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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 20 June 2020 (Beijing should note (Indian Express))



Beijing should note (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:International Relations 
Prelims level: India-China relations 
Mains level: About recent clashes with Chinese troops in Galwan of Valley of eastern Ladakh and its implications on India China relations 

Context:

  • In pushing India to a tipping point, China is close to losing the hard-won trust of the world’s second most populous nation and a large neighbour. 
  • If the 1962 war saw the freezing of bilateral relations for the next quarter of a century, the current crisis could lead to a chill that lasts longer. 
  • Keeping India’s trust, however, might look like a trivial matter to the current Chinese Communist Party leadership. 
  • India might be the world’s fifth largest economy, but it is one-fifth the size of China’s. 
  • Beijing is acutely sensitive to power differentials, and sees an India that is struggling to find an effective response to the Chinese manoeuvre in Ladakh. 
  • Of course, Communist China’s disdain is not exclusively for India.  

Flexing muscles:

  • By all accounts, Beijing feels confident that it can confront all the major powers simultaneously. 
  • It bets that economic interdependence and political influence operations can easily break up any potential hostile coalition that might emerge within and among them. 
  • Coming to the Asian neighbours, the CCP believes that it owes no explanation for taking territories and waters that it claims as its own. 
  • It is convinced that China’s “historic rights” take precedence over international law and good neighbourliness — whether it is in the South China Sea or in the Himalayas. 
  • The sensitivities of its neighbours — from Japan to Indonesia and...................

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Learning from the past:

  • Appealing to China’s better angels at this juncture, then, might be futile. 
  • Yet, the CCP should know that China is not the first power to be overwhelmed by narcissism and hubris. 
  • Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany believed they were unstoppable in Asia and Europe in the run-up to the Second World War. 
  • Soviet Russia, too, believed in the late 1970s that America was in irreversible decline after its humiliating defeat in Vietnam and a string of socialist revolutions, from Cambodia to Namibia and from Afghanistan to Mozambique. 
  • But the tide eventually turned against all the three great powers that ended up in history’s dustbin. 
  • Just as India struggles to understand the power impulses that drive China, the CCP could never fathom India’s political culture.  

Conclusion:

  • It has been easy for Beijing to underestimate India’s strategic resilience that produces unity amidst crises. 
  • The CCP might also be under-estimating India’s tradition of “non-cooperation”. 
  • If Beijing does not step back and restore the status quo ante that existed prior to the crisis that began in May, it will compel Delhi to embark on a radical reorientation of its China policy. 
  • The CCP ought to have no doubt that the Indian people can and will step up to such a recalibration.

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(Notification) UPSC : NDA & NA Exam (II) 2020



(Notification) UPSC : NDA & NA Exam (II) 2020



Post Detail :

F.No.7/1/2020.E.1(B): An examination will be conducted by the Union Public Service Commission on 06th September, 2020 for admission to the Army, Navy and Air Force wings of the NDA for the 146th Course, and for the 108th  Indian Naval Academy Course (INAC) commencing from 2nd July, 2021. 

The date of holding the examination as mentioned above is liable to be changed at the discretion of the Commission.

The approximate number of vacancies to be filled on the results of this examination will be as under :— 

  • National Defence Academy :        370 to include 208 for Army, 42 for Navy and 120 for Air Force (including 28 for ground Duties)
  • Naval Academy(10+2 Cadet Entry Scheme) : 47

    Total : 413

Education Qualification: 

(i) For Army Wing of National Defence Academy :—12th Class pass of the 10+2 pattern of School Education or equivalent examination conducted by a State Education Board or a University.

(ii) For Air Force and Naval Wings of National Defence Academy and for the 10+2 Cadet Entry Scheme at the Indian Naval Academy :—12th Class pass with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics of the 10+2 pattern of School Education or equivalent conducted by a State Education Board or a University. Candidates who are appearing in the 12th Class under the 10+2 pattern of School Education or equivalent examination can also apply for this examination.  

Age :

Only unmarried male candidates born not earlier than 02nd January, 2002 and not later than 1st January, 2005 are eligible.

Physical Standards:

Candidates must be physically fit according to physical standards for admission to National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination (II), 2020 as per guidelines given in Appendix-IV.  

Fees  :

Candidates (excepting SC/ST candidates/Sons of JCOs/NCOs/ORs specified in Note 2 below who are exempted from payment of fee) are required to pay a fee of Rs. 100/- (Rupees one hundred only) either by depositing the money in any Branch of SBI by cash, or by using net banking facility of State Bank of India or by using Visa/MasterCard/Rupay Credit/Debit Card.

SCHEME OF EXAMINATION:

1. The subjects of the written examination, the time allowed and the maximum marks allotted to each subject will be as follows:— 

Subject Code Duration Maximum Marks
Mathematics 01 2½ Hours 300
General Ability Test 02 2½ Hours 600
Total 900
SSB Test/Interview : 900

2. THE PAPERS IN ALL THE SUBJECTS WILL CONSIST OF OBJECTIVE TYPE QUESTIONS ONLY. THE QUESTION PAPERS (TEST BOOKLETS) OF MATHEMATICS AND PART “B” OF GENERAL ABILITY TEST WILL BE SET BILINGUALLY IN HINDI AS WELL AS ENGLISH.

3. In the question papers, wherever necessary, questions involving the metric system of Weights and Measures only will be set. 

4. Candidates must write the papers in their own hand. In no circumstances will they be allowed the help of a scribe to write answers for them. 

5. The Commission have discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all the subjects at the examination.

6. The candidates are not permitted to use calculator or Mathematical or logarithmic table for answering objective type papers (Test Booklets). They should not therefore, bring the same inside the Examination Hall.

Pay Scale:

Low - up to Rs. 9000/-pm
Middle - Rs. 9001/- to Rs. 18000/-pm
High - Above 18000/-pm 

How to Apply :   

  • Candidates are required to apply online by using the website upsconline.nic.in Brief instructions for filling up the online Application Form have been given in the Appendix-II (A) Detailed instructions are available on the above mentioned website. 
  • The Commission has introduced the facility of withdrawal of Application for those candidates who do not want to appear for the Examination. In this regard, Instructions are mentioned in Appendix-II (B) of this Examination Notice.
  • Candidate should also have details of one photo ID viz. Aadhar Card/ Voter Card/ PAN Card/ Passport/ Driving License/ School Photo ID/Any other  photo ID Card issued by the State/Central Government. The details of this photo ID will have to be provided by the candidate while filling up the online application form. The same photo ID card will also have to be uploaded with the Online Application Form. This photo ID will be used for all future referencing and the candidate is advised to carry this ID while appearing for examination/SSB. 

Important Date :

  • Starting Date- 16-June-2020
  • Last Date – 06-July-2020

Click Here To Download Official Notification

Click Here To Apply Online

Study Material for UPSC National Defence Academy (NDA) Exam

(ALERT) UPSC : IES 2020 Exam Alert



(ALERT) UPSC : IES 2020 Exam Alert



Indian Economic Service Examination, 2020 will not be held due to NIL vacancy reported for the Indian Economic Service by the Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs).  

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 June 2020 (An unravelling of the Group of Seven (The Hindu))



An unravelling of the Group of Seven (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International Relations
Prelims level: G7 countries 
Mains level: Know about G7 countries, why it’s lost relevance in modern times, process of the expansion of G7 countries, way forward

Context:

  • The next G7 summit, tentatively scheduled in Washington DC in mid-June, has been postponed by the host, U.S. President Donald Trump. 
  • His decision followed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to stay away from the meeting, ostensibly because of restrictions on travel imposed by COVID-19. 
  • The recent meetings of G7 have had desultory results. 

Logic of expansion:

  • While postponing the summit “to at least September”, Mr. Trump declared that in any case, the G7 “is a very outdated group of countries” and no longer properly represented “what’s going on in the world”. 
  • He asked, rhetorically, why not a G10 or G11 instead, with the inclusion of India, South Korea, Australia and possibly Russia?
  • Elaborating this logic, the White House Director of Strategic Communications said the U.S. President wanted to include other countries, including the Five Eyes countries (an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States), and to talk about the future of China. 
  • A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official immediately reacted, labelling.................

