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Daily Current Affairs Analysis based on The Hindu Newspaper & Articles by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri

Mar
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News (Text)
Mar 4 @ 11:30 am

NEWS

4 MARCH 2019


Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu’ newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims and Mains) Compiled by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri.


Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS III: ECONOMY – IL&FS

IL&FS ignored risk assessment reports while extending loans: audit

2.

GS III: INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS

ICC rejects request to ‘isolate’ Pak.

3.

GS III: SECURITY

India fortifying case to put Azhar on ban list

4.

GS III: SECURITY

India nudges Myanmar action on Naga militants

5.

GS II: SOCIAL – RIGHTS

Tribal leaders oppose CM’s plan to support Dhangar case

6.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

Vidiyal heralds a new dawn: poachers turn protectors in Periyar

7.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

A tale of six elephants using one corridor in two countries

8.

GS III: INFRASTRUCTURE

Rajdhani Express turns 50, passengers pampered with ‘rosogollas’

9.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-U.K.

U.K. offers collaboration in fighter tech, carriers

10.

GS III: S&T – SPACE

SpaceX’s capsule docks on ISS

11.

GS II: SOCIAL – SCHEMES

Cumulative spending on CSR crosses Rs. 50,000 cr.

12.

GS II: SOCIAL – SCHEMES

MUDRA: Rs. 1 lakh cr. more has to be lent

13.

GS III: ECONOMY – PSUs

NITI Aayog to draw up list of non-core assets of CPSEs for monetisation

14.

GS III: ENERGY

India’s electric vehicle success story will ride on two wheels

GS III: ECONOMY – IL&FS

IL&FS ignored risk assessment reports while extending loans: audit

  • A forensic audit report of IL&FS, prepared by Grant Thornton, has found serious lapses in the manner in which huge loans were extended to certain entities even after internal risk assessment clearly showed that the borrowers were under financial stress.
  • Further, various instances have been found wherein the committee of directors of the infrastructure financing company extended loans at a negative spread to borrowers facing liquidity issues.
  • A negative spread occurs when interest rates charged on amounts lent are lower than interest rates paid on borrowed sums.
  • According to the forensic audit report, the quantum of such loans is pegged at over Rs. 4,300 crore.
  • Among other observations, the report said the forensic audit “identified 18 instances where the Committee of Directors (CoD) ultimately approved loans to those borrowers who appeared to be in potential stress on the basis of media reports/articles in the public domain and in spite of a negative assessment by the risk team” while pegging the quantum of such loans at about Rs. 2,400 crore.
  • Meanwhile, another 16 instances with a cumulative loan amount of Rs. 1,922 crore were found wherein the CoD sanctioned loans at a negative spread or limited spread, for those companies, which clearly were under stress.
  • Of such instances, seven loans have either been written off or are related parties of the companies for whom loans were written off, while in five instances, the CoD ultimately approved loans even after a negative assessment by the risk team, as per the report.
  • Separately, the audit found 29 instances of loans collectively worth over Rs. 2,500 crore that were given to entities, whose group companies used the money to repay existing loans taken from IL&FS Financial Services, a 100% subsidiary of IL&FS and a Systemically Important Non-Deposit Taking Non-Banking Finance Company.
  • It has also highlighted instances of possible conflict of interest wherein loans were given to entities whose promoters also served as directors of IL&FS Group companies.

GS III: INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS

ICC rejects request to ‘isolate’ Pak.

  • The appeal of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for ‘isolation’ of nations supporting terrorism, without naming Pakistan, did not find support at the International Cricket Council (ICC) board meeting in Dubai concluded recently.
  • The BCCI had made the appeal following the Pulwama terror attack, which left 40 CRPF personnel dead on February 14.
  • The BCCI CEO Rahul Johri was told by ICC chairman Shashank Manohar that it was beyond them to take a decision to bar any particular nation. Such decisions, the BCCI was told, were in the hands of the respective governments and not the ICC.
  • Since Pakistan was a permanent member of the ICC, it would not be possible to “isolate” it unless it is supported by all Test playing countries.
  • One of the demands made by the BCCI related to increased security for Indian players, officials and fans at the World Cup to be held in England later in 2019.

GS III: SECURITY

India fortifying case to put Azhar on ban list

  • As India, supported by France, prepares a fresh proposal to place Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar on the ban list operated by the UNSC’s 1267 committee, security agencies are putting together new details of the outfit’s threat not only to India but also to the West.
  • A senior official said they would highlight how the JeM’s parent outfit, Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), included by the U.S. in its list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations in 1999 had been rechristened as Jaish-e-Mohammad and continued to train terrorists for attacks against the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
  • JeM’s creation could be linked to the popularity surrounding Masood Azhar after his release from India in 1999. He was released in exchange for the passengers of the Indian Airlines aircraft IC 814 that was hijacked from Nepal.
  • “He was the general secretary of the newly established Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA) in 1994 and was on a mission in J&K when he was arrested on February 11 the same year. After he was released [in 1999], the HuA was included in the U.S. list which compelled the outfit to rename itself as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Azhar decided to float a new outfit, JeM. He received assistance from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the then Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and several Sunni sectarian outfits of Pakistan,” said an official.
  • After India and other foreign countries put pressure on Pakistan, after the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament by the outfit, Azhar was arrested by Pakistani security forces on December 29, 2001. However, a three-member Review Board of the Lahore High Court ordered on December 14, 2002, that Azhar be released. He was never detained or arrested after that. The official said the outfit is run like a family enterprise.
  • He said the outfit is linked, through the Binoria madrasa in Karachi, with the former Taliban regime of Afghanistan.

GS III: SECURITY

India nudges Myanmar action on Naga militants

  • India’s improved ties with Myanmar led to that country’s crackdown in late January 2019 on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), considered the mother lode of most extremist groups in the northeastern region.
  • Another factor that prompted the Tatmadaw — Myanmar’s military — take-over of the NSCN-K headquarters, in an operation from January 29 to February 5, was the outfit’s violation of an agreement not to allow Myanmar territory to be used by “any rebel group to attack a neighbouring country [India].”
  • Tatmadaw took over the NSCN-K’s headquarters, three outposts and two military training schools at Taga in Sagaing, near the Indian border.
  • The schools were run by rebel groups “fighting the Indian government in Assam and Manipur” under the NSCN-K’s supervision.
  • A top official said the takeover was significant as Taga was the collective headquarters of extremist groups active in the northeastern region, except the NSCN- Isak-Muivah that has been on a ceasefire since 1997.
  • Extremist groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the United National Liberation Front of Manipur are known to use jungle routes for hit-and-run operations in India from the NSCN-K’s base.
  • New Delhi has been constantly conveying to Myanmar the problems created by these outfits.
  • The interaction with the Myanmar government intensified after the NSCN-K split in 2018 and many of its Indian members returned.
  • An official said NSCN-K’s military chief Niki Sumi, among the last Indian Nagas in the outfit, moved north towards the China border after the crackdown.
  • The Indian Army and security forces have strengthened vigil along the 1,643 km border with Myanmar.

