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Antlers : Environment for UPSC Exams

Antlers : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • Antlers are extensions of the skull grown by members of the deer family.
  • They are not true bone structures but they usually grow in symmetrical pairs. In most species, only the male grows antlers with the exception of Caribou.

  • The antlers primarily function in sexual selection as attractions to females and as weapons in fights for control of harems.

  • In many temperate zone species, antlers are shed and regrow each year, while horns are permanent.

  • Deer antlers are mass of solid bone and are shed on regular intervals and regrow again. Whereas in all other bovidae’s the horns are permanent and are not shed.

  • India has a distinction of having the largest number of deer species in the world. The species found in India varies in size as per the areas they live in.

  • Antlers of spotted deer and sambar may find their way to Ayurveda medicines if a recommendation of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) finds favour with the National Board for Wildlife and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has included antler in the definition of wildlife trophy.

  • A wildlife trophy is defined as the “whole or any part of any captive animal or wild animal”.

  • Section 39 of the Wildlife(Protection) Act also states that “no person shall, without the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer acquire or keep in his possession, custody or control or transfer to any person, whether by way of gift, sale or otherwise or destroy or damage such property”.

  • Wildlife and wildlife trophies are considered as owned by the government.

  • The Act also prescribes imprisonment up to three years and fine of RS. 25,000 for offences involving wildlife trophies

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Science and Technology based Article : Current General Studies Magazine (April 2017)

Current General Studies Magazine (April 2017)

General Studies - III "Science and Technology based Article" (India as member of the International Energy Agency)

At the November 2015 launch of the special edition of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook series on the Indian energy sector, the Agency’s executive director, Dr. Fatih Birol, had noted that “We can’t talk about the future of the global energy markets without talking with India.” Therefore, when India joined the ranks of the IEA’s membership on March 30, 2017, albeit as a “Member by Associate”, it was seen as inevitable. Moreover, long before India formally came on board the IEA, it had been engaging with the organisation. As early as 1998, India had signed the Declaration of Cooperation covering issues related to energy security and statistics. Subsequently, it had signed three Joint Statements with the IEA – the last one in 2013 – which covered various areas of mutual interest in the energy spectrum. However, the priority area for co-operation had been in oil and gas security and, to that end, the IEA and India’s Ministry for Petroleum and Natural Gas (Mo&PNG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2011, the first time that the IEA signed one with a key partner country in the area of emergency preparedness.

Interestingly, despite the cooperative nature of the relationship, India has been wary in committing itself to the IEA’s agenda. In fact, before 2011, the then Prime Minister’s Office had asked the Mo&PNG for a position paper on “Whether India should Join IEA”. At that time, the ministry had recommended that while India should collaborate with the IEA’s programmes through agreements and MoUs such as the IEA’s Global Energy Emergency Response System, which dealt with oil supply disruption exercises and contingency plans with member countries, it should not become a member of the organisation per se. The rationale then was that while interacting and cooperating with the IEA would allow India to maximise the strategic depth of its crude oil reserves as well as benefit from the IEA’s technical assistance in the energy sector, it would preclude it from taking on the obligations entailed by membership. As a result, India signed the said MoU, whereby the petroleum ministry and the IEA agreed to work together on strengthening and developing the oil stockholding regime and the emergency response policies as well as the exchange of information in the oil and gas sectors.

 However, over time, and with the increasing move towards greater integration with the global energy market, the government has been interacting more frequently with the Agency, holding high level policy dialogues and workshops, joint research and analyses projects on energy sectors and markets, and exchanging technical know-how and information on future projections.

The question that therefore behoves asking is this: if India was in any case benefiting from informal interaction with the IEA, why did it go back on its earlier decision and formally join the organisation? The IEA’s rationale for inviting non-OECD countries to join it is evident, as the agency benefits from the growing association of emerging economies by gaining access to their data and by adding to the oil stockpiles in the event of supply disruptions, which is its raison d’etre. Second, given the IEA’s growing role in combating climate change, it allows the promotion of clean energy technologies in some of the world’s largest carbon emitters. But what additional benefits would India gain as a member of the IEA over and above what it has gained as a non-member?

The answer may well lie in the current government’s goal of not only providing access to electricity for the people under its “24x7 Power For All” initiative but also in meeting its climate change targets undertaken under the Paris Climate change agreement. Moreover, it will provide India the geopolitical platform to take the lead in climate and energy issues. As the Minister for Power as well as Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal said on the occasion of India’s accession to the IEA membership, not only is deeper engagement with the IEA a component of achieving the ‘Power for All’ initiative but it would also give India an opportunity to become the voice of the developing world. In particular, he was referring to the International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiative.

