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(VIDEO) Saudi-US Tensions : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

(VIDEO) Saudi-US Tensions : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

Topic of Discussion: Saudi-US Tensions : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 October 2018 (From food security to nutrition security)


From food security to nutrition security


Mains Paper: 3 | Agriculture  
Prelims level: Food processing 
Mains level: Issues relating to food processing. 

Introduction 

  • October 16 is observed as the World Food Day to mark the creation of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1945.
  • The world body envisions a “zero hunger world” by 2030. Nobel Peace laureate Norman E Borlaug, whose “miracle seeds” of wheat saved over a billion people from starvation.
  • Borlaug also instituted the World Food Prize in 1986, which is sometimes described as the Nobel Prize in agriculture.
  • It’s important to understand the role of science and technology in ushering the Green Revolution, which ensured food security in India.
  • Today, similar innovations in biotechnology hold the promise to provide nutrition security.

Historical context of production 

  • In 1943, the Bengal Famine claimed 1.5 to 3 million lives. After independence, India faced the challenge of feeding 330 million people.
  • The situation became grim when the country was hit by back-to-back droughts in the mid-1960s.
  • Grain production plummeted from 89.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 1964-65 to 72.4 MMT in 1965-66.
  • Self-sufficiency in foodgrains became the country’s top policy priority.
  • In the early 1960s, India imported 18,000 tonnes of the semi-dwarf high yielding (HY) wheat variety, Lerma Rojo and Sonora 64.
  • Around the same time, the HY miracle rice, IR8 — developed by Peter Jennings and Henry M Beachell of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)  was imported.
  • About a decade later, an improved variety, IR36 — developed by RRI’s Gurdev Khush  made its presence felt in the country’s fields. The breeding programme under the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) produced Padma and Jaya, the first indigenous HY rice varieties.
  • These became the centrepiece of India’s rice revolution. Breakthroughs in Basmati rice came with the development of Pusa Basmati 1121 and 1509 from 2005 to 2013.
  • These rice varieties were developed by teams led by V P Singh, A K Singh and K V Prabhu at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute. Pusa Basmati gave Indian rice more value with less water and 50 per cent higher yields compared to the traditional basmati.
  • V Singh et al estimate that the cumulative earnings through exports of Pusa Basmati 1121 between 2008 and 2016 and the sale of the rice variety in the domestic market in the same period to be about $20.8 billion.

Where does India stand today in terms of wheat and rice?

  • While the country’s population has grown by more than four times, from 330 million in 1947 to 1.35 billion in 2018, India’s wheat production has increased by over 15 times in roughly the same period — from about 6.5 MMT in 1950-51 to 99.7 MMT in 2017-18.
  • India contributes about 13 per cent of the world wheat production, next only to China whose share is about 17 per cent.
  • Rice production has shot up by about 5.5 times — from 20.6 MMT in 1950-51 to 112.9 MMT in 2017-18.
  • India has a 23 per cent share in world rice production, next only to China whose share is about 29 per cent.
  • India is also the largest exporter of rice in the world with about 12.7 MMT, valued at $7.7 billion (Basmati at $4.17 billion and Non-Basmati at $3.56 billion) during 2017-18.
  • Notwithstanding its foodgrain surpluses, the country faces a complex challenge of nutritional security.
  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018 estimates that about 15 per cent of the Indian population is undernourished.
  • More than 38 per cent of Indian children aged below five years are stunted and 21 per cent suffer from wasting.
  • Several factors ranging from poor diet, unsafe drinking water, poor hygiene and sanitation, low levels of immunisation and education, especially that of women, contribute to this dismal situation.
  • The latest innovations in biotechnology that fortify  major staples with micro nutrients like vitamin A, zinc and iron can be game changers.
  • Globally, the HarvestPlus programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is doing lot of work in this direction.
  • In India, the group has released the iron-rich pearl millet.

