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9 PM Daily Brief – 16 March 2016

Brief of newspaper articles for the day bearing
relevance to Civil Services preparation

What is 9 PM brief?


GS PAPER 2


[1]. Centre enforces income norm for LPG subsidy

The Hindu

Given up on ‘Give It Up
The government seems to have given up on the Give It Up Campaign for LPG cylinders and has begun debarring LPG users who earn more than Rs. 10 lakh a year from the subsidy, starting from their next refill.

‘Give It Up’ Campaign

The movement appealed to the rich people to voluntarily give up their subsidy amount given on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders.

The money surrendered under this movement was to  be utilized for poor to get LPG connection in rural as well as in urban areas who are still using firewood for cooking.

[2]. Constitution Bench to decide on National court of appeal

The hindu

What?
The Supreme Court decided to set up a Constitution Bench to debate the establishment of a National Court of Appeal (NCA) with regional benches to act as final courts of justice in criminal and civil cases.

What will happen if NCA is established?

If NCA is established, the higher judiciary will be bifurcated and the Supreme Court will exclusively hear constitutional and public law cases.
The apex court seems to introspect on its own role as the single, final court situated in the national capital dealing with an increasing load of cases — from criminal and civil appeal to constitutional questions of law.

Stand of the Supreme Court

The SC sent a clear signal to the government and lawmakers that it intends to push hard and pronounce a judgment on the constitutional viability of having an NCA. A verdict in favour of NCA would act as a great influence on Parliament to amend the Constitution itself to make room for NCA.

The Bench asked whether such delay was not a violation of a citizen’s fundamental right of ‘access to justice’ under the Constitution.
Stand of the Government (Attorney General)
A National Court of Appeal is neither permissible nor desirable.
National Court of Appeal will lead to amendment of various provisions in the Constitution and it might not be possible to do so.
NCA will be dilution of the judiciary.

[3] A dispute that begs resolutions

The hindu

Sir Creek Dispute
It got its name from the British representative who negotiated the original dispute over firewood between the local rulers, and it has become an unresolved dispute.
The 96-km estuary between India and Pakistan, cutting through where Gujarat State and Sindh province meet, has had a dramatic impact on Indian security, though it’s always been seen to be relatively simple to resolve.

Over the years, the creek has also changed its course considerably

Basis of claims of Pakistan

Pakistan claims the entire Sir Creek based on a 1914 agreement signed between the government of Sindh and rulers of Kutch.

Basis of claims of India

India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel, as was depicted in a map in 1925 and implemented with pillars placed to mark the boundary.

What if one country agrees to the other’s traditional position?

Then the former will end up losing a vast amount of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) rich with gas and mineral deposits. A country has special rights to EEZ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that includes exploration and use of resources there including via deep sea mining, in which there have been exciting new breakthroughs.

Drug Cartels operations

The drug cartels make it a point to transact their business in the disputed waters, so that they are beyond the reach of both Indian and Pakistani agencies.

Indications are that it is mostly drugs that they are trading, and the quantity and frequency show that the area could be among the world’s most active for trading centres.

Time to Act

There are enough red flags being raised in Sir Creek, and the disputed seas off it. It is for India to grab the earliest opportunity to find a solution to what is a low-hanging fruit among the many India-Pakistan bilateral disputes.

[4] Suu Kyi aide becomes new President

The Hindu

Htin Kyaw
He will replaced the incumbent Thein Seim. It will be the first time Myanmar has had a civilian President since 1962, when the military seized power.

Why Suu Kyi did not became the President?

Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a thumping victory at elections in November, allowing her party to dominate Myanmar’s two legislative houses.

But the military remains a powerful force and has refused to change a clause in the junta-era Constitution which bars her from the presidency.

Future Role of Suu Kyi

It is not yet clear what role she plans to take or how she will manage her relationship with the new President.

Transformation of Myanmar

Myanmar is undergoing a dramatic transformation from an isolated and repressed state to a rapidly opening aspiring democracy.


GS PAPER 3


[1].LCH set for firing trials soon

The Hindu 

What is LCH?
The 5.5-tonne  Light Combat Helicopter is derived from the indigenous multipurpose Advanced Light Helicopter and is being developed for lethal combat operations.

Trial soon

The LCH looks set for its combat-qualifying weapons trials in April or May after its first armed version gave positive results in firing 70-mm rockets, as per its developer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Iron Fist

The LCH will participate in the IAF’s Iron Fist 2016 exercise which starts on March 18.

New Features

Ahead of the weapons test, TD-3(its prototype)  was fitted with the electro-optical system, solid state digital video recording system and the 70-mm rocket system along with updated glass cockpit software. Last year, it completed cold weather, hot weather tests and hot and high-altitude tests.

[2].Tobacco: House panel for smaller pictorial warnings

The Hindu

Why in news?
Recently, the guidelines regarding pictorial warnings covering 85 per cent of the principal display area of the front and back sides of all tobacco products become effective.
So,  a Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation report said that the requirement will be “too harsh” on the tobacco industry and will result in “flooding of illicit cigarettes” and affect the livelihood of thousands of tobacco farmers and workers.

