Mains Test Series


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GS-2

India’s pivot to Eurasia

Article:

  1. S Raghvan, Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board expressed his views on how new Eurasian dynamics transform with an inevitable impact on SCO.
About SCO

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) grew out of the  Shanghai five grouping- Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
  • The SCO is a Eurasian, political, economic, and security organisation.
  • The creation of SCO was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China.
  • The original six nations, with the exception of Uzbekistan, were previously members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996 in Shanghai.
  • India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation.
  • SCO now has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP.

Importance of SCO

  •  It is often dubbed as the “alliance of Asia” , due to its growing importance and centrality in the Asian continent.
  •  It is worlds’ forefront regional organisation in economic power and political influence.
  •   One of world’s strongest military alliances and largest regional organisation in economic and political influence.

Objective behind setting SCO

To resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members.

Important Analysis:

2. The SCO summit was held recently in Qingdao, China.

3. India attended SCO meeting for the first time as a full member.

4. India has been an observer since 2005.

5. Opportunities before SCO:

  • Admission of India and Pakistan has expanded the geographical, demographic and economic profile of the SCO, which has about half of the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP.

6. SCO’s relevance for India:

  • SCO’s relevance for India lies in geographical, economic and geopolitics.
  • Its members occupy a huge landmass adjacent to India’s extended neighbourhood, where India has important economic and security interest.
  • With Pakistan joining the organisation and Afghanistan and Iran are also looking for membership, the logic of India’s membership becomes stronger.
  • In the formative years of SCO, Russia strongly pushed India to join it, to balance China’s  economic dominance in the region.
  • China since consolidated its energy and economic foothold in Central Asia, where ambitious infrastructure and connectivity projects are envisaged as part of its Belt and Road Initiative(BRI).

7. India-Central Asia

  • Central Asia consists of five countries (Kazakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) collectively known as Central Asian Republics(CAR) and Underbelly of Eurasia.

Strategic Location of Central Asia:

  • Geographic location of these countries makes them a bridge between different regions of Asia and between Europe and Asia.
  • India’s ties with central Asian countries has been in challenge since the break of Soviet Union due to inaccessibility caused by Pakistan and Afghanistan troubles.
  • New Multimodal transport corridors now envisaged through Iran, there are again prospects of invigorating trade and investment lines with this region.

8. Positives for India:

  • With new multimodal transport corridors now envisaged through Iran, there are again prospects of invigorating trade and investment links with this region.
  • As per Russia, India and Pakistan would be able to solve their disputes as did the China, Russia and other SCO members.
  • India can be benefitted by Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO, which coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities.
  • Defence cooperation between members will be strengthened. India has agreed to participate in the SCO’s counter-terrorism military exercises in Russia.
  • Russia and China also carefully avoid strong anti-West postures in the SCO, preferring to deal with differences quietly and bilaterally.

9. Challenges

  • Cooperation between India and Pakistan will remain a challenge in various areas such as defence, anti-terrorism, Afghanistan.
  • Increase in dominance of China may happen if US tries to Isolate Russia and Russian dependence will increase further on Chinese Economic prowess.
  • Another situation is when US military presence may decrease in the region if N. Korea and US peace process gets fruitful may change the balance of forces in favour of china.

 

‘India stands for a multi-polar order’

News:

  1. President Ram Nath Kovind emphasis upon maintaining multilateral commitments towards non-aligned attitude against major power blocs in the world.

Important facts:

  1. President was speaking at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign policy in Athens.
  2. He also emphaised on following aspects:
  • India is committed to an international order marked by robust, rule-based multilateral institutions, by multi-polarity in international governance, and by investment and connectivity projects that are viable and sustainable.
  • President urged Europe to join hands with India , which is a “responsible power” to preserve globalization .
  • As a responsible power, India seeks to be rule framer and rule custodian.
  • The speech also highlighted syncretic connections between the European and Indian traditions of art, politics and state formation.
  • He described Greece and India as “sister civilizations” who have been part of the large family of humanity as exemplified in the Indian notion of “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam”.

Social media hub idea may not take off

News:

  1. The Centre government proposed to set up a social media communication hub has witness many shortfall in its implementation.

