, those who believe it will do better under the Lokpal should relook their position after the way members of the Karnataka Lokayukta were accused of corruption/extortion in the High Court.
  • The problem could get a lot messier when the Lokpal is operationalised and starts giving orders that create trouble for the elected government—it needs to be asserted that, while the government is an elected body, the Lokpal is not.

Way forward

  • Government should tread cautiously on the matter of Lokpal as it not only involves critical issues of accountability and transparency of the government itself, but may also impact the decision making capacities of the government.
  • In this context therefore, the government should make necessary amendments in the Lokpal Act to plug the deficiencies, without diluting the efficacy of the Lokpal to scrutinise the affairs of the government.

Questions

  1. Critically examine the issues involved in the functioning of Lokpal. Does it clash with the mandate to elected representatives? Suggest practical ways to make Lokpal effective without interfering it in the government affairs.
  2. Discuss the role of the Leader of Opposition in the Parliamentary form of democracy, with special reference of India.
Categories
Daily Quiz

Daily MCQs 2.0: UPSC Prelims Marathon: May 5


[WpProQuiz 148]

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act


 

Topic relevance

GS2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Context

  • The much awaited Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act is now in effect.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation recently notified 69 out of the 92 sections in total, which set the ball rolling for States to formulate, within six months, rules and regulations as statutorily mandated.
  • Since land is a State subject under the Constitution, even after the Centre enacts the legislation, State governments will have to ratify them.
  • States will have to set up the Real Estate Regulatory Authority’s (RERA) and the Real Estate Appellate Tribunals and have only a maximum of a year from the coming into effect of the Act to do so.
  • The Act’s preamble details the legislative intention which is to primarily protect the interests of consumers and bring in efficiency and transparency in the sale/purchase of real estate.
  • The Act also attempts to establish an adjudicatory mechanism for the speedy redress of disputes. RERA and the Appellate Tribunal are expected to decide on complaints within an ambitious period of 60 days. But no legislation can protect the interest of only one class.
  • As one of the largest job creators, the real estate sector contributes almost 6% towards the GDP. Mindful of this, the Act seeks to assist developers by giving the regulator powers to make recommendations to State governments to create a single window clearance for approvals in a time-bound manner.

Highlights of the Act

  • The Act regulates transactions between buyers and promoters of residential real estate projects by establishing state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs).
  • Residential real estate projects, with some exceptions, need to be registered with RERAs. Promoters cannot book or offer these projects for sale without registering them.  Real estate agents dealing in these projects also need to register with RERAs.
  • On registration, the promoter must upload details of the project on the website of the RERA. These include the site and layout plan, and schedule for completion of the real estate project.
  • 70% of the amount collected from buyers for a project must be maintained in a separate bank account and must only be used for construction of that project. The state government can alter this amount to less than 70%.
  • The Act establishes state level tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals. Decisions of RERAs can be appealed in these tribunals.

Key Issues

  • One may question Parliament’s jurisdiction to make laws related to real estate as “land” is in the State List of the Constitution. However, it may be argued that the primary aim of this Act is to regulate contracts and transfer of property, both of which are in the Concurrent List.
  • Some states have enacted laws to regulate real estate projects. The Act differs from these state laws on several grounds.  It will override the provisions of these state laws in case of any inconsistencies.
  • The Act mandates that 70% of the amount collected from buyers of a project be used only for construction of that project. In certain cases, the cost of construction could be less than 70% and the cost of land more than 30% of the total amount collected.  This implies that part of the funds collected could remain unutilized, necessitating some financing from other sources.  This could raise the project cost.
  • The Standing Committee examining the Bill has made several recommendations. These include:
  1. the Act should also regulate commercial real estate,
  2. smaller projects should also be covered, and
  3. all real estate agents must be required to register.
  • The real estate sector has some other issues such as a lengthy process for project approvals, lack of clear land titles, and prevalence of black money. Some of these fall under the State List.

Analysis

While the Act might transform the way in which various stakeholders operate, it will particularly have a far-reaching impact on residential developers, who would need to recalibrate their business practices to stay in the game.