GS II: SOCIAL – RIGHTS

Tribal leaders oppose CM’s plan to support Dhangar case

  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s announcement to extend support to the Dhangar community in the ongoing court case on giving scheduled tribe (ST) status to Dhangars has not gone down well with the tribal community and ST leaders from Opposition parties.
  • “We are not against extending economic benefits to the Dhangar community. The government must give them all possible aid and we are happy for it. But they should not be included in the tribal sub-plan. Secondly, the CM’s announcement to help the Dhangar community in the court case by filing an affidavit in the High Court to support the claim that Dhangar and Dhangad is same, is highly problematic,” Sanjay Dabhade of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) said.
  • According to tribal leaders, the State government is claiming that Dhangad and Dhangar are the same to avoid the longer procedure of including a new tribe in the ST category, which requires permission of the Tribal Advisory Council and approval from Parliament.
  • The BJP in 2014 had promised the Dhangars that it would extend ST status to them in the first cabinet meeting after coming to power. But there was no progress for four-and-a-half years.
  • The State had asked the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to look into the issue. The report has been submited to the government but has not been made public.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

Vidiyal heralds a new dawn: poachers turn protectors in Periyar

  • “When you enter a forest to hunt, you cannot be loud. If you want to take an elephant down, you must hide at a blind spot where the herd cannot spot you,” explains M. Nallamayan, a former poacher and now gamekeeper at the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), Kerala.
  • Skilled strategy
  • He, along with 17 other well-known poachers from Lower Gudalur in Theni district, with at least three cases to each of their names, have now pledged to work towards protecting species, providing information on potential smuggling, and taking tourists on treks.
  • “We spent most of our years in the dark, hiding from officials and animals. Now, we are in the light for our dedicated service. We are called Vidiyal — a new dawn,” says K. Kamatchi, group leader of this NGO.
  • Vidiyal was formed in 2004 when Arivu, a poacher from Mr. Nallamayan’s group, was caught by the Kerala Forest Department. “When Raju K. Francis, Range Officer, Thekkady, who caught Arivu in possession of truckloads of sandalwood, enquired why we returned despite the avalanche of cases, he said that they were not given any respectable jobs because they were branded as criminals. That is when Mr. Raju offered us jobs,” says Mr. Nallamayan.
  • Although the group was initially skeptical of the Kerala Forest Department’s offer to drop all charges against them, the poachers say they wanted to leave their murky past behind.
  • Vipin Das P. K., Assistant Field Director, PTR, says, “They have excellent skill sets. The park is a safe space, which the Vidiyal group now takes ownership over. ”

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

A tale of six elephants using one corridor in two countries

  • A herd of six female elephants surviving under severe anthropogenic stress may be helped by trans-boundary conservation, say scientists.
  • For several years now, the beleaguered group has been negotiating the international border between India and Bangladesh, ranging from the western side of the Karimganj district of Assam to the eastern side to the Sylhet district of Bangladesh.
  • Researchers said that its last male elephant died almost five years ago, causing the population to stagnate.
  • Electrocution caused the death of a female elephant in 2017.
  • “The elephants are now divided into two small herds with three in each group, and one herd always follows the other. They stay on both sides of the forest, that is, the sections in India as well as Bangladesh, and cross the border frequently. They have broken border fences to use their migratory corridor,” a researcher said.
  • The researchers said a greater part of the elephants’ habitat lies in southern Assam’s Patharia Hills Reserve Forest, where a lot of illegal settlements have come up in the recent decades.
  • “During the summer, from April to July, the elephants stay in Bangladesh, while in the winter, from November to December, they prefer to remain in the forest patches and tea estates of the Indian side,” said the researcher.
  • The authors of the paper said that the elephants’ “shifting pattern of migration may be due to the food shortage on both sides as anthropogenic activities have increased.”

GS III: INFRASTRUCTURE

Rajdhani Express turns 50, passengers pampered with ‘rosogollas’

  • The country’s first Rajdhani Express, which revolutionised Indian Railways by way of speed and luxury in the 1960s, turned 50 on 3 February, 2019.
  • Decorated with red and yellow marigold flowers it chugged out of Howrah station on its golden jubilee run.
  • An Eastern Railway (ER) official said the Kolkata-New Delhi Rajdhani Express embarked on its first journey on March 3, 1969 from Howrah, making it the country’s first fully-airconditioned, high-speed train that covered the 1,450 km stretch in 17 hours and 20 minutes.
  • Rajdhani was the first train in the country whose fares included charges for meals served.
  • Now it has 20 LHB coaches consisting of two AC first class, five AC 2-tier, 10 AC 3-tier with one pantry car and two power cars-cum-luggage vans.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-U.K.

U.K. offers collaboration in fighter tech, carriers

  • As the Indian Air Force (IAF) continues its efforts to procure new fighter jets, the U.K. has made a pitch for cooperation in the fields of building aircraft carriers and future fighter aircraft technologies.
  • “It is not a selling proposition. It is a partnership building exercise on how India and the U.K. can collaborate as future defence technologies are increasingly going to be delivered by collaborative programmes,” British High Commissioner in India Dominic Asquith said at Aero India 2019 held from February 20 to 24.
  • The IAF has floated a tender for 114 fighter jets, while a proposed fifth generation stealth fighter, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), is on the drawing board.
  • As part of the air combat strategy, BAE Systems has begun the Tempest project to develop sixth generation stealth fighters to replace the Typhoons in service with the Royal Air Force and are scheduled to be phased out by 2040.
  • The Tempest project is jointly led by the U.K. government, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Leonardo and MBDA.

GS III: S&T – SPACE

SpaceX’s capsule docks on ISS

  • SpaceX’s new Dragon capsule successfully docked on the International Space Station (ISS) on 3 March, 2019, NASA and SpaceX confirmed.
  • The docking began at 1051 GMT, more than 400 km above the Earth’s surface — and 27 hours after the capsule’s launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
  • The mission is a test launch with only a dummy on board the capsule ahead of a manned flight scheduled for later in 2019.
  • The Dragon capsule will remain on the ISS until 8 March before detaching to splash down in the Atlantic. It will be slowed by four parachutes, in what is the one of the mission’s riskiest stages.
  • The launch is a key step towards resuming manned space flights from U.S. soil after an eight-year break.

