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GS-2


International institutions

Out of UNESCO: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • The U.S.’s decision to quit UNESCO is an attempt to reassert geopolitical influence in West Asia.
  • The U.S. withdrawal will become effective as of the end of December 2018.

What is the significance of UNESCO?

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.
  • UNESCO is best known for designating World Heritage Sites
  • It was founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Why did US decided to quit UNESCO?

The U.S, UN and Palestine

  • The key issue, as with many US-UN disputes, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • UNESCO declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron, a city in the southern part of the occupied Palestinian territories, as a Palestinian world heritage site
  • In 2015, UNESCO adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship.

What has happened so far?

  • In January,the Trump administration prepared orders to halt U.S. funding to global institutions that advocate membership for the Palestine Authority.
  • In February, Washington blocked the appointment, at the eleventh hour, of a former Palestinian premier to serve in a senior UN position.
  • The United States cut off about 22 percent of its entire budget for UNESCO, in reprisal for the organization’s acceptance of Palestine as a member.
  • In October 2011, UNESCO admitted the Palestinian territories to the organization as an independent member-state called Palestine.
  • The action taken by UNESCO triggered a US law which cut off American funding for any organization that recognized an independent Palestine.
  • The US had previously paid for 22 percent ($80 million) of UNESCO’s annual budget.

How will the US withdrawal from UNESCO impact either sides?

Loss of reputation  

  • International relations scholarship shows when a leader reneges on an international commitment, it undermines the nation’s credibility and therefore its reputation.

Diminished ability to lead

  • International organizations provide states with an important arena to project soft power.
  • Without a membership role in UNESCO, there’s less opportunity to share U.S. ideals and norms around the world.

Less issue-linkage potential

  • By withdrawing from UNESCO, the United States loses an arena that could be valuable for bargaining — not necessarily just for issues such as education and culture.

Longer-term market effects

  • The withdrawal could be international analysts as downgrade a state’s credibility.

What is the Israeli-Palestinian Issue about?

  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, primarily as a conflict over territory.
  • The origins to the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration, and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs
  • The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has its roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the birth of major nationalist movements among the Jews and among the Arabs, both geared towards attaining sovereignty for their people in the Middle East

‘Free movement’ along Myanmar border:

Context

  • The Centre is putting in measures to facilitate free movement of Indian and Myanmar’s citizens within 16 km along the Myanmar border.

What is the Free Movement regime?

  • The FMR allows visa-free movement for people living within 16 km on either side of the border.

How is FMR impacting India?

  • The bilateral pact between the two countries is being exploited by militants to smuggle arms, drugs and even fake Indian currency across the border.

What are the government’s steps to counter these challenges?

  • The Ministry had constituted a committee to examine various methods to curb the misuse of free movement along the Myanmar border, a friendly country, with which it shares unfenced borders and unhindered movement of people across the border
  • The Home Ministry held consultations with four States — Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh — on the Free Movement Regime (FMR).
  • The move comes in the wake of large-scale displacement of Rohingya people from Rakhine State in Myanmar.

What is the Rohingya crisis?

http://blog.forumias.com/india-and-the-rohingya-crisis/

What are the other issues to be discussed?

  • Ministry of External Affairs and their counterparts in Myanmar shall also discuss to allow Indian nationals going and staying in Myanmar under the bilateral agreement for up to 72 hours.
  • While India allows Myanmar’s nationals to stay for 72 hours without visa, Myanmar allows stay only up to 24 hours, an official said.

GS-3


Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment

Universal Basic Income is not feasible for India: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context

  • Universal basic income and it’s feasibility as a solution in India.

What is Universal basic income?

  • It is premised on the idea that a just society needs to guarantee to each individual a minimum income which they can count on, and which provides the  necessary material foundation for a life with access to basic goods and a life of dignity.
  • it requires that every person should have a right to a basic income to cover their needs, just by virtue of being citizens.  
  • UBI has three components:
    • Universality
    • Unconditionality
    • Agency

Argument in favour of UBI

  1. Poverty and vulnerability reduction — Poverty and vulnerability will be reduced in one fell swoop.
  2. ChoiceA UBI treats beneficiaries as agents and entrusts citizens with the responsibility of using welfare spending as they see best; this may not be the case with in-kind transfers.
  3. Better targeting of poorAs all individuals are targeted, exclusion error (poor being left out) is zero though inclusion error (rich gaining access to the scheme) is 60 percent.
  4. Insurance against shocks —  This income floor will provide a safety net against health, income and other shocks
  5. Improvement in financial inclusion —  Payment – transfers will encourage greater usage of bank accounts, leading to higher profits for banking correspondents (BC) and an endogenous improvement in financial inclusion. Credit – increased income will release the constraints on access to credit for those with low income levels.  