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Background:

  • The G7 emerged as a restricted club of the rich democracies in the early 1970s. 
  • The quadrupling of oil prices just after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, when members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo against Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States, shocked their economies. 
  • On the initiative of U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the G7 became the G8, with the Russian Federation joining the club in1998. This ended with Russia’s expulsion following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. 
  • Economic circumstances
  • When constituted, the G7 countries accounted for close to two-thirds of global GDP. 
  • According to the 2017report of the accountancy firm, PwC, “The World in 2050”, they now account for less than a third of global GDP on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, and less than half on market exchange rates (MER) basis. 
  • The seven largest emerging economies (E7, or “Emerging 7”), comprising Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey, account for over a third of global GDP on purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, and over a quarter on MER basis. 
  • India’s economy is already the third largest in the world in PPP terms, even if way behind that of the U.S. and China.
  • By 2050, the PwC Report predicts, six of the seven of the world’s best performing economies will be China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia. 
  • Two other E7 countries, Mexico and Turkey, also improve their position. 
  • It projects that India’s GDP will increase to $17 trillion in 2030 and $42 trillion in 2050 in PPP terms, in second place after China, just ahead of the United States. 
  • This is predicated on India overcoming the challenge of COVID-19, sustaining its reform process and ensuring adequate investments in infrastructure, institutions, governance, education and health. 

The limitations of G7:

  • The G7 failed to head off the economic downturn of 2007-08, which led to the rise of the G20. 
  • In the short span of its existence, the G20 has provided a degree of confidence, by promoting open markets, and stimulus, preventing a collapse of the global financial system.
  • The G7 has not covered itself with glory with respect to contemporary issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the challenge of the Daesh, and the crisis of state collapse in West Asia. 
  • It had announced its members would phase out all fossil fuels and subsidies, but has not so far announced any plan of action to do so. 
  • The G7 countries account for 59% of historic global CO2 emissions (“from 1850 to 2010”), and their coal fired plants emit “twice more CO2 than those of the entire African continent”. 

Need for a new institution:

  • The world is in a state of disorder. The global economy has stalled and COVID-19 will inevitably create widespread distress. 
  • Nations need dexterity and resilience to cope with the current flux, as also a revival of multilateralism, for they have been seeking national solutions for problems that are unresolvable internally. 
  • Existing international institutions have proven themselves unequal to these tasks. A new mechanism might help in attenuating them.
  • A new international mechanism will have value only if it focuses on key global issues. India would be vitally interested in three: international trade, climate change, and the COVID-19 crisis. 
  • A related aspect is how to push for observing international law and preventing the retreat from liberal values on which public goods are predicated. Global public health and the revival of growth and trade in a sustainable way (that also reduces the inequalities among and within nations) would pose a huge challenge. 
  • Second order priorities for India would be cross-cutting issues such as counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation. 
  • An immediate concern is to ensure effective implementation of the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention and the prevention of any possible cheating by its state parties by the possible creation of new microorganisms or viruses by using recombinant technologies. 

Conclusion:

  • On regional issues, establishing a modus vivendi with Iran would be important to ensure that it does not acquire nuclear weapons and is able to contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Gulf and West Asia. 
  • The end state in Afghanistan would also be of interest to India, as also the reduction of tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 June 2020 (Wrong priorities (The Hindu))



Wrong priorities (The Hindu)



  • Mains Paper 2:Governance 
  • Prelims level: Not much 
  • Mains level: Priorities for government during the pandemic period, Challenges and way forward  

Context:

  • Some things are better kept for later during a pandemic. And, public worship is certainly one of them. 
  • Mass religious gatherings defeats physical distancing and have a history of amplifyingthe COVID-19 pandemic in more than one country. 
  • Governments should sober down to open religious places early in the unlock phase. 

Key Priorities:

  • Even with online registration, e-passes, distance marking and use of personal protective equipment by staff, gatherings in confined spaces go against the grain of infection prevention principles. 
  • It is heartening that some temple boards, churches and Islamic religious bodies have wisely decided to remain closed. 
  • As among the top five virus-affected nations, India cannot afford to create conditions that lead to mass transmission. 
  • The priority today is to refloat a crippled economy safely, while postponing all optional activities to a time when there is better disease control, and prevention and treatment courses are available. 
  • The compulsion to unlock when infections have not peaked has already placed the onus of...........................

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Political will:

  • After pursuing a lockdown strategy that had low impact on the infection curve, but many negative outcomes, India needs to draw up it unlock priorities carefully. 
  • It must show the political will to enforce norms on public behaviour such as mask wearing and physical distancing. 
  • Yet, the scenes from many cities coming out of lockdown, including hard-hit ones such as Mumbai, show anxious crowding in many situations, including on public transport. 
  • Night curfews are weakly enforced. 
  • This is worrying, considering the limited medical capacity that exists to care for a large number who might suffer the worst effects of COVID-19. 
  • Getting unlocking wrong could mean an explosion of cases, which, WHO has warned, remains a possibility in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

 Way forward:

  • National policy should not put the cart before the horse, by prioritising activities such as worship at public places. 
  • All available resources must be devoted towards productive and essential work. 
  • The Centre has to also explain what it is doing to assess the prevalence of infection at the community-level at a suitable scale.

Conclusion:

  • By opening up religious places for worship now, India risks high community...........

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 June 2020 (If PM Cares(Indian Express))



If PM Cares (Indian Express)



  • Mains Paper 2:Governance 
  • Prelims level: PM CARES fund
  • Mains level: Know about the PM CARES fund, the composition of its committee, objectives and why the government constituted a new fund despite having Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), key analysis and way forward

Context:

  • On March 28, PM Modi announced the creation of a separate fund to deal with COVID-19 — the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES). 
  • Observers were quick to question the need for a separate fund, when India already had an established Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF). 
  • The PMNRF is more representative of the concerns of Indians: It’s committee includes, among others, the Prime Minister, the President of India and the president of the Indian National Congress. 
  • Decision-makers for PM CARES include the Prime Minister, the finance minister, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Defence, all from one political party. 

Forceful donations:

  • The PMNRF had an unused corpus of Rs 3,800.44 crore as of 2019. Despite this, Modi established the PM CARES fund and solicited donations for it. 
  • Reportedly, the Indian Railway donated Rs 151 crore. The army, navy and air force, defence PSUs and employees of the defence ministry have collectively donated Rs 500 crore. 
  • While a significant portion of these contributions has been voluntary, it appears that many government employees weren’t given much of a choice.
  • Circulars were being issued in various government departments, “urging” employees to contribute one day’s salary each month or give their objection in writing. 
  • The implication seemed ominous- anyone objecting to this “voluntary contribution...................................

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No transparency:

  • When donations are made from taxpayer funds by government bodies, the public has the right to know where the money is going. 
  • This is where the most problematic issue with PM CARES arises — its lack of transparency. 
  • The Modi government has stated that the CAG will not audit the fund. Rather, it will be audited by independent auditors appointed by the trust. 
  • The PMO has also refused to make the documents related to the PM CARES fund public. 
  • If the government has nothing to hide, why not allow the CAG to audit it? 

Funds not used for migrants:

  • On March 24, Modi appeared on television and announced a 21-day lockdown with four hours’ notice. Millions of migrant labourers were stranded in cities with no savings to survive. 
  • The people waited for PM Modi to use the PM CARES funds to help these migrants. No such announcement came. 
  • An estimated 12.2 crore have lost their jobs since the lockdown was announced. No funds from PM CARES were allocated to create jobs for them.

 Procuring ventilators:

  • A recent analysis by IndiaSpend estimated that at least Rs 9,677.90 crore has been collected in the PM CARES fund so far. 
  • Of this, Rs 4,308 crore has been donated by government agencies and staff. 
  • Yet, the only announcement to be made till date about the usage of the funds is the allocation of Rs 3,100 crore for COVID-19 work, made on May 13 — Rs 2,000 crore of which is mired in controversy. 
  • The reason: The central government is procuring 5,000 ventilators from a Rajkot-based firm which has supplied ventilators to Ahmedabad’s largest COVID-19 hospital. 
  • These machines have proved inadequate, and have forced Ahmedabad Civil Hospital to put out an SOS for “actual ventilators”. 
  • The PM CARES fund has announced that it would be spending Rs 2,000 crore for the purchase of 50,000 “Made in India” ventilators. 
  • It is to be hoped that they do not prove to be substandard. 

