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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 19 September 2018 (Looking for a new version of MGNREGA)


Looking for a new version of MGNREGA


Mains Paper: 2 Social Justice | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population
Prelims level: MGNREGS
Mains level:  Merely putting the labour component of other projects in MGNREGA may not lead to any value addition.

Introduction

  • There are several studies and reports that clearly show that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
  • It has accomplished its objectives to a large extent. 
  • Initially, this government derided the programme as some kind of a dole—but it later acknowledged its role in rural development.
  • The chief ministers’ council in a Niti Aayog meeting in July demanded labour payments for farm activities, from sowing to harvesting, to be included in MGNREGA.

Addressing the issue

  • Can MGNREGS funds be diverted for farming activity in privately held lands, as part of a wage subsidy initiative for cultivators? 
  • The wage subsidy to cultivators is a viable idea or not can be discussed on some other day.
  • But the idea of bringing it under MGNREGS needs urgent attention. 
  • The recurring work on farms is almost not measurable, so this is like opening the floodgates to leakages.
  • This will not create productive assets as is mandatory, according to the Act. 
  • MGNREGS is meant to be an additional employment opportunity in addition to the opportunity to earn farm wages during the kharif season. 

Objectives of MGNREGS’ in the agriculture sector

  • Wage and assets have been two sides of the same coin of MGNREGS.
  • The permissible works and the type of work being undertaken is an assurance that MGNREGA provided the much-needed basic infrastructure for rain-fed farmers, especially small and marginal farmers.
  • A study by the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research for the state of Maharashtra reiterates this premise. 
  • But, thankfully, wisdom prevailed and now the discussions are about having projects under MGNREGS, which support agriculture but in the pre-sowing and post-harvesting period.
  • This is about building productive assets by supplementing it with programmes of other departments. 
  • The buzz word is convergence. 

About Convergence

  • Convergence is when two different projects of separate departments can be dovetailed for better outputs. 
  • Convergence is when a farm pond gets support from the fisheries department and fishing is an additional income; or when the well under MGNREGS gets a motor engine from the agriculture department or tribal department
  • The cattle shed under MGNREGS gets additional support from animal husbandry department.
  • But, when MGNREGS provides labour costs for sanitation (building toilets) or building houses, then this is a “divergence” of funds.
  • These same programmes of rural housing and toilets were earlier part of other programmes of the ministry of rural development, and now are being partially put under MGNREGS. 
  • While labourers could have got an opportunity to work under these programmes, they are instead getting paid for the same work through MGNREGS.

Problems with convergence

  • The work under MGNREGS has to be implemented in coordination with another department. 
  • Our administrative structures are not tuned to such coordinated implementation mechanisms. 
  • The architecture for coordination has to be put in place. 
  • But could this weaken the planning of MGNREGS work by the gram sabhas? 
  • And how will this “projectivization” of works under MGNREGS affect demand? 
  • The basic tenets of this programme is that it is demand-based. 
  • So if a group of villagers put in a demand, but there is no “convergence project” ready to be taken up, then will this lead to more suppressed demand?

What is the purpose of convergence?

  • Merely putting the labour component of other projects in MGNREGS may not lead to any value-addition. 
  • The convergence of MGNREGS projects could be useful, but depends on the type of convergence. 
  • Another concern is that the ratio for total expenditure on MGNREGS work is 60:40, meaning at least 60% is to be spent on labour wages. 
  • This was to be maintained at the gram panchayat level, but now it is to be maintained at the district level. 
  • Gram panchayats could be too small a unit, but a district is the other extreme.
  • The danger is that the wage component might be spent by one part of the district and the more politically savvy will corner the material component of the expenditure. 
  • Hence, a better unit could be a cluster of gram panchayats drawn on lines with their watershed regions. 

Conclusion

  • It is necessary to discuss how to improve MGNREGS. 
  • But the basic challenges are still the same, including providing work on demand.
  • The challenge is to allocate adequate work when the average work provided to a household hovers between 40 and 50 days. 
  • The  most labourers under MGNREGS are small and marginal farmers, and not just landless ones. 
  • They are mostly rain-fed farmers, engaged in farming for a single season. 
  • The way of denying a well-functioning programme is denying the opportunity of development, since the productive assets being made are enhancing their livelihood opportunities.
  • By moving away from the demand for sowing, to harvest activities getting included in MGNREGS.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  Consider the following statements:
1. Agriculture sector in India has never registered a negative growth rate in past decade.
2. India‟s Services export growth have been accelerating since 1990s.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Ans: D

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1)  How the existing MGNREGA scheme can be improved? 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 19 September 2018 (Coercive charity)


 Coercive charity


Mains Paper: 3 | Environment
Prelims level: Kerala Flood
Mains level:  Kerala government's attempt to force employees to contribute for flood rehab contrasts with the voluntary spirit seen during relief 

Introduction

  • In Kerala’s five lakh plus state employees were affected as overflowing rivers and crumbling hills wreaked havoc on homesteads and livelihoods. 
  • Since the august the people of Kerala as it struggles to recover from the devastating floods that drowned large parts of the state. 
  • The government estimated the economic loss due to the floods at over Rs 20,000 crore.
  • Much of the infrastructure in the flood-affected districts will need to be rebuilt and standing crops in thousands of hectares have been destroyed.
  • A massive voluntary effort involving thousands of ordinary citizens had boosted the state’s rescue operations during the floods and limited the loss of lives to about 300. 
  • The similar collective public action has facilitated the raising of funds and collection of material for the rehabilitation of flood victims and rebuilding of public infrastructure as well as private assets including houses.

Initiatives taken by government 

  • Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan backed a proposal from some quarters in the civil society that salaried employees voluntarily contribute a month’s salary to the chief minister’s relief fund to enable resource mobilisation for rebuilding Kerala.
  • However, the proposal, as it took the shape of a government order, has assumed coercive features. 
  • Also the Kerala High Court, hearing a petition against Travancore Devaswom Board, observed that the “salary challenge” has lost its voluntary spirit and seems to be becoming an act of money-grab.
  • The court has stayed the action of Malabar and Travancore devaswom boards to make salary contributions to flood relief compulsory.
  • The state government could do well to rethink its proposal.
  • The government order had clarified that contributions were not mandatory, but it also insisted that employees reluctant to contribute should inform the government in writing. 

Analysis of this act 

  • This attempt to create a paper trail of an employee’s reluctance has shades of moral shaming and hence should be deemed a coercive act. 
  • Floods did not make a distinction between government and non-government employees.
  • A large number of Kerala’s five lakh plus state employees were affected as overflowing rivers and crumbling hills wreaked havoc on homesteads and livelihoods.
  • Not many of them are so well-paid or rich enough to afford to let go of a month’s salary, even if spread over 10 months as the chief minister indicated, for flood rehabilitation even if they wish.

Conclusion 

  • Forcing people to cough up cash could kill the spirit of voluntary action that has so far driven the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the state.
  • The move may also affect consumer spending.
  • Retail trade in the state has already taken a hit after the floods washed away the Onam shopping season. 
  • The state government can think of more inventive avenues for resource mobilisation than unfairly squeeze a captive workforce.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  Which of the following are the objectives laid under the National Forest Policy, 1988?
1. It proposes to have 33% of geographical area under forest or tree cover by 2030.
2. It aims at checking siltation of reservoirs for mitigating floods.
3. It seeks to meet the minor forest produce requirement of rural and tribal population.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: B

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) The Kerala government's attempt to force employees to contribute for flood rehab contrasts with the voluntary spirit seen during relief. Examine the statement 

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Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

 


Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)


The Union Cabinet recently approved an umbrella scheme for farmers called PM-AASHA. The scheme caters to the farmers and is aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce as announced in the union budget for 2018. The scheme seeks to ensure that poor farmers growing pulses and oilseeds benefit from higher Minimum Support Price (MSP) announced by the government. 
Government has already increased the MSP of Kharif crop by following the principle of 1.5 times the cost of production. It is expected that the increase in MSP will be translated to farmer's income by way of robust procurement mechanism in coordination with the state government. 

