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

Feb
1
Fri
2019
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Feb 1 @ 9:30 am
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News (Text)
Feb 1 @ 11:30 am

NEWS

1 FEBRUARY 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 – INDICATORS

‘Unemployment data based on draft report’

2.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Govt. revises up GDP growth to 7.2%

3.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-USA

Several Indians held across U.S. on visa fraud charges

4.

GS III: CORRUPTION

ED conducts searches in Uttar Pradesh ‘memorial’ scam

5.

GS III: DEFENCE

IAF chief flags delays in manufacture of equipment

6.

GS III: DEFENCE

BEL chosen to fortify naval air stations

7.

GS II: POLITY – RTI

Centre moves HC against CIC order on Army clash

8.

GS III: CORRUPTION

Saradha ponzi scam: CBI questions Mamata aide

9.

GS II: POLITY – CBI

Another judge exits case on CBI chief

10.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-EUROPE

Stop MPs’ meet on Kashmir, India tells U.K.

11.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – CLIMATE CHANGE

Frozen Arctic winds blow over North America

12.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – SOUTH AMERICA

Vote seeks EU recognition for Guaidó

13.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Centre firm on FDI rules deadline

14.

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING

RBI lifts curbs on three PSBs

15.

GS III: ECONOMY – GST

GST collections cross Rs. 1 lakh crore in January

16.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Core sector grows slowest in 18 months

17.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Central banks on gold-buying spree in 2018

18.

GS III: S&T – SPACE

Celestial billboards spark debate on who owns the sky

19.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – CLIMATE CHANGE

Giant cavity in Antarctic glacier signals rapid decay

 

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

‘Unemployment data based on draft report’

  • The government’s think tank NITI Aayog debunked claims of a news report that unemployment in 2017-18 was at a 45-year high.
  • The NITI Aayog said the report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), cited as the source for the report, was in fact a draft and not approved by the government.
  • A report in the Business Standard, which cited the NSSO’s periodic labour force survey — that is yet to be released — said the unemployment rate was 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • The only year of comparable data when the unemployment rate was higher was in 1972-73.
  • It was at 2.2% in 2011-12.
  • The NSSO report is a matter of much controversy, with the two external members of the National Statistical Commission citing the delay in its release as a major reason for their resignations on 28 January 2019.
  • The data reportedly showed that joblessness was higher in urban India (7.8%) than in rural India (5.3%).
  • Within this, it stood at 4% for rural males and 13.6% for rural females.
  • In urban India, joblessness was at 18.7% among males and a huge 27.2% among females.
  • Importantly, the data reportedly showed that the labour force participation rate (LFPR), the measure of people working or looking for jobs, declined from 39.5% in 2011-12 to 36.9% in 2017-18.
  • This phenomenon — of unemployment rising while the LFPR dipped — is a cause for serious worry, experts say, explaining that it probably shows that people are simply giving up on finding jobs and have stopped seeking work.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Govt. revises up GDP growth to 7.2%

  • The government revised its GDP growth forecast for 2017-18 to 7.2% from the earlier estimate of 6.7%.
  • It revised the actual growth rate in 2016-17 to 8.2% from 7.1%.
  • The revisions were made by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in its First Revised Estimates of National Income, Consumption Expenditure, Saving and Capital Formation, 2017-18.
  • These revisions have been criticised by economists, who say the numbers do not match with the ground realities.
  • This is especially the case in the demonetisation year of 2016-17, which shows a strong growth in sectors that were widely agreed to have been badly hit by the exercise.
  • “For 2016-17, this hike of 1.1 percentage points in GDP growth comes as a surprise because it was the demonetisation year,” D.K. Srivastava, chief policy adviser at EY India, said. “If you look at the demand side, the main factor for this is the increase in private final consumption expenditure, which has also increased 1 percentage point. That is inconsistent with the idea of people having less cash to make purchases.”
  • He further said the main driver of the upward revision on the output side in 2016-17 was the construction sector, which has been revised upwards by 4.7 percentage points. “Construction is also a sector which has a large informal sector component and all earlier analyses had indicated that demonetisation adversely affected the informal sectors,” Mr. Srivastava said. “So that is also a surprise.”
  • Looking at 2017-18, analysts say the government’s explanation does not hold water because the two main drivers of the upward revision — the mining and quarrying sector and the public administration sector — both have data that is compiled by the government itself and so should not have undergone such a vast revision.
  • “It is not something we are able to explain,” Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist at CARE Ratings, said. “The revisions where the growth rates are going up by 1 percentage point and 0.5 percentage points are difficult to reconcile with the ground-level facts.”

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-USA

Several Indians held across U.S. on visa fraud charges

  • Several people, the overwhelming majority of whom are highly likely to be Indian citizens or of Indian origin, have been arrested across cities in the U.S. on student visa fraud charges, according to court documents, news reports, first-hand witness accounts and legal and diplomatic sources.
  • Emerging patterns suggest most of the individuals are of Telugu origin.
  • In addition to the eight “educational agents” allegedly running the racket, an unspecified number of Indian students have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security in connection with the case.
  • The American Telugu Association has put the number of students arrested at 100 and says it has confirmation of arrest warrants for 600 students based on conversations with attorneys.
  • The fraud is based on a sting operation involving Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents who had posed as owners and employees of the University of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan, approximately between June 2017 and January 2019.
  • Students would pay to enrol in the University, giving the appearance that they were in approved educational programs and making normal progress towards getting a degree. However, the University had no faculty nor any classes, the indictment says, and the students were aware of this.
  • The “pay to stay” scheme allowed them to maintain their student visa (F-1) status and obtain work permits as part of the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) option open to qualified F-1 visa students.
  • In 2016, officials busted a similar scheme, making arrests in a case that involved the University of Northern New Jersey.

GS III: CORRUPTION

ED conducts searches in Uttar Pradesh ‘memorial’ scam

  • The Enforcement Directorate conducted searches in connection with the “Smarak” (memorial) scam during the tenure of Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh between 2007 and 2011.
  • “The searches have been carried out at seven places on the premises of the accused persons, including in Lucknow,” said an ED official.
  • The Directorate is conducting the money laundering probe on the basis of an FIR registered by the Uttar Pradesh State Vigilance Department in 2014, alleging a loss of more than Rs. 111 crore to the government exchequer and unlawful gain to the accused public servants and private individuals.
  • It is alleged that there were financial irregularities in the procurement of material for the construction of memorials in Noida and Lucknow between 2007 and 2012, which resulted in the losses.
  • The State government then headed by Mayawati had built the memorials, statues and parks at a cost of over Rs. 2,600 crore.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta had earlier prepared a report which identified several irregularities in the execution of the project.
  • Earlier in January 2019, the agency had raided several locations in a money laundering case booked to probe illegal mining in the State. The case has links to former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party.

GS III: DEFENCE

IAF chief flags delays in manufacture of equipment

  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) has not shifted any goal posts and is fully committed to indigenisation, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) B.S. Dhanoa said, while flagging delays in domestic development and manufacture of defence equipment.
  • “IAF has not shifted any goal posts as alleged. The development has taken such an incredibly long time that armament and technology has gone obsolete… I, as the service chief, can make concessions to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Will the enemy make concessions to me when I go and meet the enemy?” said ACM Dhanoa. “In combat, there is no silver medal. Either you win or you lose.”
  • His comments come in the backdrop of recent reports that the IAF has been changing parameters of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, adding to the delay in development.
  • The IAF has contracted for 40 LCA Mk-I jets, issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for 83 LCA Mk-IA variants and committed to procure 12 squadrons of LCA Mk-II and eventually the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
  • ACM Dhanoa said a crucial contribution to the success of indigenisation was also the sacrifice of IAF’s pilots in testing these aircraft to battle worthy standards.
  • We have lost 17 pilots and engineers in air accidents during testing and evaluation of the indigenous Marut, Kiran, Ajeet, Saras and early warning prototype aircraft,” he said.
  • Air power would remain a major player in future conflicts, he stated.
  • Investment in air power was an expensive proposition. For instance, each Su-30 costs Rs. 417 crores. Even the LCA Mk I costs Rs. 191 crores.
  • There had to be a mix high, medium and low technology, ACM Dhanoa said. “It’s the high end fighters and other equipment that help you shape the air battle for others to be able to carry out their task.” The Rafale jets and the S-400 air defence systems fit in this, he observed.
  • ACM Dhanoa said that as on date, the backlog with HAL due to a long overhaul cycle and delays in upgradation was approximately of one squadron Jaguars, nearly two squadrons of Su-30MKI and one squadron of Mirage-2000 jets.

