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GS-1


Social Issues

Max, Fortis effect: IMA for self-regulation for doctors

Context

No hospital can force its consultants to work on targets and the choice of drugs and devices should rest with the doctors based on the affordability of a patient and not the hospital management

What has happened?

The Indian Medical Association has urged State governments to subsidise emergencies in the private sector and create a reimbursement mechanism

Views of IMA president

At a press conference IMA president said that,

  • It is time for the medical profession to introspect and come out with self-regulation procedures. From today onwards, all doctors in the country shall choose affordable drugs
  • Referring to the Max Hospital case of a premature baby being wrongly declared dead by the doctors, he said such errors happen due to accident and not intentionally
  • The doctor-patient trust is experiencing a downward spiral in the country as people are looking at the medical profession with suspicion. It is disheartening to see the erosion in trust, and we want to make it more transparent. The doctor-to-patient ratio in India is skewed due to which the doctors are under a lot of stress — they are also human beings
  • It is absurd to victimise a medical practitioner if a patient does not respond to treatment
  • We also appeal to the State governments to come out with an urgent ordinance for ‘one drug-one company-one price policy’
  • Doctors should actively participate in ensuring that no hospital sells any item priced higher than the Market Rate Price. No service charges should be added to procure drugs from outside

Powering rural healthcare (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

Around 38 million Indians rely on health facilities without electricity. Without access to regular power supply, numerous life-saving interventions cannot be undertaken

What has happened?

A study, ‘Powering Primary Healthcare through Solar in India: Lessons from Chhattisgarh’, published recently by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and supported by Oxfam India has evaluated 147 primary healthcare centres (PHCs) across 15 districts in Chhattisgarh

What is the study about?

It highlights the role of solar energy in bridging the gaps in electricity access in rural healthcare facilities

What is a PHC?

Primary Health Centres (PHC) are the cornerstone of rural healthcare. Primary health centres and their sub-centres are supposed to meet the health care needs of rural population. Each PHC covers a population of 1,00,000 and is spread over about 100 villages. A Medical Officer, Block Extension Educator, one female Health Assistant, a compounder, a driver and laboratory technician look after the PHC. It is equipped with a jeep and necessary facilities to carry out small surgeries.

  • The PHCs are established and maintained by the State Governments under the Minimum Needs Programme (MNP) and Basic Minimum Services Programme (BMS). At present 14 paramedical and other staff support a Medical Officer. A PHC acts as a referral unit for 6 Sub Centres. It has 4 – 6 beds for patients. The activities of Primary Health Centres involve curative, preventive, primitive and Family Welfare Services

Situation of PHCs vis-à-vis electrification

In rural India, PHCs provide the last-mile delivery of healthcare services

  • The Rural Health Statistics 2016 data find that India has around 25,000 PHCs, and of the functional PHCs, 6% are not electrified
  • Further, the fourth round of District Level Household and Facility Survey data indicates that one in every two PHCs in rural India is either un-electrified or suffers from irregular power supply

How will solar energy help?

The use of renewable energy sources such as solar could help PHCs augment or even substitute traditional grid-based power systems

  • This would also help the transition towards a low-carbon, climate-smart healthcare system
  • Moreover, solar systems can facilitate reliable and uninterrupted electricity supply critical for 24/7 emergency services, deliveries and neonatal care, as well as inpatient and outpatient services

The Chhattisgarh story

High power deficit caused high IMR

Districts in Chhattisgarh with a higher share of power-deficit PHCs (with less than 20 hours of electricity supply per day from the grid), showed a higher infant mortality rate (IMR), a higher under-five mortality rate, and a lower proportion of fully immunised children

Installation of off-grid solar PV systems

In order to augment electricity supply across PHCs in power-surplus Chhattisgarh, the Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA), between 2012 and 2016, installed off-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) systems of 2kW each in 570 PHCs

Benefit of solar initiatives in Chhattisgarh

  • Admission of more patients: The CEEW study found that the solar-powered PHCs in Chhattisgarh admitted over 50% more patients and conducted almost twice the number of child deliveries in a month compared to the power-deficit PHCs without a solar system
  • Improvement in ability to store vaccines & drugs: The ability of solar-powered PHCs to maintain cold chains to store vaccines and drugs and operate new-born care equipment has significantly improved. Almost one-fourth of the power-deficit PHCs in Chhattisgarh relied exclusively on solar as a backup to run cold chain equipment. Continuous electricity supply must be ensured to cold chains at PHCs, especially in rural Chhattisgarh, which has an infant mortality rate that is higher than the average for rural India
    • Increase in willingness for treatment at PHC: Further, patients showed more willingness to get admitted for treatment at the solar-powered PHCs due to facilities like running fans
  • Cost savings: Also, 90% of PHCs with solar systems reported cost savings due to lower electricity bills or reduced expenditure on diesel

Can solar systems be scaled up?