International Space Station (ISS):

  • The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellitein low Earth orbit.
  • Its first component launched into orbit in 1998, and the ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth.
  • The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.
  • The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
  • The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.
  • The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays, and other components.
  • ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets, and American Space Shuttles.
  • The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
  • The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.
  • The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft.
  • It completes 15.54 orbits per day.
  • The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.
  • The station has been continuously occupied for 15 years and 351 days since the arrival of Expedition 1 on 2 November 2000.
  • After the US Space Shuttle programme ended in 2011, Soyuz rockets became the only provider of transport for astronauts at the International Space Station, and Dragon became the only provider of bulk cargo return to Earth services (downmass capability of Soyuz capsules is very limited).
  • The American portion of ISS is being funded until 2024.
  • Roscosmos has endorsed the continued operation of ISS through 2024, but has proposed using elements of the Russian Orbital Segment to construct a new Russian space station called OPSEK.
  • On 28 March 2015, Russian sources announced that Roscosmos and NASA had agreed to collaborate on the development of a replacement for the current ISS.
  • NASA later issued a guarded statement expressing thanks for Russia’s interest in future co-operation in space exploration, but fell short of confirming the Russian announcement.

GS II: SOCIAL – SCHEMES

Cumulative spending on CSR crosses Rs. 50,000 cr.

  • Cumulative spending on corporate social responsibility (CSR) has crossed the Rs. 50,000-crore-mark four years after the legislative mandate was implemented, according to Crisil Foundation.
  • A Crisil estimate shows spending by listed companies rose 12% year-on-year in fiscal 2018 to Rs. 10,000 crore, for the first time.
  • Assuming the same rate of growth, spending by unlisted companies is estimated to be Rs. 5,100 crore for the year, taking the total for the year to Rs. 15,100 crore.
  • With this, cumulative spending over the four years stands at Rs. 34,100 crore for listed companies and Rs. 18,900 crore for unlisted ones, totalling Rs. 53,000 crore.
  • While education and skill development and healthcare and sanitation remained the top spending heads, two areas grew at a fast clip — spending on national heritage protection has tripled and that on sports promotion has more than doubled since FY 2015.

GS II: SOCIAL – SCHEMES

MUDRA: Rs. 1 lakh cr. more has to be lent

  • With less than one month left in the current fiscal, banks will have to work overtime to meet the MUDRA loan lending target of Rs. 3 lakh crore, as only about Rs. 2 lakh crore has been disbursed till February 22, 2019.
  • As on February 22, the total loans disbursed under the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd. (MUDRA) scheme stood at Rs. 2,02,668.9 crore versus the sanctioned amount of Rs. 2,10,759.51 crore, said government data.
  • Data from the Finance Ministry said more than 3.89 crore MUDRA loans have been sanctioned so far this fiscal.

GS III: ECONOMY – PSUs

NITI Aayog to draw up list of non-core assets of CPSEs for monetisation

  • The NITI Aayog has been tasked with drawing up a list of non-core assets of various CPSEs, both healthy and sick ones, as a first step towards Finance Ministry’s plan to monetise such assets and unlock value to shareholders.
  • This is part of the overall plans of the government to lay down a procedure and mechanism for monetisation of non-core assets of central public sector undertakings (CPSEs), that include mainly land and building.
  • “NITI Aayog will draw up the list of non-core assets owned by CPSEs, which can be sold separately after discussion with a consultative group comprising officials from administrative ministries, Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM),” an official told PTI.
  • The report by NITI Aayog would be taken up by the alternative mechanism on disinvestment, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, following which the CPSE and the Ministry concerned would proceed with the monetisation process, the official added.
  • In 2016, NITI was asked to draw up a list of CPSEs which could go in for strategic sale. It had identified about 35 CPSEs which could go in for outright sale.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Gold in reserve

GS III: ENERGY

India’s electric vehicle success story will ride on two wheels

  • They year 2018 was the year for electrics.
  • Cumulative electric vehicles (EVs) on road crossed the four million-mark and the Tesla Model 3 became the best-selling premium vehicle, delivering over 1,40,000 vehicles in the year.
  • China has around 250 million electric two-wheelers, with annual sales of 30 million.
  • Of total carbon dioxide emissions saved by EVs worldwide, over 80% was due to China’s electric two-wheelers alone.
  • This raises an interesting question of what makes China different from its neighbouring countries in Asia.
  • Two factors are highlighted for this success story in China namely: electric two-wheelers were designated as bicycles, exempting them from registration and requiring a driving licence; and, cities placed severe limitations on the use of petrol two-wheelers in the city centres.
  • In order to write an EV success story for India, it is very important to electrify two-wheelers, which are about three-fourths of the transportation fleet, as noted by Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog.
  • He also detailed that by electrifying all the two-wheelers in use, India can avoid about 15% of the total transportation emission and more importantly, about 30% of particulate matter, curbing air pollution.
  • A conventional scooter’s “mileage” is about 50-70 km for a litre of petrol, which can be interpreted to be about 135-190 watt-hours for every kilometre (1000 watt-hours is one unit in a monthly electricity bill).
  • On the other hand, if the same scooter is electric, then it would need about 25-40 watt-hours (equivalent to running a modern LED tubelight for about two hours).
  • The electric scooter is around four to six times more efficient than a petrol scooter.
  • The electric scooters are able to accomplish this because they have two things that are in their favour, viz. batteries and electric motors are much more efficient than petrol engines and, electric scooters have a trick up their sleeve called regenerative braking.
  • Regenerative braking allows running the motors in ‘reverse’, storing energy back into the battery pack while decelerating.
  • The energy source in all modern electric vehicles is lithium-ion batteries, compact both in size and weight, which comes at a cost.
  • Lithium-ion batteries cost over Rs. 10,000 for every kilo-watt hour. This means that for a 100-km electric two-wheeler, the battery cost itself will be around Rs. 40,000–50,000, which is close to the average retail price of petrol two-wheelers today.
  • A second challenge remains which is to related to “re-filling” the tank of an electric scooter. This requires an electric scooter’s battery to be charged and this can take of the order of an hour or more today.
  • The slow charging time of Li-ion batteries remains a frustration for many cell phone users and the same issue persists for electric scooters.
  • Li-ion batteries today cannot be charged safely at faster rates.
  • Charging infrastructure is sparse today but there is a strong commitment to improving this

Editorial
Mar 4 @ 11:45 am
Editorial

4 MARCH 2019

The week after

India must keep up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to act against terror groups