GS III: DEFENCE

BEL chosen to fortify naval air stations

  • To strengthen the perimeter security of its air stations, the Navy has finalised a Rs. 700 crore contract with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for establishing an upgraded Naval Airfield Integrated Security System.
  • After terrorists attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station, in 2016 the system was formulated as a comprehensive project for upgrading the security of naval airfields, an official said.
  • The request for information went out in March 2016 for the project to be implemented at six major air stations.
  • From a field of 48 vendors who responded, three public sector undertakings qualified, and among them was BEL, which was declared the lowest bidder early this month. The contract was signed on January 22, and the implementation would be completed between January and June 2020,” the official said.
  • The measures forming part of the project include an anti-climbing fence, drain detection intrusion systems, a CCTV network and under-vehicle surveillance.

GS II: POLITY – RTI

Centre moves HC against CIC order on Army clash

  • The Centre has moved the Delhi High Court against an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose the pre-trial advice given by the Army’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch in connection with a 2012 clash between soldiers of the Ladakh-based 226 Field Regiment and their superiors.
  • In its appeal, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the incident had taken place on May 11-12, 2012 at Leh after the soldiers heard a rumour that one of them had died after being badly beaten up by three officers for allegedly molesting an officer’s wife.
  • The MoD’s pleas said that around 100-odd soldiers allegedly ransacked the officers’ mess of their unit, injured several of their senior officers, misbehaved with their wives and had engaged in other incidents of unruly behaviour.
  • The CIC had in January 2017 directed the MoD to provide RTI applicant, gunner Bikramjit Singh, the information regarding the advice given by JAG in the matter.
  • When this order was challenged by the Ministry in the High Court in May 2018, the court had refused to entertain it on the ground of delay.
  • Singh was dismissed from service in 2015 after a Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) for his participation in the mutiny.
  • As per the plea, he is lodged in a Central jail at Hoshiarpur, serving a prison term of 10 years as punishment.
  • The High Court has posted the case for hearing on April 1, 2019.

GS III: CORRUPTION

Saradha ponzi scam: CBI questions Mamata aide

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questioned Manik Majumdar, a close associate of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in connection with the Saradha Ponzi scam.
  • The agency is looking into the alleged transactions that took place following the purchase of Ms. Banerjee’s paintings by the Ponzi firm owners.

GS II: POLITY – CBI

Another judge exits case on CBI chief

  • Justice N.V. Ramana of the Supreme Court recused himself from hearing a petition challenging the government’s appointment of M. Nageshwar Rao as interim CBI Director.
  • Justice Ramana, who is in the line of seniority to be the Chief Justice of India, is the third apex court judge to exit the case in the past two weeks.
  • Citing personal reasons for his decision, the judge said Rao was from his home State and that he had attended the wedding ceremony of Mr. Rao’s daughter.
  • Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was the first to bow out from hearing the petition filed by NGO Common Cause and activist Anjali Bhardwaj.
  • Two days later, on January 24, the court’s number two judge, Justice A.K. Sikri, had followed suit.
  • Justice Sikri’s recusal came on the very morning of the day of an inconclusive meeting of the high-powered committee to pick a new CBI chief.
  • The committee, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, included Justice Gogoi and Opposition Leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
  • Kharge had raised objections about the list of persons shortlisted and the selection process.
  • With Justice Ramana’s recusal, the petition returns to the desk of the CJI, who will now have to allocate the case to another Bench.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-EUROPE

Stop MPs’ meet on Kashmir, India tells U.K.

  • India has registered its protest with the British government about an upcoming meet on Kashmir at the British Parliament, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
  • “We have told the United Kingdom [government] quite strongly that their territory must not be used for anti-India activity conferences or rallies, and we hope they will take it seriously, and take action against this kind of conference,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
  • The meeting in the House of Commons on February 4 is of the “All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan” (APPG-Pakistan) — a group that includes Conservative and Labour Party MPs.
  • Officials said they hoped that Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would not be given an official welcome during his visit to London.
  • The British High Commission said the visit by Mr. Qureshi was a “private” one.
  • India has raised the issue of “anti-India” groups within the U.K. often in the past few months.
  • In August 2018, the British government turned down an Indian request to cancel a pro-Khalistani rally in London.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – CLIMATE CHANGE

Frozen Arctic winds blow over North America

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – SOUTH AMERICA

Vote seeks EU recognition for Guaidó

  • The European Parliament voted to recognise Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó as acting President and urged the European Union (EU) and its member states to follow suit.
  • The vote joins the growing international pressure on President Nicolás Maduro and his remaining backers to step aside and allow free elections.
  • It does not change EU policy, but adds to calls for the EU executive and its member states to join the United States, Canada and Brazil in backing Mr. Guaidó.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Centre firm on FDI rules deadline

  • The government said it would not be extending the deadline for implementation of the new rules governing FDI in e-commerce.
  • The new rules will come into effect on 1 February, 2019 as per plan.
  • arge e-commerce firms such as Amazon and Flipkart have repeatedly approached the Centre seeking either dilution of the rules or extension of the deadline.
  • The new rules ban any firm that has any stake owned by an e-commerce company from selling on the platform run by that e-commerce company.
  • Further, no company that has 25% or more of its purchases from an e-commerce group firm may sell on that firm’s platform.

GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING

RBI lifts curbs on three PSBs

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to allow three public sector banks — Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra and Oriental Bank of Commerce — to exit the PCA framework following capital infusion by the government and a decline in net non-performing asset ratio.
  • The RBI, which conducted a review following a demand made by government to lift the restrictions in order to boost credit growth, said, “it was noted that a few banks are not in breach of the PCA (Prompt Corrective Action) parameters as per their published results for the quarter ending December 2018, except for return on assets (RoA).”
  • “However, though the RoA continues to be negative, the same is reflected in the capital adequacy indicator,” it added.
  • The PCA framework is triggered when a bank breaches one of the three risk thresholds, and crossing 6% net NPAs is one of them.
  • Bank of India had made significant higher provisioning during the third quarter which saw net NPA ratio declining to 5.87% from 10.29% a year ago.
  • Similarly, Bank of Maharashtra brought down its net NPA ratio to 5.91% from 12.17%. Both the banks reported heavy losses in the third quarter.
  • OBC, which had made Rs. 145 crore net profit in the third quarter, reported net NPA ratio of 7.15% at the end of the October-December quarter.
  • RBI justified its action by saying “though the net NPA ratio was 7.15%, as per the published results of third quarter, the government has since infused sufficient capital and bank has brought the net NPA ratio to less than 6%.”

GS III: ECONOMY – GST

GST collections cross Rs. 1 lakh crore in January

  • The government said that Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections crossed the Rs. 1 lakh-crore mark in January 2019, the third month this financial year it would have done so.
  • This increase has been achieved despite various tax relief measures implemented by the GST Council to lower the tax burden on the consumers.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Core sector grows slowest in 18 months

  • Eight core sectors grew at their slowest pace in 18 months at 2.6% in December 2018 due to the fall in output of crude oil, refinery products and fertilizers, official data showed.
  • The previous lowest expansion in output of these key sectors was recorded in June 2017 at 1%.
  • The growth rate of the eight core infrastructure sectors — coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilizers, steel, cement and electricity — stood at 3.8% in December 2017.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Central banks on gold-buying spree in 2018

  • High and volatile domestic prices of gold led to a marginal dip in the demand for the precious metal in India in 2018, even as central banks across the globe upped their buying to end the year at the highest level since 1971 and also the second-highest annual purchase ever recorded.
  • According to the latest report by World Gold Council (WGC), central banks bought 651.5 tonnes of gold in 2018, which was 74% higher than 2017 and also the second highest yearly total on record.
  • Incidentally, net purchases jumped to their highest level since the end of U.S. dollar convertibility into gold in 1971, as a greater pool of central banks turned to gold as a diversifier.
  • Alistair Hewitt, Head of Market Intelligence, WGC, attributed the surge in central bank buying to concerns related to slowdown in global growth, heightened geopolitical tensions, and financial market volatility.
  • Meanwhile, global gold demand reached 4,345.1 tonnes in 2018, up 4%, when compared to 2017 and in line with the five-year average demand of 4,347.5 tonnes.