Litany of problems:

  • PM CARES comes with a litany of problems. 
  • The decision-makers at its helm belong to one political party. Besides, there is total lack of transparency about the use of the funds. 
  • The allegations of cronyismand favouritism with regard to spending are particularly of concern. 
  • The most worrying part, however, is the fund has clearly not benefited the people who needed help. 
  • The fund may be called PM CARES, but does the...................

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 11 June 2020 (The academy we need (Indian Express))



The academy we need (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:National 
Prelims level: Higher education institutes
Mains level: Scenarios of online learning system in India, Difference between physical and Online learning, create institutional framework for online learning system, way forward

Context:

  • COVID-19 has shaken the landscapes of higher education institutes (HEIs) in tectonic ways. 
  • As they strive to reposition themselves in the context of social distancing for the unpredictable “new normal”, established modes of functioning have come asunder. 
  • It is not just the shape, size and form of the classroom that will change, but also what will be taught and how it will be taught.

 Re-imagining the academy:

  • While everyone awaits instructions “from above”, the lack of clear and consistent communication has hurtled the 37.4 million student population into bewildermentand anxiety about the future. 
  • If crises offer opportunities, this is the time especially for the public university, to wrest the initiative, break free of familiar drills and re-imagine the academy. 
  • Policymakers may welcome out-of-box initiatives at a time when they too grapple with uncertainties. 
  • Admission processes, methods of evaluation, the nature of governance, determination of “merit” — all need to be put to scrutiny.
  • Most official mandates thus far have centred on “hardware” issues, reflecting undoubtedly genuine concerns around a return to “functionality” by September. 
  • There is the predictable stress on the “completion of syllabi” and the mantra of “learning outcomes” while ensuring student safety and welfare. 
  • In spirit, they focus on mitigation. 
  • There is little to invoke the....................................

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Careful calibration:

  • As universities scramble to put together their online infrastructure with insufficient preparation, learning from home has involved a complete rejigof the spatio-temporal dimension. 
  • “Distance education”, traditionally the less preferred sibling of the “regular” system, has moved mainstream in its tech avatar. 
  • The “new normal” will see several more unanticipated inversions.
  • The pivot to online platforms, including the UGC mandate to shift 25 per cent of teaching online for the future, must be carefully calibrated to avoid exclusions that dilute affirmative action initiatives on campuses. 
  • The uses of technology as an online resource for teaching-learning must not blind us to its propensity to exacerbate inequalities in the increasingly heterogenous higher education space in India. 
  • A combination of government policies — the Right to Education and reservations among them — has enabled a considerable influx of members from erstwhile marginalised groups. 

Key challenges:

  • Where education shifts from class to online, students with uneven access to technology, learning resources, internet connectivity and lacking in suitable physical space, will be disproportionately affected. 
  • Women and students with special needs, in particular, those from homes that are financially stressed, or where higher education is not a valued priority will be doubly disadvantaged. 
  • Those in dysfunctional families with additional caring responsibilities during the crisis will face particular challenges.
  • A new paradigm that includes asynchronous learning as a digital framework, can provide diverse learners with flexible access to study materials and connect them with classmates and instructors at their preferred pace and time. 
  • This will need a range of online resources. Agile and imaginative leadership must harness its potential, drawing on the experience of open universities. 

Problems with complex ecosystem:

  • In the complex ecosystem of higher education in India, comprising over 1,000 universities, approximately 40,000 colleges and around 10,000 stand-alone institutions, one size will just not fit all. 
  • For the majority of teachers, especially in colleges, the urgent imperative of COVID-19 has involved hurriedly switching from face-to-face teaching to virtual education.
  • This has required considerably more time for preparation and scheduling more one-on-one meetings with students. 
  • In many institutions, it has meant merely collating information from web sources disseminating lecture notes through WhatsApp, with a few Zoom or Google Meet sessions added on.
  • Faculty have seen these largely as interim measures to meet a crisis. 
  • They are secure in the faith that in the academy where human interactions are deeply valued, the “virtual” communities of the electronic media will not make committed and competent teachers obsolete.

Importance of physical learning:

  • Every educator has experienced the thrills of shared everyday joy in the proximate classroom space — the flicker of recognition, the acceptance of an idea, the quizzical articulations. 
  • Such unmediated communication remains the authentic barometer of learning resonance, the ultimate spur of motivation. 
  • Technology has not yet crossed that Rubicon. 
  • The ruminative space of the tutorial too has all but vanished.
  • The intensity of co-curricular endeavour; 
  • the allure of the sports field, the camaraderie of cultural engagement; 
  • the life-changing interactions in hostels; 
  • the friendly sparring of dialogue and debate; 
  • the discovery of unfamiliar worlds; 
  • new calibrations of identity; 
  • autonomy and freedom and the tangible lessons in citizenship; 
  • bargaining and coexistence. 

Rare opportunity:

  • The academy of our imagination stands interrupted.
  • Yet, this crisis offers the rare opportunity to re-envision and expand academic autonomy in the public university space. 
  • Also, it presents the chance to wrest the over-centralised structures, to push the envelope on spaces for creative enquiry and engagement.
  • At the core are substantive questions of our processes of knowledge production and dissemination — our epistemic structures. 
  • How hospitable are we to the multiple intelligences that diverse learners bring to the academy? 
  • How do we effectively break the hierarchies and silos of different disciplines and become sensitive to a genuine pluralism of ideas even as they cohere and collide? 
  • How open can we be to the uneven reverberations of learning? How do we encourage the easy flow of critical thinking, to move beyond “received curricula”? How “constructivist” is our pedagogy? 

Learn and Re-learn: 

  • Current structures of education are attempting to prepare students for futures that we cannot predict, given the pace of change. 
  • We are unable to accurately ascertain what new skills can now be learnt for the jobs of tomorrow. 
  • The ability to constantly learn and re-learn will be key to navigate the maze of the future.
  • This moment might ironically be the opening in the academy.
  • For teachers and students to become better co-learners and partners in knowledge production; 
  • For teachers to revisit their pedagogy, providing greater room to engage with dialogic exploration and rumination; 
  • For administrators to develop moredeft and equitous internal mechanisms to meet contingencies; 
  • For young learners to acquire the mental and emotional skills to deal with the disruption and discontinuities that will likely define this century. 

Conclusion:

  • Yuval Harari cautions us that big data and technology will set the algorithms of living and being in inscrutableways that impinge upon human autonomy and choice. 
  • Opportunity that the COVID-19 challenge presents should be used to reinvent higher education along pathways too long blocked by apathy, hubris and intransigence. 
  • A collaborative effort that keeps the student at the centre of such engagement................

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 June 2020 (Reorienting Indias food basket Act on pulses now Indian Express)



Reorienting India’s food basket: Act on pulses now(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: Red gram and Bengal gram
Mains level: Uses of technologies and procurement scheme can boosts pulses production in India

Context:

  • Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus the need to reorient our food basket. 
  • Plant-based nutrition will be seen as a more sustainable system of production and consumption from the environment and nutrition viewpoint. 
  • This fits well with SDG-12 (responsible consumption and production).

Role of pulses as a nutrient: 

  • Pulses are a great source of protein for Indians, especially vegetarians. 
  • They are an essential part of our food, and their importance has to increase now. We need to pay more attention to pulses cultivation and consumption.
  • Red gram and Bengal gram (chana) account for most of India’s pulse production, followed by black gram and green gram. 
  • They are grown in rice fallow cultivation (coastal regions) of Andhra and Orissa. 
  • Red gram (kharif crop) is grown mainly in the Deccan plateau, while Bengal gram (rabi crop) is grown in different parts. 
  • Increasing population, improved incomes and enhanced awareness about nutrition has boosted demand for pulses in the last two decades.

Pulses production output timeline: 

  • In 2000, about 14 million tons (mt) of pulses accounted for 22 million ha (mha) of land. In 2010, the acreage increased to 26 mha with an annual production of 16 mt and annual import of 4 mt. 
  • By 2015, the demand inched up to 22 mt, and the imports rose to 5 mt. The retail price of tur dal touched Rs 180/kg. 
  • To ease the situation, the government increased the acreage to 30 mha, and imports increased from 5 mt in 2015 to 6.3 mt in 2016. 
  • Though this brought the prices............

