Saturday, 29 October 2016

Female literacy in India

  •  According to a recently conducted research by New York-based International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, India’s school education system is under-performing in terms of quality when compared to its neighbors, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • The proportion of women who completed five years of primary schooling in India and were literate was 48%, much less than 92% in Nepal, 74% in Pakistan and 54% in Bangladesh.
  • Female literacy rates went up by one to 15% after completing two years of schooling. Corresponding numbers for Pakistan and Nepal were 3 to 31% and 11 to 47% respectively. This implies that schooling is roughly twice as productive at generating literacy for women during the early grades in Pakistan when compared to India.
  • India ranks 38th among the 51 developing countries. Indonesia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania — all rank higher than India.
  • Low female literacy rate means an overall sluggish growth of India, as it impacts every arena of the development. India is struggling hard to stabilize its growing population through family planning programs. But if females are illiterate, then this has a direct and negative impact on these initiatives.
  • When a girl or a woman is not educated, it is not only she who suffers but the entire family has to bear the consequences of her illiteracy. It has been found out that illiterate women face more hardships in life than literate ones. They have high levels of fertility as well as mortality; they suffer from malnutrition and all other related health problems.
  • Lack of education means lack of awareness. Illiterate women are not aware of their rights. They know nothing about initiatives taken by the government for their welfare. Illiterate women keep on struggling hard and bear harshness of life, family and even their husbands.
  • There are many reasons behind the low literacy among women in India. The negative attitude of parents towards the girl child and her education is one of the major reasons of low female literacy rate in India. In most of the families, boys at home are given priority in terms of education but girls are not treated in the same way.
  • Poverty is the root cause of many problems in India and also of low female literacy rate.
  • Another barrier to female education in India is the lack of female teachers. As India is a gender segregated society, it is a very important factor in the low female literacy rate in India.
  • But in spite of all reasons, women must understand and realize that education can actually end the vivacious cycle of poverty, their misfortune, so that they can live a life with pride. In case of any misfortune in life, it is education that would help her, not anything else. The government should really work towards the number, distance and quality of schools in rural as well as urban India. We should encourage the girl child in getting education to create a balanced and an educated society

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Capital account Convertibility

  •  The government is not yet ready for full capital account convertibility even though former governor of RBI Raghuram rajan had said the central bank was looking at bringing in capital account convertibility in a few years.
  • India currently has full convertibility of the rupee in current accounts such as for exports and imports. However, India’s capital account convertibility is not full. There are ceilings on government and corporate debt, external commercial borrowings and equity.
About Capital account convertibility:
  • Capital Account Convertibility means that the currency of a country can be converted into foreign exchange without any controls or restrictions. In other words, Indians can convert their Rupees into Dollars or Euros and Vice Versa without any restrictions placed on them. The reason why it is called capital account convertibility is that the conversion of domestic currencies into foreign currencies is allowed in the capital account and not only the current account.
  • Capital account refers to expenditures and investments in hard assets, physical premises, and factories as well as investments in land and other capital-intensive items
  • Full capital account convertibility opens up the country’s markets to global players, including investors, businesses and trade partners. This allows easy access to capital for different businesses and sectors, positively impacting a nation’s economy.
  • Opening up to fully convertible currency is a solid sign that a country and its markets are stable and mature enough to handle free and unrestricted movement of the capital, which attracts investments making the economy better.
  • With increased participation from global players, new businesses, strategic partnerships and direct investments flourish. It also helps in creating new employment opportunities across various industry sectors, as well as nurturing entrepreneurship for new businesses.
  • Sectors like insurance, fertilizers, retail, etc. have restrictions on foreign direct investments. Full convertibility will open the doors of many big international players to invest in these sectors, enabling much-needed reforms and bringing variety to the Indian masses.
  • Indian businesses will be able to issue foreign currency-denominated debt to local Indian investors.
  • Indian businesses will be able to hold foreign currency deposits in local Indian banks for capital requirements.
  • Indian banks will be able to borrow/lend to foreign banks in foreign currencies.
  • Amid a lack of suitable regulatory control and rates subject to open markets with large number of global market participants, high levels of volatility, devaluation or inflation in forex rates may happen, challenging the country’s economy.
  • Businesses can easily raise foreign debt, but they are prone to the risk of high repayments if exchange rates become unfavorable
  • A rising unregulated rupee makes Indian exports less competitive in the international markets. Export-oriented economies like India and China prefer to keep their exchanges rates lower to retain the low-cost advantage.
  • Full capital account convertibility has worked well in well-regulated nations that have a robust infrastructure in place. India’s basic challenges—high dependence on exports, burgeoning population, corruption, socio-economic complexities and challenges of bureaucracy—may lead to economic setbacks post-full rupee convertibility.

H5 Avian Influenza

  •  The Centre formed a three-member committee to keep a close watch on the bird flu situation even as over 40 avian deaths have been reported in the national capital.
  • This is formed after the reports of mortality among the birds in National Zoological Park, Delhi NCR and other parts of the country due to H5 avian influenza virus.
About Avian influenza:
  • Avian influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds.
  • Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans; however some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
  • Outbreaks of AI in poultry may raise global public health concerns due to their effect on poultry populations, their potential to cause serious disease in people, and their pandemic potential.
  • The majority of human cases of A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) infection have been associated with direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead poultry. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food.
  • The A(H5N1) virus subtype, a highly pathogenic AI virus, first infected humans in 1997 during a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong SAR, China. Since its widespread re-emergence in 2003 and 2004, this avian virus has spread from Asia to Europe and Africa and has become entrenched in poultry in some countries, resulting in millions of poultry infections, several hundred human cases, and many human deaths. Outbreaks in poultry have seriously impacted livelihoods, the economy and international trade in affected countries.
  • The A(H7N9) virus subtype is a low pathogenic AI virus.
How H5N8 is transmitted among birds?
  • Though wild birds can normally carry avian influenza viruses in their respiratory tracts they do not commonly get sick. The virus can spread among birds through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, contaminated feed, water, equipment, and human clothing and shoes. They can also transmit through movement of domestic live birds, people (through contaminated shoes and clothing), contaminated vehicles, equipment, feed and cages.
Control measures
  • Culling is usually undertaken to control the infection when it is detected in animals. Besides culling, safe disposal of all such culled animals and animal products is also important. The authorities also need to strictly enforce decontamination of infected premises and undertake quarantine of contaminated vehicles and personnel

