9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 30 January 2017

  • Front Page / NATIONAL
  • [1]. EC renews plea to RBI for higher cash withdrawals
  • [2]. Atomic clocks on indigenous navigation satellite develop snag
  • Editorial/OPINION
  • [1]. Keeping safety on the rails
  • [2]. Fielding the finest
  • [1]. FinMin may aid rail safety fund
  • [2]. Aadhaar number printed on paper perfectly valid: Centre
  • [3]. The Railway Budget – a requiem
  • Indian Express
  • [1]. The raging bulls
  • Live Mint
  • [1]. Union budget’s false dilemma
  • [2]. Modi’s ‘Think West’ strategy is taking off

Front Page / NATIONAL

[1]. EC renews plea to RBI for higher cash withdrawals

EC renews plea to RBI for higher cash withdrawals

The Hindu



EC expresses “serious concern about the cursory manner in which the issue has been dealt with”


What has happened?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has turned down the Election Commission’s request to enhance the cash withdrawal limit for nominated candidates in the five poll-bound States, from ₹24,000 to ₹2 lakh per week, till the declaration of results on March 11 2017


Election Commission’s rationale

Covering election expenditure: Political candidates need money in order to cover election expenses. In the light of weekly withdrawal limit of Rs 24000, the maximum amount that can be withdrawn is Rs 96000 as elections will last for 3 to 4 weeks.

  • Election expenditure limits: The statutory limit of expenditure in the poll bound states fixed by the Central government on February 28, 2014 is
    • ₹28 lakh in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh
    • ₹20 lakh in Manipur and Goa
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[2]. Atomic clocks on indigenous navigation satellite develop snag

Atomic clocks on indigenous navigation satellite develop snag

The Hindu



Article concerns with the NavIC, the indigenously built satellite-based positioning system


What has happened?

NavIC, the indigenously built satellite- based positioning system, has developed a technical snag in the atomic clocks on its first satellite



In the NavIC, a constellation of seven satellites, one of the three crucial rubidium timekeepers on IRNSS-1A spacecraft failed six months ago. The other two followed subsequently.

  • NavIC has 21 atomic clocks on seven spacecraft
  • The troubled IRNSS-1A spacecraft was put in space in July 2013 and has an expected life span of 10 years. The seventh navigation satellite, IRNSS-1G, was launched in April 2016


Atomic clock

It is an extremely accurate clock which is regulated by the vibrations of an atomic or molecular system such as cesium or ammonia


Read More: NavIC has been covered in detail here

View: Learn about the working of atomic clock in this short YouTube clip

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[1]. Keeping safety on the rails

Keeping safety on the rails

The Hindu



Article concerns about the preliminary finding of the Commission of Railway that the derailment of the Indore-Rajendranagar Express near Kanpur in November 2016 was primarily caused by carriage and wagon defects should serve as a reality check for the Railway Ministry


Issue: Rail safety


Author’s contention

Bad railway performance is responsible for the majority of the accidents


CRS report’s findings

Report has identified following reason for the accident,

  • A variation in the wheel gauges of two coaches
  • Running of carriages beyond their useful life


Findings of annual report of CRS Lucknow 2012-13

Author states that this is not a rare instance where inquiries have found the Railways seriously deficient. The annual report of the CRS Lucknow for 2012-13 cites following causes responsible for fatal accidents,

  • Failure of railway equipment
  • Derelict staff
  • Rail fractures
  • Non-railway factors on some occasions to be responsible for fatal accidents. The collision of the Hubli-Bengaluru City Hampi Express with a goods train that left 25 people dead, for instance, was caused by failure of staff


Findings of Kakodkar committee

The Kakodkar committee on railway safety found that out of 441 derailments it analysed, only about 15% were the result of sabotage, while the majority were caused by factors completely under the control of the railway administration


Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK)

The Union Railway Ministry has decided to create a 1 lakh crore rupees safety fund named Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh to strengthen safety measures on the rail network to prevent accidents

  • It was announced by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in the Lok Sabha while replying to a debate on Demands for Grants for Railways for 2016-17. In this regard Union Railway Ministry has forwarded a proposal to the Union Finance Ministry for approval


Key facts

  • Non-lapsable fund: The Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh will be a non-lapsable fund (the liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years) which will be utilised for safety measures
  • A fillip to the Zero-accident mission: The fund will help Indian Railways to accomplish its zero-accident mission by strengthening the safety measures on the rail network in a comprehensive way
  • Works to be undertaken: Under this fund, following works would be undertaken like
  • Track renewal and upgradation
  • Bridge rehabilitation
  • Elimination of level-crossings
  • Construction of road over bridges/road under bridges
  • Replacement and improvement of signalling system
  • Improvement and upgradation of rolling stock
  • Replacement of electrical assets
  • Human resource development