The ISA is an Indian initiative that was first proposed by Prime Minister Modi during a November 2015 speech at the Wembley Stadium. On that occasion, he called upon countries with abundant sunlight “stretching between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn” to work for the efficient exploitation of solar energy in order to reduce dependence on fossil based fuels. Thereafter, Modi, along with French President Francois Hollande, launched the initiative in Paris ahead of the COP 21conference in November 2015. The goal of the Alliance is to raise USD 500 billion from public finances matched by another USD 500 billion from the private sector in order to have 1,000 GW (100,0000 MW) global capacity of solar power by 2030.

At the time, however, the Obama administration had been ambivalent about the ISA. Although it expressed support for the concept, it preferred that the ISA be kept as an informal arrangement since a formal ‘treaty arrangement’ would require congressional approval which may not be forthcoming from a Republican-dominated Congress determined to oppose the Democratic administration’s initiative in this regard. But India was of the opinion that, without a treaty, the Alliance would lack teeth, particularly in the event of a dispute.

Eventually, the Framework Agreement of the ISA was opened for signature in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November 2016. 121 countries have joined the Alliance whose headquarters is in Gurugram (Gurgaon). The ISA is based on three objectives – lower the price of solar panels and solar power in general by increasing demand; standardise solar technologies through collaboration in technological innovation, which would also help to bring down the price of solar energy; and, foster research and development, particularly in storage technology.

For India, the ISA provides it with a platform to position itself as a leader on the world energy and environment stage. However, given that the success of the initiative will depend largely on the number of countries coming on board, collaboration with other multilateral bodies, including the UN, IEA, IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) as well as corporates and industry, among others, is critical as these will assist in adapting the technologies needed by developing member countries to their specific conditions and economic realities. Given that over 70 per cent of the world's energy consumption comes under the IEA umbrella, the association with the IEA will substantially increase India’s relevance in global energy governance. Finally, and more importantly, the IEA can encourage financial institutions to support India’s energy, particularly, its solar energy programme.

 (Source- Shebonti Ray Dadwal@IDSA)

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Selected Articles from Various News Paper: Civil Services Mentor Magazine - March 2017

Selected Articles from Various Newspapers & Journals

Drowned by State Failure

The boat disaster in the Ganga on Makar Sankranti day that killed at least 24 people is another reminder that safety in public transport remains a low priority for governments. As with road accidents, mishaps in the inland waterways and lakes take a terrible toll of lives regularly, with no effective administrative response. In the Ganga Diara tragedy near Patna, a large number of people had apparently crammed themselves into a small vessel for a free ride after witnessing a kite festival. The relief offered to the kin of the dead and injured both by the Centre and the Bihar government should not, however, obscure the fact that the loss of life was entirely the result of official failures. This was obviously the result of serious neglect of safety norms for which accountability must be fixed. It is essential that a judicial commission be constituted to inquire into the incident, to determine whether the laws on transport using inland waterways are being implemented and to issue directions for the future. The country boat involved appears not to have used its engine at the time of the accident, but the absence of safety training for operators is painfully evident.

The Centre, which talks of a paradigm shift in freight and passenger transport using inland waterways, should respond to the shameful national record on boat safety by firmly implementing existing laws and introducing new measures along with the States. Just last year it expanded the National Waterways programme and notified several stretches of rivers and canals for a new deal for inland water transport. Under the amendments to the colonial-era Inland Vessels Act made in 2007 - which is to be further modernised - it is incumbent on the States to apply some provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act to accidents, compensation and insurance against third-party risks for powered boats. Just as in the case of motor vehicles, registration of inland vessels other than small personal non-powered craft must be made mandatory. This will help enforce construction standards, subsidy for transport boats, passenger insurance and accident compensation. In the latest tragedy, the problem also appears to have been inadequate supply, which forced people to pack themselves into the available boats. If this is true, the Bihar government must own full responsibility and prevent a recurrence. The heart-rending spectacle of children and their kin perishing on what should have been a day of celebration must stir the conscience of governments whose duty it is to provide safe and adequate public transport, and one at which they fail badly.