Kashmir’s Red Stag

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is going to declare the Kashmiri Red Stag (also known as Hangul) as a Critically Endangered species.
  • The critically endangered status to the Kashmiri Red Stag will help it to get more protection and enhance the conservation efforts to increase its rapidly declining population.
About Kashmiri Red Stag or hangul:
  • Known for its giant antlers bearing 11 to 16 points, Hangul has been hunted over centuries and its habitat destroyed, leading to its population in the wild plunging to a mere 150.
  • Historically, the Hangul was distributed in the mountains of Himalaya, Kashmir, Chenab Valley and Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh.
  • However, there is only one viable population left today in the wild, which is largely confined to the Greater Dachigam Landscape (1,000, encompassing the Dachigam National Park (NP) and adjoining protected areas.
  • It is listed under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 and has also been listed among the top 15 species of high conservation priority by the Government of India.
About Critically endangered species:
  • Critically endangered species are those that are almost extinct in the wild. Their numbers have become so few that they may have trouble breeding to keep the entire species viable without help from conservationists. In other words, they cannot find mates to produce young, or they take such a long time to mature that they often die before they can reproduce. By capturing members of the wild population to raise them in captivity and breed them there for later release back into the wild, conservationists try to keep the species alive.
About IUCN:
  • It was founded in 1948. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a leading non-governmental authority on the environment and sustainable development. It is also involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, lobbying and education. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Marine resources in India

The third largest and gifted ocean on the world ‘Indian Ocean’ surrounds India on three sides. Very few of us are aware of the treasures that surround us. These marine resources are found in the oceans and seas. These are beneficial to humans. Resources include fish, coral reefs, fungi, minerals, etc. 
Ocean resources represent wide range of resources present in it. Typically they are classified into 2 broad categories Biotic and abiotic resources. 
Biotic resources comprise of fishes, seaweeds, planktons, sharks, turtles, marine mammals, etc. 
Abiotic resources are sea mounds, energy resources (crude oil, natural gas), deposits (gold, red clay, manganese) and other dissolved elements (sodium chloride).
India has all different types of Marine Ecosystems present in the world. Zoological survey of India elaborated different ecosystems present in the ocean.
  1. Coral Ecosystem-Most dynamic ecosystem provides shelter and food to thousands o marine flora and fauna.
  2. Mangrove Ecosystem- It reduces coastal erosion, a source of wood products, and a nursery ground for marine products.
  3. Estuary ecosystem- Help in large scale of fishery wealth. It acts as a feeding and nursery ground for several marine spices.
  4. Seaweed ecosystem- seaweed contains many trace elements, minerals, protein, iodine, vitamin, etc. The food products like jelly, jam, pickle are manufactured.
  5. Pelagic Ecosystem-Most productive ecosystem in the marine ecosystem; maximum diversity is reported to occur in this region; sensitive to most environmental changes. Pelagic is upper portion of the sea water column where in different types marine organisms live
  6. Benthic Ecosystem- Productivity is relatively less to pelagic ecosystem; diversity is minimum, marine animals prefer this ecosystem. The Benthic ecosystem is the deeper part of the ocean where the sun light cannot reach. Even in the deepest ocean where light cannot reach millions of animals, bacteria live.
The tidal (low and high) zone is very important for organisms they live both in soil, water and need sunlight. In addition to it, tidal energy is itself a resource used by man to generate power. Another very important non extractable and commercial resource is navigable routes. This resource has expanded with the growingtechnological capabilities.
However, there are some common threats to marine ecosystem such as invasive alien species, overfishing, climate change, population, poverty, cyclone, tsunami, and earth quake and illiteracy are the major causes for decline in marine ecosystem.
India’s first research institute ‘National center for Marine and Biodiversity’ emphasis on coastal and marine area management and ensure sustainable development and hazard risk management. 
All Indian Ocean Rim countries struggle with same issues and a lot of conservation effort is required to protect these resources. A common regional framework should be made to solve common problems.

National Water Development Agency (NWDA)

