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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 24 March 2020 (China’s zero: On China’s lead in containing coronavirus(The Hindu))



China’s zero: On China’s lead in containing coronavirus(The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level:  SARS-CoV-2
Mains level:COVID-19 effects and challenges outside China

Context:

  • In a remarkable turnaround, China had zero cases of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) on March 18-20, including in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic. 
  • This comes three months after the first case emerged in Wuhan. But on March 21, Guangdong province had one instance of local transmission from an imported case. 

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Number of cases:

  • As on March 22, China reported 314 imported cases. As the instance on Saturday shows, more number of fresh cases from local transmission can show up, turning the zero cases reported on three consecutive days into nothing but a blip. 
  • At the peak of the epidemic, mainland China reported thousands of fresh cases and hundreds of deaths each day before the total number reached 81,054 which is nearly 26% of the global case load of 3,16,659 as on March 22. 
  • The total mortality from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in mainland China stands at 3,237, which is less than the deaths reported from Italy (4,825). 
  • The initial signs of the epidemic beginning to wane were visible when the first makeshift hospital in Wuhan was closed in early March after all patients had recovered and there were no new admissions. 
  • The turnaround in China comes at a time when the virus is galloping in Europe and is spreading in the U.S. 

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Squandering an opportunity:

  • Unfortunately, both Europe and the U.S. seem to have squandered that opportunity. 
  • What was once considered undoable outside China is now being played out in Italy — the entire country is locked down. 
  • Putting the rights of the community ahead of the individual, many countries have been adopting tough measures akin to China’s — 
  • restricting travel, 
  • banning mass gatherings, 
  • cancelling important events 
  • shutting down educational institutions and; 

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Covering-UP:

  • Even as China’s success in containing the epidemic is in the spotlight, its cover-up of the outbreak until mid-January, nearly a month after the first few cases showed up, will remain a stain hard to erase. 
  • Worse, its refusal to inform its people even after notifying a cluster of cases to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019 and gagging doctors for raising an alarm show that not much has changed since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002.
  • The only solace is that China did not unduly delay informing WHO about the novel virus unlike in the case of the 2002 SARS outbreak. 

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Conclusion:

  • Scientific papers published by Chinese researchers have given their peers across the world a head start in understanding the virus and the disease.
  • The rest of the world might have to follow China’s lead in containing the virus.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 24 March 2020 (Stealing a mandate: On Madhya Pradesh crisis(The Hindu))



Stealing a mandate : On Madhya Pradesh crisis(The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:  Legislative assembly
Mains level:Disqualifications of MLAs and its effect 

Context:

  • The impending change of guard in Madhya Pradesh is on the back of a disgraceful betrayal of the popular mandate of 2018 when the Congress defeated the BJP that was in power for three consecutive terms. 
  • Jyotiraditya Scindia’s vault from the Congress to its antithesis, the BJP, set the ball rolling for the unravelling of Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s government earlier in March. 
  • With the resignation of 22 of its MLAs from the Assembly, the Congress was reduced to a minority, with 92 members. 

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The half way mark:

  • The resignations brought down the halfway mark to 104 and now, the BJP, with 106, can claim a majority as it is doing right now. 
  • The BJP legislature party is expected to elect former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as its leader who is likely to form the new government this week. 
  • Mr. Nath tried to salvage his government by buying time to woo back the defectors but the Supreme Court ordered that a floor test be held on Friday. 
  • His decision to submit the resignation before forcing a vote in the Assembly was appropriate. Luring back the defectors by dubious means would have been no less dishonourable than the defections. 

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Moral and Political legitimacy:

  • Although the BJP is within its rights to stake claim, in the interest of moral and political legitimacy, it could have waited until after by-elections are held to these seats and either of the parties establishes a clear majority.
  • But a disturbing new mechanism of usurping power that is not won through an election, perfected by the BJP in recent years, has no such restraint. 
  • The party engineered the resignations of Congress and JD(S) MLAs and returned to power in Karnataka last year. 
  • The BJP took power on the claim of majority in a truncated legislature, and had the advantage of being the ruling party when the by-elections were held. 
  • It had used the same strategy earlier and there are indications that it might be tried in some other States too in the coming weeks. 

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Conclusion:

  • The recurrence of this model across States makes this an unhealthy pattern and a fresh challenge to clean politics. 
  • The legal and moral implications of mass resignations of MLAs to upend an electoral verdict need to be examined at the political and judicial levels.
  • BJP played by the book, but a new govt. will lack moral legitimacy without winning bypolls.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 24 March 2020 (Hydroxychloroquine is recommended for very specific cases (Indian Express))



Hydroxychloroquine is recommended for very specific cases (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech 
Prelims level:  Hydroxychloroquine
Mains level:Hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy in COVID-19 patients

Context:

  • Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has existed for several decades, could see a resurgence of demand, after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday recommended its use as a post-exposure prophylactic (preventive medicine) against the novel coronavirus disease.
  • Last week, US President Donald Trump had said a hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin combination could be a “game changer” in the fight against COVID-19.
  • What is known about hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy in COVID-19 patients?
  • Hydroxychloroquine (not to be confused with anti-malaria drug chloroquine) is an oral drug used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • On March 19, an article in The Lancet Global Health explored its therapeutic and prophylactic properties. 
  • Notably, the drug shows antiviral activity in vitro against coronaviruses, and specifically, SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-2]. 

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What has India recommended?

  • The National Taskforce for COVID-19 has recommended hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis in case of asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases. 
  • The new guidelines say: “Hydroxy-chloroquine is found to be effective against coronavirus in laboratory studies and in-vivo studies.
  • Its use in prophylaxis is derived from available evidence of benefit as treatment and supported by pre-clinical data.
  • The following recommendation… is based on these considerations, as well as risk-benefit consideration, under exceptional circumstances that call for the protection of high-risk individuals.”
  • Doctors in the private sector are, however, cautious. ICMR guidelines are very specific for specific people. We have to limit it to them. It cannot become something that everybody uses,” 

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So, should you stock the drug?

  • The short answer is, no. If you suspect you have contracted the infection, you should visit a doctor. 
  • You must not attempt to self-medicate. Even the government’s guidelines on hydroxychloroquine say the drug has to be given only on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner.

What combination did Trump speak of?

  • The combination is hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin, a commonly used antibiotic. On Saturday, following a press conference in which he endorsed the combination, Trump tweeted: HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE and AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. 