Way forward 

  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has independently released zinc and iron rich wheat (WB 02 and HPWB 01), rice (DRR Dhan 45), and pearl millet (HHB 299 and AHB 1200) in 2016-17.
  • This could possibly lead to the next breakthrough in staples, making them more nutritious.
  • This seems to be the beginning of a new journey, from food security to nutritional security.
  • But innovations in biofortified food can alleviate malnutrition only when they are scaled up with supporting policies.
  • This would require increasing expenditure on agri-R&D and incentivising farmers by linking their produce to lucrative markets.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

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UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  With reference to the SAMPADA Scheme, consider the following statements:
1. It aims to restructure the schemes related to food processing in India.
2. It is a centrally sponsored scheme.
3. The loan under the scheme will be treated as Priority Sector Lending (PSL).
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1 and 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Answer: B

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) With Successful implementation of Green Revolution, India become self reliant on food but basic issues like stunting, wasting, malnutrition still persist. Can Bio fortification help us to meet our goal, Explain?

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 October 2018 (Autonomy and Patience)


Autonomy and Patience


Mains Paper: 2 | Education 
Prelims level: Institute of Eminence  
Mains level: Issues relating development a management Social Sector/Service relating to Health, Education,Human Resources.

Introduction  

  • The debate essentially centres around one question: Should institutions of excellence be about good students, with little focus on infrastructure, or should they be about world-class facilities that only a select few can afford? 
  • In other words, is education a merit good or should education policies follow the public choice theory?
  • Economist Richard Musgrave, the merit goods concept states that policies dealing with services like education and health should focus on people’s needs rather than their ability to pay.

Factors responsible for educational institution development 

  • The theory has influenced the privatisation of pension, healthcare and higher education in the US. None of these theories are perfect.
  • Most of the English-speaking world has followed in the footsteps of the US, while the non-English part of the developed world has kept the idea of merit goods alive.
  • Both schools accept that privately funded education can never become the backbone of a nation’s education system.
  • It can  reduce the social burden by providing quality education to a willing few. 
  • Such institutions can also provide benchmarks for public sector institutions.
  • In the US, for example, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Brown and other Ivy League colleges set the standards in higher education.
  • However, it took Harvard University some 300 years to become what it is today. Stanford University took more than 50 years to establish itself among the top global universities.
  • There are no shortcuts towards the creation of world-class universities.

Conclusion

  • The pressure of revenue generation, along with the demands of profitability, has pushed many a private sector educational institution from deviating from its original lofty goal.
  • We should ask if we are ready to give these institutes the environment, time and resources to work on their original vision.
  • Simultaneously, the government needs to ensure that merit goods like quality higher education do not end up at the mercy of public choice theory.
  • Philanthropists need to understand the long-term nature of higher education goals.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

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UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana (PMYY) is focused towards
a) Entrepreneurship education and training
b) Ensuring cent per cent tertiary education enrolment
c) Promoting sports and physical activity in the youth
d) Countering anti-social elements and activities in the youth
Answer: A

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Should institutions of excellence be about good students, with little focus on infrastructure, or should they be about world-class facilities?
 

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 October 2018 (Helping the invisible hands of agriculture)


Helping the invisible hands of agriculture 


Mains Paper: 3 | Agriculture  
Prelims level: Women’s Farmer’s Day
Mains level: Role of women in Indian agricultural production  

Introduction 

  • October 15 is observed, respectively, as International Day of Rural Women by the United Nations, and National Women’s Farmer’s Day (Rashtriya Mahila Kisan Diwas) in India.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare decided to take the lead in celebrating the event, duly recognising the multidimensional role of women at every stage in agriculture from sowing to planting, drainage, irrigation, fertilizer, plant protection, harvesting, weeding, and storage.
  • This year, the Ministry has proposed deliberations to discuss the challenges that women farmers face in crop cultivation, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. 
  • The aim is to work towards an action plan using better access to credit, skill development and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Data and reality