  •  NABARD has sanctioned loan worth Rs. 19,702 crore to National Water Development Agency (NWDA) for 50 irrigation projects from 11 States under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF).
  • It is part of the government’s vision to double the farmers’ income by 2022.
  • This loan is part of the Central share of assistance to State Governments and will ensure front loading of resources so that the identified incomplete irrigation projects under Pradhan Mandtri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY) are executed in time.
  • This would help complete not only the irrigation projects but also the Command Area Development works which are central to ensure full utilisation of irrigation potential so created.
  • Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) was set up by NABARD.
About Long term irrigation Fund:
  • In a move that aims to address the perennial irrigation water crisis affecting rural India, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and NABARD had operationalise the Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) to be instituted in NABARD as part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).
  • The Fund, with an initial corpus of about Rs 20,000 crore, was announced in the Union Budget 2016-17 by Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley.
  • Corpus would be raised by way of budgetary resources and market borrowings to fund fast tracking of implementation of incomplete major & medium irrigation projects.
About Pradhan Mandtri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY)
  • The major objective of PMKSY is to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies (More crop per drop), enhance recharge of aquifers and introduce sustainable water conservation practices by exploring the feasibility of reusing treated municipal waste water for peri-urban agriculture and attract greater private investment in precision irrigation system.
  • PMKSY has been conceived amalgamating ongoing schemes viz. Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR,RD&GR), Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) of Department of Land Resources (DoLR) and the On Farm Water Management (OFWM) of Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC).
  • The scheme will be implemented by Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development.
  • Ministry of Rural Development is to mainly undertake rain water conservation, construction of farm pond, water harvesting structures, small check dams and contour bunding etc. MoWR, RD &GR, is to undertake various measures for creation of assured irrigation source, construction of diversion canals, field channels, water diversion/lift irrigation, including development of water distribution systems. Ministry of Agriculture will promote efficient water conveyance and precision water application devices like drips, sprinklers, pivots, rain-guns in the farm “(Jal Sinchan)”, construction of micro-irrigation structures to supplement source creation activities, extension activities for promotion of scientific moisture conservation and agronomic measures
  • Programme architecture of PMKSY will be to adopt a ‘decentralized State level planning and projectised execution’ structure that will allow States to draw up their own irrigation development plans based on District Irrigation Plan (DIP) and State Irrigation Plan (SIP). It will be operative as convergence platform for all water sector activities including drinking water & sanitation, MGNREGA, application of science & technology etc. through comprehensive plan. State Level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) chaired by the Chief Secretary of the State will be vested with the authority to oversee its implementation and sanction projects.
  • The programme will be supervised and monitored by an Inter-Ministerial National Steering Committee (NSC) will be constituted under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister with Union Ministers from concerned Ministries. A National Executive Committee (NEC) will be constituted under the Chairmanship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog to oversee programme implementation, allocation of resources, inter ministerial coordination, monitoring & performance assessment, addressing administrative issues etc.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Law Commission suggestions on draft Bill on child abduction

  •  The 21st Law Commission in its first report has recommended a series of changes in the draft Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill-2016, proposed by the Women and Child Development Ministry.
  • One-year jail term for wrongful retention or removal of a child from the custody of a parent. The offenders may include one of the parents or family, relatives and others.
  • Three months punishment for wilful misrepresentation or concealment of fact as regards the location or information about the child or for voluntarily preventing the safe return of the child.
Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016
  • Union ministry of women and child development (WCD) has drafted the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016, which facilitates prompt return of any child under 16 who has been “wrongfully removed to or retained in other state which is not his/her habitual residence.”
  • This bill will provide an enabling legislation to implement the provision of the Hague convention that provides an expeditious method for returning a child.
  • Signing the convention will ensure enforcement of custody orders of foreign courts.
  • Presently, a parent takes advantage of the absence of a domestic law and knows if he/she brings the child to India it will be difficult to enforce the custody order of a foreign court.
  • The draft law mandates setting up of a central authority, to be headed by a joint secretary level officer, where an aggrieved parent can approach for the return of a child. The authority would have the power to decide all such cases.
  • In the US and Europe, inter-parental child abduction is a serious offence where the accused parent can go to jail on charges of abduction.
  • As of now, in most of the matters decided by the Indian court, the criminal offence and its penalties are often not pressed by the aggrieved parent to enable a settlement in the matter in the best interest of the child

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Global Hunger Index, 2016

  •  India ranked 97th out of 118 countries on the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Global Hunger Index (GHI) in 2016, behind Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, among others, but ahead of Pakistan and three other Asian countries. It was positioned at 80 out of 104 countries the previous year.
  • India is faring worse than all its neighbours China (29), Nepal (72), Myanmar (75), Sri Lanka (84) and Bangladesh (90), except for Pakistan (107) in measures of hunger.
  • According to the latest Global Hunger Index data, hunger levels in developing countries may have fallen 29% since 2000, but India is still rated as a country with ‘serious’ hunger levels in the 2016.
  • India was ranked 83 in 2000 and 102 in 2008 with GHI scores of 38.2 and 36 respectively. This implies that, while hunger levels in India have diminished somewhat, the improvement has been outstripped by several other countries. Hence India's ranking is worse today than it was 15 years ago. In fact, Bangladesh was ranked 84 with a score of 38.5 in 2000, just below India. But in 2016, it has improved beyond India with a GHI score of 27.1 and a rank of 90 to India's 97.
  • Overall, global hunger levels are down by about 29% compared to 2000. Twenty countries, including Rwanda, Cambodia, and Myanmar, have reduced their GHI scores by over 50% each since 2000. And, for the second year in a row, no developing country for which data was available featured in the "extremely alarming" category .
  • While India has improved its score on various parameters over the past few years, two out of five children below five years of age are stunted in India. Stunting measures chronic malnutrition and affected children’s height would be considerably below the average for their age.
  • The GHI is calculated by taking into account four key parameters: shares of undernourished population, wasted and stunted children aged under 5, and infant mortality rate of the same age group.
About Global hunger index:
  • The report is released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • The hunger index ranks countries based on undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting (low weight for height) and child stunting (low height for age).
  • The GHI ranks countries on a 100-point scale. Zero is the best score (no hunger), and 100 is the worst, although neither of these extremes is reached in practice.
  • Although India runs two of the world's biggest children's nutrition programmes, the ICDS for children under 6 years and the mid-day meal programme for school going kids up to the age of 14, malnutrition continues to haunt India.
  • Endemic poverty, unemployment, lack of sanitation and safe drinking water, and lack of effective healthcare are main factors for the sorry state.
  • Compared with previous years, marked improvement has taken place in child stunting and under-5 mortality rates but the proportion of undernourished people has declined only marginally from 17% in 2000 to the current 15%. The share of wasted children has inched down similarly.
  • If hunger continues to decline at the same rate it has been falling since 1992, around 45 countries, including India, Pakistan, Haiti, Yemen, and Afghanistan will still have ‘moderate’ to ‘alarming’ hunger scores in year 2030, far short of the United Nations’ goal to end hunger by that year.
  • India is slated to become the world’s most populous nation in just six years, and it’s crucial that we meet this milestone with a record of ensuring that the expected 1.4 billion Indians have enough nutritious food to lead healthy and successful lives.
  • Countries must accelerate the pace at which they are reducing hunger or we will fail to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal.
  • Ending global hunger is certainly possible, but it is up to all of us that we set the priorities right to ensure that the government, the private sector and civil society devote the time and resources necessary to meet this important goal.
  • The hunger index numbers indeed throw some serious questions on the course of ongoing government programmes to alleviate poverty and malnutrition in the country, and whether we have prioritised this problem the way it should be.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Public Debt Management Cell