GS III: S&T – SPACE

Celestial billboards spark debate on who owns the sky

  • StartRocket, a Russian start-up aims to put billboards in space.
  • The firm plans to turn hundreds of tiny satellites into a massive display visible from the earth — something its CEO, Vlad Sitnikov, said would make him the first man to draw in space since the ancient Greeks grouped stars into constellations..
  • From space hotels to asteroid mining, the ambitious project is the latest in a series of ventures, often backed by capital and technology from Silicon Valley, looking at outer space as a new business frontier.
  • But since it was announced in January 2019, the initiative has angered astronomers and raised questions about the need to better regulate who owns the skies — and what is in them.
  • The team aims to put 200 tiny satellites, known as CubeSats, at an altitude of about 500 kilometres in the lower orbit by 2021.
  • The satellites, each equipped with a sun-reflecting sail, would fly close together to comprise the pixels of a giant screen that could be switched on and off to display short words or logos.
  • Production costs alone are expected to be more than $150 million, he said.
  • The firm plans to charge about $200,000 for every eight hours of advertising.
  • In 2018, U.S.-New Zealand rocket propulsion company Rocket Lab launched a shiny disco ball called Humanity Star into orbit, where it remained visible to the human eye for months.

 

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – CLIMATE CHANGE

Giant cavity in Antarctic glacier signals rapid decay

  • NASA scientists have discovered a gigantic cavity, almost 300 metres tall, growing at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, indicating rapid decay of the ice sheet and acceleration in global sea levels due to climate change.
  • The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers’ undersides in calculating how fast sea levels will rise in response to warming.
  • The size and explosive growth rate of the hole, however, surprised them. It is big enough to have contained 14 billion tonnes of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years.
  • The cavity was revealed by ice-penetrating radar in NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne campaign beginning in 2010 that studies connections between the polar regions and the global climate.

Editorial
Feb 1 @ 11:45 am
Editorial

1 FEBRUARY 2019

Not kosher

The Chanda Kochhar case raises issues of corporate governance that go well beyond her

The inquiry by former Supreme Court judge Justice B.N. Srikrishna into the allegations against former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar has taken eight long months to confirm what seems apparent – that she did not conduct herself as she should have in relation to conflict-of-interest issues. It was only last week that the Central Bureau of Investigation filed an FIR against Ms. Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar, head of the Videocon group Venugopal Dhoot and ICICI Bank executives for sanction of credit facilities in violation of rules, that caused a loss of Rs. 1,730 crore to the bank. The investigating agency has a long way to go before it establishes whether the loans were given in return for financial favours, a charge that is at the heart of booking them for criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption. But clearly, Ms. Kochhar erred, and badly at that, in not disclosing to the bank’s board her husband’s business connections with the Videocon group, which was a client of the bank. Worse, she failed to display the correctness expected of her by sitting on committees that sanctioned credit facilities to Videocon when she ought to have recused herself. Just a day after a Rs. 300-crore loan was disbursed to Videocon International Electronics in 2009, Mr. Kochhar’s NuPower Renewables received Rs. 64 crore from the Videocon group. Whether this was a quid pro quo for the loan, as the CBI suggests, needs to be proved. But there is no denying that it made for poor, even suspicious, optics.

The inquiry report holds her guilty of violation of the bank’s “code of conduct, its framework for dealing with conflict of interest and fiduciary duties, and in terms of applicable Indian laws, rules and regulations.” The bank’s board has accepted the report and decided to treat her voluntary resignation from the bank in October as “termination for cause”, also deciding to claw back all bonuses paid to her since April 2009, hold back unpaid amounts and divest her of her stock option entitlements. These are strong penalties, but the question is: how did the board give her a clean chit as recently as March last year? It had then reposed its full confidence and faith in Ms. Kochhar and commended her and the management team for their “hard work and dedication”. It is impossible to believe the board was not aware of the allegations against the CEO given that a whistle-blower had made them public in October 2016. Was the board then influenced by Ms. Kochhar into giving her a good conduct certificate? These are uncomfortable questions that raise doubts over the standards of corporate governance at one of India’s largest banks. The ICICI Bank episode is only one among several instances of governance lapses in corporate India in recent times. Clearly, regulators need to up their game.

On a cliff edge

Britain veers to a hard Brexit as Prime Minister May continues to placate Tory hardliners

The prospects for Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union on March 29 have receded further, even as MPs rallied to stop a no-deal scenario. An amendment to the draft bill on the termination of London’s membership of the bloc obliges Prime Minister Theresa May to renegotiate her withdrawal agreement with Brussels. A Tory backbencher’s proposal calls on the government to come up with alternatives to the Irish backstop, a central tenet of the deal Britain agreed with the rest of the EU. The arrangement is meant to guarantee continuation of the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if London and Brussels fail to strike a concrete relationship after Brexit. The reservations that Conservative Eurosceptics have over the backstop was a crucial factor why Ms. May delayed a House of Commons vote on her withdrawal agreement. Her subsequent attempts to secure assurances from Brussels to set a time limit on the backstop, or for Britain to quit the mechanism unilaterally, yielded no tangible outcome. A strong Eurosceptic opposition on the issue was also the reason for Ms. May’s overwhelming defeat in the House of Commons a fortnight ago. Ironically, this is the same deal Ms. May has all along insisted as being the one that could deliver the Brexit that people voted for, and to avoid Britain’s crashing out of the EU. Soon after the passage of the amendment on Tuesday, the President of the European Council reiterated the bloc’s unanimous position, ruling out a reopening of the withdrawal agreement. The Irish government has been equally categorical that as the basic guarantor of the 1998 Good Friday accord, the soft border was non-negotiable.

With less than 60 days to the deadline, the scope to overcome such fundamental differences in approach is rather narrow. Moreover, the Commons voted down a move, by Conservative and Labour proponents, to initiate legislation to defer the leave date. The latter had hoped the postponement plan would be a way to gain time, if the government failed to reach any agreement with Brussels or could not secure ratification at Westminster by late-February. Opponents, including Ms. May, dubbed the idea a remainer’s ploy to delay Brexit, or worse still, to lay the groundwork for a second referendum. But Parliament has wrested control of the Brexit process, and the demand to defer the deadline could well resurface. In that event, the EU’s favourable disposition to extend the Article 50 process could serve to influence the parliamentary balance. But Ms. May has seemed reluctant to confront the extreme stance of her Tory backbenchers and might remain hostage to a hard Brexit reality, notwithstanding the resulting chaos and upheaval. That outcome is surely not one that most leave voters would have even remotely imagined.

Question Bank
Feb 1 @ 2:30 pm
Question Bank

1st FEBRUARY 2019

QUESTION BANK

(2 Questions)

Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.

Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/heading-towards-strategic-instability/article26142181.ece

Q1. Discuss the need to set up the of three separate joint commands to deal with new challenges to India’s national security in the cyber, space and special operations domains.

Ans.

  • In late 2018, the government decided to set up three new agencies — the Defence Cyber Agency, the Defence Space Agency and the Special Operations Division — in order to address the new age challenges to national security. While this is indeed a useful step in the right direction, it is also important to note that the constitution of these agencies is a far cry from the crucial recommendations given by the Naresh Chandra Task Force and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, both of which had suggested the formation of three separate joint commands to deal with new challenges to India’s national security in the cyber, space and special operations domains.
  • There is a revolution in military affairs that seems to have attracted the attention of strategic analysts and policy planners across the world. The current focus in military thinking across the world is increasingly moving away from traditional heavy-duty military hardware to high-tech innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, satellite jammers, hypersonic strike technology, advanced cyber capabilities and spectrum denial and high-energy lasers. In the light of the unprecedented capabilities that these systems offer, there is also an increased focus on developing suitable command and control as well as doctrinal concepts to accommodate and calibrate them.
  • Hypersonic glide vehicles replace conventional delivery systems, real time tracking and surveillance make major strides, and AI-enabled systems take over, survivability of nuclear arsenal, which lies at the heart of great power stability, could take a severe beating.
  • The arrival of these new technologies have increased emerging strategic competition among great powers. The U.S.’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty is perhaps an indication of a potential arms race in the offing.
  • There is an inherent paradox vis-à-vis high technology-enabled military systems. While on the one hand, it is imperative for states to redesign their systems in the light of these new technologies, especially the digital and cyber components, this also makes the cyber- and digital-enabled systems vulnerable to covert cyberattacks. More so, given that such surreptitious attacks might take place in the early stages of a conflict, ensuing confusion and scare might lead to uncontrolled escalation with little time for assessment and judgement.
  • The biggest fear about these technologies, the implications of which we don’t fully understand yet, is their potential to increase the risks of intentional and inadvertent nuclear use. Such scenarios may be unlikely but not improbable.
  • The fear of a bolt-from-the-blue attack against one’s command and control systems or a disabling strike against strategic arsenal using new technological solutions is likely to dominate the strategic mindspace of great powers in the days ahead, thereby further deepening mistrust and creating instability. Therefore, the possibility of emerging military technologies prompting inadvertent escalation and conflict cannot and should not be ruled out.
  • China has emerged as a key actor in the field of emerging military technologies. This is something that will concern New Delhi in the days ahead. Some analysts believe that Beijing is in the lead position in emerging technologies with potential military applications such as quantum computing, 3D printing, hypersonic missiles and AI. If indeed, Beijing continues to develop hypersonic systems, for instance, it could potentially target a range of targets in the U.S. While the Chinese focus is evidently on U.S. capabilities, which China interprets as a potential threat, this is not without latent concerns for New Delhi.

