user8's blog

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 24 may 2019


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 24 may 2019


::NATIONAL::

PM Modi re-elected for another term in India

  • BJP led NDA is all set to form a new government at the Centre bagging 339 and leading in 12 in the 543 member LokSabha elections. BJP alone has won an absolute majority and heading for a landslide victory. It has secured 303 seats. The UPA has won 87 and leading in 3 while others got 87. The Congress alone has bagged 51 seats.

  • Senior BJP leader and Prime Minister NarendraModihas won from Varanasi by over 4 lakh 79 thousand votes. He has surpassed his previous margin of 3 lakh 71 thousand seven hundred and 84 votes in 2014 parliamentary elections.

  • The Union Cabinet will meet this evening to recommend the dissolution of the 16th LokSabha. The meet is being held a day after the counting of votes for the LokSabha elections in which the NDA is all set to retain power.

  • After the Cabinet's recommendation is passed in the form of a resolution, President Ram NathKovind will dissolve the present LokSabha.The term of the 16th LokSabha will end on the 3rd June and the 17th LokSabha has to be constituted before that date.

  • The process to form a new House will be initiated when the Chief Election Commissioner along with Election Commissioners will meet the President in the next few days to hand over the list of newly-elected members.

  • Official sources said, after the meeting of the Union Cabinet, the Council of Ministers, which also comprises Ministers of State will meet at the office of the Prime Minister.
    Collegium recommends 4 judges to the supreme court

  • The Centre has cleared four names recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for elevation as judges of the apex court.With their appointment, the Supreme Court will reach its full sanctioned judicial strength of 31 judges.

  • The Centre has cleared the names of Jharkhand High Court and Gauhati High Court Chief Justices Aniruddha Bose and A.S. Bopanna. On May 8, the Collegium refused the government’s request to reconsider its April 12 recommendation to elevate the two judges.

  • The Collegium had reiterated its recommendation of Justices Bose and Bopanna in the face of the government’s initial reluctance. It re-sent the files of the two judges to the government saying there was nothing adverse found in their conduct, competence or integrity. This had made it binding on the government to clear their appointments.

  • The Collegium had explained its recommendation of Justices Gavai and Kant as an attempt to provide “due representation”, as far as possible, to all High Courts and to all sections of society including those belonging to the SC/ST/OBC categories, women and minorities.

  • Justice Kant had been the subject of controversy over a letter written by Justice (now retired) A.K. Goel to then Chief Justice of India DipakMisra. Justice Goel, then an apex court judge, had disagreed with the proposal to elevate Justice Kant as Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. However, the Misra Collegium, in a notification dated October 3, went ahead with his elevation.

::ECONOMY::

Sensex beaches the 40000mark post electoral results

  • On Thursday, the stock market moved in line with the adage with the Sensex surging over 1,000 points in the morning session to breach the 40,000-mark for the first time ever as initial trends showed the BJP getting a strong majority.

  • However, as the day progressed, traders squared off their positions with the benchmarks erasing all the gains and ending the day in the red. With the uncertainty over election results over, markets would now focus on economic concerns related to growth slowdown, negative foreign flows, liquidity issues faced by non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and global headwinds, say market participants.

  • Incidentally, the reversal of gains was primarily led by profit booking in most of the index heavyweights as the broader market breadth was almost balanced with 1,167 stocks gaining ground as against 1,347 declines.

  • The direction of the market would depend on the steps that the government takes to accelerate growth, he added.

  • Global financial major Morgan Stanley, which has a Sensex target of 45,000 by June 2020, believes that the focus of the market will now shift to the growth cycle and it expects the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to be more accommodative and the economy to come out of the soft patch of the past few months.

UNESCO study reveals low women participation in technology

  • Women remain considerably under-represented across STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies and careers, says UNESCO. That’s because most young women do not identify with STEM and assume these subjects won’t align with their desire to be creative and make an impact in the world.

  • Experts call it a detrimental trend as it would further widen the gender gap in the technology world. Also, by shying away from STEM studies or careers, women will only be miss contributing to the next generation of technologies and innovations.

  • According to the UNESCO, 29% of those in science research and development are women, with a low 19% in south and west Asia and a high 48% in central Asia.

  • Microsoft has an initiative to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM and the technology major has been working to get students and young women excited about STEM subjects.

  • DaianaBeitler, philanthropies director for Microsoft Asia, said, “Our movement helps raise awareness of the issues that cause girls to drop out of or lose interest in STEM and aims to pique their excitement in how they can change the world if they stay engaged.”

  • Teachers and technologists have a responsibility to break the misperception among women that STEM does not relate to the world at large.“By designing computer science curricula around societal challenges and giving young women more exposure to female role models, the academia can make a huge difference in building a passion for STEM subjects among students,” Dr.Beitler added.

Click Here For Today's Current Affairs MCQ's

Click Here for Old Current Affairs Archive

::INTERNATIONAL::

Leaders across the globe pour in wishes for PM’s victory

  • Prime Minister ShriNarendraModi received congratulatory telephone calls from leaders across the world including from Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Mr.JigmeKhesarNamgyelWangchuk, King of Bhutan; Dr.LotayShering, Prime Minister of Bhutan; Mr. K.P. Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal; Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of Maldives and many more.

  • Warmly felicitating the Prime Minister, the leaders expressed the view that the historic mandate reflected the abiding faith of the people of India in the leadership of the Prime Minister ShriNarendraModi.

  • Expressing his gratitude for their compliments and good wishes, the Prime Minister said that the general elections embodied the strength of Indian democracy, which is the world’s largest.

  • He thanked the global leaders for their cooperation in developing mutually beneficial bilateral relations and multilateral cooperation, and expressed his desire to continue to work further with them in fostering even stronger ties.

  • The Prime Minister has also expressed his gratitude to several other leaders who have extended their felicitations to him over social media and other means.

South Asian community complaint dalit abuse in U.S

  • A group of South Asia-focussed community organisations held a Congressional briefing on caste discrimination on Wednesday. The hearing’s objectives included educating Congressional staff about how caste operates in the U.S., highlighting the damage it does to U.S. institutions, and advocating data collection, monitoring and legislation.

  • Central to the discussion was a survey conducted by Equality Labs, which describes itself as a “South Asian Community Technology Organization” that seeks to end discrimination in various forms. Some 1,500 people in the diaspora who identified as “South Asian” were sent a self-administered online survey with 47 questions related to caste. Of the respondents, 33% identified as ‘Brahmins’, 24% as ‘Dalits’, 7% as ‘Adivasis’ and 18% as ‘Shudras’ .