 The Centre has decided to set up an independent agency to mange its debt. As a precursor, the Finance Ministry will soon set up the Public Debt Management Cell (PDMC) in the Budget Division.
About PDMC:
  • The PDMC, which will have only advisory functions to avoid conflict with statutory functions of the RBI, will plan government borrowings, including market borrowings and domestic borrowing activities like issuance of Sovereign Gold Bond.
  • The PDMC will also manage government’s liabilities, monitor cash balances, improve cash forecasting, foster a liquid and efficient market for government securities along with advising government on matters related to investment, capital market operations, administration of interest rates on small savings, among others.
  • PDMC will develop an Integrated Debt Database System (IDMS) as a centralised database for all liabilities of government, on a near real-time basis and undertake requisite preparatory work for PDMA. PDMC will have 15 experienced debt managers from Budget Division, RBI, Middle Office and other government units
Functions of PDMC:
  • The PDMC will at present only have advisory functions to avoid “any conflict” with the statutory powers of the RBI.
  • To start with, it would plan the borrowings of the Centre, manage the Central government liabilities and monitor the cash balances.
  • It would also develop an integrated debt database system as a centralised data base for all liabilities of the government on a near real time basis.
  • It will also advise government on matters related to investment, capital market operations and interest rates on small savings as well as undertake requisite preparatory work for PDMA.
Composition of PDMC:
  • The PDMC would be staffed with 15 “experienced” debt managers from the Budget Division, RBI, middle office and other units and would be under the overall supervision of the Joint Secretary (Budget), Department of Economic Affairs.
  • PDMC will allow separation of debt management functions from RBI to the Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) in a gradual and seamless manner, without causing market disruptions. The cell will be converted to a statutory authority in about two years’ time. This move would help divest the RBI of its dual and often conflicting roles as the banker and manager of the Centre’s borrowing.
  • PDMA will will bring both India's external borrowings and domestic debt under one roof.
  • The RBI walks a tight rope while balancing management of public debt and controlling inflation. So, creating the PDMC is a welcome move, which will help the RBI focus on controlling inflation
  • The idea of separating public debt management from the Reserve Bank was initiated in 1991. Since then, a plethora of reports culminating in the comprehensive Aziz committee report in September 2008 have vouched for it. Most OECD countries have established dedicated debt management units. Several emerging economies like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and South Africa, have also restructured and consolidated debt management. It said there are tangible benefits of PDMA, the most important being divorcing borrowing costs from the repo rate.
  • The need to set up a separate debt management agency was also driven by the fact that RBI sets monetary policy as well as sells bonds on behalf of the government. It was felt that the central bank may be tempted to try and sell bonds at high prices, while keeping interest rates low, leading to a conflict of interest.

Janani Suraksha Yojana

 A new study conducted by India Human Development Survey (IHDS) brings in first conclusive evidence of the role played by Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) in reducing ‘socioeconomic disparities’ existing in maternal care.
Main highlights of the study:
  • According to the study, JSY has led to an enhancement in the utilisation of health services among all groups especially among the poorer and underserved sections in the rural areas, thereby reducing the prevalent disparities in maternal care.
  • Three key services of maternal care were used for the analysis: full antenatal care (full ANC), safe delivery, and postnatal care.
  • The increase in utilisation of all three maternal healthcare services between the two rounds was remarkably higher among illiterate or less educated and poor women.
  • The usage of all three maternal healthcare services by the OBC, Dalit, Adivasis and Muslim women increased between the surveys.
  • After the implementation of the JSY, there was generally a narrowing of the gap between the less educated and more educated women and between the poorer and richer women.
  • It was found that women in their early twenties were more likely to avail of each of the three maternal health care services as compared to their older women. Also, the incidence of women availing maternal healthcare services decreases with the increase in the number of children they have delivered.
  • The study notes that the gap in access to healthcare between the marginalised group of women and those who are financially better-off has declined since the advent of the JSY program. But, inequality in access to maternal care persists
About Janani Suraksha Yojana:
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Rural Health Mission (NHM). It is being implemented with the objective of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality by promoting institutional delivery among poor pregnant women. The scheme is under implementation in all states and Union Territories (UTs), with a special focus on Low Performing States (LPS).
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana was launched in April 2005 by modifying the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS).
  • The NMBS came into effect in August 1995 as one of the components of the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP).
  • The scheme was transferred from the Ministry of Rural Development to the Department of Health & Family Welfare during the year 2001-02.
  • The NMBS provides for financial assistance of Rs. 500/- per birth up to two live births to the pregnant women who have attained 19 years of age and belong to the below poverty line (BPL) households.
  • When JSY was launched the financial assistance of Rs. 500/- , which was available uniformly throughout the country to BPL pregnant women under NMBS, was replaced by graded scale of assistance based on the categorization of States as well as whether beneficiary was from rural/urban area.
  • States were classified into Low Performing States and High Performing States on the basis of institutional delivery rate i.e. states having institutional delivery 25% or less were termed as Low Performing States (LPS) and those which have institutional delivery rate more than 25% were classified as High Performing States (HPS).
  • Accordingly, eight erstwhile EAG states namely Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Odisha and the states of Assam & Jammu & Kashmir were classified as Low Performing States. The remaining States were grouped into High Performing States.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Indus Water Treaty: Can it become the Handle?

