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GS: 1


Society related issues:

How the data sets stack up(The Hindu Opinion)

What has happened?

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion on increasing inequality within several countries of the world, including India, particularly after the publication of Thomas Piketty’s book on inequality

What we discuss here

  • The trends in inequality
  • That the poverty ratio is equally important as the Gini coefficient in analysing issues relating to growth and distribution

Consumption inequality

Inequality in rural areas declined while it increased in urban areas in the post-reform period, particularly in the high growth period

Reason for inequality in consumption

  • National Sample Survey (NSS) data may not be capturing the consumption of the rich adequately, i.e. underestimation
  • The difference between the consumption expenditure according to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and national income could be partly due to this factor
  • In India the difference between NAS and NSS is widening over time

Income inequality

  • The income Gini was about 20 points higher than consumption Gini while wealth Gini was nearly almost 40 points higher than consumption Gini
  • Thus, inequality in income and wealth is much higher than that of consumption
  • The data base for computing income inequality is not as solid as the base for consumption expenditure
  • The reasons for sharp differences between consumption Gini coefficient and income Gini coefficient have to be analysed. In some other countries, such differences are no more than 5-10 points

Trends in poverty ratio

  • The number of persons below poverty declined by 5 percentage points during 1983 to 1987-88 but rose by 4 percentage points during 1987-88 to 1993-94
  • Poverty declined faster in the post-reform period, particularly in the 2004-2012 period as compared to 1993-2005
  • Poverty declined by 2.2 percentage points per annum during the period 2004-05 to 2011-12. This was the period of highest economic growth since Independence. It is the fastest decline of poverty compared to earlier periods

Conclusions from above trends:

  • Urban growth is the most important contributor to the rapid reduction in poverty even in rural areas in the post-1991 period
  • Within the post-reform period, poverty declined faster in the 2000s than in the 1990s

Criticism

Tendulkar poverty level is low and needs to be raised

Counter to criticism

Holds good upon raising the cut-off:As far as reduction in the poverty ratio is concerned, it holds good even if we raise the poverty cut-off to 1.5 times the Tendulkar cut-off

Growth and distribution

The impact of higher growth on poverty reduction can also be seen from the decile-wise growth in per capita consumption expenditure

Income distribution worsens during early period of economic growth

It was Simon Kuznets who had argued in a famous paper in 1955 that in the early period of economic growth distribution of income tends to worsen, and that only after reaching a certain level of economic development an improvement in the distribution of income occurs.

Changes in poverty ratio equally important

  • Even if the Gini coefficient remains the same or picks up, the poverty ratio can be declining. This has been true of India
  • The decline in poverty is much higher particularly in the period 2004-05 to 2011-12 in spite of rise in inequality.
  • Thus the changes of the poverty ratio is an equally important indicator to monitor

What is the “Gini Index” ?

  • The Gini index or Gini coefficient is a statistical measure of distribution developed by the Italian statistician CorradoGini in 1912
  • It is often used as a gauge of economic inequality, measuring income distribution or, less commonly, wealth distribution among a population
  • It is a measure of deviation from perfect equality
  • The coefficient ranges from 0 (or 0%) to 1 (or 100%), with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality
  • Values over 1 are theoretically possible due to negative income or wealth.

High-income and low income country can have same index

A high-income country and a low-income one can have the same Gini coefficient, as long as incomes are distributed similarly within each: Turkey and the U.S. both had income Gini coefficients around 0.39 in 2014, according to the OECD

Lorenz curve

The Gini index is often represented graphically through the Lorenz curve

Criticism of Gini Coefficient

It is criticised for being overly sensitive to what happens to people in the middle, and not so good at picking up changes at the extremes, where there has been a growing focus in inequality research

Alternative to Gini Coefficient: The Palma Ratio

  • The Palma ratio is an alternative to the Gini index, and focuses on the differences between those in the top and bottom income brackets
  • The ratio takes the richest 10% of the population’s share of gross national income (GNI) and divides it by the poorest 40% of the population’s share
  • This measure has become popular as more income inequality research focuses on the growing divide between the richest and poorest in society.

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International relations:

The pawns in international disputes(The Hindu Opinion)

What has happened?