  6. Psychological benefitsA guaranteed income will reduce the pressures of finding a basic living on a daily basis.

  7. Administrative efficiency —  A UBI in place of a plethora of separate government schemes will reduce the administrative burden on the state.

Argument against UBI

  1. Conspicuous spending — Households, especially male members, may spend this additional income on wasteful activities.  
  2. Moral hazard (reduction in labour supply) —  A minimum guaranteed income might make people lazy and opt out of the labour market.
  3. Gender disparity induced by cash —  Gender norms may regulate the sharing of UBI within a household – men are likely to exercise control over spending of the UBI. This may not always be the case with other in-kind transfers.  
  4. ImplementationGiven the current status of financial access among the poor, a UBI may put too much stress on the banking system.  
  5. Fiscal cost given political economy of exit —  Once introduced, it may become difficult for the government to wind up a UBI in case of failure.
  6.  Political economy of universality – ideas for self-exclusion Opposition may arise from the provision of the transfer to rich individuals as it might seem to trump the idea of equity and state welfare for the poor.  
  7. Exposure to market risks (cash vs. food) —  Unlike food subsidies that are not subject to fluctuating market prices, a cash transfer purchasing power may severely be curtailed by market fluctuations.  

Alternatives to UBI

  • Rationalization of subsidies, better targeting and operational efficiency.
  • It needs to move to cash transfers at an accelerated pace with the use of Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile.
  • This will help reduce costs and spare resources for capital spending to augment growth.

Conclusion

As history has shown, the best way to pull people out of poverty is sustained higher growth. Therefore, rather than creating permanent doles like Universal Basic Income for the entire population, which will be impossible to reverse in the future, the idea should be to save costs with better targeting. This will help create the necessary conditions for higher growth which will decisively lift people out of poverty.

NITI’s Kumar bats for fiscal stimulus: (The Hindu)

Context

  • NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar has pitched for fiscal stimulus to boost growth, with a rider that additional expenditure should be used only for increasing productivity and capital expenditure.

About NITI AAYOG

  • The National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog, was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 1, 2015 by replacing erstwhile planning commission.
  • NITI Aayog is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs.
  • While designing strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India, NITI Aayog also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and States.
  • At the core of NITI Aayog’s creation are two hubs – Team India Hub and the Knowledge and Innovation Hub. The Team India Hub leads the engagement of states with the Central government, while the Knowledge and Innovation Hub builds NITI’s think-tank capabilities. These hubs reflect the two key tasks of the Aayog.

What is fiscal stimulus and it’s effects?,

  • A ‘stimulus’ is an attempt by policymakers to kickstart a sluggish economy through a package of measures. A fiscal stimulus entails the Government spending more from its own coffers or slashing tax rates(in short an expansionary fiscal policy) to put more money in the hands of consumers.
  • It will increase liquidity in the market and hence, increases the purchasing power, boosts consumption and leads to inflation

About Economic advisory council

  • Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC) is a non-constitutional, non-permanent and independent body constituted to provide a sounding board for inculcating awareness in Government on the different point of view on key economic issues.

Function of EAC

  1. Analyzing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the Prime Minister and advising him thereon;
  2. Addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister. This could be either be suo-moto or on a reference from the Prime Minister or anyone else;
  3. Submitting periodic reports to the Prime Minister on macroeconomic developments and issues with implications for economic policy;
  4. Attending to any other task as may be desired by the Prime Minister from time to time.

What is fiscal consolidation,

  • Fiscal consolidation is a process where government’s fiscal health is getting improved and is indicated by reduced fiscal deficit. Improved tax revenue realization and better aligned expenditure are the components of fiscal consolidation as the fiscal deficit reaches at a manageable level.

Boosting horticulture through remote sensing: (The Hindu)

Context:

Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Monday announced March 2018 as the deadline to complete the ambitious project of developing the horticulture sector using remote sensing technology and geo-informatics.