Components of PM- AASHA :

 
 PM-AASHA is a mix of sub-schemes and state can choose out of them. 
 
1. Price Support Scheme-- This scheme will kick in when prices of pulses, oilseeds and copra fall below MSP, with center bearing the procurement expenditure and losses up to 25% of the production. Physical procurement will be done by central nodal agencies with proactive role of state governments. It is also decided that in addition to NAFED, FCI will take PSS operations in states/ districts. 
 
2. Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS)-- The scheme is on line of MP government's Bhavantar Bhugtan yojana, but will protect oilseeds farmers only. Under PDPD, the govt will pay to growers the difference between the MSP and monthly average price of oilseeds quoted in wholesale market. The price difference will be made to pre-registered farmers in their bank accounts selling the produce in the notified market yard through a transparent auction process. The government will not undertake physical procurement of the crop under the scheme. 
3. Pilot of Private Procurement and Stockist Scheme (PPPS)-- Besides above schemes, the states are given an option to rope in private players for oilseeds procurement on a pilot basis so that the ambit of private participation could be increased. The pilot districts/ selected APMCs of districts will cover one or more crops of oilseeds for which MSP is notified where it will substitute PSS / PDPS. 
The selected private agency shall procure the commodity at MSP in notified market during the notified period from the registered farmers in consonance with the PPPS guidelines, whenever the prices in the market fall below the notified MSP and whenever authorized by the state/UT government to enter the market.
The center has made the provision of Rs. 16,550 Crore as a bank guarantee for central agencies to directly procure from farmers under PSS, while the budgetary allocation for PM-AASHA has been raised to Rs. 15,053 Crore. 

Why PM-AASHA? :

  • Over the past two years, famers bear huge losses due to increased production of oilseeds and pulses. High production leads to fall in the wholesale prices of these commodities.
  • It is evident that increased MSP in past is not sufficient and limited modus operandi for the distribution of the MSP benefits is not good for all the states/UTs.
  • The government, therefore, realize that it is very important that if the price of the agriculture produce market is less than the MSP, both central and states should purchase either at MSP or work in manner to provide MSP for farmers through some other mechanisms.

Way Forward :

The dream of doubling the farmer's income by 2022 can only be realized only if farmers get fair prices of their produce. The emphasis should be on enhancing productivity, reducing cost of cultivation and strengthening post harvesting management, including market structure.

There are high chances that there may be a direct question in GS Mains paper 2 or 3. The format may be
 
Q. The government efforts are to increase not only the MSP, but also to ensure that farmers get the benefits of it. The PM-AASHA is an innovative step in this direction. Examine.
 
Hint-- Try to take important points from article. Start with the issue of mismanagement in central-state levels. Then show how PM-AASHA can help in tacking the issue. Conclude with futuristic approach like how the scheme would help in doubling farmer's income by 2022. 

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(VIDEO) The Load of school bags will be less (कम होगा बस्ते का बोझ)- Lok Sabha TV Insight Discussion

(VIDEO) The Load of school bags will be less (कम होगा बस्ते का बोझ)- Lok Sabha TV Insight Discussion

Topic of Discussion: The load of school bags will be less (कम होगा बस्ते का बोझ)- Lok Sabha TV Insight Discussion

(VIDEO) Bank Mergers: Need & Implications : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

(VIDEO) Bank Mergers: Need & Implications : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

Topic of Discussion: Bank Mergers: Need & Implications : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 18 September 2018 ( In IL & FS, India rues its own belt-and-road debt fiasco)


 In IL&FS, India rues its own belt-and-road debt fiasco


Mains Paper: 3 | International Relations 
Prelims level: Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd
Mains level:  It’s remarkable that India—itself a vocal critic of China’s Belt and Road Initiative allowed IL&FS to do something similar on home turf, with little accountability or supervision

Introduction 

  • IL&FS and its associates have $12.5 billion in debt, of which $500 million is due over the next six months. 
  • The program was midwifed by an up-and-coming lender that few had then heard of: Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS).

Objectives of the programme 

  • It wasn’t called belt-and-road, a term that would gain currency much later as a catchphrase for China’s opaquely financed global infrastructure ambitions. 
  • There’s a lot of scrutiny now of those energy and transportation projects, and a growing discomfort that Beijing may be ensnaring developing countries in a debt trap. So it’s remarkable that India—itself a vocal critic of belt-and-road—allowed a local financier to do something similar on home turf, with little accountability or supervision.
  • A perennial paucity of budgetary resources has forced taxpayers to outsource infrastructure not to the Chinese, but to local public-private partnerships led by IL&FS. 
  • However, in many instances, only the returns became private. Risks remained with the public.

About IL&FS 

  • IL&FS and its associates have $12.5 billion in debt, of which $500 million is due over the next six months. 
  • The group has only $27 million of liquidity at hand, sparking a debt repayment crisis that threatens to engulf Indian banks and mutual funds to insurance and pension funds. 
  • Chairman Ravi Parthasarathy, paid $3.65 million last fiscal year, left abruptly in July after being with the company since its inception.
  • Driving on it was divine, but it soon became apparent shareholders were getting a risk-free ride at commuters’ expense, with the project guaranteeing 20% returns to equity investors including IL&FS. 
  • When the Delhi and Noida governments gave the land, they had expected the expressway to be returned to them in 30 years. 
  • In 2008, though, it looked like the asset was going to be in private hands for at least 70 years. 
  • In 2016, a court called out the daylight robbery and ordered the toll plazas to be dismantled. Stock of India’s first publicly traded toll road shot up above ₹ 70 in 2007; it changes hands for less than ₹ 9 now.

From the perspective of India 

  • It’s unclear whether IL&FS learned anything from that fiasco. 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project to set up an international finance centre in his home state of Gujarat, 
  • The state saw government lease land at throwaway prices to an IL&FS-controlled company. 
  • A former head of GIFT City board’s audit committee had to leave after he made noises about the one-sided contract, and complained about the engineering and architectural services vendor appointed by IL&FS not fulfilling its obligations or returning money paid.
  • The unlisted IL&FS parent is beyond stock market scrutiny. 
  • And while it doesn’t fall within the regulatory regime for deposit-taking institutions, it’s categorized as systemically important. 
  • Yet there’s never been any real oversight of it; an infrastructure-financier that’s also an operator with 169 subsidiaries, associates and joint ventures is too complex for any watchdog or credit-rating firm.