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Procurement of pulses grain to support farmers: 

  • The Food Corporation entered the market in a big way to procure pulses. 
  • This year the imports are expected to be below 1 mt. Currently, the retail price of tur dal is hovering around Rs 100/kg.
  • Balancing farmers’ welfare and consumers’ welfare is a tough ask. The MSP for pulses has increased every year. 
  • Similarly, tur dal support price increased from Rs 46.25/kg in 2015 to Rs 58/kg this year; support price for black gram, Bengal gram and green gram, went up from Rs 46.25/kg to Rs 57/kg, Rs 35/kg to Rs 48.75/kg and Rs 48.50/kg to Rs 70/kg, respectively.
  • Although these support prices provided relief for the farmers, on many occasions, the market price was less than the support price, especially when large-scale imports took place, and when the government did not procure enough quantities at the support price.

Research and development in higher-yielding varieties:

  • Efforts to develop higher-yielding varieties are going on, especially at the Directorate of Pulses Research, based at Kanpur, and ICRISAT, Hyderabad.
  • Directorate of Pulses data shows that the actual yields in the farmers’ fields are less than the yields in the demonstration plots of research institutions by about 47% in red gram, 52% in Bengal gram, 53% in black gram and 26% in green gram. 
  • This may be attributed to weather-related issues, pests and diseases and improper application of fertilisers.
  • There is a need to take up projects that increase yields, protein content and make our red gram varieties more tolerant to the dreaded pod borer, which causes 50% yield losses, drought situations, and to several fungal and bacterial diseases. 
  • Since these are mostly rainfed crops, there is an acute need to develop varieties which mature faster. 
  • We must invest in using modern science and technology to develop hybrids in red gram.

Application of technologies:

  • Farmers use heavy doses of pesticides to control the pod borer in red gram and the diseases in black gram and green gram. 
  • Researchers have been trying to develop varieties that are tolerant to borer but have not been very successful. 
  • There is a strong case to use Bt technology, used in cotton to control the same insect. This can dramatically reduce the use of pesticides and increase yields in red gram and Bengal gram.
  • Development of these two crops with Bt has been going on, but needs regulatory progress.
  • Micro-irrigation tool like Hose Reel technology-based irrigation system could be perfectly suited for these crops.
  • To fight yield-reducing water stress, we should not hesitate to use modern technology like the GM trait Water Use Efficiency, which will act as an insurance policy for the farmers against drought. 
  • Similarly, we should use modern genomics and dig deeper into their genome to find useful genes that can help these crops to resist pests, diseases and water stress conditions. 
  • Private investments could be encouraged in this........................

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Promoting mixed crops farming: 

  • Encouraging farmers to grow pulses as mixed crops with sugar cane and to bring 1.2 mha of additional cultivation of pulses in rice fallow lands is a good step. 
  • Increased yields and production should not reduce the price realisation of the farmers. Market reforms to improve profitability are critical. 
  • While the new e-NAM is expected to help, we may have to make more efforts in setting up village-level primary processing and grading centres. 
  • The government may encourage new entrepreneurs and FPOs to jump in by providing them with policy and funding support.

Way ahead:

  • We also need a long-term and predictable policy environment for import and export of pulses. Sudden decisions to import can land the farmers in distress.
  • Pulses need to be included in PDS and in the mid-day meals to improve nutrition standards.
  • Another reason for encouraging cultivation is the water efficiency of the crop. One-hectare millimetre of water can produce 12.5 kg of Bengal gram while it can produce only 7 kg of wheat and 2.5 kg of paddy. 
  • They also fix nitrogen in the soil, thereby improving the soil health.

Conclusion:

  • It is time to convert some of the acreages under cereals to grow pulses. 
  • This will help bring greater balance to the crop portfolio, especially considering the changing food basket. It is also better for the environment.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 June 2020 (Keeping India’s payments market competitive (Indian Express))



Keeping India’s payments market competitive (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: WhatsApp Pay
Mains level: Strength and limitations of the Unified Payments Interface platform

Context:

  • WhatsApp is reportedly set to launch its payments service, “WhatsApp Pay”. 
  • The entry of a new heavyweight in India’s payments market will concern users, technology players, service providers and even regulators. 
  • India’s payments market owes its success to a design that encourages service providers to compete and innovate. 
  • This suggests that the key to delivering value to consumers and protecting them is regulators prioritising innovation and robust competition in the market.

About:

  • WhatsApp Pay, like its competitors PhonePe, Paytm, Google Pay, etc, 
  • It will operate on the UPI platform. 
  • The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) created and runs the UPI platform. 
  • It also approves Payment Service Providers (PSPs) who use its platform.

Why WhatsApp Pay is different from others?

  • WhatsApp’s foray into payments is significant. Its existing services have a large and diverse user base globally. 
  • An estimated 75% of its 400 million subscribers in India start and end their day with WhatsApp. Several enterprises already use WhatsApp for Business. 
  • The wide familiarity with its platform would be a big advantage for combining two key functions, viz messaging and money transfer. 
  • One could expect more innovation..................

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Market presence: 

  • WhatsApp will join over 150 PSPs already in the market. 
  • This reveals the continuing commercial attraction of India’s market for payments and, by extension, that for digital communications. 
  • Equally, it also reflects the strength of the UPI platform.

Role of UPI platform:

  • The transfer of a bank customer’s funds to another account, which three years ago, could take days, now takes just seconds. 
  • Almost 100 million users can access UPI. The platform is available on 148 banks, ranging from small rural banks to major national and international banks. 
  • The global players including Google, Amazon, Samsung, along with many more Indian companies, provide numerous third-party apps access to the platform. The number of apps available is over 70 and rising.

Rise of UPI platform:

  • UPI has grown exponentially in the three years of its use. A look at UPI’s monthly data shows the success achieved. 
  • In March 2020 alone, it completed 1.2 billion transactions amounting to over Rs 2 lakh crore in value. (These numbers slipped about 6-8% in April. It is unclear if Covid-19 contributed to this. However, the April data is no less impressive).
  • UPI hasdone more for digital India and financial inclusion than many other standalone projects. Innovation by market players is expanding access as well as the range of features and services to meet consumers’ needs.

Role in setting global standards:

  • The UPI platform also highlights India’s emerging role in setting global standards. It has attracted several global majors to adopt it to compete in the Indian market. 
  • The UPI experience with standards would be invaluable for India as it seeks a larger footprint in the global technology space. Recall India’s aspirations to be a player in 5G standards.

Key strength of UPI:

  • A key strength of UPI is that it supports competition. 
  • It is agnostic to size, ownership, national origin of players. It attracts diverse players by making its infrastructure accessible to any entity regulated by RBI. 
  • The players can leverage their unique strengths: Smaller players have unique knowledge of local communities and their needs. Bigger ones can scale faster. 
  • International players like Google, WhatsApp, etc, have a history of innovation and pricing, which enables them in the delivery of services at a global scale. 
  • This diversity of players is as relevant to India’s goals.............................

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Focus on maintaining and securing payment infrastructure:

  • NPCI has rightly focused on creating and maintaining its secure switching infrastructure for payments, offering interoperability across the PSPs. 
  • It has avoided conflicts of interest with users of its infrastructure. 
  • It has continually upgraded the platform. UPI 2.0 offers even higher levels of security and new features.
  • NPCI is an impressive proof of India’s ability to deliver advanced technology solutions at scale.

Risk of monopoly:

  • However, the impressive achievements of the NPCI and UPI must not blind us to accompanying risks: NPCI is, in effect, a monopoly despite having a mix of private and public, small and large, Indian and international promoters. 
  • The UPI platform is itself a monopoly, despite being open to competing players in almost every segment. India’s consumers cannot transfer money ‘instantly’ without the UPI platform or NPCI’s switch.
  • The risks of monopolies are well known: fewer incentives to innovate, improve quality of service or, lower prices. 