Scaling-up solar-powered systems across PHCs in rural India is dependent on three factors

  1. Recognising the critical nature of electricity access: The first is to recognise the critical nature of electricity access in the entire health system infrastructure. The Indian Public Health Standards has set minimum service-level benchmarks for all activities of PHCs, indicating that every PHC should have power supply with a back-up option. The National Health Policy 2017 reiterates the commitment to improve primary healthcare by strengthening infrastructure
  2. Adaptable solar systems: The second is the ability to adapt solar systems around the local needs and considerations of PHCs including the burden of disease, weather, terrain, and power availability. For example, disaster-prone areas that need blood storage units and other health services could invest in higher capacity systems or greater storage capacity
  3. Making ‘Solar for health’ a national priority: There must be a focus on making ‘Solar for Health’ a national priority. Scaling solar systems (5kW) across PHCs to power healthcare services could contribute to about 160 MW of decentralised energy capacity. Solar power can be extended to cover sub-centres (1kW systems) and community health centres (8kW systems), where the total potential would be around 415 MW

Conclusion

Solar power for healthcare in Chhattisgarh is a crucial opportunity, with evidence that scaling this initiative can meet national and regional ambitions for energy access and improved health outcomes


GS-2


International issues

The power play in peacekeeping (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

Though Indian troops have led the way, the returns in UN power play have been low. The

contrast with China is stark

No Media Coverage to UN Peacekeeping Operations

Media coverage of peacekeeping operations is an area with many gaps

Recent Incidence

Consider for example, an incident last week, where at least 15 peacekeepers and five soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were killed and numerous peacekeepers wounded by armed militants in one of the worst attacks on United Nations personnel. A local Islamist extremist group overran the remote base. Most of the dead and wounded are from Tanzania

Questions Raised

Was there any media coverage in India? It would have been a different story had they been troops from the West

China rising

  • Amid the buzz around Beijing taking centre stage in world affairs, the import of China’s deployment of its first peacekeeping helicopter unit in the peacekeeping mission in Darfur has been lost sight of
  • Beijing has become the largest troop contributor among the permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
  • China is now the third-largest contributor to the UN’s regular budget and the second-largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget.

How does this benefits China?

In a September 2017 report, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says: “China’s participation in UN operations offers… a low-cost means of demonstrating their commitment to global stability… and allay(s) fears about its military and economic strength.”

Not an Easy path for India

  • The UN, especially the UNSC, is a blue-blooded political body, notwithstanding its charter of considering all countries as equals
  • In practice, a nation’s voice is in proportion to what it contributes towards the UN, especially funds — India’s contribution is only 0.737% when compared to China’s 7.92% and the U.S.’s 22%
  • Troop contributions to peacekeeping do not get their due in UN power politics
  • Pivotal posts in UN missions have always been with major fund contributors.

Veto power

The CSIS report states that China has used its veto only 12 times, but two were cast where its economic interests were involved, like in Myanmar and Zimbabwe despite these being low on human rights records.

Vetoes Cast over territorial concerns

  • What is more worrisome, however, is that two vetoes were also cast “over concerns over territorial integrity pertaining to Taiwan”
  • China was against sending UN peacekeepers to Guatemala and Macedonia because they had established diplomatic ties with Taiwan

Coercive Actions by China against other nations too

When this self-serving act is linked with Beijing’s other recent coercive actions such as against Mongolia due to a Dalai Lama visit, and against Japan when it is said to have halted exports of rare minerals following the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain, the increasing front-lining of China in international affairs via the UN has an ominous ring.