  • Fifty two per cent of Dalit respondents feared their caste would be “outed” and 67% said they faced discrimination at the workplace. Forty one per cent of Dalits said they faced discrimination in educational establishments. Twenty six per cent of Dalits who responded said they had experienced physical assault based on their caste.

  • The briefing included testimony on caste discrimination and caste-based violence as well as a discussion of what is required in terms of sensitising American institutions to caste-based discrimination.

  • The briefing’s recommendations included a need for monitoring and reporting of caste-based discrimination at the workplace, including sensitisation to caste issues in diversity workshops.

  • A briefing is different from a Congressional hearing the latter has the power to make individuals testify or face penalties for not doing so. A briefing can occur when a group wants to highlight an issue and it requires a Congressional sponsor in this case, Congresswoman PramilaJayapal, a Washington State Democrat.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Study reveals sources of ozone depleting gas

  • Rogue emissions of a gas that harms the ozone layer are coming from eastern China, primarily from two heavily industrialised provinces, an international team of researchers said on Wednesday.

  • The findings confirm what many scientists, environmental groups and policymakers had suspected after an initial study a year ago reported new global emissions of the gas, CFC-11, but could only locate the source generally as East Asia.

  • CFC-11 is one of a class of compounds called chlorofluorocarbons that destroy atmospheric ozone. They are also potent greenhouse gases that contribute to atmospheric warming.

  • Chlorofluorocarbons were outlawed for almost all uses by the Montreal Protocol, an international pact negotiated decades ago to preserve the layer of ozone that blocks ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Excessive amounts of some types of UV radiation can cause skin cancer and eye damage in people and are harmful to crops and other vegetation.

  • After the initial study last year, China denied that there were serious violations of the ban on the chemical, but also promised to eradicate any illegal production.

::SPORTS::

Indian women beat South Korea in hockey

  • The Indian women's hockey team came from a goal down to eke out a close 2-1 win over hosts South Korea in the second game and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-march series in Jincheon today.

  • The Indians had earlier defeated Korea by identical margin in the opening game of the series.India will take on Korea in the inconsequential last match of the series on Friday.

  • In the match today, skipper Rani Rampal (37th minute) and NavjotKaur (50th) scored for India after Lee Seungju gave South Korea the lead in the 19th minute through a field strike.

This is a Part of Online Coaching Programme for UPSC Exam

Buy Printed Study Material for UPSC PRELIMS EXAM

Join Test Series for IAS (Pre.) Exam

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 24 MAY 2019 (New government at Centre should focus on land and labour reforms (Indian Express))

New government at Centre should focus on land and labour reforms (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Economic reforms
Mains level: New government challenges for Economic growth and development

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 24 MAY 2019 (The Google-Huawei clash(Hindu))

The Google-Huawei clash(Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology
Prelims level: Google-Huawei clash
Mains level: Highlights of the Google-Huawei clash

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 23 may 2019


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 23 may 2019


::NATIONAL::

Vice president calls for people centric sustainable development

  • The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for achieving sustainable development that is equitable and people-centred and stressed the need for efficient and frugal use of natural resources.

  • Inaugurating the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) celebrations, in Chennai today, the Vice President said Biodiversity is fundamental to the survival of the human race and said that man must re-establish the link with nature, as did the ancients in India centuries ago, and take from earth and the environment only so much “as we can replenish”.

  • Lamenting that the symbiotic relationship of man with nature was being threatened as societies develop, the Vice President warned that any damage to environment would put the well-being of future generations in peril. He also pointed out that the current consumption patterns especially in the industrialized world are unsustainable as they put enormous pressure on natural resources.

  • The Vice President also spoke of the need to secure international cooperation in fields ranging from sustainable agriculture and food security to health and sustainable development to urban resilience and adaptation, to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

  • The Vice President also pointed out that India had a long cultural tradition of frugality and simple living in harmony with nature and that all great religions which have traversed in our country have preached the unity of humankind with nature. He also stressed the need for inclusive growth and achieving home-grown food security, while ensuring sustainable development.

  • Shri Naidu expressed deep concern regarding the homogenization of food habits and increased dependence on a handful of crops, resulting in a rapid decline of agro-biodiversity.

Centre to finalise estimate of groundwater reserves

  • The Union Water Ministry is finalising an updated estimate on the state of groundwater reserves in the country.

  • The groundwater assessment, last done in 2013, is a survey that samples a sliver of blocks in each State and counts how many blocks have critically low levels of water and how many are well-stocked.

  • “We have received reports from most States and have passed it on to the Water Resources Ministry for approval. I expect that this will only be made public after the new government comes in,” a senior official from the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) told .

  • The person said “some States” showed a precipitous decline whereas some blocks showed an “improvement.”An assessment from Punjab, the official said, pointed to “extreme” overexploitation of groundwater.

  • The share of other resources, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation structures taken together is 32%.

  • The national per capita annual availability of water has reduced from 1,816 cubic metres in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metres in 2011 a reduction of 15%.

  • That India’s groundwater has been depleting at a worrying rate since 1995, the CGWB has shown.In 1995, only 3% of districts had overexploited their groundwater reserves whereas by 2011, that had increased to 15%.

::ECONOMY::

Investors worried about crisis in NBFC sector

  • The current liquidity crisis in the non-banking financial companies’ (NBFCs) sector may not pose a systemic risk for now but investors are worried over its potential impact on the overall growth of the economy in the near term, say market participants.

  • The recent past had seen brokerages highlighting concerns in the NBFC segment and their impact on the overall consumption story thereby affecting macroeconomic growth even as many such NBFCs are facing rating downgrades and tighter access to liquidity.

  • According to the global financial major, large NBFCs with strong parents and track records are better positioned while small NBFCs could lose market share, with a sharper slowdown for mid-sized and small housing finance companies (HFCs).

  • Incidentally, in a statement issued to the stock exchanges, Dewan Housing Finance Ltd. (DHFL) said that it had stopped the acceptance and renewal of fixed deposits (FDs) due to the recent downgrade of the credit rating of its FDs.

  • The revised rating is below the minimum rating prescribed under the National Housing Bank (NHB) norms for the acceptance or reneweal of FDs, according to the statement.

  • The cascading impact of a slowdown in NBFC financing can be further gauged from the fact that recently Nomura also lowered its weightage on the automobile sector attributing it, among other reasons, to “slowdown in consumer financing due to the NBFC crisis.”

Securities appellate tribunal gives partial relief to NSE

  • The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) has given a partial relief to the National Stock Exchange (NSE) in the co-location matter by directing the bourse to transfer Rs. 625 crore to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) within two weeks.