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Way ahead:

  • While the roles of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in management of COVID-19 are still open questions for the scientific community, the azithromycin-hydroxychloroquine combination is part of an upcoming multicountry trial anchored by the WHO in the fight against COVID-19.
  • The azithromycin-hydroxychloroquine combination has sometimes been administered to COVID-19 patients in the US, the CDC says. 
  • In a small study in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents published on March 17, French scientists reported: “Twenty cases were treated in this study and showed a significant reduction of the viral carriage at D6-post inclusion compared to controls, and much lower average carrying duration than reported of untreated patients in the literature. Azithromycin added to hydroxychloroquine was significantly more efficient for virus elimination.”

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Conclusion:

  • Simply put, the combination did reduce the viral load but the size of the study is too small to draw a definitive conclusion.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 24 March 2020 (Procurement reform : Jugaad legislation in India (Indian Express))



Procurement reform : Jugaad legislation in India (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:  Public Procurement (PP) Bill
Mains level:Jugaad legislation and its effect on Indian political system. 

Context:

  • While researching over 10,000 Bills that had been introduced in legislatures nationwide in the US over eight years, a recent investigation by the USA Today, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity found that they had been almost entirely copied from versions written by special interest groups.

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Background: 

  • Indeed, copycat Bills originating from self-styled ‘model’ ‘international’ legislation can pose serious dangers, as was quickly discovered by the government of India while reviewing the (draft) Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill, 2011. 
  • The 2011 Bill lapsed, perhaps once it was realised by the government that the Bill would severely disadvantage Indian entities vis-à-vis foreign companies.
  • Since the latter could easily reinforce their business interests by exploiting a number of loopholes with foreign legislations such as the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK’s Anti Bribery Act.

Draft Public Procurement (PP) Bill:

  • The Indian government was equally nifty when dealing with mounting international pressure for the ‘quick’ passage of the (draft) Public Procurement (PP) Bill, which was also later allowed to lapse. 
  • Multiple versions of the draft PP Bills in 2011-12 had been drafted by the (then) Planning Commission of India, virtually copy-pasting the UNCITRAL Model Public Procurement Law of 1996, not even the already released 2011 version. 
  • The first draft required foreign bidders to be treated at par with domestic bidders, staring in the face of many legal and non-tariff barriers to participation by Indian bidders in external public procurement markets such as those in the US, Europe and China.
  • It is easier for the government of India to overcome external agency pressure, given its size and high standing in international politics, but state governments in the country have not been as lucky, especially when faced with strong market-opening measures pursued by international loaning agencies as ‘public finance management’ reforms.

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Procurement reform experiences:

  • Almost 10 years ago, Rajasthan was the first state to enact UNCITRAL-styled public procurement legislation in India—the Rajasthan Transparency in Public Procurement (RTPP) Act 2012—resulting in perhaps the fattest but a rather unnecessary ‘reform’ measure of this variety. 
  • Copy-pasting in Rajasthan went on to the extent of permitting ‘competitive negotiations’ under state law, when there is virtually no one in the state who understands either its meaning or its complexity, and therefore, unsurprisingly, not one single contract has been processed in Rajasthan during the last eight years under this method after enactment of the RTPP Act. 
  • Assam followed next in Rajasthan’s footsteps in 2017, copy-pasting all the confusion and inefficiencies with the Rajasthan Act in the Assam version as well; although they managed to remove some of these defects while finalising their draft rules. 
  • Punjab, as recently as in September 2019, seems to have fallen prey to using the legislative route to procurement reform, as if efficient project execution can be achieved without proper allocation of risk, and without first ensuring simplified procurement procedures and standardised bidding documents.

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Provisions on debarment:

  • The Punjab Act makes for comparatively more interesting reading, given its rather unique provisions on debarment (sections 7 and 56) and blacklisting (section 26), without defining either of these phrases, and even though these two concepts, as a matter of legal practice, are virtually the same!
  • Punjab’s debarment provisions have been copy-pasted from the Rajasthan/Assam texts, while its blacklisting provisions seem to have been copied from some of its earlier executive instructions. 
  • All this confusion seems to have happened in Punjab only because of copycat legislation without attempting to appreciate procurement complexities in a bottoms-up manner, particularly when contractor ineligibility as a matter of international best practice, and even under the government of India’s 1971 framework for banning and suspension of business dealings, has always been narrowly interpreted and applied to contracts awarded only by the debarring agency/department.

Conclusion:

  • It would, of course, be premature and naïve to state that the only defects with the Punjab, Assam, Rajasthan texts are in relation to their provisions on debarment, blacklisting, competitive negotiations. 
  • There appear to be many other instances of similar confusion and impracticality in each of these states—confusion that is unlikely to die down soon enough.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 March 2020 (Picking up the quantum technology baton (The Hindu))



Picking up the quantum technology baton (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech 
Prelims level:  Quantum technology
Mains level:Developing the Quantum technology in India

Context:

  • In the Budget 2020 speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a welcome announcement for Indian science — over the next five years she proposed spending ₹8,000 crore (~ $1.2 billion) on a National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications. 
  • This promises to catapult India into the midst of the second quantum revolution, a major scientific effort that is being pursued by the United States, Europe, China and others. 
  • In this article we describe the scientific seeds of this mission, the promise of quantum technology and some critical constraints on its success that can be lifted with some imagination on the part of Indian scientific institutions and, crucially, some strategic support from Indian industry and philanthropy.

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A timeline:

  • Quantum mechanics was developed in the early 20th century to describe nature in the small — at the scale of atoms and elementary particles. 
  • For over a century it has provided the foundations of our understanding of the physical world, including the interaction of light and matter, and led to ubiquitous inventions such as lasers and semiconductor transistors. 
  • Despite a century of research, the quantum world still remains mysterious and far removed from our experiences based on everyday life. 
  • A second revolution is currently under way with the goal of putting our growing understanding of these mysteries to use by actually controlling nature and harnessing the benefits of the weird and wondrous properties of quantum mechanics. 
  • One of the most striking of these is the tremendous computing power of quantum computers, whose actual experimental realisation is one of the great challenges of our times. 
  • The announcement by Google, in October 2019, where they claimed to have demonstrated the so-called “quantum supremacy”, is one of the first steps towards this goal.

Promising future:

  • Besides computing, exploring the quantum world promises other dramatic applications including the creation of novel materials, enhanced metrology, secure communication, to name just a few. 
  • Some of these are already around the corner. 
  • China recently demonstrated secure quantum communication links between terrestrial stations and satellites. And computer scientists are working towards deploying schemes for post-quantum cryptography — clever schemes by which existing computers can keep communication secure even against quantum computers of the future. 
  • Beyond these applications, some of the deepest foundational questions in physics and computer science are being driven by quantum information science. This includes subjects such as quantum gravity and black holes.

