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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 17 February 2016

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

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GS PAPER 1


[1] Cities at cross roads: Why cities matter?

The Indian Express 

Public service delivery improved only in cities where state governments provided an enabling environment for innovation and better governance.

Urbanisation is the talk of the town. A number of new initiatives have been launched by the government of India in the last two years, raising the level of ambition of Indian cities — smart cities, clean cities (Swachh Bharat), rejuvenated cities (Amrut), and housing for all.

The first recognition of the importance of urbanisation, after years of neglect by both the Centre and the states, came in 2005 when the government of India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in December 2005. The mission ran its course till March 2014, with mixed results.

Public service delivery improved only in cities where state governments provided an enabling environment for innovation and better governance.

For the new initiatives to succeed:

  1. Though some funding through the new missions will help, as in the case of JNNURM, our cities have to be empowered with finances and capacity by the state governments and helped by the government of India. Without this, private funds will not come forth to supplement the limited funds of the government and the hope of public-private partnership will not materialise.
  2. Greater autonomy to the elected urban local governments in the running of city affairs. This will improve the quality of life of their citizens and also play their role as engines of rapid growth.

Why cities matter?

  1. To make GDP growth of 8 to 10 per cent per annum, which is necessary to improve economic conditions in India and remove/ reduce poverty within a short period, this can only be driven by industry and services sectors, which can grow much faster than agriculture.
  2. After having grown at close to 4 per cent per annum during the Eleventh Plan period (2007-08 to 2011-12), agricultural growth in India has slowed down to less than 2 per cent in more recent years. Undoubtedly, Indian agriculture can and should grow at 4 to 4.5 per cent per annum and, for this, we need to make large investments in research and development, soil and water management and agricultural extension. But rapid growth of GDP will have to be driven by non-agricultural sectors.
  3. Structural transformation: Faster growth of industry and services leads to a decline in the share of agriculture in both GDP and employment.

With far too many people dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, productivity of labour is low in Indian agriculture as farmers engage in labour-intensive farming. This limits their potential to earn a higher income. Since it is not possible for the existing rural population to earn a decent living in rural areas, they have to, and do, move to the cities. To absorb the exodus of people from rural to urban areas, we need to fix our cities. We need to provide employment, skills and opportunity for people to engage in industry and services sectors.

  1. By generating economies of agglomeration and by acting as centres of knowledge and innovation, they make investments in industry and services more productive.
  2. Existing problems like the severe air pollution in Delhi, traffic congestion in Bangalore, the floods in Chennai or the garbage menace in a number of cities, technology provides only a small part of the solution.

State governments will have to come on board in a partnership mode with the urban local bodies, the community and the private sector to make public-private partnerships work.

[2] Making cities clean and sustainable?

The Hindu

Concerns:-

The sewage treatment capacity in cities would have to be expanded by 63 per cent.

Only 20 per cent of solid waste can be treated scientifically at present.

As of now wastes are transferred to landfills and untreated sewage is released into hidden waterways.

Promising Initiative:-

Centre has asked fertilizer companies to sell municipal compost.

This will reduce waste pile up in society.

Suggestions:-

Communities  can be encouraged to create food gardens in every area possible using this resource.

Residents can start segregating their waste at home, and municipalities acquire the systems to manage it.

Contract loopholes:-

Tonnage-based contracts issued by cities have created a vested interest in transporting waste to landfills, rather than to reduce it through rules that require segregation, composting and recycling.

Changing the perspective:-

Swachh Bharat Mission should move from citizen behaviour and the visual appeal of clean cities to waste reduction and recycling.

A variety of financial instruments like Central funds, corporate sponsorship and the Swachh Bharat cess on services can be used.

Conclusion:-

Achieving sustainable clean cities will ultimately depend on the attention devoted to human development and environmental governance.

Cities need inclusive city planning, affordable housing, water and sanitation


GS PAPER 2


[1] A test of freedom: “To be anti-Indian is not a criminal offence, and it is definitely not sedition”

The Indian Express

Sedition in India is not unconstitutional, it remains an offence only if the words, spoken or written, are accompanied by disorder and violence and/ or incitement to disorder and violence

 Macaulay’s penal code, “sedition” was declared, way back in the year 1898, as meaning: The bringing or attempting to bring into hatred or contempt (by words spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation, or otherwise) “disaffection towards the government established by law.”

Courts stand (Related to Free Speech):

  1. Romesh Thapar vs Union of India  (HC)

Pointed out the incompatibility of the laws of sedation. Effort to ban publications on the purported threats that they pose to public safety were ruled unconstitutional.