With India and Pakistan deciding to de-escalate post-Balakot tensions, the focus has moved to the diplomatic sphere. India’s strikes on a target deep inside Pakistan were coupled with diplomatic manoeuvres that ensured no country censured India for the move. And in a turnaround for ties with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation after half a century, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was able to put the country’s case before the body, while Pakistan stayed out. In recognition of India’s justification to act against an imminent terror threat from the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the U.S., the U.K. and France also moved in at record speed to bring another listing request against the group’s founder, Masood Azhar, at the UN Security Council’s committee for terror designations. There is a reasonable assumption that China will not block it this time as it did during the last three attempts. There were other outcomes that defied the past. Although Islamabad had spoken in the past of its abilities with “tactical nuclear devices”, there was no such mobilisation after India’s strikes. On the other hand, Pakistan was able to, with its aerial response, also indicate that it was not without non-nuclear options. Finally, indications that the international community was involved in effecting a breakthrough are clear. U.S. President Donald Trump hinted at a breakthrough in talks hours before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

The government must, however, also assess what it has actually achieved in strategic terms, and the consequences of the “new normal” it has sought to create with Pakistan. Despite the strikes, it is far from clear that the capabilities of the JeM have been degraded to the point where it can no longer carry out attacks in India. New Delhi must also track the JeM’s assets and abilities within Jammu and Kashmir, as well as any intelligence and security protocol failures that may have preceded the Pulwama attack. Second, while Pakistan announced it would study the dossier given by New Delhi on Azhar and the JeM, it does not appear to be willing to act against either, and has not taken steps akin to the few it had after the 2001 Parliament attack, the 2008 Mumbai attacks or the 2016 Pathankot attack. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s comments practically defending the JeM and putting out excuses of “illness” for Azhar make that clear. It is also necessary to realise the limits of calling international attention to India’s concerns, to ensure that there are no curbs on what India sees as its strategic autonomy. Finally, the government must have a firmer handle on its messaging after the events of the past week, so that a public reading of its strategic purpose is not lost in the claim vs counterclaim spiral with Pakistan.

Deepening slowdown

Can the RBI’s reduction in borrowing costs help check the demand slowdown?

India’s economy is inarguably slowing, and the latest estimates from the Central Statistics Office disconcertingly point to a deepening slowdown. GDP growth is projected to have eased to 6.6% in the October-December period. With the CSO now forecasting the full-year expansion at 7%, fiscal fourth-quarter growth is implicitly pegged at an even slower 6.5%. At that level, growth would have slowed to a seven-quarter low, giving the incumbent NDA government its slowest pace of annual growth. The data clearly reflect the pain points in the real economy that have been evident for some time now. For one, the farm sector continues to remain in trouble with GVA (gross value added) growth in agriculture, forestry and fishing having slowed sharply to 2.7% in the last quarter, from a 4.2% pace in July-September and 4.6% a year earlier. With rabi sowing showing a shortfall across most crops after a deficient north-east monsoon, and the abiding structural issues that have pushed a multitude of farmers into acute distress nowhere near resolution, it is hard to foresee an early revival in this crucial primary sector. This, in turn, continues to dog demand in the hinterland for manufactured products, from two-wheelers to tractors, and is evident in the consumption spending data. Growth in private final consumption expenditure eased appreciably to 8.4%, from the second quarter’s pace of 9.8%.

Manufacturing is another source of concern. The estimates for growth in GVA for the sector put the pace at 6.7%, weaker than the 6.9% posted in the second quarter and a rapid deceleration from the April-June period’s 12.4%. The latest Index of Industrial Production (IIP) figures also give little cause for optimism as manufacturing expansion in December slowed to 2.7%, from 8.7% 12 months earlier. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das had in fact pointedly cited how “high-frequency and survey-based indicators for the manufacturing and services sectors” suggested a slowdown in the pace of activity, to help justify his vote last month for an interest rate cut to bolster growth. That most of the sectors comprising the broader services basket remain becalmed adds to the sense of disquiet. It remains to be seen if the RBI’s reduction in borrowing costs helps check the demand slowdown in the fourth quarter, an improvement in investment activity notwithstanding. Gross fixed capital formation, the key metric for investment demand, expanded by a healthy 10.6%, building on the second quarter’s 10.2% increase. Still, with military tensions with Pakistan on the boil, a long campaign for the general election ahead, uncertainties looming on the global trade and growth horizons, and little fiscal leeway to tease back momentum through increased spending, the economy appears headed for a period of uncertainty at least till the next government is in place.

Question Bank
Mar 4 @ 2:30 pm
Question Bank

4th MARCH 2019

QUESTION BANK

(1 Question)

GS II: SOCIAL-TRAIBALS

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/failing-the-forest/article26424970.ece

Q1.  Recently, the Supreme Court ordered eviction of forest dwellers. While debating the orders the human rights of the Adivasis must be kept in mind. Discuss.

Ans.

  • Reecntly, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of more than 10 lakh Adivasis and other forest dwellers from forestland across 17 States. The petitioners, mainly wildlife NGOs, had demanded that State governments evict those forest dwellers whose claims over traditional forestland under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, known simply as the Forest Rights Act (FRA), had been rejected. The court stayed its controversial order and asked the States to submit details on how the claims of the dwellers were decided and the authorities competent to pass final rejection orders.
  • While the Supreme Court has now made it clear that there will be no forcible eviction, what the order has succeeded in doing is resuscitating a sharp binary between the human rights- and wildlife rights-based groups that have for decades tried to swing public opinion in their favour. The wildlife groups who went to court argue that implementation of the FRA could lead to ‘encroachments’ and fresh clearance of forestland for human dwellings. The human rights groups have argued that the FRA was passed by Parliament and is aimed at correcting historical injustices to traditional forest dwellers who, since colonial times, have been subject to a cycle of evictions. Since colonial times, as governments asserted their control over forests, India’s forest history has become a cycle of evictions from forestland and rebellions by forest dwellers.
  • The FRA was meant for forest dwellers, but it could have also been a powerful tool for conservation. The first myth that needs to be busted for the wildlife lobby is that when a right is recognised of a forest dweller/Adivasi on a piece of land, it doesn’t mean that he/she will cut down all the trees in that area. This is often the strongest note of dissonance between the two groups — the implication that recognising rights on forestland is the same as clear-felling that forest. Therefore, to argue that the rights of millions of forest dwellers have been recognised through the Act does not mean that the forest is a pie to be divided. On the other hand, when forestland is ‘diverted’ for big development projects, like mining or highways or roads, it is actually clear felled or submerged. If this fundamental difference between ‘recognition of rights’ and ‘diversion’ were accepted, the groups at loggerheads would in fact find grounds for commonality.
  • In 2016, it was the FRA that was invoked by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) when the people of Lippa in Himachal Pradesh were given the powers to decide whether or not they wanted a hydel power project in this area. The project would have led to submergence of forestland and also caused heavy siltation in the river.
  • When wildlife groups point towards the thousands of ‘bogus claims’ that are being filed and that should be rejected, what should not go unnoticed is that the state in fact is not always keen to recognise the rights of people in forest areas (even if it may get them votes) as it becomes tough to ‘divert’ land for big projects. A case in point is the Mapithel Dam that is under construction in Manipur. Once commissioned, it will submerge 1,215 hectares (ha) of land, 595 ha of which are under forest cover. In 2015, the NGT had asked for the state to seek forest clearance for the project. To obtain forest clearance, the State government would have to prove that the rights of the tribal people and forest dwellers would not be affected. However, the State government refused to recognise the rights of the people living there since it was keen to construct the dam.

