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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Brief – 18 January 2016

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

What is 9 PM brief?


National


[1].U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran / In Tehran, a historic deal is played down

The Hindu | The Hindu 

Context:-

The U.S. on Saturday removed a wide range of sanctions against Iran.

Why was it removed?

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Tehran had met its commitments to roll back its nuclear programme, under an agreement with China, France, Russia, the U.K., the U.S. and Germany.

iran 1

What type of sanctions removed?

The U.S. has only removed secondary sanctions that restrict the dealings of other countries with Iran. Primary sanctions that bar U.S. citizens and companies from business with Iran will remain

Will this benefit Iran?

The removal of restrictions on its oil, petrochemicals, banking, natural gas and port sectors will hugely benefit Iran and allow it to re-enter the global market.

Iran will be able to access the huge amount of cash it has accumulated overseas from restricted oil sales during the sanctions. Most of this money is sitting in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey

Mixed reactions in Iran:-

Since the deal was signed last July, Iran has had to put into storage more than 12,000 centrifuges, ship out almost its entire stockpile of enriched uranium and removes the core of its heavy-water reactor.

Many officials, especially hard-liners, find it hard to present the nuclear agreement as a victory, especially when so much was given up in compromise. “Nuclear burial,”

Some feel that Iran has stepped out of its isolation.

Other updates:-

US might apply a new sanction on Iran to target Iran’s ballistic missile programme

[2]. A standing example of conservation architecture

The Hindu

Context:-

The article speaks about the temple of Someswara (Lord Shiva), believed to have been originally constructed in the 7th century.

It was built during the time of the Chalukyas, following the ‘Vesara’ style that is considered unique to what is now Telangana.

It is in the backwaters of the Srisailam dam construction.

There are over a dozen Shiva Lingas and as many temples that are a part of the original complex.

The main temple, with nine Shiva lingas was practically dismantled and re-located around the late 70s to a higher location because it faced submersion in the backwaters.

Every block of rock was carefully marked and shifted to the new location. They were then fit in place with nary a change of the original design

Abu Simbel as Example:-

The exercise to re-locate the massive structure was modelled after the way in which the Abu Simpel temple was dismantled and re-constructed at a height of 600 to 800 metres because it faced submersion following the construction of the Aswan dam across the River Nile in Egypt.

The Abu Simbel temple was originally constructed in 1257 BC around the time of the Pharoah Ramses in Nubia on the West Bank of the River Nile and re-located once the dam came in place.


Economic Digest


[1]. Flex fuel policy of government to curb pollution worries automakers

The Hindu

Context:-

India can soon expect a policy on flexible-fuel cars, cars that can run on bio-ethanol and petrol, or a blend of both.

Else Where:-

Flex-fuels are widely used in several countries, famously Brazil and the United States, where they are available at the pump; examples include E10, E15, E85, the number reflecting the proportion of ethanol.

Benefits:-

Decrease Pollution:-

The move to flex-fuels will decrease pollution and encourage a diversion in the sugar industry’s output away from sugar and towards ethanol.

Diversifying agriculture:-

Biofuel production would help farmers by supporting the diversification of agriculture into energy, power and bio-plastics.

Reduces the oil Bill:-

Ethanol can match up to 7-8 per cent of India’s total petrol consumption. India imports more than 80 per cent of its crude oil so this will mean significant reductions in the oil bill.

Impact on Automotive Industry:-

A policy on flex-fuel vehicles is likely to affect the automotive industry in several ways.

Limited availability of Technology in India:-

The technology for the engines that can take these fuels is certainly not new but making the engines available in India will take the greater part of a year at least. It requires modifications along the supply chain and calibrating the engine for Indian conditions.

Disadvantage Indigenous Producers:-

Such a policy will give manufacturers, who are already in flex-fuel markets an advantage over indigenous producers,

Increases cost of production:-

If flex fuels are to be rolled out, engines will have to be built for them — and this will mean an additional variant for manufacturers’ production plants.

Adding an additional line of engine variants is not cheap. All this accumulates as internal costs within the company and they do not like doing this unless they are forced or required to do it.

Additional manufacturing costs are likely to be passed on in some measure to customers.

How viable is running existing petrol engines on blended fuels?