Future challenges for improvement: 

  • Consumers have an obvious stake in competitive markets. A post-Covid-19 world could make the use of cash even less practical. 
  • More enterprises, service providers and public agencies will need to move to online payments. Consumers too would demand greater flexibility and convenience in accessing and transacting with their money. 
  • They would want a greater range of financial products and services, e.g., loans, overdrafts, rolled payments, etc. 
  • People with lower income or those who are less digitally literate, may need an altogether new level of customer responsiveness as they transition to digital. 
  • Pressure from consumers and effective competition will spur greater innovation.
  • Safeguarding competition in the payment space is, therefore, a high priority. 
  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has an important responsibility. 
  • It must identify and eliminate anti-competitive behaviour, such as monopoly pricing, cartelisation by players, customer-locking, and any other market abuse.

Way forward: 

  • The stakeholders in India’s payment ecosystem have their work cut out. 
  • It will take alert consumers, competitive players, and vigilant regulators to deliver the full potential of a truly competitive payments market. 
  • If they succeed, India would have made giant strides in its journey towards two important goals..........

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 June 2020 (Being vocal on the right local (Indian Express))



Being vocal on the right local (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: Vocal for Local strategy
Mains level: What is ‘vocal for local’ strategy, How India can become self-reliant, and what steps needed to make Indian industry globally competitive.

Context: 

  • On May 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon Indians to be “vocal for local”. 
  • The way in which we, as citizens and professionals, interpret the local will have far-reaching effects on the country’s landscape and prosperity.

Origin of the ‘vocal for local’ strategy:

  • We could transform ourselves into a greener and more humane society, with access to affordable health care, functioning public schools, choices over where we work and live, and support for those who cannot work. 
  • Cities could breathe again and families could move to opportunity rather than be forced out of their homes by drought and desperation. or,
  • We could rapidly roll backwards, buying umbrellas with easily broken frames, toasters whose levers have to be held down, office chairs with castors that grip rather than slide, researchers who find it difficult to equip their laboratories and avoid reading research at the disciplinary frontier because they are too far from being able to produce it.
  • There will be people with experience and skills..................................

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A pointer:

  • COVID-19 has brought many countries to an unexpected fork in their development trajectories. 
  • It has made visible new facts, figures and the feelings of citizens towards these facts and figures.

What is ‘vocal for local’ strategy?

  • Village demographics have changed dramatically. Pockets of virtually empty villages in the Himalayan foothills have become re-populated and many of the poorest parts of the country have experienced the largest inflows. 
  • After the trauma of the last two months, re-united families would like to stay together. They will search for local livelihoods and they desperately need immediate and substantial social transfers. 
  • Strengthening these communities would show a real commitment to the right kind of local. This requires making our safety nets wide, accessible and fair. 
  • It involves building schools, clinics and hospitals within easy reach, and opening windows of credit to those with ideas without first asking them to label themselves as farmers or micro-entrepreneurs. 
  • If we imagine villages as consisting only of farmers and labourers, hit periodically by cyclones and drought, our support to them will not move beyond Kisan credit cards and employment guarantees. 
  • Those returning home are from many walks of life and have travelled far and wide. Development policy should help them use their skills and new perspectives to reimagine their communities while they earn a living.

How to get it right?

  • The wrong kind of local would be to promote goods that are made in India through tariffs, quotas and new government procurement rules. 
  • We have attained global competitiveness over the last two decades in many new fields such as software development, pharmaceuticals and engineering products. 
  • All of these have flourished through international collaboration and feedback from foreign consumers. 
  • It would be short-sighted to imagine that we would reach these consumers if we restricted access to our own markets. 

Steps needed to make Indian industry globally competitive:

  • Many of our sustainable energy initiatives have also depended on government action elsewhere. 

Case study:

  • Solar energy was subsidised in Germany and in California when it was far more expensive than fossil energy.
  • China mass produced solar panels and costs of production came down enough for other countries, including ours, to start adopting them. 
  • The pandemic should have made us aware, like never before, of our interdependencies, of the limits of our knowledge and the need for global engagement.
  • Sustainable and resilient communities cannot be built on a fiscal and regulatory structure that is highly centralised. 
  • The Centre would have to devolve to the States and the States to locally elected representatives. 
  • If we adequately fund, support and trust local governments and remain open to absorbing both the knowledge and products that others produce better than us, we can create a society where all, not just a few, matter. 

Conclusion:

  • If we insist that everything can be “made in India” and close borders because a crisis sealed them temporarily, we open ourselves to mediocrity and isolation, continued mass poverty and greater vulnerability to future pandemics. 
  • We have the capacity to refocus on......................

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 June 2020 (The critical role of decentralised responses (The Hindu))



The critical role of decentralised responses (The Hindu)



  • Mains Paper 2:Governance 
  • Prelims level: Fifteenth Finance Commission
  • Mains level: Empowering local government and resource mobilisation development 

Context:

  • The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought home the critical role of local governments and decentralised responses. 
  • This article makes some suggestions to improve local finance and argues that the extant fiscal illusion is a great deterrent to mobilisation.

Advantages to the local government:

  • In terms of information, monitoring and immediate action, local governments are at an advantage, and eminently, to meet any disaster such as COVID-19. 
  • While imposing restrictive conditionalities on States availing themselves of the enhanced borrowing limits (3.5% to 5% of Gross State Domestic Product, or GSDP) for 2020-21 is unwarranted.
  • The recognition that local governments should be fiscally empowered immediately is a valid signal for the future of local governance. 

Core issues

  • COVID-19 has raised home four major challenges: 
  • economic, 
  • health, 
  • welfare/livelihood and 
  • resource mobilisation. 

Critical areas for local government empowerment: 

  • Own revenue is the critical lever of local government empowerment. 
  • The several lacunae that continue to bedevil local governance have to be simultaneously addressed. 
  • The new normal demands a paradigm shift in the delivery of health care at the cutting edge level. 
  • The parallel bodies that have come up after the 73rd/74th Constitutional Amendments have considerably distorted the functions-fund flow matrix at the lower level of governance. 
  • There is yet no clarity in the assignment of functions....................

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Resource mobilisation issues under three heads:

  • A few suggestions for resource mobilisation are given under three heads: 
  • Local finance, 
  • Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme, or MPLADs, and
  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission (FFC).

Local finance:

  • Property tax collection with appropriate exemptions should be a compulsory levy and preferably must cover land. 
  • The Economic Survey 2017-18 points out that urban local governments, or ULGs, generate about 44% of their revenue from own sources as against only 5% by rural local governments, or RLGs. 
  • Per capita own revenue collected by ULGs is about 3% of urban per capita income while the corresponding figure is only 0.1% for RLGs. 
  • There is a yawning gap between tax potential and actual collection, resulting in colossal underperformance. 
  • When they are not taxed, people remain indifferent. LGs, States and people seem to labour under a fiscal illusion. 
  • In States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, local tax collection at the panchayat level is next to nil. Property tax forms the major source of local revenue throughout the world. 
  • All States should take steps to enhance and rationalise property tax regime. A recent study by Professor O.P. Mathur shows that the share of property tax in GDP has been declining since 2002-03. This portends a wrong signal. 
  • The share of property tax in India in 2017-18 is only 0.14% of GDP as against 2.1% in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. 
  • If property tax covers land, that will hugely enhance the yield from this source even without any increase in rates.

Land monetisation:

  • Land monetisation and betterment levy may be tried in the context of COVID-19 in India. To be sure, land values have to be unbundled for socially relevant purposes.
  • Municipalities and even suburban panchayats can issue a corona containment bond for a period of say 10 years, on a coupon rate below market rate but significantly above the reverse repo rate to attract banks. 
  • We are appealing to the patriotic sentiments of non-resident Indians and rich citizens. 
  • Needless to say, credit rating is not to be the weighing consideration. 
  • That the Resurgent India Bond of 1998 could mobilise over $4 billion in a few days encourages us to try this option.
  • MP fund scheme
  • The suspension of MPLADS by the Union government for two years is a welcome measure. 
  • The annual budget was around ₹4,000 crore. 
  • The Union government has appropriated the entire allocation along with the huge non-lapseable arrears. 
  • MPLADs, which was avowedly earmarked for local area development, must be assigned to local governments, preferably to panchayats on the basis of well-defined criteria.

