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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 November 2019 (Stubble resistance (Indian Express))

Stubble resistance (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Stubble burning issues and suggestive measures

Context

  • Last week, as the national capital recorded its worst reading in three years on the Air Quality Index, the Supreme Court pulled up the governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi for their lack of concerted action against stubble burning.

Supreme Court

  • It also upbraided the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana for not being sensitive enough to the issue.
  • The Delhi and Punjab governments had resorted to blaming each other for the national capital’s pollution crisis, the court’s censure is timely.
  • But the significance of the two-judge bench’s order of November 7 goes beyond its stern tone.
  • It has asked the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to pay, within seven days, Rs 100 per quintal of paddy as an incentive to farmers who have not burnt stubble on their fields.

Two questions remain:

  • Do the states have the financial resources to bear the burden of the cash incentive?
  • More importantly, are such incentives enough to wean farmers away from stubble burning?

Responses to the judgement

  • Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said that “his government will implement the order”.
  • More than 90 per cent of the non-Basmati paddy crop has been harvested. But the Punjab CM has given enough indications of the state’s limitations in providing cash incentives in the future.
  • The Centre will have to help the states, which are facing serious fiscal constraints. While the GST regime has stifled financial resources of all states, Punjab, in particular, is in dire straits.
  • The apex court has said that it will take a final call on the “aspect of finance” after “considering the detailed report to be submitted by the state governments and after hearing the other stakeholders, including the Centre”.
  • It will have to chart a plan that takes into account the interests of the farmers as well as recognises the constraints of the states.

Way forward

  • The Punjab and Haryana governments subsidise the Happy Seeder sowing machines, which obviate straw burning.
  • The technology has not got the necessary traction because farmers do not want to invest in a machine that lies idle for most of the year.
  • As in the case of most farm technologies in the country, the adoption of Happy Seeders will require changing mindsets.
  • To persuade farmers to not set their fields on fires, state governments will need to reach out to them with educational programmes — not just financial incentives.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 November 2019 (Opportunities for India in the Asian Century (Mint))

Opportunities for India in the Asian Century (Mint)

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Asian Century

Context

  • India is at an inflection point. Its recent period of significant growth—faster than the global average.

Slowdown in growth

  • India has stalled in the face of global headwinds against trade, volatile commodity markets, stagnant private investment, weaker domestic consumption and constrained government spending in the wake of recent fiscal and monetary reforms.

Potential in Asia

  • Asia is becoming the world’s powerhouse and economic center.
  • New research from the McKinsey Global Institute finds that Asia could generate more than half of the world’s GDP by 2040 as cross-border flows shift toward the region, which is rapidly integrating; with 60% of goods traded, 56% of greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI) and 74% of journeys by Asian air travelers taking place within the region.

Asian connectivity

  • This research identifies 4 distinct sub-Asias—diverse groups of economies with characteristics that complement each other, which are fast becoming increasingly interconnected.
  • As a result, dynamic new flows and networks are appearing, redefining globalization as we know it.
  • The new era will be one of regionalization, and Asia is taking a lead. Historically, India—and other countries in ‘Frontier Asia’ (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc)—have had relatively low levels of integration when compared with the rest of the region; only around 31% of their flows are intra-regional.
  • Yet, how they now respond to these shifting flows, and the opportunities they present, could be key in defining and delivering its next chapter of growth.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi could catalyze accelerated economic collaboration between the two countries.

What India offers?

  • India offers key major ingredients to the broader Asian economy:
  • Services: It’s account for 53% of India’s GDP;
  • A young labour force (younger than China’s median age by around ten years);
  • New markets for the rest of the region.
  • Growth: Even factoring in the downturn, GDP in India is expected to grow at well above 5% for the coming period, and incremental consumption is expected to reach $2.4 trillion by 2030.

Adding the Asia focus: Manufacturing

  • Advanced Asian countries like China move up the economic development ladder, phasing out manufacturing in favour of a shift to R&D and more knowledge intensive manufacturing.
  • There is room for India to seize the baton and become a larger sourcing base for global supply chains.
  • The global sourcing value of mobile handsets is over $500 billion in scale, and India could aspire for a 15-20% share of this footprint.

What needs to be done?

  • Investments are needed to improve the logistical backbone supporting manufacturing, incentives are needed to encourage future investments in R&D, and large-scale innovation hubs need to be developed to move manufacturing to the next phase and help to capture the demand opportunity.
  • The recent move towards an attractive corporate taxation regime could provide the much-needed ignition to attract more investment for Make in India.
    Capital flows and investments:
  • There are opportunities for India to benefit from the flows of capital and investments powering development as Asia integrates more closely.
  • ‘Advanced Asia’ (Japan, South Korea, Singapore) and China have been huge contributors to the development of ‘Emerging Asia’ (small highly interconnected economies like Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, etc), with China accounting for 42% of total Asian outbound FDI in 2013-17 and 43% and 61% of Emerging Asia’s imports and exports respectively.
  • India and China have a history of competition, thus flows between the two countries both in terms of trade and people are not as strong as with other countries across the region.

What needs to be done?

  • India is beginning to attract investment from firms across Asia—Softbank.
  • It has led several rounds of funding for Indian unicorns—more needs to be done to realize the potential opportunity of investment flows from other countries, and this may mean ‘looking East’.

Innovation

  • East Asia has emerged as a leading hub, rivalling the leading innovation hubs globally. East Asia has already gained pole position in driving innovation relating to key disruption themes such as electric mobility, 5G telecom, and renewable energy.
  • Nearly 65% of global patents stemmed from Asia between 2015 and 2017, derived from the 50 fastest rising innovation cities in Asia, with an opportunity for Indian firms to be a part of this Asia-wide innovation arc.

Growth:

  • A rapidly growing Asia is catapulting its major cities into leading consumption centres, that offers a ripe market opportunity for Indian businesses ranging from IT services, tourism services, generic pharmaceuticals, automotive components, agrochemicals, and so forth.
  • Just with China alone, India runs an over $50 billion of trade deficit, that could be narrowed down by targeting these export opportunities.
  • Our previous MGI research found that about 420 cities in emerging markets could generate 45% of global growth, many of them residing in Asia.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 November 2019 (Enable MSMEs to grow and create jobs (The Hindu))

Enable MSMEs to grow and create jobs (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Boosting MSMEs

Context

  • Getting MSMEs employ 92 per cent of the workforce, to grow more rapidly should be one of the pillars of any strategy for job creation.
  • Compliance with the over 40 labour laws becomes mandatory once the number of workers employed by a firm crosses the prescribed threshold.