While a regular vehicle not especially made for biofuels could run on these fuels for a few years, this is not a feasible strategy in the medium to long-term for several reasons

  1. Ethanol, unlike petrol, is prone to oxidation and this can cause gum-like sediments to accumulate in various engine parts.
  2. Ethanol also reacts with other materials in the car, such as rubber, and this causes degradation.

Ethanol in India:-

At present, the most obvious and reliable source of bio-ethanol in India is sugarcane. The world’s second largest sugar market is India. Ethanol is produced from cane molasses, a by-product of the sugar production process.

The government’s current Ethanol Blending Policy mandates five per cent blending of ethanol with petrol, though in reality the average ethanol blending achieved has been just two per cent. The government wishes to achieve 10 per cent blending.

Diversion from sugar towards ethanol:-

A new flex-fuel policy will mean a diversion in the production process to support the production of ethanol rather than sugar.

The government is keen to increase the ethanol component in this mix partly because the sugar industry has an excess supply problem and consequently sugar prices are depressed. Mills are mired in debt to cane farmers.

If a flex-fuel policy comes into effect, the additional ethanol demand will likely exceed what can be produced by diverting resources from sugar.

For producing ethanol do we have to increase Production?

This demand does not necessarily have to be met via additional acreage under sugarcane. Some of it can come from sources other than molasses, such as cellulosic ethanol, made from bagasse or sugarcane tops, and some can come from improved farming practices or planting higher- yielding varieties of cane. Such differences in productivity are already evident across the country; Tamil Nadu yields 100 tonnes of sugar per hectare of cane, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar yield 50-55 tonnes per hectare

Concerns of flex fuels:-

Energy generation:-

Their ability to generate more energy than is used in their production is in question.

Food security:-

Additionally, an increase in bio-ethanol production has also raised concerns about food security, farmers’ livelihoods and the environment, including water usage.

Water Shortage:-

Water shortages too are a problem, especially when it comes to sugarcane. Maharashtra for one just does not have enough water, with the Marathwada region already in the middle of a drought. Sugarcane farms constitute 6 per cent of land use but consume 70 per cent of the irrigation water in the State.

Food vs Energy security Debate:-

The National Policy on Biofuels (2009) , which directs the nation’s overall approach to biofuels, says these fuels will be produced using non-food feed stock (source materials) on wastelands, thereby allowing India to stay clear of the traditional food versus energy security debate that other countries have had to deal with.

Failed Initiative:-

Memories of India’s infamous and unsuccessful experiment with jatropha — a plant used to produce bio-diesel and promoted by the government across the country, are still fresh.

The purported ability of the weed to grow on wastelands and its drought-resistant properties were not reflected in the ground realties of its commercial cultivation and the programme was not successful.

What is needed?

Well thought out policy:-

A clear and well-considered policy, based on a considered approach that learns from past experience and does not lose sight of overarching objectives is needed, no matter where you stand on the flex- fuel debate. Sugar mill operators would benefit from a clear and well-thought-out policy too.

Enabling conditions:-

Considering whether oil marketing companies have enough storage capacity for ethanol, and reforming tax structures so transport of ethanol across State boundaries was not prohibitively expensive, are among the issues that needed to be considered.

Investing according to demand:-

Investments have to be made to install special dispensing units at petrol pumps across the country and such investments should follow demand for the product, which comes after a clear policy has been articulated.

Technical and economic case study:-

The utility of using more than 85 per cent ethanol in a blend should be questioned, as Brazil has stopped the practice for good reasons, and a technical and economic case study has to first be made.

Adequate time:-

Automobile manufacturers also need to be given adequate lead time to comply with a new policy. In our hurry to appear to do things, we need to avoid hasty steps that will hurt the progress we wish to make.

[2]. Get into JAM, and possibly out of another 

The Financial Express 

Context:-

The article discusses about the disruption in traditional banking system caused by the JAM Trinity of Government, the new payment banks and Prepaid Instruments.

Digital Penetration in India:-

In particular, with increasing mobile and internet penetration, the financial architecture of the country has undergone an unprecedented transformation.

A billion mobile connections, growing Smartphone penetration and internet access having already crossed 300 million, the potential power of this revolution keeps swelling.

The JAM trinity:-

There has been renewed focus on reaping the benefits of digitisation even on part of the government, with recent initiatives such as Digital India and Jan-Dhan Yojana (JDY) attempting to bring the marginalised and unbanked to the fore, particularly through the use of technology.