Conclusion

  • Its majority owners are state-owned, and that’s given IL&FS the aura of a quasi-sovereign.
  • LIC is IL&FS’s biggest shareholder, yet its officials privately rue the fact that they were diluted in Tirupur to the point they left the operating company’s board. 
  • The same state-run insurer will probably have to rescue it now. 
  • Were IL&FS a Chinese company in a developing country, there would be an uproar by now about exploitative contracts, and the trail of waste left in their wake.
  • But this is an Indian company in India, playing on the nation’s desperation for decent infrastructure.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)   Which of the following sectors do not come under the automatic approval route for FDI?
1. Food product retail trading
2. Manufacture of cigars and tobacco
3. Atomic energy
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: B

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1)  How China’s Belt and Road Initiative allowed IL&FS to do something similar on home turf, with little accountability or supervision?
 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 18 September 2018 (Saving rivers)


 Saving rivers 


Mains Paper: 3 | Environment and Biodiversity 
Prelims level: Central Pollution Control Board
Mains level: The capacity of treatment plants along all rivers must be urgently expanded .

Introduction

  • The Central Pollution Control Board finding that the number of critically polluted segments of India’s rivers has risen to 351 from 302 two years ago.
  • It  is a strong indictment of the departments responsible for environmental protection.
  • The data show that the plethora of laws enacted to regulate waste management and protect water quality are simply not working. 
  • The study also underscores the failure of many national programmes run by the Centre for river conservation, preservation of wetlands, and water quality monitoring. 
  • Tests of Ganga water indicate it has fared better in Uttar Pradesh; but then, the clean-up plan for the river has received dedicated Central funding of ₹3,696 crore over three and a half years, compared to ₹351 crore given to 14 States to conserve 32 rivers.
  • The failed efforts to control pollution are all too evident in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam, which account for a third of the degraded river segments. 
  • Their problems are worsened by the poor infrastructure available in a large number of cities and towns located near rivers.
  • These results come from a CPCB audit that was carried out at the instance of the National Green Tribunal. 
  • The Board should be reporting more frequently on pollution, and carrying out intensive measures through State Pollution Control Boards to eliminate pollutants, starting with sewage and industrial effluents.

The more river stretches are critically polluted 

  • Managing sewage requires steady funding of treatment plants for all urban agglomerations that discharge their waste into rivers, and also reliable power supply. 
  • The deficit between sewerage available and the volume generated along the polluted stretches was estimated by the CPCB last year at 13,196 million litres a day. 
  • Rapid urbanisation is widening the gap, since infrastructure planning is not keeping pace with growth in housing.
  • Moreover, with low priority accorded to enforcement of laws by the SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees  something that is unlikely to change quickly.
  • The immediate plan should be to expand the supply of treatment plants. 
  • Sustained civil society pressure on governments is vital to ensure that this is done in a time-bound manner. 
  • On the industrial side, the plan to bring all liquid effluent discharge from textile units and tanneries to zero has to be pursued vigorously.
  • It’s giving industries the assistance to help them choose the best technologies for the recovery of waste water for reuse. 

Conclusion

  • These measures are urgently needed to revive India’s many dying rivers, protect its agriculture, and prevent serious harm to public health from contaminated water. 
  • A 2013 World Bank study estimated that environmental degradation is costing India at least $80 billion a year, of which losses to rivers form a significant part.
  • This is indeed a problem of catastrophic dimensions.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)   Geospatial technology is being used by the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) to support National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in which of the following ways?
1. Water quality monitoring
2. Urban sprawl change mapping
3. Non-point source pollution assessment
4. Comprehensive basin planning
Select the correct answer using the codes below.
A. 1 and 4 only
B. 2 and 3 only
C. 1, 2 and 4 only
D. 1, 2, 3 and 4

Ans: D

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1)  The capacity of treatment plants along all rivers must be urgently expanded . Critically examine the statement. 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 18 September 2018 (Himalayan divide: on the drift in India-Nepal ties)


 Himalayan divide: on the drift in India-Nepal ties 


Mains Paper: 2 | International Relations.
Prelims level: BIMSTEC
Mains level:  India must fix its lines of communication with Nepal and arrest the drift in ties 

Introduction

  • Despite several attempts at a reset, ties between India and Nepal continue to be a cause for concern. 
  • The disconnect between the two governments was most visible at the seven-nation Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation military exercises.
  • After confirming its participation in the exercises in June, the Nepalese Army was made to withdraw its contingent due to a “political decision”; it sent only an observer mission at the last hour. 
  • Officials in Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s office said that they were upset with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “unilateral” announcement of the multilateral exercises during the BIMSTEC summit on August 30-31.

Chinese ports open up to Nepal 

  • The larger geopolitical context of the discord over the military exercises must not be ignored.
  • In his current term as Nepal’s Prime Minister, since February, Mr. Oli has said he will not be guided by India on several matters. 
  • Despite New Delhi signalling its discomfiture with the volume of Chinese investment in hydropower and infrastructure and transport projects.
  • It’s an ambitious connectivity proposal that will eventually link Kathmandu to Shigatse by rail.
  • This will give Nepali goods access to Chinese sea-ports at Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang, and land ports in Lanzhou, Lhasa and Shigatse.

From India’s angle 

  • India is still blamed for the 2015 economic blockade against Nepal. 
  • It is also held responsible for attempts to destabilise Mr. Oli’s previous tenure as Prime Minister during 2015-2016. 
  • New Delhi cannot turn a blind eye to the rebuffs, and must address them. 
  • At such a time, the Army chief, General Bipin Rawat’s statement on BIMSTEC, that “geography” will ensure that countries like Bhutan and Nepal “cannot delink themselves” from India, could have been avoided; such comments unnerve India’s smaller neighbours and are misleading.
  • Modern technology and connectivity projects could well take away geography’s role as a guarantor of good relations.

Way forward 

  • India’s explanation that it had broached the issue with BIMSTEC members directly did not cut much ice with Kathmandu; even the contingent from Thailand did not join the counter-terror exercises because of lack of adequate notice. 
  • Nepal’s decision to join China for a 12-day Mt Everest Friendship Exercise in Sichuan province, also focussed on anti-terrorism drills, drives the wedge in further.
  • New Delhi and Kathmandu must put an end to the unseemly controversy by renewing diplomatic efforts over the issue. 
  • India and Nepal don’t just share an open border; they have shared the deepest military links, with both countries traditionally awarding each other’s Army chiefs the honorary rank of General. 
  • Such unique ties must not be undermined due to lack of communication.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  "Crime Free Zone" recently seen in news has been established along a stretch of International boundary between India and
(a) Nepal
(b) Myanmar
(c) Bangladesh
(d) Pakistan

Ans: C

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1)  India must fix its lines of communication with Nepal and arrest the drift in ties.

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(VIDEO) Bhutan –Changing Political Equation : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

(VIDEO) Bhutan –Changing Political Equation : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

Topic of Discussion: Bhutan –Changing Political Equation : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

(Free e-Book) NATIONAL POLICY ON DISASTER MANAGEMENT

(Free e-Book) NATIONAL POLICY ON DISASTER MANAGEMENT

Table of Content:

1 Preamble 1

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 September 2018 (Covering the last field)


Covering the last field


Mains Paper: 3 | Agriculture 
Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
Mains level:  Reinvigorate the crop insurance scheme to provide social protection to every farmer.

Introduction

  • The excess rain and floods in Kerala, deficit rainfall in eastern and north-eastern India, and associated large-scale crop losses have again highlighted the need for providing social protection to poor farmers.
  • A highly subsidised Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched in 2016 to provide insurance to farmers from all risks. 
  • Aiming to reduce basis risk and premium burden of the farmers, the scheme’s total expenses today are almost ₹30,000 crore.
  • In comparison to earlier schemes, the PMFBY is more farmer friendly, with sums insured being closer to the cost of production. 
  • The scheme’s linkage with parallel programmes like the ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ and ‘Digital India’ makes it a truly inclusive and welfare-based scheme. 
  • The scheme therefore led to increased coverage of 5.7 crore farmers in 2016 and the sum insured crossed ₹200,000 crore. 