China’s Committments

Peace force: In 2015, China committed a standby force of 8,000 peacekeepers and a permanent police squad for UN operations

African Interests: In addition, there is a 10-year $1 billion China-U.N. peace and development fund and $100 million in military assistance to the African Union

Peacekeeping a cover

Peacekeeping is said to be a cover for China to test its strengths in overseas deployments. The deployment of a People’s Liberation Army Navy submarine off the Africa coast for anti-piracy patrolling is to train its seamen in long-distance operations

Impacting India

Chinese involvement in peacekeeping, along with its higher funding contributions will put Beijing in the driver’s seat in formulating peacekeeping mandates, thereby affecting India in more ways than one

Concerns for India: Low Return at the UN for its contributions

  • Is India losing out despite having provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 UN peacekeeping missions over the past six decades?
  • We have also sent scarce aviation assets including Canberra bombers to a UN Mission in Congo in the 1960s and helicopters to Somalia, Sierra Leone and Sudan
  • The truth is that though our troops have been on the front line of facing danger (168 soldiers lost in UN operations, till May 2017), the returns in UN power play have been low

Will this continue?

It was perhaps not a troublesome issue until now considering India’s good relations with the other four permanent UNSC members, but will this continue with China rise in the UN, especially with U.S. President Donald Trump’s preoccupation elsewhere? Chinese opposition to India’s candidature for a UNSC seat and its repeated vetos on the Masood Azhar issue are unwelcome indicators

Conclusion

Peacekeeping missions are the raison d’etre of the UN and India’s generous contributions as far as peacekeeping troops are concerned should be key in its argument to have a greater say in the affairs of the UN. India must demand its pound of flesh.

In an elite club: On India’s Wassenaar entry

Context

India’s admittance into the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control regime, as its 42nd participating member is a big step forward in its quest for formal acceptance as a responsible nuclear power.

Fact

This has come a year after India made the request for membership

Wassenaar Agreement

  • The Wassenaar Arrangement was founded in 1996, and is clubbed with mechanisms such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Australia Group
  • Aim: Its stated aim is “to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations.”

A lesson in quiet Diplomacy

The Wassenaar Arrangement membership is also a lesson on the need for quiet diplomacy in sensitive nuclear issues, compared to the botched attempt to gain entry to the NSG last year

Fresh Momentum for NSG membership

Now that more and more countries are signing on to India’s steadily strengthening credentials in the nuclear area, there is hope that a fresh momentum will be imparted to a future bid for the NSG. It will not be easy

Australia Group

The Australia Group, which focusses on biological and chemical weapons, may be easier to crack given that China is not a member

Conclusion

The Wassenaar Arrangement will embed India deeper in the global non-proliferation architecture and enable access to critical technologies in the defence and space sectors

Need all-out push on terror: RIC

Context

Agreeing to uphold the rule of law in international affairs, Russia, India and China commended the victory of the Moscow-led counter-terrorism operation in Syria.

Syrian-led, Syrian-owned

  • After the 15th trilateral meeting of the three Foreign Ministers held here under the RIC grouping, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese and Russian counterparts Wang Yi and Sergey Lavrov urged for “Syrian-led, Syrian-owned” solution to the conflict and highlighted the need for dialogue to deal with the global “hotspots” such as North Korea and Ukraine.
  • The trilateral meeting also came out with a post-conflict plan for Syria.

No Pakistan

The statement however did not name Pakistan-based terror groups and individuals like Hafiz Saeed of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) even as Mr. Lavrov indicated that a re-evaluation of Pakistan’s role in the war on terror was under way

Economy

No WTO deal without food security: India

Context

India has said it cannot envisage any negotiated outcome, at the ongoing meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s apex decision-making body, which does not include successful resolution of the food security right issue.

Only Unconditional Solution acceptable

India has already made it clear that it will not accept a ‘permanent solution’ with onerous conditions that in turn make it very difficult for the (Indian) government or other developing countries to meet the food security needs of their people

View of the Developed Nations: A ploy to divide the developing countries

This is in the context of attempts by certain rich countries to wreck the broad unity among developing nations on a host of issues, by suggesting that countries such as India and China are currently emerging economies and reasonably strong in trade — unlike others in the developing world – and, therefore, such powerful nations that are still in the ‘developing’ category do not deserve to gain from the favourable treatment meant only for developing nations in WTO Agreements

Concerns expressed by India

Inordinate delay in appointment of new members to the (WTO’s) Appellate Body

The Backdrop: This statement comes in the backdrop of criticism against the US for blocking the re-appointment of judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body — a move that many say would undermine the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Mechanism, which is recognised as a fundamental pillar of the organisation due to it being a ‘fair, effective and efficient mechanism to solve trade problems

No’ to ‘new issues’

India opposed the endeavour of certain countries to include ‘new issues’ — such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and matters relating to small firms — in the ongoing Doha Round of negotiations (which started in 2001 with a ‘development agenda’), without first resolving outstanding issues including those relating to food security.