  • The paying lip service to them is not going to alleviate their drudgery and hardships in the fields. 
  • According to Oxfam India, women are responsible for about 60-80% of food and 90% of dairy production, respectively.
  • The work by women farmers, in crop cultivation, livestock management or at home, often goes unnoticed. 
  • The government to impart them training in poultry, apiculture and rural handicrafts is trivial given their large numbers. 
  • In order to sustain women’s interest in farming and also their uplift, there must be a vision backed by an appropriate policy and doable action plans.
  • The Agriculture Census (2010-11) shows that out of an estimated 118.7 million cultivators, 30.3% were females. 
  • Similarly, out of an estimated 144.3 million agricultural labourers, 42.6% were females. In terms of ownership of operational holdings, the latest Agriculture Census (2015-16) is startling. 
  • Out of a total 146 million operational holdings, the percentage share of female operational holders is 13.87% (20.25 million), a nearly one percentage increase over five years.
  • While the “feminisation of agriculture” is taking place at a fast pace, the government has yet to gear up to address the challenges that women farmers and labourers face.

Issue of land ownership

  • The biggest challenge is the powerlessness of women in terms of claiming ownership of the land they have been cultivating.
  • In Census 2015, almost 86% of women farmers are devoid of this property right in land perhaps on account of the patriarchal set up in our society. 
  • Research worldwide shows that women with access to secure land, formal credit and access to market have greater propensity in making investments in improving harvest, increasing productivity, and improving household food security and nutrition. 
  • Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development should be encouraged.
  • Better access to credit, technology, and provision of entrepreneurship abilities will further boost women’s confidence and help them gain recognition as farmers. 
  • Land holdings have doubled over the years with the result that the average size of farms has shrunk. 
  • Therefore, a majority of farmers fall under the small and marginal category, having less than 2 ha of land a category that, undisputedly, includes women farmers. 
  • A declining size of land holdings may act as a deterrent due to lower net returns earned and technology adoption. 
  • The possibility of collective farming can be encouraged to make women self-reliant. 
  • Training and skills imparted to women as has been done by some self-help groups and cooperative-based dairy activities (Saras in Rajasthan and Amul in Gujarat). These can be explored further through farmer producer organisations. 

Gender-friendly machinery

  • Female cultivators and labourers generally perform labour-intensive tasks (hoeing, grass cutting, weeding, picking, cotton stick collection, looking after livestock). 
  • In addition to working on the farm, they have household and familial responsibilities.
  • Despite more work (paid and unpaid) for longer hours when compared to male farmers, women farmers can neither make any claim on output nor ask for a higher wage rate. 
  • An increased work burden with lower compensation is a key factor responsible for their marginalisation. It is important to have gender-friendly tools and machinery for various farm operations. 
  • Most farm machinery is difficult for women to operate. 
  • Farm machinery banks and custom hiring centres promoted by many State governments can be roped in to provide subsidised rental services to women farmers.

Way forward 

  • When compared to men, women generally have less access to resources and modern inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to make farming more productive. 
  • The Food and Agriculture Organisation says that equalising access to productive resources for female and male farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5% to 4%. 
  • Krishi Vigyan Kendras in every district can be assigned an additional task to educate and train women farmers about innovative technology along with extension services.
  • As more women are getting into farming, the foremost task for their sustenance is to assign property rights in land. 
  • Women farmers are listed as primary earners and owners of land assets, acceptance will ensue and their activities will expand to acquiring loans, deciding the crops to be grown using appropriate technology and machines, and disposing of produce to village traders or in wholesale markets.
  • It elevating their place as real and visible farmers.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is an egovernance initiative to facilitate
(a) selling of agriculture products in mandis online
(b) online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments.
(c) online bidding and reverse bidding in power sector
(d) auction of coal through online portal 
Answer: B

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Discuss the role of Women in Indian Agricultural Productivity? 

Relevance of SAARC : Important Topics for UPSC Exams


Relevance of SAARC


The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of nations in South Asia. The union consists of 8 member states-- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives. 
The foundation of SAARC was laid in 1985 in Dhaka. SAARC is headquartered at Kathmandu, Nepal. SAARC intended to promote the development of regional and economic integration. The important agreements with which SAARC came up are as following-

  • It has launched the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in 2006. The objective of SAFTA is to reduce custom duties on all traded goods to zero by the year 2016.
  • The framework agreement for energy cooperation in south Asian region. This agreement would focus on electricity supply in the region.
  • The organization has also came up with Visa exemption scheme for a specific categories of dignitaries. 
  • There are also regional railways development scheme, motor vehicle scheme etc. going on in the organization.
  • There is also a plan of launching SAARC regional satellite. 