Vagaries of the job market

The mismatch between the number of people who annually reach working age and the availability of jobs has been a matter of constant concern globally during the better part of the period since the global financial crisis of the last decade. The International Labour Organisation's latest forecast that a few more millions are set to join the pool of the jobless during this year and the next, is in line with its own previous estimates. In any case, with the growth in global gross domestic product registering a six-year low in 2016, expectations of generation of new jobs were always going to be low. But a no-less-serious concern in the 'World Employment and Social Outlook 2017' pertains to the stubborn challenge of reducing the extent of vulnerability that currently affects about 42 per cent of the total working population. This concern refers to lack of access to contributory social protection schemes among the self-employed and allied categories, unlike their counterparts in the wage-earning and salaried classes. The former segment accounts for nearly 50 per cent of workers in the emerging economies and 80 per cent in developing countries. The hardships faced by these 1.4 billion working people will become more apparent when seen in the backdrop of either the absence of strong welfare legislation or its effective enforcement in a majority of these countries. It is no surprise that besides Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia has been the most affected by such volatile conditions.

To be sure, the overall share of these vulnerable workers dropped from 46 per cent of total employment in 2015 to 42 per cent in 2016. But the latest report projects only a mere 0.2 percentage point rate of reduction through 2017-18. In comparison, it says the proportion of the population in jobs characterised by vulnerability declined by an average annual rate of 0.5 percentage points in the previous decade. As a result of the relatively slow reversal rates in more recent years, these numbers are projected to increase globally by 11 million a year. The other implication of an increase in the number of people facing vulnerable working conditions is the real danger this poses of a slowdown in reducing the incidence of working poverty. It is this celebrated rise in income levels in the lowest rungs of the population that lent the current phase of globalisation the social and political legitimacy, a phase that has otherwise posed the risks of economic dislocation and unprecedented mass migration. The challenge for policymakers worldwide is to ensure that incomes do not fall below the levels of basic subsistence as the world marches towards the poverty reduction targets under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

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SMOG : Environment for UPSC Exams

SMOG : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • The term "smog" was first used in London during the early 1900's to describe the combination of smoke and fog. What we typically call "smog" today is a mixture of pollutants but is primarily made up of ground-level ozone.

  • Ozone can be beneficial or harmful depending on its location. The ozone located high above the Earth in the stratosphere protects human health and the environment, but ground-level ozone is responsible for the choking, coughing, and stinging eyes associated with smog.

  • Smog usually is produced through a complex set of photochemical reactions involving volatile organic compounds (VOC's) and nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight that result in the production of ozone.

  • Smog-forming pollutants come from many sources, such as automobile exhausts, power plants, factories, and many consumer products, including paints, hair spray, charcoal starter fluid, solvents, and even plastic popcorn packaging.

  • Major smog occurrences often are linked to heavy motor vehicle traffic, high temperatures, sunshine, and calm winds.

  • In Delhi, smog severity is often aggravated by stubble burning in neighbouring agricultural areas.

  • Smog is made up of a combination of air pollutants that can injure health of people with heart and lung conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma and further harm the environment, and cause property damage.

  • This mixture of air pollutants may include the following:

    • Aldehydes

    • Nitrogen oxides, particularly nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide

    • Peroxyacyl nitrates

    • Tropospheric ozone

    • Volatile organic compounds

  • Photochemical smog is the chemical reaction of sunlight, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere, which leaves airborne particles and ground-level ozone.

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Delhi Declaration on Agro biodiversity : Environment for UPSC Exams