Different thresholds under different laws:

  • Small firms find the costs of compliance too high and so often prefer to remain small or open a few more units in other names.
  • They lose the gains that flow from the economies of scale.
  • It is with scale that technological modernisation, marketing and advertising, which are necessary for growth, make commercial sense.
  • Converting the over 40 labour laws into the proposed four codes is an overdue reform.
  • Putting in place a social safety net would make the provision of labour market flexibility easier in the new codes.
  • Such flexibility reduces the risk perception in expanding the workforce.

Regulatory burden

  • Regulation of enterprises for human safety, health and the environment and ensuring compliance with prescribed standards is naturally essential. But the regulatory burden for enterprises is still too high.
  • Overlapping and redundant regulatory requirements need to be scrapped. Detailed work and micro decisions need to be taken across regulatory regimes in the Centre as well as the States. To illustrate, a good question to ask would be why any permission, once granted, should need renewal.
  • Government inspections for compliance with standards could also be gradually replaced by a credible system of third-party certification.
  • This would go a long way in reducing the transaction costs of compliance, and at the same time lead to better compliance.
  • A good beginning has been made with third-party boiler inspection and certification. This approach can easily be extended to all certification.
  • As with chartered accountancy firms, an effective system of oversight over certifying firms can also be put in place.
  • The key is to improve a firm’s perception of the costs of compliance and their associated risks, which need to be brought down to the level of competitive locations overseas.

Labour productivity

  • Progress is also needed in lowering the factor costs of production for MSMEs.
  • Wages in India are low; they need to rise for poverty to decline.
  • But when it comes to wage costs per unit of production, MSMEs lose on account of the low productivity of their labour.
  • Labour productivity in the modern organised sector with large plants is not an issue, as these firms train their workers and supervisors.
  • MSMEs are, by and large, not able to provide adequate training.

Skill upgradation is needed:

  • The National Skill Mission should accord as much, if not more, priority to training and skill upgradation of the existing workforce vis-a-vis imparting skills to the young people who are entering the workforce.
  • Skill upgradation would need to be designed and implemented creatively in a way that factors in the natural inclination of the employer and worker, respectively, to not lose any production, or wages.
  • The programme would need to be designed for industry segments and implemented across industrial clusters after testing and tinkering it for one unit.
  • Spending public money for such skill upgradation would be well worth it.
  • It would increase competitiveness, facilitate growth and create more jobs.
  • Success of existing enterprises is the key to getting new entrants in that area of that industry.

Industrial land usage

  • Land for MSMEs is a major constraint. It needs to be recalled that, across the world, structural transformation through industrialisation has taken place in cities.
  • Mumbai and Kolkata grew into major commercial and industrial cities over a period of 100 years prior to Independence, with flexible and pragmatic land-use regulations to facilitate growth.
  • Rigidities have gradually crept into the system to such an extent that recently, in Delhi, the closure of hundreds of gyms that had come up in residential areas to cater to demand has been ordered.
  • Many micro enterprises emerge in non-conforming areas and then try to stay in the non-formal economy.
  • Growing into a small and then medium enterprise is difficult for them. Land is not available and prices are too high.
  • A ‘plug and play’ system is being talked about but needs to be made a reality soon across the country.

Way ahead

  • There is need for a functional system which can quickly identify this need and provide developed land in new industrial parks, with the development done by a state agency directly, or in a PPP mode.
  • Further, there are a large number of usable plots lying idle for years in industrial parks across the country, where units have become sick and gone into bankruptcy.
  • An efficient, quick system for releasing these lands for industrial use by new units should be put in place by the Central government.
  • Technological modernisation and competitiveness are essential not only for growth but also for survival.
  • PPPs for such modernisation are worth attempting; this can be done by getting the best technological capability for an industrial segment and taking up one cluster for a turnaround.
  • Bulk procurement of capital goods and leasing them may be easier than trying to get individual enterprises to make major investments.
  • A much lower GST rate for such leasing would be amply justified.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 November 2019 (A reward for ‘egregious’ violations (The Hindu))

A reward for ‘egregious’ violations (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Equal citizenship
Mains level: Highlights the equal citizenship status according to Indian constitution

Context

  • Constitution Bench is a sign of democratic dysfunction.
  • Five Supreme Court judges achieved unanimity on an issue that has convulsed Indian politics through seven decades, points to a quite heroic effort at salving deep wounds.
  • Several pages into its long, reflective and often digressive judgment on the Ayodhya title dispute, and after many an excursus into the discipline of archaeology, the top court admits that it has been embarked on an exercise in irrelevance.
  • “A finding of title”, it pronounces, “cannot be based.. on... archaeological findings”. Rather, the matter “must be decided on settled legal principles... applying evidentiary standards which govern a civil trial”.

Constitution as watershed

  • A moment of liberation from the torments of the past occurred at that “watershed moment” when India adopted its republican Constitution.
  • That was when “we, the people of India” — as the resonant phrase in the preamble put it — “departed from the determination of rights and liabilities on the basis of our ideology, our religion, the colour of our skin, or the century when our ancestors arrived at these lands”.
  • It was when all Indian citizens “submitted to the rule of law”.
  • Certain continuities between republican India and the British Raj were retained.
  • Article 372 of the Constitution allowed the adjudication of title bequeathed from before.
  • And yet, with no clear pathway towards resolving a dispute that originated with the British conquest of Awadh in 1856, the top court invokes an extraordinary power uniquely granted under Article 142 of the Constitution, to ensure that justice is delivered to all.

Key findings that negate following these values:

  • December 22, 1949, roughly halfway between the adoption of the Indian Constitution and its formal entry into force, with a delinquent district magistrate looking the other way, a number of idols were smuggled into a place of worship at Ayodhya.
  • Cutting through the mythology that has since surrounded that act, the court has declared that this was a “desecration of the mosque and the ouster of the Muslims otherwise than by the due process of law”.
  • And then came the final act of destruction on December 6, 1992, when a monument with hoary references to India’s history was effaced, in what the court recognises as “an egregious violation of the rule of law”.