There have been hundreds of cases that offered both these divergent groups the opportunity to come together for the cause of the environment and communities. There is a chance to correct the historical injustice has been inflicted on the people and to India’s forests. And it is through the FRA that India can achieve that aim.

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Online Current Affairs

 

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News (Text)
Mar 5 @ 11:30 am

NEWS

5 MARCH 2019


Daily Current Affairs based on ‘The Hindu’ newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services Examination (Prelims and Mains) Compiled by Mrs. Bilquees Khatri.


Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS III: SECURITY

Pak. bans UNSC designated outfits; Delhi not convinced

2.

GS III: SECURITY

We hit target in Balakot, didn’t count casualties: IAF chief

3.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ORGANISATION

Will work to ease tensions, says China

4.

GS II: POLITY – ELECTIONS

Hold simultaneous Lok Sabha, Assembly polls, J&K parties urge E

5.

GS II: SOCIAL – RIGHTS

Manipur ‘considering’ ST status for Meiteis

6.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – POLLUTION

Crop burning raises risk of respiratory illness threefold, says IFPRI study

7.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

India to tie-up with 4 nations to save rhinos

8.

GS II: POLITY – JUDICIARY

‘Gag on lawyers is muzzling of media’

9.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

China, U.S. close to reaching trade deal

10.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

U.S. downgrades Palestinian mission

11.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Centre to incentivise work-from-home jobs

12.

GS III: ECONOMY – SECTOR

Pharma sector growth hits 4-year low in FY18

13.

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING

7 banks fined for delayed SWIFT implementation

14.

GS III: ECONOMY – GST

Bring LPG conversion kits under 5% GST: IAC

GS III: SECURITY

Pak. bans UNSC designated outfits; Delhi not convinced

  • Facing severe pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, and calls from several countries to crack down on terror groups, especially after tensions with India, the Pakistan government passed an order to effectively ban Lashkar-e-Taiba offshoots Jamat-ud Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation.
  • Government sources in New Delhi, however, are sceptical about the move, given Pakistan’s attempts to ban these groups in the past, only to drop the ban over a period of time.
  • In February 2018, Islamabad passed a similar order as a Presidential Ordinance, but then allowed it to lapse six months later.
  • The Statutory Regulatory Order passed on March 4 says all “properties owned or controlled…directly or indirectly, by a designated entity or designated individual” and any income from the assets would be frozen or physically seized by the Pakistani authorities.
  • Islamabad said it will “streamline” the banning of groups proscribed by the United Nations Security Council.
  • Also, it will ensure that all entities banned by UNSC 1267 Committee in particular will have their assets frozen.
  • The JuD and FiF were listed by the UNSC as aliases for the Hafiz Saeed-led Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) that was banned in May 2005.
  • However, Pakistan only had them on a watch list (Schedule-2) not the banned list (Schedule-1).
  • Both the LeT and the Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) are amongst the 68 organisations presently on the list of proscribed organisations maintained by the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NATCA) of Pakistan.
  • Government sources in Delhi said the decision was part of a “decade old fraud” by Islamabad, to pass SROs that are not prosecutable in courts and do not place any liability on the government authority that doesn’t implement the orders.
  • At the FATF meeting last month, Pakistan was censured for not having aligned its legislative orders in line with the UNSC’s orders. On February 21, even as the FATF meeting was underway, the Imran Khan government passed an order banning the JuD and FiF. But the order is yet to be included in the NATCA’s latest listing that came out on Monday. “The two groups were already under a watch list since January 2017. What was the announcement by Pakistan government of proscribing the two groups then? They have lied to FATF,” said a senior government official.

GS III: SECURITY

We hit target in Balakot, didn’t count casualties: IAF chief

  • “We don’t count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not hit,” Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) B.S. Dhanoa, told the media.
  • He was responding to questions on the number of casualties in the Balakot air strikes.
  • “The statement on casualties will be made by the government. The IAF is not in a position to clarify on how many people were there,” he said.
  • He said the Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the IAF done after the mission calculates the number of targets “you have hit or not been able to hit.”

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ORGANISATION

Will work to ease tensions, says China

  • China reiterated that it would continue to play a “constructive role in its own way” to ease tensions between India and Pakistan.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry also backed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s advocacy of utilising the counter-terrorism mechanism of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to defuse ongoing military tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.

GS II: POLITY – ELECTIONS

Hold simultaneous Lok Sabha, Assembly polls, J&K parties urge EC

  • Several political parties from Jammu and Kashmir met an Election Commission of India team, which is on a two-day visit to the State, and called for “simultaneous” Assembly and parliamentary elections there.
  • The ECI team, comprising Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, Election Commissioners Sushil Chandra and Ashok Lavasa, also held discussions with senior police and administration officers “to get first-hand information on the ground situation” in the State which has witnessed several rounds of street and militancy-related violence since 2014.
  • The team met representatives of the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Congress, BJP, CPI(M), Peoples Conference, People’s Democratic party, Democratic Party Nationalist and Awami Ittehad Party, among others, in Srinagar and sought their inputs.

