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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 February 2020 (Towards a new world order (The Hindu))

Towards a new world order (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: International
Prelims level: World Economic Forum
Mains level: Role and characteristics of the World Economic Forum in economic development


  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) started in 1971 with the noble objective of improving the state of the world, but now serves as a platform for world leaders, billionaires, professionals at the top of the business pyramid, senior government ministerial delegations, and others, who gather to change the world.
  • This is the 49th year of the congregation, which now resembles an ice circus. The messages from Davos drift like snowflakes, on the agendas of the developed world.


  • Social inequalities and the grim problems of stark and continuing poverty are at the epicentre of the new world.
  • The latest Oxfam Report presented at Davos points out that 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people.
  • The emergence of billionaires and oligarchs in different parts of the world coincides with increased poverty among the already poor people, especially children.
  • These realities make observers question the tenability of stakeholder capitalism as a concept.
  • Characteristics of economic development:
  • One of the chief characteristics of economic development is the intensification of energy use.
  • There is an unprecedented concentration of high energy density in all economic development strategies.
  • The bulk of the energy continues to be generated from non-renewable sources.
  • The developed world’s, and China’s, central objective is to capture energy-generating resources from across continents and put them to use to push GDP growth to greater heights. In the process, sustainability is becoming a casualty.

How do we define energy?

  • In physics, energy is defined as ‘work done’ or, in other words, the force that moves all objects. It is important to understand the philosophical implications of one of the great laws of physics — the Laws of Thermodynamics.
  • The first law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it merely changes form and is always conserved.
  • The second law states that when ‘work is done’, only a part of the energy is consumed, the balance is lost. The lost part is called ‘entropy’ and it is proven that entropy always maximises.
  • This whole phenomenon also leaves behind inert material as waste. The higher the use of energy, the larger the amount of waste generated. Entropy, like time, is always unidirectional, it only goes forward.

Excess consumption:

  • Egregious consumption of energy by the developed world has been accompanied by the disposal of residual products (‘e-waste’) on the shores of many African and Asian countries.
  • As a result, the poor in the developing world are, unwittingly, drawn and exposed to toxic, hazardous materials like lead, cadmium and arsenic.
  • Hence, the ‘globalisation’ phenomenon has turned out to be nothing other than exploitation of the developing world, with most countries being treated as a source of cheap labour and critical raw material.

Nordic Economic Model:

  • The ‘Nordic Economic Model’, which pertains to the remarkable achievements of the Scandinavian countries comprising Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and allied territories.
  • The total population of the Nordic countries is estimated at almost 27 million people. These nations are among the richest in the world when measured in terms of GDP per capita.
  • They also have large public sector enterprises; extensive and generous universal welfare systems; high levels of taxation; and considerable state involvement in promoting and upholding welfare states.
  • UN reports also indicate that the Nordic countries are the happiest countries in the world. The U.S., in contrast, is in 19th place.
  • Taking the Nordic model as a template, there are some ingredients that could be part of a new ‘enlightened global order’. These should include — effective welfare safety nets for all; corruption-free governance; a fundamental right to tuition-free education, including higher education; and a fundamental right to good medical care.
  • This also has to involve shutting of tax havens.
  • In Nordic countries, personal and corporate income tax rates are very high, especially on the very rich. If a just, new world order is to arise, taxes everywhere should go up.

Holding companies responsible:

  • When it comes to the corporate sector, there are some new perspectives.
  • In traditional business accounting, ‘bottom line’ refers to the financial year’s profit or loss earned or incurred by the company on pure financial parameters.
  • However, following vigorous debates, a new format has emerged under which a company’s performance is measured through four ‘Ps’. The first is ‘P’ for ‘profit’.
  • The second ‘P’ is for people — how the company’s actions impact not only employees, but society as a whole.
  • The third ‘P’ is for planet — are the company’s actions and plans sensitive to the environment?
  • The four ‘P’ is for purpose, which means the companies and individuals must develop a larger purpose than ‘business as usual’.
  • Using big data and text analytics, a company’s performance can be measured in terms of all the four ‘P’s and a corporate entity can be thus held accountable.


(The Gist of Science Reporter) Saturn’s Rings will Fade into Oblivion in a Few Million Years from Now [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Saturn’s Rings will Fade into Oblivion in a Few Million Years from Now [APRIL-2019]