New Obstacles-

SAARC has been regarded as a game change in south Asian regional development. However, multiple issues  arise that are hindering the progress aspect  of this organizations. They are- 

  • Bilateral Issues between India and Pakistan-- The trust deficit between India and Pakistan is the main reason why the prospect of SAARC is in dilemma. Issues like trans-border terrorism from Pakistan makes the situation worse in contemporary time. Along with it, Pakistan decided not to sign agreement on regional connectivity at Kathmandu summit in 2014.
  • Political instability-- The current chaotic and unstable political condition in the regional states like Afghanistan, Maldives, Pakistan and Nepal also make the union less empowered in decision making and implementations. 
  • Emergence of China-- China's influence in the region is higher than ever before. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is connecting different parts of South Asia to the adjoining provinces of China. India's bilateral issues with other countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also causes a trust issue and therefore these South Asian nations are viewing China as an instrument to bargain with India.
  • Alternative Treaties-- The South Asian nations are finding other alternative in bilateral and multilateral modes. India moved on to focus on Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) forum for sub-regional cooperation in the eastern subcontinent. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) forum was also being reactivated. 

Way forward-

India is the biggest and economically developed nation among SAARC nations. Although SAARC is infected with multiple issues like terrorism, border disputes, tax issues etc., it can also play a vital role in enhancing mutual trust, a safe trade environment in the region. Besides trade, peaceful development of Afghanistan is in the interest of the region as terrorism is mainly sourced from unstable states. 
Area where SAARC came up with limitations is India-Pakistan conflict nearly over all issues. However, both the nations should come up with some resolve, otherwise setbacks will be suffered by the people of both the nations and by the region as a whole. 

Multiple Choice Question-

Q. Which among the following are true with respect to SAARC?
1. It includes 8 nations in the region from the time of its establishment.
2. It was established in 1985.
3. First SAARC summit was held in Nepal.
4. 20th SAARC summit is scheduled to be held in 2018.
 
(a). Only 1, 2, and 4 are true
(b). Only 2, 3 and 4 are true.
(c). Only 2 and 4 are true.
(d). Only 3 and 4 are true.
Answer- c
Hint-There were 7 member from the time of establishment of SAARC. The first meeting of SAARC was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Mains-

Question over the relevance of SAARC ban be asked in both GS 2 or GS 3. The format may be-
Q. SAARC is a forum not only of economic ties, it can help in building mutual trust in all aspect of collaboration. Discuss some important agreements under SAARC forum. Also discuss why SAARC is loosing its relevance in contemporary time. 

Hint-- Try to stick with the demand of the question. Do not indulge too much in any issue. More the dimensions one touch, better would be the answer.  

UPSC General Studies PRE Cum MAINS Printed Study Material

Online Crash Course for UPSC PRE Exam

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 October 2018 (Unemployment, really)


Unemployment, really


Mains Paper: 3 | Economic Development 
Prelims level: Consumer Pyramids Household Survey
Mains level: Issues relating to unemployment in India 

Context 

  • CPHS has a sample size of 1,78,000 households in comparison to NSSO’s 1,20,000.
  • CPHS is necessarily conducted using hand-held GPS-enabled devices while NSSO surveys are done using paper with no tracking devices.
  • CPHS data is validated 100 per cent in real-time by supervisors while the survey is being executed. NSSO validations are offline.
  • CPHS results are released within a few hours of the completion of the survey, while NSSO survey results are released after 6-8 months of the completion of the survey.
  • All the record-level data and the source-code to derive the estimates is available for anyone to check the estimates.
  • Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS)
  • National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)

What does the NSSO survey tell us about female labour participation rate?