Drawbacks of this scheme

  • Some handicaps of the scheme are: outmoded method of crop loss assessment; inadequate and delayed claim payment; high premium rates; and poor execution.
  • Consequently, in 2017, the expansive coverage of the scheme suffered some setback as seen in a drop of nearly one crore farmers in enrolment (about 17%). 
  • Such shortcomings have inspired recent announcements such as that of Bihar to start its own scheme, the “Bihar Rajya Fasal Sahayata Yojna”.

Challenges for government after implementing PMFBY

  • In order to make the PMFBY a sustained developmental action for a comprehensive climate risk protection for every Indian farmer, the following action points are suggested.
  • Faster and appropriate claim settlement:
  • Timely estimate of loss assessment is the biggest challenge before the PMFBY. 
  • The Achilles heel of the PMFBY (and most likely for the Bihar variant) is the methodology deployed for crop loss assessment: the crop cutting experiments (CCEs).
  • CCEs are periodic exercises conducted nationwide every season to determine crop yields of major crops. 
  • Sample villages are chosen through scientifically designed surveys, and crops are physically harvested to determine yields. 
  • These experiments require huge capital and human resources and have to be done simultaneously all over India in a limited time. Therefore, they have large errors.

Needs to improve the PMFBY scheme 

  • To improve the efficacy of the PMFBY, technology use must be intensified. 
  • Analyse the detailed weather data, remote sensing, modelling and big data analytics, the exercise of monitoring crop growth and productivity can be not only more accurate and efficient but also resource saving.
  • Hybrid indices, which integrate all relevant technologies into a single indicator, are good ways to determine crop losses.
  • Their deployment can assist in multi-stage loss assessment and thus provide farmers with immediate relief for sowing failure, prevented sowing and mid-season adversity apart from final crop loss assessment.
  • The whole process of monitoring can be made accessible and transparent to farmers, policy-makers and insuring agencies alike through an online portal. 
  • Immediate claims settlements can be made once this is linked to the process of direct benefit transfers.

Universal and free coverage for all smallholders

  • Farmers’ awareness about the scheme and crop insurance literacy remain low in most States, especially among smallholders in climatically challenged areas in most need of insurance.
  • To increase insurance coverage we should think of a system whereby farmers do not need to enrol themselves and every farmer automatically gets insured by the state. 
  • This will provide social protection to every farmer if the full premium of smallholders is also paid by the state. It is not an expensive proposition. 
  • Currently, farmers pay a capped premium rate of 1.5-2%, while the rest is shared equally between the States and the Centre. 
  • At this rate, if today all 14 crore farmers were to be insured under the PMFBY, they would need to pay the premium close to ₹10,000 crore annually.
  • If no premium is charged from marginal and small farmers (who own less than 2 hectares and account for 12 crore out of 14 crore) and only partial subsidy on actuarial premium is given to others, 
  • It almost the same revenue can be collected, but in the process, coverage can go up almost 100%.
  • Such differential subsidies are already applicable in urban areas for water and electricity.

Needs to improved and transparent insurance scheme design

  • Insurance companies are supposed to calculate actuarial rates, and based on tenders, the company quoting the lowest rate is awarded the contract.
  • It has been quoted by companies for the same region and for the same crop varying from 3% to more than 50%. 
  • The inflated premiums are lack of historical time series of crop yields at the insured unit level.
  • To minimise their risks caused by missing data and to account for other unforeseen hazards, insurance companies build several additional charges on pure premium.
  • Science has the capacity today to characterise risks and reconstruct reasonably long-time series of yields.
  • The premium rates, and hence subsidy load on the government, can come down significantly if we make greater use of such proxies and appropriate sum insured levels.

Way forward  

  • If such a comprehensive social protection scheme is implemented, there would be opportunities for further rationalisation of subsidies. 
  • The government today spends more than ₹50,000 crore annually on various climate risk management schemes in agriculture, including insurance.
  • This includes drought relief, disaster response funds, and various other subsidies. 
  • Climate-risk triggered farm-loan waivers are an additional expense. All these resources can be better utilised to propel farm growth.


UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  With reference to the National Agriculture Market (NAM), consider the following statements:
1. It is a pan-India electronic trading portal for agriculture produce.
2. It will be implemented as a Central Sector Scheme.
3. It will be binding on all States.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Answer:  A

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Describe the importance of PMFBY. What are the challenges? 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 September 2018 (Where goes the rupee?)


Where goes the rupee?


Mains Paper: 3 | Economy 
Prelims level: Rupee fall 
Mains level:  There are several moderate but effective instruments available to the government to help the rupee find equilibrium 

Introduction :

  • The rupee has dominated newspaper headlines over the last fortnight.
  • Its value has fallen precipitously against the dollar, and is now hovering around the 72 level.
  • It was just under 64 at the beginning of the year. 
  • There is now intense debate in the media on whether the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should step in and take steps to defend the dollar.

The U.S. honeypot :

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has rightly observed that external factors are the cause.
  • In particular, global capital and perhaps currency speculators have been flocking to the American economy. 
  • Some months ago, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a massive decrease in corporate tax rates. 
  • More recently, the U.S. Federal Reserve has also increased interest rates. The icing on the global investors’ cake is the booming U.S. economy.
  • The dollar has appreciated sharply against practically all other currencies too.
  • It has moved up against both the euro and the pound. 
  • Developing economies are typically even harder hit since global portfolio investors tend to withdraw from these markets.
  • Countries such as Turkey and South Africa have experienced significantly higher rates of devaluation than India.

The rupee problem :

  • The underlying rationale was that devaluation decreases the price of exports in foreign countries and so provides a boost to exports by making them more competitive. 
  • Correspondingly, imports become more expensive in the domestic economy, in turn reducing the volume of imports.
  • Unfortunately, this seemingly plausible reasoning does not always work. For instance, if several countries are devaluing at the same time — as it seems to be happening now — then none of these countries benefit from their exports being cheaper abroad.
  • In other words, there may not be any surge in Indian exports following the current round of devaluation. Neither will there be a huge fall in imports. 
  • Crude oil is by far the biggest item in the list of Indian imports, and this is price-inelastic. Imports from China now constitute a tenth of overall imports. 
  • Since the yuan has also depreciated against the dollar, there is not much reason to believe that Chinese imports will be costlier than earlier.

Ripple effects :

  • The RBI has a huge stock of foreign exchange reserves and so the balance of payments situation is not (at least in the immediate future) the main cause of anxiety for the steady decline in the value of the rupee. 
  • It must concern policy-makers is that the slide in the rupee can have adverse effects on the domestic economy.
  • Because the surge in the landed price of crude oil has already resulted in a steep rise in the prices of petroleum and diesel.
  • Diesel price hikes increase the cost of transportation of goods being transported by road. Unfortunately, many food items fall in this category. 
  • Obviously, any increase in food prices must set alarm bells ringing in the Union Finance Ministry. 
  • The devaluation will also increase prices of imported inputs, particularly those for which there are no alternative domestic sources of supply.
  • This can have some effect on output expansion. 
  • Many domestic companies that have taken dollar loans will also face significantly higher servicing costs.

Corrective options :

  • What are appropriate policy responses in such a situation? 
  • Should the monetary and fiscal authorities sit tight, hope and pray that self-correcting mechanisms will gradually cause the rupee to appreciate against the dollar?
  • Or should the RBI and the government come out with guns blazing? 