Author suggests

  • Transparency: RRSK should be governed by a transparent framework with public reporting requirements
  • Higher gross budgetary support:Finance ministry wants the fund (RRSK) to rely on internal sources but as per author the fund should be given a higher budgetary support as rail safety is a prime concern and obligation of the government
  • Usage of modern technologies: Author points towards usage of modern technologies like Ultrasonic flaw detection etc to prevent rail accidents


Ultrasonic flaw detection

Ultrasound uses sound waves, or vibrations, that propagate at frequencies that are above the range of human hearing (normally above 20,000 Hz or cycles per second)

  • Transmission of wave: Ultrasonic waves are transmitted into the rail at various angles – from the top of the rail head through the web to the bottom of the rail and the entire width of the rail head – by piezoelectric transducers
  • Detection of flaw: If a flaw condition (rail head surface conditions, internal or visible rail flaws, or weld upsets or finishes) is encountered of sufficient size and orientation, the ultrasound signal is reflected back to the appropriate transducer
  • Recording of data:The information is then processed by the test system and recorded in the permanent test data record


Read More: Refer to 9pm Briefs dated 22nd November 2016&23rd November 2016 for articles related to rail safety

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[2]. Fielding the finest

Fielding the finest

The Hindu



We should introspect whether we are selecting the most meritorious as Army Commanders and putting forward only the best candidates for the selection of a chief


Relevant points from the article

  • A completely independent army and its separation from politics has been one of the strongest pillars of our democracy. Selection of army chiefs should not be allowed to dilute this core principle


Army commanders

  • Pivotal role of army commanders: Army chief is selected from amongst army commanders. Army commanders have a pivotal role to play in the army. Besides commanding all the forces across the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, the Northeast, and other places, Army Commanders also participate in national-level decision-making over strategic, operational, training, equipment, personnel administration and logistic and financial issues. This is a huge set of responsibilities
  • Selecting a commander: In the light of critical nature of responsibilities of army commanders and the fact that army chief is selected from amongst them, following criteria area applied for their selection
    • An excellent command of a corps
    • Two years of experience: Eligible candidates must have two years of residual service before appointment (more or less similar criteria apply to the other two services)

With these criteria being satisfied, Army Commanders are nominated in the order of seniority


Present situation

  • No consideration for merit: Till now, the mandatory requirement of two years of service and seniority at the time of vacancy has resulted in routine elevations to the appointment of Army Commander, merit not being considered

Rationale: All officers who reach that level areequally competent

  • Why merit is being considered now?: Author states that in the light of contemporary responsibilities and the increasing importance of jointness (Integrated force development along with operations under unified command) and stretch of warfare, only the best are needed as Army Commanders


Need for reform

The existing policy is therefore flawed, wherein for promotion to this level the primary criterion is not merit unlike for all other ranks


Author suggests

  • Reducing the residuary service years to widen scope: We could consider reducing the stipulation of two years to 18 months (it is already one and a half years in the Air Force and one year in the Navy) to widen the number of eligible candidates
  • Selection procedure: The three service chiefs could constitute the selection board, with the chief of the service concerned presiding. A final recommendation could then be sent to the government for approval, as in the cases of select ranks
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[1]. FinMin may aid rail safety fund

FinMin may aid rail safety fund

The Hindu



The corpus will be used to improve tracks and for bridge rehabilitation work


What has happened?

The Finance Ministry has agreed to contribute partially to a new dedicated railway safety fund in the upcoming Budget to be presented on February 1



The Railways had asked for ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ to be set up based on the recommendations of a high-level safety review committee under former chairman Atomic Energy Commission Dr. Anil Kakodkar

  • The Committee, which submitted its report in 2012, had projected an investment requirement of Rs. 1 lakh crore on safety over five years. The Centre has so far fully implemented 22 out of 87 partially or fully accepted recommendations made by the panel.


Funding distribution

Total corpus for the fund: Rs. 1.19 lakh crore

  • Initial proposed contribution from central government over 5 years: Rs 20000 crore
  • Contribution from central government as now
    • Finance Ministry: Rs 5000 Crore
    • Contribution from Central Road Fund (CRF): Rs 10000 crore
  • Railways will have to fund: Rs 5000 Crore


How will railway manage the additional burden?