Delhi Declaration on Agro biodiversity : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • The 1st International Agro biodiversity Congress held in New Delhi from 6th to 9th November, 2016 was attended by 900 participants from 60 countries.
  • The conference was organised by the Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resources and Biodiversity International, a CGIAR Research Centre headquartered in Rome, Italy.
  • Throughout the Congress, delegated discussed various aspects of access, conservation and use of agrobiodiversity in 16 technical sessions, four satellite sessions, a genebank roundtable, a public forum, a farmers’ forum and poster sessions.
  • Based on these deliberations, the delegates unanimously adopted the Preamble and following declaration:
    • We call upon nations to accord top priority to the agrobiodiversity conservation and their sustainable use towards achieving targets of SDGs relating to poverty alleviation, food and nutritional security, good health, gender equity and partnership.
    • We recognize the importance of traditional knowledge on agrobiodiversity of farm men and women, pastoralists and other tribal and rural communities and their central role in its conservation and use for a food and climate resilient world. We, therefore, call upon countries to develop the necessary funding, legal and institutional mechanism to ensure and facilitate their continued active participation.
    • We urge researchers and policy-makers to initiate, strengthen, and promote complementary conservation strategies to conserve and use agrobiodiversity including crop wild relatives in more dynamic way to ensure a continuum between ex situ, in situ and on farm conservation strategies to combat food and nutrition insecurity as well as adverse effects of climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss.
    • We invite researchers to employ modern technologies including, but not limited to, genomic, space, computational, and nano-technologies for characterization, evaluation and trait discovery using genetic resources. The aim should be to achieve efficiency, equality, economy and environmental security in agricultural production systems and landscapes.
    • We reemphasize the necessity of global exchange of plant, animal, aquatic microbial and insect genetic resources for food and agriculture to meet the ever-growing food and nutritional needs of each country. Nations also need to harmonise their multiple legal systems and prioritize the improvement of their phytosanitary capacities to facilitate safe transfer of genetic resources using latest technologies and trans-boundary partnerships.
    • We strongly recommend that the governments and societies put grater emphasis on public awareness and capacity enhancement programs on agrobiodiversity conservation and use.
    • We strongly suggest developing and implementing an agrobiodiversity index to help monitor conservation and use of agrobiodiversity.
    • We urge public and private sector partnerships to actively invest in and incentivize the utilization of agrobiodiversity to address malnutrition, increase the resilience and productivity of farms, and enhance ecosystem services leading to equitable benefits and opportunities with particular emphasis on women and youth.
    • The UN is urged to consider declaring soon a ‘Year of Agrobiodiversity’ to draw worldwide attention and to catalyze urgent action.
    • We unanimously recommend that a congress focusing on agrobiodiversity be held each 3-5 years in order to maintain emphasis on this important area that we have realized in Delhi, for which a continuing committee be formed.

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Ken-Betwa Project : Environment for UPSC Exams

Ken-Betwa Project : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • The The Ken-Betwa link project envisages diversion of surplus waters of Ken basin to water deficit Betwa basin.
  • . This link canal will provide irrigation to water short areas of upper Betwa basin of Madhya Pradesh by way of substitution and also to enroute areas of Madhya Pradesh & Uttar Pradesh.
  • Apart from drinking water facility & enroute irrigation of 47000 ha in Chhatarpur & Tikamgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh and Hamirpur & Jhansi districts of Uttar Pradesh, provision for downstream commitments of 1375 Mm3 for M.P. and 850 Mm3 of water for U.P. has also been kept.
  • A dam is proposed on river Ken at Daudhan 2.5 km upstream of existing Gangau weir.
  • Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will be the first river project that will be located within a tiger reserve.
  • It will submerge about 10% of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh which has been feted as a model tiger-conservation reserve

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Weekly Mains Exam 2017 Answer Writing Challenge- Public Administration Module-70

Weekly Mains Exam 2017 Answer Writing Challenge- Public Administration

The main idea behind Weekly Answer Writing Challenges is to make your exam preparation more result oriented. For this exam (UPSC Civil Services), just ‘reading’ is not enough. The most advantageous part of this writing exercise is to make your answer visible to everyone, someone may correct you if they find a mistake in your answer plus it must be also supported by our experts , you may see others answers also. It is free and definitely will improve your writing ability and marks in your final examination. Here all topics from syllabus will be covered.

Public Administration- Paper I "Syllabus Topic – Accountability and control: Right to Information "

  • 1. Those in power are upset with the RTI and hence, try to discredit it by talking about its misuse. Discuss

Indian Administration- Paper II "Syllabus Topic – Law and Order Administration: Role of central and state agencies "

  • 2. AFSPA clearly lays down procedures that security personnel must to follow while conducting operations. Comment.

Write Your Answer in Comment Box.

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Commitment to self-reliancel: Weekly IAS Mains Essay Writing Challenge

Weekly IAS Mains Essay Writing Challenge

Write Essay in not more than 2500 words. (250 marks)

Topic:- Commitment to self-reliance.

India's INDCs : Environment for UPSC Exams

India's INDCs : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • Conference of Parties (COP) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at 19th Session held in Warsaw in November 2013 invited all Parties to initiate domestic preparations for their INDC.

  • The concept of ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’, taking into account the outcomes of both Warsaw COP 19 and Lima COP 20 has to (i) reflect the principles of equity and  Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) and (ii) the Country’s contributions must be seen in a balanced and comprehensive context.

