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Download : 2017 UPSC Prelims General Studies GS – Question Paper – All Sets

Download UPSC Prelims 2017 General Studies GS Question Paper here

Set A

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0JTl8lCEnUHZDkzOUszb2duVW8/view

Set B

 

Set C

 

Set D

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6YbwZa7rGX8dDBnRlpDLV91dVk/view

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Daily Quiz

Daily MCQs 2.0:UPSC Prelims Mrathon: May 2

[WpProQuiz 138]

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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 28, 2017

National

  • No barrier to naming Lokpal: SC
  • PM launches low-cost flights
  • Judicial performance index proposed
  • Lack of intelligence inputs hurting Army
  • Lokpal panel: CJI among equals
  • ‘UID-PAN linking a Faustian bargain’
  • India, Sri Lanka sign energy pact

Editorial/OPINION

  • Learning to run twice as fast
  • In four doses

Economy

  • Direct tax base to soar in 3 years
  • ‘Revival of fertilizer plants can make India an exporter’
  • Flexible pension for informal staff

Indian Express

  • What sort of new FRBM do we need
  • The long road to a high-growth future
  • A reason to pause in Sukma

 The Hindu

Front Page / NATIONAL

 Context

Opposition leader’s absence no hurdle

 What has happened?

The Supreme Court found the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 an “eminently workable piece of legislation”, which provides for the appointment of Lokpal Chairperson and members even in the absence of a recognised Leader of Opposition (LoP)

 

Government

The judgment goes against the very logic of the government’s argument that appointment of Lokpal Chairperson and members is not currently possible, and would have to wait till the 2013 Act is amended to replace the LoP with the single largest Opposition party leader

Court

An existing law cannot be put on hold merely because Parliament is working on a better law

The Hindu

 Context

UDAN —UdeDesh Ka AamNagrik — scheme for regional connectivity

 What has happened?

  • Shimla-Delhi, Kadapa-Hyderabad flights flagged off under UDAN programme
  • Air India will receive a subsidy of Rs. 3,340 per passenger from the government for capping the fare
  • The government will collect 80% of the subsidy by charging a levy of up to Rs. 50 per ticket on flights deployed on the national route
  • The remaining 20% will come from respective State governments

Shimla-Delhi

  • The Shimla-Delhi flight is operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, which has deployed its 42-seater ATR plane on this sector
  • The fare for 24 seats onthe flight has been fixed at Rs. 2,036

 The Hindu

 Context

NITI Aayog for outsourcing non-core functions of police

 What has happened?

The NITI Aayog has proposed the introduction of a judicial performance index to reduce delays and the outsourcing of non-core functions of the police

Bid to end delays

This could also spur competitive reform of the judiciary in those States

Task Force

  • To improve the quality of policing, the think tank has asked the Home Ministry to create a task force to identify ‘non-core functions’ that can be outsourced to private agents or government departments in order to reduce the workload of the police
  • Functions such as serving court summons and antecedents and address verification for passport applications or job verifications can be outsourced

Police Ratio Improvement

India’s police to population ratio should reach the United Nations norms of 222 per lakh population, over the next seven years, from the current level of 137

Greater Hiring of Women

Push for greater hiring of women in the police force, with a target of 30% of all new recruits

Enforcing contracts

Citing inordinate delays in India’s judicial system and its low rank on enforcing contracts in the World Bank’s ease of doing business report for 2017, the think tank has also called for streamlining judicial appointments on the basis of online real-time statistics on the workload of pending cases.

 Context

Constant protests, deployment of local police for election duty said to have stymied (prevent) information flow

 What has happened?

The pre-dawn attack on an Army camp in Panzgam village near Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir recently is the latest among a string of attacks on military installations over the last two years, and symbolic of a dramatic turnaround in the nature of violence in the Valley

 Reasons

  • From an increase in number of terrorists in the Valley
  • Limited intelligence inputs to conduct operations
  • Constant Protests in the valley
  • Local police deployed for election duties

Security at Military installations in question

Given the large number of Army camps along the Line of Control and International Boundary, it is not possible to upgrade each and every one to the same level

 The Hindu

 Context

His opinion need not always get primacy, says apex court

 What has happened?

  • The Supreme Court upheld the provision of the Lokpal law giving no primacy to the Chief Justice of India’s opinion on who should be appointed as Lokpal Chairperson and Members
  • It is the prerogative( right or privilege ) of the legislature to decide whether the opinion of the Chief Justice of India should get primacy

 Backdrop

Petition filed by an NGO — Just Society — against the Lokpal Act of 2013 not giving any primacy to the opinion of the CJI or his nominee judge in the matter of selection of Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal

 The Hindu

 Context

Linking Aadhaar with essential activities will turn the nation into a concentration camp, SC told

 What has happened?

  • Lashing out at the move to link Aadhaar to the permanent account number and filing of income tax returns, a senior advocate told the Supreme Court that the Constitution was not a charter of servitude
  • Faust, in the legend, traded his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge. To “strike a Faustian bargain” is to be willing to sacrifice anything to satisfy a limitless desire for knowledge or power
  • We as independent citizens cannot be forced by the State to part with our fingerprints in exchange for being able to file our income tax returns
  • Citizens would be under State surveillance round-the-clock

 The Hindu

 Context

Spotlight on Trincomalee projects

 What has happened?

Following the overarching Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and Sri Lanka, both sides will collaborate in a host of energy and infrastructure projects across the island

MoU

  • Setting up of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in suburban Colombo and a solar power plant in Sampur in Trincomalee
  • Indian assistance to enhanced use of natural gas in Sri Lanka
  • Joint investment in the petroleum sector and partnerships in highways and transportation, the spotlight remains on the proposed joint venture to develop a World War-era oil storage facility in Trincomalee, the strategically located port town on the island’s east coast
  • As per the MoU, the countries will also jointly set up Industrial Zones and Special Economic Zones in Sri Lanka

 The Hindu

 Context

The challenge of the States in achieving a debt ceiling of 20% by 2023 threatens overall fiscal responsibility targets

FRBM has been discussed earlier in detail, give this article a go through

The Hindu

Context

Malaria Vaccine RTS,S (or Mosquirix) tests soon

 What has happened?

  • The first malaria vaccine is cleared forpilot tests, raising hopes about wider use
  • Beginning next year, the World Health Organisation will begin pilot tests of the injectable malaria vaccine RTS,S (or Mosquirix) on 750,000 children aged 5-17 months in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi
  • The vaccine has been successfully put through a Phase III trial, in which the drug is tested for safety and efficacy

The Countries

The three countries have been chosen as they have settings with moderate-to-high transmission of malaria and already have in place malaria control programmes such as the use of bed-nets, rapid diagnostic tests and combination therapy. Each country is to decide where precisely to run the pilots

The Vaccine Doses

  • The vaccine, given in four doses, protects against Plasmodium falciparum, which is the most prevalent malaria parasite in Africa
  • The first three doses of the vaccine will be administered with a minimum interval of one month between each dose, followed by the fourth dose 15 to 18 months after the third dose
  • The first dose will be administered at about five months of age and the third dose has to be completed by nine months of age

Fourth dose really important

  • While the drop-out rate increases as the number of doses increases, the biggest challenge is the fourth dose, which warrants a new immunisation contact to be made 15 to 18 months after the last dose
  • In Phase III trials, the efficacy of the vaccine was around 30% when children received all the four doses; the vaccine also reduced the most severe cases by a third
  • But there was a significant drop in these benefits when children did not receive the fourth dose

 Side-effects

There is, specifically, a need to ascertain if excess cases of meningitis and cerebral malaria seen during the trials are causally related to the vaccination

To be used in conjunction

Unlike other vaccines, the less-than-optimum protection offered by this vaccine would mean that existing malaria intervention measures will have to be used in conjunction to reduce the incidence of the disease.

Economy

The Hindu

 Context

Demonetisation, steps to curb black money to spur increase: NITI Aayog

 What has happened?