GS II: SOCIAL-RESERVATIONS

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/is-there-a-case-for-reservation-for-the-forward-classes/article26141628.ece

Q2. Discuss the pros and cons of reservation for the forward classes.

Ans.

PROS

  • Social justice is inclusive in nature. It means ensuring that no marker of backwardness is left untouched. Poverty is one such marker of backwardness, and a very strong one, which denies certain basic rights, and equality in society, to individuals affected by it.
  • The Preamble, which is the soul of the Constitution, promises to all citizens social, economic and political justice. The economic status of citizens constitutes one of the three tests of backwardness. Hence, the ends of social justice cannot be truly met if we exclude the economically backward sections of society from availing the fruits of development in an equal manner.
  • Poverty denies equality of opportunity to individuals in education and employment. It denies them the opportunity of a decent and sustainable livelihood. Reservation, by the prevalent logic, ensures participation of the disadvantaged sections in employment through positive discrimination. Hence, there was a strong case for making a provision for reservation for the economically backward in the general category in education and employment to ensure that they also get reasonable opportunities to advance in life.
  • The present provision of 10% reservation for the economically backward in the general category is being referred to as reservation for the ‘savarnas’, or upper castes. However, reservation under this category is not limited to upper caste Hindus; it is available to the poor in all general categories, who were not eligible for reservation under any other category hitherto. As for the upper caste Hindus, a significant proportion of the population live in the villages and in remote areas with limited economic opportunities. They face disadvantages in the matter of getting access to education and employment. Hence, it was necessary to lend a helping hand to them as well.
  • The Supreme Court’s capping of reservation at 50% in the famous Indira Sawhney case, is applicable only for reservation for the socially and educationally backward category, i.e. to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SCs/STs) and the Other Backward Classes (OBC) categories under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution. It does not apply to the present case of reservation, which has been provided as a special provision through a constitutional amendment.

CONS

  • Granting 10% reservation in government jobs and education institutions to households in the general category with an income of less than ₹8 lakh per annum will make little difference to their poverty levels as corporate-led jobless growth has increased income inequality exponentially.
  • The promise of existing reservations is nowhere near to being fully realised. Public spending for scholarships for students in the SC/ST/OBC categories (and minority students) has come to a near halt.
  • The move reverses the progress made in India over decades. It was perhaps put in place as the government was unable to provide any relief from the economic distress felt by small farmers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, traders and the working class. In fact, this distress was worsened by the impact of the rash decision called demonetisation and the poor implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.

CONCLUSION

  • Since the new amendment talks of economic criteria and addresses the grievances of Brahmins, Baniyas, Patels, Marathas, Gujjars, Thakurs and even Muslims and Christians for the first time, it will be broad-based. It is the responsibility of the state to uplift the poor. Traditionally marginalised sections need affirmative action. But the current policy says those households earning less than ₹8 lakh annually or owning less than 5 acres of land can avail of the quota. That is a salary of ₹66,000 a month.
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NEWS

2 FEBRUARY 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 – INTERIM BUDGET

SOP OPERA

2.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Populist schemes breach convention: Oppn.

3.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Stamp duty tweak may lower cost, ease compliance

4.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Budget promise: file returns, get tax refund in 24 hours

5.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Farm pension: just a drizzle in the drought?

6.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Not really bullish on native cow breeds

7.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

New panel for welfare of nomadic communities

8.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Funds cut for job scheme

9.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Change in fiscal deficit glide path may put Reserve Bank in a fix

10.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Increased govt. sourcing, 2% subvention for loans a boost for MSMEs

11.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

AI centre on the anvil

12.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Goyal unveils Vision 2030, highlighting 10 dimensions

13.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Vision 2030 to push-start EVs, mass transportation

14.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Railways gets Rs. 1.59 lakh cr., the highest-ever allocation

15.

GS III: CORRUPTION

Assam admits scholarship distribution scam

16.

GS III: DEFENCE

Two IAF pilots killed in Mirage crash

17.

GS I: CULTURE

Who has the right to light ‘makaravilakku’?

18.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

Dasara elephants help trap tiger on the prowl

19.

GS II: POLITY – CBI

Appointment of interim CBI chief had panel’s nod: Centre

20.

GS II: POLITY – BILL/ACT

Govt. gives up on triple talaq Bill

21.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

U.S. to pull out of nuclear Treaty

22.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-USA

129 of 130 arrested in U.S. visa fraud scheme are Indians

23.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA

Afghan youth are wary of Taliban’s return

24.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Amazon removes many products from its India website

25.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Manufacturing PMI rises to 53.9 in January

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

SOP OPERA

  • With a keen eye on the election, the interim Budget 2019-20 contained elements that are aimed at benefiting three major segments of the population — farmers, informal sector workers, and salaried taxpayers — with announcements of an income support scheme for farmers, a new pension scheme for informal sector workers, and tax exemptions for salaried workers.
  • Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, in his interim Budget speech on 1 February 2019, announced the creation of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme, which is aimed at providing direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year to vulnerable landholding farmers having cultivable land up to 2 hectares.
  • This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • This programme will be funded by the Government of India and will entail an annual expenditure of Rs. 75,000 crore
  • What was notable about the announcement, however, was that he allocated Rs. 20,000 crore for the scheme for the current financial year.
  • The scheme is effective from December 1, 2018.
  • Opposition party members were quick to point out that this was designed to evade the Election Commission rules regarding announcements that are allowed to be made in an election year.
  • The Finance Minister was, however, silent on how these high-expenditure schemes would be financed.
  • In fact, he even admitted that implementing the farmers’ income transfer scheme was the reason why the government would be missing its fiscal deficit target not just for the current year but also for the next year.
  • He said the fiscal deficit would be 3.4% of the GDP for both 2018-19 and 2019-20, compared with a target of 3.3% and 3.1% respectively.
  • While keeping tax rates unchanged, the Finance Minister announced that those earning up to Rs. 5 lakh a year would be exempt from income tax.
  • This, he said, effectively meant that those earning Rs. 6.5 lakh a year would not need to pay tax if they made full use of the 1.5 lakh exemption available under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act.
  • He said the standard deduction limit for salaried taxpayers would be raised to Rs. 50,000 from the Rs. 40,000 announced in last year’s Budget. “This will provide additional tax benefit of Rs. 4,700 crore to more than three crore salary earners and pensioners,” the Finance Minister said.
  • In another move designed to appeal to the masses, he said the Tax Deduction at Source (TDS) threshold on interest earned on bank/post office deposits has been proposed to be raised from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 40,000.
  • Further, the TDS threshold for deduction of tax on rent has also been proposed to be increased from Rs. 1,80,000 to Rs. 2,40,000.
  • He also proposed to exempt the levy of income tax on notional rent on a second self-occupied house. Currently, income tax on notional rent is payable if one has more than one self-occupied house.
  • He said that this relief was being provided considering the difficulty of the middle class having to maintain families at two locations on account of their jobs, children’s education, or the care of parents.
  • In a bid to win over informal sector workers, the Finance Minister announced the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan Scheme designed to ensure a fixed monthly pension of Rs. 3,000 per month for informal sector workers above the age of 60.
  • The contribution would be Rs. 100 per month for those joining the scheme at the age of 29, while it would be just Rs. 55 a month for those joining at the age of 18.
  • The government will match the monthly contributions with an equal contribution of its own.
  • However, the Budget documents show that an existing pension scheme, which already benefits more than 3 crore poor people who are senior citizens, disabled or widows, has had its allocation slashed. The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), a pension scheme administered by the Ministry of Rural Development, had originally been allocated Rs. 9,975 crore in the 2018-19 Budget.
  • For 2019-20, the scheme’s allocation has been cut to Rs. 9,200 crore, a drop of Rs. 775 crore.
  • The NSAP featured in last year’s Budget speech, when then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the government was “implementing a comprehensive social security and protection programme to reach every household of old, widows, orphaned children, divyaang and deprived as per the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC).”
  • Using the SECC criteria as opposed to the existing Below Poverty Line criteria would have doubled the pension coverage to more than 6 crore people.
  • This year, Mr. Goyal made no mention of the NSAP, but reduced next year’s allocation from the current year’s estimates.
  • Coming just a day after the government revised significantly upwards the GDP growth estimates for 2016-17 and 2017-18, the Finance Minister’s Budget speech spent a considerable amount of time on the state of the economy and how it was a bright spot in the world.
  • “The country witnessed its best phase of macro-economic stability during this period,” Mr. Goyal said.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Populist schemes breach convention: Oppn.