  • Accordingly, India has developed a comprehensive and balanced set of actions for its INDCs for the period of 2021-2030 to comprehensively address mitigation as well as adaptation components. These include:

    • Reducing carbon intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030

    • Increasing the share of non-fossil fuel based electricity to 40% by 2030

    • Accelerating aforestation efforts to create additional carbon sinks of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent

    • Making concerted efforts toward adapting to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in various vulnerable sectors, including agriculture, water resources, forestry, health and disaster management

    • Building capacities while adopting and deploying new energy efficient technology, and other technologies to reduce carbon emissions

    • Mobilise resources to execute our plans for combatting climate change across sectors

    • Adopt and promote low carbon-intensive lifestyles on a mass scale through sustainable living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation

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Fly Ash : Environment for UPSC Exams

Fly Ash : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • Fly ash is one of the coal combustion products, composed of the fine particles that are driven out of the boiler with the flue gases.

  • Ash that falls in the bottom of the boiler is called bottom ash.

  • In modern coal-fired power plants, fly ash is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before the flue gases reach the chimneys. Together with bottom ash removed from the bottom of the boiler, it is known as coal ash.

  • All fly ash includes substantial amounts of silicon dioxide (SiO2), aluminium oxide (Al2O3) and calcium oxide (CaO).

  • Constituents of fly ash can be: Arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium.

  • In the past, fly ash was simply dispersed into the atmosphere. This created environmental and health concerns that prompted laws that have reduced fly ash emissions to less than 1% of ash produced.

  • Worldwide, more than 65% of fly ash produced from coal power stations is disposed of in landfills and ash ponds.

  • Probable uses of fly ash:

    • Concrete production, as a substitute material for Portland cement and sand
    • Embankments and other structural fills (usually for road construction)
    • Groud and Flowable fill production
    • Waste stabilization and solidification
    • Cement clinkers production - (as a substitute material for clay)
    • Mine reclamation
    • Stabilization of soft soils
    • Road sub-base construction
    • As Aggregate substitute material (e.g. for brick production)
    • Mineral filler in asphaltic concrete
    • Agricultural uses: soil amendment, fertilizer, cattle feeders, soil stabilization in stock feed yards, and agricultural stakes
    • Loose application on rivers to melt ice
    • Loose application on roads and parking lots for ice control

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Loktak Lake : Environment for UPSC Exams

Loktak Lake : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • It is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India(Manipur), and is famous for the phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matter at various stages of decomposition) floating over it.

  • Keibul Lamjao is the only floating national park in the world which is on this lake.

  • The Keibul Lamjao National Park is the last natural refuge of the endangered sangai (state animal) or Manipur brown-antlered deer.

  • This ancient lake plays an important role in the economy of Manipur. It serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply.

  • The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fishermen who live in the surrounding areas and on phumdis, also known as “phumshongs”.

  • Considering the ecological status and its biodiversity values, the lake was initially designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on 23 March 1990.

  • It was also listed under the Montreux Record on 16 June 1993, "a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur".

  • Loktak Lake is fed by the Manipur river and several tributaries and ‘Ungamel Channel’ (Ithai Barrage) is its only outlet now.

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Current Public Administration Magazine (March - 2017) - Niti Aayog

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Current Development

Niti Aayog

Jawaharlal Nehru once said the Indian Civil Service was “Neither Indian, nor Civil, nor a Service”. Sardar Patel said the civil service was the “steel frame of government machinery”. Thankfully, this team of rivals worked together to create a model for non-elected civil servants that served India well when the primary task was nation-building. But now that the task has shifted to poverty reduction, most citizens do not perceive the Indian state as a high-performance organisation.

As the Indian state responds by finally raising its performance ambitions for 30 lakh central government and 120 lakh state government employees, it must recognise that high-performance organisations get four levers right around human capital: Fresher selection, leadership selection, performance management and culture.

It must also recognise that changing culture (accepted and rejected behaviour like punctuality, hard work, corruption, collaboration, etc.) and performance management (the fear of falling and the hope of rising) will take five years, but changing how senior roles are staffed is immediately impactful because personnel is policy. NITI Aayog’s new recruitment rules for senior people (Additional and Joint Secretary rank) are a good template for hiring senior technocrats — a more accurate job description than bureaucrat — but they should be the thin end of a thick wedge to reboot government human capital on these four fronts.

First, fresher hiring for central government officers in the IAS, IPS, RBI, etc, is probably better than any private sector management trainee programme because of the high quality and quantity of applicants, the UPSC’s institutional integrity, starting compensation, process rigour, etc. Overall, this lever needs the least reform. However, replicating this transparency, process and institutional ability to non-officer hiring (85 per cent of government hiring) and state government hiring (75 per cent of government employees) could rapidly improve legitimacy, competence and trust.