The NITI Aayog expects India’s direct tax base to rise significantly over the next three years, due to demonetisation and steps taken to curb black money by the government, pegging the direct tax to GDP ratio at 6.3% in 2019-20 from 5.6% in 2016-17

Demonetisation windfall

  • Demonetisationhad led to a significant increase in bank deposits which is likely to result in disclosure of “a significant amount of income that would not have been done otherwise.”
  • Therefore, it has argued that there could be a significant one-time increase in the direct tax revenues for 2017-18, although such an increase has not been factored into its estimates
  • The cumulative result of the measures would be increased tax compliance and an expansion in the tax base. Going forward, this will lead to increase in direct-tax to GDP ratio.

The Hindu

Context

The restart of four plants can add 75 lakh metric tonnes

 What has happened?

  • The Centre’s revival of four fertilizer plants at a total cost of Rs. 50,000 crore has the potential to turn India into a fertilizer exporting country from an importing one
  • When all the plants (at Barauni, Singhri, Gorakhpur, and Talcher) start, they will add about 75 lakh metric tonnes to the output, taking the total capacity to about 320 lakh metric tonnes
  • A massive investment of Rs. 50,000 crore is being undertaken for the revival of the closed fertilizer plants and setting up of a gas pipeline network to connect Eastern India to the national gas grid
  • Of this, Rs. 20,000 crore would be invested to revive the plants at Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), Barauni(Bihar) and Sindri (Jharkhand).
  • The government will be investing Rs. 8,000 crore in the Talcher fertilizer plant in Odisha through a consortium comprising Fertilizer Corporation of India, Gas Authority of India Limited, Rashtriya Chemical and Fertilizer Limited, and Coal India Limited. The Talcher facility will also be the first plant to deploy a coal gasification system

The Hindu

Context

They face disasters, irregular incomes

 What has happened?

Workers from the informal economy and the agricultural sector should be allowed flexible contributions and withdrawals from pension plans due to the vagaries(an unexpected and inexplicable change in a situation or in someone’s behaviour)of their incomes and the risk of disasters

Specific scheme for the non-working women

  • Since women, who account for 70% of non-workers in India, are financially dependent on their male counterparts, and generally outlive men, the ‘feminisation’ of the elderly is going to be increasingly evident in the years to come, and could bring with it huge fiscal burdens
  • The ‘Financial Security for India’s Elderly’ report by PFRDA and Crisil also recommended a specific pension scheme for young women along the lines of the government’s SukanyaSamriddhi Scheme for young girls

Indian Express

Live Mint

Context

While fiscal rules can indeed be useful, the old FRBM Act was flawed and needs to be replaced by something better

The N.K. Singh committee report

To review the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBMA), 2003:

 Author’s views:

Do we really need a new Act?

  • We definitely need a new Act because the existing FRBMA has proved ineffective
  • It was suspended with impunity in 2009, for several years, during which the fiscal deficit went out of control
  • There was also non-transparency which allowed the deficit to be seriously understated

 What fiscal targets should we adopt?

  • Fiscal rules should focus on macroeconomic stability and the relevant targets for this are the fiscal deficit, the primary deficit, and the debt/GDP (gross domestic product) ratio
  • Since the fiscal deficit and debt ratio are our weak points, our fiscal rules should try to correct both

Are the proposed targets reasonable?

  • The committee has recommended reducing the Centre’s debt to GDP ratio from 49.4% in 2016-17 to 40% by 2022-23. The states’ debt ratio is targeted to remain at around 20%. The combined debt of the Centre and the states is targeted to go down from 68% in 2016-17 to 60% by 2022-23.
  • The 60% debt target for the Centre and the states combined is an improvement from 68% in 2016-17, but it is still much above the average of about 40% for similarly rated emerging market countries
  • However, since our growth rate is also much higher, a 60% debt ratio may be accepted as a reasonable target.
  • Perhaps the new Act should explicitly allow adjustment of the medium-term fiscal deficit targets once every two years, to reflect revisions in the expected medium-term growth rate

 

Categories
Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Understanding Indian Monsoon

Context

The Indian Meteorological Department has announced normal monsoon this year in 2017 after two drought years in 2014 and 2015, with respite in 2016.

The fact that Indian agriculture is largely dependent on the monsoon reveals the good prospects for Indian economy ahead in the year given agriculture being the base.

Simultaneously, it will help us deal with the water scarcity problems and regional disparities (disputes between states on river waters) and find the solutions thereof when the water is relatively abundant.

The effects on ecology and hydropower potential are also obvious.

Such is the aura of the monsoon and is therefore rightly called the unofficial “Finance Minister” of India.

Geographical factors involved

  • The monsoon which was bewildered by the El-Nino in the drought years of late is insignificant actor this year.

Let us examine the inter-relationship between the mentioned geographical processes.

  • As the summersets in and the sun shifts northwards, the windcirculation over the subcontinent undergoesa complete reversal at both, the lower as wellas the upper levels.
  • By the middle of July, thelow pressure belt nearer the surface [termedas Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)]shifts northwards, roughly parallel to theHimalayas between 20° N and 25° N.
  • By thistime, the westerly jet stream withdraws fromthe Indian region.
  • In fact, meteorologists havefound an interrelationship between thenorthward shift of the equatorial trough (ITCZ)and the withdrawal of the westerly jet streamfrom over the North Indian Plain. It is generallybelieved that there is a cause and effectrelationship between the two.
  • The ITCZ beinga zone of low pressure, attracts inflow of windsfrom different directions. The maritime tropicalairmass (mT) from the southern hemisphere,after crossing the equator, rushes to the lowpressure area in the general southwesterly
  • It is this moist air current which ispopularly known as the southwest monsoon.
  • An easterly jet stream, formed only at the level of troposphere, flows over the southern part of the Peninsula in June, andhas a maximum speed of 90 km per hour. In August, it is confined to 15° Nlatitude, and in September up to 22° N latitudes.The easterlies normally do not extend to the northof 30° N latitude in the upper atmosphere.
  • Theeasterly jet stream steers the tropicaldepressions into India. These depressions playa significant role in the distribution of monsoonrainfall over the Indian subcontinent. Thetracks of these depressions are the areas ofhighest rainfall in India. The frequency at whichthese depressions visit India, their directionand intensity, all go a long way in determiningthe rainfall pattern during the southwestmonsoon period.

Mechanism of monsoon

  • Towards the end of the nineteenth century, itwas believed that the differential heating ofland and sea during the summer months isthe mechanism which sets the stage for themonsoon winds to drift towards the
  • During April and May when thesun shines vertically over the Tropic of Cancer,the large landmass in the north of Indian oceangets intensely heated. This causes theformation of an intense low pressure in thenorthwestern part of the subcontinent.
  • Sincethe pressure in the Indian Ocean in the southof the landmass is high as water gets heated slowly, the low pressure cell attracts thesoutheast trades across the Equator. Theseconditions help in the northward shift in theposition of the ITCZ.
  • The southwest monsoonmay thus, be seen as a continuation of thesoutheast trades deflected towards the Indiansubcontinent after crossing the Equator.
  • Thesewinds cross the Equator between 40°E and60°E longitudes. The shift in the position of the ITCZ is alsorelated to the phenomenon of the withdrawalof the westerly jet stream from its position overthe north Indian plain, south of the Himalayas.
  • The easterly jet stream sets in along 15°Nlatitude only after the western jet stream haswithdrawn itself from the region. This easterlyjet stream is held responsible for the burst ofthe monsoon in India.
  • The southwestmonsoon sets in over the Kerala coast by 1stJune and moves swiftly to reach Mumbai andKolkata between 10th and 13th June. By mid July, southwest monsoon engulfs the entire
  • There seem to be two rain-bearing systems in First originate in the Bay of Bengal
    causing rainfall over the plains of north India. Second is the Arabian Sea current of the southwest monsoon which brings rain to the west coast of India.
  • Much of the rainfall along theWestern Ghats is orographic as the moist air isobstructed and forced to rise along the Ghats.
  • The intensity of rainfall over the west coast ofIndia is, however, related to two factors:
    (i) The offshore meteorological conditions.
    (ii) The position of the equatorial jet stream along the eastern coast of Africa.
  • The frequency of the tropical depressionsoriginating from the Bay of Bengal varies fromyear to year. Their paths over India are mainlydetermined by the position of ITCZ which isgenerally termed as the monsoon trough.
  • Asthe axis of the monsoon trough oscillates, thereare fluctuations in the track and direction ofthese depressions, and the intensity and theamount of rainfall vary from year to year.
  • Therain which comes in spells, displays a decliningtrend from west to east over the west coast, andfrom the southeast towards the northwest overthe North Indian Plain and the northern partof the Peninsula

What is El- Nino?