  • The announcement of a string of populist measures in the interim Budget has been accompanied by a breach of propriety associated with the exercise ahead of the general election, say Opposition leaders, former officials and independent experts.
  • While the Opposition Congress accused the government of “trampling on time-honoured conventions,” independent experts concur that Finance Minister Piyush Goyal expanded the scope of the interim Budget in an unprecedented fashion.
  • The interim Budget is being questioned on grounds of propriety for the significant changes in the tax code it proposes and the retrospective effect of a welfare measure that would kick off from the current financial year.
  • Goyal announced an income transfer scheme of Rs. 6,000 a year for farmers with land holding of two hectares or less, effective from December 1, 2018. He also said he had allocated Rs. 20,000 crore for this in the current financial year itself. The payment is to be made in three tranches through the year of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • “The farmers’ scheme has been made effective from December 1, 2018,” Mr. Chidambaram told The Hindu. “How is that possible? I think it is a clumsy attempt to escape the scrutiny of the Election Commission when they transfer Rs. 2,000 in March!”
  • “The government’s real intention is clear from the decision to begin this scheme retrospectively and to pass on the first instalment within this financial year,” said Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav.
  • It’s a clear attempt to dodge the model code of conduct … It is a double insult that the government expects to get farmers’ votes so cheap. Farmers will surely reject this dishonourable bargain.”
  • He added that the exclusion of tenant farmers, landless cultivators and Adivasi farmers was troubling.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Stamp duty tweak may lower cost, ease compliance

  • From a capital markets perspective, the Union Budget 2019-20 did not have much to offer except the announcement related to the manner in which stamp duty would be levied on securities transactions.
  • While presenting the Budget, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said stamp duty would be levied at a single point through the stock exchange mechanism and thereafter it would be shared with the particular State based on the buyer’s domicile.
  • Incidentally, capital market participants have, for long, been demanding a review of the levy of stamp duty on stock exchange transactions, though the demand was always for abolition of the duty, especially since securities transaction tax (STT) is levied on all such transactions.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Budget promise: file returns, get tax refund in 24 hours

  • Union Minister Piyush Goyal, in his interim Budget, announced several steps to reduce tax scrutiny and automate the process to reduce the possibility of harassment by the tax man.
  • The Income Tax department now functions online,” Mr. Goyal said. “Last year, 99.54% of the returns were accepted as they were filed.”
  • He said the government had approved a “path-breaking, technology-intensive” project to transform the Income Tax department into a more assessee-friendly one. “All returns will be processed in 24 hours and refunds issued simultaneously,” he said. “Within the next two years, almost all verification and assessment of returns will be done electronically through anonymised back office, manned by tax experts and officials, without any personal interface between taxpayers and tax officers.”
  • The Minister said that due to the steps already taken to widen the tax base and ease the compliance process, direct tax collections increased to almost Rs. 12 lakh crore in the current financial year, from Rs. 6.38 lakh crore in 2013-14.
  • The number of returns filed, a measure of compliance, increased from 3.79 crore to 6.85 crore over this period, exhibiting an 80% growth in the tax base.
  • On indirect taxes, the Minister said despite many rate reductions under the Goods and Services Tax regime, the revenue trends were encouraging. The average monthly tax collections this year stood at Rs. 97,100 crore so far, compared to Rs. 89,700 crore last year.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Farm pension: just a drizzle in the drought?

  • In a bid to woo the farming community before the Lok Sabha election, the Centre has announced an annual income support of Rs. 6,000 to small landowning farmers, with an initial sum of Rs. 2,000 to be paid by the end of March 2019.
  • The new scheme, called the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), will benefit more than 12 crore farming families which own cultivable land up to 2 hectares.
  • The annual support of Rs. 6,000 will be paid directly into beneficiary bank accounts over the course of the year in three instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • The scheme is applicable with retrospective effect from December 2018 and will be fully funded by the Union government.
  • It has been allocated Rs. 20,000 crore in the revised estimates for the current financial year 2018-19, as well as Rs. 75,000 crore for the next financial year 2019-20.
  • Other measures announced in the Budget include a 2-5% interest subvention for loans taken by farmers hit by natural disasters or for livestock farming and fisheries.
  • “This is too little, too late,” said Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist at ICRIER. “At Rs. 500 per month, it will amount to less than one-fifth of an average household’s income. Per annum, it’s peanuts.” He suggested that if the government really wanted to make a difference through an income support scheme, it should double the amount given by reducing some food and fertilizer subsidies.
  • The Central scheme’s payout is lower than what is being given in similar schemes by two States — Telangana and Odisha.
  • Telengana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme and Odisha’s KALIA scheme offer more than the Central scheme.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Not really bullish on native cow breeds

  • Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced the allotment of Rs. 750 crore to the Rashtriya Gokul Mission (RGM) under which farmers who rear the best indigenous breeds of cattle win prizes from the government.
  • The outlay was, it emerged, the revised estimate for 2018-19.
  • But when it came to funds for 2019-20, it was only Rs. 302 crore, nearly the same as the original allocation of Rs. 301.5 crore in last year’s Budget.
  • The Mission is managed by the Department of Animal Health and Husbandry (DAHD).
  • Budget documents show that the Department only managed to spend Rs. 187.73 crore under the scheme in 2017-18, although Gopal Ratna and Kamdhenu awards were instituted for breeders since that year, and 43 winners have been chosen.
  • The RGM was launched in December 2014 with an outlay of Rs. 500 crore (2014-15 to 2016-2017) for developing and conserving indigenous breeds through selective breeding and genetically upgrading ‘nondescript’ bovine population.
  • The RGM aims to develop ‘Gokul Gram’ care centres for indigenous breeds of high “genetic merit” as well as other lesser breeds.
  • The objective is to get native breeds to produce more milk, be more fecund, and to raise the quality of Indian cows and bulls to eventually outdo Jerseys and Holsteins.
  • Though Mr. Goyal talked of “cow welfare” and farmer distress, the RGM doesn’t look at ageing and unproductive cattle, posing a problem for farmers.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

New panel for welfare of nomadic communities

  • The Centre will form a welfare panel for nomadic, semi-nomadic and de-notified communities, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced in the Interim Budget speech.
  • To start with, a committee will be set up under NITI Aayog to complete the task of identifying de-notified, nomadic and semi-nomadic communities, especially as they move from place to place in search of a livelihood.
  • The committee will follow up on the work of the Renke Commission and the Idate Commission.
  • A Welfare Development Board will also be set up under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to design and implement programmes for these hard-to-reach communities, Mr. Goyal said.
  • He said a substantial increase is proposed in the allocation for welfare of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Gist of Recommendations of the Renke Commission, 2008

1.      Union Government initiate steps to enumerate DNTs in the next census due in 2011

2.      For implemention of welfare Schemes for DNTs State-wise list of such tribes should b e prepared.

3.      Advisory Committees may be made at District and State level to assist the socio-economic condition of the DNTs, so that action plan can be drawn for their welfare.

4.      State Government may take special steps to issue Caste Certificates and ration cards to every member of DNT, and BPL Certificates and to the concerned members, expeditiously.

5.      Union of India may take special campaign for issue of voter ID to the eligible members of DNT.

6.      Basic civic amenities be provided to the DNTs living in colonies and clusters.

7.      Ministry of SJ&E may earmark outlay for the welfare of DNTs.

8.      Central should modify the existing Housing Schemes in urban/rural areas and earmark specifically for DNTs.

9.      Special drive be made for awareness of DNTs particularly among women to avail the benefit of various schemes for educational empowerment. Special Residential Schools for DNT Boys and Girls be made to encourage education among them.

10.  Skill Development Programmes be taken up for DNTs to improve their self employability and wage employment, in collaboration with National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC), the Central Cottage Industries Corporation of India Limited, the Handicrafts and Handlooms Exports Corporations of India Limited.