  • If we use the current daily status estimates, female labour participation rate fell from 31.1 per cent in 2004-05 to 25.1 per cent in 2009-10 and further to 23.3 per cent in 2011-12.
  • This translates into a fall at the rate of 1.11 percentage points a year.
  • CPHS says that the female labour participation rate fell further at the rate of 1.39 percentage points per year between 2011-12 (NSSO) and mid-2016.
  • Mid 2016 is the period (May-August 2016) when CMIE completed its last survey just before demonetisation.
  • Demonetisation is a game-changer and therefore, we must distinguish the period before and after this huge economic shock.
  • The female labour participation rate fell from 23.3 per cent in 2011-12 (as per NSSO) to 16.37 during May-August 2016 (as per CPHS).
  • A rate of fall of 1.11 per cent points per annum rose to 1.39 per cent points per annum.

Way forward 

  • The dramatic fall comes after 2016 that is after demonetisation.
  • This is when the female labour participation rate fell by a massive 4.93 percentage points in just one year.
  • Male labour force participation rate fell by a lower 2.5 percentage points, from 74.76 per cent to 72.33 per cent during the same period.
  • CPHS is a longitudinal panel survey. It repeatedly surveys the same households with the same questions. It also uses the same weights and estimation procedures.
  • 2.37 crore applicants were trying their luck for 2 lakh jobs in the Indian Railways.
  • Many had started losing hope merely by seeing the level of competition for jobs.
  • Many leave the labour markets when they lose hope.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) With reference to Periodic Labour Force Survey, consider the following statements:
1. It aims to provide labour and employment data for both urban and rural India.
2. It is conducted by National Sample Survey Office.
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:  C

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) What does the NSSO survey tell us about female labour participation rate in India?

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 October 2018 (The Agrarian Reformer)


The Agrarian Reformer


Mains Paper: 4 | Ethics 
Prelims level: Sir Chhotu Ram
Mains level: Lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators

Introduction 

  • The father of Bhakra Dam, Sir Chhotu Ram, has many firsts to his credit.
  • He conceived of the Bhakra Dam way back in 1923, to rid the farmers of the so-called economic plague-spots of erstwhile Punjab state.
  • He was also the originator of the concept of compensating the farmer for at least the expenses incurred by him on farming the concept has now evolved into “Minimum Support Price”.
  • He was revolutionary in those times as farmers were entirely depending on rains and seasonal vagaries.
  • He brought nine enactments to improve the financial and social status of farmers.
  • Modern concepts like debt settlement boards, caps on interest, basic fairness to the tiller were included in these 1930s laws.
  • The Punjab Relief Indebtedness Act, 1934 and The Punjab Debtors’ Protection Act, 1936, were created way back in the 1930s by Chhotu Ram.
  • He gave shape to a bloodless revolution in the field of agriculture and farming.
  • He was also very vocal on issues of national importance.
  • Sir Chhotu Ram wrote to Gandhiji about the consequences that would follow if the demand for Pakistan after the liberation of the country is accepted.
  • The 10-page letter written on August 15, 1944 had logical, well thought-out arguments against Partition.
  • He wrote: “The provinces that are most intimately affected by the advent of Pakistan are the Punjab and Bengal and yet these provinces were never consulted before the formula was devised. The formula is
  • expected to furnish a solution of the communal tangle and the present political deadlock. As already stated above, it will do neither.”
  • Sardar Patel once remarked to Sri Ram Sharma that he would not have worried about any of Punjab’s problems had Chhotu Ram been alive.
  • Born on November 24, 1881, in the village of Garhi Sampla, Rohtak, Sir Chhotu Ram was knighted and conferred with the title of “Sir” in 1937 in recognition of his contribution to society and the region.
  • • He graduated from St Stephen’s College, Delhi in 1905 with a distinction in Sanskrit. He did his LLB from Agra College in 1910 and began his practice as an advocate in 1912.

Notable work done by him 

  • Sir Chhotu Ram rightly recognised the causes of the deteriorating economic conditions of the agricultural classes in his time.
  • Burden of unfair taxation and high rate of land revenue, 
  • Inability to secure fair prices for their production,
  • Crushing burden of indebtedness,
  • Expenses on litigation,
  • Illiteracy and ignorance,
  • Under-representation of the class of peasantry in the public services,
  • Corruption and
  • Frequent occurrence of famines.