  1. Rigorous project planning and management
  • Increased disclosure level for project registration would prompt developers to make realistic commitments on project specification, amenities and delivery timelines to avoid stiff penalties on default.
  • Project configuration, planning and execution management would, therefore, get more efficient.
  • Similarly, new projects might get broken down in phases to keep their sizes manageable and avoid execution delays.
  • Some of the best practices, currently being neglected by the majority but followed by international and corporate developers may become the new industry norm in the RERA world.
  1. Conservative project finance structures
  • RERA would require new projects to have all approvals before a launch. This would lead to larger gestation period prior to a project launch.
  • Consequently, new projects would require higher proportion of working capital towards land procurement, architects, consultants and regulatory approvals being financed by promoter equity as against the current practice of sourcing it from customers through hurriedly done half-baked project launches.
  1. Efficient project cost control mechanism
  • RERA would make product pricing structures extremely transparent. Post sale and last minute product price escalations by developers on frivolous grounds would be history.
  • This would encourage developers to establish strong cost and delay control mechanisms within their project management and monitoring systems.
  • Procurement efficiencies would need to be raised and leakages due to negligence or internal corruption would need to be plugged to protect project profit margins.
  1. Increased participation by institutional players
  • In the past, many of these institutional players have burnt their fingers badly due to lack of governance and execution efficiency.
  • Their past experiences have hitherto forced them to either stay away or invest through extremely conservative debt structures to protect their investments.
  1. Cheaper capital pricing by institutions
  • Capital pricing at the new investment stage is always a function of perception of risk—market, regulatory, execution and counter party.
  • RERA would reduce the risk perception significantly due to its stringent disclosures and penal provisions.
  • Consequently, pricing of both debt and equity instrument are expected to come down once RERA is implemented in letter and spirit.
  • The transformation in business practices with RERA being a catalytic force would ensure that only serious and strong players remain within the sector.
  • Therefore, going forward, a consolidation among players within the sector cannot be ruled out.
  • The transformative impact of RERA would lie in the intent and speed at which various state government implement the regulation.

What are the grievances of the Builders?

  • While consumer interests have been protected, some developers find provisions of the Act to be exceptionally burdensome on a sector already ailing from a paucity of funds and multiple regulatory challenges.
  • The builder lobby has been demanding “industry” status for the real estate sector as it would help in the availability of bank loans.
  • Real estate companies say that most delays are because of the failure of authorities to grant approvals/sanctions on time.
  • While the Act addresses some of this, it does not deal with the concerns of developers regarding force majeure (acts of god outside their control) which result in a shortage of labour or issues on account of there not being a central repository of land titles/deeds.
  • Some of these concerns are legitimate but the real estate sector has become a sort of untamed horse galloping in all directions.
  • The cracks emerging in their books are largely of their own making.
  • Once 100% foreign direct investment was permitted in real estate, international money flooded the market. Builders/developers overstretched themselves and diverted funds while some began to cross-invest in non-core activities.
  • In the race to announce the next “mega project” one came across, in many instances, real estate companies embarking on projects without even consolidating land.

Conclusion

  • Like with any new legislation, it takes time to iron out the creases.
  • In fact, the 22 sections still to be notified relate to functions/duties of promoters, rights/duties of allottees, recovery of interest on penalties and other offences.
  • It appears that the law makers have consciously delayed the notification of these provisions till such time as regulators, developers and buyers familiarise themselves with the new legislation.
  • Eventually the benefit of any statute is contingent on its effective implementation. Despite a model set of rules, only a few States have notified their rules.
  • The onus is now on States to formulate rules and establish the regulatory authorities on time. There shouldn’t be just paper compliance, by designating an existing authority to take additional charge as the real estate regulator, as that would affect the timeliness prescribed under the Act.
  • It will go a long way in assisting upstanding developers.
  • More importantly, it will ease the burden on innocent home buyers who put their life’s savings into a real estate investment in the hope of having a roof over their head but often find their dreams come tumbling down.

Practice Questions

  1. Discuss the provisions of the Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Act, 2016. How will it impact the ambitious scheme “Housing for All” by 2022?
  2. What is the significance of the real estate sector in the Indian economy? Chart it out in the respect of the Real Estate Act.
Categories
How To

How to Optimise Prelims Preparation – Making the most of last few days + Strategy For the Last 45 Days

In about a month and a half, we have the Prelims Examination. Unlike the Mains, examination, which some people love to write, and the Interview, which most people love to prepare and appear for – the Prelims is almost the most hated exam level amongst all the three.

Everyone hates it ( with the exception of the person who is writing it the first time ) – the people who have made it to the list, but again need to qualify it if they want to upgrade their ranks, the people who just appeared for the Interview, but did not make it to the final list, the people who cleared Prelims last time, but didn’t clear Mains and are faced with Prelims again.

Almost everyone wants to write Mains . But one wants to write Prelims again, though 😛

Because, it is also the exam, which makes us to go back to basics – read the same books again and again. And do the same current Affairs Magazine again and again.

Unlike the Mains, where everyone knows something about a question,  writes something and fills pages, and results take a really long time to come – the Prelims is a matter of you-either-know-it-or-don’t. There is no faking it.