Offender and victim

  • The abiding mystery with the Supreme Court ruling on Ayodhya, as the Indian republic marches ahead, would be to negotiate the complicated routine through which it seeks to reward the worst violations of the rule of law.
  • After acknowledging all these historical wrongs, the court recognises a body that has been the most serious offender against rule of law, and awards it virtually undiluted title to the land.
  • It seeks to placate the victims of this cycle of physical and rhetorical violence, through the award of five acres in the near vicinity of Ayodhya, for the 2.77 acres lost.
  • The court has decreed that the injuries to an entire religious community’s sense of identity and belonging, can be easily redressed through seeming generosity in the quantitative sense.
  • An alternative metric could be used to assess how far the Supreme Court judgment bears true faith to the foundational principles of India’s republican identity.
  • Anybody with the tools to do the search, would find the word “Hindu” occurring 1,062 times through the court’s judgment, while “Muslim” appears 549 times.
  • The word “citizen” occurs a mere 14 times.

Equal citizenship

  • Equal citizenship was a promise that India made to itself at the time of its transition to a modern republic. B.R. Ambedkar and other preceptors of the democratic order knew that it was a difficult transition, because of the deep chasm between the assurance of political equality and the reality of social and economic inequality.
  • Ambedkar of course, had in mind a different dimension of inequality.
  • As the Constituent Assembly (CA) debated the issue of fundamental rights, and heard representations from the diminishing and disempowered spokespersons of communities who argued for a charter of minority rights, Govind Ballabh Pant came up with a lofty response, rendered perhaps from his privileged posture as an upper caste person.
  • Speaking in the Constituent Assembly, G.B. Pant had deprecated the “morbid tendency”, to disregard the individual citizen who is really the backbone of the State, the pivot.
  • The cardinal centre of all social activity, and whose happiness and satisfaction should be the goal of every social mechanism.
  • The citizen, he regretted, had been lost in the “body known as the community”, because of the “degrading habit of thinking always in terms of communities and never in terms of citizens”.

Way ahead

  • This entire saga may have vanished into the rabbit-hole of history had not the course of Indian democracy exposed its assurances of republican equality as a thin cover for upper caste privilege.
  • From being an unstated premise, sectarianism was officially reintroduced into India’s electoral politics in the 1980s, as the foundations of upper caste hegemony began to falter.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 November 2019 (Special Window for funding of stalled Housing projects (Indian Express))

Special Window for funding of stalled Housing projects (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level : Housing schemes
Mains level: The Special Window will provide last-mile funding to projects that meet the following criteria:

Context

  • The Union Cabinet approved the establishment of a ‘Special Window’ to provide priority debt financing for the completion of stalled housing projects that are in the Affordable and Middle-Income Housing sector.
    The Special Window will provide last-mile funding to projects that meet the following criteria:
  • Net-worth positive, The affordable and middle-income housing project, On-going projects registered with RERA, Reference by the existing lender

Will include stressed projects classified as NPA and those in NCLT

  • Fund(s) created under the Special Window will be set up as priority debt funds. A detailed Investment Policy will be laid down to guide the selection of projects to be financed through a detailed due-diligence process that will include legal due-diligence, title due diligence, micro-market analysis, financial analysis, etc.
  • The final decision will be taken by the Investment Committee of each Fund comprising of experienced professionals and industry experts. The Investment Committee will approve individual deals independently as per Investment Policy ensuring alignment with investment objectives of the Fund.

Key highlights:

  • The funds will be set up as Category-II Alternate Investment (AIFs) Fund registered with SEBI. These funds would be entrusted to professional Investment Managers. For the first AIF under the Special Window, it is proposed that SBICAP Ventures Limited shall be engaged to be the Investment Manager.
  • For the purposes of funds to be set up, the government shall act as the Sponsor and the total funds committed by the Government would be up to INR 10,000 crore.
  • The Special Window would provide funds to stalled housing projects enabling them to complete unfinished projects and consequently ensure delivery of homes to a large number of home-buyers.

Way forward

  • This will, in due course, help relieve the financial stress faced by a large number of middle-class homebuyers who have invested their hard-earned money.
  • This will also restore trust between buyers and developers and boost the sentiments of the housing sector as a whole and release a large number of funds stuck in these projects for productive use in the economy.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 November 2019 (The China factor in India’s RCEP move (The Hindu))

The China factor in India’s RCEP move (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level : RCEP
Mains level: The China factor in India’s RCEP move

Context

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ASEAN sojourn this year will be remembered for India finally rejecting the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal.
  • In his speech at the RCEP summit, PM argued that India has been proactively, constructively and meaningfully engaged in the RCEP negotiations since inception.
  • The draft RCEP agreement did not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP and did not address satisfactorily India’s outstanding issues and concerns.

RCEP

  • Apart from the 10 member states of the ASEAN, the deal was to include the bloc’s six free trade partners — China, India, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
  • The RCEP negotiations were launched in 2012 and, this year, there was a big push to get it finalised.
  • After India’s rejection, the remaining 15 members decided to go ahead and underlined their intent to sign a trade deal sometime next year.

Indian demands

  • Shifting the base year for tariff cuts from 2014 to 2019.
  • To avoiding a sudden surge in imports from China by including a large number of items in an auto-trigger mechanism.
  • To stricter rules of origin to prevent dumping from China. It’s a better deal in services.

Indian concerns

  • India runs large trade deficits with at least 11 of the 15 RCEP members. China alone accounts for $53 billion of India’s $105 billion trade deficit with these.
  • China’s need for greater access to the Indian market to sustain its manufacturing industries will hurt the Indian industry and farmers due to a surge in Chinese imports.
  • India’s experience with FTAs has been underwhelming. Niti Aayog suggested that FTA utilisation is in the 5%-25% range.
  • Domestically, the RCEP generated considerable opposition with major stakeholders coming out against it – farmers, dairy industry or the corporate sector.

India at RCEP

  • It comprises half of the world population and accounts for nearly 40% of the global commerce and 35% of the GDP. RCEP would have become the world’s largest FTA after finalisation, with India being the third-biggest economy in it.
  • Without India, the RCEP does not look as attractive as it had seemed during negotiations.
  • ASEAN has been keen on a diversified portfolio so that member states can deal with major powers and maintain their strategic autonomy. ASEAN member states have tried to keep the U.S. engaged in the region.
  • The Act East policy has been well received. With China’s rise in the region, ASEAN member states have been keen on Indian involvement in the region.
  • India’s entire Indo-Pacific strategy might be open to question if steps are not taken to restore India’s profile in the region. It signalled that, despite the costs, China’s rise has to be tackled both politically and economically.

China in the region

  • China was particularly keen to see a successful conclusion of the RCEP summit and had been vigorously pushing for that.
  • Both geopolitically and geo-economically, China is set to dominate the Indo-Pacific.
  • Japan is now suggesting that it would work towards a deal that includes India.