 What does the falling rupee mean for you and economy? 

  • The problems caused by the spiralling prices of petroleum products. Both the Central and State governments earn huge revenues from excise duties and value-added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel.
  • The excise duties were raised in the recent past by the Central government when crude oil prices were low, merely as a revenue-gathering device.
  • Now that the rupee cost of crude has shot through the roof, the Centre should certainly lower duties. 
  • Rates of VAT should also be lowered by State governments. A small reduction in VAT may even be revenue neutral since VAT is levied as a percentage of price paid by dealer. 
  • However, the Centre and most States are busy passing on the buck, because no one wants to part with tax revenue.

The RBI observations 

  • The RBI has several policy options. It could, of course, take the most direct route — of offloading large amounts of dollars. 
  • This would increase the supply of dollars and so check the appreciation of the dollar, but at the cost of decreased liquidity. 
  • The RBI does intervene in the foreign exchange market from time to time to manage a soft landing for the rupee, and this has to continue.
  • The Central bank now has an explicit inflation target of 4%, a level that is almost certain to be breached if the rupee remains at its current level.
  • This is very likely to induce the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the RBI to raise interest rates again in order to dampen inflationary tendencies. 
  • But, the MPC increase has an obvious downside risk to it.
  • Any increase in interest rates can have an adverse effect on growth. 
  • This can actually backfire if profitability of companies goes down. 

The NRI route again

  • The best option for the government would be to borrow from non-resident Indians (NRIs) by floating special NRI bonds that have to be purchased with foreign exchange, and with maturity periods of at least three years. 
  • Interest rates have to be attractive, and investors must of course be protected from exchange rate fluctuations. 
  • Since interest rates in countries like the U.K. and even the U.S. are quite low, the promised interest rate does not really have to be very high by prevailing Indian levels.
  • This has been tried before, the last time being in 2013 when too the rupee was under stress. It worked then and there is no reason why it should not work again.

Conclusion 

  • Hopefully, the storm will pass over and the rupee will soon find an equilibrium. 
  • In the near future, the rupee is unlikely to return to anything below 70 to the dollar. 
  • This should not be cause for much concern because the economy will adjust to the lower value of the rupee. 
  • What must be avoided is any sharp fluctuation in the exchange rate — in either direction. 
  • The economy can continue to grow at a reasonably high rate, for this will steady the nerves of portfolio investors and prevent them from pulling out of the Indian stock market.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  In the context of economy, sterilization by RBI refers to:
(a) operations by RBI to neutralize effects of excess inflow of foreign investments in the economy.
(b) operations by RBI to neutralize the effects of high non performing assets on the economy
(c) operations by the RBI to neutralize the effects of high fiscal deficit on the economy.
(d) None of the above
Answer:  A

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) What does the falling rupee mean for you and economy?

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 September 2018 (The power of Kudumbashree )


The power of Kudumbashree 


Mains Paper: 2 Social Justice | Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
Prelims level: Kudumbashree
Mains level:  The Kerala model can be implemented across India with the same secular and gender-sensitive spirit 

Introduction

  • Kumari died on September 1. She had contracted leptospirosis while doing relief work in Kerala after the floods, away from her own home which had not been affected. 
  • She was a health volunteer and prominent member of the Kudumbashree Mission in her panchayat in Ernakulum district. 
  • Kumari’s work and life symbolises the spirit of Kerala reflected in the inspirational way in which the people of the State have faced the worst disaster in a century.

United in relief work

  • The heroic stories of selfless community service are those of the Kudumbashree women, who have perhaps not got the attention they deserve.
  • The attention is necessary not just to accord women relief helpers like Kumari recognition and appreciation, but also to understand how such an enormous, effective and well-planned intervention could be made across the State by women through their own initiatives.
  • The glimpse of the process at a district-level informal review meeting of around 60 key coordinators of Kudumbashree in Kozhikode, which suffered landslides and heavy rain. 
  • Women from working class families, women from the lower middle class and middle class, Muslim women and Dalit women were present. 
  • They were a microcosm of the 2.43 lakh groups functioning across the State.

About Kudumbashree model

  • Started in 1998 by the CPI(M)-led government, it was envisioned as a part of the People’s Plan Campaign and local self-governance, with women at the centre of it.
  • In its conceptualisation, it was markedly different from the self-help group (SHG) movements in many parts of India. 
  • While the commonality with other States was in the thrift and credit activities at the grassroots level through the formations of saving groups, the structures differed.
  • Kudumbashree has a three-tier structure. 
  • The first is the basic unit — the neighbourhood groups (NGs). 
  • There could be several such units within a ward and they are networked through the area development societies (ADS). 
  • All ADSs are federated through the community development societies (CDS). 
  • There are core committees of elected coordinators at all three levels — at least five in each NG; seven or more at the ADS level, depending on the number of NGs; and around 21 at the CDS level. 
  • Unlike in other States, all the coordinators are elected in Kerala. Each Kudumbashree member has a vote. Direct elections for the NG coordinators are held every three years. These people, in turn, elect the coordinators of the ADS who elect the members of the CDS.
  • There is reservation for Dalit and Adivasi women. 
  • At the district and State levels, employees/officers of the government are appointed on deputation to help the Kudumbashree groups. 

How they work? 

  • The Kudumbashree members started contacting each other to discuss what they should do. 
  • They divided themselves into squads of five to six members and started relief work. 
  • They were helped by the district coordination team of five women, who were on deputation to the Kudumbashree Mission from the government. 
  • Within a short span of time, there were 7,000 women volunteers engaged in various tasks. 
  • Many of these women have family responsibilities, but they convinced their families of the urgency of the work at hand and set off with all the equipment required for cleaning which they themselves had collected through sponsorships. 
  • Some of them went to relief camps to distribute relief material; others went to tribal areas which had been badly affected by landslides.
  • Like Zarina and Sudha, around 4,00,000 women of Kudumbashree self-mobilised across the State to do relief work, including collecting, packing and distributing relief material, cleaning up public spaces and private homes, and counselling affected families and putting them in touch with concerned authorities. 
  • The Kudumbashree State Mission estimates that Kudumbashree groups cleaned up 11,300 public places including schools, hospitals, panchayat buildings, and anganwadi centres, and two lakh houses. 
  • Around 40,000 affected families received counselling and information assistance from Kudumbashree groups. 
  • To provide shelter to families rendered homeless by the floods, 38,000 Kudumbashree members opened up their own homes. 
  • Kudumbashree members also donated Rs. 7.4 crore to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund.
  • This scale of voluntary relief work by women is quite unprecedented by any standard.

The secular composition 

  • This secular composition acts as a facilitator for the secularisation of public spaces.
  • In other States, SHGs came to be dominated by women from better-off families or from powerful castes. 
  • This led to unhealthy hierarchies in which poorer women and Dalit women were denied decision-making powers. 
  • From the years many women as dropped out from these sections for a number of reasons, the social potential of the SHGs to challenge dominant structures of gender bias at the local level weakened.
  • The micro-enterprises undertaken by the women NGs in Kerala also strengthen community bonds. 
  • These include organic vegetable growing, poultry and dairy, catering and tailoring. 
  • The concepts and practices have expanded over the years. 
  • Today the community farms run by Kudumbashree groups are acknowledged as a critical avenue for the rejuvenation of agricultural production in Kerala.
  • Kudumbashree training courses are quite comprehensive and include women’s rights, knowledge of constitutional and legal provisions, training in banking practices, and training in skills to set up micro-enterprises.