  • EI-Nino is a complex weather system that appears once every three to seven years, bringing
    drought, floods and other weather extremes to different parts of the world.
  • The system involves oceanic and atmospheric phenomena with the appearance of warm currents off the coast of Peru in the Eastern Pacific and affects weather in many places including India.
  • EI-Nino is merely an extension of the warm equatorial current which gets replaced temporarily by cold Peruvian current or Humbolt current.
  • This current increases the temperature of water on the Peruvian coast by 10°C. This results in:
    (i) the distortion of equatorial atmospheric circulation;
    (ii) irregularities in the evaporation of sea water;
    (iii) reduction in the amount of planktons which further reduces the number of fish in the sea.
  • The word EI-Nino means ‘Child Christ’ because this current appears around Christmas in December. December is a summer month in Peru (Southern Hemisphere).
  • EI-Nino is used in India for forecasting long range monsoon rainfall. In 1990-91, there was a wild EI-Nino event and the onset of southwest monsoon was delayed over most parts of the country ranging from five to twelve days.

Issues associated and solutions

  • Agricultural sector is the highest user of the water resources in India and this therefore warrants serious attention provided its productivity is still very meagre.
  • The new irrigation technologies like drip irrigation etc against the running pump water are required. The water harvesting infrastructure also needs revamping through scientific planning.
  • The concept of “inter-linking of rivers”, notwithstanding its ecological impacts, has to be considered in the light of regional variations in the vast physiographic landmass of India which evokes political conflicts.
  • Lastly, the behavioural changes at the level of individuals can be ingrained through the Swatch Bharat programme to contain the waste of fresh-water.

Practice Questions

  1. Describe the mechanism of the monsoon in Indian subcontinent. Explain.
  2. Why is the Indian agriculture still dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon? Enumerate the factors which perpetuate such dependence. Also briefly point out what can be done.
Categories
Mains Marathon

Essay Test – April 15



Instructions:  Write an essay on any one of the following in about 1000-1200 words.
Time : 90 minutes

Marks : 125


Start writing the Essay in the Comment Section below and Win Prizes 🙂


1. If Make in India has to succeed, India needs to become a low-cost manufacturing hub.

यदि ‘मेक इन इंडिया’ को सफल होना है, तो भारत को कम लागत वाला विनिर्माण केंद्र बनने की जरूरत है।


2. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.

सच अटल है, चाहे कोई जन समर्थन हो या नहीं हो। यह स्वयं निरंतर है।


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 14 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1]Right to access Internet cannot be curtailed, says SC

[2]Why no paper trail in EVMs, SC asks Centre

[3]India plans to buy three more Scorpenes

[4]Loyalty benefit for EPFO members


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]

 

[1]On a glide path?

[2]Banking on Teesta


Economy [The Hindu]


[1] Allow anchor investors in SME IPOs

[2]RBI tightens norms on bank performance


Indian Express



Live Mint


[1]Hack that EVM, the republic demands it

[2]Executive decisions are not for judges


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Right to access Internet cannot be curtailed, says SC

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Bench against general ban on online content about pre-natal sex determination

 

Supreme Court observed

Citizens have the right to access the Internet to gain information, wisdom and knowledge and their right cannot be curtailed unless it encroaches into the boundary of illegality

A general prohibition on all online content about pre-natal sex determination will curtail the fundamental right to know of a genuine information-seeker

 

Section 22

  • A three-judge Bench held that the prohibition should kick in only if the content found online is violative of Section 22 (prohibition of advertisement relating to pre-natal determination of sex) under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act of 1994.
  • Backdrop: The Bench was hearing a petition filed by Sabu Mathew George for strict adherence by search engines to Section 22

 

Assurance to SC

By Companies

  • The three Internet search engines — Microsoft, Google India and Yahoo! India — gave their assurances to the Supreme Court that they would neither advertise nor sponsor advertisements violative of the PNPCDT Act.
  • The trio said they had already appointed ‘in-house’ experts to spot illegal content and pull them down

By Government

  • Nodal officers had been appointed at State levels to keep tabs on the Net for offensive material contravening Section 22 of the Act
  • In case the nodal officers detect illegal online content, they would communicate with the search engine’s experts, which would take it off within the next 36 hours of receiving the information
  • These experts would then follow it up by providing the nodal officers concerned with an action taken report

 

[2]Why no paper trail in EVMs, SC asks Centre

 

The Hindu

 

Context

EVMs highly vulnerable

 

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and the Election Commission to comply with a 2013 court directive to introduce paper trail in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

 

Concerns

  • EVMs can be hacked as any technology can be.
  • Votes not verified in the EVMs

 

What can be done

if the EVM was fixed to a vote-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine, the voter could see whether the symbol the voter had pressed was the symbol the EVM had registered in the system

 

Verification a must

  • Verification of the vote was an indispensable part of voting
  • Only a paper trail can restore the confidence of the people

 

[3]India plans to buy three more Scorpenes

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Will push for several upgrades in the new vessels

 

What has happened? 

India and France will step up negotiations to expand the Scorpene submarine contract after the presidential elections in France in May. India will push for incorporating several upgrades in the proposed three new submarines.

 

Backdrop

  • Mazgaon Docks Ltd. (MDL), Mumbai, is manufacturing six Scorpene conventional submarines with technology transfer from DCNS under a $3.75-billion deal signed in October 2005
  • After a series of delays, the first submarine Kalvari is now in advanced stages of sea trials and expected to be commissioned in a few months. The second submarine Khanderi was launched in January

 

Why the Upgrades?

Will help address concerns of any compromise in the submarine’s capability following the leak of its technical specifications in Australia last year

 

[4]Loyalty benefit for EPFO members

 

The Hindu

 

Context

For contribution of 20 years or more

 

What has happened?

  • Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation subscribers for 20 years or more will get a loyalty-cum-life benefit of up to Rs. 50,000 at the time of retirement
  • The Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of the organisation has recommended a minimum sum assured of Rs. 2.5 lakh in the event of the death of a subscriber
  • The suggested benefits will be available to members after government approval. Initially, these will be provided for two years on a pilot basis and will be reviewed thereafter
  • The benefit will also be provided in case of permanent disability
  • In these cases, the members who have contributed to the EDLI scheme for less than 20 years will be eligible
  • Those members whose average basic wages are up to Rs. 5,000 will get a loyalty-cum-life benefit of Rs. 30,000
  • The members with wages of Rs. 5,001-10,000 will be eligible for a Rs. 40,000 benefit
  • All those members getting more than Rs. 10,000 monthly wage will be eligible for Rs. 50,000 loyalty-cum-life benefit under the proposed scheme
  • The board has recommended such benefits in view of the EDLI corpus of Rs. 18,119 crore

 

Interest rate

Provident fund deposits for 2016-17 would get an 8.65 per cent interest as decided by the CBT


Editorial/OPINION


[1]On a glide path?

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Adjusting fuel prices daily at petrol stations is a long overdue reform

 

Backdrop

Pricing mechanism reform: Starting next month, in select cities fuel prices at the pump point will be reset daily in tandem with global oil price movements

 

Case for the reform

Old Way Illogical: It is illogical for an economy integrated with the global financial and commodity markets to keep fuel prices unchanged for as much as a fortnight

Lessen the impact: Aligning prices daily and spreading out the degree of change will lessen the impact on consumers, on both the upside and the downside

No Effect on Consumer Confidence:Marginal changes in the daily price of fuel will not make or break consumer confidence or fuel inflationary expectations because of oil costs

Gradual Shift makes more Sense:A more gradual ascent or descent in fuel prices, rather than abrupt shifts over randomly selected intervals, makes good sense, given how closely our fiscal outlook is tied to oil price movements

No Politics:A transparently formulated and dynamic pricing regime would hopefully prevent such coincidences as announcing price cuts near to elections

Boost Competition:It would also allow private companies to compete with the PSU oil marketers, which today control 95% of fuel outlets

 

[2]Banking on Teesta

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Teesta Water Issue

 

What has happened?