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Require and unprecedented collaboration: 

  • Pursuing these challenges will require an unprecedented collaboration between physicists (both experimentalists and theorists), computer scientists, material scientists and engineers. 
  • On the experimental front, the challenge lies in harnessing the weird and wonderful properties of quantum superposition and entanglement in a highly controlled manner by building a system composed of carefully designed building blocks called quantum bits or qubits. 
  • These qubits tend to be very fragile and lose their “quantumness” if not controlled properly, and a careful choice of materials, design and engineering is required to get them to work. 
  • On the theoretical front lies the challenge of creating the algorithms and applications for quantum computers. 
  • These projects will also place new demands on classical control hardware as well as software platforms.

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Where India stands?

  • Globally, research in this area is about two decades old, but in India, serious experimental work has been under way for only about five years, and in a handful of locations. 
  • What are the constraints on Indian progress in this field? So far we have been plagued by a lack of sufficient resources, high quality manpower, timeliness and flexibility. 
  • The new announcement in the Budget would greatly help fix the resource problem but high quality manpower is in global demand. 
  • In a fast moving field like this, timeliness is everything — delayed funding by even one year is an enormous hit.

Way ahead: 

  • There are some limits that come from how the government must do business with public funds. 
  • Here, private funding, both via industry and philanthropy, can play an outsized role even with much smaller amounts.
  • This is the most effective way (as China and Singapore discovered) to catch up scientifically with the international community, while quickly creating a vibrant intellectual environment to help attract top researchers.
  • Further, connections with Indian industry from the start would also help quantum technologies become commercialised successfully, allowing Indian industry to benefit from the quantum revolution. 

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Conclusion:

  • We must encourage industrial houses and strategic philanthropists to take an interest and reach out to Indian institutions with an existing presence in this emerging field. 
  • As two of us can personally attest, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), home to India’s first superconducting quantum computing lab, would be delighted to engage.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 March 2020 (The perils of an all-out lockdown (The Hindu))



The perils of an all-out lockdown (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Governance 
Prelims level:  Unorganised sectors
Mains level: Challenges towards India’s lockdown

Context:

  • As the novel coronavirus spreads, a double crisis looms over India: a health crisis and an economic crisis. 
  • In terms of casualties, the health crisis is still very confined (seven deaths in a country where eight million people die every year), but the numbers are growing fast. 
  • The economic crisis is hitting with full force, throwing millions out of work by the day.Unlike the health crisis, it is not class-neutral, but hurts poor people the most.

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Challenges towards India’s lockdown:

  • Migrant workers, street vendors, contract workers, almost everyone in the informal sector — the bulk of the workforce — is being hit by this economic tsunami.
  • In Maharashtra, mass lay-offs have forced migrant workers to rush home, some without being paid. 
  • Many of them are now stranded between Maharashtra and their homes as trains have been cancelled. 
  • The economic standstill in Maharashtra is spreading fast to other States as factories, shops, offices and worksites close with little hope of an early return to normalcy. 
  • With transport routes dislocated, even the coming wheat harvest, a critical source of survival for millions of labouring families in north India, may not bring much relief. And all this is just a trailer.
  • This economic crisis calls for urgent, massive relief measures. Lockdowns may be needed to slow down the epidemic, but poor people cannot afford to stay idle at home. If they are asked to stay home, they will need help. There is a critical difference, in this respect, between India and affluent countries with a good social security system. 
  • The average household in, say, Canada or Italy can take a lockdown in its stride (for some time at least), but the staying power of the Indian poor is virtually nil.

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Tap social schemes

  • Since time is of the essence, the first step is to make good use of existing social-security schemes to support poor people — pensions, the Public Distribution System (PDS), midday meals, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), among others. 
  • Initial measures could include advance payment of pensions, enhanced PDS rations, immediate payment of MGNREGA wage arrears, and expanded distribution of take-home rations at schools and anganwadis. 
  • Some States have already taken useful steps of this sort, but the scale of relief measures needs radical expansion. 
  • That, in turn, requires big money from the Central government. It also requires the government to avoid squandering its resources on corporate bailouts: most crisis-affected sectors of the economy will soon be lobbying for rescue packages.

Negative impact of the vulnerable sections of the society:

  • Meanwhile, there is a danger of people’s hardships being aggravated by a tendency to shut down essential services. 
  • Public transport, administrative offices, court hearings, MGNREGA projects and even immunisation drives have already been suspended to varying degrees in many States. 
  • Some of these interruptions are certainly justified, but others are likely to be counter-productive. 
  • Remember, we are dealing not only with a health crisis but also with an economic crisis. Even if discontinuing public services helps to contain the health crisis, the economic consequences need to be considered.

Precautionary measures:

  • To assess the case for various precautionary measures, we must bear in mind the dual motive for taking precautions. 
  • When you decide to stay at home, there are two possible motives for it: a self-protection motive and a public-purpose motive. 
  • In the first case, you act out of fear of being infected. 
  • In the second, you participate in collective efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

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Display creativity:

  • A similar reasoning applies to the case for shutting down public services as a precautionary measure. Self-protection of public employees is not a major issue (for the time being), the main consideration is public purpose. 
  • Further, public purpose must include the possible economic consequences of a shutdown. If a service creates a major health hazard, public purpose may certainly call for it to be discontinued (this is the reason for closing schools and colleges). 
  • On the other hand, services that help poor people in their hour of need without creating a major health hazard should continue to function as far as possible. 
  • That would apply not only to health services or the Public Distribution System, but also to many other public services including administrative offices at the district and local levels. 
  • Poor people depend on these services in multiple ways, closing them across the board at this time would worsen the economic crisis without doing much to stem the health crisis.

Way ahead: 

  • The urgent need for effective social security measures makes it all the more important to avoid a loss of nerve. 
  • The way things are going today, it will soon be very difficult for some State governments to run the Public Distribution System or take good care of drinking water. 
  • That would push even more people to the wall, worsening not only the economic crisis but possibly the health crisis as well. 
  • This is not the time to let India’s frail safety net unravel.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 March 2020 (Need and issues in Lokpal (The Hindu))



Need and issues in Lokpal (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:  Lokayukta Act
Mains level: Jurisdiction and the power of Lokpal

Context:

  • After six years of coming into effect of Lokpal and LokayuktaAct, 2013, it is yet to play a significant role in tacklingcorruption in the country. 