Saturn’s Rings will Fade into Oblivion in a  Few Million Years from Now

  • There is a buzz among astronomers that Saturn's rings might someday shed themselves into oblivion.
  • Thanks to a phenomenon called 'ring rain’, the icy rings of Saturn could disappear in 300 million years, or even sooner.
  • This is (he conclusion reached by a research team led by fames O' Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
  • The findings of the team were published in the journal Icarus on 17 December 2018.
  • In early 2017, O’ Donoghue and his team looked at the measurements of a charged molecule H3+ (a kind of charged hydrogen molecule dial glows in the infrared light), taken by a group of astronomers in the upper reaches of the Saturn’s yellowish atmosphere, using the Keck If telescope in Hawaii in 201L The molecule H3+ (which is made up of three hydrogen atoms, minus an electron) is created in abundance when minuscule charged particles escape the Saturn’s C-ring (discovered in 1850 having a width of 17,500 km), spiral into the planet along the magnetic field lines and collide with the atmospheric atoms, causing what is called “ring rain” . It is a dusty storm of ice panicles.
  • After measuring the amount of H3+ in Saturn's upper atmosphere, O’ Donoghue's team concluded that as much as 2,000 kg of water is falling onto Saturn each second.
  • "What we’re seeing is something of the order of about a ton and a half per second, said O' Donoghue, Assuming a constant rate of ring rain, the team calculated that Saturn’s rings could mostly shed themselves into oblivion within 300 million years.
  • Data from the Cassini spacecraft has revealed that colossal amounts of organic molecules and water ice (of the order of 10,000 kg per second) are falling onto the planet through a different, potentially transient process that could help hasten the rings' demise. Thai could mean the rings might disappear even sooner, in less than 100 million years. O' Donoghue said.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of Science Reporter) SEM Scanner — First Device to Predict the Risk of Pressure Ulcers [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) SEM Scanner — First Device to Predict the Risk of Pressure Ulcers [APRIL-2019]

SEM Scanner — First Device to Predict the Risk of Pressure Ulcers

  • Bruin Biometrics a company based in Los Angeles, California, has landed FDA clearance for the first device called SEM Scanner for predicting the risk of pressure ulcers.
  • The device is a wireless scanner that detects changes in the subepidermal moisture, which can indicate localised edema and tissue fluid related inflammation days before visually discernible skin damage.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Innovative Pill [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Innovative Pill [APRIL-2019]

Innovative Pill

  • A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Novo Nordisk, the world leader in insulin production, have now developed an innovative pill that reliably attaches itself to the walls of the stomach to automatically inject the drug into the bloodstream.
  • It makes sure that after swallowing its injection needle is positioned against the wall of the stomach.
  • Insulin is then pushed through to deliver therapy, all without the patient having to do more than simply swallow the pill.
  • The pill mainly consists of a biodegradable polymer and small steel parts, so there’s little fear of side effects from the pill itself.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Two-dimensional Antenna Converts Wi-Fi Signals into Electricity [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Two-dimensional Antenna Converts Wi-Fi Signals into Electricity [APRIL-2019]

Two-dimensional Antenna Converts Wi-Fi Signals into Electricity

  • Scientists from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have developed a two-dimensional antenna system which is totally based on existing devices called rectifying antennas, or rectennas.
  • For this new design, the team members made the rectifier (the component that converts the current) – out of Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2).
  • The Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2) rectifier can capture and convert up to 10 GHz of wireless signals with an efficiency of about 30 per cent which is much higher than other flexible designs, and much faster as compared to other designs.
  • A relatively small amount of electricity is also generated which finally produce about 40 microwatts from about 150 microwatts of Wi-Fi power.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of Science Reporter) THEAC-25 Turning Waste into Profit [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) THEAC-25 Turning Waste into Profit [APRIL-2019]

THEAC-25 Turning Waste into Profit

  • Sound Energy has developed THEAC-25 thermal acoustic engine which converts heat into cold.
  • The THEAC system uses no mechanical moving parts, no refrigerants, no CO2, no precious metals or materials.
  • Alternatively, it uses Argon gas, which has zero global warming potential and is totally sustainable.
  • Feeding heat input into one side of the THEAC-25 results into 25 kW cold output at the other side, enabling the production of cold air or cold water.
  • The cold output of the THEAC-25 can reach temperatures as low as -25°C.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of PIB) Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) for Specified Agriculture Products Notified [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) for Specified Agriculture Products Notified [APRIL-2019]

Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) for Specified Agriculture Products Notified

  • The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has laid out a detailed procedure for claiming benefits under the Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) scheme, which aims at boosting agricultural exports.
  • Earlier in March, 2019 the Department of Commerce of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry had announced this scheme for providing financial assistance for transport and marketing of agriculture products to boost exports of such commodities to certain countries in Europe and North America.
  • The level of assistance would be different for different regions as notified from time to time for export of eligible products. The scheme covers freight and marketing assistance for export by air as well as by sea.
  • The scheme will help in increasing farm export from India.


  • The scheme aims to provide assistance for the international component of freight and marketing of agricultural produce.
  • To mitigate the disadvantage of higher cost of transportation of export of specified agricultural products due to trans-shipment.
  • To promote brand recognition for Indian agricultural products in the specified overseas markets.

Coverage & Eligibility

  • All exporters, duly registered with relevant Export Promotion Council as per Foreign Trade Policy, of eligible agricultural products shall be covered under this scheme.
  • The Scheme would be applicable for a period as specified from time to time. Presently the Scheme would be available for exports from 1.3.2019 to 31.03.2020.