Secondly, you almost know your results within a few hours of the exam, so if you are not scoring well, your comfort zone  ends just a few hours after the exam.

Again, unlike the Mains, where 100 out of 100 appearing candidates can claim that paper went fine, and yet only 20% will make it. But for the Prelims, you just know it. Right after writing a test. There are umpteen keys out there.

So here are a few things to keep in mind, which should make your journey for Prelims more productive, a little happier, stress-free and successful.

  1. Make the most of the Golden Hour. On a Daily basis.

And the golden hour starts ( and ends ) within the first hour of waking up. So the minute you wake up, do not get caught in the spiral of thoughts. Start studying within 30 minutes of getting up. A good idea would be to head to the washroom and come out having taken bath, all fresh and all ready to take the head on.

The point is, end procrastination before it takes over you. Nip it in the bud. And since Prelims exam does cause high stress ( compared to all other levels ) , its important to study – if not for the exam – for the confidence and for the need to feel good.

2. Do something tangible in the golden hour

The best thing to do when you wake up is to memorize things. You are fresh, the mind works best and you can quickly cover up a lot of things. And if you build a habit around it, you are all set for the Prelims Examination.

But if you are one of those who just open a book and stare at it until you sleep – try doing something tangible / measurable.

By which I mean, something that can be quantified. And seen. Having an end result. Like writing for an hour after waking up. ( How many pages did you write ? ) And seeing what you have written. The sweet smell of your cheap ball pen ink on fresh white paper. ( I use a 3 rupee pen ) Smells like heaven 🙂

At the end of the hour, you have a few pages written, and you feel good about it. Its good for a start. What’s well begun is half done. Half is good. For now.

3. Leave nothing for the end. This is the end.

A lot of times, we leave things thinking of doing them in the end. A typical case is leaving current affairs for the end ( with the misplaced goal that I-will-cover-June-News-also-and-will-know-more-than-anyone-else )

There are two truths I want to tell you

(a) First, You cannot leave Current Affairs for the end. Nor even Modern History for the end

(b) Second, This is the end.

The truth is these last odd 50 days are the end days. The last 5 days or 10 days or 15 days are NOT the end. This isn’t college exam anymore.

4. There is still time

 

If you clock in at least 10-12 hours a day. And if you already know what to do. While clocking 10 hours a day looks like lot of hard work, the Prelims does require this kind of studies at least once, so that you build you level. The same amount of hard work may not be required for the Mains. Or the Interview.

By hard work, I mean the intensity of effort put in per hour. Lets face it. The Mains requires you to remember few key points, and build logical opinions around it. You do not have to remember things. If you don’t remember Point A, which is factual, you can always write Point B in its place.

But for the Prelims, you have to know Point A. And Point B. And Point C , if there is any. There is no escape. You must either memorize the Wetlands under Ramsar Convention or at least go through them between 3 -5 times to be able to answer a question based on them. Your opinions don’t matter. Facts do.

5. The 3 Days – 15 Cycles Strategy

We are about 45 days away from the Prelim. So here is the plan that you could opt for in the past few days. This is also what ForumIAS Co-Founder Lingraj Panda did in his subsequent attempt when he couldn’t clear Prelims the first time – Lock yourself and just study ( This doesn’t apply to people who are doing well and are in a comfort zone ; this is for people who are close to the border, and just need to race ahead in the last few days ). Lingraj, did clear Prelims that year, got IRS and then IAS with a rank 38, in case you wanted to know.

Here is the pic.

And as ugly the room, the books, or us, may look, this is how it is, and should be, when the going gets tough – when you don’t feel like studying, or you feel under pressure.

So here is the thing. Keep a target of 3 Days – that makes up one cycle –  of finishing an entire subject – like Geography ( 2 books of NCERT ) , Environment ( Shankar IAS ), Polilty ( May take upto 2 cycles , since it’s a big book ) , Modern History ( Spectrum – 1 Cycle ) and try finishing it in three days.

And to beat the monotony, when you are bored of the static book, study current Affairs for 2-3 hours. Don’t be ambitious – just think of finishing maybe 20 pages of your current Affairs Magazine. So there you have a fair mix of Static and Current Affairs. And when you are tired and bored – solve 25 Questions of any coaching Test paper. If you are a little fresh, solve maybe 50 questions – but no more.

So here is the sum total. At all points of day, you aim to finish off 1 Static Book + 1 Current Affairs + 1 /4 to 1/2 Test paper every day. You can change the composition of the above mixture , say 1 Full Test Everyday – depending on your preparation level.

If you decide to finish one subject + 1 CA Magazine + 1 Test Paper in three days ( apart from the Test Series ), you should be able to have 15 such cycles of revisions.