  1. Shreya Singhal vs union of India :

Declared IT Act section 66A as unconstitutional. The court ruled that the speech howsoever offensive, annoying or inconvenient cannot be prosecuted unless its utterance has , at the least , a proximate connection with any incitement or disruption in public order

  1. SC has clearly said that words that expresses dissatisfaction against government cannot be termed seditious unless it induces violence and state of disorder.
  1. Kedar nath singh vs state of bihar case: SC upheld the validity of the section 124 A

“sedition” in India is not unconstitutional, it remains an offence only if the words, spoken or written, are accompanied by disorder and violence and/ or incitement to disorder and violence.

Anti Indian:

Likewise, mere expressions of hate, and even contempt for one’s government, are not sedition. When a person is dubbed “anti-Indian”, it is distasteful to India’s citizenry, but then to be “anti-Indian” is not a criminal offence, and it is definitely not “sedition”.

Participatory Democracy:

Citizens in India are free to criticise their governments at the Centre or in the states — which they do quite frequently, and boldly and fearlessly as well; as they must, because that is what a participatory democracy is all about.

[2] Aamir to promote flagship water scheme

The Hindu

Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan

To make Maharashtra a drought-free State by 2019.

It aims to make 5,000 villages free of water scarcity every year.

Using film stars to promote these causes would not only give it wider reach but also take the message across to a broader audience both in rural and urban Maharashtra

Objectives:-

  • It will promote use of micro-irrigation system for efficient use of water, thereby increasing the irrigated area in the drought-prone regions.
  • The scheme is to arrest the alarming number of farmer suicides in the drought-prone regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada.

Concern:-

  • Farmer suicide in the past year has been highest since 2001.
  • The regions have suffered drought with water deficit.
  • The ground water level, too, has fallen drastically in these regions.

[3] Delhi Dialogue to focus on trading blocs

The Hindu

What is delhi dialogue?

Delhi Dialogue, February 17-19, is an annual event where policymakers, diplomats, and ministers from India and the ASEAN member-countries meet to discuss the economic, security, and political issues.

Apart from economic affairs, the Dialogue is expected to feature extensive discussions on cyber security, counter-terror, and political coordination for multilateral platforms like the U.N.

Agenda:-

The impact of the U.S.-led mega trading and political blocs on India-ASEAN ties is likely to be the highlight of the 8th round of Delhi Dialogue.

Delhi Dialogue will give India a chance to assess how it will have to adjust to these mega trading and political blocs emerging in this region which is vital for India’s security and economic future

Concerns:-

Diplomats are concerned that India will have to adjust to the new set of security and economic rules as increasing number of Southeast Asian countries join TPP.

Indian Initiatives:-

To encourage integration of Indian producers in regional value chains of ASEAN, the Commerce and Industry Ministry is in the process of establishing a project development fund with a corpus of Rs. 500 crore which will help create manufacturing hubs in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and also in Vietnam.

[4] SC declines to intervene in Arunachal political impasse

The Hindu

Context:-

The Supreme Court declined to intervene in the Arunachal Pradesh political controversy.

Centre indicated that it was in favour of withdrawing President’s Rule in the State to make way for a new government.

Constitutional Vacuum:-

The Centre said that a constitutional vacuum and a state of “dormancy” cannot prevail in Arunachal Pradesh because the Supreme Court is testing the legality of the emergency declared on January 26.

Who will come to power?

Kapil Sibal submitted that when President’s Rule is withdrawn, the government earlier in power automatically revives.

[5] Manual scavenging in a modern airport

The Hindu

Context:-

Despite Manual Scavenging being banned in Tamil Nadu it still takes place at the Chennai airport.

Workers  have been spotted cleaning the manholes on the premises of the airport without even any protective gear.

Reason given by the airport authority:-

The problem is that a section of the sewer lines have become too old and cannot be cleaned with machines

[6] Iran in the Belt and Road loop as first train from China arrives

The Hindu

Context:-

The first train from China has arrived in Tehran

Significance:-

This shows Iran’s firm integration in the Beijing led-Belt and Road connectivity initiative along the New Silk Road.

Iran is now establishing solid structural linkages with Eurasia along the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Chinese President ‘s visit to Tehran appears to have energised the above integration.

Highlights:-

The train arrived in less than 14 days.

By covering 700 km a day, it substantially slashed transit time for goods arriving in Iran from China. Cargo ships from Shangahi take nearly 45 days to arrive at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Benefits for Iran:-

Iran is currently in desperate need of investment for infrastructure construction.