  • In the year 2018, the government also approved an Agriculture Export Policy with an aim to double the shipments to USD 60 billion by 2022.
  • It is aimed at boosting exports of agriculture commodities such as tea, coffee and rice and increase the country’s share in global agritrade.
  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) plays a significant role in tapping India’s agricultural strengths and works towards expanding the export potential of Indian agricultural and food products.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of PIB) NuGen Mobility Summit 2019 [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) NuGen Mobility Summit 2019 [APRIL-2019]

NuGen Mobility Summit 2019

  • The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is organizing a NuGen Mobility Summit, 2019, at Manesar, NCR, from 27th to 29th November 2019. The objective of the Summit is to share new ideas, learnings, global experiences, innovations and future technology trends for faster adoption, assimilation and development of advanced automotive technologies for a smarter and greener future.
  • This event will help in building a platform for bringing together all stakeholders in the automotive industry to understand global advancements in technologies.
  • The Summit is being organized in association with SAENIS, SAE INDIA, SAE International, NATRiP, DIMTS, Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, SIAM and ACMA. More than 2500 participants and over 250 exhibitors are expected to take part in the Summit.
  • Experts working with leading international scientific and research organizations and testing laboratories from various countries like USA, Europe, Japan and other Asian countries will also participate in the event and share their experiences and knowledge on development of smart and green technologies and the challenges that the industry needs to overcome.


  • The event aims to bring together the automotive OEMs, professionals, researchers, academic experts, vehicle system suppliers, test equipment supplier, quality managers, product planners, component developers, SAE members and students from all over the world.
  • Track demonstrations, drivetouch-feel activity and lab demonstrations on upcoming vehicle technologies like connected mobility, autonomous vehicles, electric mobility, alternate fuels, intelligent transportation system, hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen IC engine, vehicle dynamics, advance materials and lightweighting, end of life vehicles and recycling are uniqueness of this event.
  • ICAT Centre-II is under brisk renovation to create a world-class state-of-the-art facility for organizing such significant and sizeable events for the automotive fraternity.
  • Several kinds of tracks such as coast down track, oval track, abs track, hill track and flood track will be available for demonstrations and events.
  • ICAT Manesar is a division of NATRIP Implementation Society (NATIS) under the Department of Heavy Industries, Government of India. It provides services for testing, validation, design and homologation of all categories of vehicles and has a mission to assist the automotive industry in adopting cutting edge technologies in vehicle evaluation and component development to ensure reliability, durability and compliance to the current and future regulations in new generation mobility solutions.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of PIB) Solidarity Human Chain [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) Solidarity Human Chain [APRIL-2019]

Solidarity Human Chain

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with World Health Organisation (WHO) formed a solidarity human chain as part of the World Health Day celebrations to reaffirm their commitment to bridging gaps and working collaboratively towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The theme of World Health Day 2019 is Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere.
  • This event emphasises our commitment to ensure all people and communities have access to quality healthcare services, where and when they are required, without suffering financial hardship.
  • At the event, Sudan also administered the solidarity pledge to work towards making universal healthcare available to everyone, everywhere.

Key highlights

  • Sudan further stated that Ayushman Bharat has two components – Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) for primary healthcare and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) for secondary and tertiary care.
  • These components are linked to address major challenges of ensuring a continuum of care, twoway referral system and gatekeeping.
  • The government is committed to strengthening 1,50,000 health facilities as Health and Wellness Centres which will deliver comprehensive primary health care closer to where people live in rural and urban areas.
  • “As of today, more than 17,000 HWCs are operational across the country and are providing services for non-communicable diseases in addition to existing services for reproductive and child health, communicable diseases etc.
  • Speaking at the event, World Health Organisation Representative to India Dr Henk Bekedam said, “A well-equipped primary health care delivery system is the key to achieving universal health coverage.
  • This will require bringing quality care closer to people; strengthening peripheral health centres with linkages to secondary and tertiary care; and equipping primary health care providers to effectively deliver a package of preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative services. Let’s join hands to work on this.”

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(The Gist of PIB) Platinum Jubilee Commemoration of Battle of KanglaTongbi [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) Platinum Jubilee Commemoration of Battle of KanglaTongbi [APRIL-2019]

Platinum Jubilee Commemoration of Battle of KanglaTongbi

  • The Platinum Jubilee of the Battle of KanglaTongbi War was commemorated on 07 Apr 2019 by Army Ordnance Corps at KanglaTongbi War Memorial near Imphal honouring the valiant brave hearts of Ordnance Personnel of 221 Advance Ordnance Depot who made their supreme sacrifice in the line of duty during the battle of World War-II on the night of 6/ 7 April 1944.

About the Battle of Kangla Tongbi:

  • It is considered one of the fiercest battles of World War II. It was fought by Ordnance personnel of 221 Advance Ordnance Depot (AOD) on the night of 6/7 April 1944 against Japanese forces. Japanese forces had planned a three pronged offensive to capture Imphal and the surrounding areas.
  • In their attempt to extend their line of communication to Imphal, the 33rd Japanese Division cut in behind the 17th Indian Division at Tiddim (Myanmar) and establishing themselves firmly on the main Kohima – Manipur
    highway, started advancing towards Kangla Tongbi. However, combatant role of AOD personnel shook the enemy and forced the Japanese to withdraw.