The wheels within wheels(used to indicate that a situation is complicated and affected by secret or indirect influences)in Delhi, Dhaka and Kolkata on the water-sharing issue

 

Teesta

The Teesta River is a 309 km long river flowing through the Indian states of West Bengal and Sikkim, before going to Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh

 

Backdrop

The below mentioned statement by the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) during recent visit of Bangladesh prime minister (Sheikh Hasina) to India on Teesta Water Issue, in the presence of Chief Minister of West Bengal (MamataBannerjee)

 

“Only my government and your government… can and will find an early solution to Teesta water-sharing issue”

 

The View

  • What does this mean?

It was interpreted as being a step to bypass CM of West Bengal who has consistently opposed the changes Dhaka seeks in the sharing of Teesta waters

 

  • Can that be done?

Water is a State subject and requires her (CM of Bengal) assent

 

  • Amend the Constitution then?

Can amend the Constitution then to transfer the subject of water from the State List to the Concurrent List, as was also indicated by Water Resources Minister

 

  • But No Majority yet

The amendment would require approval by a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament — the BJP doesn’t have the numbers yet in the Upper House

 

The Political Game

Lose Votes: Ruling parties have never touched Teesta for fear of losing the northern base

Strengthen the Opposition:The Left Front’s successive Irrigation Ministers insisted that if the waters of the Teesta were shared, it would only “strengthen the opposition (then Mamata Banerjee)

 

View of the CM of West Bengal

No political benefits:She could lose parts of north Bengal, while losing her only bargaining chip, the Teesta, to the Central government

Bypassing can be beneficial: To avoid any onus on her, might not be against an accord where she, with a majority, is bypassed; it would be doubly beneficial for her

Gains:

  • To get rid of her anti-Bangladesh image by protecting the Teesta barrage at Jalpaiguri
  • On the other hand, she would be able to put the BJP on the defensive in north Bengal

 

BJP’s View

  • BJP will not strengthen the Chief Minister of a State where it is on the rise
  • Handing over a larger share of Teesta waters to Bangladesh is handing over north Bengal to Ms. Banerjee before the 2018 panchayat poll

 

It’s all internal

Bangladesh’s former Foreign Secretary blames, India’s “internal politics” for the deadlock

 

New bargaining chip

For Bangladesh, Teesta has emerged as a new bargaining chip vis-a-vis India

 

Bangladesh’s Growing Closeness with China

Dhaka’s growing friendship, as indicated through an astronomical investment, with Beijing has disturbed New Delhi, and finding an “early solution” is way more difficult now

 

Less Hope in India

Bangladesh’s diplomatic missions here do not live in hope

 

Pessimism reached Dhaka

The Awami League cancelled the customary public reception of the Prime Minister on arrival, citing traffic issues.

 

Conclusion

The river that received “greatest attention” has thus lost sight of the shore in the summer of 2017


Economy


[1] Allow anchor investors in SME IPOs

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Investment bankers urge SEBI to change norms to attract larger investors

 

What has happened?

  • Investment bankers want the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to allow anchor investors in public issues of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) while also enhancing the upper limit for paid-up capital of such companies to allow relatively larger firms to enter the capital market while ensuring institutional investor participation in the dedicated segment
  • The segment for SMEs, unveiled separately by BSE and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) in 2012, has more than 200 companies currently listed on the platform
  • While BSE has more than 170 companies listed on its SME segment, NSE has close to 50 entities on board

 

Regulatory push

  • Merchant bankers said that if the segment receives a regulatory push then entities like banks, mutual funds, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and financial institutions would subscribe to SME IPOs quite frequently.
  • Merchant bankers want the regulator to evaluate the option of allowing anchor investors in SME IPOs — as is the case with public issues on the main board
  • Anchor investors are institutional investors that can bid for shares ahead of the IPO and have a lock-in of 30 days.

 

What Now?

A group of investment bankers are to meet the new SEBI chairman next week and these proposals are expected to be part of the larger suggestions that the banking community presents to the regulator.

 

[2]RBI tightens norms on bank performance

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Sets three thresholds, breach of which could lead to mergers or even closure

 

What has happened?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come out with a revised prompt corrective action (PCA) framework for banks, spelling out certain thresholds, the breach of which could invite resolutions such as a merger with another bank or even shutting down of the bank

 

Provisions

Thresholds: The revised norms have set out three thresholds. The thresholds are based on capital, net non-performing assets, profitability and leverage ratio

Breach:The breach of the third one on capital would identify a bank as a likely candidate for resolution through tools like amalgamation, reconstruction, winding up etc

To be Effective from:The provisions of the revised PCA framework will be effective from April 1, 2017 based on the financials of the banks for the year ended March 31, 2017

Review Timeframe: The framework would be reviewed after three years


Indian Express



Live Mint


[1]Hack that EVM, the republic demands it

 

Live Mint

 

Context

Indeed the Indian election is not flawless but it is no doubt the least compromised, and least compromising, of all its institutions.

 

Backdrop

  • The Election Commission (EC) announced an “open challenge”
  • In the first week of May, for a period of 10 days, the EC will let political parties, experts and any other interested party see if they can hack or in any way tamper with an electronic voting machine (EVM)

 

Universal adult suffrage

Rallying Cry:Adult suffrage (the right to vote in political elections)had been one of the rallying cries of the freedom movement for around three decades preceding the drafting of the Constitution

Problems Appear:

Two problems appear to have bothered members of the constituent assembly the most

  • Firstly, should the vote be restricted to literate electors? They worried about this aloud and then let it rest
  • And secondly, what would this sudden expansion of democratic opportunity mean in terms of enthusiasm, participation and logistics?

 

Questions Raised:

What would happen when millions upon millions of adults suddenly found they had a vote? Would they exercise it properly? Would they just give it away to the highest bidder or loudest demagogue?

 

Despite all these misgivings, universal adult suffrage was written into the Constitution

 

First Election

First Lok Sabha election in 1951-52 held successfully

 

The Sacred Pillar of Democracy

  • Power Source:The Indian republic is, doctrinally, founded upon its Constitution but it draws all its practical strength from the one great institution of the Indian democracy i.e. the election
  • Least Compromising:Indeed the Indian election is not flawless but it is no doubt the least compromised, and least compromising, of all its institutions
  • Trust of the Citizen:The average citizen has more trust in his vote then he does in the courts, the police, the bureaucracy and even the legislatures arising out of his votes

 

Must be protected

  • Controversy around EVM hacking must not be allowed to fester
  • It will be tempting to laugh off the allegations and counter-allegations but trust is a volatile currency

EC should not be undermined: To undermine trust in the Election Commission is to hit the republic where it can hurt most

 

Conclusion

Thus, when the EC throws open EVMs to hacking next month, stepping up to the challenge is vital. The future of the republic depends on it

 

[2]Executive decisions are not for judges

 

Live Mint

 

Context

The Supreme Court ban on the sale of liquor is an example of judicial overreach. Such policies are unambiguously in the domain of the executive

 

Backdrop

The Supreme Court, ruling on a public interest petition about road safety, has banned the sale of liquor at retail outlets, as also in hotels, restaurants and bars, that are within 500m of any national or state highway

 

The Damage: for governments, tourism and livelihoods

  • For State Govt.
    • Auction fees: Raised from licences to sell liquor will contract sharply
    • Tax Revenue: Revenue from taxes on alcohol will also diminish
    • The problem is accentuated by the fact that at least one-half, possibly two-thirds, of retail outlets, bars, restaurants and hotels are located within a range of 500m of national or state highways
    • Rough estimates suggest that state governments could lose as much as Rs50,000 crore per annum in revenue

 

  • Tourism
    • Star-downgrade:Existing regulations stipulate that hotels in the four-star and five-star categories, or above, must have a licensed bar; many of them will now lose their premier status with a star-downgrade
    • Alternative Destinations: Foreign tourists might opt for alternative destinations in countries that do not have such restrictions
    • Domestic tourism: Ttoo, could be affected and diverted

 

  • Livelihoods& Employment
    • Reduction in Jobs: The inevitable downturn in business for hotels, restaurants and bars will directly reduce the jobs they provide and indirectly reduce jobs in enterprises that form part of their supply chains
    • Tourism affected: The services sector is the primary source of job creation, and one million people could lose their jobs

 

Measures taken now

  • State governments: Issuing notifications that many roads in and around their cities are no longer state highways
  • The government of India: Considering a presidential reference to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution

Not a long term Solution

  • Data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau show that of the total road accidents in 2014:
    • Over-speeding accounted for 48%
    • Reckless driving for 42%
    • Poor weather conditions for 5%
    • Mechanical defects for 2.5%
    • Drunk-driving for 2.5%

 

  • Fatalities at par:More than 40% of the drunk driving victims died, but the fatality proportion was not much lower, at around 33%, among victims of overspeeding and reckless-driving
  • Easily Circumvented: Because of circumvention or corruption anyone can drive 500m to buy liquor and then return to the highway

 

What could be the Solution?