Way forward 

  • All these factors compelled the agriculturists to borrow money from the moneylenders and to live under debt throughout their lives.
  • There was no universal adult franchise and voting rights were given on divisive grounds.
  • Peasants had no voice in the legislative set-up.
  • Basically the peasant community was so isolated and downtrodden that it had no motivation to come up and claim its rightful status in the society.
  • In such times, Sir Chhotu Ram emerged as the country’s first big agrarian reformer who stood up and fought for the rights of agriculturists.
  • He played a very significant role in the organisation of the Jats as a self-conscious community and helped them acquire self-confidence and self-respect.
  • To tackle the problem of unemployment, both in rural and urban areas, and to improve the lot of the peasantry, Sir Chhotu Ram advocated the need for agriculture-based industries as well as the development of cottage industries.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) Consider the following statements regarding about Sir Chhotu Ram.
1.    He gave shape to a bloodless revolution in the field of agriculture and farming.
2.    He was also very vocal on issues of national importance.
3.    He was also the originator of the concept of “Minimum Support Price”.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct about him?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) All the Above
Answer:  D

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) What are the administrative lessons we can learn from Sir Chotu Ram?

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 October 2018 (Major mission to sequence genes of Indians planned)


Major mission to sequence genes of Indians planned 


Mains Paper: 3 | Science and Technology 
Prelims level: STIAC
Mains level: Mission to sequence genes

Context 

  • India is planning a major mission to sequence the genes of a “large” group of Indians.
  • It’s a kin to projects in the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Australia  and use this to improve health as well as buck a global trend of designing ‘personalised medicine.’ 
  • This was among the key decisions taken at the 1st Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (STIAC) in its first meeting on Tuesday. 
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Department of Biotechnology would be closely associated with the project.

Important highlights of the project 

  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in 2009 announced that it had sequenced the genome of an Indian, then making India one of six countries to achieve such a feat, several research labs have analysed genes from Indians for disease susceptibility. 
  • However, no compendium of genes that differentiate Indian populations from, say Caucasian or African genomes exist. 
  • A group of Indian scientists and companies are involved with a 100k Genome Asia project, led out of the National Technological University (NTU), Singapore, to sequence the whole genomes of 100k Asians, including 50,000 Indians.
  • Our lifestyle, our environment and the genes we inherit all combine to make us what we are. 
  • The diversity of Indians and of our environment requires a large-scale study of human genomes, of our lifestyle in health and disease and the use of healthy and disease samples to understand the impact on health.

Way forward 

  • Principal Scientific Adviser and Chair of the Council, K. Vijay Raghavan, said the genome initiative will have to move at two different levels. 
  • Sequencing genomes and linking to human health and disease as a research initiative, and doing this on a much larger scale, so it has a direct impact on public health. As the first level starts, the second will be put in place, speedily.
  • The Council acts as a coordinator between several ministries to work on projects and missions and is scheduled to meet once a month.
  • Key programmes, such as a Deep Ocean Mission, to facilitate ocean science and technologies to help with India’s strategic interests and an Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing missions were also discussed.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) With reference to Biopiracy, consider the following statements:
1. It is unauthorised use of biological reserve by entities outside a country which has pre-existing knowledge of rare biological reserves.
2. It is linked only to drug research and development.
Select the correct answer using code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Why India is planning for sequence of genes mission? What is the relevance to it? 

(VIDEO) Negotiating U.S. Sanctions : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

(VIDEO) Negotiating U.S. Sanctions : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

Topic of Discussion: Negotiating U.S. Sanctions : Rajya Sabha TV Big Picture Debate

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 12 October 2018 (Turning dirty coal into clean energy)


Turning dirty coal into clean energy


Mains Paper: 3 | Environment 
Prelims level: Clean energy resources 
Mains level: Using Indian coal to produce methanol can generate a huge positive impact on the Indian economy and environment

Introduction 

  • India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to have grown at 6.7% in 2017-18, which could rise to 8% in the future depending on the effectiveness of economic reforms. 
  • As GDP growth is positively correlated to energy requirement, we can expect strong energy demand in the coming years.
  • Given that India is rich in coal reserves, there could be a way in which we can create clean energy security through coal to meet our growing demand.

