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GS-2


Universal health coverage is the best prescription 

Universal health coverage is the best prescription 

Context

UHC provides the framework in which the issues of access, quality and cost can be integrated

Major issues

Three major issues are involved when we assess health care:

  • Access
  • Quality
  • Cost

Each of these needs to be addressed with clarity, and not in isolation

UHC

Solutions have to be those that fit into a common system architecture, or a system best designed and delivered as Universal Health Coverage (UHC), now enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals

Problems

  • Access to readily reachable, trustworthy and affordable health care is a major challenge before poorly served rural areas and overcrowded urban areas
  • The inadequacy of organised primary health services
  • Corporate hospitals are inaccessible to the rural population and the urban poor
  • Government institutions of advanced care suffer from low budgets and a lack of managerial talent

Improving access

The pathway to improving access lies in expanding the network of public sector facilities at all levels

  • This calls for higher levels of public financing, investment in training and incentivised placements of more health personnel and improved management through the creation of a public health management cadre
  • Filling the gaps: Health-care providers in the private and voluntary sectors should be empanelled to fill the gaps through carefully crafted contracting mechanisms that best serve public interest
  • Quality of care: There must be an emphasis on the benefit and safety of tests and treatment, and ensuring that satisfaction levels of patients, families, care providers in the nature of institutional processes as well as human interactions are met
    • This requires ensuring conformity to accepted scientific and ethical standards. Here, the Clinical Establishments Act is a good beginning, in moving health-care facilities towards registration, ensuring compliance with essential standards of equipment and performance, adopting standard management guidelines, grievance redress mechanisms, and respecting encoded patient rights

Managing cost

Cost of care is a major challenge in a system where patients and families have to bear the burden

Problems

  • High out-of-pocket spending on health care leads to unacceptable levels of impoverishment
  • Small risk pool: With high levels of poverty and a very large segment of the working population in the informal sector, both private insurance and employer provided insurance can cover only small population segments. With a small risk pool, these schemes can only provide limited cost coverage to subscribers
  • Government schemes not much success: Government-funded social insurance schemes do increase access to advanced care. But they have not been shown to provide financial protection as they cover only part of the hospitalisation cost and none of the expenses of prolonged outpatient care which forms a higher percentage of out-of-pocket spending

Solution

The solution lies in

  • Doubling the level of public financing to at least 2.5% of GDP by 2019, rather than 2025, as proposed in the National Health Policy
  • Single payer system: By pooling tax funding, all Central and State insurance schemes and employer-provided health insurance into a “single payer system”. That can be managed by an empowered autonomous authority which purchases services from a strengthened public sector and, as necessary, from empanelled private health-care providers
  • Promoting quality: Quality is promoted through audited insistence on implementation of standard management guidelines by all service providers who enter this system
  • Controlling cost: Cost is controlled by the negotiating power of the single payer. Since the risk pool is very large, there is a high level of cross- subsidisation of the sick by the healthy, the poor by the rich and the elderly retired by the young employed. The burden on an individual is greatly minimised

Way ahead: Integrate UHC

  • Implemented piecemeal, these three areas of action will yield only limited results as access alone cannot assure appropriate or affordable care and cost subsidy will be meaningless if there is limited access or undependable quality
  • The UHC provides the framework in which all three elements can be integrated

SDG 3: Health

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that all UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030. This includes financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

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Recognise the technology constraints 

Recognise the technology constraints 

Context

White paper of Justice BN Krishna committee

Missing from the white paper

Author states that an understanding of the many technologies that come together currently to protect data in India is missing from the white paper

  • More than 80% of Indian smartphone users today rely on Google’s Android operating system. But the majority of those mobile devices are sold by Samsung, Xiaomi or Oppo
  • Does the committee believe an operating system designed in Silicon Valley and a mobile phone manufactured in China’s Guangdong Province have similar rules to protect data? Or better still, can they be made to comply with a single, catch-all set of data protection standards?