India pushing TFS (Trade Facilitation in Services)

  • India’s proposal for a Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement, which, among other things, aims to liberalise rules on movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for temporary work/projects.
  • A work programme for Services including Domestic Regulation and some elements of India’s TFS proposal, including Mode 4 (temporary movement of natural persons including professionals), can take the Services agenda forward

Asymmetry in farm subsidy norms

The WTO Agreement on Agriculture provides considerable flexibility to the developed members to provide huge subsidies and further, to concentrate these subsidies on a few products.

India’s View

This asymmetry needs to be addressed as a first step in agricultural reform through a post-Buenos Aires work programme without, however, shifting the burden of reduction of agricultural subsidies to developing countries.

Limiting harmful fisheries subsidies

India can agree to future work on this issue towards an outcome at the Ministerial Conference in 2019 that preserves the policy space for developing countries to support millions who depend on traditional fishing activity as the sole source of livelihood.

Conclusion

At a time when the global trade environment is extremely fragile, let this Ministerial Conference be an occasion for concluding the unfinished agenda of the Doha Work Programme, and collectively strive to preserve and revitalize the WTO.”

FRDI: ‘Depositors will be protected’

Context

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has categorically asserted that depositors would be “fully protected” in the event of a bank failure.

Backdrop: Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill 2017 is before the Joint Committee of Parliament

  • Mounting concerns about a proposed ‘bail-in’ clause in a draft legislation on financial resolution
  • bail-in’ clause, which allows for the cancellation or modification of bank deposits to shore up bank finances

View of the Govt.

About ₹2.11 lakh crore is being pumped in to strengthen the public sector banks. So no such question arises

Concern

If the clause is included in the Bill, then one of the impacts will be on the price of gold, which will shoot up

WTO: India hardens stand on e-commerce

Context

No to negotiations on binding rules in e-commerce; terms ‘investment facilitation and proposed norms on small firms’ as non-trade issues.

What happened?

India has hardened its position at the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) meeting here not only on issues relating to e-commerce, but also against investment facilitation as well as the proposed norms regarding participation of small firms in the global marketplace

The Issue: Moratorium adopted by WTO in 1998

On e-commerce, the issue pertains to a ‘moratorium’ that was included in the 1998 ‘Declaration on Global E-commerce,’ adopted by the WTO member nations in May 1998 at the global trade body’s second Ministerial Conference (MC). The MC is the WTO’s highest decision-making body.

What it stated?

According to the WTO, the 1998 declaration on the ‘moratorium’ stated that “member countries will continue their current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmission”.

Moratorium gets extended at every MC

This ‘moratorium’ – which is ‘temporary’ in nature — gets extended at every MC, which is held once in two years.

But this time India’s consent to the extension conditional

India said its decision on the matter will be subject to the decision of the other WTO members to extend a similar (‘temporary’)moratorium on Non-Violation Complaints (NVC) under the TRIPS (Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights agreement).

NVC

NVC refers to a situation where a “government can go to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body even when an agreement (of the WTO) has not been violated (by another country)

India’s concerns

  • Some countries, particularly from the developed world, are demanding a ‘permanent moratorium’ on imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions
  • India feels that such a move could reduce the negotiating leverage for developing countries to seek a ‘permanent moratorium’ on NVC.
  • Such a scenario would hurt the generic pharmaceuticals industry in the world, including in India
  • However, for the time being, WTO members have agreed not to use NVC, and this ‘temporary moratorium’ (agreement not to use NVC) keeps getting extended, like the one on electronic transmissions

Work Programme

India’s decision on granting its nod to moratorium on electronic transmissions will also be subject to other WTO members agreeing to continue the e-commerce discussions under a ‘Work Programme’ based on the existing mandate as well as guidelines in the relevant WTO bodies as set out in the Work Programme

India’s view

  • India’s view is that gains from e-commerce must not be confused with gains from negotiating binding rules in this area
  • It is for this reason that we support continuation of the 1998 Work Programme with its non-negotiating mandate.