In the light of additional burden of Rs 5000 crore, railway might bring back the cess on rail tickets to finance its share of Rail Safety Fund or look to fund it from non-budgetary resources


Special Railway Safety Fund

In 2001, when a Special Railway Safety Fund of Rs. 17,000 crore was created, the Railways raised Rs. 5,000 crore through safety surcharge on passenger fare and the remaining Rs. 12,000 crore came from the Finance Ministry.

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[2]. Aadhaar number printed on paper perfectly valid: Centre

Aadhaar number printed on paper perfectly valid: Centre

The Hindu



A printout of the downloaded Aadhaar card, even in black and white form, is as valid as the original card and there is no concept such as smart or plastic card, the UIDAI said


What has happened?

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has cautioned people about sharing their personal information with unauthorised agencies for printing Aadhaar numbers on a plastic card, while stressing that the Aadhaar letter, with its cutaway portion or the downloaded version, on an ordinary paper is “perfectly valid.”



Several agencies charge anywhere between ₹50 and ₹200, or more, for printing Aadhaar on a plastic card in the name of smart card.


No need for plastic card

The Aadhaar card or the downloaded Aadhaar card printed on ordinary paper is perfectly valid for all uses.

  • Print out is valid: If a person has a paper Aadhaar printout, there is absolutely no need to get his/her Aadhaar card laminated or obtain a plastic Aadhaar card or so-called smart Aadhaar card by paying money. There is no concept such as smart or plastic Aadhaar card
  • Valid in black and white also: The printout of the downloaded Aadhaar card, even in black and white form, is as valid as the original Aadhaar card sent by UIDAI,


Criminal offence

Collecting information or unauthorised printing of Aadhaar card or aiding such persons in any manner amounts to a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment under the IPC and, also, Chapter VI of The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016

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[3]. The Railway Budget – a requiem

The Railway Budget – a requiem

The Hindu



The Railways themselves have been withdrawing from their core areas of operations and concentrating on peripheral items


Separation of railway budget: Pre independence

A separate rail budget has its genesis in the recommendations of the Acworth Committee of 1920 when its chairman, Sir William Acworth, recommended that “the Finance department should cease to control the internal finances of the railway, that the railway should have a separate budget of its own…



Rationale behind separation

This was considered necessary because the Railways’ revenues far outstripped the general revenue and had the potential of masking small yet important aberrations in the general budget of the Government of India, if presented together





Separation of rail budget: Post independence

  • More rail revenue than general revenue, separation to continue: In 1947, when Independence was achieved, railway revenues were still 6% more than the general revenue (see table)
    • Separation to continue: The Railway Convention Committee headed by Sir GopalaswamyAyyangar recommended, “separation of Railway finances from General finance should continue”
    • Resolution passed: A resolution to this effect was approved by the Constituent Assembly on December 21, 1949. The revised convention was to be effective for a period of five years starting 1950-51, but continued for 66 years


Factors that proved suicidal for railways

Author states that two factors proved suicidal for railways,

  • Subsidizing passenger fares by raising freight rates while the non-AC fares have remained static for the past 12 years. Freight rates are so high that road hauliers are competing with railways. Moreover, rail share in the overall freight sector is down from 89% in 1950-51 to less than 30% in 2014-15
  • Withdrawal from core areas:  Railways themselves have been withdrawing from their core areas of operations and concentrating on peripheral items
    • They have withdrawn themselves from all urban transport activities. In the 1990s, if the IR had devised innovative solutions like forming Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) to catalyze construction of metro lines, both the people of India and the Railways would have benefited from it. Movement of petroleum products was the most profitable business for the Railways and it had a lion’s share of 75% in this sector. It is now down to 10%


Retrieval of financial health

Author states that a retrieval of the Railways’ financial health is quite within reach, if due focus is laid on the core sectors of freight operation and enhanced productivity of assets


In the ensuing paragraph, author compares the present condition of the railways on the either side of the border with Indian Railways to justify the separation of rail budget over so many years.


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Indian Express

[1]. The raging bulls

The raging bulls

Indian Express



Author tries to uncover the underlying theme of the recent Jallikattu protests that ended in police brutality


Issue: Underlying reasons for Jallikattu protests


In the first few paragraphs author states that there is more to it than meets the eye vis-à-vis Jallikattu protests. These protests cannot be brushed aside as being a simple reaction to a perceived threat to cultural identity of Tamils.