  • While hearing the appeal filed by the exchange, the tribunal on Wednesday said that the amount would be kept in an interest bearing account till the matter was disposed while giving the capital market watchdog six weeks’ time to file its reply. This would come as a partial relief to the exchange, which was ordered to disgorge a total of nearly Rs. 1,100 crore for its alleged failure to exercise proper due diligence while offering co-location facility thereby affecting market fairness and integrity.

  • On April 30, the SEBI barred the NSE, which has the largest market share in the equity segment and almost a monopoly in equity derivatives, from accessing the securities market for six months.

  • The regulator further ordered the exchange to disgorge about Rs. 1,100 crore, which included the alleged profit of Rs. 625 crore from the co-location operations along with 12% p.a. interest from April 2014.

  • “ NSE has committed a fraudulent and unfair trade practice as contemplated under the SEBI (PFUTP) Regulations, I find that it is established beyond doubt that NSE has not exercised the requisite due diligence while putting in place the tick-by-tick architecture,” the SEBI had said.

Click Here For Today's Current Affairs MCQ's

Click Here for Old Current Affairs Archive

::INTERNATIONAL::

Srilanka extends emergency in country by a month

  • Sri Lanka has extended by another month the emergency regulations, which were enforced after the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

  • President MaithripalaSirisena issued an extraordinary gazette notice today extending the emergency regulations which was imposed a month ago after suicide blasts at multiple locations in the country which killed over 250 people including 45 foreigners.

  • The emergency provisions give the military sweeping powers to act against fundamentalist organizations behind the attacks, which was claimed by Islamic state.

  • Meanwhile, Prime Minister RanilWickremsinghe has said his government will establish a new public school system within next two years that is not based on language or religion. He said that all religious educational institutes will be regulated by education ministry.

  • It was also decided to regulate madarsas by Muslim institute regulation board under education ministry. The government has sought to control the madarsas after the attacks and prohibited foreign nationals from religious preaching.

  • AIR correspondent reports that emergency provisions was imposed to allow armed forces for search operations and arrest of suspects which is still continuing. Around ninety people are under arrest including close relatives of suicide bombers who were involved in the attacks.

  • Prime Minister RanilWickremsinghe said all religious institutions including madarsas will be brought under education ministry. Religious education in madarsas is believed to be one of the reasons behind fundamentalism which terrorist organizations like Islamic state use as their source of recruitment.

U.S and allies calls for agreement with Sudani protesters

  • The United States, Britain and Norway have called for a swift agreement between Sudanese protesters and generals on installing civilian rule.

  • According to a joint statement released last night, they said, it would be harder for them to work with any other new authority.

  • Talks between protest leaders and army generals who seized power after ousting longtime leader Omar al-Bashir last month have stopped since late Monday following disagreement about who should lead a new ruling body a civilian or a soldier.

  • Meanwhile, Sudanese protest leaders are now preparing plans to call for a general strike to build pressure on the generals to cede power.

  • The ruling military council has been pushing for its chairman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to head the new sovereign body but protest leaders want a civilian.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

ISRO launches IRSAT 2B satellite

  • In a predawn launch on Wednesday, a PSLV rocket of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) placed RISAT-2B, an X-band microwave Earth observation satellite, into orbit 556 km above earth.

  • The PSLV-C46 launcher carrying the 615-kg RISAT-2B blasted off at 5.30 a.m. About 15 minutes later, the satellite reached its designated position and started orbiting in space, with an inclination of 37°.

  • Designed at ISRO’s U.R. Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) in Bengaluru and fast-tracked in just 15 months, the RISAT-2B is built to operate for at least five years

  • Data from the satellite would be vital for the Armed Forces, agriculture forecasters and disaster relief agencies.

  • Its X-band synthetic aperture radar can give added details such as the size of objects on earth, structures and movement.

  • Information from RISAT-2B will complement data from normal optical remote sensing satellites. Such data are useful for agencies that need ground images during cloud, rain and in the dark.

  • This is the third Indian RISAT in 10 years, and follows the Israeli-built RISAT-2 in 2009 and the ISRO-built RISAT-1 in 2012. The older RISATs have reached the end of their lives.

::SPORTS::

India advances to third round of archery worldcup

  • In Archery World Cup Stage III, four Indians including DeepikaKumari and TarundeepRai advanced to the third round in recurve individual section at Antalya in Turkey today.

  • In Women's individual section, former world No 1 Deepika defeated KhatunaLorig 6-5 in the second round and set up a clash against VeronikaMarchenko of Ukraine in the third round.

  • In men's individual section, former Olympian TarundeepRai remained in the medal fray after beating Gasper Strajhar of Slovenia.

This is a Part of Online Coaching Programme for UPSC Exam

Buy Printed Study Material for UPSC PRELIMS EXAM

Join Test Series for IAS (Pre.) Exam

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 MAY 2019 (The EVM excuse: Bogey of EVM switching is an outrageous attempt to deny public opinion (Indian Express))

The EVM excuse: Bogey of EVM switching is an outrageous attempt to deny public opinion (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: EVM
Mains level: Bogey of EVM switching

Context

  • It is not difficult to see why the current manufactured controversy on EVM reliability has been met with universal derision, except among members of the Khan Market gang.
  • In the age of social media and screenshots, the public memory has been enhanced.
  • They remember that Rahul Gandhi and his compatriots had raised a similar din just a few months ago and then happily accepted the results when it favoured them.
  • The public remembers that in fact the originator of EVM bogey posted on February 4, 2015, that he suspected massive EVM tampering in Delhi and proceeded to accept the verdict a week later.

Background

  • The information disseminated by the Election Commission has convinced most sane people that hacking EVMs is not possible, since they are stand-alone machines with no networking with the external world.
  • This is why the din this time is not on EVM rigging or manipulation, but EVM replacement. EC procedures make it impossible for anyone to replace even one EVM.
  • But even if we consider the outrageous theory plausible, consider what it entails: Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Telangana, Punjab, Karnataka, Odisha and Tamil Nadu all have non-BJP governments. Some states have never had a BJP government.
  • Even in states where BJP is currently in office, like Uttar Pradesh, regional parties have networks at all levels.