Basicsof Lokpal and Lokayukta Act:

  • It establishes Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta forStates to inquire into allegations of corruption againstcertain public functionaries.
  • It provides for an Enquiry Wing and a Prosecution Wingto deal with cases of corruption.
  • The Inquiry wing conducts preliminary inquiry intoalleged cases of corruption against public servants underPrevention of Corruption Act, 1988 whereas theProsecution Wing file cases before the Special Court toprosecute public servants under Prevention of CorruptionAct, 1988.

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Establishment of Lokpal: 

  • Lokpal shall consist of a Chairperson, who is or has been aChief Justice of India or is or has been a Judge of theSupreme Court or an eminent person,
  • It shall have a maximum of eight members of which halfshall be judicial members.
  • The Chairperson and Members shall be appointed by thePresident after obtaining the recommendations of a
  • Selection Committee consisting of—
  • the Prime Minister—Chairperson;
  • the Speaker of the House of the People—Member;
  • the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People—Member;
  • the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Courtnominated by him—Member;
  • one eminent jurist, as recommended by the Chairpersonand Members.
  • The Chairperson and every Member shall, on therecommendations of the Selection Committee, be appointed by the President by warrant under his handand seal and hold office as such for a term of five yearsor until he attains 70 years of age (whichever is earlier).

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Jurisdiction and the power of Lokpal:  

  • Lokpal have jurisdiction to inquire allegations of corruptionagainst Prime Minister, Ministers, members of Parliament,officers belonging to Group A, B, C and D and officials ofCentral Government.
  • The Lokpal on receipt of a complaint, may orderpreliminary inquiry against any public servant by itsInquiry Wing or any agency including the Delhi SpecialPolice Establishment.
  • Lokpal shall refer complaints of corruption against publicservants to Central Vigilance Commission and the CVCafter making preliminary enquiry –
  • In respect of public servants belonging to Group A andGroup B - shall submit its report to the Lokpal.
  • In case of public servants belonging to Group C andGroup D - the Commission shall proceed in accordancewith the provisions of the Central Vigilance CommissionAct, 2003.
  • Lokpal can also inquire against any society or trust or bodythat receives foreign contribution above Rs.10 lakhs.
  • Lokpal Act creates Special Courts to hear and decide thecases arising out of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988or under the Lokpal Act involving public servants.
  • The Special Courts shall ensure completion of each trialwithin a period of one year from the date of filing of thecase in the Court.

Probe against Prime Minister:

  • The Lokpal cannot inquire into any corruption charge againstthe Prime Minister if the allegations are related tointernational relations, external and internal security, publicorder, atomic energy and space unless a full Bench of theLokpal, consisting of all members, considers the initiation of aprobe necessary and is approved by at least two-thirds of themembers of Lokpal. 
  • Such a hearing should be held privatelyand if the complaint is dismissed, the records shall not bepublished or made available to anyone.

Challenges in implementation:

  • For more than five years, the chairperson and members ofthe Lokpal were not appointed as thegovernment claimedlack of Leader of Opposition in the Parliament.
  • Supreme Court Judgment in April, 2018 instructed thegovernment to appoint Lokpal and its members and saidthat even without recognised Leader of Opposition, Lokpaland its members can be appointed.
  • Accordingly, after much deliberation, governmentappointed Mr. Pinaki Chandra Ghosh as India’s firstLokpal in March 2019. Thus, it took almost five years toappoint Lokpal at the centre to handle cases of corruptionagainst public officials.
  • No member from Opposition in Selection Committee.
  • While appointing Chairperson and Members of Lokpal, thegovernment invited the opposition as “special invitee” andnot as Leader of Opposition or Leader of Single LargestParty.
  • So, the selection committee remained very much politicallybiased towards a single political party due to lack ofrepresentation from the opposition.
  • The unilateral selection may make the Chairperson andMembers of Lokpal go soft on officials who are close to theruling party on cases of corruption.
  • This also puts pressure on other members of Lokpal oncases of corruption involving high officials consideredclose to the ruling majority.

Lack of Rules or Regulations for proper functioning:

  • Even after one year of appointment of Lokayukta andMembers of Lokpal, central government has not framedrules for its regular functioning including providing formfiling complaints.
  • The Central government has also failed to formulate rulesregarding asset disclosure by public servants. Further, noregulations have been made specifying the manner andprocedure of conducting preliminary inquiry andinvestigation. Yet the government claims that tillSeptember 30, 2019, it disposed of 1000 cases out of 1065cases. This claim of the government appears fabricatedand can be challenged in a Court of law.
  • The government has neither constituted Inquiry andCorruption Wing of Lokpal nor appointed its Directors asprescribed in the Lokpal Act.

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Way forward:

  • Mere appointment of Members of Lokpal and Lokayuktaswill not serve the purpose unless these officers areempowered with adequate powers to address the issue ofcorruption in the society.
  • The government must frame rules and regulations tomake the institution function transparently, independentlyand authoritatively without any political or externalinfluence.
  • The institution of Lokpal must be made financially andadministratively independent so that it can perform itsfunctions without being dependent on central authorities.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 March 2020 (Can digital tools trigger behavioural shift in how Indians save?(Indian Express))



Can digital tools trigger behavioural shift in how Indians save?(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level:  Unified Payments Interface
Mains level:Behavioural shift in the Indian economy 

Context:

  • India and its central bank have done a tremendous job so far, to reach every nook and corner of the country to ensure rural branches or bank correspondents to cover every village and district. 
  • This is India’s chance to build on that success by using digital technologies and platforms such as WhatsApp.

Evolution of the Unified Payments Interface:

  • In the last few years, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is another such innovation which has demonstrated the promise of digital transactions. 
  • These were just the first steps in a series of reforms that brought India out of a crisis and into an era of sustained economic growth. 
  • In the last few years, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is another such innovation which has demonstrated the promise of digital transactions. 
  • India’s technology leaders have a unique architecture that can scale to serve hundreds of millions of users and bring more people into the financial system to enjoy all the benefits of a digital economy. 
  • UPI is also the first example of India’s public digital infrastructure which can go global and help solve for many complex problems related to poverty and financial inclusion.
  • In India, many of those working in urban centres support their families who continue to live in rural India. 

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Rise in the household consumption:

  • There are many studies which show that those who are working as construction labourers in cities like Mumbai, save a large chunk of their wages to send home through relatives or friends travelling back for a minimal fee. 
  • UPI and the Digital India initiative, sending and receiving money over WhatsApp is now as easy as making a phone call or sending a message and it is free.
  • Today people can send money using dozens of apps to one another or make a purchase at a local shop. 
  • In the future, we believe people will be able to do so much more, helping people and our overall economy. 
  • As per the latest Economic Survey released earlier this year, household savings has declined steadily over a six-year period of 2012-17 from over 7 to over 6.5 per cent. 
  • While this is one reason why household consumption is up, it is also a clear indication that for Indian households the potential of savings and turning them into investments is quite high. 

