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Below are the suggested answers of UPSC Mains Marathon Current Affairs Questions – August 8.

Note: The suggested answers are indicative only, and not exhaustive.


1. The RCEP is billed as an FTA between the 10-member ASEAN bloc and its six FTA partners. Examine the future of RCEP in the present context of India China relationship.(GS 2)

The Hindu | The Hindu BussinessLine

RCEP:-

  • Known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the proposed FTA, aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff
  • expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates.
  • It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
  • When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact

Future of RCEP:-

Concerns:-

  • China is keen on an agreement on a ‘high level’ of tariff liberalisation eliminating duties on as much as 92% of traded products. However, India’s offer is to do away with duties on only 80% of the lines and that too, with a longer phase-out period for Chinese imports (ie, about 20 years, against 15 for other RCEP nations).
  • Formation of the RCEP is not easy because of several economic and political hurdles.
  • There are huge economic dissimilarities between the trading members.
  • Similarly, there is differences about the extent of trade liberalization.
  • China want more commodities and higher tariff cuts.India on the other hand, prefers some restrictions as the country’s industrial sector is at the beginning state of development.
  • Overall, most of the partners have a notion that China may dominate the RCEP because of its huge size economy and well competitive industrial sector advantages.
  • Also, politically, there is less synergy between the RCEP members in the context of unresolved territorial disputes.
  • China is major in manufacturing of goods while India is major in services so both will press for the leverage in their respective Fields
  • Most of the nation except china and India have their bilateral FTA with each other therefore there wouldnot be any such compulsion on other countries to complete the deal.
  • China and India have the potential of huge market but they have their own local concerns so both are reluctant to open their market for outside world.

But as RCEP is going to benefit bothering the countries and the region as a whole ,Doklam issue or errants in India China relations would not affect because 

  • The RCEP presents a decisive platform for India which could influence its strategic and economic status in the Asia-Pacific region and bring to fruition its “Act East Policy.”
  • There are three immediate benefits that India should note
    • Complementary – The RCEP agreement would complement India’s existing FTAs with the ASEAN and some of its member countries, as it would deals with Japan and South Korea.
      • It can address challenges emanating from implementation concerns vis-à-vis overlapping agreements, which is now obstructing effective utilization of these FTAs.
        In this respect, the RCEP would help India streamline the rules and regulations of doing trade, which will reduce trade costs.
      • It will also help achieve its goal of greater economic integration with countries East and South East of India through better access to a vast regional market ranging from Japan to Australia.
    • Indian integration –
      • The RCEP is expected to harmonize trade-related rules, investment and competition regimes of India with those of other countries of the group.
      • Through domestic policy reforms on these areas, this harmonization would help Indian companies plug into regional and global value chains and would unlock the true potential of the Indian economy.
    • Services –
      • In addition to facilitating foreign direct investment, the RCEP will create opportunities for Indian companies to access new markets.
      • This is because the structure of manufacturing in many of these countries is becoming more and more sophisticated, resulting in a “servicification” of manufacturing.
      • India is well placed to contribute to other countries in RCEP through its expertise in services.
    • Also China will experience lower trade barriers and also with detach if TPP RCEP is further Important to China.

2. Discuss the loopholes in the Draft national energy policy. Also, mention the challenges in the implementation of policy.(GS 3)

Indian Express

Introduction:-

  • NITI Aayog’s Draft National Energy Policy (DNEP) key objectives are:
    • ensuring access at affordable prices
    • improving energy security & reducing dependence on fossil fuels
    • Promoting greater sustainability and renewable energy
    • Ensuring sustained economic growth.