And three days is a good time for a cycle. Even if you exceed, you will take maximum 5 days. On the other hand, if you keep a target of 5 days of 7 days for completing something, here is what happens

  • First, if you miss the target, you extend it to 7 days to 10 days – which is a lot of time .
  • Second, we all end tend to study in the end.  Parkinson’s Law. So if you make a target of 7 days, you are likely to waste the first three days and study only from the 4rth day.
  • Third, if you decide to finish something in 3 days and merely finish 60%, you still have another cycle to complete the remaining 40%. And meeting 60% of your target is a good number even at this stage.

6. The ground rules for Cracking Prelims

Coming to few final ground rules for Prelims, especially when you are under prepared. And they are :

A)When choosing between solving  a paper vs studying, choose studying  ( unless you have really done each of the books five times  and have nothing left.)

B)When choosing between solving a previous year paper vs a Test paper, solve the previous year paper ( if you have not done it already )

C)When choosing between  a FREE ONLINE QUIZ and a solving a test series hard copy, solve a hard copy.

You can do 500 question in each paper in Mains ( subject to weightage of Current Affairs ) , and still clear Mains, but not so with the Prelims.

If you can’t clear Prelims based on your book reading, you can’t clear it by solving free MCQs all over the Internet. You will miss it by a few marks, even if you reach close. Missing the mark is missing it still. There is no glory in it. And that applies to almost all things in life.

7. Lastly, All Adversity is Opportunity.

If there is one thing I could tell you from the lessons of my own life, and having seen the struggle of a lot of people, who shine in knights armors, it is this. All adversity is opportunity. This exam has a glory. And the glory is only because the exam tests your perseverance, patience and ability to work under stress. And the ability to develop a strong will power in your journey.

If there is one thing that cracking the Prelims exam will teach you, is how to grow through adversity. For life.

So work hard, and feel free to post your queries and doubts here if you need help.

There is no other way,

Until Next Time

With ❤

Neyawn

Categories
Mains Marathon

UPSC Current Affairs Questions and Answer Writing – Mains Marathon – May 5


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. NITI Aayog’s Three Year Action Agenda forms part of a larger vision document which spans a seven-year strategy and a 15-year vision. Discuss the key points of the agenda. (GS 2)

नीती आइड की तीन साल की कार्यवाही एजेंडा एक बड़े दृष्टि के दस्तावेज का हिस्सा है, जो सात साल की रणनीति और 15 साल का विजन है। एजेंडे के प्रमुख बिंदुओं पर चर्चा करें।

Live Mint | Link


2. Do you think that Section 139AA is a “chilling trajectory the state has taken to dilute civil liberties”? Give your opinion. (GS 2)

क्या आपको लगता है कि धारा 13 9 एए एक “शीतल प्रक्षेपवक्र है जो राज्य ने नागरिक अधिकारों को पतला करने के लिए लिया है”? अपनी राय दें।

Link-1 | Link-2


3. ISRO’s South Asia satellite not a technological breakthrough, but diplomatically very significant. Give reasons. (GS 3)

इसरो की दक्षिण एशिया उपग्रह एक तकनीकी सफलता नही है, लेकिन कूटनीतिक रूप से बहुत महत्वपूर्ण है। कारण दीजिये।

Indian Express



Categories
Newspaper

Must Read News Articles – May 5



The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


U.S., Germany slam India for NGO funding norms: Rohatgi defends India’s record at UN Human Rights Council.

HC upholds life for 11 in Bilkis Bano case: The court convicted them under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) and Section 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment) of the Indian Penal Code.

Rise & fall of Swachh cities: Their ranking is heavily influenced by public feedback.


Editorial/OPINION


Different clocks: Changes in the financial year need proper coordination between the Centre and States.

The long arc to Ankara: Recep Erdoğan’s visit came as a reminder of the heavy lifting needed to fix India-Turkey ties.

The scale of progress, so far: Is the process of a voluntary national review of Agenda 2030 helpful?


Economy


Higher coal tax may benefit economy: It will boost GDP, cut mortality.

Equity ETFs rise on investor interest: Equity exchange-traded funds (ETFs) saw significant growth in the financial year 2016-17 (FY17) with the total assets under management (AUM) increasing three-fold on the back of higher demand from both retail and institutional investors.


Indian Express


Road to bankability: Six ways to strengthen the Indian banking sector even as the NPA crisis billows.


Live Mint


Advice and dissent on India’s fiscal path: The NK Singh committee’s report carries a dissent note by the chief economic adviser pointing to absence of consistency between debt and deficit targets prescribed.