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Way ahead:

  • Research shows that access to financial products and services empowers people to achieve their dreams and prohibits them from falling into poverty. 
  • India and its central bank have done a tremendous job so far, to reach every nook and corner of the country to ensure rural branches or bank correspondents to cover every village and district. 
  • This is India’s chance to build on that success by using digital technologies and platforms such as WhatsApp.

Conclusion:

  • We are charting a unique path forward. 
  • Together we can build a more prosperous and Digital India.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 March 2020 (Judicious activism, not judicial activism: Time for judiciary to practice constitutional morality(Indian Express))



Judicious activism, not judicial activism: Time for judiciary to practice constitutional morality(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:  Judicious activism
Mains level:Judicious activism and its major challenges 

Context:

  • The global and Indian economies reel under the Covid-19 pressure, so it is necessary to assess the overall economic slowdown.
  • The judiciary should practice the constitutional morality with respect to its own power of constitutional review of economic policies.

Government’s priority:

  • The Indian government wants to improve India’s profile in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) index.
  • It wants to do so to yield better external and internal investments, which are a shot in the arm that the Indian economy certainly needs.
  • In its efforts to improve investor confidence, it has introduced numerous legislations that provide boost to its rank on the EoDB index. 

In what parameter does India lag?

  • Under the parameter of “enforcing contracts”, India continues to lag behind even lesser economies. 
  • This parameter, while looking at dispute resolution capacities, reveals the challenges that a litigant faces in the Indian judicial system.
  • Delays and procedural breakdowns, lack of adequate remedy or proper enforceability of a judicial decree. 

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Remedy taken by the Parliament:

  • It enacted amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, and the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. 
  • Primarily, both these legislations aim at improving commercial litigation, especially those involving higher economic stakes. 
  • Yet, no mechanism or legislation comprehensively addresses resolution of disputes pertaining to vital infrastructure development projects.

What is the debate? 

  • A debate is on how far courts can intervene in developmental and economic policies of the state to balance divergent interests.
  • There is also a debate on whether contemporary jurisprudence is emblematic of more amped up and overzealous judicial activism. 
  • If there is any violation alleged against the governments undertaking such development exercises, they wind up in constitutional courts through the PIL route. 
  • Once there, these projects have the unfortunate tendency of beleaguering pendency.

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Should courts sit in review of these policies?

  • Judicial review and the oversight of courts are an inherent check and balance prescribed by the Indian Constitution. 
  • However, the apex court itself has upheld that when conducting a constitutional review, the courts must limit it to constitutionality.
  • It added that the courts should not delve into the intent of such policies, unless it is prima facie established to be born of mala fide intent. 
  • There are instances of excessive judicial activism that are viewed as stumbling blocks impeding a booming economy.
  • It is within this larger debate on the powers of judicial review and intervention that injunctions emerge as the central contention. 

What would be the effect of injunctive orders?

  • Injunctive orders have the capacity to offset developmental plans in motion, and their cost implications are significant. 
  • The Economic Survey of 2017-18 quantifies the costs of such delays. 
  • The cumulative value of multiple projects snagged by injunctions and interim orders was pegged at Rs 52,000 crore (in March 2017). 
  • On an average, such injunctions would remain in effect for over four years, thus causing severe delays.
  • In turn, it would add the overrun costs to the development projects. 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 March 2020 (Information war (Indian Express))



Information war (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:International Relations 
Prelims level:  Infowar
Mains level:Outcome of the infowar between states 

Context:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has done nothing to improve intellects, and the usual suspects are still up to no good. 
  • The relatively insignificant OpIndia attributes the spread of infection in Southeast Asia to Muslim evangelism, while applauding Hindus there for continuing to observe festivals undeterred by the peril.

Background:

  • The two great powers have barely put a trade war behind them, and now Covid-19 has sparked off an unprecedented infowar in which journalists are cannon fodder. 
  • A month ago, the US authorities designated Chinese news organisations as foreign missions – an euphemism for propaganda units. 
  • Operationally, it only means that they must provide staff lists and cannot buy property without prior permission, but the message has been delivered. 
  • The affected bodies include the Xinhua news agency and the China Global Television Network, Beijing’s face to the world.

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Unprecedented infowar: 

  • A war on information is a self-goal for all because there is a huge deficit of knowledge on which action against the pandemic and the management of its economic, social and political fallout can be reasonably based.
  • Nations are taking extraordinary steps, and preparing to deliver emergency funding that is often in the tens of billions, if not more. 
  • The US has invoked wartime provisions to harness private plant capacity for the public good, and the EU has liberalised access of companies to government funds. 
  • Populations under isolation are dealing with restrictions not seen since the Great War, which will have wide-reaching economic effects. 
  • But initiatives for containment are actuated largely by prudence, rather than knowledge of the behaviour of the virus.
  • Perhaps influenced by the message from the WHO, the media has focused on the need for testing.

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Way forward:

  • India is being lauded for widening the ambit of testing to patients with atypical pneumonia, for instance. But the samples are not wholly random – they are drawn from a small fraction of the population who report illness – and has sampling bias built in. 
  • To estimate the development of the pandemic and its effects on nations, whole populations would have to be randomly sampled. 
  • Only the smallest nations have the wherewithal to do that. Liechtenstein, maybe, but not India or Russia. Besides, statistics indicates probabilistic ranges, not absolute figures. 
  • Going by the present data, the death rate could be far lower than that of the annual influenza, or very much higher. Also, terminal health data generally features confusing signal to noise ratios, because there is rarely a single cause of death.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 March 2020 (Janata curfew: PM Modi has taken on the Herculean task of convincing us to follow rules(Indian Express))



Janata curfew: PM Modi has taken on the Herculean task of convincing us to follow rules(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Governance 
Prelims level:  Janata curfew
Mains level:Social issues related to health emergencies 

Context:

  • Prime Minister Modi has demanded a behaviour change from us in reference to social distancing in his call for a “janata curfew” on March 22. 

Major significance:

  • Speeches, when a leader demands behaviour change from his people, have become pivotal moments in history. PM Modi’s was a classic leadership speech: It had inspirational rhetoric a la Winston Churchill before the world war, and a dash of Mahatma Gandhi’s call to collective action. 
  • Modi knows he’s facing the Herculean task of convincing us to follow rules. What he introduced to the nation is a unique and radical concept for Indians. 
  • If there are rules, our first instinct is to figure out how to break them. 
  • A red light is optional. A queue sets into motion ideas on how to jump it. If entry is barred, there’s a way to get in. 
  • The government banned spam messages, but it took only two days for companies to find their way around it.