 Inclusion:-The JDY forms the core of the government’s strategy—with a bank account, every household could potentially gain access to banking and credit facilities and participate in the formal system.

KYC Norm:-The Aadhaar identity card is envisaged as the sole KYC proof, besides serving as the backbone for Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) when linked to bank accounts.

Linking the Aadhaar number to an active bank account is part of the inclusion drive of the government, by making income transfers predictable and targeted.

 Increased Efficiency:-There is already evidence that payments through Aadhaar-linked bank accounts have increased efficiency and reduced leakages.

Entry of Payment Banks:-

As the Jan-Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity leads the disruptions in the traditional banking and payments market in India, the financial landscape has been altered further by Payment banks—the first instance of differentiated licensing in India’s banking history.

These payments banks have been allowed to

  1. Maintain deposits up to Rs. 1 lakh per customer,
  2. In addition to issuing debit cards,
  3. Offering financial products such as insurance and mutual funds,
  4. Utility bill payments.

They will be especially relevant for low-income consumers, small enterprises and workers in the unorganised sector.

As they are permitted to invest only in government paper, long-term profitability will come through by expanding the volume of transactions.

This is possible, given the large unmet demand for financial services, increasing smartphone penetration and the spectacular rise of e-commerce.

Benefits of Payment Banks:-

Technology increasingly affords the opportunity to improve delivery.

In particular, there are technologies that enable better targeting and transfer of financial resources to households.

Technology causes displacement and there are clear implications for competitiveness in the sector as these entities take over some of the functions of traditional banks and help facilitate otherwise costly micro-transactions.

Distorting the Traditional Banking:-

The list of licensees includes corporate giants such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Vodafone m-pesa, etc, in addition to the Department of Posts.

They have the advantage of leveraging an expansive and far-reaching customer base as well as existing infrastructure to address the problem of last-mile access to financial services—a deficiency that traditional banks have so far been unable to overcome.

The new entrants have the flexibility to engage in price competition and price discrimination, and are likely to pose real challenges to traditional banking.

Recognising the need to keep up with these innovations, some traditional banks have already decided to collaborate with these niche banks.

The State Bank of India (SBI) has partnered with RIL with an equity share of 30% and Kotak Mahindra Bank has agreed to acquire a stake of 19.9% in Bharti Airtel’s payments bank venture.

Prepaid Instruments:-

Payments banks are not the only likely source of disruption in this space—the increasing prevalence of prepaid payment instruments has revolutionised the way consumers transact.

According to the statistics published by RBI, the value of prepaid instruments (PPIs) has increased fourfold. In particular, the value of transactions made through mobile wallets (or e-wallets), which account for 40% of the value of all PPIs, has increased tenfold.

In fact, in terms of volume, transactions through e-wallets have long surpassed those made through mobile banking.

Benefits of PPIs:-

Ease of Transaction:-

Most of these wallets function as semi-closed PPIs, allowing consumers the convenience of not having to load their bank account or debit/credit card details and go through the cumbersome two-step verification procedure each time they transact.

New Services:-

They make possible peer-to-peer transfers and micro-transactions, which were not previously feasible through traditional banking methods.

Direct of Loading of cash:-

Some of these wallets (Mobikwik, Paytm) also allow direct loading of cash into accounts, rendering the process even simpler for consumers who are new to digital payment methods and making digital transactions available to those who do not have bank accounts.

Attractive offers:-

Cash-back offers, loyalty rewards and discounts are offered by all wallet providers, making their products more attractive in comparison to credit/debit cards and mobile banking.

Last Mile Connectivity:-

To fill the gaps in achieving last-mile financial integration in rural areas, the key players are collaborating with kirana stores and are setting up kiosks to facilitate easy top-up of digital wallets.

With a focus on increasing convenience, capturing unmet rural demand and incentivising consumers through innovative schemes, mobile wallets have become a force to reckon with.

Key competitors:-

Both payments banks and PPI players have shown eagerness in understanding the diverse and evolving needs of consumers, and have used technological innovations to adapt to them.

Having completely altered the way consumers transact and save, these disruptors have become key competitors for traditional banking institutions.

 Incumbent response:-

Imposing Restrictions:-

Some large banks have imposed restrictions on the usage of their digital infrastructure.

For example, SBI and its subsidiaries recently disallowed customers from loading their Paytm wallets through their accounts.