GS II: SOCIAL – RIGHTS

Manipur ‘considering’ ST status for Meiteis

  • Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh told the Assembly that the BJP-led coalition government will give “positive consideration” to the demand for the inclusion of Meiteis, a non-tribal indigenous community, in the Scheduled Tribes list.
  • On 3 March 2019, Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee organised a massive protest rally in Imphal, demanding ST status for the Meiteis.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – POLLUTION

Crop burning raises risk of respiratory illness threefold, says IFPRI study

  • The burning of agricultural residue — a contributor to north India’s winter pollution — increases the risk of respiratory illnesses threefold for those who experience it.
  • It may also be responsible for an annual $30 billion (approximately Rs. 2 trillion) loss in terms of days of work lost in States affected by crop burning, according to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • The findings were based on a study of the health records of 250,000 people in Haryana (which sees a spike in crop burning episodes in winter), and Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which don’t see similar burning episodes.
  • The researchers used health records and satellite data from September 2013-February 2014.
  • The satellite data was for crop-burning fires detected by the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra satellite, managed by the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA).
  • For about a decade now, Delhi has been complaining about the practice of stubble burning, holding it responsible for the abysmal air quality in the capital in winter.
  • In 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, asking them to ban stubble burning.
  • The Environment Ministers of these States as well as top officials at the Centre declared a “zero tolerance” policy on the burning of stubble, which has been estimated to contribute anywhere from 7% to 78% of the particulate matter-emission load in Delhi during winter.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

India to tie-up with 4 nations to save rhinos

  • India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian sub-continent.
  • The five rhino range nations signed a declaration ‘The Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species at the recently held Second Asian Rhino Range Countries meeting in New Delhi.
  • The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.
  • The declaration includes undertaking studies on health issues of the rhinos, their potential diseases and taking necessary steps; collaborating and strengthening wildlife forensics and strengthening of transboundary collaboration among India, Nepal and Bhutan for conservation of the Greater one-horned rhino.

GS II: POLITY – JUDICIARY

‘Gag on lawyers is muzzling of media’

  • Preventing lawyers from speaking to the press about their pending cases will amount to muzzling the media and depriving the public of their fundamental right to information, 15 eminent persons, including writers and senior journalists, told the Supreme Court.
  • They have filed two intervention applications against a February 6 order in which a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra recorded its decision to examine the possibility of imposing curbs on advocates and litigants airing their views in the media about pending cases.
  • The February 6 order came on back-to-back contempt of court petitions filed by Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal and the Centre against civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his tweets on February 1 in connection with a pending case filed by Common Cause, an NGO, challenging the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim CBI Director.
  • Senior journalists N. Ram and Arun Shourie, author Arundhati Roy, activist Aruna Roy, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and others have argued that any restraint on lawyers and litigants from commenting on sub judice cases would amount to shackling the media.
  • They said any such restraint by the court would have “serious consequences on the freedom of the press, its rights under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution and its ability to inform the people about important public interest issues pending in the courts.”
  • The application filed by Mr. Shourie and Mr. Ram and three other senior journalists question the very logic of a gag on discussing pending cases in public.
  • Consider the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa which took 20 years to be decided or the Ramajanmaboomi case which has been going on for decades… Can it be maintained that for 20 years no one could talk about the facts and issues involved in the Jayalalithaa case or for decades in the case of the Rama Janma Bhoomi dispute?” they asked the Supreme Court.
  • Besides, they said the “best information” about a case would come from the lawyer or litigant who is directly involved in the case. The media cannot prop up a “bystander” and expect him to give authoritative information about a case.
  • The apprehension that the views of the lawyer or litigant may be biased is taken care of when the person’s involvement in the case is known to the public.
  • Another fear that judges would be influenced by what the lawyers tell the media is also unfounded.
  • Judges hear the same lawyer in court in the case and their repeating in the media what they have already said in court would hardly influence a judge.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

China, U.S. close to reaching trade deal

  • The Trump administration is close to a trade deal with China that would roll back tariffs on both sides of the Pacific but may do little to achieve the substantive changes to China’s economy that the U.S. initially set out to win, people with knowledge of the talks said.
  • Significant details remain unsettled and the deal is still being discussed but so far, the two sides have agreed on a pact that would largely require Beijing to make big purchases of U.S. agricultural and energy goods like liquid natural gas and soya beans; and to lower some barriers that prevent U.S. companies from operating in China.
  • In return, the U.S. would most likely drop its tariffs on at least $200 billion of the $250 billion worth of Chinese imports currently subject to U.S. levies.
  • China, which has retaliated against President Donald Trump’s tariffs with its own punishing taxes on U.S. goods, is pushing for the elimination of all of the Trump tariffs, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said.
  • As part of the agreement, the Trump administration has been pushing China to accept an enforcement mechanism that would enable the U.S. to quickly reinstate tariffs if Beijing fails to live up to specific promises.
  • Trump has spent more than a year accusing China of unfair trade practices and promising to shift the balance of economic power back to the U.S.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

U.S. downgrades Palestinian mission

  • The U.S. downgraded its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, the latest in a series of steps by President Donald Trump’s White House Palestinian leaders say is aimed at wiping out their cause.
  • The move, following a decision announced in October 2018, closes the U.S. Jerusalem Consulate General that had acted independently and served as a de-facto Embassy to the Palestinians since the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
  • It will be merged with the U.S. Embassy to Israel, where a new Palestinian affairs unit will operate.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the move will not constitute a change in policy.
  • But the change means Washington’s relations with the Palestinians will now fall under the authority of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been a supporter of Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
  • Palestinian leaders froze contact with the White House after Mr. Trump’s 2017 decision recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and castigated the consulate closure.
  • Trump has also cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in a bid to force Palestinian leaders to negotiate.

 

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Centre to incentivise work-from-home jobs

  • The government is working on a scheme to push work-from-home jobs in the IT sector by offering financial incentives to both employees and employers.
  • “Incentivising work-from-home jobs through policy-level initiatives can help in creating jobs in the ITES domain while increasing the available talent pool for the sector. This will create employment opportunities in the IT/ITES industry, especially for women and differently-abled persons,” an IT Ministry official said.
  • Currently, the scheme is proposed for a three-year period till March 31, 2022, with an outlay of about Rs. 270 crore to create about 50,000 work-from-home jobs.
  • The initiative is likely to be launched as phase II of the IT Ministry’s India BPO Promotion Scheme that incentivises firms to set up operations in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country.
  • The scheme, launched in 2016, had an outlay of about Rs. 500 crore with an objective to create about 1.45 lakh jobs.
  • “There is abundant talent pool in the country, especially women, who are not able to join full-time office jobs. The scheme envisages incentives for both employers as well as employees,” the official said.
  • Pointing out that companies do not recruit people for work-from-home jobs on part-time basis, but on contract due to stringent labour laws, the official said, “For contract-based jobs, companies don’t need to provide PF and other job benefits.”
  • The ‘work-from-home’ policy may extend relaxation in labour laws similar to that given to start-ups under the Startup India programme.
  • In 2016, the government had announced exemption for start-ups from nine labour laws, including the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
  • Besides, it is proposed that employees be provided support for 50% of the cost of a laptop (Rs. 10,000 cap) or smartphone (up to Rs. 5,000), along with up to Rs. 350 per month for broadband.
  • “We are also thinking about offering salary-based incentives to incentivise employees to stick to work-from-home jobs,” the official said, adding that additional incentive would be given to women employees, differently-abled, SC/ST or those from aspirational (backward) districts.
  • To avail benefits under the work-from-home scheme, employees will need to have an Aadhaar-linked Universal Account Number.
  • For employers, among other things, the policy proposes to provide 50% of the actual expenditure on technical infrastructure required for enabling such jobs, with a cap of Rs. 10,000 per job.