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Virtues of Hinduism:

  • Hinduism does not have the Ten Commandments or fatwas. Hinduism does not have a founder. We do not have to obey. 
  • Hinduism is left for every Hindu to interpret, which accounts for the common occurrence of two priests fighting at a wedding ceremony. 
  • The Bhagvad Gita is a dialogue and an argument. There are many interpretations of it and it is left for us to decide who is right. 
  • The Vedas set no rules. At their crux is philosophy and lifestyle suggestions. There is a strong Hindu tradition of questioning authority. If there is a debate on Hinduism, it is rare to find a space where all agree. 
  • We have an innate culture of individualism, and for centuries, we have learned how to beat a crippling bureaucratic system as a means of survival.

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Values of being obedient: 

  • Obedience is anathema to us, particularly this generation, and is taken as curb on personal freedom. 
  • Obedience is also anathema to the wealthy and privileged. Both groups like to be “special”. 
  • Obeying and doing one thing together makes both groups feel reduced and feel like sheep.
  • We have seen irresponsible behaviour — running away, hiding, and infecting other people. 
  • Prime Minister has taken on the impossible task of bringing obedience and discipline to our culture. In war and crises such as this one, making people obey rules is essential.

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Way forward:

  • With the economy heading for a battering, job losses, and businesses closing down, Modi is preparing the nation for when he will ask for sacrifices from the people. 
  • A sense of nationalism inspires sacrifice, just as when a nation is at war. That’s what he’s setting the ground for. And maybe people will now listen. 
  • With due respect to Arundhati Roy; this is not the time for a Republic of One. This is the time for One Republic.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 March 2020 (Coming to terms with biometrics in policing (The Hindu))



Coming to terms with biometrics in policing (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech 
Prelims level:  Biometrics 
Mains level:Uses of biometrics and its challenges to threat 

Context:

  • There is global consensus that the police charter need to focus equally on crime prevention and detection. 
  • The use of facial identification software will help the police on this focus but it is facing many challenges.

About dismaying paradox:

  • Citizens want newer crime control measures to keep them safe. 
  • At the same time, they resent smarter police innovations in the field because of perceived danger to individual rights and privacy. 
  • Surprisingly, the campaign against police experiments has a stand that the end should not justify the means used by state agencies. 
  • Although only by a few groups, this explains the sharp adverse responses to a counter-crime facial recognition technology. 
  • This technology seeks to make inroads into the underworld’s ability to escape the police detection. 

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Why the police use this technology?

  • Despite robust and aggressive policing, most of the police forces including the Indian police have been guilty of underperformance.
  • The criminals merge with the community to escape identification.
  • So, the police in many countries have sought the help of expert security agencies to scan faces seen in public spaces. 
  • This is with a view to run them against available databases of faces used in crime fighting.
  • The resistance especially in the United States and the United Kingdom, against facial recognition software, has been baffling. 
  • Its modest use in India explains the lack of public discourse on the pros and cons of facial identification software.

Criticisms: 

  • There are people who believe that this facial recognition technology discriminates against minorities and ethnic groups. 
  • This is an incomprehensible charge because the cameras take pictures at random rather than of specific segments of the population. 
  • The next opposition was from activists who focus on privacy violation. 
  • Criticism is mainly on the ground that recognition technology has many a time been found guilty of errors. 
  • These critics should remember is that our faces are already online in a number of places, for example, through increased use of CCTV cameras. 
  • When this is the reality, objecting to the police scanning people for the objective of solving a case under investigation is unreasonable.

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Key points favouring the use of this technology:

  • When there is no match of a face with existing records with the police, these data would be deleted. 
  • If the matched data is not required for further investigation, they would be deleted within a particular time frame. 
  • There are many instances in which cases were solved with the help of facial recognition. 

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Highlights the reveal of U.S. study in 2019:

  • Many of the facial recognition algorithms today are likely to misidentify members of some groups more frequently than they do of the others. 
  • The findings of this study raise doubts about the wisdom of employing facial recognition software indiscriminately. 
  • The study said that the error rates could perhaps be brought down by using a diverse set of training data. 
  • It is unclear whether the misidentification is due to bias built into the software. But the danger of misidentification cannot be brushed aside.

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Conclusion:

  • Ultimately, any modern technology is filled with hidden dangers. 
  • There is no claim of infallibility either by the software maker or by the person selling it or who advocates its deployment. 
  • Grave errors from its use are however few and far between. 
  • The facial recognition plays a vital role in criminal justice administration, just as the DNA testing establishes either the guilt or the innocence of a person arraigned for crime.
  • Over the years, there is a marked improvement in the way policemen handle digital evidence. 
  • The similar care and sophistication will soon mark criminal investigation by police forces across the globe.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 March 2020 (Centre, RBI must take adequate measures to prevent rupee volatility(The Hindu))



Centre, RBI must take adequate measures to prevent rupee volatility(The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level:  Currency volatility
Mains level:Advantages and disadvantages of the currency volatility 

Context:

  • The rupee’s sharp slide past the 75-mark against the dollar, is likely to create a fresh set of challenges for the RBI and the Centre. 
  • The panic triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is leading to heightened risk-aversion in global financial markets. 
  • The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic — over the time it could extend, its impact on the health and lives and the extent of damage it would do to the global economy — is making funds flee riskier assets such as emerging market currencies and move to the safety of dollar-denominated assets. 
  • That is probably why the dollar index has zipped past the 100-mark, and the CBOE volatility index is at a level last recorded in 2008. With the rupee crumbling, a source of stability for the Indian economy has receded somewhat. 

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Problems of recent currency downfall: 

  • The currency had been fairly steady last year, moving in a band between 68 and 72, helped by robust foreign investment flows. 
  • Foreign portfolio investors had net purchased around ₹1 trillion in Indian stocks in 2019 and ₹26,000 crore of Indian debt securities. 
  • Foreign direct investments were also 22 per cent higher in the period between April 2019 and January 2020 compared to the previous fiscal year. 
  • But the ongoing turbulence has made the Indian currency lose 4.87 per cent against the greenback this calendar year. 

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Overall currency performance is superior: 

  • The rupee’s performance is, however, superior to the currencies of Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore, that have lost 7-12 per cent against the dollar since January.
  • The relatively superior performance of the rupee could be due to the benefit to our external account due to the slide in crude oil prices. 
  • However, a large part of this benefit has been nullified by the relentless selling by FPIs this year — amounting to ₹50,000 crore of net outflow from debt and ₹26,000 crore out of Indian equity. 
  • This has been dragging the rupee lower, despite the RBI’s measures to contain volatility in the forex market through the US dollar sell/buy swap auctions.