Among the many hazards that diplomats face today, the most ancient one is expulsion, also known as declaration of a diplomat as persona non grata. It is the most effective bloodless punishment as the person concerned is removed lock, stock, and barrel from the scene, never to return

Current event

The recent coordinated expulsion of over 100 Russian diplomats by more than 20 countries is huge even by the standards of the coldest days of the Cold War

Austria didn’t expel diplomats

  • Austria did not join some of the other EU members to expel Russian diplomats because it felt that communication channels should be kept open, particularly during crisis
  • For U.K., the Austrian decision was unfriendly as it revealed the chinks in the European armour
  • Russia gloated over the fact that a majority of nations in the world, including China and India, wanted concrete evidence about Russian complicity.

India’s stand

India takes recourse to expulsion of diplomats only in extreme circumstances when it has clear evidence of wrongdoing

Instances involving India

  • With Russia: India has expelled Soviet diplomats even during the heyday of India-Soviet friendship. In retaliation, Moscow had technically expelled Indian diplomats, who were already under orders of transfer from Moscow
  • With Fiji: After a military coup in Fiji ousted a Fiji-Indian dominated government in 1987 and changed the Constitution which effectively disenfranchised Fiji Indians.

Analysis: Shooting the messenger

In modern times, expelling diplomats has become the instrument of weak nations to show displeasure to stronger ones even at the risk of facing retribution

Example:Nauru, a little island nation in the Pacific, once expelled the only resident envoy of Australia over a petty quarrel, but restored its vital link in a short time

Emergence of a new Cold War

  • The expulsion of Russian diplomats should be seen as part of the emergence of a new Cold War, resulting from the assertive policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the aggressive posture of Mr. Trump and his love-hate relationship with Russia

Least disruptive but disturbs personal lives of diplomats

Among the many diplomatic devices countries possess to express outrage, expulsion is the least disruptive, though it plays havoc with the lives of diplomats and their families.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

No affront to Dalit rights, says SC(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Supreme Court said its March 20 judgment, banning immediate arrest of a person accused of insulting or injuring a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe member, is meant to protect innocents from arbitrary arrest and not an affront to Dalit rights

SC’s comments

  • Protecting the innocent
  • Called the judgment a ‘balance’ between Dalit rights and right of an innocent against arrest in a false case
  • Vested interests were fuelling the protests

Ministry withdraws order on ‘fake news’(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry withdrew its order, issued on Monday, under which accreditation of any journalist found guilty of disseminating “fake news” could be cancelled

On direction of the PM

  • The PM has directed that the press release on the fake news be withdrawn and the matter be addressed only by the Press Council of India (PCI)
  • The government should not interfere in the matter

Court questions Centre’s flip-flop(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the government for shifting its stand in the court by first agreeing there is abuse of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and now filing a review petition against the March 20 judgment

Centre’s flip flop

6th Report of the Standing Committee:

  • It was the government which brought on record the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment (2014-15) on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014
  • The report had rejected the stand of the Ministry that there was no need to act against false or malafide implications under the Atrocities Act.
  • Most cases resulted in acquittal:
    • The government said that in 2015, the police filed closure reports for 15-16% of cases filed under the Act and over 75% cases resulted in acquittal or withdrawal.
    • In its review petition, the government did a flip. This time, it cited figures from 2016 to show how weakly the Act was implemented.

SC to hear Cauvery case on April 9(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear, on April 9, the Centre’s plea to extend the deadline for framing a scheme to implement its February 16 judgment in the Cauvery water dispute

SC judgement

The February 16 judgment in the Cauvery appeals had directed the Centre to frame the scheme in six weeks

Centre files for extension

On the eve of the deadline (Mar 29), the Centre had moved the Supreme Court for a three-month extension for implementation of the judgment as Assembly elections were scheduled for May 12 in Karnataka

Centre seeks clarification also

  • Centre asked the court to clarify if it was open to framing a scheme “at variance” with the tribunal’s recommendations.
  • Technical and administrativeCMBFor one, it wanted to know whether a Cauvery Management Board (CMB) could have an assemblage of administrative and technical expertise rather than be a purely technical body as envisaged by the Cauvery Tribunal in 2007.