Highlight of the India’s energy consumption predictions 

  • India’s energy consumption is projected at 33,899 Terawatt hours (TWh) by 2047.
  • The energy consumption is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.87% from the current 8,133 TWh. 
  • The worrying part is that energy consumption growth is weighted towards fossil fuel (coal + crude oil) consumption, which is an environmental challenge. 
  • The challenge is greater because of our excessive dependence on the import of crude oil (81% of total crude oil consumption).
  • Indian coal comprises mostly of inferior non-coking coal (67% of total coal deposits) which causes more air pollution. 

Coal to methanol will help reduce the air pollution 

  • India’s energy security needs are at odds with her Conference of the Parties 21—Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (COP21-INDC) targets
  • We can achieve clean energy security by adopting technological advancements in converting coal to methanol, a liquid fuel. 
  • Methanol, which can be derived from coal, can be blended in petrol. Dimethyl ether (DME), which can be further derived from methanol can be blended in diesel, as well as in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking. 
  • China produced 42.919 million metric tons of methanol (in 2016) as feedstock for manufacturing various polymers. 
  • India could adopt this approach to meet her energy requirements. 
  • Niti Aayog has laid out its vision to blend 15% methanol in petrol (M15) and 20% DME in diesel (DM20).
  • The Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, announced this at the recent coal summit.
  • There is recognition that using Indian coal to produce methanol can generate a huge positive impact on the Indian economy and environment. With the reduction of import dependence of crude oil and utilization of our own resources, we will enhance our self-reliance in the energy sector.

Focus on protecting the environment 

  • Coal to methanol will also help reduce the air pollution that our cities battle with. 
  • According to the World Health Organization’s Global Urban Ambient Air Database, nine out of the 20 most polluted cities are in India for PM2.5. India’s current focus on upgrading to Bharat Stage-VI fuels will require significant technology improvement in automobiles.
  • There will hardly be any impact on air quality. 
  • Another initiative shifting to electric vehicles (EVs) will take significant time as it is not a mainstream technology either globally or in India. 
  • Implementing M15 and DM20 blends can enable the existing fleet of automobiles to reduce emissions with minimal retrofit modifications, thereby making a much bigger impact than any prospective technologies.
  • The conventional burning of coal in thermal power plants releases particulate matter, whereas particulate matter emission is almost eliminated in case of converting coal to liquid fuels.

Conclusion 

  • Liquid fuels (methanol and DME) can be stored economically over a long time and command a higher value in the commodities market.
  • The rising focus on renewable energy, the average plant load factor across states and private thermal power plants has gone below 60% and resulted in poor offtake of coal.
  • The future of over 300,000 personnel working directly or indirectly in the coal sector. 
  • Coal-to-methanol fuels could potentially turn around the dwindling fortunes of the coal industry and save it from obsolescence. 

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) Which of the following can be used to manufacture methanol fuel?
1. Carbon dioxide
2. Coal
3. Natural Gas
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
Answer:  D

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) What are the impacts of using methanol on the Indian economy as well as on environment too?

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 12 October 2018 (The new non-alignment)


The new non-alignment


Mains Paper: 2 | International Relations 
Prelims level: COMCASA 
Mains level: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests

Context 

  • During or immediately after the 1962 India-China border war, Soviet Union provided no military assistance to India while Washington was generous with offers to Jawaharlal Nehru’s call for help.
  • Barring that small blip, Moscow has always stood by India, both in providing latest military equipment and classified military technology — say, nuclear submarines — which no western power will ever provide.
  • It all started with the Mig-21 fighter aircraft which Moscow decided to sell to India in 1961.
  • It had entered service with the Soviet Air Force only in 1958 and India was the first country to get it.
  • Not only that, Moscow was willing to permit licensed manufacturing of Mig-21 in India, and extend credit for manufacturing.