Fake propaganda on EVM

  • From the people who pack and transport the EVMs, to those who man the CCTV cameras in strong rooms to those who provide the outer security ring, all are drawn from the local state machinery.
  • If the EVM replacement theory were true, it would mean the BJP is orchestrating a nationwide conspiracy involving millions of people who are all keeping the secret.
  • Even the scriptwriters of Game of Thrones would envy such a perfect plot.
  • As the recent CSDS-Lokniti pre-poll survey notes, Modi’s popularity has increased substantially, among both BJP as well as non-BJP voters, as compared to 2014.
  • In fact, when CSDS-Lokniti surveyors asked voters, in a close-ended question, what they had kept in mind while voting (the party or the candidate), around 17 per cent chose neither option and instead said that what had mattered to them the most was the prime ministerial candidate (Modi).
  • The same survey notes that the difference between the preference for Modi and his nearest rival is as high as 20 per cent.

Way forward

  • In the last five years, there has been no finding in any pre-poll survey, reporting from the ground, anecdotal evidence, social media trends, participation in political rallies and in any of the just-released exit polls which would suggest that there was any disenchantment with the Modi-led BJP.
  • None of these involved the use of EVMs.
  • The result of the final exam, which will come on May 23, through EVMs, have been preceded by five years of a series of rigorous multi-pronged tests, each of which Modi has passed with flying colours.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 MAY 2019 (Electoral bribery and the best way to stop it (Mint))

Electoral bribery and the best way to stop it (Mint)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Electoral bribery
Mains level: Electoral bribery and its significance

Context

  • According to Election Commission (EC) data compiled over the span of this year’s election season, seizures of illicit intoxicants, cash and gold have been vastly higher than before.

Background

  • Attempts to bribe voters, it would seem, have not only been part and parcel of the fiesta, but the offerings being dangled have been juicier. The value of all the bottles of liquor, packets of narcotics, wads of currency and biscuits of shiny metal in electoral service recovered by the authorities is estimated at₹3,458.7 crore, several times what was seized during the general elections of 2014.
  • Cash seizures were up 181.3 %, while alcohol volumes have risen 15.9% and narcotic quantities have shot up 355.6% in five years.
  • The drugs alone were worth more than all the cash that was seized this year.
  • A closer examination of this year’s data reveals that five states accounted for the bulk of all seizures.
  • Tamil Nadu stands out with a share of 27.5% of the total by value, followed by Gujarat with about 16%, Delhi with 12.3%, Punjab with 8.2% and Andhra Pradesh with 6.6%.

Analysis of electoral bribery

  • Levels of political competition have been consistently high across the country, for example, and there is no reason to suppose that one state’s electorate would have been more amenable to such bribery than another’s. Still, some variations are clear.
  • In Gujarat, Punjab and Delhi, drugs were the most valuable part of the haul; in Tamil Nadu, gold and silver were favoured as a ballot lure; and in Andhra Pradesh, currency notes were apparently expected to take on some of the canvassing burden.

To puzzling conclusion

  • The data merely relates to seizures, and there is no way of knowing whether their higher rates reflect greater use of these devious methods or better vigilance by the authorities.
  • The same goes for the higher all-India figure of seizures this year. It could simply be that the EC, police and other departments have done a better job.
  • The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs had specifically directed tax officials to share information with other government agencies on a real-time basis so that raids could be carried out.
  • As with all such matters, partisan action is easy to suspect.
  • Like demonetization—which has not stopped cash from being used like poll confetti—the axe of the authorities may have fallen harder on some than on others.

Way Forward

  • But the point is that offering people material inducements for their votes is against the law.
  • Such bribery is a blight on our democracy and perverts the very purpose of elections.
  • To rid ourselves of the problem, however, we cannot rely on the conscience of politicians.
  • It’s ultimately for voters to send them a clear signal that their votes cannot be bought. Let’s hope they already have.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 MAY 2019 (Eye in the sky: on RISAT-2B (The Hindu))

Eye in the sky: on RISAT-2B (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech
Prelims level: RISAT-2B
Mains level: Benefits of RISAT-2B

Context

  • With the successful pre-dawn launch of RISAT-2B satellite on May 22, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has added another feather to its cap.

Benefits of RISAT-2B

  • The satellite will enhance India’s capability in crop monitoring during the monsoon season, forestry mapping for forest fires and deforestation, and flood mapping as part of the national disaster management programme.
  • Given that overcast skies are a constant during the monsoon season and during times of flood, the ability to penetrate the cloud cover is essential.
  • While optical remote sensing that relies on visible light for imaging gets obstructed by clouds, RISAT-2B will not. Much like the RISAT-1 satellite that was launched by ISRO in April 2012, RISAT-2B will also use microwave radiation.
  • Unlike visible light, microwaves have longer wavelength and so will not be susceptible to atmospheric scattering.
  • Microwave radiation can thus easily pass through the cloud cover, haze and dust, and image the ground.
  • Hence, RISAT-2B satellite will be able to image under almost all weather and environmental conditions.
  • Since it does not rely on visible light for imaging, it will be able to image the ground during both day and night.
  • The satellite does not have passive microwave sensors that detect the radiation naturally emitted by the atmosphere or reflected by objects on the ground.
  • Instead, RISAT-2B will be transmitting hundreds of microwave pulses each second towards the ground and receiving the signals reflected by the objects using radar.
  • The moisture and texture of the object will determine the strength of the microwave signal that gets reflected.
  • While the strength of the reflected signal will help determine different targets, the time between the transmitted and reflected signals will help determine the distance to the object.
  • The RISAT-2B satellite uses X-band synthetic aperture radar for the first time; the synthetic aperture radar was developed indigenously.
  • Unlike the C-band that was used by RISAT-1, the shorter wavelength of the X-band allows for higher resolution imagery for target identification and discrimination.
  • Since it has high resolution, the satellite will be able to detect objects with dimensions of as little as a metre.
  • This capacity to study small objects and also movement could be useful for surveillance.

Conclusion

  • As K. Sivan, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, had said last month, the satellite could be used for civil and strategic purposes.
  • RISAT-2B will have an inclined orbit of 37 degrees, which will allow more frequent observations over the Indian subcontinent.
  • With ISRO planning to launch four more such radar imaging satellites in a year, its ability to monitor crops and floods as well as engage in military surveillance will be greatly enhanced.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 23 MAY 2019 (A blueprint for a national security strategy (The Hindu))

A blueprint for a national security strategy (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Defense and Security
Prelims level: National Security Advisory Board
Mains level: Need for national security architecture

Context

  • There have been several attempts at formulating a national security strategy for India. According to some accounts, the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) had formulated draft national security strategy documents on four different occasions and presented them to successive governments, but the political class wouldn’t bite.
  • There has been a lingering worry in the minds of the politicians about a potential commitment trap if a national security strategy were to be put on paper.