  • The Kangla Tongbi War Memorial is a mute testimony to this battle and the unflinching devotion to duty of the Ordnance personnel of 221 AOD, 19 of whom made the supreme sacrifice.
  • It conveys to the world at large that Ordnance personnel, apart from being professional logisticians, are second to none in combat, being equally proficient soldiers, should the occasion demand.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

(The Gist of PIB) HOME EXPO INDIA 2019 BEGINS [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) HOME EXPO INDIA 2019 BEGINS [APRIL-2019]


  • The 8th edition of HOME EXPO INDIA 2019 opened at India Expo Centre and Mart, Greater Noida.
  • The three-day exhibition has been organized by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH).

Key features:

  • Home Expo India covers sectors with maximum growth potential in home décor, furnishings, furniture, flooring, and textiles.
  • About 500 companies in permanent marts will be exhibiting their collection under these categories at the Expo. Buyers from more than 50 countries will be visiting the home expo.
  • Textile Ministry in a release said, Handicrafts exports during the year 2018-19 was Rs. 26,590.25 crores registering a growth of 15.46% over the previous year.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 February 2020 (How wide is the gender gap in science? (Indian Express))

How wide is the gender gap in science? (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech
Prelims level: Gender gap in science
Mains level: Causes of the Gender gap in science


  • February 11 was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, established by the United Nations to promote equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

Researchers and achievers:

  • According to a 2018 fact sheet prepared by UNESCO on women in science, just 28.8% of researchers are women. It defines researchers as “professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge”. In India, this drops to 13.9%.
  • Between 1901 and 2019, 334 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 616 Laureates in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine, of which just 20 have been won by 19 women.
  • The double Laureate is Marie Curie, one of just three women who have won in Physics and one of just five in Chemistry, while 12 women have won the Medicine Nobel.
  • In 2019, the American mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize, following 16 male mathematicians. The Fields Medal so far has also been awarded to only one woman mathematician, the late Maryam Mirzakhani of Iran, as opposed to 59 men since 1936.

Women in science courses:

  • UNESCO data from 2014-16 show that only around 30% of female students select STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-related fields in higher education. Female enrolment is particularly low in information technology (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and engineering and allied streams (8%).
  • In India, a 2016-17 NITI Aayog report compared female enrolment in various disciplines over five years, until 2015-16.
  • In 2015-16, 9.3% of female students in undergraduate courses were enrolled in engineering, compared to 15.6% across genders.
  • Conversely, 4.3% of female students were enrolled in medical science, compared to 3.3% across genders.
  • Then, at master’s and doctoral levels, female enrolment remained lower than overall enrolment, and also fell behind for medical science in three of the five years.
  • The report found that in over 620 institutes and universities, including IITs, NITs, ISRO, and DRDO, the presence of women was 20.0% among Scientific and Administrative Staff, 28.7% among Post-Doctoral Fellows, and 33.5% among PhD scholars.

Why the gender gap?

  • Various studies have found that girls excel at mathematics and science-oriented subjects in school, but boys often believe they can do better, which shapes their choices in higher studies.
  • In 2015, an analysis of PISA scores by OECD found that the difference in maths scores between high-achieving boys and girls was the equivalent of about half a year at school.
  • But when comparing boys and girls who reported similar levels of self-confidence and anxiety about mathematics, the gender gap in performance disappeared — when girls were more anxious, they tended to perform poorly.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 February 2020 (Is India short-selling the family silver? (The Hindu))

Is India short-selling the family silver? (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: State-owned enterprises
Mains level: Disinvestment in the state-owned enterprises


  • The public sector in India is a picture of contradictions. It elicits derision and ridicule in market circles.
  • The government is apologetic about it, analysts are baying for its dismantling, and academics are divided over its relevance.
  • Despite the privatisation wave across the world, the reach and influence of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) keeps growing.

Performance of the state owned enterprises:

  • According to OECD (a September 2017 presentation on size and sectoral distribution of state-owned enterprises), there are about 40 countries in the developed and developing world (excluding China) having SOEs valued at $2.5 trillion and employing nearly 10 million people.
  • In addition, governments hold minority shareholdings valued at $912 billion, employing 2.8 million people. Finance (26 per cent), electricity and gas (21) and transport (18) are the major sectors in which SOEs have a significant presence in value terms.
  • The presence of SOEs is strongest in China, India, Brazil and Eastern Europe.

Data of the China’s financial SOEs:

  • China’s financial SOEs together hold $34 trillion of assets compared to non-financial SOEs’ $26 trillion. They employ millions and form a large part of global GDP.
  • China has also been extensively using SOEs categorised into key industries (defence, electricity, oil, aviation, rail, shipping, etc), pillar industries (autos, chemicals, construction, electronics) and normal industries (tourism, pharma, investment) for garnering revenues for the government to maintain economic stability.
  • SOEs have a strong presence in markets too, accounting for 26 per cent of MSCI EM Index and over 40 per cent of the market cap — with large weights in utilities (74.7 per cent), energy (59.1 per cent), financials (44.4 per cent) and industrials (40.2 per cent) — and 25 per cent of Schwab Fundamental EM Large Company ETF ( SOEs in emerging market indices).