Strict enforcement and punishment: Will act as an effective deterrent

Strengthening the law: For this purpose, the law can be strengthened further

MV Act Amendments: The Union cabinet has recently approved amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, which raise the fine for drunken driving to Rs10,000, and if such driving results in death, it would be treated as culpable homicide under Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years

Not sufficient:These fines can be escalated and driving licences can be suspended for longer durations, particularly in repeat offences

 

Issues Raised

The judiciary has the right to check the overreach of the executive and the legislature, but there is no such check on the judiciary

 

So, is this a matter for the Supreme Court to decide?

Author’s View: NO

 

Why?

Administrative Matter:It is an administrative matter where the decision rests with state governments

No Authority:It is not just about the appropriate authority for such decisions

Binding Nature:The problem with Supreme Court decisions is their binding nature, much like law, which cannot be changed unless the concerned bench reviews its decision or a constitutional bench sits and decides

Outside Domain:Such policies are unambiguously in the domain of the executive

Fiscal burden on States:The decision imposes a fiscal burden on state governments, in the form of revenue foregone, which is at the expense of some priority expenditure

Affects the Citizens:The adverse economic consequences for governments, tourism and employment are also cause for serious concern as they will affect the well-being of citizens

Already Gone Far Beyond:Three Supreme Court judgements have, in effect, rewritten Article 124 and the appointment of the Supreme Court judges by collegium process has come under scanner

Grown over time:Judicial overreach has grownparticularly in terms of policymaking and judicial legislation which is worrisome

No Checks: The judiciary has the constitutional right to check the overreach of the executive and the legislature, but there is no such check on the judiciary or its accountability

Under reach also:The judiciary does not always check the underperformance of the executivefor example, it has failed to check government inaction against vigilante groups taking the law into their hands—which can be described as judicial under-reach

 

Conclusion

An independent judiciary is of critical importance in a political democracy, for it provides checks and balances vis-à-vis the executive and the legislature. But there must be some institutional mechanisms that check judicial overreach or judicial under-reach to make the judiciary accountable, particularly to citizens

 

The Answer

The answer might lie partly in self-regulation. Almost four centuries ago, Francis Bacon put it perfectly in his Essays Of Judicature (1625): “Judges ought to remember that their office is jus dicere and not jus dare—to interpret law, and not make law or give law.”


 

 

 

 

Categories
Newspaper

Must Read News Articles – April 14



The Hindu


Front Page / NATIONAL


Right to access Internet cannot be curtailed, says SC: Bench against general ban on online content about pre-natal sex determination.

Why no paper trail in EVMs, SC asks Centre: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and the Election Commission to comply with a 2013 court directive to introduce paper trail in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

India plans to buy three more Scorpenes: India and France will step up negotiations to expand the Scorpene submarine contract after the presidential elections in France in May. India will push for incorporating several upgrades in the proposed three new submarines.

Loyalty benefit for EPFO members: Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation subscribers for 20 years or more will get a loyalty-cum-life benefit of up to Rs. 50,000 at the time of retirement.


Editorial/OPINION


On a glide path?: Adjusting fuel prices daily at petrol stations is a long overdue reform.

Banking on Teesta: The wheels within wheels in Delhi, Dhaka and Kolkata on the water-sharing issue.


Economy


‘Allow anchor investors in SME IPOs’: Investment bankers want the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to allow anchor investors in public issues of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) while also enhancing the upper limit for paid-up capital of such companies to allow relatively larger firms to enter the capital market while ensuring institutional investor participation in the dedicated segment.

RBI tightens norms on bank performance: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come out with a revised prompt corrective action (PCA) framework for banks, spelling out certain thresholds, the breach of which could invite resolutions such as a merger with another bank or even shutting down of the bank.


Indian Express



Live Mint


Hack that EVM, the republic demands it: Indeed the Indian election is not flawless but it is no doubt the least compromised, and least compromising, of all its institutions.

Executive decisions are not for judges: The Supreme Court ban on the sale of liquor is an example of judicial overreach. Such policies are unambiguously in the domain of the executive

 

 


 

Categories
Mains Marathon

UPSC Current Affairs Questions and Answer Writing – Mains Marathon – April 14



Read the following questions and answer them by clicking on the links in not more than 200 words

Time: 30 Minutes

Kindly review each others answers.


1.The effective management of land and water resources will drastically reduce the human miseries. Explain. (GS 1)
भूमि तथा जल संसाधनो का प्रभावी प्रबंधन मानव विपत्तियों को प्रबल रूप से कम कर देगा| स्पष्ट कीजिए|

Mains Previous Year Question Paper


2.To what extent globalization has influenced the core of cultural diversity in India? Explain. (GS 1)
वैश्वीकरण नें भारत में सांस्कृतिक विविधता के आंतरक (कोर) को किस सीमा तक प्रभावित किया है? स्पष्ट कीजिए|

Mains Previous Year Question Paper


3.Discuss the concept of air mass and explain its role in macro-climatic changes. (GS 1)
वायु संहति कि संकल्पना की विवेचना कीजिए तथा विस्तृत क्षेत्रीय जलवायवी परिवर्तनों में उसकी भूमिका को स्पष्ट कीजिए|

Mains Previous Year Question Paper


 

Categories
9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 13 2017



Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]


[1]Petrol, diesel prices to be fixed daily

[2]India breached Tibet commitment

[3]Poll panel throws open challenge to hack EVMs

[4]Global interest in PSLV soars

[5]National Lok Adalat settles over 6 lakh cases in one day

[6]Aadhaar robust; the poor have no complaints about it

[7]Centre files curative plea on AFSPA


Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]


[1]Ending nuclear lawlessness

[2]In a safer lane

[3]Powering India-Nepal ties

[4]Passage without scrutiny


Economy [The Hindu]


[1]Hold fiscal deficit at 3% till FY20, says N.K. Singh panel

[2]Panel to suggest norms for Bitcoins, virtual currencies


Indian Express


[1]New India, different China


Live Mint



Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]Petrol, diesel prices to be fixed daily

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Petrol and diesel prices

 

What has happened?

  • State-owned fuel retailers — Indian Oil Corp. (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. (HPCL), — which own over 95% of the nearly 58,000 fuel outlets in the country, are likely to launch a pilot scheme for daily price revision in five select cities from May 1 and gradually extend it all over the country
  • Petrol and diesel prices will change every day in sync with international rates, much like what happens in most advanced markets

 

The New Scheme

  • Where?:The pilot scheme will be first implemented in Puducherry, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Udaipur in Rajasthan, Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and Chandigarh
  • Earlier: State fuel retailers currently revise rates on the 1st and 16th of every month, based on average international price in the preceding fortnight and the currency exchange rate
  • Now: Instead of using fortnightly average, pump rates will reflect daily movement in international oil prices and rupee-U.S. dollar fluctuations
  • Launch Date: Pilot scheme is planned to be launched on May 1
  • The Goal: Daily price change will remove the big leaps in rates that need to be effected at the end of the fortnight, and consumers will be more aligned to market dynamics

 

Also

Petrol price was freed from government control in June 2010, diesel rates were deregulated only in October 2014

 

[2]India breached Tibet commitment

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Recent visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh

 

What has happened?