Little say of the state

The issue of data protection is one over which the Indian state has, unfortunately, little say

  • Abroad based players: Major players in the country’s digital economy are not only based abroad, but also export data to other jurisdictions
  • Unwise to demand data localisation: To demand “data localisation” would be unwise (the Srikrishna Committee too acknowledges this). Many of the world’s giant data centres are located in northern climes near water bodies, since they require mild temperatures and enormous quantities of water to cool thousands of servers
    • Not feasible: The U.S. Department of Energy in 2015 estimated that data centres in the country took about 2% of its overall power supply. Can India, with its round-the-year warm climate and scarce natural resources, really afford to divert electricity and water to maintain data centres? State and central governments will also need to spend substantial amounts on physically securing these installations

Trade-off: contradicting policies

  • There is, however, a trade-off: India’s inability to localise data means its digital economy is governed by hundreds of “private” data protection policies, some of which even contradict each other
  • For this reason, the Srikrishna committee cannot follow the same legal strategy used in the Aadhaar Act, which lays down strict rules for the collection and sharing of biometric and sensitive personal data
  • With a data protection statute, this may not be entirely feasible

Issue of sensitive personal data

The Srikrishna Committee has provisionally recommended that current definitions of “sensitive” information be re-evaluated in the light of India’s socio-economic context

  • Conflict: The Google Developer Policy — which app developers must comply with if they want their products featured on Android phones — requires “sensitive” data to be collected only for a “core capability”
    • In other words, if such data is absolutely critical for the app’s functioning, it may be sought from a user. Even if India’s data protection law were to determine that some health data is too sensitive to be shared under any circumstance, it is very likely that an Android app somewhere would still permit its collection
    • Genetic testing” apps – used to predict the kind of hereditary ailments a user may be susceptible to — are becoming increasingly popular and collect precisely such information. Would the Indian state, then, ask Google to block such an app? How would the law be enforced?

Permissions are embedded

Android phones also have “layers” of permissions written into them that determine the kind of sensitive data an application can collect. An app could tap into a phone’s fingerprint authentication hardware with only a “normal” permission, which is automatically given at the time of its download. But to access the user’s location from the phone, the app requires a “dangerous” permission, meaning the affirmative consent of the user

  • Were Indian law to prohibit apps from accessing the fingerprints of users without their consent, will it declare the Android system of ‘permissions’ unlawful? 

Transferring data to locations with no data protection

On the other hand, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei candidly acknowledges it may transfer the data of users to locations with no data protection laws at all. Huawei’s End User License Agreement merely suggests it will provide “similar and adequate” levels of protection as the country of origin. But how would Indian regulators ensure that the data of citizens is treated uniformly, even after it has been exported to, say, China? In this case, the very nature of the data flow is a limit on the implementation of a data protection law

Way forward

  • India can and should enact safeguards for data collected through known points of vulnerability in its digital economy: a mobile phone’s camera software, public Wi-Fi spots, firmware updates, QR codes, and so on
  • India’s data protection laws should not foreclose options for its own software developers — who need country and community-specific data — as they build products tailored for the digital economy

Problems before committee

The committee will find it difficult to conceive watertight definitions of “sensitive” data, or lay down guidelines to determine what data should be collected, when the user’s consent is required, or even the kind of encryption to protect such data

Solution: A multi-stakeholder agency

A modest solution could be to allow companies to pursue independent data protection policies (guided by baseline norms), but monitor their enforcement through a national, multi-stakeholder agency

  • Precedent: There is precedent for such an institution: the United States Federal Trade Commission performs such a role, investigating data breaches often according to best practices within the industry
  • In 2013, for example, it found the smartphone manufacturer HTC guilty of circumventing Android’s own installation checks and allowing the download of “insecure” apps

Conclusion

When the Indian digital ecosystem is mature enough, there could be more comprehensive guidelines on the storing, sharing and collection of data

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Caste in stone 

Caste in stone 

Context

Centre’s initiative on inter-caste marriages is welcome, revives a question: Why are they so few in number?