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Need to proper utilise the weakness of rupee: 

  • It may be argued that some amount of rupee weakness is good, from the exporters’ point of view. 
  • Also, the rupee’s 36-currency trade weighted real effective exchange rate at 119 as on February this year, could also lead to the RBI allowing the rupee depreciate a little further, as it makes our exports more competitive. 
  • But the benefits of a weak rupee need to be weighed against the possibility of imported inflation and the stress on corporates who have borrowed overseas.
  • It is also a moot point whether export demand will pick up in the short run when shipments are not happening.
  • While a steady rupee decline is par for the course, sudden declines can be quite disruptive to economic activity and investor confidence. 

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Conclusion: 

  • The RBI has the option of using its ample forex reserves to contain this volatile phase, if it persists.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 March 2020 (Unfair rules in Odisha’s mining auction (The Hindu))



Unfair rules in Odisha’s mining auction (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level:  Auction merchant mines
Mains level:Need to classification of auction merchant mines

Context:

  • The auction of iron ore merchant mines expiring on March 31, 2020, has been successfully completed by the Odisha Government and the Letter of Intents to the successful bidders are being issued. 
  • The successful conduct of auctioning brings in focus a large number of issues.

Classification of auction merchant mines:

  • The auctioned merchant mines were classified into two categories: captive and non-captive/open category. 
  • Only five mines were classified as captive and balance 14 mines as non-captive/open. 
  • These five captive mines accounted for around 30 per cent of the total auctioned reserves and the balance 14 mines, 70 per cent. 
  • While for a mine reserved as captive, only end-users could bid, the open category blocks could be bid by both captive as well as merchant miners. 
  • The access and option available to the end-users in bidding was not available to merchant/standalone miners.

Why the classifications are essential? 

  • This classificationlaid the foundation of an absence of a level-playing field where the end-users had a distinct advantage vis-à-vis the standalone miners. 
  • The lack of correspondence between the classification of mines and access of participation in the auction process is the main contributor to the present outcome of the auction process. 
  • Had the auctioned mines earlier operated by merchant miners been offered to only merchant miners, or had the classification permitted only end-users to bid for captive mines and merchant miners to bid for open category mines, the outcomes would have been somewhat different and more sensible. 

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Outcome of the auction: 

  • The auction outcome is perplexing. It has presented an unprecedented scenario of winning bids’ premium ranging from 90.9 per cent to 154 per cent. 
  • This clearly shows that for every ₹100 a bidder earns from its sale, it has to pay premium starting from ₹90.9 to as high as ₹154. 
  • A bidder in addition to the revenue-share premium, has to pay royalty, dead rent, District Mineral Foundation (DMF), National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) and other statutory dues of about 17 per cent. He has to incur the cost of production, salary and other operating expenses.
  • The results show that the successful bidder has to incur a cost by way of premium and other statutory duties/levies which is much more than what it earns. 
  • The rationale of such a model is incomprehensible. 
  • The present auction policy discriminates against the standalone miners by incentivising the end-users as they have the ability to absorb and accommodate the high cost of revenue-share and other associated cost in their value-added activities and ultimately in the price of the final product. This privilege is not available to standalone miners.
  • Auctions were held for total estimated iron ore resource of about 1,788 million tonnes (mt). Out of this, 527 mt was reserved for end-users and the balance 1,261 mt earmarked for open category for which captive and merchant miners could bid. 
  • The outcome reveals that of 1,261 mt reserves meant for open category, the end-users/steel-makers bagged 923 mt.

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Steel-makers gain:

  • It is also important to observe that a steel-maker having won four leases (two captive and two end-users) will have control over 65 per cent of the total auctioned reserves. 
  • Two steel-makers with five mines will account for 75 per cent of the resources.
  • This will show that the sector is getting polarised where few steel-makers will have dominant control over the resources and hence production, leading to a very skewed and asymmetric situation.

Critical aspect of auction:

  • The most critical aspect of auction is the exorbitant revenue sharing premium in each case of a successful bidder. 
  • The revenue as per the tender document is calculated by multiplying the mineral dispatched during a month with the sale price declared by the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM). 
  • The future will revolve around the IBM declared price. Currently the average price in a month of sales made by merchant miners is taken as the IBM-declared price. 
  • The spread of the consumer base and the prices at which merchant miners sell to different customers and very often different merchant miners serving to overlapping customers, has given rise to a situation where IBM declared prices are fair and transparent.
  • In a sense the IBM declared price is representative of the market prices except where there could be a time lag in publishing the IBM prices vis-à-vis current market prices. 
  • In the new regime where the market is dominated by few end-users, the IBM prices being vulnerable to manipulation can’t be ruled out. 
  • IBM will be at the receiving end. Like a tariff authority empowered with statutory and regulatory powers, IBM needs to be equipped and empowered to address the pricing issues in the new regime.
  • It is possible that IBM prices can be influenced or even suppressed by both captive or non-captive miners by selling iron ore to their sister concern and related parties by entering into schemes of arrangement. 

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Way ahead: 

  • Therefore, the government has to take measures to ensure that IBM declared prices are fair, transparent and confirming to arm’s length principle, otherwise government revenue in the form of revenue sharing premium, royalty and GST will be adversely impacted.
  • Non-captive and non-related sales by captive or merchant miners should be the guiding principle for fixing the IBM prices.
  • The principle that has been adopted for revenue sharing and valuation of estimated reserves in the tender document needs to be followed in its true spirit by the winning bidders during their lease terms.

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Test Booklet Series: B

Directions for the following 8 (eight) items : Read the following seven passages and answer the items that follow the passages. Your answers to these items should be based on the passages only.

Passage -1

Disruption of traditional institutions, identifications and loyalties is likely to lead to ambivalent situations. It is possible that some people may renew their identification
with traditional groups whereas others align themselves with new groups and symbols emergent from processes of political development. In addition, political development tends to foster group awareness of a variety of class, tribe, region, clan, language, religion, occupation and others.

1. Which one of the following is the best explanation of the above passage?

(a) Political development is not a unilinear process for it involves both growth and decay.
(b) Traditional societies succeed in resisting positive aspects of political development.
(c) It is impossible for traditional societies to break away from lingering loyalties.
(d) Sustenance of traditional loyalties is conducive to political development.