China reiterated that the visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh will have a negative impact on Sino-Indian ties, and accused New Delhi of breaching its commitment on the Tibet issue

 

Principle violated

  • Violation of the ‘One China’ principle that defines the country’s statehood
  • Might have a negative impact on proper settlement of territorial disputes between the two sides through negotiations

 

[3]Poll panel throws open challenge to hack EVMs

 

The Hindu

 

Context

EVM tampering allegations after UP and Punjab elections

 

What has happened?

To all those alleging that the EVMs used by the Election Commission were tampered with in the recent Assembly elections or that they could be hacked, the electoral body has thrown an open challenge asking them to prove the allegations

 

The Demo

  • The exercise may be carried out in the first week of May
  • Computer experts and political leaders would be invited to the demonstration site and they could use their skills to show whether the machines could be tampered with

 

Backdrop

Opposition parties met the Election Commission (EC) and requested to replace EVMs with paper ballots, as people had “lost trust” in the efficacy of the machines

 

Baseless Charges

The Commission has termed such charges baseless, stating that none of the complainants have come up with any proof to support their allegations

 

[4]Global interest in PSLV soars

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Inquiries from prospective customers double after its record launch of satellites

 

What has happened?

  • The PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) space vehicle has received more than double the volume of inquiries from prospective customers ever since it launched a record 104 satellites on a single flight in February
  • A world best, 101 small foreign commercial spacecraft were taken up at once in the feat, catapulting the PSLV’s overall commercial tally to 180

 

Opportunity

Globally, 500 satellites are expected to come up for launch every year from 2018 onwards

 

Clear leader

  • The PSLV, with a near impeccable 37 successes in 39 flights, he said, is a clear leader in the category of rockets that lift small satellites to low earth orbits or LEOs
  • These satellites weigh up to 500 kg and must be placed in polar orbits 500 km from the earth

 

[5]National Lok Adalat settles over 6 lakh cases in one day

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Clearing the backlog of pending court cases

 

What has happened?

  • As pendency hampers the justice delivery system, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) ,has been quietly chipping away at the backlog and has accomplished its latest feat of settling over six lakh cases in just 24 hours
  • The Second National Lok Adalat for 2017, conducted on April 8, through out the country from taluk level courts to High Courts, has settled nearly 6.6 lakh cases
  • Out of this, 3.68 lakh cases have been reduced from court pendency and about 2.92 lakh cases were settled even before they could be filed in courts
  • The cases ranged from matrimonial disputes, partition suits, civil matters, cheque bounce cases, motor accident claims, revenue disputes pending in courts, criminal compoundable cases and service matters pertaining to pension, retrial benefits, etc

 

Award is final

  • The award of a Lok Adalat is final and cannot be challenged by way of appeals and revision, etc.
  • Moreover, settlement of a pending court case in a Lok Adalat comes with an added incentive of refund of court fee to the party involved in the litigation
  • The NALSA, has decided to organise bi-monthly National Lok Adalats for both pending and pre-litigative cases

 

Culture of settlement

  • Pendency in subordinate courts is a whopping over 2.7 crore cases
  • NALSA emphasised that it is developing a “culture of settlement”

 

Guidelines issued

A set of guidelines has been issued to State Legal Services Authorities to concentrate on the days of Lok Adalats to make efforts to see that parties in contest arrive at an amicable settlement

 

[6]Aadhaar robust; the poor have no complaints about it

 

The Hindu

 

Context

UID data safety for Aadhar

 

What has happened?

Union Minister for Law and Information Technology says the Centre is enforcing UID under a proper mandate of law, with due regard to privacy and confidentiality

 

On Aadhar being made complusory

  • Under Section 7 of the Act, no poor person shall be denied the benefit of subsidy at all
  • The only thing is that the person either should have an Aadhaar or should have applied for one
  • Also, alternative means of identification will be available and acceptable through which the person can access all benefits

So nobody is being denied any benefit that might accrue to them

 

Aadhaar Safe

  • Aadhaar numbers just confirm the identity
  • The Aadhaar system does not know the purpose for which it is being sought
  • The requisitioning authority will only use it for this purpose, it is completely encrypted, and if anyone uses it for unauthorised purposes, they can be punished for three years, and if a company violates this law, Rs. 10 lakh in compensation is to be awarded to the aggrieved
  • Till date, there is no leakage of data from the system
  • 34,000 agencies till now have been blacklisted

 

Need for linking Aadhaar with PAN cards or tax returns

  • If the country has to grow, more people will have to come into the tax net
  • This linkage, therefore, will help in weeding out double-triple accounts, and combating money laundering
  • It is, therefore, good governance in an atmosphere of improving fiscals

 

Operators doing the enrolments can leak data?

  • Operators are selected by a strict process, with the registrar of the State governments, the Centre and municipalities being involved
  • Operators have to first put in their own biometric to operate the system every time and the whole process is robust in terms of safety features
  • If anyone tries to fiddle with it, the system can help trace any attempts to tamper

 

Burgeoning (Increase) of a surveillance state

  • Disclosure of information cannot be done for any reason other than national security. In that case, a joint secretary-level officer of the government of India specially designated for this purpose, shall record in writing the reasons for this
  • A high-level committee consisting of the Cabinet Secretary, the Secretaries of the Ministry of Law and the Information Technology Secretary will go into any oversight
  • And it is also open to legal challenge before a district judge, and no order shall be issued without a hearing
  • Tougher than the Supreme Court’s certified guidelines on tracking of phone calls given out in 1995
  • Core digital biometric information cannot be disclosed even by the person who owns it
  • General biometric information cannot be disclosed except for the purposes authorised, and those who do so are liable for prosecution

 

[7]Centre files curative plea on AFSPA

 

The Hindu

 

Context

SC order a fetter (shackles) on security forces involved in anti-militancy operations

 

What has happened?

The government asked the Supreme Court to urgently reconsider its July 2016 verdict which ripped open the cloak of immunity and secrecy provided by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) to security forces for deaths caused during encounters in disturbed areas

The Supreme Court had held that “there is no concept of absolute immunity from trial by a criminal court” if an Army man has committed an offence

 

The Verdict Earlier

The judgment by a Bench had held that every death caused by security forces in a disturbed area, even if the victim was a dreaded criminal or a militant or a terrorist or an insurgent, should be thoroughly inquired into to address any allegation of use of excessive or retaliatory force.

 

A-G’s stance

  • This court ought to have appreciated that the principles of right to self-defence cannot be strictly applied while dealing with militants and terrorist elements in a hostile and unstable terrain
  • This court ought to have taken into account the complexity and the reality of the conduct of military operations and tactics, especially while combating terrorists

 

Backdrop

The judgment came on a plea by hundreds of families in Manipur for a probe by Special Investigation Team


Editorial/OPINION


[1]Ending nuclear lawlessness

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The attempt at the UN to ban atomic weapons is based on the premise that all countries deserve equal security

 

What has happened?

  • In the last week of March, at the United Nations in New York, history was made as diplomats from about 130 countries started formal talks on an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons
  • None of the nine nuclear weapon countries showed up, India and Pakistan included
  • The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, staged a public boycott outside the negotiating hall

 

A Noble Goal

  • Declare it illegal for any country to produce, possess, stockpile, deploy, threaten to use, or use nuclear weapons
  • The final treaty could be approved and ready for signature before the end of this year

 

Long Needed

  • The nuclear weapons ban talks are the fulfilment of a long-standing demand that all countries deserve equal security
  • For decades, the world has pressed the handful of countries with nuclear weapons to free humanity from the nuclear danger
  • The very first resolution at the UN, passed in 1946, called for a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.”

 

Early Steps

UN General Assembly resolution: November 1961 UN General Assembly resolution that declared: “Any state using nuclear and thermonuclear weapons is to be considered as violating the Charter of the United Nations, as acting contrary to the laws of humanity, and as committing a crime against mankind and civilization.”