Catching up:-

Even as the entrants enjoy the first-mover advantage, banks have been trying to catch up by introducing their own instruments, hoping to put to use their existing infrastructure and customer base.

SBI, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank as well as ICICI Bank has introduced digital wallets, prepaid cards and options for peer-to-peer transactions, in addition to providing discounts and cash-back offers to compete with third-party players.

Conclusion:-

With these disruptions already starting to transform the banking sector, it remains to be seen whether payments banks and PPI players attempt the role of competitors or complements to traditional banks, or act as both.

However, it is clear that intense competition and innovation, resting on the backbone of the ongoing digital revolution, is set to benefit consumers and help achieve broader policy goals of financial inclusion.


Opinions & Editorials


[1]. Reform only left to judiciary

The Hindu 

Context:-

The article discusses the drawbacks of judicial encroachment in religious maters.

Secular state and its Social mandate:-

Unlike any other secular state, the Republic of India was conceived with a mandate for social revolution.

We do not have a “wall of separation” between religions and state that, for instance, exists in the United States.

The founders of the Indian republic have enjoined the state to intervene in social customs and redress grievances arising out of them so that all citizens can equitably enjoy their constitutional rights and privileges.

A strict separation between religion and state would have prevented the Constitution from carrying out social revolution.

Essential practices doctrine:-

In the early decades of our republic, the Supreme Court evolved an “essential religious practices doctrine” that spelt out the outer limits of what could be called the sole domain of religion.

Over the years, this doctrine was interpreted in an elastic and sometimes arbitrary manner. Judges gave themselves the power to determine what constitutes essential religious practice not just for one religion, but for all of them.

Examples of such encroachments:

India might be the only republic where the judiciary can pronounce on matters not only relating to law, but also those concerning theology.

Courts have ruled on topics like the Jain practice of Santhara (voluntary fasting to death); and on who can and cannot become an archaka (priest). They have even pronounced on rather vexed questions like what should be the shape of the markings on the temple elephant’s head.

Risk of Judiciopapism:-

India runs the risk of being in a condition that can be termed “judiciopapism”, where judges can completely overrule religious authority. With each judgment that shrinks the scope of what is considered an “essential religious practice”, the risk grows

Why state should not take up the task of Social Reforms?

Worse, the more the state takes over the task of social reform, the less likely it is to emerge from within the society.

Religious traditions often respond to external interventions by growing more conservative and resisting reform.

Attempts by the state at a “social revolution” only weaken efforts of social reformers who belonged to various communities.

From Buddha to Kabir, from Guru Nanak to Narayana Guru, India has historically seen social reformers emerge as a response to orthodoxy and rigidity.

Independent India has seen fewer of them, perhaps because the Indian republic has arrogated that responsibility to itself.

Critical question:-

More significant than the issue of whether women should be allowed entry into the Sabarimala temple is the question of whether secular judges ought to be the ones making that call.

[2]. Be tight fisted 

The Indian Express 

Context:-

The article discusses the advantages of adopting the fiscal consolidation measures in the current economic scenario.

Fiscal stimulus is not the way out:-

While a move away from the announced targets to give the economy a stimulus may have seemed attractive in light of the signs of slower growth, the policy would not have been the most suitable for reviving investment, the biggest challenge facing the economy

Benefits of fiscal consolidation:-

Debt to GDP ratio:-

The debt to GDP ratio would remain under control.

Creates space for monetary policy easing:-

One immediate gain of sticking to the path of consolidation will be to create space for monetary policy easing.

The sharp decline in global commodity prices and the slowdown in demand in the domestic economy have reduced inflationary pressures. The policy interest rate — that is, the repo rate — stands at 6.75 per cent.

Unlike, say, in Europe, where there is no scope for cutting the policy rate that is near zero, in India, there is ample scope to cut it.

But while in principle the policy rate can be reduced significantly, the question is how to give monetary policy the space to do so.

Targeting Inflation:-

While deciding the policy interest rate, monetary policymakers target the forecast of inflation and analyse the pressures of demand on core inflation.

With a slowdown in global demand, investment and domestic demand, a greater easing of the stance of monetary policy may be more possible today than perhaps even a year ago.

The fact that the policy rate was eased by only 125 basis points over the year, though inflation fell by about 500 basis points, can partly be explained by fears of rising inflationary pressures later.