11.  States/UTs and Central Ministries should formulate and implement DNT Sub-Plan for DNTs

12.  Separate Finance and Development Corporation for DNTs, like National Scheduled Castes Finance & Development Corporation, may be set up at the centre.

13.  Considering the gravity of their plight, there is a need for a separate department for the welfare of DNTs at the State level and separate Ministry/Department for the welfare of DNTs at the Centre.

14.  It is necessary that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 be, mutatis mutandis, made applicable to DNTs, and the implementation of the same be reviewed and monitored from time to time.

15.  Constitution may be amended to include “Scheduled Communities” under Article 330 and Article 332 to enable these communities to be eligible for reservation of seats in the Houses of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.

16.  Seats may be reserved in Block/Taluka Panchayats and Zila Pandhayats/Zila Parishads, and the Urban Local Bodies for DNTs wherever there population is concentrated.

17.  To mobilise additional resources to improve the socio-economic conditions of DNTS, it is suggested that 10% of the funds earmarked for M.P. Local Area Development Fund.

18.  It is suggested that the DNTs be given 10% reservation in Government jobs even if the total reservation exceeds 50%.

19.  Research Institutes should be set up by the States/UTs for DNTs.

20.  A multicultural complex/Academy may be set up in every State/UT to develop, preserve and exhibit the diverse and rich cultural heritage of DNTs.

Idate Commission

·         In May 2018, the National Commission for Denotified Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, chaired by Bhiku Ramji Idate has submitted its report.

·         The commission was constituted in January 2015 for a three-year temporary term, following which it had to submit its report identifying these communities state-wise, assessing their development status, and recommending ways to uplift them.

·         The commission has studied the earlier report of Renke Commission.

1.      The report has called Denotified Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes poorest of the poor, most marginalised and most downtrodden communities who are subje ct to social stigma, atrocity and exclusion.

2.      The commission has recommended giving protection to Denotified Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes the communities under the Atrocities Act.

3.      The Idate Commission has recommended a Constitutional amendment so that Scheduled NT/ DNT/ SNT can be added as a third category after Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Act.

4.      The report states the government should provide strong legal protections and constitutional safeguards, including the extension of the Protection of Atrocities Act to the NT/ DNT/ SNT communities by creating a separate Third schedule as Scheduled De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes.

5.      In its report, the commission has noted that entire communities were branded as criminals under the colonial rule through enforcement of the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. Despite repeal of the Act after Independence, subsequent legislations have forcibly alienated them from their traditional occupation  and habitations.

6.      Noting that all that the Centre has done so far are “symbolic reparations”, the Idate Commission advocated for release of 2011 caste census, which is yet to be made public, at least on the DT/ NT/ SNT community, so that policies can be made specifically for these communities.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Funds cut for job scheme

  • The Interim Budget may have provided a bonus for landholding farmers, but the jobs guarantee scheme, which is a lifeline for landless labourers and other rural workers, faces a continued funds crunch.
  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme was allocated only Rs. 60,000 crore for the next financial year, slightly lower than its revised estimate of Rs. 61,084 crore for the current year.
  • Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Additional amount would be provided if required.”
  • The last Budget had announced an original allocation of Rs. 55,000 crore for the scheme for 2018-19.
  • However, by the end of the 2018, the scheme had already exhausted 99% of its funding and had a negative net balance of Rs. 4,413 crore according to its financial statement on February 1.
  • Early in January 2019, the Centre had announced an additional allocation of Rs. 6,084 crore for MGNREGA.
  • Recognising that this amount was unlikely to suffice for the remainder of the year, the Rural Development Ministry had requested another supplementary allocation of Rs. 5,000 crore.
  • Instead of increasing this year’s allocation, however, this Budget has actually reduced next year’s allocation for the scheme.
  • Activists have warned that the funding crunch is resulting in difficulties in meeting the demand for work, as well as delayed payment of wages to workers.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Change in fiscal deficit glide path may put Reserve Bank in a fix

  • The government’s decision to push the glide path for achieving 3% fiscal deficit target would weigh on the monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) when it meets in February 2019 to discuss the last monetary policy of the financial year, which will also be the first under the new Governor Shaktikanta Das.
  • In the Budget speech, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal revised the fiscal deficit target for 2018-19 to 3.4% from 3.3%.
  • He said it would be 3.4% in FY20, too.
  • “We have maintained the glide path towards our target of 3% of fiscal deficit to be achieved by 2020-21,” Mr. Goyal said.
  • Originally, the target was to reach a fiscal deficit of 3.1% of GDP by March 2020, and 3% by March 2021.
  • At a time when retail inflation — the main yardstick of RBI for policymaking purpose — has fallen to an 18-month low of 2.2%, there is a case for the central bank to lower the interest rate and change stance to ‘neutral’.
  • In the wake of the development on the fiscal deficit front, the RBI may now opt for status quo.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Increased govt. sourcing, 2% subvention for loans a boost for MSMEs

  • The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector, the cornerstone of Indian economy, has got a boost in the Interim Budget, with the government offering 2% subvention for loans up to Rs. 1 crore and extending the Government eMarketplace (GeM) platform to support domestic services and trade.
  • With the Budget largely focused on the rural segments of the country, this will benefit the MSME sector greatly as 51% of all 634 lakh MSMEs are based in rural areas, consequently being a vital source of rural employment.
  • The government has increased the share of its procurements from MSMEs through GeM to 25% and 3% from only women-owned SMEs.
  • So far, GeM has registered transactions of more than Rs. 17,500 crore, which has led to savings of 25%-28%.
  • Trade Receivables Discounting System (TreDS) that has enabled working capital finance to MSMEs as well.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

AI centre on the anvil

  • Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal’s announcement of a ‘National Programme on Artificial Intelligence’ ties into an existing programme led by the Union Science Ministry called the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS).
  • The latter was cleared by the Union Cabinet in December 2018 at a total outlay of Rs. 3,660 crore for five years.
  • “Artificial Intelligence is an important component of cyber physical systems,” Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science of Technology, said, “However we are yet to identify a centre where this will be hosted.”
  • The budget document has allotted Rs. 5 crore for the year ahead for the mission.
  • Cyber physical systems deal with training youth for new kinds of jobs that would be created due to the destruction of conventional jobs and the mechanisation of jobs.
  • The mission aims to establish of 15 Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH), six Application Innovation Hubs (AIH), four Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP).
  • The hubs and TTRPs would connect to academics, industry, Central Ministries and State government in developing solutions at reputed academic, R&D and other organisations across the country in a hub and spoke model, according to a note from the Union Science Ministry.
  • About 40,000 jobs would be created in the short term and about 2,00,000 in long term, the note adds.
  • CPS and its associated technologies, include Artificial Intelligence (Al), Internet of Things (loT), Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DP), Big Data Analytics, robotics, quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum encryption (quantum key distribution), Data Science and Predictive Analytics.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Goyal unveils Vision 2030, highlighting 10 dimensions

  • Presenting the Interim Budget, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal laid out the government’s vision for India in 2030, highlighting “10 most important dimensions.”
  1. Stating that India aspires to become a $10-trillion economy in the next eight years, he said the first dimension or point of this vision is to build physical as well as social infrastructure for a $10-trillion economy and facilitate ease of living. “On the social infrastructure side, every family will have a roof on its head and will live in a healthy, clean and wholesome environment.”
  2. The second dimension of “our vision” is to create a Digital India,
  3. Making India a pollution-free nation is the third point which will be driven by electric vehicles and renewables.
  4. Expanding rural industrialisation using modern digital technologies to generate massive employment is the fourth dimension of our vision,” he said. This will be built upon this government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ programme.
  5. Under the fifth dimension, Mr. Goyal talked about clean rivers and safe drinking water for all Indians.
  6. “India’s long coastline has the potential of becoming the strength of the economy, particularly through exploitation of the Blue Economy…coastline and our ocean waters powering India’s development and growth is the sixth dimension of our vision,” the Minister said.
  7. “The seventh dimension of our vision aims at the outer skies.
  8. Making India self-sufficient in food, exporting to the world to meet their food needs and producing food in the most organic way is the eighth dimension of our vision.
  9. Next comes the vision of a healthy India. “By 2030, we will work towards a distress-free healthcare and a functional and comprehensive wellness system for all.”
  10. “Our vision can be delivered by Team India — our employees working together with the elected government, transforming India into a minimum government, maximum governance nation. This is the tenth dimension,” the Minister said.