Key issues with present security architecture

  • The National Security Council (NSC) set up in 1998 almost never meets, primarily because it is an advisory body, with the Cabinet Committee on Security being the executive body.
  • If the NSC is to be made more useful, the government’s allocation of business rules should be amended to give more powers to the NSC and its subordinate organisations, such as the Strategic Policy Group.
  • The job of the National Security Adviser needs to be reimagined. Even though the NSA plays a vital role in national security, he has no legal powers as per the government’s allocation of business rules.
  • The K.C. Pant Task Force in the late 1990s had recommended the creation of an NSA with the rank of a Cabinet Minister.
  • Over the years, the NSA’s powers have increased, even though he is not accountable to Parliament. \
  • The institution of the NSA today requires more accountability and legal formality.
  • More national security organisations are not the answer; fundamental structural reforms in national security planning are needed.

Case Study of Defence Planning Committee

  • Take the case of the recently constituted Defence Planning Committee (DPC) tasked to recommend policy measures to improve India’s defence capability and preparedness, and national security in general.
  • Not only does the DPC have too many responsibilities on its plate, it is also an advisory body.
  • More worryingly, there is a feeling among the armed forces that by having the NSA chair the DPC, the government may have scuttled the demands to appoint a Chief of the Defence Staff, an issue the Hooda document highlights.

Highlights of the Hooda document

  • The guiding philosophy of the document is enshrined in the following sentence: “This strategy recognises the centrality of our people. We cannot achieve true security if large sections of our population are faced with discrimination, inequality, lack of opportunities, and buffeted by the risks of climate change, technology disruption, and water and energy scarcity.”
  • At a time when national security is referred to in strictly military terms, it is heartening to see that a strategy document defines security in an out-of-the box and inclusive manner.
  • A glance at the key themes shows how well-designed the document is: “assuming our rightful place in global affairs”, “achieving a secure neighbourhood”, “peaceful resolution of internal conflicts”, “protecting our people” and “strengthening our capabilities”.
  • On the issue of military jointmanship, it recommends that “the three services should undertake a comprehensive review of their current and future force structures to transform the army, navy and air force into an integrated warfighting force.
  • While discussing emerging national security threats, the document differs with the BJP-led government’s decision to set up a Defence Cyber Agency instead of a Cyber Command as was originally recommended.
  • There is a need to initiate structured programmes that bring together civil society members, family groups, educationists, religious teachers and even surrendered terrorists in an effort to roll back radicalisation.”

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 22 MAY 2019 (Power under pressure (Indian Express))

Power under pressure (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana
Mains level: Significance of Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana

Context

  • Launched in November 2015, the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) was designed to turn around the precarious financial position of state distribution companies.
  • But as the NDA government ends its term, indications are that the turnaround hasn’t materialised, with several targets being missed.

Background

  • Broadly, the scheme had three critical components.
  • Takeover of discom debt by state governments, reduction in aggregate technical and commercial (AT and C) losses, timely tariff revisions and elimination of the gap between the average per unit cost of supply (ACS) and average revenue realised (ARR) by FY19.

Losses of AT and C

  • At the aggregate level, the AT and C losses for major states stood at 19.05 per cent as against the target of reducing them to 15 per cent by the end of FY19.
  • In the case of some states, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, the losses are of a much higher magnitude, suggesting that pilferage continues to be rampant.

Eliminated the ACS-ARR gap

  • While the ACS-ARR gap was supposed to be eliminated by FY19, it remains as high as Rs 0.25 per unit. In many states, the gap is even higher. Part of the problem can be traced to inadequate tariff hikes.
  • While it is true that some states have aggressively raised tariffs, the median hike remains muted. This is where political compulsions overtake commercial decisions.

Given Power subsidy

  • Then there’s also the issue of whether the power subsidy released by state governments is adequate.
  • As a result, discoms have reported financial losses to the tune of Rs 21,658 crore at the end of FY19, reversing the declining trend since the launch of UDAY, say reports.

Implications

  • This deterioration in the financial position of discoms does not bode well for the entire power sector chain.
  • Reports suggest that dues by state discoms to power generators have in fact risen.
  • And though the recent CERC order on tariff relief for independent power producers is positive for producers, it runs the risk of timely realisation, as the financial position of discoms
    continues to precarious.

Conclusion

  • Apart from these, there are several other operational efficiency targets under UDAY, such as feeder metering, smart metering and feeder segregation. Progress on these is mixed.
  • For instance, not much progress has been made in the case of smart metering above 200 and upto 500 kwh and above 500 kwh.
  • These issues need to be addressed quickly or else discom losses will rise further to levels where talks of another bailout are likely to surface.
  • The only difference being that, this time around, state governments have little fiscal space to offer support.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 22 MAY 2019 (The IBSA task list (The Hindu))

The IBSA task list (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: IBSA
Mains level: Discuss the importance of IBSA

Context

  • Even as two member-states (India and South Africa) of the IBSA Dialogue Forum have been busy with national elections and the third (Brazil) is settling down after its recent presidential elections, their foreign policy mandarins met in Kochi, May 3-5.
  • The central goal was to develop a blueprint to rejuvenate IBSA, widely viewed as a unique voice for the Global South. Will this endeavour succeed?

History of IBSA

  • The idea of creating a grouping composed of major democracies of three continents, Asia, Africa and South America, emerged from the disarray at the end of the 20th century, and the perceived need for developing countries to forge decisive leadership.
  • IBSA was launched through the Brasilia Declaration in 2003.
  • Its summits, between 2006 and 2011, gave it a special global profile.

Downfall of IBSA

  • But, 2011 onwards, BRICS, the larger group comprising IBSA countries, China and Russia, started to overshadow IBSA.
  • IBSA has been unable, until now, to hold its sixth summit.
  • Nevertheless, a series of events marking its 15th anniversary, held during 2018-19, have imparted new momentum to the endeavour to revitalise IBSA.

Importance of IBSA

  • Throughout the period of its marginalisation by BRICS, a strong body of officials and experts in the three countries has held the view that IBSA is the true inheritor of solidarity among developing countries, which was nurtured from the Bandung Conference (1955) through UNCTAD and G-77 to the BAPA+40 Declaration (2018).
  • It is the champion of South-South Cooperation, and the advocate of a coordinated response by developing economies to secure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The glue that binds IBSA countries together is their faith in democracy, diversity, plurality, inclusivity, human rights and rule of law. This was reiterated through the IBSA Declaration on South-South Cooperation, issued in Pretoria in June 2018.
  • Notably IBSA remains determined to “step up advocacy for reforms of global governance institutions in multilateral fora”. In particular, it is strongly committed to the expansion of the UN Security Council. As Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj put it, “We three have to ensure that our collective voice is heard clearly in BRICS and other groups on UN Security Council reforms, since if we do not speak for our own interests, no one else will.”