Today, when the Fed has finally raised rates and food inflation is expected to remain within control, deviating from the path of fiscal consolidation could keep fears of inflationary pressure alive and keep monetary easing cautious.

loose fiscal, tight money”-Its drawbacks:-

Given the poor transmission of monetary policy in India, its impact is limited compared to that of public investment, which involves direct spending by the government and raises demand instantly. While, in theory, this may hold, there are two reasons this may not be true in India today.

Capacity of Government is limited:-

The capacity of the government to spend is limited. A large share of the capital expenditure allocated in Budget 2015 is yet to be spent.

Many good plans have been approved and money allocated, but the shovel is yet to hit the ground. While, in theory, public investment can spur private investment, limited state capacity may be one reason why the magnitude and lags involved may make this strategy less optimal than theory suggests.

Private companies are stressed:-

Private companies are unable to repay the interest on their debt. Banks are increasingly seeing loans get in trouble.

High interest rates hurt not just the companies whose revenue growth has fallen sharply but also banks whose stressed assets have been on the rise.

For private investment to pick up, companies need to have the ability to borrow, and banks the ability to lend.

Raising demand through a fiscal stimulus does not address the balance-sheet stress of companies and banks, while a reduction in interest rates would.

Conclusion:-

Giving up the inflation target or in changing the measure of inflation adopted, the consumer price index, because it is higher than the wholesale price index, or in changing the glide path towards the target is not useful.

The task should be creating the conditions that would keep inflationary pressures down.

Adhere to the “tight fiscal, easy monetary” policy:-

Adhering to the announced path of fiscal consolidation would be more suited to addressing the troubles that plague private investment.

The RBI should respond to this commitment by cutting interest rates. However, a reduction in the interest burden could possibly prevent more companies from going towards bankruptcy. This is a greater need of the hour than higher demand.

[3]. A harvest time gift

The Indian Express

Context:-

Agricultural problems:

Back-to-back droughts, and nonseasonal rain and hail in certain pockets have increased the risks in farming.

Draw backs of existing insurance schemes:-

The existing system of crop insurance is nowhere near meeting the needs of the peasantry.

  1. The sums insured were low (based on the cost of inputs rather than prospective income),
  2. The premiums high (generally ranging between 8-12 per cent in the case of the modified scheme), the assessment of crop damage lacked transparency
  3. Didn’t use the latest technologies (this was more a political exercise than scientific assessment)
  4. Compensation took unduly long, even going beyond a year in many cases, and was reported to be ridden with corrupt practices.

The new Crop Insurance scheme:-

A better crop insurance scheme could save Indian agriculture from the increasing risks of nature.

Low premiums:-

While premiums generally hover around 10-12 per cent for most kharif crops, the share of farmers has been capped at 2 per cent in the new scheme.

For rabi crops, the farmer’s share has been fixed at 1.5 per cent — against actuarially based premiums of 8-10 per cent.

For year-long cash crops and horticulture crops, this has been capped at 5 per cent.

This means that farmers will get almost 80 per cent subsidy in insurance premiums, which will be borne by the government — presumably by the Centre and the state government.

There is lack of clarity on the proportion that will be shouldered by each.

Premiums elsewhere:-

This rate of subsidy in crop premiums is not out of line with international practices. The United States gives around 70 per cent. China insures about 80 per cent.

Cost on the Exchequer:-

The new scheme is estimated to cost the government around Rs 8,000-9,000 crore annually. Given that the government is already shelling out around Rs 5,000 crore annually (average for the last five years) through its clumsy mechanism for disaster relief, the additional cost of the scheme isn’t much.

Reforms most needed:-

Crop assessment:-

Crop assessment should be done in a transparent manner and within a specified period of time.

High end technology such as automatic weather stations (AWSs), drones, low earth orbits (Leos) and satellites should be used.

Assessment on the time period needed to install this infrastructure in place should be done.

We have to fix the time period within which crop-damage assessment must be done: Say, within two weeks of the extreme weather event?

These issues need to be clarified for the successful implementation of the scheme.

Compensation:-

Compensation must be paid to farmers’ accounts directly, say, within a week of assessment of crop damage. In Kenya, compensation is paid in two to four days.

In order to do this, the financial infrastructure has to be in place.

Information has to be digitised plot wise — the plot of the tiller who has paid the premium has to be synchronised/ seeded with her bank account number, Aadhaar number and mobile number.

This is critical, as the crop-damage assessment exercise has to be matched with data on plots and bank account numbers of the tillers.