On Other Issues

On investment facilitation and the proposed norms on small firms “shifting the priority from the Doha Development Agenda issues to non-trade issues like Investment Facilitation and small firms, for which there is no mandate, is difficult to accept


GS-3


Environment

Nagaland’s tourism showpiece attracts record visitors

Context

The Hornbill Festival of Nagaland attracted a record 2,43,214 visitors this year, a sharp climb compared to the previous years, a government official said.

10 days of festivities

The 10-day festival, which is the annual showpiece tourism event of the State, was inaugurated on December 1 — coinciding with the 54th Statehood Day celebrations — by President Ram Nath Kovind

Naga Heritage Village

The festival concluded at the picturesque Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, on Sunday amid mega bonfires and the tunes of Naga war cry and beats of traditional log drums reverberating in the background

Unity Dance

The massive turnout at the festival provided the visitors ample opportunity to take prized photos and getting a lowdown on some of the Naga cultural dances during the “Unity Dance” performed by the 17 tribes of the State.

Modified kiln a boon for bangle makers in Rajasthan 

Context

Technology has come to the aid of workers engaged in manufacturing of green bangles in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan

Freed them from toxic fumes causing respiratory diseases

The installation of a modified bangle kiln in Unch village, near Nadbai, has rescued them from toxic fumes which were earlier a major cause for respiratory diseases among them.

Kachera Clan

Labourers belonging to the Kachera clan have been manufacturing and selling green-coloured glass bangles for several decades in eastern Rajasthan, as women wear them as an important symbol on auspicious occasions and during rituals.

Traditional Kilns

  • These workers have traditionally been fabricating kilns of mud and clay and using tudi, made of vestiges of mustard crop, as fuel for heating these furnaces. The oval-shaped kilns produce smoke and fumes in huge quantity as well as high flames caused by melting of glass.
  • Poisonous elements emitted by the conventional kilns, on the other hand, directly enter into the bodies of labourers and cause diseases like asthma and tuberculosis, besides reducing their average age to less than 45 years.

RuTAG

Bharatpur-based Lupin Foundation has taken an initiative for modernisation of conventional kilns with the assistance of the Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) at Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi.

Modified Kiln

The modified kiln does not allow emission of fumes and toxic gases and its firebricks protect workers despite the kiln’s temperature touching as high as 1,400 degree Celsius

Endosulfan: SC issues notice to Kerala govt.:

Context

SC’s notice on a petition filed by Endosulfan victims

What has happened?

The Supreme Court has issued notice on a contempt of court petition filed by Endosulfan victims of Kerala for not complying with a January 2017 order of the court to disburse the entire compensation to all those who had been affected by the toxic pesticide within three months

Directions by SC

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has asked the State government to respond to the petition alleging wilful disobedience” on the part of the Kerala government in complying with the Supreme Court order of January 10, 2017

  • The contempt petition arraigns Kerala Chief Secretary K.M. Abraham as party

Demands of the petitioners

Besides the plea to initiate contempt of court action, the victims from Kerala’s most affected northern district of Kasargod have urged the court to direct the Chief Secretary to “disburse ₹5 lakh to the petitioners and to all other families of Endosulfan victims in the State of Kerala forthwith.”

Petitioners’ position

  • Petitioners argued that even a list prepared by the State government of victims entitled to get ₹5 lakh compensation came to around 6,000 persons. But, they contend, that there are several or numerous more victims, who have not been included in this list and are unable to pay for medical care
  • The State could not limit disbursement of the amount only to the persons included in the list maintained by it
  • Thousands of children already lost their lives due to the non-availability of proper medical care. The economic backwardness of the area prevents the persons like petitioners from giving proper care to their children on time

Unnamed persons in dire straits

These unnamed, forgotten victims continued to be in dire straits despite the Supreme Court order of January 10, which had specifically directed the State government “to release the entire undisbursed payment of compensation, quantified as ₹5 lakhs each, to all the affected persons, within three months from today

Backdrop

In January, the Kerala government said it had earmarked over ₹180 crore for payment of compensation to victims, some of whom were terminally ill, from the effects of the pesticide which was aerially sprayed on cashew plantations adjoining habitats where the victims were located. It had said the Endosulfan rehabilitation scheme, including a multi-specialty hospital, would ideally cost over ₹500 crore

For clean air, India needs a policy leap 

Context

The way to curb pollution is to tax carbon. Only then will households look for greener substitutes

Implication of air pollution

Author mentions about two studies that indicate the implications of air pollution

  • Lancet study: A report of the Lancet Commission on pollution and health states that around 19 lakh people die prematurely every year from diseases caused by outdoor and indoor air pollution
  • Indian Journal of Paediatrics study: A study by the Indian Journal of Paediatrics shows that the lungs of children who grow up in polluted environments like Delhi are 10% smaller compared to the lungs of children who grow up in the U.S.