Different functions for CMB?

Centre asked whether it could accord the CMB with functions different from those recommended by the tribunal

  • SC opinion on framing the scheme under Section 6A

Finally, the Centre has asked the Supreme Court for its opinion on the framing of the scheme under Section 6A of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956, considering the divergent views expressed between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

Divergent views of Karnataka and TN

Tamil Nadu wants the CMB as per the 2007 tribunal order, while Karnataka wants a two-layer scheme, one headed by a committee led by the Union Water Resources Secretary.

Tamil Nadu files for contempt

Tamil Nadu has accused the Centre of not “protecting the interests of the farmers and the larger interests of the State”

‘Minors can’t opt out of Aadhaar once they are 18’(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Minors, whose Aadhaar card has already been generated, cannot opt out of the Aadhaar scheme after becoming majors, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Only locking facility available

  • Residents have the option of permanently locking their biometrics and only temporarily unlocking it when needed for biometric authentication as per Regulation 11 of the Aadhaar (Authentication) Regulations, 2016

Anti-talaq Bill draconian: AIMPLB women’s wing(The Hindu)

Context

Protests against Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017

Present status of the bill: Passed in LokSabha, Pending inn RajyaSabha

Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017

  • The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.  It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.  Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.
  • Offence and penalty: The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence.  (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)  A husband declaring talaq can be imprisoned for up to three years along with a fine
  • Allowance:  A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.  The amount of the allowance will be decided by a First Class Magistrate.
  • Custody of minor children:  A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children.  The determination of custody will be made by the Magistrate

Why there are protests over the triple Talaq bill?

  • Main contention: If the man is arrested and put behind bars for three years, who will look after his family and provide them maintenance?”Criminal prosecution of the husband will result in ending the marriage without securing the wife with a surety of her economic rights. It is believed that this Bill might end up suffering similar flaw as in case of section 498A
  • The matter is also anti-social as a civil contract is penalised by converting a civil matter into a criminal offence
  • Though the bill seeks to bring the Muslim women on equal footing by ensuring they get their due share of rights. It favorswomen to get the custody of the children accompanied with the obligation on the husband to pay sustenance allowance to the wife and children
  • By making the practice of triple talaq a cognizable offence under the Muslim Women Bill, it gives police officers the power to conduct an investigation without bringing it to the notice of the concerned magistrate forthwith, the moment a police officer receives a complaint, without waiting for the magistrate’s order. This has raised the fear of Muslim men becoming soft targets, who the police can arbitrarily throw in jail for three years based on anybody’s complaint
  • Bill talks of post-divorce matters ignoring the fact that the pronouncement (instant talaq) has already been voided in S.3 and cannot result in a divorce

Way forward

  • Rather than criminalization, the legislature should have adopted the path of including Triple Talaq as an act of infliction of domestic violence under the ambit of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 wherein it could have been categorized as verbal and emotional abuse covered under section 3 of the act

Poor success rate in cases of atrocities(The Hindu)

Context

As many as 47,338 cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were registered across the country in 2016, the LokSabha was informed

NCRB Data

  • Scheduled castes: As per the information provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 40,774 cases were registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and other sections of law over alleged crimes against SCs and STs in 2016. Of these, chargesheets were filed in 78.3% cases, and the conviction rate was 25.8%
    • In 2015, a total of 38,564 cases were registered for alleged crimes against the SCs in which charge sheets were filed in 73.8% cases and the conviction rate was 27.2%
  • Scheduled tribes: As many as 6,564 cases were registered over alleged crimes against the Scheduled Tribes in 2016, in which chargesheets were filed in 81.3% cases where the conviction rate was 20.8%
    • 6,275 cases were registered for alleged crimes against STs in 2015 in which chargesheets were filed in 74.3% cases, and the conviction rate was 19.8%

Rule 3 of SC and ST rules, 1995

The Minister said Rule 3 (v) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 specifies that with a view to prevent atrocities on members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the State government, if deemed necessary, can provide arms licenses to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes


GS:3


Economy

Biometric failure is not related to age, says UIDAI(The Hindu)

Context

UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey repliesto a Supreme Court questionnaire from the petitioners challenging the Aadhaar scheme

Petitioners’ argument

The petitioners have argued that Aadhaar is prone to biometric authentication failure and results in financial exclusion of senior citizens and those employed in manual labour

UIDAI’s stand

  • Authentication failures do not mean exclusion or denial of subsidies, benefits or services since the requesting entities are obliged under the law to provide for exception-handling mechanisms
  • Several alternatives to biometric authentication are available. Besides, an Aadhaar holder could always update his biometrics

Back on track(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Successful roll out of e-way bill system

What is e-way bill?