Large IPOs:

  • Divestment of public sector is not something unusual in emerging markets.
  • A host of big SOEs with large IPOs like Agriculture Bank of China ($22 billion), ICBC ($22 billion), Bank of China ($11 billion), Rosneft ($11 billion), China Construction ($9 billion), Electricit de France ($9 billion), VTB Group ($8 billion) and China State Construction Engineering ($7 billion) are inspirations for many emerging economies.
  • Even General Motors of the US, which pulled off the biggest IPO in 2010 at $23 billion, was 61 per cent owned by the US government then; this fell to 33 per cent after the share issue.
  • There is no dispute about putting public sector units on the block, but the question is about how and when — selling them for meeting immediate needs or after making them strong enough to attract global interest.
  • Large IPOs of SOEs in India such as Coal India ($3.3 billion), ONGC (2.2 billion) and GIC (1.6 billion) may look suboptimal compared to companies of similar stature and significance in other countries.
  • The concern thus is whether India is able to realise the full value these companies hold or is it too hasty in cashing out.

The case of LIC:

  • The plan to divest LIC too raises this concern; whether to sell it when apprehensions over its asset quality and slower pace of premium growth remain to be addressed or to make it strong before the sale.
  • While analysts in India and abroad will be number crunching to make some good money from its listing, a few points on how it is placed against its global peers may be pertinent.
  • On the net premiums written, LIC, with $48.9 billion (December 2018), is placed 17 among the 25 top global insurers and 21st on the basis of non-banking assets (Global Insurance Market Trends, OECD 2019).
  • On premiums written, LIC’s is $100 billion less than top ranked UnitedHealth Group of the US ($156 billion), and about $50 billion less than Ping An of China (4th rank). And in terms of non-banking assets, LIC’s $438 billion is less than half of Allianz’s $1 trillion.
  • When it comes to growth, direct gross premiums in life in India was a meagre 0.5 per cent with non-life better at 7.2 per cent. Growth in life insurance has been negative in 20 of the top 50 companies in 2017.
  • On the other hand, gross claims paid by India’s insurance sector at 17.2 per cent in life and 15.9 per cent in non-life are on the higher side when compared with those in the US (2.8/4.6 per cent) and Korea (6.9/12.3 per cent).

Can be made productive?

  • Public sector entities will be found wanting if they do not adapt to and learn from the changes happening around it.
  • If directed properly and structured without too much bureaucratic interventions, the public sector too can become more productive.
  • If listing is a sole solution, then why have many public sector banks with great listing history two decades back been merged to save the banking industry?

Way forward:

  • It is the active support of the state that enabled Chinese financial firms to mop up most of the new capital issuance in the world.
  • A sell-off to raise quick cash won’t be such an effective way in the long run for an economy in pursuit of global leadership.
  • Selling family silver is easy, but creating heirlooms that a family can take pride in is difficult.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 February 2020 (World economy is yet to recover from low-growth syndrome (The Hindu))

World economy is yet to recover from low-growth syndrome (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Low growth syndrome effect in world economy


  • The negative impact of the novel coronavirus epidemic and the potential positive effect of the truce reflected in the ‘Phase 1’ trade deal between China and India.
  • The role that the country plays in driving global growth has increased concern that the adverse impact the epidemic will have on China’s economy will spill over globally.
  • On the other hand, the trade deal between the US and China, while partial and limited, is viewed favourably because of the positive signals that sends out with respect to growth in global trade.

Global performance:

  • Consider the US. Though President Donald Trump chose to counter the gloom at the recent Davos meeting of the global elite, claiming that under his watch the US economy has rebounded strongly.
  • The news emerged that in the last half of 2019 the US economy had grown at just 2.1 per cent, as compared with the 3 per cent that the White House targets.
  • For the full year 2019, growth is placed at 2.3 per cent, significantly lower than the 2.9 per cent recorded in 2018, which had ignited hopes of a final escape from low growth.
  • US: In the early years after the 2008 crisis, when intervention by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve restored the financial system to solvency and provided a stimulus. But those signs soon gave way to a long period of slow growth, which has become the “new normal”.
  • European Union: The crisis intensified with a delay, taking the form of a sovereign debt crisis. With Germany, too, being hit by depressed global demand, growth has decelerated sharply in recent quarters. While there was some sign of a return to reasonable growth rates in the quarters beginning early 2014, this could not be sustained.
  • Japan: Quarterly growth rates were not just volatile but touched zero or negative levels in as many as 10 quarters.These trends in the core developed countries make clear that the locations where the financial crisis was most intense are yet to overcome the real economic setbacks that the former triggered.
  • The impact of this on global growth has been compounded by the loss of momentum in China and India. The perception that these economies were decoupled from the rest of world and would compensate for poor or indifferent performance elsewhere, has turned out to be wrong.
  • Growth in both economies has fallen significantly in recent quarters, resulting in a shift from moderate to low growth in the world economy.