TOPIC: General Studies 2
  • India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Brief of Indus Water Treaty
The Indus water treaty divided the use of rivers and canals between two countries. Pakistan obtained exclusive rights for the three western rivers- Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. India retained rights for three eastern rivers- Ravi, Beas and Satluj.

The confrontation between India and Pakistan following the attack at Uri army base has resulted in various options being discussed as far as India is concerned. While there are people who want instant retaliation, for others the diplomatic option is better. The spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs made a statement which raised the issue of Indus water treaty. The statement hinted that the Indus water treaty can be used as an option to teach Pakistan a lesson.
The genesis of the treaty lies in Pakistan’s absolute fear which is part genuine, part propaganda. It was in fear that if India builds dams on the rivers, Pakistan would be starved of water. Thus, in 1960, India entered into a treaty mediated by the World Bank in order to give Pakistan an assurance that it need not fear anything from India for water. This was done inspite of knowing the fact that this treaty was more beneficial to Pakistan as the western rivers have more water than the eastern rivers. When the treaty gave western rivers to India, India did not had any access to its waters except for only non-consumptive purposes. With this treaty, India hoped that Pakistan will feel more secure and therefore be less hostile towards India. However, this has never been realised.
In India thus, there has been a feeling in the significant sections of public opinion, who know about the treaty, that it has not served its purpose and has been far too generous. In J&K, the treaty is very unpopular as people feel that they have been riddled out of their fair share of water. Instead of using the river water that flows through their state, they have to rely on water which flow majorly through Punjab and Haryana.
The treaty has been so far upheld because India never raised it in case of any hostile bilateral relations between two nations. Also, India takes its treaties seriously. After 1972, India did not want third party mediation since the dispute mechanism clauses of the treaty provided that ultimately there will be representatives assigned by World Bank. And because of India’s such goodwill gesture, Pakistan has taken undue advantage of it and objected every project that India has tried to be built on western rivers even if they are for non-consumptive purposes.
What is creating fear in Pakistan now?
Himalayan rivers carry lot of silt. At present, Pakistan’s main dam is Mangla dam. 30% of dam is silted and thereafter there is no place for storage. Kalabagh dam was planned between Sindh and Punjab border but stuck in interstate disputes. Thus, there are looming water crisis. Adding to the fire, the jihadis are spreading rumours that India has some kind of tap which they will shut and they all will be ruined because of non-availability of water. Thus, it is a measure to whip up the sentiments and create sense of fear and have succeeded to some extent.
Pakistan gets 135 million acre (ma) water whereas it does not have any plans to use not more than 105 ma. About 40 ma of water goes to sea in Pakistan. As against this, Punjab and Haryana need about 5-10 ma more water. So, India can renegotiate to divert from western to eastern rivers to solve the problems. But this problem has to be handled diplomatically and not by terminating a treaty. India has never mentioned Indus treaty as a response matter to any crisis. The idea that it can be used as a response measure to such a crisis is yet to be evaluated. Terminating a treaty does not hold much significance as there are no dams on Indus, Chenab or Jhelum to stop the water flow. Building dams and other reservoirs takes years to construct and operate. Hence, the water will anyway flow to Pakistan. But, as a long term measure, India has to renegotiate the treaty with fresh terms, where India gets some access to western river waters.
Why has India not utilised western river waters?
Because, every time India started a project, the Pakistanis objected and put a stop to it. The dispute mechanism of the treaty was bizarre. It included third party would be chief justice of USA Supreme Court, Lord chief justice of UK as they held great importance during those times. Now that there is no third party involvement, India had to solve all the issues bilaterally. Hence, India could not use the water at all, even for non-consumptive purposes which the treaty provided. If India wants, it had to satisfy the Pakistanis, but they were never satisfied despite of endless rounds of discussion between Indus water commissioners. (Recent disputes over Baglihar and Kishenganga where Pakistan objected towards it.)
Should the Indus Treaty be re-considered?
Pakistan has mismanaged its waters and despite all that, the treaty has been upheld by India. Still Pakistan accuses that India has been dubious on waters. But, if Indus Water treaty is being discussed as a response mechanism to Uri attack, it has to be part of well-thought out policy and strategy. It can’t be a kneejerk reaction and pandering to public opinion.
India is entitled to respond to the options in the background of the attacks and India does have some kind of strategic advantage with respect to Indus water treaty. But, India would not compromise on the quality and quantity of water as it is a functioning democracy with democratic and human ideals. However, this doesn’t close the option of re-negotiating the treaty. J&K has had grievances and they were not addressed adequately, thus, it might be an opportunity to do it. But, it might open the Pandora’s box. But, last time World Bank mediated, but these times certainly don’t present the platform where anything can be negotiated with Pakistan.
In 1960, it was a very simple and well-thought treaty. Pakistan received 80% of the water. It was the time when the natural flow teri dominated the field where the lower riparian had an upper hand. After 55 years, the treaty has created problem in Indian essence. India’s dependence on eastern rivers has not been sufficient to meet all requirements.
Conclusion- Will there be Indus treaty abrogation?
Most likely not. This is the government’s way of telling Pakistan that it is tired of its proxy wars. Now, the ‘water’ has crossed its limit and it should not expect any sympathies.
Anyway, the mention of Indus water treaty was not the suo motu statement of MEA spokesperson but was responding to a question.
All treaties are based on set of objectives which require goodwill and good faith. Treaties have been abrogated by the countries in the past even for the treaties with timeline. In contrast, the Indus water treaty does not even provide specific time frame.
If India thinks that Pakistan is an enemy state and if Pakistan’s actions over last 56 years have demonstrated it conclusively, then this can be part of package which teaches Pakistan a lesson on how India is capable of retaliating in manner it wants.
Connecting the dots:
  • Water is lifeline of any nation. If India brings up Indus water treaty, Pakistan will feel threatened and this is what India aims at. Will this strategy be successful to tell Pakistan to mend its ways? Explain.