It is an electronic documentation detailing the movement of goods and has to be carried by transporters for any consignment exceeding Rs 50000 in value

  • It can be generated from the GSTN set up for the e-way bill system by the transporter before the movement of goods begins
  • The e-way bill’s validity varies depending on the distance that the goods have to travel
  • Typically, the bill’s validity is one day for every 100km of movement of goods

Is it mandatory for all movement of goods?

The GST e-way bill is mandatory from 1 April for all inter-state transport of goods valued above Rs50000

  • It will be made compulsory for the moving goods within a state in a phased manner from 15 April
  • Some goods that are out of the e-way bill’s ambit include perishable items such as meat, milk and milk products and fruits and vegetables
  • Other items that don’t need an e-way bill are gold and silver jewellery, cooking gas cylinders, raw silk, wool and handlooms

Why is it important?

  • The e-way bill is a key anti-tax evasion measure and is a crucial part of the GST architecture. Tax authorities believe its implementation will discourage tax evaders from underreporting transactions
  • It will also check instances where the entire transaction is not recorded due to connivance between the seller and buyer
  • It will provide a boost to GST revenues, which have stabilized around Rs 85000-90000 crore. The government is hoping that this anti-evasion measure will bring buoyancy

What are the concerns?

The industry is worried that the technology system may not be prepared to handle the huge e-way bill volume and that this may cause a disruption to trade

  • When the e-way bill system was initially rolled out on 1 February, technological glitches caused long delays in generation of GST e-way bills. This led to trade coming to a standstill, forcing the government to defer its implementation
  • Another worry for industry is the potential scope for harassment by tax authorities. Taxmen have powers to stop trucks and check e-way bills and transporters fear this may lead to rent-seeking

What safeguards have been put in place?

To avoid technological glitches, the GSTN and the National Informatics Centre have ramped up the infrastructure. The system can now handle 75 lakh e-way bills daily, compared with 26 lakh earlier

  • To prevent harassment of taxpayers, e-way bill rules specify that goods will be inspected only once during the journey except in cases where specific information on tax evasion is received
  • Further, in case a vehicle is detained for more than 30 minutes, the transporter can report it on the portal

RBI didn’t audit PNB properly: CVC(The Hindu)

Context

Apportioning blame to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) over the PNB loan fraud, Central Vigilance Commissioner K.V. Chowdary on Tuesday there had been “no apparent audit” by the central bank during the period of the scam

Prelims relevant info

Central Vigilance Commission

Statutory body

  • CVC was established via executive resolution of Central Government in 1964
  • Its establishment was recommended by Santhanam Committee on prevention of Corruption
  • Statutory status was granted to it via Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003

Membership of CVC (1 + 2)

  • 1 Chief Vigilance Commissioner & not more than 2 Vigilance Commissioner
  • Appointed by: President on the recommendation of a 3 member committee
  • Selection Committee: PM, Leader of opposition (LokSabha), Union Home Minister
  • Tenure: 4 or 65 years whichever is earlier
  • Eligible for further appointment under government?: No

Who removes a CVC or VC?