This is nothing short of a public health emergency. What is needed, therefore, is a comprehensive policy to curb pollution. We need to act now

Carbon Dioxide emission: Heavy dependence on Coal

At the heart of the problem of pollution are carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions

  • About 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions are CO2 emissions produced through burning fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — to generate energy
  • Increase in carbon emissions: Since the early 2000s, carbon emissions have increased because of high growth in the Indian economy
    • High level of carbon emissions by India: In 2014, India’s total carbon emissions were more than three times the levels in 1990, as per World Bank data. This is because of India’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels and a dramatically low level of energy efficiency

Author’s contention

Author states that taxing carbon is the only way by which we can persuade people to move away from fossil fuels and adopt greener forms of energy

Changing the energy mix

Revenue generated from the taxing carbon can be used for a systemic overhaul of the energy mix, which, to a large extent, would address the pressing problem of environmental degradation

How can the energy mix be remodelled? The Indian economy’s energy mix needs to be remodelled

  • Investments in clean energy: through investments in clean renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and low-emissions bioenergy, and
  • Raising energy efficiency: By raising the level of energy efficiency through investments in building retrofits, grid upgrades, and industrial efficiency

GDP requirement for changing energy mix

Authors state that as per their studies, this energy mix overhaul requires an additional 1.5% of GDP (to the current annual level of 0.6%) annually over the next two decades

Revenue neutral

Assuming that the Indian economy grows at 6% per annum and the population is likely to rise from 1.3 billion to 1.5 billion over the next two decades, the per capita emissions will still fall as a result of this policy, from the International Energy Agency’s 2035 Current Policy Scenario of 3.1 metric tonnes to 1.5 metric tonnes — a 52% decline

  • Since this expenditure is financed by the carbon tax revenue, it will be a revenue-neutral policy with no implications on the fiscal deficit

Problem with carbon tax: Regressive in nature

There is, however, a problem with carbon tax. It’s regressive in nature — it affects the poor more than the rich. Fortunately, there’s a way out. Economists in the West have argued for a ‘tax and dividend’ policy according to which the revenue thus generated is distributed equally across its citizens and as a result, the poor are more than compensated for the loss, since in absolute amounts the rich pay more carbon tax than the poor

Free electricity & travel passes

  • Instead of a cash transfer, the other part of the carbon revenue can be used for an in-kindtransfer of free electricity to the population that contributes less carbon than the economy average, and universal travel passes to compensate for the rise in transport costs and to encourage the use of green public transport

Limits under free entitlement:

  • The free entitlement of fuel and electricity for a household works out to 189 kWh per month based on our calculations from the National Sample Survey data. Anything above this limit will be charged in full to control misuse of this policy
  • Travel passes with a pre-loaded balance amount of around 4,600 per household per annum, which can be used in any mode of public transport — private and government alike — will be available for every household.

How much level of carbon tax will be required?

The level of carbon tax required for this policy to come into effect is 2,818 per metric tonne of CO2

Impact of carbon tax

It will be levied upstream, namely, at ports, mine-heads, and so on. While the prices of almost all the commodities will rise, the highest rise in price will be in fuel and energy since the carbon content is the highest in this category

  • Price rise: To give an idea about the pinch that will be felt, the average price of electricity will rise from its current value of 73 to 4.67 per kWh

Benefits of this policy

  • Through this policy every household in India will have access to electricity, a feat that almost all the governments since Independence have dreamt of but have failed to deliver
  • Employment: This policy not only curbs emissions but also delivers on providing more employment since the employment elasticity in greener forms of energy is higher than those in fossil fuel-based energy

Employment elasticity is a measure of the percentage change in employment associated with a 1 percentage point change in economic growth. The employment elasticity indicates the ability of an economy to generate employment opportunities for its population as per cent of its growth (development) process

  • Induce people to shift to greener alternatives: Higher prices of commodities according to their carbon content will induce households, including the rich, to look for greener substitutes. They have the effect of enticing even the poor to move away from traditional forms of energy consumption because the price of energy will be zero for them (provided they consume less than the cut-off limit) as compared to a shadow positive price in terms of the time used for collection of wood or cow dung cakes
  • Address issue of electricity theft: Availability of free energy also addresses the issue of stealing of electricity, since there will be no incentive left for those who steal. In India, even in 2014, the value of electricity stolen through corrupt means amounts to about 0.8% of GDP
  • Health benefits: As a rough measure, a significant part of more than 3% of India’s GDP currently spent on pollution-induced diseases will surely come down

Science and technology

ISRO developing a compact launcher for small satellites

Context

A low-cost small satellite launcher could be the next item on the menu of the Indian Space Research Organisation

What has been done?