Fifteenth Finance Commission:

  • A special COVID-19 containment grant to the LGs by the FFC to be distributed on the basis of SFC-laid criteria is the need of the hour. 
  • The commission may do well to consider this. The local government grant of ₹90,000 crore for 2020-2021 by the FFC is only 3% higher than that recommended by the Fourteenth Finance Commission. For panchayats there is only an increase of ₹63 crore. 
  • The commission’s claim that the grant works out to 4.31% of the divisible pool and that it is higher than the 3.54% of the FC-XIV is obviously because the size of the denominator is smaller. 
  • Building health infrastructure and disease.....................................................

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Suggestion for fixing grant:

  • The ratio of basic to tied grant is fixed at 50:50 by the commission. 
  • In the context of the crisis under way, all grants must be untied for freely evolving proper COVID-19 containment strategies locally.
  • Further the 13th Finance Commission’s recommendation to tie local grants to the union divisible pool of taxes to ensure a buoyant and predictable source of revenue to LGs (accepted by the then Union government) must be restored by the commission.

Way ahead:

  • Flood, drought, and earthquakes are taken care of by the Disaster Management Act 2005 which does not recognise epidemics, although several parts of India experienced several bouts of various flus in the past. 
  • The new pandemic is a public health challenge of an unprecedented nature along with livelihood and welfare challenges. 
  • ThefirstReport speaks of mitigation funds and even prepared a disaster risk index, to map out vulnerable areas. 
  • These are redundant in the present context. The 2005 Act may have to be modified to accommodate the emerging situation.

Conclusion:

  • COVID-19 has woken us up to the reality that local governments must be equipped and empowered. Relevant action is the critical need.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 June 2020 (Pincer provocations? (The Hindu))



Pincer provocations? (The Hindu)



  • Mains Paper 2:International Relation
  • Prelims level: Line of Actual Control
  • Mains level: India China relations, ongoing tensions between the Indian and Chinese armed forces in eastern Ladakh, key analysis and what measures need to be adopted to address this

Context:

  • Chinese and Indian forces have begun to disengage in select areas.
  • But this does not detract from the reality that in the past few weeks Beijing and Islamabad are making coordinated efforts to challenge India’s presence in the Kashmir-Ladakh region. 
  • There is stepped-up activity on Pakistan’s part to infiltrate terrorists into the Valley. 
  • China has undertaken provocative measures on the Ladakh front to assert control over disputed areas around the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

Overlapping interests of both China and Pakistan:

  • In Pakistan’s case the intensification in its terrorist activities is related in part to the dilution of Article 370.
  • Dilution of Article 370 helps India de-link Ladakh from the Kashmir problem. 
  • For China, the division of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir allows India a freer hand in contesting China’s claims in the region.
  • Increasing road-building activity on India’s part close to the LAC augments this perception. 
  • In addition to Ladakh borders China’s most restive provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet.
  • Ladakh is contiguous to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit and Baltistan, where the Chinese have invested hugely under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. 
  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s............................................

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Differences in objectives regarding India: 

  • These differences are related to their divergent perceptions of their disputes and their different force equations with India. 

China:

  • For China, Ladakh is primarily a territorial dispute with strategic ramifications. 
  • China also believes it is superior to the Indian militarily and, therefore, can afford to push India around within limits as it has been attempting to do in the recent confrontation. 
  • China is a satiated power in Ladakh having occupied Aksai Chin and wants to keep up the pressure on New Delhi to prevent the latter from trying to change the situation on the ground.

Pakistan:

  • For Pakistan, its territorial claim on Kashmir is based on an immutable ideological conviction that it is the unfinished business of partition and as a Muslim-majority state is destined to become a part of Pakistan. 
  • Islamabad also realises that it is the weaker power in conventional terms and therefore has to use unconventional means, primarily terrorist infiltration, to achieve its objective of changing the status quo in Kashmir. 

Changing the status quo:

  • China’s primary concern with regard to Kashmir is to prevent any Indian move from threatening the CPEC project. 
  • It does not challenge the status quo in Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, is committed to changing the status quo in Kashmir at all cost. 
  • It has been trying to do so since Partition not only through clandestine infiltration but also by engaging in conventional warfare. 
  • Therefore, while it is possible to negotiate the territorial dispute with China on a give-and-take basis.
  • Doing this is not possible in the case of Pakistan which considers Kashmir a zero-sum game. 

Way forward:

  • India should, therefore, distinguish the different objectives on the part of Beijing and Islamabad and tailor its responses accordingly without conflating the two threats to its security. 
  • Lumping the two threats together because of a tactical..................

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 June 2020 (Broadband, broad-based(Indian Express))



Broadband, broad-based(Indian Express)



  • Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech
  • Prelims level: Information and Communications Technology
  • Mains level: Need institutional and policy framework for Information and Communications Technology

Context:

  • In 2015, all 193 UN member states affirmed their commitment to the SDG by 2030. 
  • From data collection to analysis, and global cooperation to effective action, the role of ICT is crucial in achieving these 17 goals, as seen in our fight against Covid-19. 

Need institutional and policy framework:

  • We need institutional and policy framework to deliver universal, affordable and quality broadband services, while also enabling individuals to afford, access and use the devices and services.
  • According to the ICT Price Trends 2019 by the ITU, benchmarking 192 countries, India was one of 33 countries where high-consumption mobile data and voice package can be purchased for less than 1% of per capita income. 
  • It is notable given that, in 2019, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development set out the target of 2% by 2022.

A cause for celebration? 

  • For a developing country like India with huge infrastructure gap and limited state capacity, progress in telecom over 25 years has been nothing short of stupendous. 
  • Reduction in tariffs, network expansion, availability of low-cost devices and a spurt in audio-visual content led to exponential growth of mobile subscriptions to 1.2 billion, with unique subscribers of 700 million. 

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ITU report:

  • Contrary to general belief, India ranks between 25 and 85 within the ITU report across five price baskets:
  • High-consumption mobile data and voice; Low-consumption mobile data and voice; 
  • Mobile voice basket; 
  • Mobile data; and, 
  • Fixed-broadband. 
  • Even the Alliance for Affordable Internet had put India at the ninth rank in its 2019 report.

Digital divide persists:

  • India presented a strong case at the WTO to invest in digital infrastructure and digital skills in developing and least developed countries to bridge the digital divide between them and developed countries. But, within India, there are fault-lines. 
  • According to TRAI, at the end of 2019, urban teledensity was 156% while the rural one was trailing at 56%.
  • The GSMA’s The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019 shows that only 59% of adult women in India owned a mobile phone, as against 80% of adult men, representing a 26% gender gap. 
  • Women account for just 35% of all internet users in the country and just 31% in rural areas, and the gap is more than double at 56% in mobile internet usage.

A bridge too far? 

  • ‘Affordable’ services have been the refrain in national policies all along right from the National Telecom Policy in 1994 to the National Broadband Mission in 2018. 
  • It’s time to reorient the policy framework to realise the vision of ‘universally affordable and quality broadband’ by committing to time-bound targets for both affordable tariffs and percentage of internet connected population at the bottom of pyramid. 
  • The USOF has been providing subsidy for infrastructure to telecom operators for expanding access in rural and remote areas.
  • While this is a standard method in many countries, a variant of this is needed in India. 
  • The USOF should provide end-user subsidy both for the device and service, leveraging Aadhaar and the DBT platform, much like the MGNREGA.

Way ahead:

  • This can be done through telcos’ mobile recharge top-up mechanisms and the MNP would offer the requisite flexibility to the users. 
  • It can provide reprieve to the millions returning to their native villages during the lockdown. 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 June 2020 (Delhi diktat(Indian Express))



Delhi diktat (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Health 
Prelims level: WHO
Mains level: Healthcare infrastructure and related issues

Context:

  • FIR on a hospital for procedural oversight in testing speaks of a high-handedness that is ill-advised, especially in crisis.
  • As India begins to unlock, a steadily rising infection curve and viral load puts it among the world’s most burdened nations. 
  • The capital is a hotspot, and Delhi’s fresh infections have numbered in four figures for days now. 

Testing, Testing, Testing:

  • When the pandemic first spread and the world was bracing for a shock, the WHO had prescribed “testing, testing, testing” as the first line of defence. 
  • As in Delhi, it anticipates a fresh wave of infections triggered by the unlocking, the most visible initiative of the Arvind Kejriwal government is to suspend testing in the respected Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and slap an FIR on it. 
  • The government accuses the hospital of not using the RT-PCR app, which shares test data efficiently with all stakeholders. Suspending testing affects lives more deeply. 