Way forward

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 November 2019 (NBFC regulation: RBI’s suggestions on changes to CIC framework are welcome (The Hindu))

NBFC regulation: RBI’s suggestions on changes to CIC framework are welcome (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level : NBFC regulation
Mains level: RBI’s suggestions on changes to CIC framework

Context

  • The RBI working group under Tapan Ray, that was given the task to review one of the troublespots in the NBFC regulatory framework — core investment companies (CICs) — has made some good suggestions.
  • While the supervision of CICs can improve going ahead, these regulations, if adopted, may not be able to fix the damage already done.
  • The CICs, which hold at least 90 per cent of their net assets as investment in equity, debt or loans in group companies, were under less stringent regulation;
  • It was believed that these entities would be taking lower risk since they have exposure to group entities alone.
  • But the loopholes in the rules have been exploited by some groups, leading to regulatory problems.

Definition of ‘Group’ in the regulation

  • This includes subsidiaries, joint ventures, associates, promoters and related parties — led to CICs dealing with many unregulated entities.
  • Many groups had multiple CICs, and each CIC would raise funds independently to invest in group companies or other CICs.
  • Thus funds were being raised by CICs, step-down CICs as well as by group companies, increasing the group-level gearing.
  • Since some group entities are not governed by any regulator, it was difficult to gauge the extent of leverage in these entities.
  • Also, while CICs are currently restricted to dealing only with group entities on the asset side, there is no such restriction on liabilities.
  • They can borrow from markets, mutual funds and other investors through commercial papers, non-convertible debentures and inter-corporate deposits, for investing in or lending to group companies.

Restrict the number of layers of CICs

  • The suggestion to restrict the number of layers of CICs in a group to two, will help in multiple ways including reducing leverage, improving transparency and making regulation easier.
  • Stipulating that capital contribution by a CIC in a step-down CIC, over and above 10 per cent of its owned funds, should be deducted from its adjusted networth, will help rein in the borrowings of these entities.
  • The suggestions regarding mandating a group risk management committee, audit committee and nomination and remuneration committee will help improve governance of such groups and ensure that shareholder wealth is protected.

Way forward

  • The changes will certainly help improve governance in CICs, the RBI should be careful about the manner in which the rules are implemented.
  • The glide path of two years given to existing CICs to reduce the adjusted networth and for step-down CICs to stop investing or lending to other CICs may not be enough.
  • Periodic on-site inspection by the RBI is a good idea as is off-site reporting of disclosure relating to leverage at the CIC and the group level. \
  • But the RBI should ensure that the changes do not lead to fresh problems.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 November 2019 (Neglect of public health leaves millions of Indians vulnerable to non-communicable diseases (The Hindu))

Neglect of public health leaves millions of Indians vulnerable to non-communicable diseases (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level : National Health Profile
Mains level: National Health Profile survey highlights

Context

  • The recent release of National Health Profile (NHP) 2019 is once again a dismal reminder of India’s neglect of public health even by the standards of other neighbourhood and low-middle income countries.

Highlights of the data

  • Its public health expenditure, at just 1.28 per cent of GDP, is way below that of Maldives, Thailand, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
  • The NHP has chosen to overlook a globally accepted indicator of health access — direct out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE).
  • The OOPE accounts for 62.5 per cent of total health expenditure in India.
  • In France, the government’s share is 78.2 per cent while in China, it is above 56 per cent. Such expenditure pushes a staggering eight crore Indians below the poverty line every year.

How to bridge the public funding gap?

  • The governments past and present have opted for an insurance-based model of financing. While Ayushman Bharat and its State-level equivalents such as Arogyashree have helped reduce OOP.
  • It would be a mistake to assume, as the NITI Aayog has done in an earlier policy paper advocating a PPP approach to healthcare, that publicly funded health infrastructure is not crucial.
  • In health, it is State-run models that have worked, from Scandinavian countries and Sri Lanka, to Costa Rica and Cuba.
  • Even if India’s healthcare systems cannot be fully run by the government, there is certainly a great scope for expanding the State’s footprint not just in healthcare infrastructure, but also in medical education, the root cause of unaffordable private healthcare in India.
  • In India, inclusive health is a contradiction in terms. The health infrastructure divided into primary, secondary and tertiary, where primary care is State-managed and tertiary care privately controlled is based on an outmoded notion of morbidity.
  • The non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiac ailments and cancer are not elite, lifestyle disorders, but are increasingly claiming their victims among the poor as well; yet their treatment falls in the domain of expensive tertiary care.
  • NCDs account for 63 per cent of all deaths in India, and their effects on the poor, underweight and malnourished, in the form of low weight diabetes, for instance, can be lethal.
  • Recent Global Burden of Disease data shows that a rise in NCDs is related to inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 09 November 2019 (Thumbs down: On Moody’s negative rating (The Hindu))

Thumbs down: On Moody’s negative rating (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level : Moody’s rating
Mains level: Moody’s rating on growth prediction

Context

  • Ratings agency Moody’s has reacted predictably to the turbulence in the economy by revising the outlook on its sovereign rating for India from stable to negative.
  • Moody’s India rating is a notch higher than that of Standard & Poor’s.
  • The outlook revision now may well be to compensate for its past optimism on India.

What’s the rating indicate?

  • It is a warning that if the economy fails to bounce back soon enough, the sovereign rating could be up for an unfavourable review.
  • With due respect to Moody’s, none of the issues that it has highlighted is unknown.
  • The growth slowdown and its effects on the fiscal deficit and borrowings are the main worries.
  • On the one hand, tax revenue growth is nowhere near budgeted levels and with the slowdown extending into the third quarter, it is clear that tax revenues will undershoot by a wide margin.
  • On the other, the government has been forced to spend more to give a leg up to the economy.
  • Apart from pushing expenditure on capital projects, the government last month gave away corporate tax concessions amounting to a whopping ₹1.45 lakh crore.

Growth prediction

  • The boost from the ₹1.76 lakh crore dividend payout from the Reserve Bank of India, the budget arithmetic is optimistic and it now appears certain that the government will miss the fiscal deficit target of 3.3% of GDP.
  • Moody’s has projected that the deficit will slip to 3.7% of GDP this fiscal.
  • Ratings agencies are ultra-sensitive to fiscal deficit overruns but the positive factor here is that India’s borrowings are almost wholly domestic.
  • External debt to GDP is just 20% but the ratings do have an impact on investor sentiment.