Kochi parleys

  • IBSA Sherpas and senior officials of the three countries held detailed deliberations on all aspects of the grouping.
  • The IBSA Academic Forum, comprising independent experts, held its sixth session in Kochi after a hiatus of over seven years.
  • This forum hosted a candid and comprehensive exchange of views on the continuing relevance of IBSA;
  • The need for a strategy to secure SDGs and cement South-South Cooperation; expanding trade cooperation; and the shared goal of enhancing academic collaboration on issues relating directly to the needs of democratic societies.

Revitalisation of IBSA

  • First, the three Foreign Ministers have been meeting regularly to provide a coordinated leadership to the grouping. The last meeting of the Trilateral Ministerial Commission took place in New York in September 2018.
  • Second, while the India, Brazil and South Africa Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation (IBSA Fund) is small in monetary terms, it has succeeded in implementing 31 development projects in diverse countries: Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, State of Palestine, Cambodia and Vietnam, among others.
  • Third, India has been running an innovative IBSA Visiting Fellows Programme through the Delhi-based think tank, RIS or Research and Information System for Developing Countries. A strong case exists for expanding its reach. Both South Africa and Brazil should initiate their own editions of this programme, as an investment in building intellectual capital.

Conclusion

  • The idea of IBSA remains valid.
  • The special responsibilities it bears cannot be discharged by BRICS.
  • In fact, strengthening IBSA could increase the effectiveness of BRICS and encourage it to follow a more balanced approach on key issues of interest to India, Brazil and South Africa.
  • Hence, the current endeavours to infuse greater dynamism in IBSA are well-timed. They would need buy-in by the government that comes to power in India.
  • Support by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, who has just won re-election as President, would be crucial. An early convening of the next summit is the pressing priority.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 22 MAY 2019 (The immediate challenges for the next finance minister (Live Mint))

The immediate challenges for the next finance minister (Live Mint)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Not Much
Mains level: Economic challenges for India in 2020

Context

  • The next government will take charge in New Delhi against the backdrop of many years of economic stability.
  • The question it will have to ask itself is whether this is the calm before the storm.

Controlling inflation

  • It was near double digits in the 12 months before the 2014 national election.
  • It has averaged around 3.25% in the 12 months before the 2019 national elections, below the middle point of the inflation target given by the government to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • There is no doubt that the Modi government got lucky with global oil prices, but it is useful to remember that core inflation has also halved over the past five years.
  • The steep decline in core inflation—which does not include food and fuel prices shows that macroeconomic policy played an important role in taming price pressures.
  • The most recent economic data should worry the next man or woman in the finance ministry. India is very clearly in the midst of a cyclical downturn, even if one looks past the debates on how economic output is being calculated.
  • The Indian economy expanded at 8% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019.
  • It is likely to end the year with economic growth at 6.3% in the fourth quarter or 1.7 percentage points lower than the first quarter. It could be even lower in the three months to June 2019.

Weakening the aggregate demand

  • The most recent consumer spending data is worrisome.
  • This is not just a matter of the money illusion nominal spending going down because of lower inflation. Even volume growth has been weak.
  • There are other warning signs as well. Imports other than oil and gold have contracted for three months in a row on an annualized basis.
  • Unless there has been a large switch from imports to locally produced goods, the trade data can also be used to illustrate soft domestic demand.

Immediate policy options for the next finance minister

  • The first temptation will be to open the spending taps in the Union Budget that will in all probability be presented in July. However, India is already facing fiscal fatigue.
  • The fiscal accounts are already under pressure because tax collections have been lower than expected.
  • The government has also been on a borrowing spree through agencies such as the Food Corporation of India.
  • The Union government, state governments and public sector agencies together are already borrowing around 8.6% of gross domestic product, according to J. P. Morgan.
  • That leaves very little financial resources to support the incipient and overdue recovery in private sector investment.
  • The fiscal fatigue described above is the primary reason market borrowing rates have not budged despite reductions in the policy interest rate by the central bank.
  • It is also the reason that RBI has brought in $10 billion through three-year swaps with banks, in an attempt to increase the stock of money since the cost of money is not doing the trick.

Think of it as the Indian version of quantitative easing.

Fiscal space to support domestic demand

  • There is not enough fiscal space to support domestic demand for now.
  • The export engine has not been firing for the past few years either.
  • There is reason to hope that India could be one of the beneficiaries of the ongoing trade friction between the US and China, as this column has previously argued, but the more immediate challenges still remain.
  • Export growth has been anaemic. The world economy could also be ending its synchronized upturn.
  • All this is overlaid by a funds crunch in some parts of the Indian economy because of the confidence crisis in non-bank financial companies (NBFCs).
  • The new government will have to first assess the extent of the problem followed by moves to ease the situation.
  • Asset quality reviews on the major NBFCs should tell a lot, and it is likely that the public sector banks will be asked to offer credit lines to lending firms in trouble, with all the obvious moral hazard issues in tow.

Way forward

  • The current combination of macro indicators should not cause any alarm but there is definitely cause for worry.
  • The economy is losing momentum, food inflation is inching up, the current account gap is widening, there is fiscal fatigue, monetary policy transmission is poor and there is a funds crunch in some parts of the economy.
  • The bigger task for the next government will obviously be structural reforms that can support economic growth for the next decade, but the more immediate challenge is to deal with the immediate economic situation.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 22 MAY 2019 (Being responsive: on the Jammu and Kashmir report (The Hindu))

Being responsive: on the Jammu and Kashmir report (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Jammu and Kashmir Report
Mains level: Un report highlights on J and K

Context

  • The government’s decision to shut down communication with UN Special Rapporteurs seeking to question India on alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir may appear extreme.
  • But is in line with its reaction to such international reports over the last few years.

Background

  • In a letter dated April 23, India’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva wrote to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights rejecting any reference to the UN’s original June 2018 report on Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and refused to respond to questions about deaths of 69 civilians between 2016 and 2018 in violence in the Valley.
  • In its objections, the government said the report was “false and motivated”, that its conclusions and recommendations were violative of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and accused the Special Rapporteurs preparing the report of “individual prejudices” against India.
  • In addition, India drew notice to the Pulwama attack this year, calling terrorism the “grossest” violation of human rights, not the allegations against the security forces.
  • As a result, the government has decided to treat all allegations made by the UN Special Rapporteurs as a “closed chapter” and will not engage further on it.