Conclusion 

  • The Kudumbashree groups are therefore often seen as a threat by those who would like women to adhere to socially conformist roles. 
  • In earlier years, women of the Kudumbashree groups had to organise protests when the Congress-led government drastically cut the budgetary allocation of funds and floated a parallel Janashree project. 
  • The BJP and RSS have also floated parallel groups, but so far these groups have not been able to make much headway.
  • The Kudumbashree groups are not affiliated to any political party.
  • This ‘Made in Kerala’ model can be implemented across India, if it is done with the same secular and gender-sensitive spirit.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)   In which year the Government 1 of Kerala launched Kudumbashree?  
Ans: May 17 1998

Q.2)   What is the ultimate goal of the Kudumbashree Programme? 

Ans: Eradication of poverty 

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1)  How the Kerala model can be implemented across India with the same secular and gender-sensitive spirit?
 

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USA’s diktat Diplomacy : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

 


USA’s diktat Diplomacy


The new Trump administration intends to change the previous liberal diplomatic policy of USA. A section has termed the new international policy of USA as Diktat Diplomacy. Following this strategy, USA has been piling the pressure on India in its ongoing efforts to isolate Iran after the Trump administration renegade on the historic nuclear deal, that is, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 
However, all the other signatories of P5+1, have said that they will honor the deal and will not reimpose sanctions on Iran. Russia was very much critical over the change in the Iran policy of the USA. In Asia, only the government of India, Japan and South Korea seem to be buckling under the threat. 

The Trump administration decline the "special waivers" to countries like India, which have been the traditional importers of Iranian oil. Going by the past experience, Indian government is likely to substantially reduce oil imports from USA.  However, most of the sanctions against Iran during the past were mandated by the United Nations.   
Iran has become a top supplier of crude to India, just behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In addition, Iranian heavy crude is cheaper than Saudi and Iraqi oil. Indian Government also committed in 2016 to transfer $ 6.5 billion it owed to Iran as payment for oil supplies. The payment was held owing to this situation. During the earlier sanctions period, India and Iran had agreed to conduct half of the oil trade between the two countries in Indian Rupees. 
The new unilateral sanctions imposed by the USA, however, are deemed to be illegal under International law. Recently, India gave permission to Iranian bank to open a branch in Mumbai. Bank Pasargad is the first Iranian bank branch to  be opened in India. 

Chahbahar Dilemma :

There is also a big question of the Chahbahar port, located adjacent to the Gwadar port in Pakistan, which India is committed to develop. The Iranian government wants the Indian government to start work on Infrastructure projects that will connect the port to the Iranian rail network and the city of Zabedan located close to the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Indian Government has on previous occasions insisted that it will comply with the sanctions regime only if it is internationally mandated. However, it may bow to arm-twisting by USA. 

India- USA Army Cooperation :

Indian Government seems to be on the verge of signing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the USA. India has been under the pressure to do so after signing of the Logistics Exchange Agreement, 2016. If the Indian government initials the COMCASA, the Indian military will be further drawn into American military alliance. 
The Logistics Exchange Agreement allows the US military to use Indian Army bases and ports. COMCASA will give the USA access to the Indian military's communication systems. It will compromise the sophisticated Russian equipment which is in the service of Indian armed forces, besides sending a message to China that India is now a key part of the USA's grand strategy of isolating it militarily in the Asia-pacific region. 

Way Forward :

Indian Prime Minister, in recent months has started talking about the need for strategic autonomy and ambiguity in India's foreign policy. He said, recently, that India's friendship with the USA should not be viewed as an alliance that seeks to contain any other country in the region. There is a need to revisit the ties and the world should make deals on mutual deals rather than on diktat diplomacy.

Multiple Choice Questions :

Q. Which of the following make/s border with Iran?
i. Caspian sea
Ii. Syria
Iii. Saudi Arabia
Iv. Pakistan
 
1. Only I, ii, and iii are correct
2. only iii is correct
3. Only I, ii and iv are correct
4. Only ii, iii and iv are correct

Answer 3.

Hint- Try to learn through maps and see all the important places in news with their border nations, seas and ocean. UPSC is continuously asking questions of these kind.
There are chances that a question may be asked in either of GS paper 2 or Paper 3. The format may be -
 
Q. The Diktat policy of USA affect negatively the relationship of India with other countries. Explain.

Hint-- Try to start with what the diktat policy of USA and how it is different from the balance of power based regime. The past relationship of India with Russia, Iran, China and how the sanctions of USA on Iran, COMCASA and Asia pivotal etcetra can backfire India's age old diplomacy. The Article has all the important points. One may also add other points like disinvesting China from RIMPAC may also enhance enmity in the world scenario. Try to conclude in a positive note.  
 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 September 2018 (The right and healthy way to start a life)


The right and healthy way to start a life


Mains Paper: 2 | Health 
Prelims level: Socio-cultural barriers, Child Rights and You
Mains level:  A holistic drive is needed to overcome the socio-cultural barriers and systemic hurdles to improve the health and nutrition outcomes of our children and women

Introduction 

  • The country that fares rather poorly on many nutrition indicators. 
  • Around 19.8 million children in India, under the age of 6, who are undernourished. 
  • It is a well-known fact that the foundation of a healthy life is laid in the first six years. 

Need for a healthy start

  • A healthy start from the moment of conception is needed, for both mother and child, comprising access to proper healthcare, nutrition and early childhood care. 
  • This results, subsequently, in sound physical, emotional and cognitive growth of a child. 
  • The inter-generational cycle of health starts with a healthy mother. 
  • It follows that an undernourished mother will give birth to an undernourished child. 
  • The right start to life is fuelled by a system ensuring wholesome nutritive care for the pregnant and lactating mother, which then gets extended to the child.
  • Millions of children in this country, starting healthy is but a distant dream. 
  • Irreversible damage can be caused by this—be it loss of thinking abilities; underdeveloped motor skills, speech and physical growth; lack of concentration and inability to interact with other children—not to mention reduced growth, lower immunity levels, higher morbidity rates and overall poor development. 

Important highlights of  indicators sum up the reality on the ground

  • More than half (53.9%) of our girls within 15-19 years have low body mass index (BMI).
  • More than one-fourth (26.8%) of the women within the age group of 20-24 are married before they reach 18; only one in every five mothers (21%)  has full ante-natal care; 
  • One in every two pregnant women (50.3%) within the age-group of 15-49 is anaemic; and only one-third (30%) of the mothers consume iron and folic supplement during pregnancy. 

Initiatives has already taken by government

  • In order to emphasize the importance of a right and healthy start to the lives of children.
  • The Union government runs an extensive public health system network under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). 
  • This scheme addresses the needs related to health, nutrition and proper development of children in this age group, pregnant women and mothers who are nursing their young. 

Limitations 

  • Despite sustained efforts, ICDS has not been significantly able to improve the nutritional statistics for the country. 
  • According to data revealed by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS- IV), 38% of children under the age of 5 are stunted (not attaining age-appropriate height), 21% suffer from wasting (not attaining age-appropriate weight), 36% are underweight and the total immunization coverage in the country is at a poor 62%. 
  • Only one in four children receives a proper health check from a doctor or other health personnel within two days of birth; only two in five children under the age of 3 are breastfed within an hour of birth; a little more than half of the children (54.9%) under the age of 6 months are exclusively breastfed; and most alarmingly, only one among every 10 children (9.6%) within the age-group of 6-23 months receives an adequate diet.