Moody’s outlook revision

  • It may be another quarter or two before growth picks up the second quarter numbers due later this month may show GDP growing at less than 5%.
  • But the festive season uptick in sales of automobiles and white goods does point to the return of the consumer to the market.
  • The possibility that it was an artificial boost driven by the big discounts that were on offer cannot be ruled out.
  • But there are other positive signals such as the increase in bank credit offtake reported by the RBI for the second successive fortnight.

Way forward

  • The government needs to press the pedal harder on reforms and in debugging GST.
  • It may also have little option than to go big on disinvestment in the remaining four months of this fiscal.
  • The target of ₹1.05 lakh crore that it set for itself in the budget has to be bested by a wide margin if the fiscal deficit slippage is to be contained.
  • The supportive measures announced in the last two months should be closely monitored for implementation.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 November 2019 (China remains wary of the Quad and its future contours (Indian Express))

China remains wary of the Quad and its future contours (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: International relations
Prelims level: QUAD group
Mains level: Position of QUAD with respect to China

Context

  • Quad convened on November 4 at the level of senior officials on the margins of the EAS in Bangkok.
  • The US Secretary of State said that the “Quad” between Japan, Australia, India, and the United States would ensure that “China retains only its proper place in the world”.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry retorted to condemn the American plain-speaking as habitual lies and malicious slandering.

About QUAD

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed in early 2007 to hold a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
  • It was endorsed by US Vice President and the governments of India and Australia, leading to the first meeting at the official level.
  • There was a general understanding that it would not take on a military dimension against any country.
  • Abe’s “Confluence of Two Seas” address to the Indian Parliament gave a fresh impetus to the nascent concept. Abe had spoken of a “broader Asia” taking shape at the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
  • The economic rise of India and brought Japan and India together as part of a network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, the US, and Australia. It was seen as a network that would allow people, goods, capital, and knowledge to flow freely.
  • The Quad dissipated when Australia walked away on account of Chinese sensibilities.
  • Later, Asia’s “Democratic Security Diamond” was announced – involving Australia, India, Japan, and the US to safeguard the maritime commons from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific.
  • Differences among the Quad countries have narrowed down in the last two years. They hold a common interest in the creation of a free, open and inclusive regional architecture, rules of the road, freedom of navigation and overflight, and, ASEAN centrality.

Challenges

  • Even as the US has described China and Russia as revisionist powers, Japan has dropped the word “strategy” from its own Free and Open Indo-Pacific to better ties with China.
  • Japan’s overwhelming economic dependence on China, Australia’s continued commitment to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China signify the nations’ relationship with China.
  • China believes that the concept of the Indo-Pacific and Quad is a plot by the US to contain its rise.
  • It believes that trilateral compacts involving the US, Japan and India and the US, Japan, and Australia are aimed at strengthening the Quad.
  • China believes in “Asia-Pacific” for building an inclusive regional cooperative structure. A switch to “Indo-Pacific” implies erosion of its pre-eminence.

Chinese five-point formula for Asia Pacific

  • To making greater efforts to work together on the BRI
  • To forging China-ASEAN digital cooperation, including in 5G
  • To fully implementing the China-ASEAN FTA
  • To finalising regional rules-of-the-road based on the negotiating text of the Code of Conduct
  • To engaging in joint maritime exercises

China – ASEAN

  • China also pitched for synergies between the BRI and ASEAN’s development.
  • China has signed bilateral agreements with ASEAN countries to advance transportation routes, including the existing economic corridors, China-Thailand Railway, China-Laos Railway, and Jakarta-Bandung high-speed Railway.

India – China

  • India’s commitment to “strategic autonomy” is reassuring to China. It suggests that India would never agree to fully align itself with the US against China.
  • This impression has been reinforced by India holding up Australia’s participation in the annual Malabar naval exercise.
  • India did not join the Indo-Pacific Business Council.
  • The recent Mamallapuram summit is a positive development as the key to giving strategic guidance to stakeholders on both sides.

China – other QUAD nations

  • With Japan, the opportunity for China lies in working together on agreed-upon projects in third countries
  • Australia is an alliance partner of the US and is involved in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. China wants to leverage its deep economic engagement to balance the hard line being taken by Australia’s security and intelligence establishment.

Way forward

  • China remains wary of the Quad and its future contours.
  • It remains worried about the advantages that the Quad process might offer to India in the Indo-Pacific.
  • It will seek to use its considerable bilateral engagement with Japan, Australia as well as India to ensure that the Quad does not flip over from a regional coordinating mechanism focused on connectivity and Infrastructure, capacity-building, HADR and maritime security and cyber security and counter-terrorism to become an “Asian NATO”.
  • Much will depend on China’s actions and how others perceive her capabilities and intentions.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 November 2019 (Proposed seeds law must balance interests of farmers, breeders (The Hindu))

Proposed seeds law must balance interests of farmers, breeders (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: The Seeds Bill 2004
Mains level: Requirement of Seed legislation in India

Context

  • The Seeds Bill, 2004, had sought to modify a 38-year-old law, and incentivise private participation in the seed industry at a time when the returns of the Green Revolution had begun to palpably diminish in the 1990s.
  • Some of the provisions were contested by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, whose recommendations were accepted by the Centre, the moves were not enacted into law.
  • It is surprising that the 2004 draft has been revived and put in the public domain for comments, disregarding some of the recommendations of the House panel.

The revised draft has been criticised on three grounds:

  • the paltry compensation, which cannot act as a deterrent for sale of non-performing seeds;
  • not providing for a redressal mechanism within the seeds law and instead forcing farmers to move the Consumer Protection Act (COPRA); and finally,
  • not proposing any form of price regulation.

Paltry compensation

  • The prices are best left to market forces and a regulatory regime that encourages the availability of quality seeds will sort out this issue.
  • The House panel is right in arguing that farmers would find it harder to seek recourse under COPRA.
  • The suggestion that compensation panels be set up within this law to deal with the issue has unfortunately been disregarded.
  • Penalties for malpractices should be stiff, as the implications of crop failure owing to quality issues can be serious.
  • This can be brought under crop insurance, as has been contemplated earlier.

Requirement of Seed legislation in India

  • Seed legislation in India should be in consonance with the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001, which allows a farmer to sow, exchange and sell his seeds so long as he does not brand or put them into a packet.
  • The distinction between a farmer and a breeder should be unambiguously spelt out, so that the inspector raj does not prevail, one of the key problems with the 1966 law.
  • For the preservation of genetic diversity, it is important that both farmers and breeders are not subjected to overt policing.
  • However, there should be no let-up in the stringency of the registration process, which commits the producers to performance parameters.