Second, any organisation whose leadership pipeline depends on a line (seniority) or a monopoly (only staffed by insiders) cannot be effective; such leadership selection needs thoughtful design, pathways to top jobs for young insiders, lateral entry at scale, specialisation opportunities by tenure and training for insiders. In the US, when a new political CEO takes over, 4,000 technocrats resign. In India, 10 people do. Both 4,000 and 10 are extremes and the right number is somewhere in-between.

An immediate tweak could be making 25 per cent of all senior appointments through open advertisements and giving insiders a real shot at these jobs when they are 45 years old. Third, culture eats structure for breakfast. The obvious downside of poor role models, excessive political interference and the lack of accountability in government is poor work culture around punctuality, hard work, integrity, etc. A more important victim has been collaboration. The government is organised vertically but important horizontal problems like urbanisation and industrialisation seem unsolvable because of the lack of teamwork across departments.

One of the most interesting questions in government today is: How do you get something done when everybody who matters agrees with you? A culture of accountability is heavily influenced by structure, the huge overlap in central ministry mandates creates policy orphans and needs reducing the number of ministries in the Central government to 20 (from 50-plus right now) and cutting people with Secretary to Government of India in Delhi rank to 50 (from 200-plus right now). Obviously, role models and narratives are more potent than rules. The corruption culture change in Delhi is not a child of new laws.

Finally, any organisation that does not punish its poor performers punishes its high performers. All hierarchies need a pyramid but currently, almost all officers rise to the top rank unless you hit a senior officer or your corruption is caught on video. The pyramid becoming a cylinder is brutal for the motivation of high performers and corrosive to a culture of performance. It is difficult to measure performance in multi-dimensional senior government jobs but 95 per cent being ranked outstanding is mathematically impossible because everybody can’t be above average. Pending a revamp of appraisal systems, all central and state officer cadres should adopt the “colonel threshold” of the army under which, if you are not shortlisted from promotion, you retire at age 50.

The new recruitment rules of NITI Aayog are thoughtful. Their hiring context is different from large frontline government organisations and tweaking leadership selection will be ineffective without tackling culture and performance management. But these rules are interesting because they create a level playing field for outsiders and insiders and confront issues like cost-to-government, promotion, equivalence, employment contract format, etc. Most importantly, their five-year contract, extendable by two years, should become standard for all senior positions.

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Current Public Administration Magazine (March - 2017) - Sarkaria Commission on Governor’s options

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Administrative Report

Sarkaria Commission on Governor’s options

The Sarkaria Commission report spelled them out.

The legal challenge of the Congress in the Supreme Court against the BJP’s claim to form the government in Goa brings to fore a vacuum in the Constitution. In the case of a hung legislature, is the Governor bound to follow the constitutional convention to call upon the single largest party to form the government and prove its majority in the House? Or, as the court endorsed on Wednesday, can a political rival cobble together a post-poll alliance to form a majority that overcomes the single largest party and form the government?

The Manohar Parrikar government came to power on a first-come-first-appointed basis despite the fact that the BJP came second in the Assembly elections. The Governor did not consult the single largest party, the Congress, before giving Mr. Parrikar the green signal.

The SC, in turn, said the Congress did wrong by not staking its claim to form the government. It had shown no proof to the Governor that it had the requisite numbers to prove a majority in the House. The debacle exposes the fact that there are no specific guidelines in the Constitution on who the Governor should invite to form a government in a State where rival parties with narrow majorities engage in a face-off.

The constitutional convention of inviting the single largest party in the case of a fractured mandate has been outlined by the Sarkaria Commission recommendations, which were affirmed by a Constitution Bench of the SC inRameshwar Prasad v Union of India in 2005.

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Current Public Administration Magazine (March - 2017) - Electoral Reforms

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Ethics and Integrity

Electoral Reforms

The debate on electoral reforms in the Rajya Sabha on March 22 was heartwarming — the civility with which it was conducted the icing on the cake. Members of political parties tend to avoid discussions on electoral reforms, except in private conversations. But the participation in the debate on that day was so enthusiastic that the deputy chairman had to extend the discussion to twice the time that is normally allotted to a short duration discussion — two-and-a half hours to five hours.

The immediate provocation for the debate was BSP supremo Mayawati’s allegation of manipulation of EVMs in the recent UP assembly elections. As expected, issues about EVMs took up a major part of the discussion. While a return to ballot papers was mentioned, most speakers demanded the use of VVPATs (voter-verified paper audit trail) in the forthcoming elections to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assemblies, and eventually in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019.