Recommendations of the Committee

It  has recommended that pictorial warnings be restricted to only 50 per cent on both the sides of the cigarette packets. And in the case of beedis, chewing tobacco and other tobacco products, the committee recommended that the warning be restricted 50 per cent of the display area and on only one side of the packet.

Perspective of Health Advocates

Being a Committee on Subordinate Legislation, its mandate is only to look at whether the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 are in confirmation with legislation under which they are made.
They are supposed to look if legislation violates the constitutional principle and are not supposed to frame the regulation or legislation.

[3] Pharma firms breathe easy after court intervention

The Hindu

Only Temporary Relief

A number of Indian and multi-national pharmaceutical companies have got temporary relief from the Delhi High Court, which stayed a government order banning nearly 350 drugs on safety grounds.

Abbott reviewed the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) notification regarding fixed dose combinations and approached the Delhi High Court for relief.

Drug Controller General of India

It comes under the gamut of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization and is responsible for approval of licenses of specified categories of drugs such as blood and blood products, IV fluids, vaccines and sera in India.

Functions

  • DCGI lay down the standard and quality of manufacturing, selling, import and distribution of drugs in India.
  • Acting as appellate authority in case of any dispute regarding the quality of drugs.
  • Preparation and maintenance of national reference standard.
  • To bring about the uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
  • Training of Drug Analysts deputed by State Drug Control Laboratories and other Institutions
  • Analysis of Cosmetics received as survey samples from CDSCO (central drug standard control organisation).

[4] Quietly, symbolically, US control of the internet through ICANN just ended

The Hindu

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

It was founded in 1998.The two most critical Internet resources viz. the authoritative root zone server and Internet names & addresses system are managed by ICANN, which is under contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

ICANN is thus subject to U.S Laws in all aspects. ICANN oversees the assignment of globally unique identifiers on the Internet, including domain names, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, application port numbers in the transport protocols, and many other parameters.

This creates a globally unified namespace that is essential for the global reach of the Internet. ICANN itself is governed by an international board of directors drawn from across the Internet technical, business, academic, and other non-commercial communities.

Though ICANN is said to be an independent globally accountable governance system, yet it is not. Practically, ICANN’s role is more or less dependent on the will and pleasure of the U.S. government and the relationship, according to existing contract documents, can be annulled any moment by the U.S. government.

Why in news?

ICANN recently submitted the plan for the global stewardship of the internet to the US government for review.

What they have agreed is a plan for Icann, to end direct U.S. government oversight control of administering the Internet and commit permanently to a slightly mysterious model of global “multi-stakeholderism”.

Background

Shielded by the U.S., Icann resisted attempts by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union to take over its job.

Iana (the Internet Assigned Names Authority, the part of Icann that deals with country codes, Internet numbers and protocols) went on being part of Icann, even as other countries felt sure the U.S. must be abusing its power behind the scenes.

And Icann’s “multi-stakeholder model” evolved; a hodge-podge of different interests, meeting by conference call, email list and in different cities around the world to manage the domain name system.

What next?
The US government will now review the package to ensure that it meets NTIA’s (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) criteria. If it is approved, then the implementation of the plan is expected to be completed prior to the expiration of the contract between NTIA and ICANN in September 2016.

[6] Farmer needs a new deal

Indian Express

Two common indicators used to show the severity of agrarian distress are indebtedness of farm households and the number of farmers’ suicides.

Evidence shows that the incidence of farmer suicides in India involves multiple causes.

First cause

Falling farm income

Second cause

sudden income loss due to crop failure or price crash.

Third cause

The most common cause for crop failure is water stress.

Irrigation is the best insurance against crop failure.

The thrust on irrigation envisioned under the various components of the recently launched Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana offers hope as well as the scope for reducing water stress in agriculture.

What can be done to remove agrarian distress?

The textbook answer is to raise farm incomes.

This can be done in three ways.

  1. Enable farmers to get better prices for their produce and encourage crop diversification.
  • Better price realisation and the success of diversification depend on a healthy and competitive market.
  • Prices of farm commodities often fall in the harvest season and skyrocket in the lean season.
  • Agrarian distress can be mitigated to a large extent by an efficient and competitive agriculture market. Mechanisms like the “deficiency price payment” and price insurance for different sets of crops can protect farmers from market and price risk.
  1. Scale-up the farms.
  • Average farm-size in India is very small and shrinking.
  1. Provide alternative sources of livelihood to needy farm households.
  • The landholdings of a majority of our farmers are so small that these cannot generate income for decent living. Therefore, they need to be provided alternative sources of employment and income.