Monetary policy:

  • This generalised slowing of growth across the world economy is a matter for concern, because the developed countries’ policymakers claim that they have been consistently working on reversing the slowdown and raising growth. Their efforts have, however, had a narrow focus.
  • Interest rates were reduced repeatedly and sharply, bringing them down to near zero and in some cases even negative levels.
  • In addition, the central banks of developed countries opted for “quantitative easing” or large and regular bond purchases that infused liquidity into the economy.
  • The understanding underlying the reliance on these options is that availability of easy and cheap credit would spur debt-financed investment and consumption, and raise the rate of growth. The persistence of low growth indicates that this presumption has proved to be wrong.\
  • One reason for this was that because of depressed demand conditions as well as high leverage resulting from the burden of accumulated debt, the sensitivity of investment and consumption demand to the increased access to cheap liquidity was low.
  • In the absence of a fiscal stimulus that could have raised employment and incomes and helped accelerate the process of deleveraging, monetary instruments were largely ineffective in ensuring a robust recovery.

Way ahead:

  • The single-minded emphasis on use of monetary policy instruments, resulting in huge and wieldy central bank balance sheets and the persistence of zero or negative interest rates for far too long, has meant that the potential for the use of these instruments has been exhausted.
  • The coronavirus shock and unresolved trade tensions now threaten to add to the troubles faced by the world’s policymakers.
  • However, there are no signs as yet that they would revise their policy stance and use the fiscal lever, now that the reliance on monetary policy has run its course.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 February 2020 (The Centre must stop introducing new levies designed to spoon-feed data to the taxman (The Hindu))

The Centre must stop introducing new levies designed to spoon-feed data to the taxman (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Liberalised Remittance Scheme
Mains level: Indian Economy and issues relating to mobilization of resources


  • The norm for Budget presentations to wax eloquent about the government’s commitment to easing the compliance burden for honest taxpayers and its keenness to promote ‘ease of living’ and ‘ease of doing business’.
  • But the fine print in the accompanying Finance Bill usually has the opposite effect — of making life infinitely more complicated for the taxpayer.

Liberalised Remittance Scheme:

  • A good instance of this in the latest Budget is the decision to impose Tax Collection at Source (TCS) on remittances under RBI’s Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS).
  • From April 1, the Centre has required all authorised foreign exchange dealers who remit sums in excess of ₹7 lakh under LRS and sellers of overseas tours packages, to collect a 5 per cent TCS from the spender, to deposit with the taxman.
  • While the stated intent of this is to widen the tax base, it imposes an unnecessary compliance burden on individuals for legitimate transactions that are not even liable to tax.

Impact of Tax Collection at Source:

  • Initially introduced to pin down high-value car and jewellery purchases funded by hard cash, the TCS levy has lately spread its tentacles to cover a wide range of unrelated transactions that the taxman suspects are conduits for evasion, even if routed through banking channels.
  • Apart from LRS, TCS provisions now apply to the sale of alcohol, timber, minerals, scrap and vehicles exceeding ₹10 lakh in value for ‘trading purposes’ and even sale of goods of value exceeding ₹50 lakh.
  • The new TCS on LRS will cause undue hardship not only for Indians undertaking one-off capital transactions overseas, but also for tourists in transit in India and parents with wards pursuing overseas education, who need to frequently remit living expenses and fees.
  • The Centre’s view seems to be that TCS isn’t a burden given that the remitter can claim credit for it when he files his annual tax return, there’s really no good reason why an individual must lock up his cash flows with the tax department for months on end, for a transaction that isn’t even liable to tax.
  • Given that LRS remittances can only be routed through authorised banks and require documentation, it is unclear why the tax administration cannot collect this information from authorised dealers and match it with individual tax returns to identify evaders.

Way forward:

  • Instead of sweeping more items under TCS or TDS, the Centre needs to ask why the tax administration needs to be spoon-fed so much new data by the taxpayer, when it is already collecting truckloads of information from TDS filings, Annual Information Returns and a host of new disclosures demanded in the IT returns each year.
  • With the tax database now carrying details of both the PAN and Aadhaar numbers of taxpayers and GST returns available to cross-verify data, the Indian tax administration should be able to rely on in-house data mining and artificial intelligence capabilities to track down evasion without resorting to blunt instruments such as TCS.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 13 February 2020 (Nutrition and the Budget’s fine print (The Hindu))

Nutrition and the Budget’s fine print (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Global Hunger Index
Mains level: Issues relating to poverty and hunger


  • The Global Hunger Index, reported that India suffers from “serious” hunger, ranked 102 out of 117 countries, and that just a tenth of children between six to 23 months are fed a minimum acceptable diet.
  • The urgency around nutrition was reflected in the Union Finance Minister’s Budget speech, as she referred to the “unprecedented” scale of developments under the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition, or POSHAN Abhiyaan, the National Nutrition Mission with efforts to track the status of 10 crore households.

Plan and allocation:

  • There are multiple dimensions of malnutrition that include calorific deficiency, protein hunger and micronutrient deficiency.
  • The Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh which was launched in 2019 by Minister for Women and Child Development and Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a recent attempt to bridge this gap.

Calorific deficiency:

  • The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme provides a package of services including supplementary nutrition, nutrition and health education, health check-ups.
  • The referral services addressing children, pregnant and lactating mothers and adolescent girls, key groups to address community malnutrition, and which also tackle calorific deficiency and beyond.
  • For 2019-20, the allotment was ₹27,584.37 crore but revised estimates are ₹24,954.50 crore, which points to an underutilisation of resources.
  • The allocation this year is marginally higher, but clearly, the emphasis needs to be on implementation.