 

The Cold War race

Both sides knew no one would win in a nuclear war but they prepared to fight regardless. It was an insane and murderous logic: since neither side could allow the other to prevail, the only acceptable outcome to both was mutual assured destruction

 

The end of the Cold War offered the hope of a new start for the world

 

International Court of Justice steps in

The UN General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons

In July 1996, the court issued an advisory opinion, with two key conclusions:

  • The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law
  • There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control

 

The door opened to a nuclear weapons ban

 

Resistance of the nuclear club

  • In the 20 years since the court issued its judgment, countries with nuclear weapons have simply refused to comply
  • Rather than starting “negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”, they have sought to block them, choosing to launch long-term costly programmes to maintain, modernize, and in some cases augment their nuclear arsenals

 

Back to Basics

  • Non-nuclear states and peace movement activists launched an international effort to highlight nuclear weapons capacity to cause widespread suffering and indiscriminate harm
  • This won support from the majority of the world’s countries

 

Vienna Conference

At the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in 2014, officials from 158 countries showed up

 

Historic Resolution

This process led to the adoption of a historic resolution at the UN last October “to negotiate a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”

 

India abstained

  • India and Pakistan abstained from the UN vote
  • Argument: India’s main argument was that nuclear disarmament talks should only happen at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
  • Reason:The reason was simple: the Conference on Disarmament works by consensus, which means any state can block progress

 

Time to force the issue

  • Rest of the World should wait: Most of the other nuclear weapons states, led by the U.S simply insisted that the world wait for them to decide when they are ready to give up their nuclear weapons
  • Why not? : The world would never have banned slavery if we had to wait for all the slave owners to agree in advance that slavery was a bad thing and that they were ready to end it

 

We are not waiting

Rather than waiting for that day, the nuclear weapon-free countries have decided to take matters into their own hands

  • The Ban Treaty: Their first step is the ban treaty. It lays down a clear marker for what weapons the world thinks no state can seek, possess and use in wartime. This is how other weapons have been banned, be they chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines, or cluster munitions

 

Occasional Violations should not deter the process

  • As recently in Syria with chemical weapons, there are occasional violations of the international laws banning weapons of mass destruction, but the world now condemns such actions and decent people everywhere would support efforts to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice
  • The possibility of violations has never stopped countries from passing laws and agreeing on what should be prohibited

 

Conclusion

The driving force for the demand for a nuclear weapon-free world is a simple humanitarian impulse, the love and compassion for other human beings so, India, Pakistan, and all of the nuclear weapons states should prepare to give up their arsenals or be treated as outlaws

 

[2]In a safer lane

 

The Hindu

 

Context

States should start preparing to implement the changes in the Motor Vehicles Act

 

What has happened?

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill passed by the Lok Sabha this week will take a little more time to come into force, since it has not cleared the Rajya Sabha in the Budget session

 

Changes proposed to the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act of 1988 

The Centre assumes a direct role in the reforms

Issue Guidelines: Centre will introduce guidelines that bind State governments in several areas, notably in:

  • Creating a framework for taxicab aggregators
  • Financing insurance to treat the injured
  • To compensate families of the dead in hit-and-run cases
  • Prescribing standards for electronically monitoring highways and urban roads for enforcement and modernising driver licensing

 

Why Changes?

  • Unresponsive Bureaucracy
  • There is a dire need to have clear rules and transparent processes, since transport bureaucracies have remained unresponsive to the needs of a growing economy that is witnessing a steady rise in motorization
  • Corruption increased:The bottleneck created by their lack of capacity has stifled regulatory reform in the transport sector and only encouraged corruption

 

Enforcement is the key

  • Research shows that imposing stricter penalties tends to reduce the level of enforcement of road rules
  • IIT Delhi’s Road Safety in India report of 2015: The deterrent effect of law depends on the severity and swiftness of penalties, but also the perception that the possibility of being caught for violations is high
  • Ineffective Enforcement:The amendments to the MV Act set enhanced penalties for several offences, notably drunken driving, speeding, jumping red lights and so on, but periodic and ineffective enforcement, which is the norm, makes it less likely that these will be uniformly applied
  • Accountablity: Without an accountable and professional police force, the ghastly record of traffic fatalities, is unlikely to change

 

States

Early Rollout:  State governments must prepare for an early roll-out of administrative reforms prescribed in the amended law, such as issuing learner’s licences online, recording address changes through an online application, and electronic service delivery with set deadlines

Online Applications: To eliminate corruption, all applications should be accepted by transport departments online, rather than merely computerising them

Protection for Samaritans:Protection from harassment for good samaritans who help accident victims is something the amended law provides, and this needs to be in place

 

[3]Powering India-Nepal ties

 

The Hindu

 

Context

This is an opportune moment to push for electricity trade with a long-term perspective

 

What has happened?

  • On February 14 Energy Secretary-level talks known as the joint steering committee (JSC) meeting concluded in Kathmandu
  • It was decided to endorse the detailed project report of the 400 kV Butwal-Gorakhpur cross-border transmission line

 

Backdrop

  • In 2014 when India and Nepal signed a Power Trade Agreement doors opened for Nepal developers/traders to access the Indian power market
  • At first, Nepal was apprehensive that it would not get a fair deal trading with a large neighbour, but power is now traded in India on exchanges transparently and the price is known to all, thus assuaging some of Nepal’s apprehensions

 

Opportunity for India

  • Nepal is short on Power:Nepal is short of power and will need to import power for some years to accelerate its economic growth
  • Power Target:It has an ambitious target of reaching 16,500 MW of hydro capacity by 2030, which includes the joint project with India at Pancheshwar
  • Load Shedding: In 2015, Nepal faced load-shedding of up to 16 hours a day during the dry season, when the available capacity of Nepal’s hydropower decreases to a third of installed capacity
  • Power Shortages: Peak load outstripped domestic power generation capacity, causing serious power shortage, which was partly met with by import from India
  • Missed Opportunity: Out of an economically viable and technically feasible potential of 43.5 GW, only 0.8 GW had been developed by March 2016
  • Hydro Potential Development:With this market, Nepal’s hydro potential can be developed faster

 

India has Surplus

India has surplus capacity at present so it can help

 

Benefits for India also

  • Flexible Hydropower Import:In the years to come, it can fruitfully import flexible hydropower from Nepal to balance its fast growing renewable generation and also provide a market for Nepal’s electricity

 

Bhutan& India

Bhutan has reaped the benefit of power export to India and its per capita income in purchasing power parity adjusted for international dollars increased from $475 in 1980 to $7,860 in 2015

 

Energy study

Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe):

  • Carried out a detailed modelling study which explored electricity trade potential on an hourly basis till 2045
  • This study was carried out as a part of US AID-supported South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Integration project

 

Electricity Trade Benefits to Nepalaccording to the Study

More Import:Nepal’s revenue from export of electricity to India increases its ability to import more goods and also to invest more in the economy

Increase in GDP:This increases its gross domestic product, consumption and use of electricity, which improves quality of life

Development of Hydropower potential: The prospect of electricity trade with India makes it possible for Nepal to develop its hydropower potential and has important consequences

Economic Development:Increased availability of electricity accelerates its economic development

Exporting electricity:The construction of transmission lines to import electricity become lines to export electricity by 2025

Export Revenue Increase:Its annual export revenue from the electricity trade becomes NPR 310 billion in 2030, NPR 840 billion in 2040 and NPR 1,069 billion in 2045, at 2011-12 prices

Misc:By 2045, Nepal’s GDP becomes 39% larger, its per capita consumption 23% higher and per capita electricity consumption 50% higher than if trade were to continue at its modest current level

 

Electricity Trade Benefits to India according to the Study

Peak Loads Satisfied:Meeting the evening peak in India when its large solar PV capacity would not be available becomes easier and cheaper

Monetary Gains:The gains in monetary terms are comparable for both Nepal and India

 

Steps Needed

Swift Action: The sooner Nepal develops its hydropower potential, the earlier the benefits

For electricity trade to materialise, policy, institutional and technical infrastructure are necessary

Investment needs:Building hydropower projects and transmission infrastructure is highly investment-intensive

Payment Security:Without a stable, long-term conducive policy and an institutional environment in place, which ensures payment security, it is unlikely that investors will put their money in this risky business

 

Steps taken by the Indian Government

CBET: The Indian government issued guidelines and draft notification on cross-border electricity trade (CBET) policy to enable Indian/Nepal producers/traders to seamlessly exchange power with neighbouring nations

 

Conclusion

  • A climate of confidence and trust in the long-term trading relationship between India and Nepal can greatly help Nepal meet its ambitious target and provide an opportunity for Indian investors to invest in Nepal
  • This could help us smoothen our recently strained relations with Nepal as well as strengthen our historically friendly ties.