Prioritizing:-

Creation of this basic infrastructure task must be accorded the same priority as was given to the opening of Jan Dhan accounts.

This exercise will involve the ministries of rural development (to clean up land records), agriculture and farmers’ welfare (to digitise plot-wise information), as well as banks (to seed accounts of tillers with their Aadhaar and mobile numbers).

Answering other questions:-

But who will set up the AWSs, drones, Leos, and satellites? Who will be responsible for the functioning of this high-tech equipment? What would be the role of private-sector insurance companies? The role of NABARD and the RBI? All these questions need systematic answers.

The accountability of each stakeholder needs to be clarified and fixed. Lot of work still needs to be done.

Conclusion:-

The bottomline is that crop-damage assessment must be done within, at most, two weeks of the extreme weather event, and compensation to farmers deposited directly into their accounts within a week of the assessment — without their asking or even realising it.

Only then will the risks of farming be reduced, incentives for private investments in agriculture increased, and agricultural growth and farmers’ prosperity revived.

[4]. Start and go 

The Indian Express 

Start up Promises:-

The government’s new initiative for start-ups promises

  1. Swift approvals for starting enterprises
  2. Easier exits
  3. Tax and fiscal incentives
  4. Faster registration of patents
  5. Protection of intellectual property rights

End of License Raj:-

It signals a possible end to the inspector raj that has sapped the energy and spirit of many young entrepreneurs in the country.

Unlike India’s large business groups, small entrepreneurs find it difficult to navigate the complex bureaucratic and regulatory maze. From that perspective, these supply-side reforms are welcome.

Job creators:-

Global Slowdown:-

Start-ups hold the potential of creating more jobs at a time when the manufacturing sector is facing a slump that may last longer given global economic prospects and the slowdown in China, which has been one of the engines of global growth.

Automation:-

With growing automation, the manufacturing sector may no longer be in a position to create jobs.

Identifying the real problem:-

The fact is that there is a fundamental problem of demand and the real challenge for the Indian economy now is to fund several large projects — be it roads, highways or railways.

The government has attempted to provide an enabling policy environment for start-ups, which are job creators much like the large number of self-employed who form a significant part of the country’s labour force.

There has been enough capital chasing start-ups in India, including e-commerce firms, with a predominant share coming from overseas investors.

Tax breaks do help, but global experience shows that what is more critical is an enabling regulatory and business environment that will foster innovation and have a cascading impact on entrepreneurship.

Funding the Unfunded:-

The funding now on offer could perhaps be directed more towards entrepreneurs who find it tough to raise capital in segments such as food processing, rather than mobile-based applications or e-commerce firms, for whom raising money isn’t a major problem.

Not just start ups:-

The easing of rules and creation of a conducive policy environment should not be restricted just to start-ups. It should be extended to all businesses.

That will be the real test, along with getting more Indian firms domiciled overseas because of rules here to move back. Otherwise, the losers will be the government and local investors.

[5]. Testing direct democracy

Livemint 

Context:-

The Supreme Court upheld the legality of a Haryana law which disqualifies candidates for panchayat seats based on some criteria.

In the light of the above judgement the article discusses how this judgement has deviated from the ideals that our constitution makers upheld while framing it.

The law:-

The law prohibits those people from contesting panchayat elections, who are charge-sheeted with, but are not yet convicted of, serious criminal charges, would-be loan defaulters, those in arrears on electricity bills, those without a functioning toilet at home, and those without requisite educational qualifications (which vary depending upon gender and caste).

Such individuals, while barred from standing for office, are not disenfranchised (that is, they are allowed to vote).

Checks and balances:-

The powers of popularly elected legislatures are trimmed by systems of checks and balances, such as indirectly elected upper legislative chambers, as in India, and independent judiciaries.

In India, even the most infamous Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, which attempted to establish parliamentary supremacy over liberal principle, was reversed by the Janata government which swept to power in 1977.

Threat to direct democracy:-

The author feels that the law is a corrosive anti-democratic impulse. The very essence of direct democracy in the context of a parliamentary system such as ours is that every citizen, regardless of his or her educational qualifications, material possessions, whether he or she is a good or poor debtor, and so forth, has an inalienable right to vote and an equally inalienable right to stand for political office.

These fundamental rights are simply not open to legislative tampering, or they ought not to be.