Protein hunger:

  • Pulses are a major contributor to address protein hunger.
  • A scheme for State and Union Territories aims to reach pulses into welfare schemes (Mid-Day Meal, Public Distribution System, ICDS) has revised estimates standing at just ₹370 crore against ₹800 crore allocation in the 2019-20 Budget.

Micronutrient deficiency:

  • The Horticulture Mission can be one of the ways to address micronutrient deficiency effectively, but here too implementation is low. Revised estimates for 2019-20 stand at ₹1,583.50 crore against an allocation of ₹2,225 crore.
  • In 2018-19, the Government of India launched a national millet mission which included renaming millets as “nutri-cereals” also launching a Year of Millets in 2018-19 to promote nutritious cereals in a campaign mode across the country.
  • This could have been further emphasised in the Budget as well as in the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) which includes millets. However, the NFSM strains to implement allocation of ₹2,000 crore during 2019-20, as revised expenditures stand at ₹1,776.90 crore. As millets have the potential to address micronutrient deficiencies, the momentum given to these cereals needs to be sustained.

Impact of linkage schemes:

  • With underspending, allocations for subsequent years will also be affected, limiting the possibility of increasing budgets and the focus on nutrition schemes.
  • While agriculture dominated the initial Budget speech, the link between agriculture and nutrition was not explicit.
  • This link is important because about three-fifths of rural households are agricultural in India (National Sample Survey Office, 70th round) and malnutrition rates, particularly in rural areas are high (National Family Health Survey-4). Therefore, agriculture-nutrition linkage schemes have potential for greater impact and need greater emphasis.

How can we bring about better nutrition in India?

  • With the largest number of undernourished people in the world, India needs to hasten to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 of ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2030.
  • The Economic Survey notes that India should give special attention although the Budget has not explicitly spelt out nutrition in greater detail in many ways.

Way ahead:

  • We need to focus on nutrition-related interventions, beyond digitisation; intensify the convergence component of POSHAN Abhiyaan, using the platform to bring all departments in one place to address nutrition;
  • To direct the announcement to form 10,000 farmer producer organisations with an allocation of ₹500 crore to nutrition-based activities;
  • To promotion of youth schemes to be directed to nutrition-agriculture link activities in rural areas;
  • To give explicit emphasis and fund allocation to agriculture-nutrition linked schemes; and ensure early disbursement of funds and an optimum utilisation of schemes linked to nutrition.


  • Nutrition goes beyond just food, with economic, health, water sanitation, gender perspectives and social norms contributing to better nutrition.
  • The Economic Survey notes that “Food is not just an end in itself but also an essential ingredient in the growth of human capital and therefore important for national wealth creation”.

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(The Gist of Science Reporter) MightySat Rx Measure Breathing Rate from Fingertip [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) MightySat Rx Measure Breathing Rate from Fingertip [APRIL-2019]

MightySat Rx Measure Breathing Rate from Fingertip

  • Masimo’s MightySat Rx fingertip pulse oximeter is used to check the respiration rate.
  • The addition of RRp (measurement of respiration rate) to MightySat Rx measures functional oxygen saturation (SpO2), Pulse Rate (PR), Perfusion index (Pi), and Pleth Variability Index, making it a more thorough and versatile spot-check solution.
  • The device weighs less than 100g, including the batteries, and is water resistant.
  • The two batteries AAA perform about 1,800 spot-checks, and display the plethysmographic waveforms, on the colour screen.
  • The device readings can be easily transferred via Bluetooth.

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(The Gist of Science Reporter) Anti-vaccination Sentiment Riding High on Lack of Scientific Awareness [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Anti-vaccination Sentiment Riding High on Lack of Scientific Awareness [APRIL-2019]