Answer : A

Passage - 2

There has been a significant trend worldwide towards regionalism in government, resulting in a widespread transfer of powers downwards towards regions and
communities since 1990s. This process, which involves the creation of new political entities and bodies at a sub-national level and an increase in their content
and powers, is known as devolution. Devolution has been characterized as being made up of three factors—political legitimacy, decentralization of authority
and decentralization of resources. Political legitimacy here means a mass demand from below for the decentralization process, which is able to create a political force for it to take place. In many cases, decentralization is initiated by the upper tier of government without sufficient political mobilization for it at the grassroots level, and in such cases the decentralization process often does not fulfil its objectives.

2. Which among the following is the most logical, rational and critical inference that can be made from the above passage?

(a) Emergence of powerful mass leaders is essential to create sub-national political entities and thus successful devolution decentralization.
(b) The upper tier of government should impose devolution and decentralization on the regional communities by law or otherwise.
(c) Devolution, to be successful, requires a democracy in which there is free expression of the will of the people at lower level and their active participation at the grassroots level.
(d) For devolution to take place, a strong feeling of regionalism in the masses is essential.

Answer : C

Passage - 3

We live in digital times. The digital is not just something we use strategically and specifically to do a few tasks. Our very perception of who we are, how we connect
to the world around us, and the ways in which we define our domains of life, labour and language are hugely structured by the digital technologies. The digital is everywhere and, like air, invisible. We live within digital systems, we live with intimate gadgets, we interact through digital media, and the very presence and imagination of the digital has dramatically restructured our lives. The digital, far from being a tool, is a condition and context that defines the shapes and boundaries of our understanding of the self, the society, and the structure of governance.

3. Which among the following is the most logical and essential message conveyed by the above passage?

(a) All problems of governance can be solved by using digital technologies.
(b) Speaking of digital technologies is speaking of our life and living.
(c) Our creativity and imagination cannot be expressed without digital media.
(d) Use of digital systems is imperative for the existence of mankind in future.

Answer : B

Passage -4

The IMF has pointed out that the fast growing economies of Asia face the risk of falling into `middle-income trap’. It means that average incomes in these countries, which till now have been growing rapidly, will stop growing beyond a point—a point that is well short of incomes in the developed West. The IMF identifies a number of causes of middleincome trap—none of which is surprising— from infrastructure to weak institutions, to less macroeconomic conditions. overall
cause, says IMF, is growth of productivity.

4. Which among the following is the most logical, rational and critical inference that can be made from the above passage?

(a) Once a country reaches middleincome stage, it runs the risk of falling productivity which leads to stagnant incomes.
(b) Falling into middle-income trap is a general characteristic of fast growing economies.
(c) There is no hope at all for emerging Asian economies to sustain the growth momentum.
(d) As regards growth of productivity, the performance of Asian economies is not satisfactory

Answer : D

Passage - 5

An innovative India will be inclusive as well as technologically advanced, improving the lives of all Indians. Innovation and R&D can mitigate increases in social inequality and relieve the pressures created by rapid urbanization. The growing divergence in productivity between agriculture and
knowledge-intensive manufacturing and services threatens to increase income inequality. By encouraging India’s R&D labs and universities to focus on the needs of poor people and by improving the ability of informal firms to absorb knowledge, an innovation and research agenda can counter this effect. Inclusive innovation can
lower the costs of goods and services and create income-earning opportunities for the poor people.

5. Which among the following is the most logical and rational assumption that can be made from the above passage?

(a) Innovation and R&D is the only way to reduce rural to urban migration.
(b) Every rapidly growing country needs to minimize the divergence between productivity in agriculture and other sectors.
(c) Inclusive innovation and R&D can help create an egalitarian society.
(d) Rapid urbanization takes place only when a country’s economic growth is rapid.

Answer : C

Passage - 6

Climate change is likely to expose a large number of people to increasing environmental risks forcing them to migrate. The international community is yet
to recognize this new category of migrants. There is no consensus on the definition and status of climate refugees owing to the distinct meaning the term refugees carry under international laws. There are still gaps in understanding how climate change will work as the root cause of migration. Even if there is recognition of climate refugees, who is going to provide protection? More emphasis has been given to international migration due to climate change. But there is a need to recognize the migration of such people within the countries also so that their problems can be addressed properly.

6. Which of the following is the most rational inference from the above passage?

(a) The world will not be able to cope with large-scale migration of climate refugees 
(b) We must find the ways and means to stop further climate change.
(c) Climate change will be the most important reason for the migration of people in the future.
(d) Relation between climate change and migration is not yet properly understood.

Answer : D

Passage - 7

Many farmers use synthetic pesticides to kill infesting insects. The consumption of pesticides in some of the developed countries is touching 3000 grams/hectare.
Unfortunately, there are reports that these compounds possess inherent toxicities that endanger the health of the farm operators, consumers and the environment. Synthetic pesticides are generally persistent in environment. Entering in food chain they destroy the microbial diversity and cause ecological imbalance. Their indiscriminate use has resulted in development of resistance among insects to insecticides, upsetting of balance in nature and resurgence of treated populations. Natural pest control using the botanical pesticides is safer to the user and the environment because they break down into harmless
compounds within hours or days in the presence of sunlight. Plants with pesticidal properties have been in nature for millions of years without any ill or adverse effects on the ecosystem. They are easily decomposed by many microbes common in most soils. They help in the maintenance of biological
diversity of predators and the reduction of environmental contamination and human health hazards. Botanical pesticides formulated from plants are biodegradable
and their use in crop protection is a practical sustainable alternative.

7. On the basis of the above passage, the following assumptions have been made :

1. Synthetic pesticides should never be used in modern agriculture.
2. One of the aims of sustainable agriculture is to ensure minimal ecological imbalance.
3. Botanical pesticides are more effective as compared to synthetic pesticides.

Which of the assumptions given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer : B

8. Which of the following statements is/ are correct regarding biopesticides?

1. They are not hazardous to human health.
2. They are persistent in environment.
3. They are essential to maintain the biodiversity of any ecosystem.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer : A

9. Certain 3-digit numbers have the following characteristics :

1. All the three digits are different.
2. The number is divisible by 7.
3. The number on reversing the digits is also divisible by 7.

How many such 3-digit numbers are there?

(a) 2
(b) 4
(c) 6
(d) 8

Answer : B

10. Examine the following statements :

1. All colours are pleasant.
2. Some colours are pleasant.
3. No colour is pleasant.
4. Some colours are not pleasant.

Given that statement 4 is true, what can be definitely concluded?

(a) 1 and 2 are true.
(b) 3 is true.
(c) 2 is false.
(d) 1 is false.

Answer : D

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