Objection to OHCHR report

  • India’s objections to the OHCHR report, the first of its kind when it was released in 2018, and the follow-up this year are understandable, given the often selective nature of allegations raised by the UN body.
  • It is also clear that demands for action against Indian officials and amendment of laws can cross the line on Indian sovereignty.
  • The call by the previous HCHR that the UN Human Rights Council set up an independent and international tribunal to investigate India’s record in Kashmir was seen to be invasive, and could be dismissed by New Delhi as well.

Questions must need to answer

  • However, the government cannot quell the troubling questions that the UN report and the Special Rapporteurs’ submissions raise simply by rejecting them.
  • To begin with, most of the sources for the OHCHR report are official Indian authorities, State and national human rights commissions, international human rights agencies as well as reputed Indian NGOs.
  • This is therefore a view from within India, not some disengaged UN official, and must be taken very seriously.
  • Two Kashmiri NGOs also released a report on Monday documenting 432 specific cases of alleged brutality by security forces in Kashmir, including electrocution, ‘water-boarding’ and sexual torture of civilians, of which only about 27 were taken up by the State Human Rights Commission.

Way forward

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 22 MAY 2019 (Priority call (The Hindu))

Priority call (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Telecom sector
Mains level: India’s telecom sector and its loopholes

Context

  • Over the past two years, India’s telecom sector has been struggling to stay afloat with intense pressure on profits due to declining tariffs and increasing costs.
  • While this has led to a great deal for consumers, the industry is struggling under increasing debt, lower profits and declining cash flows.
  • In this context, the task is cut out for the new government in the Centre to carry out some of the promises made in the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 without further delay.

Background

  • On top priority should be the measures proposed to lower fees and levies on operators.
  • Mobile operators pay almost 30 per cent of their revenues in the form of spectrum charges and other annual fees.
  • These levies were introduced when spectrum was allocated on a subscriber-based criteria.
  • Since 2010, the Centre has shifted to auction of spectrum wherein winning operators pay an upfront fee to acquire the airwaves.
  • Therefore, some of these levies can be easily waived off without any major revenue impact for the exchequer.

Steps need to be taken by the government

  • The new government should also review the spectrum pricing formula to reduce the overall cost of offering services.
  • Given that new mobile services will be supporting massive data applications, operators will need large amounts of spectrum.
  • There is a need to move away from the existing mechanism of pricing spectrum on a per MHz basis.
  • New data services require at least 80-100 MHz of contiguous spectrum per operator.
  • If the Centre were to fix the floor price based on the per MHz price realised in the last auction then no operator would be able to afford additional spectrum.
  • Infrastructure creation, especially the much delayed optical fibre network, should be taken up on a mission mode so that it can complement the huge investments being made in rolling out the wireless networks.

Other areas to focus

  • The other area of focus should be on ensuring quality of services. Telecom consumers are no better today than they were two decades ago when it comes to getting access to uninterrupted voice calls and reliable Internet connectivity.
  • Call drops, unwanted telemarketing calls, patchy data networks and unfair practices to get users to pay more are rampant.
  • Consumers do not have access to a reliable and neutral complaint redress mechanism.
  • The new government should promptly notify the creation of an ombudsman to empower mobile consumers.
  • Telecom PSUs continue to languish under high manpower cost and bureaucratic decision making.
  • The Centre must take immediate steps to revive Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd if it wants to achieve the objective of reaching 100 per cent tele-density in rural areas.
  • Infrastructure creation, especially the much delayed optical fibre network, should be taken up on a mission mode.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 MAY 2019 (Platforms of our own (Indian Express))

Platforms of our own (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Cambridge Analytica scandal
Mains level: India's interest needs to be protected from unwanted social media influence

Context

  • Social media platforms allow political parties to reach millions of prospective voters and are therefore an integral part of elections.
  • However, some authoritarian regimes across the world have used social media to manufacture positive public opinion.
  • Worse, some established democracies have had to deal with propaganda, fake news and foreign interference in domestic elections.
  • These developments point to the capacity of social media platforms to seriously undermine democratic practices worldwide.

Measures taken after the Cambridge Analytica scandal

  • The Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company illegally harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used that to influence their voting preferences.
  • Facebook has been in the forefront in creating various checks and balances in cyberspace to create an environment for free and fair elections.
  • It has created specialised global centres with the sole aim of promoting election integrity.

Uses of AI

  • As a platform that sees billions of posts each day, Facebook has identified Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AIML)-powered pattern recognition tools to be the most effective line of defence against “unnatural interference”.
  • Whenever accounts are found that are similar to ones flagged in the past, and that are inaccurate, abusive, or violating the platforms’ terms of service, they are systematically removed.
  • AIML tools assist the platform block or remove over a million accounts a day.

For India’s concern

  • According to a recent survey, one in two Indian voters has received some kind of fake news in the month leading to the elections.
  • AIML tools also work to minimise the spread of such disinformation.
  • Some of the actions taken by these platforms, however, have not been that well received, especially by those who say that these platforms should not be deciding what is proper and improper in the Indian online space.
  • For instance, Twitter’s top officials, including global CEO Jack Dorsey, were summoned to appear before the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology for alleged bias against right-wing voices on the platform.
  • With almost all the popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.
  • It being foreign-owned, and with India having neither insights into their internal algorithms and functioning nor any viable homegrown equivalents, its population will always be susceptible to interference beyond its control.

Conclusion

  • India’s ability to create its own mass collaborative technology and independent institutions with technical expertise that can monitor and counter actions of the government.
  • It is paramount in ensuring that social media evolves into an enabler of transparency and democracy, rather than a cause of democratic recession.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 MAY 2019 (Routine meetings between leaders will liberate the Subcontinent from formalism of summits (Indian Express))

Routine meetings between leaders will liberate the Subcontinent from formalism of summits (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: SAARC
Mains level: Informal meetings may provide enhanced relationship with neighbors

Context

  • Rather than pray for the success of SAARC, the new government in Delhi should double down on informal diplomacy that could help pave the way for more purposeful regional cooperation both bilateral and multilateral.

Background

  • If Modi used the invitation in 2014 to signal his commitment to South Asian regionalism, he was also quick to see the limitations of SAARC (the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) at the Kathmandu summit in 2014.
  • The summit had failed to sign off on the connectivity agreements that were painfully negotiated by senior officials, because Pakistan chose to pull out at the last stage.
  • Apparently Rawalpindi was not ready for trade and economic cooperation with India.

Steps taken to enhance regional coperation

  • At Kathmandu, Modi recognised that South Asian regionalism can’t be allowed to become a hostage to Pakistan.
  • To be sure, Islamabad had the sovereign right to decide on the need, nature and pace of its integration with the rest of the subcontinent.
  • The only sensible course, then, is for the rest of the SAARC to move forward wherever they can and let Pakistan join the process whenever it feels comfortable.