[7] Its time to re-imagine the aviation sector

Livemint

Some facts

  • Air traffic has increased to 14% from last 10 yrs
  • India is expected to become the third largest aviation market in the world by 2020.
  • Contribution from big cities 80%
  • 7% of the population
  • 8% of the GDP

Concern

  • Airlines are also in poor health
  • Airlines are lost $10 billion since FY09 Air India making up approximately 60% of this loss.
  • Only seven out of 75 operational airports are profitable, of which two are Airports Authority of India (AAI) operated

Challenges

  1. The laws of free markets dictate that when there is market pressure, the most inefficient player is forced to close but government backing ensures that Air India continues to survive. Beyond the loss borne by the taxpayer, this is a problem because the continued presence of Air India blocks the market space which could otherwise have been occupied by new players with more efficient and innovative business models.
  2. Concentration of the market in a few large cities. Airlines prefer metro routes because smaller routes aren’t currently profitable although there is future growth potential
  1. Building airports in smaller cities

Solutions for cost cutting and profit

In smaller cities where the demand is no more than a flight or two per week, even a low-cost airport may be unviable. A civil-military aviation cooperation programme could go a long way in these locations.

Enabling civilian operations for a few hours per week at military airfields in select locations along with investment in a bare-bones building to process passengers could substantially bring down costs.

Once traffic grows beyond a certain point, a new low-cost airport can be built.

There may be concerns around security but civil enclaves in military airfields already exist and we have successful operating models to handle civilian passengers in a military environment.

The transition we need to make is from viewing air travel as a luxury to looking at it as a means of mass transportation—the way we think of the railways.

An incentive-based approach: One such has been proposed in the new aviation policy—the domestic flight credit system where airlines earn higher credits by flying smaller routes.

[8] The budget and higher education

Livemint

There is a well- intended and concerted focus to improve higher education by the government,

Budgetary allocations for higher education as a percentage of total education has continued to be only around 39%.

Changing demographic structure and increased enrolment in elementary and secondary education, requires more investment to be made in higher education to meet the demand for a skilled workforce and progression of school graduates.

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

  • Initial capital base of Rs.1,000 crore
  • To improve infrastructure of educational institutions.
  • A non-profit organization
  • It will soak funds from the market and supplement them with donations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds.
  • Its operative and regulatory mechanisms are crucial to ensure its stability and check the burden.
  • The gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education has doubled in 2014-15,
  • Increase in enrolment number in turn need improvement in the quality of education, which is in a dark state.
  • To improve the standard, most important is the quality of teachers.

Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching

aims to look at teacher education in a holistic manner, to strengthen the institutional mechanism in a single continuum covering school to universities and to create synergies among the various related initiatives.

94% of the workforce in India has no technical education and merely 8% in rural and 30% in urban areas have general education of higher secondary and above, more emphasis on technical education is likely to play a crucial role in fuelling the government’s well-intended initiatives such as Skill India, Make in India, Digital India and Jan-Dhan Yojana.

The proposal to set up 1,500 multi-skill training institutes and to link the National Board for Skill Development Certification with the industry and academia is likely to fill the skill gap and will attract more pupils into higher education.

This budget is very crucial at a time when the government is finalizing its “New Education Policy”, which envisions making India a knowledge superpower.

To realize it, we need to develop a focused and multipronged strategy, which again requires increased expenditure on education.

Conclusion

Higher education is the main ingredient to the workforce and to make India the “human resource capital of the world” in its truest sense, to reap the demographic dividend and to ensure access, quality and equity.

Increased expenditure along with sustained focus and interventions will enhance the productivity of the workforce, improve welfare of the population and yield higher economic outcomes.

[9] Correcting road-rail skew

Livemint

Transportation is an integral part of economic development. It also shares a two-way relation. As the speed, cost and reach of transportation improves, it leads to higher incomes and development, which in turn leads to greater demand for transport and mobility.

The actual mix of various modes may vary, but economic development and transport infrastructure go hand in hand. The denser, the better.

That the highway construction boom has been a boon to India’s economy is well known.

The aggregate ratio of goods transported by road as compared to rail is now at 70:30. This ratio is the reverse of what it should be. Worldwide, more goods travel by rail than road.

It is less costly, more efficient and environmentally cleaner to use rail.

In India, however, the growth of cargo carried by rail has fallen far behind that by road. This has been due to decades of neglect in terms of capital spending on rail infrastructure.

The irony is that the highly successful national roadway programme was funded by a one-rupee fuel cess on diesel, to which the major contributor was the Indian Railways. So, the railways was paying for the success of its rival.

Road cargo services offer convenience, flexibility, better tracking and door-to-door services. Unless the railways can match this, they will keep losing cargo business to roadways.

Goal of reversing the road-to-rail ratio to at least 50:50, if not 30:70, in the next 10 years.

As interstate multi-lane highways get built around the country,

On this median strip, elevated rail tracks on thin pillars and modular, containerized cargo system can be built.

It is then possible to develop a continuous throughput of goods transport with automatic switching and use of modern technology such as global positioning system and driverless trains.

Such a system will be characterized by high utilization and safety, even at moderate speeds, and a high convenience factor.

System greatly to the advantage of railways using the median space. And thereby correct the road-to-rail skew.


BY: ForumIAS Editorial Team 

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  • satyendra singh

    quality not upto the previous briefs.

  • dark matter

    Thankyou forumias for this intiative

  • Very nice initiative…. Thanks IAS forum team…

  • Indiana Nivas

    Love all well explained topics thanks a lot foram ias

  • Bunny P

    ForumIAS site always awesome ………….. Keep posting dear