What these numbers depict? 

  • When ICDS was initially introduced to the community, the anganwadi worker hired from an upper caste refused to even touch the children, thereby causing no major shift in attitude other than a plain disdain for the system itself. 
  • It was only when the Rashtriya Jharkhand Seva Sansthan (RJSS), a grassroots level non-profit supported by Child Rights and You (CRY).
  • It advocated for a member of the community to be hired as the anganwadi worker for the centre, did some change begin to happen. 

Way foward 

  • We need to start building proper awareness around the health and nutrition of the mother and the child. 
  • We also have to have the infrastructure ready and working with adequate functional anganwadis and the supplementary nutrition centres properly staffed and equipped with provisions at every corner of the country, with adequate resources earmarked for the entire system to function seamlessly. 
  • But what is needed is a holistic drive to overcome the socio-cultural barriers and systemic hurdles to improve the health and nutrition outcomes of our children and women.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  With reference to Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, consider the following statements:
1. It aims to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years.
2. Pregnant and lactating mothers form a target group of the scheme.
3. District health centres are used for providing all services under the Scheme.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 2 and 3 only
Answer:  B

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Why India is needed a holistic drive is to overcome the socio-cultural barriers and systemic hurdles to improve the health and nutrition outcomes of our children and women?

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 September 2018 (Bridges signal mayday; upgrade maintenance)


Bridges signal mayday; upgrade maintenance


Mains Paper: 3 | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Prelims level: Reinforced concrete structures (RCC)
Mains level:  Improving the India’s infrastructure.

Introduction 

•    There’s an urgent need to systematically and thoroughly fill up gaps in bridge maintenance and renewal nationwide. 
•    The recent bridge collapse in south Kolkata, and reports that seven other bridges in the city have been identified as ‘most vulnerable’, do call for prompt institutional revamp and close oversight.
•    This is identify structurally deficient bridges, especially those in dense urban centres with speedily rising vehicular traffic, and better allocates resources for the specific and express purpose of repair and replacement.
•    All reinforced concrete (RCC) structures, including bridges, are prone to corrosive deterioration; in the last few months, there have been large-scale bridge failures in Genoa, Italy and Florida, in the US, among other places.

Challenges for infrastructure development 

•    It is a known fact that under hot and humid conditions, the build-up of internal pressure can reduce concrete stiffness and strength, particularly in bridges with huge moving loads on their decks.
•    Hence the pressing need for efficient maintenance, which calls for proper identification of the problem and prompt followthrough action.
•    It is a fact that behind schedule bridge maintenance is par for the course in even the best resource-endowed economies.

Comparison of India’s infrastructures with other countries 

•    In the US, for example, almost 10% of bridges were found to be structurally deficient in 2016.
•     In India, many bridges are now half a century or even a century old, and what’s needed is methodical earmarking of funds for rehabilitation, strengthening and overhaul.

Way forward 

•    The resource allocation for bridge maintenance needs to be explored and acted upon. 
•    It is possible that state public works departments can often be lax when it comes to maintaining and replacing bridges, for want of budgetary funds.
•    In such instances, public-private partnerships need to be duly formalised. 
•    There’s also a parallel need for central oversight for bridge maintenance. 
•    Modern satellite systems can now monitor bridge deformations down to the millimetre level in real time.
•    The use of such systems for bridge monitoring must be made routine. We must leverage our satellite expertise to better maintain bridges pan-India and beyond.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  With respect to National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), consider the following statements:
1. It is a fund created to maximize infrastructure development in Greenfield project only.
2. It will be funded through disinvestment proceeds of Central Public Sector Enterprises.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer:  D

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) How India can revive their old infrastructure? And what are the challenges?

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 September 2018 (Beyond recompense: on the ISRO spy case)


Beyond recompense: on the ISRO spy case 


Mains Paper: 2 | Judiciary 
Prelims level: Indian Space Research Organisation
Mains level:  Act against police officers who framed scientists in the ISRO spy case 

Introduction 

  • The ‘ISRO espionage case’ marked a disgraceful chapter in the history of police investigation in the country.
  • The presence of a Maldivian woman in India became the pretext for a police witch-hunt against scientists belonging to the Indian Space Research Organisation in 1994.
  • Three scientists were arrested on the grave charge of sharing official secrets related to space technology and launch missions with foreign agents.
  • The order, mercifully, lasted only for a short time, as the investigation shifted from the Kerala Police to the Central Bureau of Investigation after a few weeks.
  • The CBI recommended closure of the case, citing complete lack of evidence and pointing to grave lapses in the police probe, which also used questionable methods and proceeded on nothing but suspicion.
  • Ever since the proceedings were dropped, one of those arrested, S. Nambi Narayanan, has been battling for the restoration of his honour and dignity. 
  • It opposed the CBI's closure report and made a peevish attempt to revive the investigation by its own police.
  • It has been unsympathetic to the demand for action against its errant police officers, arguing petulantly that there is no court direction to take disciplinary action against them. 

Way forward

  • The court has reaffirmed the principle that compensation is a remedy for the violation of human rights. 
  • But the so-called espionage case remains a study in the crude and archaic methods used by the police. 
  • For those arrested for heinous offences to be exonerated after long years in prison, it is possible to argue that the compensation principle may open the floodgates for innumerable claims. 
  • The only way to avoid such a situation is to have a proper oversight mechanism to ensure that all investigation into crimes and complaints remains lawful. 
  • While granting ₹50 lakh to Mr. Narayanan, the court has taken note of his wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution and humiliation. 
  • While his honour and dignity were restored long back, the delay in a consequential inquiry into the conduct of the police officers concerned is disconcerting.
  • Justice is not only about relief and recompense, and should extend to action against those at fault too.
  • Much of the blame must fall on the Kerala government, which did not muster the courage to proceed against its police personnel.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  With reference to the GAGAN project, consider the following statements:
1. It is being implemented by the ISRO and NASA.
2. It is a Satellite Based Augmentation
System (SBAS) for the Indian Airspace.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer:  B

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) What is the ISRO Spy case? What are the recent developments in this case?

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(VIDEO) Vice President's Three Nation EUROPE Visit : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

(VIDEO) Vice President's Three Nation EUROPE Visit : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

Topic of Discussion: Vice President's Three Nation EUROPE Visit : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 September 2018 (If farmers are to be paid remunerative rates, the best way to do it isn't through distorting but by literating the markets)


If farmers are to be paid remunerative rates, the best way to do it isn't through distorting but by literating the markets


Mains Paper: 3 | Agriculture 
Prelims level: PM-AASHA
Mains level:  By increasing MSP not only help to increase farmers income but also help in economy too. 

Introduction 

  • The  recent hiked minimum support prices (MSP) of crops to levels covering at least 1.5 times their estimated production costs.
  • The Narendra Modi government seems to be tying itself in knots to implement the decision. 
  • There is hardly a month to go for commencement of the kharif marketing season, but it is an ominous sign that most crops — from moong, urad and groundnut to bajra and jowar — are selling at below MSPs even before mandi arrivals are to peak. 
  • Initiatives  taken by Devendra Fadnavis administration in Maharashtra forcing even private traders to buy at MSPs, or face a one-year jail term, has had to be withdrawn for its sheer imprudence. 
  • Now, the Union Cabinet has approved a new initiative called PM-AASHA.