Author’s contention

Author states that, the Centre’s decision on the eve of Babasaheb Ambedkar Mahaparinirvan Divas to lift the income ceiling on its scheme that provides Rs 2.5 lakh to every inter-caste couple — in which the bride or bridegroom is a Dalit — is a welcome gesture

  • Intent of the scheme: The intent of the Dr Ambedkar Scheme For Social Integration Through Inter-caste Marriage, introduced in 2013, is clear: People who marry outside their caste often face social ostracisation and in such instances, financial help from the state can help the couple to rebuild their lives independent of traditional social institutions

Limited success

While such schemes — state governments have similar initiatives — serve a purpose in financially supporting inter-caste couples, they seem to have had only limited success in encouraging inter-caste alliances: As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-III) (2005-6), inter-caste marriages constitute only about 11 per cent of the whole

Intermarriage: A solution to breaking caste

The preference of a majority of people to marry within their own caste is a disturbing sign of continuing social orthodoxy. It also points to a failure of politics

  • The institution of marriage is crucial to the preservation and perpetuation of caste. Hence, Babasaheb Ambedkar wrote that “the real remedy for breaking caste is inter-marriage”. “Nothing else,” he said, “will serve as the solvent of caste.”
  • Anti-caste philosophers from Sree Narayana Guru to Ambedkar, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy and Rammanohar Lohia felt the political empowerment of the oppressed communities was a necessary first step towards the destruction of caste.

Present situation

Author states that the promotion of inter-caste marriages is not on any mainstream party’s political agenda. Worse, politicians increasingly prefer to stand with the conservative view on the matter, which is the protection and preservation of caste identity through marriage within the caste

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Courts can turn down child repatriation, says Supreme Court 

Courts can turn down child repatriation, says Supreme Court 

Context

For welfare of the child, Indian courts can deny repatriation of children involved in cross-border parental abduction, says the Supreme Court

What has happened?

A Supreme Court judgment delivered accords courts in India unlimited discretion to determine which parent should have the custody of minor children involved in international parental child abduction

What does the verdict say?

  • The verdict holds that Indian courts can decline the relief of repatriation of a child to the parent living abroad even if a foreign court, located in the country from where the child was removed, has already passed orders for the child’s repatriation
  • The welfare of the child was the “paramount and predominant” consideration when such a case came up before a court here
  • The welfare of the child came first over the repatriation order of the foreign court as India was not a signatory to the Hague Convention of “The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction”

Ground for refusing repatriation

A court, regardless of the repatriation order of the foreign court concerned, can refuse repatriation to the parent settled abroad,

  • If it is “satisfied that the child is already settled in its “new environment” in India or
  • If repatriation would expose the child to physical harm, or
  • If the child would be placed in an “intolerable or unbearable situation” back with the parent settled abroad, and finally
  • If the child, on attaining maturity, objects to going back

The case

The judgment came in a case where the father took the younger of the two sons from his wife’s custody in the United States and came to India. The mother’s version was that he had taken the boy on the pretext of visiting the neighbourhood mall

  • Verdict by US Court: A U.S. Court upheld her lawful custody and ordered the man to return his son to his wife
  • Verdict by SC: The Supreme Court concluded that the boy, who is five-and-a-half years old, has settled in India, studying in a reputed school here and enjoys his extended family. The apex court allowed the father to retain his son in India, while noting that the parents are frequently in touch over e-mail. Uprooting the boy from his present situation may be counter-productive
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Simply Put: What US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital means 

Simply Put: What US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital means 

Context

Jerusalem is in ways emblematic of the Israel-Palestine conflict itself. At its heart lies the tussle over who gets to control the ancient city that is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians

What is the big deal about Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is in ways emblematic of the Israel-Palestine conflict itself. At its heart lies the tussle over who gets to control the ancient city that is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians

  • After the end of the First Arab-Israel War in 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned into West and East, under Israeli and Palestinian control respectively
  • But in June 1967, during the Six-Day Arab-Israel War, Israel snatched East Jerusalem from Jordanian forces, and Israel’s Parliament declared the territory had been “annexed to Israel” and Jerusalem had been “reunited”
  • This marginalised the Palestinians, who wanted East Jerusalem to be their capital under the “two-state solution”
  • Undeterred by the refusal of the international community to endorse the annexation, Israel added over 200,000 Jewish settlers to the once-almost entirely Arab East Jerusalem
  • Despite Israel’s hold over its “united and eternal capital”, in December 2016, the UN reaffirmed that Jerusalem’s Palestinian territories were under “hostile occupation”. Foreign embassies to Israel are in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem
  • The positions of countries on the status of the city differ by degrees, but virtually none recognise the Israeli claim. India has traditionally backed a two-state solution, and assured that the Indian embassy would stay in Tel Aviv. Given all this, Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital solely of Israel will mark a huge policy shift

OK, but is the fight only over territory?

It is over both faith and civic space

  • Jerusalem has the Western Wall, part of the mount on which the Holy Temple stood, containing the Holy of Holies, the most sacred Jewish site where Jews believe the foundation creating the world was located, and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son; the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and where he rose again. Millions visit these shrines, and friction over who controls Jerusalem sets off unrest
  • In July, protests started after a shootout between Israeli Arab gunmen and Israeli policemen near the Temple Mount. The tension extends to civic rights — about 37% of Jerusalem’s population is Arab, but municipal budgets allegedly discriminate against Palestinians, who live with residence permits that can be revoked. Palestinians also face segregation, surrounded by post-1967 Jewish enclaves, and there have been reports of Israeli soldiers targetting Palestinian civilians in acts of intimidation.

So, why is Trump taking this step now?

Back in 1995, when Bill Clinton was President, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, recognising the city as Israel’s capital. But while Presidents Clinton, Bush Jr and Obama have backed the law domestically, international realities have kept them from implementing it

  • Thus, the US President signs a waiver every six months, deferring the decision to move the embassy. On campaign, Trump promised to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Speculation that he was close to delivering arose after he missed two deadlines to sign the waiver

How have other countries reacted?

The Islamic world is outraged

  • Palestine: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned of “dangerous consequences”
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Saudi King Salman have cautioned the US
  • Turkey has threatened to cut ties with Israel
  • Iran has declared that “the Palestinian nation will achieve victory”
  • China has said it “could sharpen regional conflict”
  • Egypt, the Arab League and several European nations have expressed grave reservations, and the Pope has pleaded for status quo
  • Hamas has threatened an intifada, and Hezbollah could react aggressively
  • India, friends with both Palestine and Israel, could face a quandary

What does Trump hope to gain?

  • He no doubt seeks to please his core base of pro-Israel hardliners. But as with most political developments in the Middle East, a bigger regional game could be afoot, including, possibly, a US-Saudi-Israel alliance against Iran, the common enemy
  • Critics have also pointed to alleged Israeli attempts to pressure Trump’s transition team, which could fall in the scope of the investigation by special counsel Robert S Mueller III
  • There may be the hidden hand of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who is reportedly close to Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner (who faces allegations of interests in Israeli settlements). Hearing the last in this story is a long way away
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Back India’s entry into NSG, China told 

Back India’s entry into NSG, China told 

Context

Panel to decide the country’s membership to the Wassenaar Arrangement today

News

Russia is speaking to China at “all levels” for India’s membership at the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and hopes that India will win membership to the Wassenaar Arrangement, another multilateral technology regime India has applied to, Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov

Political committee

The political committee of the 41-member Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies is meeting in Vienna & is likely to decide on India’s membership request

Wassenaar agreement

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, commonly known as the Wassenaar Arrangement, is a multilateral export control regime (MECR) with 41 participating states including many former Comecon (Warsaw Pact) countries

The Participating States of the Wassenaar Arrangement are:

  • Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States

Aim

  • The Wassenaar Arrangement has been established in order 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
  • Participating States seek, through their national policies, to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine these goals, and are not diverted to support such capabilities
  • The aim is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists
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Island hopping 

Island hopping 

Context

The announcement of a free trade agreement between the Maldives and China is another sign of Beijing’s success in its outreach in South Asia

Author’s contention

The announcement of a free trade agreement between the Maldives and China is another sign of Beijing’s success in its outreach in South Asia