 

GS III: ECONOMY – SECTOR

Pharma sector growth hits 4-year low in FY18

  • Growth of the Indian pharmaceutical industry hit a four-year low in 2017-18, registering a percentage increase of only 3.03 % from 29.01 % in 2014-15.
  • When the 54th Parliamentary Standing Committee on Chemical and Fertilizers (2018-19) asked the Department of Pharmaceuticals the reason for the reduction in percentage growth of the pharmaceutical industry from 29% to 3%, the Department, in a written note, explained that “though the percentage increase has reduced, the annual turnover has increased continuously.’’
  • Sakthivel Selvaraj, director, health economics, financing and policy, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said that the domestic consumption reduced in 2017 because of the Goods Services Tax (GST) roll-out which forced the pharmaceutical industry to manage slow-moving stocks.
  • “Domestic growth, however, picked up from 2018 till January 2019 as per our records which shows 8-9 % growth. The sales have registered a robust domestic growth.”
  • Delhi State Medical Representative Organisation president K.K. Mittal said: “It is not just GST; even demonetisation had a very negative impact on the market growth.”

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING

7 banks fined for delayed SWIFT implementation

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has imposed a penalty of Rs. 4 crore on Karnataka Bank, Rs. 3 crore on City Union Bank, Rs. 2 crore on DCB Bank and Rs. 1 crore on Karur Vysya Bank Ltd. for delayed implementation of SWIFT-related operational controls.
  • Besides these four banks, the RBI has also fined Indian Bank (Rs. 4 crore), IOB (Rs. 3 crore) and United Bank of India (Rs. 3 crore) for the same violations.
  • SWIFT is the global messaging software used for transactions by financial entities.
  • Following the Rs. 14,000-crore fraud in Punjab National Bank, RBI had directed banks on time-bound implementation and strengthening of SWIFT-related operational controls, in a circular dated February 20, 2018.
  • Last week, SBI, Union Bank of India, Dena Bank and IDBI Bank had informed the exchanges about the monetary penalty imposed on them for non-compliance with various directions.
  • In September 2018, the RBI had also imposed Rs. 5 crore on KVB for non-compliance with its directions on “Income Recognition and Asset Classification norms, reporting of frauds, and on the need for discipline at the time of opening of current accounts.”

GS III: ECONOMY – GST

Bring LPG conversion kits under 5% GST: IAC

  • LPG conversion kits, which allow vehicles to run on LPG rather than petrol or diesel, are not luxury commodities and should be taxed under GST at 5% rather than the highest rate of 28%, the Indian Auto LPG Coalition (IAC) said in a statement.
  • While several countries worldwide have adopted the cleaner fuel, policy in India has, in fact, been a detriment to its adoption, the Coalition added.
  • It further said that putting an efficient and non-polluting fuel under the highest GST slab is counter-productive to the government’s attempts to clean India’s urban air quality.
  • Another detrimental policy that is hindering the growth of auto LPG is the archaic type approval norms governing vehicle conversions to gaseous fuels, it added.

Editorial
Mar 5 @ 1:45 pm
Editorial

5 MARCH 2019

Party and symbol

Delhi HC order on ‘Two Leaves’ deepens T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s political dilemma

The Delhi High Court verdict upholding the allotment of the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol to the AIADMK jointly led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy CM O. Panneerselvam has come as no surprise. The Election Commission’s November 23, 2017 order had ruled in its favour based on the group’s majority in its organisational and legislative wings. The claim of the faction headed by V.K. Sasikala, a confidante of the late Jayalalithaa, and her nephew, T.T.V. Dhinakaran, to the party’s name and symbol weakened after Mr. Palaniswami and Mr. Panneerselvam, who were in rival factions earlier, decided to come together in August 2017. Since then, they have consolidated their position by getting Mr. Dhinakaran’s loyalists among MLAs disqualified and outmanoeuvring him in both the party structure and in court cases. Their unity was forged with the common aim of keeping out Ms. Sasikala, who was briefly elected interim general secretary of the AIADMK after Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016, and her nephew. The court has ruled that the EC was well within its powers to apply the majority test and allot the symbol to the faction that had more members in the general council and in its complement of MLAs and MPs. The court did not entertain arguments that the Commission should have ruled against the Panneerselvam-Palaniswami faction because it had changed the party’s basic structure by abolishing the post of general secretary; and the contention that the Commission’s order was vitiated by malice because it granted additional opportunities for filing affidavits, after which many reneged on their earlier statements on which group they belonged to.

The Dhinakaran faction has decided to appeal in the Supreme Court against the order that has set back his political fortunes. At the same time, it wants a common symbol to contest elections. Mr. Dhinakaran himself won a by-election to the Assembly from the RK Nagar constituency as an independent with the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol. He may have to register his party, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), with the EC to get a common symbol. Ever since he began running a faction in the absence of Sasikala, who is serving a four-year prison term, he has been trying to make the best of bad situations. He spent months in a Delhi prison himself on an allegation that he attempted to bribe an unknown EC official to get the party symbol. His political survival has so far hinged on tactically preserving a dual identity: running a party on the one hand, and keeping his group’s claim to the AIADMK’s identity alive through court cases. It is clear he is seeking to preserve his claim until the mainstream leadership is defeated in an election, in the hope that a majority of the party’s primary members will rally behind him. The coming general elections and as many as 21 Assembly by-elections will be an acid test of his political survival.