Monday, 10 October 2016

New UN Secretary General to be appointed

*10 October 2016* 🎤

Today's *_News Juice_*  features the following articles:

*1.*  New UN Secretary General to be appointed (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)

*2.*  Janani Suraksha Yojana pays dividends: Study (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper II)

*3.*  Frivolous’ RTI pleas is becoming problematic, PMO issues advisory (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)

*4.*  Foreign medical graduates fail MCI exam (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)

*5.*  Need of Simpler law for Land Acquisition (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)

*_⛳ News of the Day_*

*New UN Secretary General to be appointed (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)*

The United Nations Security Council’s has a broad consensus in nominating António Guterres for the post of Secretary-General.

*Challenges before new Secretary General*
Mr. Guterres will have to expediently attend to a number of pressing issues, including the worsening international refugee crisis and the scourge of terrorism, both in part linked to the debilitating Syrian war.

An equally challenging agenda point facing Mr. Guterres is to find creative ways to bridge the chasm between Western powers on the one hand and Russia and China on the other.

*Credentials of Mr. Guterres*
His experience as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will come in handy as he goes about negotiating to find shelter for and rehabilitate refugees from Syria, who at last count numbered well above four million worldwide.

*Procedure for appointment*
Article 97 of the United Nations Charter determines that the Secretary-General is "appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.”

As the recommendation must come from the Security Council, any of the five permanent members of the Council can veto a nomination.

Despite the Charter giving the General Assembly provisions to influence the selection process, the chosen Secretaries-General reflect that the selection process remains in the control of the Permanent Members.

Some customs have developed regarding the selection process, such as that the appointee may not be a citizen of any of the Security Council's five permanent members.

Last week, 13 of the 15 members of the Council, including the five veto-wielding permanent members, sent the name of the former Portugal Prime Minister to the General Assembly for final approval.

If the Assembly passes his nomination, then as the UN’s ninth Secretary-General

*About Secretary General*
The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UNSG or just SG) is the head of the United Nations Secretariat, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General also acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations.

The current Secretary-General is Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who took office on 1 January 2007. His first term expired on 31 December 2011. He was re-elected, unopposed, to a second term on 21 June 2011. His successor is to be appointed by the General Assembly in 2016 and is expected to be António Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

India Egypt Relations

India and Egypt, two of the world’s oldest civilizations, have enjoyed a history of close contact from ancient times. Even prior to the Common Era, Ashoka’s edicts refer to his relations with Egypt under Ptolemy-II.
The relations between India and Egypt have had a general tone of cooperation and cordiality to them. Where the political dispensation in India towards Egypt has been almost unflinchingly favourable and supportive since its independence, it has been the political developments in Egypt that have had a major bearing on the trajectory of the bilateral relationship.
In modern times, Mahatma Gandhi and Saad Zaghloul shared common goals on the independence of their countries, a relationship that was to blossom into an exceptionally close friendship between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru, leading to a Friendship Treaty between the two countries in 1955. The Non-Aligned Movement, led by Nehru and Nasser, was a natural concomitant of this relationship.
Their commitment to socialism also kept both the leaders and countries drawn towards each other. After the end of the Nehru-Nasser era, the relationship between the two countries lost much of its old sheen. Subsequent leadership in both the countries has acknowledged the importance of the other, but there has been a discernible absence of any meaningful efforts from both sides to further strengthen the relationship.
Throughout the political turmoil in Egypt, India has consistently expressed solidarity with the people of Egypt appealing to the leadership to see the winds of change and address the aspirations of the youth.