Present status of horticulture in India:

  • India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world and the biggest producer of fruits such as banana, mango, papaya and lemon among others.
  • Horticulture sector has performed remarkably in the recent years.
  • In 2014-15, India horticulture production stood at 281 million tonnes, over 30 million tonnes more than food grain production.

Reasons:

The reasons behind the success of horticultural crop output can be seen under the following heads –

1-      Socio-economic:

  • Rising incomes of Indians leads to  a shift of consumption pattern from food-grains to horticulture crops.

2-   Policy making:

  • Introduction of horticulture-centric schemes like National Horticulture Mission, setting up National Horticulture Board etc.
  • Impetus to food processing industries

3-      Technological :

  • Emphasis on improving irrigation facilities through National Mission on Micro Irrigation.
  • Impetus to floating and vertical farming in horticulture by ICAR to enhance productivity.

Challenges before horticulture sector:

  • Lack of market support.
  • Paucity of post harvest produces management chain from farm to fork.
  • Most growers do not get reasonable returns for their produce.
  • Mass destruction of the produce due to lack of infrastructure facilities like warehouses.
  • Farmers have been regulated by price slumps.    

Government’s initiatives to boost horticulture:

Project CHAMAN:

  • In 2015, the Present government started project CHAMAN (Coordinated Horticulture Assessment and Management using geo-informatics), to prepare a comprehensive horticultural plan. Using remote sensing technology to study soil conditions, land use, weather and cropping pattern, the Centre has chosen 185 districts across the country where seven selected crops are being promoted.
  • Once complete, the findings of the project would be shared with all states to give to boost to cultivation of horticultural crops.
  • Different states have been divided into different groups to grow banana, mango, citrus fruits, potato, tomato, onion and chilli.
  • The Centre would convene a meeting of the northeastern states by January next year as the report on horticulture development for this region was ready.
  • Under CHAMAN, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra have been identified as the major banana-growing states.
  • Mango cultivation is being promoted in Andhra, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana
  • Onion is the focus for Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

Price Stabilization Fund Scheme:

  • The government has set up Price Stabilization Fund Scheme as a central sector scheme, with a corpus of Rs 500 crore.
  • This is to support market interventions for price control of perishable agri-horticulture commodities during 2014-15 to 2016-17.
  • It provides for advancing interest free loans to state governments and union territories and central agencies to support their working capital.
  • It will be managed  by centrally  by  a Price Stabilization Fund Management Committee(PSFMC).

Advantages of horticulture sector:

  • The horticulture sector, provides nutrient rich crops to the people and better remunerative prices to the farmers and increase their incomes.
  • Horticulture crops play significant role in improving the productivity of land, generating employment, enhancing exports, improving economic conditions of the farmers and entrepreneurs and providing food and nutritional security to the people.

What is remote sensing?

  • Remote sensing is nothing but a means to get the reliable information about an object without being in physical contact with the object.
  • It is on the observation of an object by a device separated from it by some distance utilizing the characteristics response of different objects to emissions in the electromagnetic energy is measured in a number of spectral bands for the purpose of identification of the object.
  • Satellite data through remote sensing provides the actual  synoptic view of large are at a time, which is not possible from conventional survey methods.
  • The process of data acquisition and analysis is very fast through Geographic Information System (GIS) as compared to conventional methods.

Advantages of using remote sensing in horticulture:

  • Remote sensing (RS) is an advanced tool that aids in gathering and updating information to develop scientific management plans.
  • RS provides electromagnetic information about the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.
  • It can be exploited for efficient site specific management and precision horticulture.
  • It can be used for crop identification, crop area, biomass and yield estimation.
  • Remote sensing can be exploited for soil and nutrient management.
  • It can be exploited for assessing damage by biotic and a biotic stress.

Other advantages of Remote Sensing

  • Easy data acquisition over inaccessible area.
  • Data acquisition at different scales and resolutions
  • The images are analyzed in the laboratory, thus reducing the amount of fieldwork.
  • Colour composites can be produced from three individual band images, which provide better details of the area then a single band image or aerial photograph.
  • Stereo-satellite data may be used for three-dimensional studies. At present, all advantages listed above have been demonstrated either operationally or experimentally:

Conclusion:

  • The use of remote sensing technology has been rapidly expanded for the development of key sectors like horticulture. The remote sensing provides various platforms for agricultural survey. Satellite imagery has unique ability to provide the actual synoptic vies of large area at a time, which is not possible for conventional survey methods and also the process of data acquisition and analysis are very fast through GIS (Geographic Information System) as compared to the conventional methods.