Important Facts:

  1. Public sector firm Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd. is handling the project.
  2. The proposed of social media communication hub has faced reluctance from the bidder.
  3. The last date for tenders has been extended for the fourth time after the govt. didn’t get enough bids.
  4. Salient feature of the Social media hub project:
  • The media persons would be employed on a contractual basis in each district to be the “eyes and ear “of the government.
  • The hub will enable “listen to email” and assist the government in tailoring campaigns to promote “positive opinions and neutralize negative sentiments” about government schemes.
  • The hub proposes to monitor social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even email) handles at the very local level in multiple languages to carry out “sentiment analysis”
  1. Critic pointed out that:
  • The proposal to set up such a hub is an indirect measure to “snoop” on and influence voters.
  • It is an attempt to track down the influence-making social media users and to categories the conversations on social media into positive, negative and neutral sections.
  • It aimed to track real time way the social media receives on government’s schemes.
  1. Conclusion:
  • The government has to rethink on the entire project and make it Sustainable.
  • The government should specifically understand how the information collected by the hub would be put to use.

GS-3

Air India privatisation plan shelved

News:

  1. The central government has decided to postpone the plan to disinvestment of Air India.

Important Facts:

  1. The central government has decided to privatize Air India by inviting a bid process in March 2018.
  2. The government had offered to sell:
  • 76% of its stake in Air India
  • 50 % of share of low-cost subsidiary Air India Express in ground-handling arm AISATS as a single entity.
  1. The government has delayed the disinvestment process due to:
  • The rising fuel prices
  • The government has not received any bids.
  1. Issues:
  • Huge Debt and liabilities which accounts for approx. 33,000 crore
  • The government continuation with ownership.
  • Lack of clear road map.
  • Obligation and benefits issue related to permanent and contractual employee.
  1. Plan of action to revive of Air India include:
  • Improving Efficiencies by bringing private people to work with the airline
  • Cutting down costs.
  • Monetisation of Air India assets.
  1. Conclusion
  • The focus should be restructuring of airline under a special administration to overcome the losses.

 

Keralites face highest risk of cardiovascular disease, finds study

News

  1. A recent survey found wide variations in the average 10-year risk of a fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular disease event among States and gener.

Important Facts

  1. About Survey
  • The study is led by researchers at Public Health Foundation of India and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • The study is based on District Level Household Survey-4 and Annual Health Survey (AHS) data
  • The surveys covered 27 of the 29 States and five of the seven Union Territories.
  1. Key findings
  2. Variation in risk of cardiovascular diseases among states
  • Kerala has higher risk -19.5% compared to Jharkhand – 13.2%
  1. Variation in risk of cardiovascular diseases between genders
  • Mean risk of men highest in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland – 24.23%
  • Among women highest is in goa – 16.73%
  1. Adults in urban areas tended to have a greater cardiovascular risk.
  • People living in urban areas in Kerala (19.90%) had the highest mean risk, followed by West Bengal (19.12%) and Himachal Pradesh (18.97%).
  • Daman and Diu had the lowest mean risk (12.60%), followed by Bihar (13.63%) and Arunachal Pradesh (14.71%).
  • But, goa has higher mean value in rural areas (18.92%) than the urban areas (18.79%).
  • In Kerala the difference between highest mean risk in rural (19.23%) and urban areas (19.90%) is meagre
  1. People with higher household wealth are at greater risk
  2. Reasons
  • In poorer households and rural areas smoking is more prevalent
  • Wealthy households and urban locations faced risks from high body mass index, high blood glucose and high systolic blood pressure.

 

PSU bank deposits safe: Goyal

News:

  1. Government is committed in ensuring viability and success of every Public Sector Banks(PSBs).

Important facts:

2. Recently, RBI seeks more power, such as ability to appoint and dismiss the heads of PSBs in its reply to Parliamentary standing committee on finance.

3. In its response Minister of Finance said that the government is open to the idea to provide more power to RBI to effectively regulate and manage public sector banks.

4. According to Finance Mister Piyush Goyal, the public’s money is 100% safe and secure in PSBs.

5. Mr Goyal called PSBs as engines which take financial inclusion to grassroots level of the economy.

6. Mr. Goyal also informed that PSBs  come up with a plan to take up the credit needs of ‘genuine, deserving, well-performing and good companies.’