Trade Relations: Export-Import
  • Egypt has traditionally been one of India’s most important trading partners in the African continent. The India-Egypt Bilateral Trade Agreement has been in operation since March 1978 and is based on the Most Favoured Nation clause.
  • India is the sixth largest trading partner of Egypt – the second largest export destination and tenth largest import source for Egypt. India’s imports from Egypt were worth US$ 1.74 billion during FY 2014-15. It is significant to note that there has been diversification in the export basket of Egyptian products to India.
  • Indian exports to Egypt during FY 2014-15 have been recorded at US$ 3.02 billion. The top five Indian exports during FY 2014-15 were mineral fuels, meat, vehicles and parts, cotton yarn and organic chemicals. While the top five Indian imports were crude petroleum, rock phosphate, inorganic chemicals, cotton and fruits.
  • Technical, Scientific cooperation and assistance has been a major part of the bilateral relationship.
  • In the field of scientific cooperation, ICAR and the Agricultural Research Center of the Ministry of Agriculture & Land of Egypt signed a MoU for cooperation in the field of agricultural research in March 1998. An Agreement on cooperation in science and technology was also signed in October 1995. Cooperation in agriculture and Science & Technology is implemented through biennial Executive Programmes.
Suez Canal upgrade 
The advantage of the Suez is that ships save as much as 10 nautical days at sea instead of sailing around Africa, and is today the fastest link between Asia and Europe accounting for almost 7% of global seaborne trade. It is a claim by economists that the project will not only expand (double) the capacity of the tonnage passing through the Suez Canal but more than double the annual revenue to $13.5 billion by 2023.  For a country like India which does not have overland access to markets of Europe and North Africa, the Suez Canal is its lifeline.
Egypt is also giving shape to the Suez Canal Area Development Project which would involve development of five new seaports in the three provinces surrounding the canal, a new industrial zone west of the Gulf of Suez, exclusive economic zones of around 460 around the waterway, huge fish farms, seven new tunnels to Sinai, a new Ismailia city, and a technology valley at Ismailia. India is looking to enhance its investment profile in these opportunities.
Pan Africa e-Network Project
  • The Pan Africa e-Network Project, one of the flagship programmes of the Indian Government to strengthen ties with Africa, has been operational through an E-learning Centre since July 2009 at Alexandria University.
  • The Tele-medicine Centre under the Project also became operational in November 2009 at the Centre for Women’s Health and Development in Alexandria. The Alexandria University will soon be ready to serve as regional centre for the entire North Africa region both for e-learning and tele-medicine.
Cultural Links
  • The Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) was set up in Cairo in 1992 to promote cultural cooperation between the two countries, through the implementation of the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP).
  • The Centre, in addition to popularising Indian culture through Hindi, Urdu, Yoga and meditation classes, occasional dance classes, seminars, exhibitions and also organizes cultural festivals.
  • The third edition of the ‘India by the Nile’ (IBN) annual India cultural held in Egypt from 29 March to 17 April 2015.
  • The three-week long festival included Manipuri folk dance, crafts exhibition and symposium, wellbeing experience to highlight the importance of yoga and Ayurveda, Bollywood Musical, Indian fusion band, street food festival,and a number of other events conceived and organised on the principle of public private partnership.
  • In its outreach activities, the Indian Cultural Centre also organizes India Day(s) in other governorates and universities.
  • Yoga has gained popularity in Egypt with 14 schools in Cairo, besides centres in other cities. The International Day of Yoga was celebrated with enthusiasm. There is also a growing interest in traditional medicines.
  • The strong ties between India and Egypt are evident from the affection towards India amongst the population. Three streets in Cairo are named after Indian leaders namely, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Dr. Zakir Hussein. There are two busts Mahatma Gandhi – one in Cairo at the Supreme Council of Culture and the other one in Alexandria at the Bibliotheca Alexandria.
Other areas of collaboration 
  • Both countries seek each other as important in establishing peace and stability in their region.
  • The two leaders highlighted the leading role of India and Egypt in the maintenance of international peace and security, being among the ten largest troop and police contributing countries in United Nations missions.
  • The increasing dominance of IS in Syria and Middle-Eastern countries is now laying its root in Egypt also which is a great threat to Egyptian denizens.
  • Latest developments in West Asia and North Africa region, the spread of extremism and radicalization and the scourge of terrorism are the gravest threat to international security and peace.
  • There is an urgent need for cessation of hostilities in Syria and expressed concern over humanitarian crisis in the country and India-Egypt share a common ideology on the issue.
  • India-Egypt supports the people and government of Iraq in their efforts to overcome the existing crisis to uphold Iraq’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • Egypt is also an important source of crude and oil for India.
  • The magnitude of the  Zohr gas find raises again the prospect of export of Egyptian LNG, and with the recent expansion of the Suez Canal – even to the Asian market competing with Qatari and Iranian gas exports. The discovery of Zohr proclaims the East Mediterranean as the new frontier in oil and gas production.
Latest Visit of Egyptian President to India on 1-3 September, 2016
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said Egypt and India will build a “robust defence and security cooperation.”
  • will work on evacuation of people from areas hit by natural disasters or conflicts.
  • India and Egypt will upgrade economic and trade ties, increase mutual visits, intensify counter terror cooperation, and work on renewable energy.
  • An Agreement on maritime transport which was described by Mr. Modi as an “important enabler” for increased trade and commerce.
  • agreed to further our defence and security engagement aimed at expanding defence trade, training and capacity building, greater information and operational exchanges to combat terrorism and cooperation on emerging challenges of cyber security.
  • Both leaders noted the importance of cultural exchange and agreed there should be more cultural and academic exchanges to promote closer understanding and linkages, especially among the youth.
  • The two leaders agreed to expand cooperation in the field of space utilising India’s expertise in launching satellites and other advances in space technology.
  • The two leaders agreed that a special and enlarged “India by the Nile Festival” would be held in 2017 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of India’s independence. They also welcomed the proposal to have the inaugural “Egypt by the Ganga Festival” in 2017.
Other potential areas of collaboration 
  • India-Egypt dynamics has all the components of a very strong bilateral engagement. It is time to take the next leap forward.
  • Egypt has traditionally been one of India’s most important trading partners, and currently we are the second largest destination for Egypt’s exports. However, this can be increased significantly. We have yet to fully tap sectors like textiles, apparel machinery, automotive components, chemicals and consumer goods.
  • Manufacturing, too, offers some great prospects. In positioning India as a manufacturing and R&D hub under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, some serious exploration is required of the biggest strength of Egypt, which is also its key business driver — the country’s geo-strategic location. A manufacturing base in Egypt would allow our industry to access markets in Europe, Africa and West Asia.
  • Infrastructure is another area of opportunity. India’s experience in developing economic corridors, metro projects, housing and urban development would be valuable to Indian players interested in participating at the Suez Canal Economic Zone and other similar projects.
  • The Digital India Programme could be useful in Egypt’s development needs such as e-government solutions, new banking platforms, information management and low cost IT parks among others.
  • There are also emerging areas such as solar energy where India and Egypt come across as natural partners since the two countries already have an MoU on Renewable Energy Cooperation. There is tremendous scope for enhancement of such cooperation.
  • India could also tap Egypt with its huge gas resources as a top priority source of fertilisers like urea, and make it an important partner in its quest for food security.
  • Further, the two countries can work together on sectors such as SME and pharma as well.
  • Nurturing of entrepreneurial habits is critical today to fuel the economic engine of any economy and Egypt is no exception. The ‘Startup India’ movement to boost entrepreneurship at the grassroot levels paves the way for collaboration between India and Egypt.
  • Educators and capacity building institutions from both sides could collaborate to find mechanisms to foster entrepreneurship and instil competitiveness.