Way ahead

  • There is, however, no need to confuse the debate over GM crops with this law, as the regulatory apparatus for GM vests with the Genetic Engineering Action Committee under the Ministry of Environment.
  • However, it is not clear how the issue of regulating imported seeds will be dealt with under the proposed dispensation.

Conclusion

In all, the Centre should take a non-partisan view of such a critical subject, while enacting a law that is fair to all stakeholders and farmers in particular.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 November 2019 (What’s behind the contraction in core sector output? (The Hindu))

What’s behind the contraction in core sector output? (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Core sector output
Mains level: Reduction in coal production affecting the core sector output

Context

  • The index of eight core industries, believed to be a leading indicator of India’s GDP numbers, for September 2019 plummeted 5.2 per cent year-on-year in its worst show in over a decade.
  • There weren’t any redeeming features in its break-down either, with seven of the eight critical inputs (save for fertilisers) in contraction mode.
  • With this index occupying a 40 per cent weight in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), the reading presages a continuation of the recessionary trends in IIP.

Reduction in coal production output

  • Coal output was a key villain of the piece, registering a 20.5 per cent fall in September, after an over-prolific monsoon flooded Coal India’s largest mines.
  • Dwindling coal supplies had a knock-on effect on electricity output, trimming it by 3.7 per cent year-on-year.
  • The extended monsoon also played spoilsport to construction activities, pushing steel and cement output into negative territory for the month.
  • One can expect some reversal in these components in the coming months if the South-West monsoon decides to call it a day.
  • It would be a mistake to dismiss this slump in core industries as wholly attributable to Acts of God; there’s a significant man-made component to it as well.
  • Take coal supplies for instance. Despite sitting on prolific reserves and rich cash coffers, Coal India has been unable to meet its monthly production targets with any degree of reliability in recent times with accidents, strikes and weather events taking a frequent toll on its operations.
  • After it managed just a 7 per cent increase in its output to 606 million tonnes, over 40 per cent of India’s coal demand (991 million tonnes) from power generators, cement and sponge iron makers for FY19 had to be met by imports.

Land acquisition for exploration of mines

  • The miner has been complaining of difficulties in land acquisition to explore new mines, it is doubtful if the recent move to open coal mining to FDI will really help.
  • While thermal power producers have been hamstrung by fuel issues, renewable energy players have recently run into new roadblocks in the form of State discoms threatening to cut tariffs.
  • With significant unutilised capacity and many players lined up before the NCLT, the generation sector is in poor shape, with the parlous financial state of the discoms impacting both offtake and transmission.

Way forward

  • Most of the debate around India’s economic woes today circle around demand-side problems arising from slow job creation, low income growth and the lack of animal spirits in the private sector.
  • But the stalling output of industrial feedstock goes to show that, should the demand miraculously pick up, the supply side is far from well-geared to meet it.
  • To address the bottlenecks, the Centre may need to set aside its penchant for big-bang reforms and get its hands dirty hammering out solutions to micro-level problems in infrastructure in conjunction with the State governments.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 November 2019 (Changing the status quo (The Hindu))

Changing the status quo (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Defense and Security
Prelims level: Assam Rifles
Mains level: Pros and cons of the Mergers of ITBP and Assam Rifles

Context

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed that the Assam Rifles should be merged with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and serve under the operational control of the MHA.
  • At present, the Assam Rifles, a Central paramilitary force, is under the administrative control of the MHA and operational control of the Army, i.e. the Ministry of Defence. The Army is opposed to this proposal.

History of Assam Rifles

  • It was formed as Cachar Levy in 1835 to assist the British rulers in maintaining peace in the Northeast, the Assam Rifles, which had just about 750 men, proved its capability and efficiency.
  • This necessitated its expansion.
  • The unit was converted into the Assam Military Police Battalion with two additional battalions in 1870.
  • They were known as the Lushai Hills Battalion, Lakhimpur Battalion and Naga Hills Battalion. Just before World War I, another battalion, the Darrang Battalion, was added.
  • They all rendered great service by assisting the British in Europe and West Asia during the war. These battalions were then renamed Assam Rifles.
  • They continued to be regular armed police battalions, but with the ‘Rifles’ tag, which was a matter of honour for their competence, on par with any regular Army battalion.
  • It was after the Chinese aggression in 1962 in Arunachal Pradesh that the Assam Rifles battalions were placed under the operational control of the Army.
  • Assam Rifles personnel who were acclimatised to the region were better suited for operations then.
  • It needs to be remembered that one of the major causes for India’s defeat was the fact that the regular Army units were not used to the extreme weather. The decision taken then was in keeping with the requirements. This is not the case any more.
  • All Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are acclimatised to almost every region of the country now due to country-wide deployment of all CAPF battalions.

Mergers of ITBP and Assam Rifles

  • The operational role performed by the ITBP at 18,700 feet in Ladakh is testimony enough to its capability to guard the border in any part of the country.
  • It needs to be noted that back in 2001, the Group of Ministers had stated that the principle of ‘One Border, One Force’ should be strictly adhered to.
  • If ITBP can guard the India-China border in Ladakh, there is no reason why it cannot guard the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and beyond.
  • The concept of having two masters for an organisation one for administrative control and another for operational control is not only absurd but also leads to problems of coordination.
  • The Home Ministry’s move to merge all its 55,000-strong Assam Rifles with the ITBP is a step in the right direction.

Opposed to the move

  • The Army argues that the Assam Rifles should be merged with it, to ensure national security.
  • It requires no wisdom to conclude that the Army would lose its promotional avenues once this paramilitary force is merged with the ITBP, as it would be directly under the control of the Home Ministry.
  • At present, nearly 80% of officers’ ranks from Major upwards are held by Army officers on deputation.
  • A Lieutenant General of the Army holds the post of Director General of Assam Rifles. It is natural for the Army to oppose the move.
  • The Chief may be appointed from among IPS officers. But for the tussle between the IPS and the CAPF officers, consequent to the CAPF being brought under the fold of Organised Group ‘A’ Service this year.
  • It would be the direct officers of Assam Rifles who will eventually take up the top posts.