President can remove a CVC or any other VC on the following grounds,

  • Adjudged insolvent, or
  • Convicted of an offence which in the opinion of the Central government involves a moral turpitude (A phrase used in Criminal Law to describe conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals), or
  • If he engages in paid employment during the term of his office
  • If he, in the opinion of the President, is unfit to continue in office due to infirmity of body or mind, or
  • If he has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his official functions
  • Proved misbehavior or incapacity: In this case President has to refer the matter to Supreme Court for enquiry. If, after enquiry, SC upholds the cause of removal and advises so, then the President can remove him

Salary, allowances and service conditions

Salaries, allowances and other service conditions of CVC are similar to those of chairman of UPSC & of Vigilance Commissioners are similar to members of UPSC

Working of CVC

  • It has all the powers of civil court and its proceedings have a judicial character
  • CVC has to present annual report on its performance to the President who places it in the Parliament
  • Central Government is required to consult the CVC in making rules and regulations governing the vigilance and disciplinary matters relating to members of all-India services and central services

Science and Technology

Launch lessons(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

The loss of communication between the ground station and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s latest satellite after its launch on March 29 is deeply disappointing. ISRO’s mission aimed to place the communication satellite, GSAT-6A, in space

Launch operation

  • A launch operation can be simplified into the initial three stages, during which the satellite is boosted to different heights by the launch vehicle and then placed in a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO)
  • This is an elliptical orbit into which a satellite is placed initially before being transferred into a geosynchronous orbit where it maintains a position above a fixed longitude
  • During each of these stages, a part of the rocket completes its role and disengages from the bulk. Then the satellite moves towards its final and desired orbit

What happened with GSAT-6A satellite?

The GSAT-6A was first raised to the elliptical orbit, followed up by a second orbit-raising operation on March 31. It was after this and during the third such operation that the ground station lost contact with the satellite

  • This is why it is being thought that the failure occurred because of a flaw outside the launch vehicle, the GSLV, perhaps from a short circuit or power glitch within the satellite itself

Way forward

It had been reported that the mission would be a testing ground for ISRO’s next moon mission. Given this background, ISRO should be open about the specific learning points from this launch exercise. Space science is exciting not just for the experts, but to many outside the field. Therefore, it is important that the agency presents itself more openly to the world

NASA spots farthest star(The Hindu)

Context

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the farthest individual star ever seen — an enormous blue stellar body nicknamed Icarus located over halfway across the universe

9 billion years

The star, located in a very distant spiral galaxy, is so far away that its light has taken nine billion years to reach Earth. It appears to us as it did when the universe was about 30% of its current age

Gravitational lensing

Through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing (This is when gravity from a massive celestial object acts like a magnifying glass, bending and amplifying the light from objects behind it) that tremendously amplifies the star’s feeble glow, astronomers were able to pinpoint this faraway star and set a new distance record

Significance

  • Icarus will be a reference point for how astronomers can study the evolution of stars through gravitational lensing
  • Icarus’s bright glow is also helping astronomers test hypotheses about dark matter—the elusive material that’s thought to make up most of the mass in the universe

Environment:

Study sounds the alarm for Arctic ice(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Even if humanity stops global warming in its tracks at two degress Celsius, long seen as the guardrail for a climate-safe world, Arctic sea ice will still disappear in some years, scientists have warned

Odds better if held at 1.5 degrees though

In a 2 degrees Celsius world, the Arctic Ocean would be ice-free roughly one-in-four years, whereas if warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, the odds drop to one-in-40, the researchers concluded.

Effects of shrinking ice cover

  • Accelerates global warming: As millions of square kilometres of snow reflecting the Sun’s radiation back into space is replaced with dark blue ocean that absorbs it instead
  • Rising temperatures of poles: Even during winters, North Pole is tens of degrees Celsius warmer than Europe and North America

Receding sea ice cover

  • Over the last four decades, minimum sea ice extent has dropped by about 40%
  • The Arctic Ocean is projected to become ice-free in summer (meaning less than one million square kilometres) by mid-century unless greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly and deeply reduce

Global CO2 emissions back up in 2017

After remaining flat for three years, global CO2 emissions in 2017 went up by 1.4%, dashing hopes that they had peaked, the International Energy Agency reported last week.

Second Study

Under 3 degrees Celsius global average warming, permanent summer ice-free conditions are likely

Paris treaty: 2 degrees target not enough

  • Above studies are the most recent to conclude that a 2 degrees Celsius world will not prevent severe impacts such as mass migrations due to rising seas, regional food and water shortages, and an increase in extreme weather, including heatwaves, droughts and floods
  • Only a few years ago, the 2 degrees Celsius target was upheld as the threshold for avoiding such consequences.
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