Anti-vaccination Sentiment Riding High on Lack of Scientific Awareness

  • TWENTY years ago, in 1998, a physician Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet claiming that the measles-mumpsrubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism in children. Ten years later, in February 2010, Wakefield retracted his paper in the wake of allegations that the study was conducted “dishonestly” and “irresponsibly” and the data were “bogus”. His medical licence was revoked.
  • The details were later revealed in a report titled “Secrets of the MMR scare: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed” published in 2011 in the British Medical Journal. The report revealed the extent of fraud and falsification of data committed by Andrew Wakefield and how the link with autism was “manufactured” at a London medical school.
  • But all this came much later. Just within a year of Wakefield’s paper being published it had unleashed a cycle of damage that would spread throughout the world. The story was splashed in the UK newspapers, fearful parents refused to get their children vaccinated, and measles, which had been almost eradicated in the UK, once again made a comeback.
  • Measles is a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease caused by the virus Measles morbillivirus. Its symptoms include fever, runny nose, red eyes with rashes appearing all over the body.
  • Wakefield’s claims also gave strength to the anti-vaccination movement in various parts of the world, which continues to lumber on even though during the next ten years several studies found no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In fact, Danish researchers have recently published one of the largest studies of autism and MMR in the Annals of Internal Medicine (5 March 2019).
  • The researchers followed 657,461 children born between 1999 and 2010 to show that there was no causal link between MMR vaccine and measles.
  • Despite Wakefield’s research having been debunked many times, anti-vaccination proponents continue to stoke fears of MMR vaccination causing autism.
  • Now, in the face of some of the worst outbreak of measles the world has seen in recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed vaccine hesitancy or the antivaccination sentiment among the list of its top ten priorities for 2019.
  • It shares place with deadly air pollution, Ebola and antibiotic resistance. Measles has seen a 30% increase in cases globally, the WHO says. “Vaccination currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved,” says WHO.
  • In India too health authorities continue to combat the lack of awareness among the public and the barrage of misinformation on vaccines, making many parents “skeptical” of vaccines despite evidence to the contrary.
  • In a recent study published in the journal eLife (5 March 2019), researchers from the University of Toronto, Canada; King George’s Medical University, Lucknow; Ministry of Health & Family Welfare; PGIMER Chandigarh, and ICMR found a significant decrease in the number of measles related deaths among infants aged 1-59 months, and that an estimated 41,000 to 56,000 measles deaths had been averted between 2010 to 2013 in children under the age of five years after the star of the immunisation campaign.
  • Lack of awareness and misinformed fears among the general public can not be allowed to derail the benefits of the immunisation campaign that have accrued over the years. Sustained public awareness campaigns in some Indian states such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat have shown good results. These need to be replicated throughout the country and with more intensity and sensitivity.

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(The Gist of Science Reporter) Vanishing Geo Heritage site – Bhojunda Stromatolite Park [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Vanishing Geo Heritage site – Bhojunda Stromatolite Park [APRIL-2019]

Vanishing Geo Heritage site – Bhojunda Stromatolite Park

  • CHITTAURGARH in the state of Rajasthan is located on the banks of rivers Gambhiri and Bedach (a tributary of Bananas), At the foothills of this UNESCO World Heritage site is Chittaurgarh town, and on the eastern periphery of which there is yet another Heritage site - a Geo Heritage site near the village Bhojunda. This site is a Stromatolite Park, which was declared a National Geological Monument in the year 1976 by the Geological Survey of India.
  • Stromatolites are bio chemical forms of rocks occurring in different shapes akin to the sedimentary rocks that can be found in shallow water by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains by
    biofilms of microorganisms. These provide fascinating evidence of the emergence and evolution of life on the Earth. A small piece of Stromatolite encodes
  • biological activity spanning thousands of years. So much so [what they can be termed as Earth’s oldest fossils dating back to 3.5 billion years.
  • The Bhojunda Stromatolite Park is an exposure within the massive Bhagwanpura Limestone of Lower Vindhyan age.
  • In Indian geology, the Vindhyan Formations ( ~900 Mya) were vigorously but unsuccessfully searched for life (natural heritage,, 2016). However, the discovery of these life forms in still older rocks provided indisputable proof that life existed in these Precambrian rocks of Rajasthan.

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(The Gist of Science Reporter) Ingestible Drug Trucks for Diabetics [APRIL-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Ingestible Drug Trucks for Diabetics [APRIL-2019]

Ingestible Drug Trucks for Diabetics

  • DIABETES is a metabolic disorder with elevated blood sugar levels in human body. It happens because either the body cannot secrete enough insulin or secreted insulin is not efficiently utilised. Hence, such patients depend on external insulin supply.
  • Researchers have established efficient insulin delivery systems, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. A wide range of drugs is available in marker that can be administered orally in treating diabetes mellitus.
  • Researchers have developed microneedle pills for drug delivery ensuring perfect localization and permeation that are necessary essentials of orally administered drugs.
  • A team of researchers from MIT and Novo Nordisk have developed a self orienting millimetre scale applicator called SOMA in short.
  • SOMA is an indigestible pill having a single micro needle with its tip made of purest and freeze dried insulin.
  • The newly developed pill is capable of injecting insulin into the interior lining of the stomach wall avoiding the attack of digestive enzymes.
  • The needle shaft is made of biodegradable polymer and does not enter the stomach lining.
  • The needle is attached to a compressed spring with a sugar disk. So when the pill is swallowed, water dissolves the sugar disk allowing the needle to inject into the stomach lining.
  • Since the stomach walls are devoid of pain receptors the new pill docs not induce any pain.
  • SOMA has been tested successfully in pigs. It has been designed ensuring that the needle perfectly injects into the stomach lining.
  • The capsule is the size of a blueberry and components are harmless and can pass through the digestive tract.
  • The self orientation is designed as a mimic of leopard tortoise reorientation ability. Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) has a large dome-like shell that is highly curved enabling it to stand proper even if the animal is flipped over.
  • SOMA is designed with a low centre of mass hence it can orient in a manner to attach the stomach wall on action of gravity.
  • Once the pill adheres to the gastric lining the sugar disc dissolves and provides enough force for the needle to inject into stomach wall hence localized delivery is assured. Hopefully the new drug trucks would pass human trials too and would be a boon to diabetics by replacing the conventional injectable insulin.

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