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Accessibility of testing:

  • In many cities, adequate access to testing has become a stumbling block for families with critically ill members. 
  • With facilities defined as COVID and non-COVID, the status of patients must be declared at the time of admission.
  • Patients and their families are finding it difficult to get themselves tested, and as a consequence, there are reports of patients being turned away by hospitals. 
  • Ideally, everyone who has concerns should have the right to be tested. 
  • Denial conveys the public impression that having failed to flatten the infection curve, the government wants to flatten the data curve by limiting access to testing.

Invited controversies:

  • While the Delhi government has worked to make beds available for COVID-19 patients, it has also invited controversies. 
  • Its pandemic data has failed to tally with that of hospitals providing it, and there have been public complaints that government data on free beds does not tally with reality. 
  • A day before filing the FIR, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had accused private hospitals of allotting beds for huge markups, without naming them. 

Why the reticence?

  • If the allegation is true, then they are hoarding a scarce resource and gouging desperate people during a crisis. 
  • They should be named and proceeded against. 

Conclusion:

  • And institutions like Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, whose focus is affordable health rather than commerce, and which are serving the public in this crisis, should be spared the unwelcome attentions of the muscular state.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 June 2020 (Undoing the damage (Indian Express))



Undoing the damage (Indian Express)



  • Mains Paper 2:International Relations
  • Prelims level: India China border settlement
  • Mains level: To know about India-China bilateral relations, what are the disputed areas between India and China, what is LAC, issues associated with this, key analysis and way forward

Context:

  • On Saturday’s talks between senior Indian and Chinese generals, the ministry of external affairs sounded surprisingly positive about the nature of the conversation.
  • It said there will be more military and diplomatic engagement to resolve the current crisis in Ladakh region. 
  • Saturday’s military talks followed inconclusive local-level engagement between the two armed forces in the last few weeks. 

Diplomatic consultation: 

  • On the eve of Saturday’s talks, there was intensive diplomatic consultation between the two sides that reaffirmed the mutual political interest in a peaceful resolution of the issues at hand. 
  • That the talks between senior generals were held in a “cordial atmosphere” is a relief. 
  • Delhi’s affirmation that the two sides agreed to resolve the situation in accordance with the bilateral confidence-building measures instituted over the last three decades is welcome. 

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Little room:

  • Before Saturday’s talks, Delhi was careful to downplay the prospects for an early breakthrough and suggested an extended process is at hand. 
  • The government’s caution was complemented by widespread pessimism within the Indian strategic community about an immediate resolution. 
  • That scepticism was rooted in the fact that India was taken unawares in April by the big forward push by the People’s Liberation Army across multiple locations along the so-called Line of Actual Control separating the two sides.
  • That the PLA had dug into the new positions and had brought in heavy weapons systems seemed to suggest China was here to stay in the new positions it had secured. 
  • With China having seized some ground that it did not control before, Delhi’s task of getting Beijing to undo the new facts it had created in Ladakh appears rather difficult.
  • But having publicly signalled its case for the restoration of the status quo that existed in April, Delhi has little room to back off. Therefore, the government’s suggestions that the Indian armed forces are in this for a long haul.

Negative implicationsof Delhi’s current engagement with Beijing:

  • The strategic community fears two negative implications of Delhi’s current engagement with Beijing. 
  • One is that Delhi might be tempted to ease the standoff in return for some cosmetic steps from the PLA to defuse the current crisis. 
  • The other is that Beijing might demand rather costly political concessions from Delhi in return for a full restoration of the April status quo. Given the unenviable situation Delhi finds itself in, South Block’s upbeat description of the talks suggests that the outcomes on Saturday may have exceeded initial expectations. But there is no forgetting that the April surprise has given the upper hand to the PLA. 

Conclusion: 

  • Delhi will have to press all its leverages — on the military, diplomatic and political fronts — to persuade Beijing to restore status quo ante in Ladakh. 
  • If Delhi, however, is seen asmaking unreasonable concessions to ease the current crisis, it will face a domestic political backlash and considerable diminution of its regional and international status in relation to Beijing.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 June 2020 (Who’s afraid of monetisation of the deficit? (The Hindu))



Who’s afraid of monetisation of the deficit? (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: Public debt 
Mains level: Measures taken to control economic crisis by the government

Context: 

  • As the government began to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn, some economic pundits urged the government to go out and spend without worrying about the increase in public debt. 
  • They said the rating agencies would understand that these are unusual times. 
  • If they did not and chose to downgrade India, we should not lose too much sleep over it.

Rating and fundamentals

  • Well, the decision of the rating agency, Moody’s, to downgrade India from Baa2 to Baa3 should come as a rude awakening. 
  • The present rating is just one notch above the ‘junk’ category. 
  • Moody’s has also retained its negative outlook on India, which suggests that a further downgrade is more likely than an upgrade.
  • The rationale given by Moody’s should especially make people sit up. 
  • The downgrade, Moody’s says, has not factored in the economic impact of the pandemic. 
  • It has to do with India’s fundamentals before the onset of the pandemic and the extended lockdown with which India responded. 

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Cloud cuckoo land:

  • We should not lose sleep over a further downgrade and simply borrow our way out of trouble? Anybody who thinks so is living in cloud cuckoo land. 
  • Whatever the failings of the agencies, in the imperfect world of global finance that we live in, their ratings do carry weight. 
  • Institutional investors are largely bound by covenants that require them to exit an economy that falls below investment grade.
  • If India is downgraded to junk status, foreign institutional investors, or FIIs, will flee in droves. 
  • The stock and bond markets will take a severe beating. The rupee will depreciate hugely and the central bank will have its hands full trying to stave off a foreign exchange crisis. That is the last thing we need at the moment.

Work towards an upgrade:

  • To do so, we need to note the key concerns that Moody’s has cited in effecting the present downgrade to our rating: slowing growth, rising debt and financial sector weakness. 
  • Many economists as also the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) expect India’s economy to shrink in FY 2020-21. 
  • The combined fiscal deficit of the Centre and the States is expected to be in the region of 12% of GDP. 
  • Moody’s expects India’s public debt to GDP ratio to rise from 72% of GDP to 84% of GDP in 2020-21. 
  • The banking sector had non-performing assets of over 9% of advances before the onset of the pandemic. Weak growth and rising bankruptcies will increase stress in the banking sector.
  • The government’s focus thus far has been on reassuring the financial markets that the fisc will not spin out of control. 
  • It has kept the ‘discretionary fiscal stimulus’ down to 1% of GDP, a figure that is most modest in relation to that of many other economies, especially developed economies. 

Clearing misapprehensions:

  • We need to increase the discretionary fiscal stimulus without increasing public debt. 
  • The answer is monetisation of the deficit, that is, the central bank providing funds to the government. 
  • Mention ‘monetisation of deficit’ and many economic pundits will fear. 
  • These fears are based on misconceptions about monetisation of the deficit and its effects.
  • A common misconception is that it involves ‘printing notes’. But that is not how central banks fund the government. 
  • The central bank typically funds the government by buying Treasury bills. 
  • As proponents of what is called Modern Monetary Theory point out, even that is not required. 
  • The central bank could simply credit the Treasury’s account with itself through an electronic accounting entry.
  • When the government spends the extra funds that have come into its account, there is an increase in ‘Base money’, that is, currency plus banks’ reserves. 

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Objections:

  • What could be the objection to such an expansion in money supply? It could be that the expansion is inflationary. 
  • This objection has little substance in a situation where aggregate demand has fallen sharply and there is an increase in unemployment. 
  • In such a situation, monetisation of the deficit is more likely to raise actual output closer to potential output without any great increase in inflation.
  • Exponents of the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) make a more striking point. 
  • They say there is nothing particularly virtuous about the government incurring expenditure and issuing bonds to banks instead of issuing these to the central bank. 
  • The expansion in base money and hence in money supply is the same in either route. The preference for private debt is voluntary. 
  • MMT exponents say it has more to do with an ideological preference for limiting government expenditure. But that is a debate for another day.
  • Central banks worldwide have resorted to massive purchases of government bonds in the secondary market in recent years, with the RBI joining the party of late. 
  • These are carried out under Open Market Operations (OMO). 
  • The impact on money supply is the same whether the central bank acquires government bonds in the secondary market or directly from the Treasury. 
  • So why the protest against monetisation of public debt?