Possible reasons for a large scale protest

  • Agrarian crisis in Tamil Nadu: Close to 150 farmers are reported to have committed suicide in the state since the second half of 2016
  • Low income despite high productivity:The median annual income for a farmer in the state was less than Rs 20,000 in 2012-13, despite relatively high productivity levels across several crops including paddy
  • Declining returns and high level of debt: Author states that following factors contributed to the high levels of debt and low return for the farmers,
    1. Inadequate public investments in agriculture, especially in irrigation
    2. Rise in the cost of cultivation due to high input intensity including excessive extraction of ground water
    3. Predominance of marginal landholdings
  • Unaffordable farm land: Rising rural land prices due to speculative investments made farm land unaffordable for farmers
  • Demonetisation: The demonetisation move from the central government made the matters worse for the farmers as they were unable to borrow or draw their own savings from public banks leading to high interest on private debt
  • Delay in payments from MGNREGS: Among landless laborers the quantum of employment from agriculture has been falling consistently. Payments for work done under the MGNREGA have been delayed for months

While farmers from the Cauvery delta and elsewhere made their way into the protests in Chennai, many students too identified themselves with cultivators

  • Anxiety over income security: Author states that according to the report of the All India Survey on Higher Education 2014-15, 45.2 per cent of Tamil Nadu’s youth in the age group of 18-23 years was engaged in some form of higher education.
  • High degree of student loans but commensurate jobs not available: With the privatization of higher education, the state also accounted for more than one-fifth of all educational loans availed in the country through public sector banks. Such debt-backed investments are not backed by quality jobs commensurate with the educational qualifications. Most of the jobs in the state have been created in construction and low-end services that are clearly out of sync with the expectations of the students and their investments
  • Agriculture, a last secure post: Since jobs as per their qualifications are not available agriculture is viewed as a ray of hope. It might not be the only one but acts as an important source of income security


Author states that all such anxieties fused together around the Jallikattu ban and took the shape of sudden mass upsurge


Amendment to the bill

Even the amendment made to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act 1960 was not accepted by protestors due to deep mistrust of political tokenism. Moreover, as protests were never simply about Jallikattu ban, youth also did not see the government’s legislation as a victory

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Live Mint

[1]. Union budget’s false dilemma

Union budget’s false dilemma

Live Mint



In budgets over the years, there has been a decline in the share of capital expenditure to total expenditure




What is fiscal stimulus?

An increase in public spending or a reduction in the level of taxation that might be performed by a government in order to encourage and support economic growth


Two types of budgets

Author has stated that after the budget is presented in India, it is generally clubbed in the following two categories

  • Populist budget
  • Growth oriented budget


Questions that remain unanswered

Author then presents us with these questions,

Q: Is such branding the result of a false dichotomy?

Q: Are there fiscal measures that could be populist but still capable of generating long-term investment?


Difficult to make a clear distinction

What do we mean by populist measures?

  • Underneath the term “populist” perhaps there is an implicit idea that such policies essentially are schemes that give immediate gratification to the people/electorate


From this angle,

Q: Will a “debt relief scheme for the population with loans below a certain income threshold” qualify to be a populist measure?

Q: Are subsidies by their very nature populist?

Q: At the same time, the promise of huge infrastructure expenditure before any election may technically qualify as a long-term investment, but still may turn out to be populist


Thus, author states that it is difficult to make a clear cut and straight distinction b/w populist and long-term investment measures


Falling share of revenue expenditure

Author states that the share of revenue expenditure in total expenditure has been falling over the years

  • As per the budget estimates of 2016-17, of the Rs100 spent by the Central government, Rs88 went to revenue expenditure and Rs12 went to capital expenditure

Thus, if one measures the extent of “populism” by the share of revenue expenditure in total expenditure, then it will not be an exaggeration to say that over the years, there has been an ever-increasing trend of populism in Indian budgets


Trend is unlikely to change

Author states that the above trend is unlikely to change this year also due to the following factors,

  • Demonstrating good effects of demonetization: Due to demonetization additional revenue has accrued to the government and its disinvestment plans are further going to add up to its revenue surplus. However, despite the claims of medium- and long-term gains from demonetization, there is now ample evidence of short-term pains that an average citizen had to bear post-demonetization. In this case, the government has to show some demonstrable good effects of demonetization. An ideal way to do it is either to spend on specific schemes of revenue expenditure for specific lower-income groups or to give some tax sops (maybe raising the exemption limits for income tax) to middle-class Indians


Author states that such populist measures could essentially turn out to be in the nature of fiscal stimulus which are very much required in the light of revised the Indian GDP estimates for 2016-17 from 7.6% to 6.6%, by IMF

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[2]. Modi’s ‘Think West’ strategy is taking off

Modi’s ‘Think West’ strategy is taking off

Live Mint



India’s growing relations with West Asia have been an under-appreciated success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure.


Article gives a brief overview of the Indian foreign policy’s renewed stress on improving relations with the West focussing its attention on Indo-UAE ties.


Give it a go-through

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