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Vision 2030 to push-start EVs, mass transportation

  • The government’s commitment for a ‘Clean & Green’ India through proposals in the interim budget such as measures to reduce the use of fossil fuel in a phased manner by 2030 is expected to ensure faster adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and environment friendly mass transportation in the country.
  • The emphasis laid on electric mobility in the ‘2030 Vision’ is aimed at increasing energy security, reducing oil import dependence and reducing vehicular pollution.
  • The FAME II scheme, to be announced before March 31, would lay the roadmap for EVs.
  • The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said it would work with the government in creating an ecosystem that would enable India to achieve the target of becoming the world leader in electric mobility.
  • However, it requested the government to reduce the customs duty on lithium batteries from 5% to nil.

 

GS III: ECONOMY – INTERIM BUDGET

Railways gets Rs. 1.59 lakh cr., the highest-ever allocation

  • Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal proposed a capital expenditure of Rs. 1,58,658 crore for the Railways Ministry for the year 2019-20 in the Interim Budget.
  • This is the highest-ever allocation for the national transporter, surpassing last year’s allocation of Rs. 1,48,528 crore.
  • Goyal, who is also the Railways Minister, added that the operating ratio of Indian Railways is expected to improve to 95% in 2019-20 from 96.2% in 2018-19, and 98.4% in 2017-18.
  • An operating ratio of 95% means that railways is spending 95 paise to earn 100 paise.
  • “Capital support from the budget for railways is proposed at Rs. 64,587 crore in 2019-20 (BE). The Railways’ overall capital expenditure programme is of Rs. 1,58,658 crore.
  • Additionally, all unmanned level crossings on broad gauge network had been eliminated.
  • Talking about first indigenously developed and manufactured semi high-speed ‘Vande Bharat Express,’ Goyal said this was a major leap in technology wholly-developed by Indian engineers.

GS III: CORRUPTION

Assam admits scholarship distribution scam

  • The Assam government admitted that a scam has taken place in the distribution of scholarships to minority students from Class X and below, and the investigation has been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Assam Police.
  • Five persons have been already arrested for their involvement in the scam.

GS III: DEFENCE

Two IAF pilots killed in Mirage crash

  • Two squadron leaders of the Indian Air Force were killed when the Mirage 2000 aircraft they were flying crashed during take-off at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport here on Friday.
  • An upgraded Mirage 2000, the aircraft was on a customer acceptance flight when it crashed, a statement from HAL said.
  • “The plane is suspected to have developed a snag during the take-off and did not gain height. It caught fire and the plane fell into a gorge next to the runway, leading to a blast,” said senior police officials.

GS I: CULTURE

Who has the right to light ‘makaravilakku’?

  • The Assembly became a forum for clearing the “mystery” over the lighting of the ‘makaravilakku’ on Ponnambalamedu at Sabarimala and on the rights of the Mala Araya community for lighting the same.
  • The issue came up through a calling attention motion moved by BJP legislator O. Rajagopal on the necessity of restoring the rights of the Mala Araya community to light the ‘makaravilakku’.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT – BIODIVERSITY

Dasara elephants help trap tiger on the prowl

  • The tiger that is suspected to have killed two persons in the D.B. Kuppe range of Nagarahole National Park was successfully tranquillised.
  • Seven elephants — most of them having taken part in the Jumboo Savari during Dasara — were pressed into combing operations.

GS II: POLITY – CBI

Appointment of interim CBI chief had panel’s nod: Centre

  • The Centre informed the Supreme Court that the high-power committee’s consent had been obtained prior to the government’s appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim CBI Director.
  • “The high power committee had indeed given permission for the appointment of the interim CBI Director,” Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal submitted.
  • However, later in the day, advocate Prashant Bhushan, for petitioner NGO Common Cause and activist Anjali Bhardwaj, tweeted that he had personally got in touch with Opposition Leader and high-power committee (HPC) member, Mallikarjun Kharge, who “confirmed” that the committee had taken no such decision to reappoint Mr. Rao as interim CBI Director.
  • The meeting of the PM-led selection panel to choose the next CBI chief was inconclusive after Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked the Centre to prepare a list of eligible officers with impeccable service record. The panel is likely to meet again.

GS II: POLITY – BILL/ACT

Govt. gives up on triple talaq Bill

  • The government has effectively given up on at least two of its more controversial legislations — the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the triple talaq Bill — that were awaiting consideration by the Rajya Sabha, after opposition parties made it clear that they could not guarantee smooth functioning of the House if any contentious bills were tabled.
  • With the numbers stacked against the government on both the contentious issues in the Upper House, the two bills, which were cleared by the Lok Sabha in the last session, will now lapse once the 16th Lok Sabha’s term ends.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – USA

U.S. to pull out of nuclear Treaty

  • The U.S is suspending its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty effective February 2 and will withdraw from the treaty in six months, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press briefing.
  • The treaty, signed during the Cold War in 1987, bans ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 km-5,500 km.
  • It was key to ending the arms race between the (then) two superpowers and helped protect the U.S.’s NATO allies in Europe from Soviet missile attacks.
  • The U.S. will formally give Russia and the other treaty parties a formal notice that it is withdrawing under Article XV of the Treaty, Mr. Pompeo said.
  • Article XV mandates a six-month notice period before withdrawal.
  • “Russia has jeopardised the United States’ security interests and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it,” Mr. Pompeo said.
  • The Trump and Obama administrations have repeatedly alleged that Russia was violating the treaty by fielding a ground-based cruise missile, the Novator 9M729 (“SSC-8” in NATO terminology) that could strike Europe at a short notice, an allegation that Russia has repeatedly denied.
  • The Russians have raised counterallegations against the U.S., with regard to launchers for antiballistic missile systems in Europe.
  • The U.S. has also been concerned that China has been gaining a strategic advantage over it as it is not party to the treaty and bound by its terms.
  • Withdrawal from the treaty will increase the weapons options for the U.S. in the Pacific, where China has increased its influence.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-USA

129 of 130 arrested in U.S. visa fraud scheme are Indians

  • In the evolving case of the University of Farmington sting operation, 129 of the 130 arrested “students” are Indian nationals, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in an email.
  • One of them is Palestinian.
  • Three indictments, unsealed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, charged eight individuals of Indian origin with recruiting students (the Detroit Free Press had reported that number to be around 600) to keep their immigration status in the U.S. valid and provide them with work permits by abusing the F-1 student visa scheme and associated curricular practical training (CPT) opportunities.
  • The eight accused at the centre of the alleged scheme were arrested.
  • The authorities alleged that each of the foreign citizens who enrolled and made “tuition” payments to the university knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits, or make academic progress towards an actual degree in a particular field of study — it was a “pay-to-stay” scheme.”

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA

Afghan youth are wary of Taliban’s return

  • Afghanistan’s Generation Z has grown up in a 17-year window shadowed by warfare and a heavy international presence, but now faces an uncertain future and the possibility of stark change.
  • For the young of Kabul and other cities, there is much to lose, in particular the freedoms restored after the Taliban was ousted — from playing music, to modelling and adopting trendy haircuts.
  • Many young Afghans grew up in neighbouring Iran where millions have taken refuge from war.
  • Afghanistan has a strikingly young population, with more than 60% of its 35 million people under the age of 25, and half under the age of 15, according to the UN population agency.

GS III: ECONOMY – POLICY

Amazon removes many products from its India website

  • E-commerce rules that went into effect in India on 1 February 2019, caused widespread disruption for Amazon.com, forcing it to take down an array of items from its India website, including Echo speakers.
  • In December 2018, India modified foreign direct investment (FDI) rules for its burgeoning e-commerce sector, which has drawn major bets from not only Amazon.com but also the likes of Walmart Inc., which last year bought a majority stake in homegrown e-commerce player Flipkart.
  • India’s new e-commerce investment rules bar online retailers from selling products via vendors in which they have an equity interest, and also from making deals with sellers to sell exclusively on their platforms.
  • Numerous items sold by vendors such as Cloudtail, in which Amazon holds an indirect equity stake, were no longer available on Amazon India site.
  • Clothing from Indian department store chain Shopper’s Stop was also no longer available, as Amazon owns 5% percent of the company.
  • Amazon’s own range of Echo speakers, its Presto-branded home cleaning goods and other Amazon Basics products such as chargers and batteries had also vanished from the website.

GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS

Manufacturing PMI rises to 53.9 in January

  • The country’s manufacturing sector activity edged higher in January 2019 as companies continued to scale up production and employment, driven by the fastest rise in factory orders since December 2017, a monthly survey said.
  • The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) increased from 53.2 in December 2018 to 53.9 in January 2019, indicating stronger improvement in the health of the goods producing sector.
  • This is the 18th consecutive month that the manufacturing PMI remained above the 50-point mark.
  • In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below 50 denotes contraction.
  • According to the survey, the increase in factory orders was the strongest seen in 13 months. Besides, favourable economic conditions, strengthening demand and sales growth also picked up in January.