In a judgement in 2013 (Subramanian Swamy versus ECI), the Supreme Court had commended the Election Commission for taking a series of steps to introduce VVPATs, including conducting an all-party meeting in 2011. The meeting had unanimously approved the idea of introducing VVPATs. The EC had then ordered the two EVM companies to start manufacturing the machines and a field test was conducted in 2011 in five climatic zones. Our effort was to introduce these machines in the 2012 UP assembly elections and four other state assembly elections. That couldn’t happen as the field tests revealed snags, which took almost a year to fix.

Holding that the paper trail is an “indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”, the Supreme Court directed the Government of India to provide the requisite funds for procuring the VVPAT machines. Appreciating the EC’s efforts, the court approved its plan to roll out VVPATs in phases till 2019.

More than three years after the court’s directive and despite 10 reminders from the EC, the government has not released the requisite funds. So far, the EC has just 52,000 machines (against the nearly 20 lakh that are required in the country) which were deployed in the recent elections. Meanwhile, two contempt of court petitions have been filed against the government and the EC. After the unanimous demand of the members of Rajya Sabha, cutting across party lines, it is hoped that the government will be compelled to release the funds without further delay.

The other major concern across parties was about paid news. Members demanded that it should be made a cognisable criminal offence.

Use of money power in elections was a serious concern as well, with most speakers demanding state funding of elections. They also demanded a ban on corporate donations. Several members demanded a ceiling on expenditure by political parties to bring down the cost of elections. This is essential to ensure a level-playing field for all contestants.

A very significant subject that was discussed on March 22 was the long-prevalent first-past-the-post system in which the “winner takes all”. There is growing concern that the system can lead to majoritarianism. The members wanted this system to be replaced by the proportional representation system which can ensure that every section of the citizenry gets due representation. It was suggested that this will bring down the cost of holding elections and reduce the divisive nature of electoral campaigns.

The prime minister’s proposal for simultaneous elections came in for a lot of attack. It was seen as a surreptitious attempt to bring in the presidential form of government. Some speakers said it is against India’s federal polity, others believed it will go against the basic structure of the constitution. There was unanimity on banning opinion polls. Many members wanted the abolition of the provision that allows a candidate to stand for election in more than one constituency. A few members mentioned reservation for women, voting by NRIs and migrants and the need to make the model code of conduct more liberal. Many members suggested the constitution of a parliamentary committee, with experts from outside parliament, with the mandate of suggesting ways to carry out these reforms. However, nobody was interested in talking about the increasing criminalisation of politics, which is the EC’s — and the nation’s — most important concern.

The law minister’s reply to the debate, as expected, was largely confined to the EVMs. He defended these machines to the hilt. Strangely, however, he did not give any assurance about the release of funds for the VVPAT machines. It’s a pity that the issue may be decided in the contempt petitions pending in the Supreme Court.

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Current Public Administration Magazine (March - 2017) - Data security and Right to privacy

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Polity And Governance Issues

Data security and Right to privacy

While the Supreme Court had earlier directed that no one should be denied state benefits for lack of Aadhaar, which is a voluntary identity document, Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar has observed that the government can insist on Aadhaar if benefit is not anticipated. In his example, Aadhaar can be mandatory for opening a bank account but not for receiving pension into it. Aadhaar can now be made mandatory for all financial transactions, including taxes, property transactions and investments, in the government’s efforts to contain black money. This brings clarity on a contentious issue and the government can now go ahead and make Aadhaar the axis of the financial system.

The issue of privacy, at the heart of the Aadhaar controversy, remains unaddressed, for now. The apex court is disinterested in clubbing the multiple PILs challenging Aadhaar, or fast-tracking the process on the prosecution’s plea that the government is imposing deadlines for Aadhaar compliance on various fronts. The court believes that interim orders will solve nothing, and that disposal of the case by a seven-judge bench is the outcome to be sought. The delay implicit in setting aside a large number of judges is the cost that must be borne.