As oil prices are low now, Iran’s revenue has seen sharp decrease.

Chinese expectation:-

China anticipate that with the recent lifting of sanctions, Iran’s energy infrastructure, including its trans-border pipeline network, will grow.

This will likely to further deepen Tehran’s strategic linkages with Eurasia.

Strategic  importance of Iran:-

Iran has its common borders “with 15 nations, and sea channels on its northern and southwestern coasts”.

It is expected to play a crucial role in the Belt and Road as an energy hub and access to extensive delivery routes connecting to the Middle East and Eurasia

During the sanctions phase, China’s energy giants had provided technical support to Iranian firms for the development of oil and gas fields in Iran.

[7] Saudi Arabia, Russia, agree to freeze oil output

The Hindu

Context:-

Top global producers Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed Tuesday to freeze oil output in a bid to increase prices after a 70 per cent drop due to chronic oversupply.

The move is based on the condition if other major producers joining in.

Why?

It was designed to stabilise the market following the dramatic price fall since mid-2014.

Significance:-

This marked the first move to stem the price fall since it began nearly 19 months ago.

Reason for delay:-

Saudi Arabia and other OPEC producers had been refusing to reduce output in a bid to drive less-competitive players, in particular U.S. shale oil producers, out of the market.

[8] India joins China, Pakistan in multi-lateral exercises

The Hindu

Context:-

Indian Army is participating in the “Cobra Gold” multilateral exercises being hosted by Thailand, along with China and Pakistan.

India has been invited to the exercises as an “observer plus” country due to India’s increasing regional interoperability with a series of multi-lateral exercises on land and sea.

Theme:-

The theme of the exercise, involving 35 countries, is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

It is considered considered Asia’s largest multinational drill.

Key participants:-

Thailand, the U.S., Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea and other nations.

Significance:-

These exercises come in the backdrop of increased tensions over China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea and informal discussions between India and the U.S. over joint naval patrols.


GS PAPER 3


[1] China’s $600 billion subprime crisis is already here

The Livemint

What is subprime mortgage crisis?

It was a nationwide banking emergency that coincided with the U.S. recession of December 2007 – June 2009.It was triggered by a large decline in home prices after the collapse of a housing bubble. It let to devaluation of housing related securities. Declines in residential investment preceded the recession and were followed by reductions in household spending and then business investment.

China’s bad loans have grown 256% in six years even as their ratio to total lending dropped

The debt problem in China has already reached the proportions of the US subprime mortgage debacle. Chinese authorities are thinking of reducing the required coverage for bad loans so that banks can keep booking profits and lending.

“special-mention” loans :  which are those showing signs of future repayment risk.If we include special mention loans the value of debt will raise to  $645 billion.

What China is doing now for this ?

They aren’t curbing the ability of Chinese banks to lend or asking them to write off bad credit. Instead they’re considering putting aside checks already in place that are aimed at ensuring the health of the financial system: by reducing the ratio of provisions that banks must set aside for bad debt, currently set at a minimum 150%.

Banks are making increasing use of their more opaque receivables accounts to mask loans and potential losses.

This is a game that can’t continue forever, particularly if credit is being increased on to an already over-leveraged and slowing economy. This is going to impact Chinese economy more.

[2] Fiscal deficit and growth slowdown

The Hindu

The long-term costs of persistent financial repression have not always been considered by policymakers

Financial repression is a term used to describe measures sometimes used by governments to boost their coffers and/or reduce debt. These measures include the deliberate attempt to hold down interest rates to below inflation, representing a tax on savers and a transfer of benefits from lenders to borrowers.

India’s growth rate has slowed from over 9% to a little over 7% in recent years.

So, many economists are inclined towards increasing public spending and missing the fiscal targets(expansionary view).

The expansionary view presumes that a fall in the growth rate is a macroeconomic problem. If we aspire to a higher growth rate, there is need for suitable policies—but then we should treat it as a developmental rather than macroeconomic issue.

However, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan has come out forcefully against relaxing fiscal targets(the prudential view).

Current Target:

As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the budget estimates for fiscal deficit and public debt for 2015-16 are 3.9% and 46.1%, respectively.

Debt-GDP ratio vs Debt-Tax ratio:

This ratio of debt is much higher in India than in a developed country even if both have the same debt-GDP ratio. This is because the revenue-GDP ratio is much higher in developed countries than in a country like India.