Editorial
Feb 2 @ 11:45 am
Editorial

2 FEBRUARY 2019

Shopping for votes

The interim budget casts away established conventions and targets votes with sops

As election-eve budgets go, Interim Budget 2019-20 must rank as one of the most politically expedient ones this country has seen. The shadow of the general election falls squarely on the budget proposals, which are aimed at seeking votes in the name of various schemes that rain cash on beneficiaries. Whether the strategy will work at the hustings remains to be seen. But there is no denying that a lot of thought has gone into identifying and targeting the sections of population across social segments that are in distress and unhappy with the Centre for a variety of reasons. There is an income support scheme for farmers who are reeling under the impact of falling realisations for their crops, and a pension scheme for informal sector workers earning up to Rs. 15,000 a month. There are income tax concessions for the middle class that have been carefully framed to target the lower rung. The Rs. 6,000 a year income support to farmers will benefit 12 crore households, which is almost half of the total number of households. Similarly, the increase in standard deduction from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 may be small but it will cover three crore taxpayers, which is again almost half of the 6.8 crore taxpayers. The income tax rebate on those with taxable annual income of up to Rs. 5 lakh a year will benefit three crore middle class voters that includes traders, small businesses, those who have just joined the formal workforce and pensioners.

While these sops will benefit sections of the population, the question is whether it is correct for a government that will be in power for less than two months in the next financial year to write into the statute books proposals that are permanent. Though some past governments have announced sops in their interim budgets with an eye on elections, this budget has gone much further by announcing very significant measures. In political terms, the strategy cannot be faulted as it appears to have put the Opposition in a difficult spot — protesting too much about the concessions given to those in distress may be counter-productive. That said, some of these ideas may actually work in economic terms as they put money in people’s hands. The housing-related tax proposals can give a leg-up to the real estate sector, which is a job-creator and is now in trouble. The sops come with a cost, though. The Centre will miss the glide-path for reducing the fiscal deficit, yet again. The estimated slippage of 0.10 percentage point is not significant if we assume that the concessions will spur spending by the beneficiaries. This is, of course, assuming that the gross tax revenue projection of Rs. 25.52 lakh crore, which is a 13.5% growth over the revised estimates of 2018-19, is achieved. But this arithmetic will be the headache of the next government.

Back to crisis

The handling of the fresh unrest in Zimbabwe by Mugabe’s successor belies hope of change

The bloody unrest in Zimbabwe suggests that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s political honeymoon is over. The veteran of the struggle for freedom was the beneficiary of the overthrow of strongman Robert Mugabe in November 2017. Mr. Mnangagwa raised hopes in the run-up to the July general election, promising free and fair polls and inspections by international observers. But his victory proved controversial as allegations of vote-rigging by the ruling ZANU-PF machinery in the rural areas began to bear echoes of the Mugabe era. In six months since his election, the ex-security chief’s pledge to distance himself from his military legacy and open the economy for foreign investment has been put to severe test. A case in point is Mr. Mnangagwa’s handling of the fallout of the recent steep fuel price hike in which over 10 protesters are said to have been killed. Zimbabwe’s defence forces have come under severe condemnation for the general crackdown, involving arbitrary detentions, torture and a country-wide Internet blackout. Harare’s main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, has faced attacks on its main office, while trade unions behind the nation-wide strike appear resolute in their bid for redress. The crisis forced President Mnangagwa to call off his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos. But his attempt to put the blame both on the security forces and the protesters may merely point to his own political vulnerability. The official response to the mass opposition against fuel price hikes were directed by his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, when the President was away. Mr. Chiwenga was the mastermind behind the 2017 coup, and the man he installed must assert his authority to ensure accountability and respect for the rule of law.

The sudden doubling of fuel prices has amplified Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of U.S. dollars to sustain the import of basic goods. Following the hyper-inflation of the previous decade, the country abandoned its own currency. The electronic alternative, “bond notes” that were introduced without physical backing, unleashed a vicious cycle of hoarding and price inflation. The decline in the value of the surrogate currency against hard money has caused distress among public servants. Many businesses have folded up for want of adequate foreign currency. Mr. Mnangagwa’s government has moved to reduce the issue of electronic debt, and to curtail the ballooning fiscal deficit. While these may be steps in the right direction, they are too small as incentives to entice a deeply sceptical investor community that was once turned away. Mr. Mnangagwa has his task cut out: to shore up his own base in the ZANU-PF establishment and to restore calm across the country. Equally, he cannot abandon the difficult path of reform, which is the only guarantee of stability in the long term.

Question Bank
Feb 2 @ 2:30 pm
Question Bank

2nd FEBRUARY 2019

QUESTION BANK

(1 Question)

GS II: INTERNATIONAL

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/heading-towards-strategic-instability/article26142181.ece

Q1.  The proposed Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) scheme will provide cash benefits but not necessarily help in development. Comment.  

Ans.

  • The Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) scheme is the proposal of transferring some income to every citizen, built on the twin principles of universality and a notion of minimum basic income to those living at the poverty line.
  • Although the idea of UBI has been in discussion for decades, no country has implemented it. While a proposal for UBI was rejected by a three-fourth majority in Switzerland, Finland which started a pilot has now discontinued it. But even in Finland, the pilot was not a strict UBI but a social protection scheme aimed at only the unemployed. While there have been some pilots by NGOs in developing countries in Asia and Africa, they have varied in content of transfer and coverage with only few being fully universal and only the Namibia pilot experiment provided income transfer to people in the poverty line.
  • The proposals in the Indian context have mostly been for a targeted income transfer scheme and not UBI. In developed countries, the UBI is supposed to supplement existing social security provisions and a top-up over and above universal provision of health, education and so on. In the Indian context, most arguments in favour of UBI are premised on the inefficiencies of existing social security interventions and seek to replace some of these with direct cash transfers.
  • It is not just the fascination for targeting the poor which is at the core of these proposals but also a belief that all existing forms of social security transfers are inefficient. While there is certainly some exaggeration in such claims, it is not true that the system of cash transfers is efficient and therefore leakage proof. Several studies on cash transfers including one by J-PAL South Asia for NITI Aayog found that cash transfers are not greatly superior in terms of leakages compared to other schemes of in-kind transfer such as the public distribution system (PDS). On the other hand, numerous studies have documented that a move towards universalisation and use of technology enabled Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu to reduce leakages in the PDS. But the real message from these experiments is also that universalisation is the key to efficient delivery of services against targeting proposed by these cash transfer schemes.
  • The obsession with cash transfers also comes with an understanding that these will take care of all problems. The current sets of proposals claim these as silver bullets for agrarian crisis to malnutrition to educational deficit and also a solution for the job crisis. This is a tall order with different reasons for persistence for some of these. A good example is the public distribution system (PDS) where it is clearly established that in-kind transfers are twice as effective in increasing calorie intake compared to equivalent cash transfer.
  • The real issue with the approach of a targeted cash transfer scheme is that it envisions the role of the state to only providing cash income to the poor. This kind of ‘Robin Hood’ approach seeks to absolve the state of its responsibility in providing basic services such as health, education, nutrition and livelihood. But it is also iniquitous since it seeks to create demand for services without supplying the services, leaving the poor to depend on private service providers. There is now sufficient evidence which shows that privatisation of basic services such as health and education leads to large scale exclusion of the poor and marginalised. In any case, India is among the countries with lowest expenditure to GDP ratio as far as expenditure on health, education and so on are concerned.

WAY FORWARD

The best antidote to poverty is enabling citizens to earn their living by providing jobs. For those who are willing to work, schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should be strengthened to enable then to earn decent incomes. Similarly, the crisis in agriculture is unlikely to be resolved by income transfers. But even with free and universal access to public services and access to livelihood opportunities, there may be a role for cash transfers, particularly for those who are unable to access the labour market or are marginalised due to other reasons. The NSAP seeks to do exactly that by providing pensions to elderly, widows and disabled. But even for these vulnerable and marginalised groups, the Central contribution to pensions has been only ₹200 per month. If governments cannot ensure decent incomes to the poor, then the issue is not of details of minimum income transfers but that of intent of those who are promising to eradicate poverty through income transfers. On this, there is no ambiguity.

Daily Compilation (PDF)
Feb 2 @ 2:45 pm


 

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