ISRO could soon have a low cost small satellite launcher which will be able to put satellites of up to 500-600 kg in orbits close to the Earth

Benefits of a small satellite launcher

  • Requires Less number of manpower: Its design will enable a handful of engineers to assemble it within a week
  • Low development cost: The development cost would be low at a few crore as the new launcher’s requirement of advanced electronics is considerably lower
  • Low cost access to space: It could also tremendously cut the launch fee that customers would have to pay

Present situation & how small satellite launcher will help?

  • Today, it takes 300-plus engineers and about 40 days to assemble a PSLV. A small launcher that can be got up perhaps in three days by a small team would make a big difference in the market as well as to the launch provider
  • For one, satellite operators need not wait one or two years to launch their spacecraft. In shared space rides, satellites going on the same rocket must have compatible sizes and shapes

Demonstration launch

A demonstration launch will be executed in the 2018-19 time frame

ISRO not the 1st

Globally, the small satellites market is booming as they are used for various applications. Some of ISRO’s satellites are also going to reduce in mass. As such, worldwide, operators and private players are developing small launchers to capture the market at a much lower cost

Increased space market

Global space industry consulting firm Euroconsult estimated in July that 6,200 smallsats — many of them constellations — would be launched during 2017-2026 and touch a market value of $30 billion — up from $8.9 billion in the last decade

Backdrop

Since 1999, ISRO’s PSLV rockets have launched 209 small satellites from 28 countries for a fee; they have been for experimental, university or remote-sensing uses. In February this year, a PSLV carried a record 104 satellites to space. The next one planned in January 2018 will carry some 30 small customer satellites to space — their weights ranging from 1 kg to 100 kg

Security and related issue

Manipur beefs up security along border:

Context

Following directives from the Union Home Ministry, the Manipur government has beefed up security measures along border areas to check infiltration of illegal migrants from Bangladesh and the Rohingya from Myanmar

New police stations

  • Manipur government have opened a police station at Kotha, near the Manipur-Myanmar border
  • New police stations have been opened at Behang bordering Mizoram, Jessami bordering Nagaland and Borobekra bordering Assam
  • Additional police personnel have been rushed

Bridges demolished

Six bamboo bridges across the Jiri river bordering Assam were demolished by the police in order to prevent illegal migrants from Assam from crossing over

Demand for ILP

Of late students and women activists in the State have been rounding up undocumented persons who were later handed over to the police. Locals have been agitating for years for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Manipur to regulate the entry and stay of outsiders

  • It is in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland
  • The President had declined to sign one Bill passed by the Assembly while the Centre did not consider two others

Bill to be tabled soon

The Chief Minister said a committee will soon be set up to draft a Bill on the ILP system which should be acceptable to all communities in Manipur. Some sections of tribal people had objected to the earlier Bills, terming them as “anti-tribal”

Govt. sets up NIC-CERT centre to detect, prevent cyberattacks

What has happened?

The Centre on Monday unveiled the NIC-CERT centre that would monitor and help in early detection and mitigation of cyber-attacks on government networks

NIC network

All communications between government departments — Centre, State and district, as well as interactions between the government and the citizens takes place through NIC’s network

Significance of NIC-CERT

  • The NIC-CERT will help in the pursuit of a safe cyberspace by early detection of any attack on India’s systems
  • Using various tools, the team at NIC-CERT will be able to identify vulnerabilities and possible exploits and the intelligence gathered will give CERT the ability to predict and prevent attacks
  • It will also alert the concerned parties concerned in case it detects any malicious activity. Any unusual movement on the NIC network, any attacks, intrusions will be detected and cleaned

Team at NIC-CERT

NIC-CERT currently has a team of about 30 cyber-security professionals working in two shifts. This is in addition to the more than 300 people in the cyber-security team who already work at the NIC

NIC-CERT will operate in close co-ordination and collaboration with other sectoral CERTs an

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