About inflation control:

  • OMO is said to be a lesser evil than direct monetisation because the former is a ‘temporary’ expansion in the central bank’s balance sheet whereas the latter is ‘permanent’. 
  • But we know that even so-called ‘temporary’ expansions can last for long periods with identical effects on inflation. 
  • What matters, therefore, is not whether the central bank’s balance sheet expansion is temporary or permanent but how it impacts inflation. 
  • As long as inflation is kept under control, it is hard to argue against monetisation of the deficit in a situation such as the one we are now confronted with. 

Way forward:

  • We now have a way out of the constraints imposed by sovereign ratings. 
  • The government must confine itself to the additional borrowing of ₹4.2 trillion which it has announced. 
  • Further discretionary fiscal stimulus must happen through monetisation of the deficit. 
  • That way, the debt to GDP ratio can be kept under control while also addressing concerns about growth. 
  • The rating agencies should be worrying not about monetisation per se but about its impact on inflation. 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 June 2020 (Selling space: On SpaceX's mission to space (The Hindu))



Selling space: On SpaceX's mission to space (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech 
Prelims level: 
Mains level: 

Context:

  • United States to send American astronauts to space from American soil after a gap of nine years is a milestone in itself. 
  • That this took place at the time of one of the biggest civil rights upsurges since the 1960s makes it almost like an escape to fantasy, riding on the wings of a public-private partnership between NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. 
  • The less expensive journey is a clear financial advantage as the U.S. has been paying the Russians $80 million to put one astronaut into space ever since they stopped NASA’s human space launch programme. 

Advantages in costs, innovation and safety:

  • SpaceX comes in to provide advantages in costs, innovation and safety. 
  • In the 2000s, when Mr. Musk showed off his rockets and lobbied in Washington DC, he was mostly ignored, yet now, NASA wants him to find customers for space flights. This can expand the power of U.S. commerce exponentially. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already signed up as a potential traveller to the moon and back. 
  • With this partnership, Americans have taken yet another leap of faith in creating commerce in space. If his plans get realised, Mr. Musk could make space flights as common as domestic flights. 
  • The collaboration brings in a ‘willingness to fail’ which has kept SpaceX alive. This is coupled to the propensity to ‘qualify every component’, which has been NASA’s strength.

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Innovating, testing and building new technology:

  • NASA has partially outsourced its work of innovating, testing and building new technology to market players such as SpaceX. 
  • It has made clear its desire to invite more such innovative space companies to participate. India under Prime Minister Modi has also opened up the space sector including ISRO facilities to private players. 
  • The emergence of successful partnerships here will likely depend on how well they stand up against the American example of allowing for failure. 
  • ‘Fly, test, fail, fix’ has been the rubric followed by SpaceX. 
  • India has not witnessed such huge experiments in space except by the state-led ISRO, its most recently celebrated one being the Mars Orbiter Mission at the cost of ₹7 per km, which is cheaper than autorickshaw travel as cited by Mr. Modi himself, famously. 
  • ISRO already has a competitive edge in the global market for space technology. The opening up of space technologies could harbour many an innovation of this kind.

Conclusion:

  • However, it calls for a high degree of accountability coupled with a non-partisan approach on the part of all players. 
  • The state’s role as a just arbiter in finding a delicate balance between entrepreneurial adventure and vested interests is a prerequisite to compete in space with the superpowers.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 June 2020 (Pandemic offers chance to pursue an alternative model of urbanisation(Indian Express))



Pandemic offers chance to pursue an alternative model of urbanisation(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 1:Society 
Prelims level: Not much 
Mains level: Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

Context:

  • Going by present trends, India will build a new Chicago every year to accommodate new urban dwellers. 
  • Between the year 1 CE and the start of the Industrial Revolution (around the early 1800s), the decadal growth of the global population was around 0.8 per cent. 
  • With the advent of concentrated production centres, improved medicine and the era of fossil fuels, the global population has shot up by seven times in the last 180 years, clocking a decadal growth rate of over 11 per cent.

Highlights of the population growth areas across the world:

  • This population growth rate has been largely urban and metro-centred. 
  • Today, cities consume two-thirds of the global energy consumption and account for more than 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • London became the first modern city to cross the one million population mark around 1800. 
  • By 1960, our planet had 111 cities with over a million inhabitants.
  • In China and India, the number rose from 371 in 2000 to 548 in 2018, with 61 of these cities in India. 
  • Recently, the UN projected that by 2030, 28 per cent of the world population will live in dense, congested spaces, jostling for ever-dwindling space and choked infrastructure. 

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Raised questions due to COVID-19: 

  • Will concentrated, high-investment, high-density cities have a prominent place in the new, emerging world? Are they successful at providing an adequate return on investment? 
  • And, above all, do they provide a quality of life and happiness to all their inhabitants? An average Mumbaikar daily spends 95 minutes commuting between office and home, wasting nearly 10 per cent of his time awake everyday. 
  • Eight people die every day in Mumbai in local train-related accidents, and in Delhi, five people lose their lives in road accidents.

Present trends:

  • India will build a new Chicago every year to accommodate new urban dwellers. 
  • This will require about $2.5 trillion of investment until 2030 — to create more congested urban spaces. 
  • Should we not look at alternative models of habitations, which are more frugal, more sustainable and offer more satisfying lifestyles and higher welfare levels?

Effects due to over population to cities: 

  • Once cities expand beyond one million, they start to experience dis-economies of scale with pressure on every urban amenity increasing exponentially.
  • More people means more vehicles, more vehicles mean need for more roads and increased pollution, which mean more hospitals, more energy and more waste. 
  • Even the most robust megacities can easily witness the “domino” effect where a minor and local failure is compounded into a catastrophe. 
  • In China in 2010, due to some broken cars and road repair work, a minor traffic snarl expanded quickly into a massive jam of 120 kilometres on the highway connecting Inner Mongolia and Beijing. 
  • Drivers were left with nowhere to go for a punishing 12 days. Even in India, we have witnessed smaller but painful versions of the same phenomenon. The truth is that overpopulated cities strain their resources inordinately and leave little room to successfully tackle every contingency.

Causes of natural and man-made disaster:

  • Cities are the most affected by natural and man-made disasters. Nearly every hot-spot of the COVID-19 outbreak is a congested urban centre. 
  • The low-income areas of cities, where anything from drinking water to sanitation can be a shared facility, are the most vulnerable to any disease outbreak. 
  • Congested low-income urban spaces not only bear an inordinately high disease burden, they also bear the brunt of air pollution, water contamination and crime infestation. 
  • In the face of any disaster like a flood, earthquake or, worse still, a pandemic, migrant workers, who throng these megacities, rush to go back to their villages. 
  • India, with its approximately 72 million migrant workers (including their families), is vulnerable to such disruptions as amply demonstrated in recent weeks.

Multi-disciplinary interactions:

  • Some of the principal and strong advantages claimed for megacities with their sky scrapers are the economies of agglomeration and the generation of new ideas and innovations through multi-disciplinary interactions. 
  • These advantages have been largely nullified with advances in digital technologies that have made online interactions numerous, equally rich in content and covering a wider range of disciplines. 
  • The “cloud” is the new interaction space, which can be accessed by innovators from widely-spread geographies. 
  • Digitisation has apparently resulted in the loss of cities’ innovative mojo.

Way ahead: 

  • With this major transformation and with the onset of COVID-19, it is surely the time to reconsider our habitation model. 
  • Gandhiji’s model of gram swaraj, APJ Abdul Kalam’s vision of providing urban amenities in rural areas and Nanaji Deshmukh’s idea of self-reliant village development clearly deserve of fresh and focused attention. 
  • We have vast swathes of land, people and resources located in our over 6,00,000 villages. 
  • These offer another chance for us to pursue an alternative model of development where agriculture, industry and service sectors move in sync for sustainable development, which is in harmony with nature. 
  • This will minimise our carbon footprint. 
  • At the same time, it will also minimise social disruption with jobs coming to people rather than the other way round. 

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