Prelims Related News

With stealth ship, India in elite group:

Context

  • Recently defence minister  Nirmala Sitharaman commissioned INS Kiltan , the third of the four Project-28 Kamorta class ASW.
  • With the commissioning of third kamorta class Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) stealth, country is rapidly marching towards indigenisation

About project

This is part of ‘Make in India’ initiative.

  • The keel was laid in 2010 under the Project-28 scheme and was built by Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata.

Indeginisation

  • This ship is unique, as about 81% is built indigenously and is the first built by India that has a superstructure made up of carbon fibre composite material.
  • This makes it a stealth corvette and makes India one among the few nations that have this technology or this class of ships.

About INS KILTAN

  • INS Kiltan has been constructed using high grade steel (DMR 249A) produced by the state-owned Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL).
  • propelled by four diesel engines to achieve speeds in excess of 25 knots with an endurance of 3450 nautical miles.
  • The carbon composite material gives it an extra stealth edge and also lowers the top weight and maintenance cost.
  • The installed propulsion and auxiliary systems provides very low radiated underwater noise feature, required for anti-submarine warfare.
  • INS Kiltan is the latest indigenous warship after Shivalik Class, Kolkata Class and sister ships INS Kamorta and INS Kadmatt to have joined the Indian Navy’s arsenal

Observations confirm neutron star merger:

Context:

For the first time, a cosmic event has been observed with gravitational waves and also light waves.

Introduction:

  • The LIGO-VIRGO collaboration, three members of which won this year’s physics Nobel Prize, detected the merger of two neutron stars –extremely dense, massive but tiny, objects.

Observations:

  • Gamma rays bursting from the event were observed by nearly 70 ground and space-based observations.
  • The second part of the discovery- the observation of Gamma ray bursts by several telescopes includes the observations by the Giant Metreware Radio Telescope (GMRT), the Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) and AstroSat.
  • The CZTI instrument on AstroSat helped narrow down the location of the gamma-ray flashes.
  • Observations which were made earlier by LIGO have been of black hole mergers, and as no light can escape from a black hole, there was no such light counterpart to the measurements.
  • The GMRT played a key role in understanding jet physics and refining models of radio emission from the remnant formed by the merging neutron stars.

Importance of discovery:

  • Neutron-star mergers are incredibly rich and complex phenomena.
  • Every  area of physics and astrophysics can learn something from this unique laboratory set up by nature.

Outcomes of discovery:

  • The gravitational waves and the gamma ray burst, which light waves are arrived at nearly the same time indicate that the speed of gravitational waves is extremely close to the speed of light.
  • This was predicted by Einstein, but it is the first time we are making a direct measurement.
  • The neutron stars of the signal detected were located about 130 million light years away.
  • These neutron stars emitted gravitational waves that were detectable for about 100 seconds.
  • When they collided, a flash of light in the form of gamma rays was emitted.
  • This gamma rays burst was seen on Earth about two seconds after the gravitational wavers were observed.
  • The detection of a neutron star merger was surprising, because neutron stars are much smaller than black holes and their mergers produce much weaker gravitational waves than do black hole mergers.
  • The observations have given  astronomers  an unprecedented opportunity       to probe a collision of two neutron stars

Neutron stars:

  • Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist.
  • These could be about 20 kilometres in diameter and have masses much greater than the Sun.
  • A teaspoonful  of neutron star material could hold a mass of a billion tonnes.
  • They are formed when massive stars explode in supernovae.
  • As these neutron stars spiraled together, they emitted gravitational wave that were detectable for about 100 seconds, when they collided, a flash of light in the form of gamma rays was emitted and seen on Earth about two seconds after the gravitational waves.

About LIGO:

  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a large-scale physics experiment and observatory to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool
  • The LIGO-VIRGO collaboration includes about 1,500 scientists and of this about 40 are Indians.
  • LIGO is the largest and most ambitious project ever funded by the NSF( National Science Foundation).
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