Loopholes of Draft national energy policy :-

  • Coal :
    • It has been estimated that coal-fired power capacity will grow to 330-441 GW by 2040.
    • This is in direct conflict with the declared twin goals of sustainability and comes ironically at a time when solar and wind tariffs appear to be reaching historic new lows.
  • Instead of focusing on phasing out existing thermal power stations and replacing them with clean energy alternatives, the proposal to geographically locate power plants such that they do not damage air quality in human habitations makes little sense.
  • Gas:-
    • It suggests that India should try hard to construct the Iran–Pakistan–India (IPI) and Turkmenistan–Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipelines.These have been under discussion for over 20 years. But they have had no success
    • promote LNG imports, incentivise shale and conventional gas exploration, replace LPG in urban areas by piped gas and divert LPG to rural areas.Most of these suggestions have been made earlier.
  • Nuclear :
    • The draft’s focus on Nuclear energy has been critiqued as they neglect concerns regarding safety & intensive capital investment requirements.
  • On the renewable energy front, the NEP disappoints by failing to address the rampant uncertainties, specifically on issues around renewable purchase obligations (RPO) and renewable energy certificates (REC).
  • it does not recommend consistent and strong policy and budgetary support for technology development
  • DNEP has no mention of peak oil demand and its implications for India.
  • The DNEP also discusses electric vehicles only in passing. It does not discuss the possibility of India halting the production of vehicles with internal combustion engines, say by 2030, and transiting to EVs by 2040. Such a shift over time would reduce oil demand considerably
  • It is a well-known fact that a large percentage of the energy sector subsidy is diverted and misused. This results in the generation of a huge amount of black money .While the DNEP  does mention problems of governance, it  does not elaborate on such an important issue.

Challenges in implementation :-

  • It does not define roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. It does not provide a timeline for delivery and there is no discussion on financing.
  • All has been left on states with any monitoring mechanism.Discoms are facing financial problems.
  • Land acquisition and environmental clearances are still an issue
  • It suggests making use of the enormous expertise available from Indians living abroad. There is no road map to implement this either.

Benefits :-

  • It foresees India’s power demand shooting up over four-fold.
  • The draft policy  has made a case for higher tax on big cars, SUVs and promotion of mass transport system like metro rail to improve air quality.
  • The renewable energy mix by 2022 is targeted at 175 GW.
  • The NEP took the sharp decline of crude oil prices, change in solar energy technology, heightened concern of climate change issues and the government’s rural electrification agenda into account.

Way ahead:

  • The contradictions in the draft need to be addressed & already failed suggestions needs to be sidelined.
  • As articulated by some academics, the policy needs to be more specific with steps for implementation rather than as a framework vision document.
  • Rather than promoting a particular means of electrification, the NEP could encourage context-specific electrification approaches, by considering economic viability, consumer demand and aspiration, affordability, as well as reliable provision of electricity.

3. The government should focus on maximum employment generation, which is critical to meet the exploding aspirations of the young Indians. Comment. (GS 1)

The Hindu | India Today

Introduction:

  • Every month, a million Indians become age-eligible to join the workforce, but the growth in jobs has not kept pace with the rising number of aspirants.
  • Because of this unemployment has been on the rise, despite India supposedly being one of the brighter spots in a slowing global economy.
  • Reasons for this situation are  weak industrial growth, a struggling agriculture sector with widespread drought, cost rationalisations in several sectors and the knock-on effect of a global slowdown.
  • Also, traditionally labour-intensive industries are beginning to increasingly mechanise their operations.

Why government should focus on maximizing employment generation because:

  • The trend of significant gap between the pace of GDP growth and that of employment growth has given rise to the phenomenon of “jobless growth” in India. This clearly indicates that increasing the economic growth rate is not enough.
  • Jobless growth dilutes the advantages that accompany high growth.
  • Jobless growth obstructs the benefits of growth from reaching the masses.
  • Employment generation will automatically yield a near double digit rate of GDP growth for the next decade and an average of 7-8% for the next three decades.
  • Youth is vibrant, most of them literate or skilled. They can therefore be used as productive factors of production.
  • Increasing expectations of a higher standard of living.
  • Increasing frustration among youth who take up crimes(naxalism) drugs etc.
  • If aspirations of youth with respect to employment generation are not met ot could make them become part of anti social activities like terrorism,participating in crimes etc

The government has already taken many steps like start up India,make in  India,mudra Yojana,skill India etc but more needs to be done.

Measures needed by the government:-

  • Compulsory vocational training for secondary schooling.Training should be provided after matriculation based on needs of the individual and industry. Example of Germany which provides in school training to students can be followed.
  • Easy registration and funding for the start ups.
  • Refresher training incase skills have become obsolete. .
  • Alternate job opportunities in villages to prevent migration.
  • Provision for formal credit for starting own ventures.
  • Ensuring a physically and emotionally sound youth who do not end up as anti social elements due to frustration.
  • Prevent brain drain.
  • Providing more arena for development of research
  • Reforms are needed in multiple facets like education where students need to focus more on capacity building and being according to the demands of the industry and develop skill rather than rote learning.

 

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