  • first, PSBs will assess the needs of the firms with borrowings between Rs 200 crore and Rs 2,000 crore.
  • then They will take up accounts with borrowings of upto Rs 200 crore, which would cover MSMEs.

 

India to defend GSP benefits at USTR

News:

  1. India defends its eligibility for benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
GSP programme: Provides for the duty-free treatment of designated articles when imported from beneficiary developing countries to America.

Important facts:

2.The U. S. dairy and medical device industries levelled charges against India.

3.India challenge these charges before the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office.

  1. Americas’s allegations:
  • A self-initiated review by the USTR focuses on whether India is meeting the US criteria for a GSP beneficiary country and particularly if India provides equitable and reasonable market access to products from the US.
  • USTR has accused India for creating trade barriers that create serious negative effects on U.S. Commerce.
  • The petitions calling for a review of India’s GSP benefits.

5 .India’s arguments:

  • Exports (worth about $ 5 billion annually, of 1,937 products) from India is at stake.

  On dairy products:

  • India informed to U.S. that India’s position is based on religious, cultural and moral grounds.
  • India is committed to respect the religious and cultural beliefs of its people.
  • Several countries export dairy products to India meeting India’s requirements.
  • On medical devices: Submission said that country was India is committed to provide its citizens equitable and affordable access to essential medicines and medical devices.
  • India requires that dairy products be delivered from animals which have never consumed any feeds containing internal organs, blood meal, or tissues of ruminant origin.
  1. India also argued that import barrier on dairy product is due to certification not market access as it allows import from Australia and Switzerland. India advice US to follow the same process

 

The last to know

News:

  1. The inquiry against the CEO Chanda Kochhar of ICICI bank has pointed out the conduct of the bank board and raises concerns about corporate governance.

Important Facts:

  1. In 2016, a complaint has been raised by an investor alleging a quid pro quodeal between Ms. Kochhar’s immediate family members and the Videocon group.
  2. The Videocon group has received ₹3,250-crore loan from ICICI bank.
  3. Central Bureau of Investigation and SEBI has pitched an inquiry in the issue.
  4. The investigating authority pointed out that the bank had failed to make adequate disclosures about its dealings with the borrower (who is now a defaulter) and a firm.
  5. The board of ICICI Bank has finally acted on the allegations of misconduct against its CEO and managing director, Chanda Kochhar.
  6. Chanda Kochhar will stay away from the office till the completion of an inquiry into the charges levelled against her by a whistle-blower.
  7. Till the inquiry is complete the bank will be steered by a new chief operating officer Sandeep Bakhshi.
  8. The probe panel has been constituted under retired Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna.
  9. Issues
  • The delay and inefficiencies of public sector banks in dealing the cases
  • The reluctancy of board in initiating inquiry
  • There is still no clarity on his successor of the chairman of the bank’s board.
  • Weather such debatable case need a high-profile panel inquiry.
  • The reluctance of board in constituting an internal investigation.
  • Concern about the possibility of prejudge in inquiry findings.
  • The strength of corporate governance practices.

 

Less talk, more action

News:

  1. Kruti Bharucha, CEO of Peepul India has highlighted the need to focus on improving leaning of children.

Important Facts:

  1. The Author pointed out that:
  • India is not giving adequate focus to improve learning outcomes
  • No time for research has resulted in poor learning levels in the country.
  • There is need to look upon the how accountability systems works.
  1. There has been an increase in education spending over the last five years but the learning outcomes have been poor and have been declining.
  2. Suggestion to improve learning standards:
  • we must have a clear understanding about kind of education we need to provide.
  • There is need to focus on classroom practice.
  • Teachers need to be equipped with the right training on effective techniques and they should be introduced to concepts such as differentiation
  • Teacher training must be practical and teachers must be provided feedback on the job.
  • We need to involve parents and increase attendance at our parent-teacher meetings is 95%.
  • To scale Programmes that demonstrate impact and not just run to the next innovation.
  • The Programmes must be rigorously evaluated
  • There is need increase more partnership with public-private partnerships or NGO partnerships
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