Alarming spread

With H1N1 now a seasonal flu strain, care workers and others at risk must be vaccinated

In a short span of 55 days (till February 24) this year, the number of influenza A (H1N1) cases and deaths reported from India reached an alarming 14,803 and 448, respectively. The highest numbers were from Rajasthan (3,964), Delhi (2,738) and Gujarat (2,726). Uttar Pradesh was next, with 905. While Rajasthan and Gujarat had the highest number of deaths, at 137 and 88, respectively, Delhi recorded seven deaths despite recording around the same number of cases as Gujarat. There appears to be no let-up, with the number of cases and deaths steadily rising. What is more disturbing is that the number of cases reported till February 24 is nearly the same as that recorded in the whole of 2018 (14,992). At about 450, the number of deaths till February 24 is nearly half the total reported in 2018 (1,103). The actual number of cases and deaths this year is likely to be higher as West Bengal has not reported the data to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme. Moreover, the IDSP data are based only on laboratory confirmed cases and deaths. The H1N1 virus, which caused a pandemic in 2009, has since become a seasonal flu strain globally, including in India, and causes fewer deaths. According to the WHO, in 2009 the number of laboratory confirmed deaths caused by the pandemic strain was at least 18,500. But a 2012 paper in Lancet Infectious Diseases mentioned 2,84,000 deaths, which was 15 times more than the number of laboratory confirmed deaths.

On February 6, the Union Health Ministry had reviewed the preparedness and action taken by States to deal with influenza cases when the number of H1N1 cases and deaths stood at 6,701 and 226, respectively. Despite the number of cases and deaths more than doubling in less than 20 days since the review, the Ministry has made no additional effort to contain the spread. It has issued a guidance “recommending” vaccines for health-care workers, and deeming them “desirable” for those above 65 years of age and children between six months and eight years. Surprisingly, people with pre-existing chronic diseases, who are most susceptible to H1N1 complications according to the WHO, have been ignored — though its own statement released on February 6 had said more deaths were seen in people with diabetes and hypertension. With H1N1 becoming a seasonal flu virus strain in India even during summer, it is advisable that health-care workers and others at risk get themselves vaccinated. Despite the sharp increase in cases and deaths, the vaccine uptake has been low. Besides vaccination, there needs to be greater awareness so that people adopt precautionary measures such as frequent handwashing, and cough etiquette.

Question Bank
Mar 5 @ 2:30 pm
Question Bank

5th MARCH 2019

QUESTION BANK

(1 Question)

GS III: ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/solar-powerhouse/article26432189.ece

Q1.  The main reason for lesser uptake of rooftop solar installations among residential consumers is the lack of information. Suggest measures to increase awareness about the rooftop solar installations among residential consumers.

Ans.

  • India has set an ambitious target of achieving 40 GW of rooftop solar capacity by 2022. While there has been progress on rooftop solar installations among industries and commercial consumers, the uptake among residential consumers has been slow. Urban residential electricity consumers are still hesitant to consider rooftop solar power for their homes.
  • For residential urban consumers, one of the key barriers to installing rooftop solar systems is that they do not know who to contact to understand the processes to be followed and permissions required. There is no single source to access information, evaluate benefits and disadvantages, and examine if any government support (such as a financial subsidy) is available. Most of the technical information provided by various sources, including the government, tends to be Internet-based. A significant majority of consumers seek face-to-face discussions and recommendations from friends and family.
  • Devising simple, well-designed and creative ways to disseminate information is important to help consumers make informed decisions. Information must be made easily available to the consumers on the amount of shadow-free roof area needed for generating a unit of electricity and pricing; operating the system, after-sales maintenance and support; and reliable rooftop solar vendors.
  • The local electricity linesmen, electricity inspectors, and other nodal officials in the electricity department also have key roles to play. Building their capacities to disseminate such information and handle consumer queries and concerns, and providing basic training in billing and metering for solar power can go a long way in improving consumers’ experience.
  • Objective information must be put out through various avenues, so that it is accessible to all segments of the population and in local languages. Such awareness drives will reach larger audiences. Information kiosks can be set up in public institutions like banks to offer information on the technology, as well as on practical issues such as guidance on selecting vendors. A robust feedback mechanism can be put in place for consumers to share their experiences with others.
  • Consumer rights groups, rooftop solar system vendors, and resident welfare associations (RWAs) in larger cities are beginning to organise campaigns and workshops to generate awareness and create a dialogue with consumers. In November 2018, for instance, the Bangalore Apartments’ Federation held a workshop on residential rooftop solar to sensitise their members. Several RWAs have initiated discussions with residents to explore collective installation of rooftop solar, starting with common facilities like lifts and water pumps. Since the market for residential rooftop solar power is nascent, there are opportunities to learn from more mature consumer durable markets. For example, RWAs can tie up with vendors to organise demonstration programmes, so that consumers can observe, operate and understand how the system works.
  • It is important to also acknowledge that enthusiasm for rooftop solar energy largely comes from those with higher disposable incomes and who live in their own houses. This is one of the several reasons that electricity utilities are not very supportive of consumers generating their own power, as this would impact their revenues. Rooftop solar is a promising energy source for everyone, including socio-economically weaker consumers. However, awareness building sessions need to be socially inclusive and should take place during periods when consumers are likely to be at home.

The uptake of rooftop solar across economic categories is also contingent on policies that make it more accessible and affordable. Consumer groups and development organisations have a significant role in systematically following key policies and institutional procedures and ensuring that consumers’ concerns in accessing reliable information are addressed. Raising awareness and building consumer capacity to engage with the sector are crucial for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and for India to achieve its rooftop solar targets.

Daily Compilation (PDF)
Mar 5 @ 2:45 pm


 

UPSC syllabus for General studies Paper I of Preliminary (Prelims) Examination Starts with Current Events of national and international importance. Hence Current Affairs is an integral part of study for UPSC- Civil Services Examinations, not only for prelims but for mains as well. The important keyword here is “National and international importance”. Thus candidates are required to understand which news is important and relevant for UPSC CSE point of view. It may further be noted that UPSC doesn’t ask any factual questions, as such candidates are not required to learn or remember factual data.

Current Affairs for UPSC: Among others, news related to following topics are important and relevant:

  • Economic issues
  • Social issues
  • International / Bilateral / Multilateral Relations
  • Legislature / Bill / Act
  • Judiciary
  • Elections
  • Centre – State Relations
  • Inter–state Relations
  • Governance
  • Government schemes
  • Agriculture
  • Environment
  • Science & Technology
  • Internal security
  • Art & culture

 

For the benefits of IAS aspirants A. A. Shahs IAS Institute releases FREE Daily Current Affairs which is the best Online Current Affairs Free:

  1. Daily News Headlines from The Hindu newspaper (Videos)
  2. Daily News Analysis with proper heading and topics in downloadable PDf format
  3. Daily ‘The Hindu’ editorials in downloadable PDF format
  4. Monthly compilation of Topic-wise News In downloadable PDF format. This is monthly Current Affairs Notes available free online, which can be downloaded and saved. It is UPSC study material free for all.
  5. Daily Question Bank – Subjective questions with suggested links and answers.