Way forward

  • The Home Ministry, under Rajnath Singh, took up the issue of merger with the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
  • The matter is in the Delhi High Court now after retired personnel filed a petition saying they were facing difficulties in drawing pension because of dual control.
  • The merger issue needs to be taken up on priority by the CCS so that doubts are cleared.
  • The modalities of absorbing the officers should be worked out to stall any situation of a vacuum being created once the deputationists are repatriated to the Army.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 November 2019 (Junking fast food: On norms against food rich in fat, sugar and salt (The Hindu))

Junking fast food: On norms against food rich in fat, sugar and salt (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
Mains level: Challenges ahead behind banning junk food inside the school premises

Context

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified a draft regulation aimed at prohibiting the sale and advertisement of food rich in fat, sugar and salt to schoolchildren inside the school premises and within 50 m around it.
  • The 2015 order from the Delhi High Court directing the central agency to frame norms to promote healthy diets in schools.

Major objectives behind banning

  • Besides prohibiting the sale of junk food, the FSSAI requires schools to simultaneously encourage and promote a safe and balanced diet.
  • To shield the children from consuming unhealthy food items and snacks, the FSSAI prohibits food companies that manufacture such items from advertising or offering for free such foods in school premises and within 50 m of the campus.
  • To thwart food companies from luring children to consume foods rich in fat, sugar and salt, the companies are prohibited from using their logos, brand names and product names on books and other educational materials, as well as on school property such as buildings, buses, and athletic fields.
  • As a general guidance to provide wholesome food, the agency recommends the use of a combination of whole grains, milk, eggs, and millets; it also listed a set of general guidelines for selection of food products that can be offered in schools.

Malnutrition accounted

  • Over seven lakh (68%) deaths in children under the age of five years in 2017 in India, there is rising obesity in schoolchildren in many States.
  • According to a July 2017 study, India, with 14.4 million, had the second most number of obese children among 195 countries.
  • A recent study found 23 States to have child overweight prevalence more than the national average, with six States having a prevalence of over 20%.
  • Several studies have shown how a western diet affects the composition and diversity of gut bacteria and sets the stage for many metabolic diseases.
  • Hence, any attempt to reduce and discourage the intake of unhealthy foods, which is a major cause of unhealthy weight gain in children, should be welcomed.

Challenges behind enforcement

  • This will particularly in preventing the sale and promotion of unhealthy food near schools.
  • Despite the sale and advertisement of tobacco products within 100 yards of a school being prohibited, violation is more the norm than the exception.
  • Shops that sell tobacco products very often also sell many of the packaged unhealthy foods that the FSSAI now wants to ban.
  • The onus of inculcating healthy eating habits also starts at home.
  • Besides taking steps to reduce the intake of unhealthy food, both schools and parents should ensure children get adequate physical activity, which is increasingly being neglected for various reasons.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 November 2019 (Back to the blackboard: On NEET crisis (Indian Express))

Back to the blackboard: On NEET crisis (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: NEET exam
Mains level: Pros and cons of conducting NEET exam

Context

  • Indicate data sources from Tamil Nadu that became available through the Madras High Court showed a clear link between coaching classes and securing a medical seat. This is a worrisome situation.

Key highlights of the data

  • As per data submitted to the Madras High Court by the government of Tamil Nadu, the bulk of the students who secured MBBS seats in the State in 2019 had taken coaching classes to prepare for the exam.
  • Only 1.6 % of all students who joined the government medical colleges had managed to get a seat without undergoing any preparatory coaching program.
  • The private medical colleges, only a marginally higher – 3.2% had got through without coaching classes.
  • Data also showed that a significant percentage of students in both government (66.2) and private colleges (64.4) had to take multiple attempts at NEET to score a seat.
  • The costs of coaching classes are huge and run into lakhs of rupees. It clearly puts medical education out of the reach of the poorer sections.

Facng criticism

  • The prohibitive cost factor has been in the list of arguments against NEET right from the beginning.
  • It would keep a segment of students out of the race was the point posited by the State, citing the example set by the IIT-Joint Entrance Examination.
  • The coaching classes would determine entry to courses and put out of the race, students who were poor, or hailed from rural areas.
  • The shortcoming in this sector makes expensive coaching classes the norm.
  • The reports such as the ASER have revealed sad neglect of a key nation-building function — school education.

Way forward

  • To ensuring that quality education is imparted at schools by well-trained teachers would obviate the need for coaching outside of classes.
  • NEET hopes to choose the best students for a career in medicine and remains value-neutral in every other way.
  • States should put in place a series of steps that would make learning meaningful and fun for children, and in the interim, provide free NEET coaching classes to help disadvantaged students make that leap.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 November 2019 (Labour productivity growth faltering (Indian Express))

Labour productivity growth faltering (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Reasons behind labour productivity faltering

Context

  • An analysis done by India Ratings and Research of Annual Survey of Industries data on India’s labour productivity growth in the organised manufacturing sector shows a disappointing trend.
  • During the high economic growth phase between 2004 and 2008 (just before the global financial crisis hit), India’s labour productivity grew by over 14 per cent every year.
  • But between financial years of 2011 and 2015, this rate fell to just half of that (7.4 per cent) and continued its deceleration to just 3.7 per cent between financial years of 2016 and 2018.

What is labour productivity and why does it matter?

  • The productivity is a measure of the efficiency with which resources, both human and material, are converted into goods and services.
  • Besides land and capital, labour productivity plays a crucial role in deciding the rate of economic growth.
  • Indeed, India Ratings report points out that globally labour productivity growth alone accounted for about two-thirds of the gross domestic product (GDP) growth during FY01-FY10, leaving only one-third to labour/employment growth.

What is holding back India’s labour productivity?

  • Labour productivity is crucially dependent on businesses investing in knowledge and innovation even as the governments bring about structural reforms that enable such investments to bear fruit.
  • According to Indian Ratings, “a lot needs to be done quickly both on the policy front as well as companies’ level because productivity is the most powerful engine of driving and sustaining manufacturing growth, and making the sector globally competitive”.

What else does the study reveal?

  • There are two other crucial results from the analysis. One, that between financial years 2001 and 2018, the capital intensity — that is, fixed capital used per worker — in India’s organised manufacturing has been rising.
  • Two, notwithstanding this rise in capital intensity, the output intensity — that is, the value of output per fixed capital — has actually declined over the same period.
  • In other words, while more and more capital is being used per unit of labour, it is not yielding commensurate level of output growth.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 November 2019 (Chasing the cure (Indian Express))

Chasing the cure (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Alzheimer
Mains level: Key findings about the new Alzheimer’s drug

Context

  • For nearly two decades, doctors treating Alzheimer’s patients have been frustrated by the lack of advance in medical research.
  • The most advanced drug that is used to treat the disease was developed in 2003.