Multilateral Mechanism

  • Since then Delhi has emphasised other multilateral mechanisms including sub-regional cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal and trans-regional cooperation in the east.
  • The littoral of the Bay of Bengal including Burma and Thailand.
  • Modi also revived the bilateral engagement with countries like Sri Lanka that were constrained in the UPA years — thanks to Tamil Nadu’s veto over the engagement with Colombo.
  • Regular official visits to the neighbouring capitals have become the norm at all levels.
  • It has become the convention for any new foreign secretary to travel first to all the neighbouring capitals.

Key focus on informal meetings

  • The Subcontinent can do with more of this kind of engagement — leaders seeing each other on short notice for informal consultations or just watch a cricket match or join a social or spiritual occasion.
  • Informal diplomacy in South Asia will make it easier for India to sustain high-level engagement with the neighbourhood.
  • These include pre-set multilateral summits from BRICS and SCO to the ASEAN, G-20 and the UN as well as annual meetings with friendly nations through the year
  • Meanwhile, some of these multilateral summits could throw up the possibilities of a meeting with the Pakistani leadership.
  • If meetings with Pakistan’s leadership become routine and informal, Delhi will be able to prevent each encounter seem like a gladiatorial contest that must address all issues and produce joint statements, every word of which is analysed to death.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 MAY 2019 (Eye on the monsoon (The Hindu))

Eye on the monsoon (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture
Prelims level: Monsoon
Mains level: Preparedness for monsoon

Context

  • As India awaits the arrival of the annual summer monsoon, hopes are particularly high for normal rainfall that is so vital for agriculture, the health of forests, rivers and wetlands.
  • The India Meteorological Department has forecast normal rainfall of 96% of the long period average of 89 cm rain, with an onset date in the first week of June in Kerala. It has also signalled a significant possibility of a deficit.

Importance of monsoon

  • The monsoon bounty is crucial for the 60% of gross cropped area in farming that is rain-fed, and represents, in the assessment of the National Commission on Farmers, 45% of agricultural output.
  • Given the erratic patterns of rainfall witnessed over the past few decades and their possible connection to atmospheric changes caused by a variety of pollutants, the distribution of monsoon 2019 will add to the insights.
  • The southwest monsoon is a determinant of India’s overall prosperity, and sustained efforts to make the best use of rainfall are absolutely important for farms, cities and industry.

Area of Concern

  • Considering that there has been a 52% decline in groundwater levels based on tests conducted last year over the previous decadal average, State governments should have pursued the setting up of new recharging wells and made improvements to existing ones on a war footing.
  • They also have lagged in building structures to harvest surface water and helping farmers raise the efficiency of irrigation.
  • The approach to the farming sector, however, has been influenced more by the imperatives of an election year, and the Centre’s biggest intervention was to announce a cash handout to specified categories of small farmers.

Effects of Industrial Pollution

  • A normal summer monsoon over the subcontinent brings widespread prosperity, but does not guarantee a uniform spread.
  • This, as scientists point out, may be due to the effect of particulates released through various industrial and agricultural processes.
  • Some of these aerosols suppress the rainfall and disperse it across the land, causing long breaks in precipitation, while others absorb heat and lead to a convection phenomenon that increases rainfall in some places.
  • Such evidence points to the need for India to clean up its act on rising industrial emissions, and burning of fossil fuels and biomass in order to improve the stability of the monsoon.
  • An equally key area of concern is freshwater availability for households, which, NITI Aayog says, account for 4% of available supplies, besides 12% used by industry.

Conclusion

  • Urbanisation trends and the severe water stress that residents experience underscore the need for mandatory rainwater harvesting policies and augmented efforts by States to preserve surface water by building new reservoirs.
  • Yet, governments are adopting a commodity approach to the vital resource, displaying deplorable indifference to the pollution and loss of rivers, wetlands and lakes that hold precious waters. This is no way to treat a life-giving resource.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 21 MAY 2019 (Eye on the monsoon (The Hindu))

Eye on the monsoon (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture
Prelims level: Monsoon
Mains level: Preparedness for monsoon

Context

  • As India awaits the arrival of the annual summer monsoon, hopes are particularly high for normal rainfall that is so vital for agriculture, the health of forests, rivers and wetlands.
  • The India Meteorological Department has forecast normal rainfall of 96% of the long period average of 89 cm rain, with an onset date in the first week of June in Kerala. It has also signalled a significant possibility of a deficit.

Importance of monsoon

  • The monsoon bounty is crucial for the 60% of gross cropped area in farming that is rain-fed, and represents, in the assessment of the National Commission on Farmers, 45% of agricultural output.
  • Given the erratic patterns of rainfall witnessed over the past few decades and their possible connection to atmospheric changes caused by a variety of pollutants, the distribution of monsoon 2019 will add to the insights.
  • The southwest monsoon is a determinant of India’s overall prosperity, and sustained efforts to make the best use of rainfall are absolutely important for farms, cities and industry.

Area of Concern

  • Considering that there has been a 52% decline in groundwater levels based on tests conducted last year over the previous decadal average, State governments should have pursued the setting up of new recharging wells and made improvements to existing ones on a war footing.
  • They also have lagged in building structures to harvest surface water and helping farmers raise the efficiency of irrigation.
  • The approach to the farming sector, however, has been influenced more by the imperatives of an election year, and the Centre’s biggest intervention was to announce a cash handout to specified categories of small farmers.

Effects of Industrial Pollution

  • A normal summer monsoon over the subcontinent brings widespread prosperity, but does not guarantee a uniform spread.
  • This, as scientists point out, may be due to the effect of particulates released through various industrial and agricultural processes.
  • Some of these aerosols suppress the rainfall and disperse it across the land, causing long breaks in precipitation, while others absorb heat and lead to a convection phenomenon that increases rainfall in some places.
  • Such evidence points to the need for India to clean up its act on rising industrial emissions, and burning of fossil fuels and biomass in order to improve the stability of the monsoon.
  • An equally key area of concern is freshwater availability for households, which, NITI Aayog says, account for 4% of available supplies, besides 12% used by industry.

Conclusion

  • Urbanisation trends and the severe water stress that residents experience underscore the need for mandatory rainwater harvesting policies and augmented efforts by States to preserve surface water by building new reservoirs.
  • Yet, governments are adopting a commodity approach to the vital resource, displaying deplorable indifference to the pollution and loss of rivers, wetlands and lakes that hold precious waters. This is no way to treat a life-giving resource.

    Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - user8's blog