The privacy issues bedeviling Aadhaar have been widely discussed, to the extent that perhaps it would be useful to reduce them to the bare essentials. Aadhaar consists of a biometric database over which, legally, only a single query is permitted to run. It asks, “Is this person who he or she claims to be?” By itself, this is an innocuous validation and does not involve the violation of privacy. But when the database is connected to other data sets such as financials, medical records or employment histories, privacy concerns can arise. Altering the design of the database and the queries allowed to run on it would have the same effect, and the security of data in transmission can be insecure. When such concerns were first raised, the government had offered technical assurances — its data is stored in unbreakable silos. However, data must be secured by law, apart from technology. Simple questions need to be addressed. Who is authorised to collect, store and transmit data? Who can edit queries or redesign the database, or make connections to it? What penalties would a breach attract? Such issues should not be addressed by multiple legislation, as they are now, by the IT Act of 2000 and the rules of 2011. For general acceptance, Aadhaar must be secured by a single, unified data protection law with exemplary penalties, as in the European Union.

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22nd COP : Environment for UPSC Exams

22nd COP : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force in 1994, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

  • The Conference of the Parties (COP) was designated as the supreme governing body of the Convention.

  • To date, 195 countries have submitted their instruments of ratification. These countries meet once a year, during two weeks, in order to evaluate the application of the Convention and develop the negotiation process between the Parties in front of new commitments.

  • By virtue of this Convention, all the Parties have common but differentiated responsibilities. In addition, they take into account the specific nature of their national and regional development priorities, their goals and circumstances.

  • The twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22), the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), and the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) were held in Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 November 2016.

  • Several substantive details remain to be worked out and, in fact, will be completed only by 2018. These include accounting of the NDCs, adaptation communication, building a transparency framework, the global stocktake every five years, and other procedures that facilitate the implementation of and compliance with the Agreement.

  • Financial support for developing country action on the NDCs was an important agenda item of this meeting as was the issue of transparency.

  • One of the remarkable announcements at the Marrakech COP was the pledge by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, comprising 48 least developed countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia and South Sudan, to get 100 per cent of their energy from renewables by 2050.

  • 165 sub-national jurisdictions, calling themselves the Under2s, announced that they would reduce their emissions by 80-95 per cent below 1990 levels and limit their per capita emissions to under 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050.

  • Science Based Targets initiative got a boost in Marrakech when over 200 companies worldwide committed to emissions reductions targets.

  • With regard to the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, the framework for a five-year rolling work plan was approved.

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Coral Bleaching : Environment for UPSC Exams

Coral Bleaching : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • Coral bleaching is the loss of endo-symbiotic algae from the coral, either through expulsion or loss of algal pigmentation.

  • Above-average sea water temperatures caused by global warming have been identified as a leading cause for coral bleaching worldwide.

  • Bleached corals continue to live. But as the algae provide the coral with 90% of its energy, after expelling the algae the coral begins to starve.

  • Between 2014 and 2016, the longest global bleaching events ever were recorded. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, these bleaching events killed coral on an unprecedented scale. In 2016, bleaching hit 90 percent of coral on the Great Barrier Reef and killed more than 20 percent of the reef's coral.

  • In 2017, the bleaching further expanded to areas of the park that were previously spared, such as the central one.

  • Coral bleaching is theorized to be a generalized stress response of corals that may be caused by a number of biotic and abiotic factors, including:

    • Increased or reduced water temperatures.

    • Oxygen starvation caused by an increase in zooplankton levels as a result of overfishing.

    • increased solar irradiance (photosynthetically active radiation and ultraviolet light)

    • increased sedimentation (due to silt runoff)

    • bacterial infections

    • changes in salinity

    • herbicides

    • low tide and exposure

    • cyanide fishing

    • elevated sea levels due to global warming

    • mineral dust from African dust storms caused by drought

  • The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai, had recently deployed the ROV for studying the coral reefs of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are facing survival threats due to global warming.

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Mission Electrification : Environment for UPSC Exams

Mission Electrification : Environment for UPSC Exams

  • Ministry of Railways through Institution of Railways Electrical Engineer (IREE) in partnership with ASSOCHAM India had organised the International Conference on Decarbonization of Indian Railways- Mission Electrification 2016 in New Delhi.

  • The Conference aimed at bringing various stakeholders on a common platform for   exchange of ideas and to deliberate on implementable technological solutions and financing options to significantly increase pace of electrification and achieve the target for setting up of renewable energy installations with total capacity of 1000MW by 2020.

  • Mission Electrification is an initiative to reduce dependence on diesel by electrifying nearly 90% of railway tracks in the next five years.

  • A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the railway ministry and the ministry of science and technology for a joint effort towards developing and utilizing renewable energy technologies

  • A mobile application called RailSaver was also launched to enable railway officials to keep a track of energy consumption and trends.

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