Alzheimer

  • It was first identified in 1906 by the German physician, Alois Alzheimer.
  • Drugs currently in use treat the neuro-degenerative disorder symptomatically at best.
  • They leaving doctors almost helpless about elderly patients who may forget familiar facts and, at times, even the faces of family members.

Latest update

  • The new drug, Oligomannate, a sugar derived from a Chinese seaweed, works by modifying gut bacteria to reduce inflammation in the brain.
  • Green Valley, the Chinese biotech company that has developed the drug.
  • A clinical trial on 818 people “demonstrated solid and consistent cognition improvement among those treated versus a control group”.
  • The method adopted by the Chinese researchers is a departure from Alzheimer’s drug development that has focussed on attacking the plaque that forms in the brains of patients; this protein build-up interferes with neural signaling.
  • Last year, pharma major El Lilly threw in the towel during the final stages of trials of a drug that targets the plaque accumulation in brain cells, leading researchers to think of alternate disease pathways — the microbiome, for instance.

Way ahead

  • However there is a good reason for tempering the optimism around the new drug.
  • In China, the regulatory agency has asked Green Valley to conduct more research on Oligomannate’s safety it has, however, allowed the company to market the drug by the last week of December.
  • The complete data on how exactly the cognitive function improved for patients on the drug versus those on placebo and how meaningful that was in the patients’ lives is still not known outside select circles in China.
  • Oligomannate must be tested on diverse groups of people to be affirmed as a panacea for Alzheimer’s globally. And, these trials need to include many more than 818 individuals.

Conclusion

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 November 2019 (Lost opportunity (Indian Express))

Lost opportunity (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
Mains level: What India should have stayed to joining Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership?

Context

  • India has chosen to hold back from joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, turning its back on one of the most dynamic regions in the world.

Legitimate concerns

  • Certain segments which lobbied against the deal might be relieved at the outcome, but the loss to the economy far exceeds the short-term perceived benefits of staying out of the pact.
  • While the political rhetoric continues to centre around free trade, the government’s action signals a distinct shift towards a protectionist stance.
  • Much of the domestic opposition to joining the RCEP is rooted in the fear that the influx of cheap Chinese products, non-tariff barriers which tend to restrict market access, and cheaper dairy products from New Zealand would worsen the already ballooning trade deficit and dent the domestic industry.

Key arguments

  • There are reasonable arguments to be made that certain sectors, agriculture in particular, would need safeguards.
  • Though the details of these negotiations are not yet known, the Indian side should have made greater effort to convince other countries for carve-outs for certain sectors, and for allowing a gradual phasing out of tariffs to ease domestic fears.
  • New Delhi should have used this as an opportunity to push through contentious but necessary reforms that would boost competitiveness.
  • But, by deciding not to join, it has succumbed to the protectionist impulses that have guided much of its recent trade moves.
  • While it is possible that the deeper than expected slowdown in the economy may have tilted the balance in favour of not joining, a certain policy incoherence marks this government’s approach. On the one hand, it wants India to become a manufacturing hub.
  • Yet, staying out of the RCEP reduces opportunities for trading with these countries, which together account for roughly a third of global trade.
  • Manufacturing today requires greater integration with global supply chains. Signing the agreement would have signalled an embrace of freer trade, which could have aided in the shift of companies out of China to India. But the move has complicated India’s course to integrate into global value chains. With this, India has also ceded space to China to have greater say in the region.

Way forward

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 November 2019 (Police reform is possible, but the political executive has failed to make it happen)

Police reform is possible, but the political executive has failed to make it happen

Mains Paper 3: Defence and security
Prelims level: Model Police Act in 2006
Mains level: Police reforms and consequences

Context

  • “Namumkin Ab Mumkin Hai, Swachch Bharat, Ayushman Bharat, Electricity – Ujjwala and Sukanya Yojana and so on.
  • An area where even what was mumkin (possible) has not been achieved — it is about reformative changes in the police with a view to transforming it into an instrument of service to the people.

Background

  • The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in 2006, clearly said that “the commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the rule of law” and that “the supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that the police serves the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures”.
  • It is a great pity that even after 12 years, there has been only partial and, in some states, farcical compliance of the directions.
  • The Police Act Drafting Committee headed by Soli Sorabjee had prepared a Model Police Act in 2006.
  • Besides, Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent and lays down that such an Act shall apply to the consenting states “and to any other by which it is adopted through a resolution passed in that behalf by the House or, where there are two Houses, by each of the Houses of the legislature of that State”.
  • It is ironical that while the British India had one police Act for the entire country, we are confronted with a situation where every state has a different Act with sharp differences in
    essential features.
  • The prime minister SMART police a police, which would be sensitive, mobile, accountable, responsive and techno-savvy.

Way forward

  • There has hardly been any follow up action and only some cosmetic steps were taken to augment the manpower and infrastructure of the forces.
  • New India its policing remains mired in a colonial structure.
  • The total strength of state police forces is 2.46 million and there are about 25,000 police stations and outposts across the country.
  • We need to understand that stable law and order provides the foundation for sustained economic development.
  • A healthy democracy also needs a healthy police.
  • In fact, if police is not able to enforce the rule of law and is constrained to take directions from persons of questionable antecedents at the helm, it will be the beginning of the end of
    democracy.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 November 2019 (The case Bayer is fighting over glyphosate-based herbicides)

The case Bayer is fighting over glyphosate-based herbicides

Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech
Prelims level : Glyphosate
Mains level : Uses of Glyphosate

Context

  • German pharma company Bayer is facing thousands of lawsuits over one of its products.
  • 42,700 plaintiffs in the US are blaming Bayer’s herbicides for their cancer, up from 18,400 plaintiffs in July this year.
  • It should have warned of the alleged cancer risks.

What are these herbicides?

  • The herbicides are based on a compound called glyphosate. First developed in 1970, glyphosate is scientifically N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine under the IUPAC system of nomenclature. It is applied to the leaves of plants to kill weeds. It is widely used in India, too.
  • According to a 2016 bulletin published by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the weedkiller in India goes by various brand names, including Roundup, Glycel, and Brake.
  • Describing the herbicide’s reach in the country, it says, “Glyphosate was highly accepted by the tea planters in the past two decades.
  • It has a very good market size in the tea sector of West Bengal and Assam.
  • The consumption of glyphosate is highest in Maharas(h)tra as it is becoming a key herbicide in sugarcane, maize and many fruit crops including mango, banana, grapes, pomegranate and citrus.”

Why it is a worry

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