Important highlights of this alignment

  • As Indian Air Force (IAF) expanded after the 1962 War, it considered three aircraft for induction: British Lightning, Soviet Mig-21 and American F-104 Starfighter.
  • The IAF found the British aircraft unsuitable and chose the F-104 Starfighter.
  • The US had already given F-104 Starfighter to Pakistan in 1961 and it was expected India would get it without any opposition in Washington.
  • India rejected the American offer.
  • As per the 1961 Mig-21 contract, the first six aircraft were scheduled to be delivered to India in December 1962 but it was held up for months as India awaited clearance of the American sale.
  • Finally, the six Mig-21 aircraft arrived in mid-1963, which formed the No 28 Squadron of the IAF.
  • This was a major turning point in the military relationship between Delhi and Moscow, which was on display again last week .
  • The signing of the $5.3-billion deal for five S-400 air defence systems, despite the clear and open threat of US sanctions under CAATSA.
  • It is the second-biggest defence deal of Modi’s tenure, after the controversial Rafale deal with France.
  • As Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said last week, the S-400 will be a “booster dose” for his force, which currently has an obsolete air defence system.

Way forward 

  • But the S-400 is a defensive system, and the IAF equally desperately needs fighter aircraft which are its sword-arm.
  • The IAF has been pressing for more aircraft but we have not seen a similar desperation to procure fighter jets from Russia or elsewhere.
  • NSA Ajit Doval also paid a much-publicised visit to Washington to meet the major US principals soon after, where the S-400 is believed to have been a significant point of discussion.
  • But there was no clarity about the waiver.
  • American officials say the decision will be taken by President Trump himself, and considering his recent remarks about trade with India, no one is sure which way he will turn.
  • White House has not yet confirmed its response to the Indian invite to be the chief guest at next year’s Republic Day parade.
  • With President Trump having imposed sanctions against China under CAATSA, the American threat cannot be dismissed as a nonserious one.
  • Delhi, however, can’t succumb to American pressure.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1)  Which of the following is true about "CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act)", recently in news ?
A.    The act is passed by USA for countries having significant defence relations with North Korea.
B.    It would be tough for India to carry on defence deals with USA if the act is not diluted on case to case basis.
C.    Both 1 and 2
D.    Neither 1 nor 2 
Answer:  B

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Why has India gone ahead with the S-400 deal despite Trump administration sanctions ?

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 12 October 2018 (SBI’s burden)


SBI’s burden


Mains Paper: 3 | Economy 
Prelims level: NBFC 
Mains level: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development

Context 

  • On Tuesday, India’s largest bank, SBI, said it would purchase good quality asset portfolios from Non Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) worth Rs 45,000 crore.
  • The bank sees an opportunity to expand its loan portfolio at attractive rates and to help it meet its priority sector targets in areas such as the farm sector, SME infrastructure and the social sector.
  • Last month, after reports first emerged of NBFCs being squeezed in the wake of defaults by IL&FS and the dissolution of its board, the SBI had offered to provide liquidity support while indicating that it would not cut back on lending to NBFCs.

What are the matters of concern? 

  • Concerns expressed about the state-owned lender buying into assets of NBFCs.
  • It is because of the experience of another state backed entity, LIC, which had invested in IDBI Bank and ONGC being weighed down after the buyout of HPCL.
  • That’s why it is all the more important for the bank to go the extra mile in ensuring the quality of the portfolio it acquires from NBFCs. 

Way forward 

  • There’s no denying that NBFCs have come to play a far more important role in India’s financial sector over the past few years, when many Indian banks saddled with bad loans started shrinking their balance sheets.
  • Over the last few years, the NBFCs have expanded with the RBI now supervising over 11,100 such firms of which 249 are non deposit taking .
  • The onus is now on the SBI to demonstrate that the portfolio purchase of NBFC loans rests on prudent commercial reasons and that the decision is not a forced one.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

UPSC Prelims Questions: 

Q.1) Consider the following about Power Finance Corporation.
1. It is a non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC).
2. It is a Navratna Central Public Sector Entreprise (CPSE) in the Financial Services Sector.
3. Its majority shares are held by the private sector.
Select the correct answer using the codes below.
a) 1 and 2 only
b) 2 only
c) 1 only
d) 1, 2 and 3
Answer:  A

UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) How NBFCs are playing important role to stabilize Indian Economy? 
 

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