Our constitution Makers:-

It is to India’s abiding credit that the members of the Constituent Assembly( ironically, constituted on the basis of a very limited franchise) resisted the siren call of those practical men of affairs who argued that a largely illiterate, poor, communally divided and caste-ridden society could not be trusted with the vote.

The framers of our Constitution chose to entrust their faith in the Indian people, and to affirm their belief in the twin principles of liberalism and democracy.

This became the philosophical foundation of our constitutionally constrained parliamentary democracy.

Conclusion:-

The Haryana law, and a similar one in Rajasthan, contravene this fundamental principle—opening, perhaps, a crack through which our cherished democratic values may eventually seep away. That would be a tragedy.


Environment 


[1]. Decoding emission norms 

The Business Standard 

Context:-

The article discusses how crude oil is processed to get the various products and the implications of the BS-VI norms on the same.

Processing crude oil:-

Raw crude oil, which is stored in a tank farm, is passed through a desalter to eliminate salt as an impurity.

The oil is then poured into a crude distillation unit or CDU, which is a fractionating column. The CDU distils the incoming crude oil into various fractions of different boiling ranges, each of which is then processed further in the other refinery processing units.

The fractions collected at the top of the column have a lower boiling point and are known as light distillates – liquefied petroleum gas or LPG, petrol and naphtha.

This is followed by middle distillates like kerosene, aviation turbine fuel or ATF and diesel collected in the middle; and then heavy distillates like fuel oil, lubricating oil, wax and asphalt collected at the bottom of the column.

Sulphur and nitrogen:-

The crude oil molecules also contain atoms of sulphur and nitrogen, which must be separated from the end products.

This will increase efficiency of engines and cut down pollution levels (both suphur and nitrogen form harmful sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide molecules in contact with oxygen).

Both technical reasons and environment protection demand very low sulphur content in products.

Removing Sulphur:-

Oil refineries have hydro-desulphurisation (HDS) units in sulphur (S) recovery blocks.

Here, sulphur is combined with hydrogen molecules and removed from the product stream as hydrogen sulphide gas. This gas is transformed to elementary sulphur and sold to the chemical industry.

The HDS unit is a key component of a refinery as its efficiency determines sulphur concentration and thus, fuel efficiency.

The volume of sulphur removed has to go up if the polluting elements in the refined petroleum products have to be reduced.

emission

The New Emission Norms:-

BS-IV norms are currently followed across 63 Indian cities for petrol and diesel.

The BS-IV compliant fuels have sulphur concentration of 50 parts per million (ppm). This will come down to as low as 10 ppm in BS-VI compliant fuels and auto engines.

This means a lower level of harmful emissions and reduced incidence of lung diseases.

Most Indian cities still use BS-III standards where sulphur content stands at 350 ppm for diesel and 150 ppm for petrol.

Measures adopted by Oil Marketing companies:-

The oil marketing companies (OMCs) are ramping up capacity of sulphur recovery blocks and HDS units.

They also plan to

  1. Use Sweeter crude(lighter “sweet” crude varieties are low in sulphur but are costlier than heavy crude oil),
  2. Set up more hydro-processing units,
  3. Replacing traditional catalysts (chemicals that aid sulphur binding with hydrogen) employed in HDS units with improved, more efficient catalysts.

Other pollutants:-

The switch to BS-VI norms will also reduce concentration of carbon monoxide, unburnt hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and particulate matter from emissions.

Hike in Price:-

This will also result in diesel’s cost of production going up by 63 paise per litre and petrol by Rs 1.40 per litre.

 For consumers, this translates into higher retail prices of petrol and diesel. The switch will also make petrol vehicles costly by Rs 50,000 and diesel vehicles by Rs 1 lakh.


Science & Technology 


[1]. Clean India Digitally 

The Financial Express 

Context:-

The article speaks about the need for antivirus software to keep Digital India less vulnerable to attacks.

Digitally clean India:-

India ranks a frightening second in the world for mobile device threats and also ranks high in the local threat chart, which means that it is as vulnerable to offline attacks as it is to online ones.

So it is important to have a digitally clean India to keep its technological and government functioning smooth.

India’s digital health is crucial to its ambitious Make in India and Digital India plans that hope to empower the nation to rise to global prominence.

The IT security firm Kaspersky Lab has recently announced its Clean India Digitally programme that is focused on keeping India’s digital well-being in check.


By: ForumIAS Editorial Team


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