What is about PM-AASHA

  • In short for Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan, it basically combines three schemes —

a)    one existing (Price Support Scheme, in which MSP-based procurement of pulses and oilseeds is done by central agencies such as Nafed),
b)    one tried out by Madhya Pradesh and Haryana with limited success (Price Deficiency Payment Scheme), and 
c)    one new (Pilot of Private Procurement and Stockist Scheme, in which private players have also been enlisted for MSP operations).

Outlook of this scheme 

  • The intention behind PM-AASHA or even the new 1.5-times-cost MSP formula, the question, however, is again with regard to implementability. 
  • When market prices today are consistently ruling below MSPs, it only means that the latter do not reflect supply-demand fundamentals. 
  • The responsibility for making purchases at MSP and incurring both sale as well as storage losses would be solely on government agencies.
  • How much can these agencies buy and store? 
  • Moreover, how will they dispose of these stocks? 
  • Nafed is now struggling with the roughly 6.5 million tonnes of pulses and oilseeds it bought in 2017-18 and which is currently being offloaded back into the market at below MSPs. 
  • The private corporates are entrusted with procuring on the government’s behalf, they will have to be compensated for losses and not merely paid a service charge of up to 15 per cent on the MSP. 
  • And how does the Modi government plan to put in place all these procurement mechanisms under PM-AASHA in the next one month?

Way forward

  • If farmers are to be paid remunerative rates, the best way to do it is not through distorting but by liberating the markets.
  • Let the farmer grow any crop based on market signals and sell anytime at the going price that traders are willing are pay.
  • Simultaneously, introduce competition by allowing anybody from anywhere to buy from any mandi within India, while doing away with all storage and movement restrictions. 
  • A truly national market for agricultural produce, coupled with a flat per-acre government payment independent of the crop being grown, is the need of the hour.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  With reference to Minimum Support Price (MSP), consider the following statements:
1. It is a market intervention by the government to protect farmers against any sharp fall in prices of agricultural produce.
2. It is fixed on the basis of recommendations of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer:  A

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) How increasing MSP not only help to increase farmers income but also help in economy too?
 

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 September 2018 (A higher policy burden)


A higher policy burden


Mains Paper: 2 | Education 
Prelims level: Institute of Eminence 
Mains level:  Autonomy to the education institution 

Introduction :

  • Top-down, centrally managed policies oppress India’s education sector. More autonomy, radical restructuring of goals, enlightened leadership are necessary for a turnaround.
  • Two recent events seem like missteps in India’s efforts to chart a mature and productive path in the realm of higher education. 
  • The first of these events is the effort of the government to produce an education policy and the second is its intent to foster “institutions of eminence”.

Restructuring the education institution :

  • The IITs were created with exactly the same intentions and in a similar manner. 
  • But the performance of the IITs has been largely uninspiring. 
  • Three factors can be blamed for this situation — too much government control, largely mediocre faculty and no programme or activity to connect with India’s challenges and needs so as to inspire students.
  • As an example of government meddling, consider this amusing two-line cryptic resolution adopted for all the IITs a year ago by the IIT Council
  • The public at large perceives an IIT to be a sort of super institution meant for talented children.
  • And they do attract very smart students too.
  • But smart students must be matched by highly inspiring faculty, and by creating programmes of learning that are in tune with societal challenges.
  • Further, these institutions must be given time, freedom and an enlightened leadership to mature.
  • In the initial phase, the IITs failed to meet the urgent need of grasping the special aspirations and requirements of an independent India.
  • They failed to invent and innovate to address the country’s needs. Not one IIT aided our space or nuclear programmes.
  • When it came to building bridges, roads or dams, there was hardly any creative input from any IIT.

About IIT education policy :

  • Each of the first five IITs was, in the initial years, tethered to a well-known institution abroad and did adopt in limited ways some aspects of a reasonable curriculum. 
  • But it was not done in a well-thought out manner that would have allowed originality to flourish in the Indian context.
  • The one change, dictated by the American model, which the IITs adopted to break the colonial mould, was to have a semester system. 
  • But they failed to allow their students to truly imbibe and flourish under a trans-disciplinary system, which the semester system can allow with greater ease than an annual mode of examination.
  • Over time, the faculty tended to settle into harmonious mediocrity with the usual, but few, outstanding exceptions. 
  • The tragedy is these exceptions failed to create lasting and great traditions.
  • Also, the IITs and the government neglected to put in place a major virtue of the American system that attracts, recognises and rewards good faculty at the global level. 
  • The IITs also failed to recognise that diversity is the key to survival and they could not develop outstanding qualities and features that would distinguish one IIT from another. 
  • Because the IITs have a joint entrance examination that looks for identical attributes and abilities in every aspirant. 
  • The entrance examination does not differentiate between any special qualities that would make the abilities required of a civil engineering aspirant stand out and be recognised as different from the abilities needed of an electrical engineering aspirant.

Indian institution comparison with global ones :

  • Contrast this with MIT, Harvard and Caltech, which admit students into their respective engineering programmes but through differing selection processes even while relying a great deal on SAT. 
  • Incidentally, SAT itself has come under criticism in recent times. 
  • Another illustration of their diversity is how these notable US institutions teach freshman calculus, but in ways that differ from each other. 
  • Has any of our IITs created an economically powerful entrepreneurial ecosystem in its immediate neighbourhood or elsewehere? 
  • No path-breaking knowledge-based idea of practical import, such as the search engine Google, seems to have emerged from the IITs. 
  • They are largely teaching institutions and if someone of the stature of N R Narayana Murthy bemoans the inadequacies of IIT graduates, then we need to be worried.

Indian universities are underperforming :

  • Indian universities have an even more disappointing track record. 
  • Their only major innovation in recent years is the adoption of a semester mode exemplified by the fact that, more often than not,
  • The courses they teach have been mechanically split from an annual mode into two halves. 
  • It would have been a magical transformation had they taken advantage of the semester system to breed a pedagogy that engenders trans-disciplinary learning blended with project-based activities for real-world knowledge acquisition and creation. 
  • The best way to gauge the lackluster quality of Indian universities is to ask if any Nobel laureate from any part of the world has ever expressed willingness to join any of our universities as faculty.
  • The restrictive and overbearing policies of government agencies have made true innovation and experimentation near impossible. 
  • For instance, the choice-based credit system, a mutilated version of an American concept, has forced universities to collectively drop diversity and adopt a largely common curriculum imposed from above, compelling them to sink to abysmal levels. 
  • Universities are failing at an alarming pace in their responsibility to foster research.
  • India has consistently put its money on specialised research institutes that lack students and do not deliver the way a university can, as in the US. 
  • Though India has not paid attention to is the use of government funding agencies to raise and foster high quality research. 
  • These funding agencies have not nudged research in the universities towards the needs and challenges of the nation, and of society, as much as they could have.

Way forward :

  • We must not fail to recognise that the American system of higher education has generated its own set of serious problems and drawbacks. 
  • So, India must chart its own original path. Some valuable lessons could be imbibed from our own heritage.
  • In modern times, much can also be learned from the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology at Delhi. 
  • It is truly autonomous, serves the society well, has good and wise leadership and faculty and students to match.
  • Its outstanding record may be because two successive state governments wisely left it alone and did not burden it with any policy.

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  Which of the following is the main objective of Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan (RAA)?
(a) To promote Research and Development in higher educational institutions.
(b) To inculcate love for science and mathematics among school children.
(c) To increase the number of women scientists in the country.
(d) To promote scientific temper among all people.
Answer:  B

Mains Questions:
Q.1) More autonomy gives the more improvement to the higher education institution in India.— examine the statement.

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