 

[4]Passage without scrutiny

 

The Hindu

 

Context

We must move to a system where every Bill goes through the committee stage in each House of Parliament

 

Current State

  • This Session, 20 Bills were introduced, and to date none of these have been referred to standing committees of Parliament; one Bill — the constitutional amendment to create a national commission for backward classes — was passed by Lok Sabha and then referred by Rajya Sabha to a select committee
  • The Mental Healthcare Bill passed this session and the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill passed by Lok Sabha this week incorporated most of the changes recommended by the committees

 

In the Past

  • In the last three years, just 29% of Bills have been referred to parliamentary committees
  • 60% and 71% of bills examined by committees in the 14th and 15th Lok Sabhas, respectively

 

Some problematic Bills

Three Bills passed by Parliament may face constitutional challenges

 

The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill

The Billfollows up on the demonetisation exercise

It provides a limited time period for citizens who were abroad between November 9 and December 30 to exchange their notes

Indian residents could do that until the end of March 2017, and NRIs till June

The Bill also made it an offence to hold more than 10 pieces of the old notes (25 for research or numismatic purposes)

Issues Raised

Violation of Article 300A:

  • The notification of November 8 that denotified the notes allowed time till December 30 for depositing these, and said that any person unable to do so would be given further time to deposit them at specified RBI branches
  • On December 30, an ordinance was issued (the Bill is identical to the ordinance) that provided further time only to citizens who were abroad till that date
  • This is akin to expropriation of property without any compensation and may violate Article 300A of the Constitution

Violation of a fundamental right:

If holding the notes is made a criminal offence on December 30, and a person having them that day cannot deposit or exchange them, then this is effectively making an action an offence with retrospective effect and may be seen as a violation of a fundamental right

 

Finance Bill

  • Provision:The terms of engagement of quasi-judicial bodies will be determined by the Central government by notification instead of being specified in the Act
  • Issue:This provision may contravene several judgments that lay out the independence of the judiciary as a basic feature of the Constitution
  • Provision: Another provision of the Finance Bill permits income tax officers to refuse to disclose to any court or tribunal the information that formed the basis for a raid
  • Issue: This may contravene the principle of judicial review of executive action

 

Enemy Property Bill

  • Provision: Vests the rights over enemy property with the Central government
    • This amendment has been made with retrospective effect (going back four decades), and will affect all property that may have been sold (and resold) since then.
    • The Bill also bars any court from hearing cases related to enemy property.

Issue:These provisions may not adhere to principles of due process and judicial review.

 

Taxation Laws Bill

It makes several amendments related to the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax

Undue power to the Custom Officer:In addition, it adds a section to the Customs Act, which requires various authorities to disclose to the customs officer any information required

Issue:The question is whether Lok Sabha examined the appropriateness of giving such powers to the customs officer

 

Simply passed as Money Bills

Except the Enemy Property Bill, the other three were not referred to committees and were passed as Money Bills

 

Importance of the Committee: Issues Raised on the bill

The Enemy Property Bill was examined by a select committee of Rajya Sabha, and a note of dissent signed by six of its 23 members pointed out constitutional issues, but the suggested changes were not incorporated by Parliament while passing it

 

Conclusion

  • The key lesson is the importance of detailed scrutiny by Parliament
  • It may be advisable to move to a system like that of the British Parliament where every Bill goes through the committee stage in each House
  • That may take more time to pass a Bill but will ensure that there is adequate deliberation by parliamentarians before they pass a Bill

Economy


[1]Hold fiscal deficit at 3% till FY20, says N.K. Singh panel

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Centre had set a target of 3.2% of GDP in 2017-18

 

What has happened?

  • The Centre can take a pause on the fiscal consolidation front over the next three years by maintaining a fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 3% till 2019-20, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee chaired by former Revenue Secretary N.K. Singh has recommended
  • The FRBM law enacted in 2003 had originally envisaged attaining a fiscal deficit of 3% of GDP by 2008-09, but amendments over the years had revised the year for achieving the same target to 2017-18

 

Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee

Set up to comprehensively review and give recommendations on the FRBM roadmap for future

Recommendations:

  • The panel has advocated reaching a fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 2.8% in 2020-21, 2.6% the subsequent year and 2.5% in 2022-23
  • The panel has recommended that the existing FRBM Act and rules be scrapped and a new Debt and Fiscal Responsibility Act be adopted and proposed the creation of a Fiscal Council that the government must consult before invoking escape clauses

 

Escape clause

The panel has introduced an escape clause that allows the government to skip the fiscal deficit target for a particular year, in following situations:

  • National security concerns
  • Acts of war
  • National calamities
  • A collapse of the agriculture sector
  • Far-reaching structural reforms with unanticipated fiscal implications
  • if the economy’s real output growth slips by three percentage points from the average of the previous four quarters

 

Deviation:

  • It recommended that deviations from the stipulated fiscal targets should not be more than 0.5%
  • The Reserve Bank of India governor, a member of the committee was inclined to only permit a 0.3% deviation

 

Buoyancy clause

Has been proposed, so that fiscal deficit must fall at least 0.5% below the target if real output grows 3% faster than that average

 

[2]Panel to suggest norms for Bitcoins, virtual currencies

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Virtual Currency regulation

 

What has happened?

  • The government has decided to close the regulatory gaps to keep a check on virtual currencies, including Bitcoins, and has set up an inter-disciplinary committee to recommend an action plan for dealing with such currencies within three months
  • The committee will also include experts from the RBI, the central government’s think tank NITI Aayog and State Bank of India

 

Why?

  • The circulation of Virtual Currencies which are also known as Digital/Crypto Currencies has been a cause of concern
  • Advisory issued: The Reserve Bank of India has not given any licence or authorisation to any entity or company to operate such schemes or deal with Bitcoin or any virtual currency
  • As such, any user, holder, investor, trader, etc. dealing with Virtual Currencies will be doing so at their own risk

 

The Committee

  • The inter- disciplinary committee will be chaired by Special Secretary (Economic Affairs) with representatives from the departments of revenue and financial services and the ministries of home Affairs as well as electronics and Information Technology
  • Goals: Will necessarily examine how to cope with money laundering opportunities as well as consumer protection concerns that could arise from the use of virtual currencies

Indian Express


[1]New India, different China

 

Indian Express

 

Context

Chinese reaction to the Dalai Lama visit to Tawang this time varied in tone and tenor from previous occasions. There are reasons for that.

 

Reasons for a Stronger Reaction

  • Tussle over the successor of Dalai Lama:
    • The Chinese have already installed their own Panchen Lama, who is regarded as next only to the Dalai Lama in the Tibetan spiritual hierarchy
    • His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is at an advanced age
    • As per the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, indications about the next Dalai Lama would be left behind by the present one
    • Successor from India:They seem to especially suspect that the Holiness might choose someone from India, or even from Arunachal Pradesh, as his successor, thus leaving the movement for Tibetan independence with another leader
  • Territorial claims over Arunachal Pradesh: Long standing dispute with India

 

Finlandisation

  • Term coined by the German political scientist Richard Lowenthal in 1961
  • In the aftermath of the Second World War, Finland chose to follow a policy of not standing up to the Soviet Union militarily or economically, even while the country had remained a part of Allied Western Europe

 

Conclusion

Probably the Chinese feel that India is coming out of this Finlandisation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and hence, the serious warning


Live Mint



 

 

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Daily Quiz

Daily MCQs 2.0 : April 13


 

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