For India, better relations with Egypt not only present an opportunity to build on historical ties, but also to forge an enduring partnership to meet emerging global challenges of energy security, terrorism and climate change.
With the passage of time India has emerged as an important player in the world. With a stable democracy, growing economy and development in science and technology it offers a window of several opportunities for cooperation. Egypt is emerging from the turmoil of Arab Spring while simultaneously facing a number of security and economic challenges. The current leadership in both countries has shown deep interest in reviving the bilateral ties; thus both must find issues of common concern to cooperate on, which would give a much needed thrust to the relationship

Friday, 7 October 2016

National Mission on Bioeconomy

Economic Affairs Sustainable Development View Recent Current Affairs

  •  The National Mission on Bioeconomy has launched in Shillong, Meghalaya by the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD).
  • The mission is unique to south-east Asia and India has become one of the few countries to tap bio-resources.
About this mission:
  • The purpose of the mission is to boost rural economy by utilizing bio-resources. Besides, its optimum utilization can create a large number of jobs at village level.
  • It also focuses on sustainable utilization of renewable biological resources for food, bio-energy and bio-based products through knowledge-based approaches.
  • It has potential to generate new solutions for the planet’s major challenges in the field of energy, food, health, water, climate change and deliver social, economic and environmental benefits.
  • Bioeconomy is a new concept and few countries like US, Canada, European Union (EU) and Australia have started initiatives in this field. India is the fast-growing bioeconomy at US 35 billion dollars in 2015, which can even rise to USD 100 billion in future.
  • The Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD): It functions under the Department of Biotechnology, Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • Meghalaya and NE India being amongst the World’s top 10 biodiversity hotspots, has great potential to develop a vibrant bioeconomy for the socio-economic development of the region.
  • USA, Canada, European Union and Australia, have established initiatives on Bioeconomy. However, India does not have a dedicated strategy and policy on Bioeconomy, even though it is rich in biodiversity. A latest estimate pegs India’s fast-growing Bioeconomy at US$35 billion in 2015, which can rise even to US$100 billion.
  • National Mission on Bioeconomy envisages the development of a roadmap for an actionable policy recommendation involving all stakeholders for the transformation of India through job creation from small scale livelihood enterprises to commercial scale production for increased economic growth through technological packages to increase primary production, value addition of the unique bioresources through industrial biotechnology and provision of bio services, with tailored packages that are relevant to specific regions across India.


 Economic Affairs | Fiscal system | View Recent Current Affairs

  •  The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved ‘Project SAKSHAM’, a New Indirect Tax Network (Systems Integration) of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC).
  • The total project cost involved is Rs.2256 crore which will be incurred over a period of seven years.
  • It will help in: a) implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST); b) extension of the Indian Customs Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) and ; c) other taxpayer-friendly initiatives under Digital India and Ease of Doing Business of Central Board of Excise and Customs.
  • The implementation strategy for the project will be to ensure readiness of CBEC's IT systems by April, 1, 2017, when GST is to be introduced. The upgrade of the IT systems will be carried out while keeping the existing Tax-payer services running.
  • With the implementation of GST, the Union government expects the number of taxpayers under indirect tax laws to increase to about 65 lakh from the current 36 lakh. CBEC’s IT systems need to integrate with the GSTN for processing of registration, payment and returns data sent by GSTN systems to CBEC.
  • It will also act as a front-end for other modules like audit, appeal and investigation. However, there is no overlap in the GST-related systems of GSTN and CBEC.
  • IT infrastructure is also required for continuation of CBEC’s e-services in customs, central excise and service tax, implementation of taxpayer services, extension of SWIFT initiative and integration with government initiatives such as e-Taal, e-Nivesh and e-Sign.
  • Introduction of GST will result in a several-fold increase in the number of taxpayers and resultant document load on the system.
  • CBEC's current IT system was set up in 2008. It cannot cater to the increased load under GST without an immediate upgrade of its IT Infrastructure. Further, CBEC has implemented the Indian Customs Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) and is integrating other partner agencies involved in Customs clearance in order to make the process simple and fast.
  • The Customs EDI system which is currently operational at about 140 locations in India has to be extended to many more locations with improved response time and better service delivery. Taxpayers have to be given a facility for Upload of Digitally Signed Scanned Documents in order to reduce the physical interface with tax authorities and to increase the speed of clearance.
  • CBEC also aims to introduce mobile services for taxpayers and departmental users to increase the outreach of its services.