What really matters for the possibility of a fiscal crisis is the debt-taxes ratio, not the debt-GDP ratio. The ability of a government to repay debt or provide confidence in rolling it over depends on taxes and not GDP as most of the latter accrues to the public and not to the government.

Current Status:

Budget estimates for the government of India’s total revenue receipts for 2015-16 are Rs.11.4 trillion. Public debt for the government at end-December 2014 was Rs.50.54 trillion.So, broadly speaking, debt is 443% of revenue.

Ways available to deal Fiscal Crisis :

  1. Printing More Money
    1. Impact:Though this route has worked in the past, there will be increasing difficulty in the future given the adoption of the new inflation-targeting regime by RBI and the government, under which the amount of money that can be issued is constrained by the inflation target. Hence, RBI may not be in a position to buy government bonds on a large scale and a fiscal crisis cannot be ruled out.
  2. Suspend inflation targeting for a while to avoid a fiscal crisis, the purchase of government bonds by RBI.
    1. Impact:This will only help avoid a default in nominal terms(inflation not adjusted). A default in real terms is not avoided, given higher inflation due to the excess money issued, under Indian conditions. High inflation could hurt badly.
  3. The typical buyers of government bonds are commercial banks and financial institutions such as the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). Given the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) regulation imposed on commercial banks at 5% of demand and time liabilities and the nature of institutions like LIC, there is effectively a captive market for government bonds at “reasonable” rates of interest.
    1. Impact:If banks and other financial institutions need to invest more in government bonds, there are fewer funds available for industry. This financial repression hurts the economy. People use banking less than they would have otherwise.

We have not had a fiscal crisis since Independence despite somewhat large fiscal deficits for a long time. However, we have had persistent financial repression, and high inflation every now and then.

Editors View : The Problem requires  a (possibly gradual) reduction in fiscal deficits over time—and not an expansion.

[3] Atapaka in Kolleru, largest home of spot-billed pelican

The Hindu

Key points:-

Atapaka Bird Sanctuary, located in Kolleru Lake on the borders of Krishna and West Godavari districts, has been identified as the largest spot-billed pelican home in the world.

It is said to have the highest number of spot-billed pelicans, also known as grey headed pelicans.

Similar species of birds were spotted at Madhavapuram sanctuary, located in West Godavari district.

As per the Asian Water Bird Census, about 22,000 grey headed pelicans are spread across the globe, of which about 35 to 40 per cent were roosting at Atakapa Bird Sanctuary.

[4] Railways to build 3 projects through build-operate-transfer model

The Hindu

Context:-

The Indian Railways has identified the first three projects to be taken up for development through the new build, operate, transfer (BOT) annuity model.

New model:-

Under the BOT annuity model for rail projects, the private developer gets a revenue guarantee of 80 per cent of projected revenue at the time of bidding.

The developer gets a full right to revenue between 80 and 120 per cent after that the additional receipts are shared with the Indian Railways in a staggered manner.

PPP models:-

To attract private investments in railways, the government had framed five models –

  • non-government private line model,
  • joint venture model,
  • BOT model,
  • capacity augmentation with funding provided by customers model
  • capacity augmentation through annuity model.

Due to resource crunch, Railways is focusing on raising funds through various channels, including the PPP route and forming joint ventures with the state governments.

The Railways face an additional burden towards implementing the Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations.

[5] Can India beat this slowdown

The Hindu

Unpredictable world economy:-

The 2008 global financial markets crisis had high oil prices as one of the cause.

Today a similar crisis is feared with lowering of oil prices as one of the reasons

The crude oil prices has fallen from 100$ in 2011 to below 30$ now.

Reasons for falling oil prices:-

  • Oil production in US
  • Lifting of sanctions against Iran has eased the supply situation even further.
  • Stagnation in worldwide demand

Chinese economy:-

China’s economy is projected to grow at 6.3 per cent in 2016, its slowest growth in 25 years.

China’s demand for oil and other commodities has decreased.

This has affected a number of emerging economies, which are suppliers of

Russia and Brazil, both major commodity-exporters, registered negative rates of growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015.

Indian Economy:-

India’s projected  growth for 2015-16, at 7.3 per cent, makes it the fastest-growing large economy in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

India is a large importer of oil, and therefore falling oil prices have been beneficial to its economic growth.

With the fall in oil prices, inflation based on the wholesale price index (WPI) has been in the negative territory .

Misleading:-

New GDP calculation:-

Scholars have raised questions on the recent GDP growth figures, which are based on a new methodology.

Low Agriculture growth:-

Monsoons have been deficient in the country for the second consecutive year, with a disastrous impact on agricultural production and rural demand.

Low growth in Manufacturing:-

The performance of the manufacturing sector has been unimpressive.

Micro- and small-industrial units in particular have been facing a crisis over the last several years.

Falling exports:-

Year-on-year growth of India’s exports has been negative for 12 consecutive months in a row.

Rising Imports:-

There has been a surge in manufactured imports into India in recent years.

Imports from China have increased markedly following the slowdown in that country’s economy.

Service sector – only consolation:-

High rates of growth in the services sector contributed to India’s overall economic growth

Poor employment Generation:-

India’s economic growth has had a poor record with respect to employment generation.

Government as a demand-driver

The growth of aggregate demand in an economy is derived from four sources:

  • private consumption
  • private investment
  • government expenditure
  • net exports.

Private investment and exports were important drivers of growth during the first part of this high-growth phase, which lasted until 2007-08.

Export led growth:-

Export growth nosedived in 2008, and has never really gained momentum ever since.

Despite this, India’s fast growth continued due to the stimulus measures launched by the authorities, which led to an impressive pickup in consumer demand, especially for automobiles and housing.

Private investment:-

India’s domestic private investors have got cold feet since 2011-12.

This is because of

  • sagging demand conditions at home and abroad,
  • unutilised capacities they had built during the previous years
  • heavy debts

Private consumption expenditure:-

It  accounts for the largest share of aggregate demand in India.

But it cannot be an independent driver of growth for the economy.

Consumer demand in India is not mass-based  as it comes from rich population

So its not beneficial for industries that want to gain from economies of scale.

 Governement Expenditure:-

Governement expenditure is the only option left.

India has huge investment needs in irrigation, electricity, rural and urban infrastructure, as well as in many areas of basic research.

But these are all long-gestation projects, offering little immediate gains to any investor so Government should step in such cases.

The advantages offered by low oil prices by reducing inflation and external payments create an opportune environment for India to increase public investment in the country.

Fiscal consoildation is a myth:-

There have been warnings against any rise in public expenditures that may result in fiscal deficits above certain targeted levels.

India is striving to maintain fiscal-deficit targets to boost confidence of investors.

Our government is undermining themselves by bowing too much to the dictates of global finance.

In this uncertain world economy India will have little to gain by going after investors.

India should focus on devising strategies to unleash domestic markets and entrepreneurship in this large and diverse nation.

[6] Captive flight trials of anti-radiation missile soon

The Hindu

Captive flight trials of an advanced, state-of-the-art Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM) are planned for April-May this year.

The entire missile is being developed indigenously, including the seeker.

The missile will be inducted in about two years after conducting a number of developmental trials.

What is it?

The air-to-surface tactical missile will target the enemy’s air defence capabilities by attacking radars and communication facilities.

The missile picks up the radiation or signals of radars and communication facilities and homes on to the targets to destroy them.

Who developed?

Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL)

Specifics:-

The range of the missile is 100 to 125 km

It will be mounted on combat aircraft Sukhoi (Su-30) and Tejas-Light Combat Aircraft.

Dual pulse propulsion:-

Instead of thrust propulsion, the missile uses dual pulse propulsion system as in the case of LR-SAM.

The dual pulse propulsion will widen the envelope as well as the engagement capability of the missile. After coasting the missile for the required duration by firing the first pulse, the second pulse will be initiated just before interception of the target or during the terminal phase.

The dual pulse propulsion system could be configured with other air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles.

Other facts:-

Only a few countries, including the U.S. and Germany, have ARMs at present.

The induction of LR-SAM (Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile), jointly developed by India and Israel, will begin September-October this year.


Prelims Facts


5D data storage could record human history forever
University of Southampton have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional digital data using ultrafast laser writing in nanostructured glass.

New microbes that thrive deep in the earth discovered
New micro-organisms that make a living in the deep subsurface biosphere of our planet without any light or oxygen are discovered.

145-year-old letter turns up in Australia
The Franco-Prussian War saw the Germans completely surround Paris for more than four months in 1870.
The city surrendered in late January 1871 after sustained bombardment.
http://francoprussianwar.com/

A tradition that lands tribal youth in jail

The Paniya and Kattunaika  tribal community members in Wayanad, Kerala are booked under POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences )act for child marriage which is part of their tradition.

A massive awareness drive among the tribal communities in Kerala is essential since even educated non-tribal people in the State are ignorant of the provisions under the Act.


By: ForumIAS Editorial Team


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