Ramping up its business ties

China already has an FTA with Pakistan, and is exploring or negotiating FTAs with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal

FTA with Maldives

The negotiations with the Maldives took about three years and were completed in September this year; it was ratified overnight by Parliament in Male. The agreement is expected to be signed this week, during President Abdulla Yameen’s first state visit to China

India’s response

New Delhi has made no public statement, it has reportedly made its displeasure known, particularly on the speed and stealth with which the negotiations were completed

Increasing China-Maldives ties

Ties b/w China & Maldives have been ever increasing visible clearly by the following,

  • Massive infrastructure projects, including the development of Hulhule island and the “Friendship” bridge connecting it to Male
  • Apart from investments of $1 billion, Chinese companies are exploring tourism prospects in the Maldives, leases to resort islands, and reclamation projects

Worries for India

  • Not satisfied with working of FTA with India: The Yameen government said this week that it is not satisfied with the working of the FTA with India. That statement, made by the Fisheries Minister at a press conference in Colombo, is likely to be discussed in detail between New Delhi and Male
  • Hasty manner of rushing FTA in the parliament: The manner in which the FTA was rushed through Parliament in a matter of minutes at midnight, with opposition members complaining they had not received enough notice, suggests a haste that would naturally worry India
  • The biggest worry for India is that the FTA will draw the Maldives more closely into China’s security net

Why India was kept out of loop by Maldives wrt FTA with China?

One reason for Mr. Yameen keeping India out of the loop on the FTA talks may be New Delhi’s new policy of engaging with the Maldivian opposition, especially former President Mohammad Nasheed.

Militarisation

Although Mr. Yameen has categorically stated that the Maldives will remain a “demilitarised zone”, there are concerns that the PLA-Navy might be looking for a military base in the islands linked to projects in Djibouti, Gwadar and Hambantota

  • The docking of three Chinese naval warships in Male harbour in August, the first such “goodwill visit”, was significant in this respect. China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean presents a challenge to India as it looks to define its place in the U.S.-led “Indo-Pacific” realignment
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Let us be realistic about the UNSC 

Let us be realistic about the UNSC 

Context

If a permanent Security Council seat is unavailable, India must not spurn other proposals on the table

Author’s contention

Author states that the recent victory at International Court of Justice (ICJ) should not be interpreted in a way as to raise hopes of a permanent seat in the Security Council

Two important organs of UN

The two most prestigious organs of the United Nations are

  • The Security Council
    • 15 member states
    • Election to the UNSC is conducted only in the General Assembly and requires two-thirds majority to get elected
    • It deals with questions of peace and security as well as terrorism and has developed a tendency to widen its ambit into other fields, including human rights and eventually environment
    • In addition to the Kashmir issue, which Pakistan forever tries to raise, there are other matters in which India would be interested such as the list of terrorists — Hafeez Saeed for example. Since it is in permanent session, we have to try to be its member as often as possible
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ)
    • It has 15 judges
    • Election to the ICJ is held concurrently in the UNGA and UNSC and requires absolute majority of the total membership in each organ
    • Veto does not apply for election to the ICJ
    • The ICJ is required to represent the principal civilisations and legal systems of the world
    • Impartial judges: The judges sitting on ICJ are expected to act impartially, not as representatives of the countries of their origin. That is why they are nominated, not by their governments but by their national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague
    • Indian judge at ICJ doesn’t mean a win every time: To have an Indian judge at the ICJ, when we have an active case on its agenda regarding our national in illegal custody of Pakistan might be of some advantage, though it would be wrong to assume that the final judgment will go in our favour simply because an Indian is on the bench. He will surely act in an objective manner. We will win because we have an excellent legal case and are ably represented by an eminent lawyer

India has lost elections to both these organs in the past

Another important bodies to be represented at

  • ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions)
    • It consists of 16 members elected by the UNGA on the recommendation of the Fifth Committee of the UNGA dealing with the budget of the UN
    • Usually, the members are officers of the permanent missions serving on the Fifth Committee. Most often, they are of the rank of first secretary or counsellor; Ambassadors rarely offer their candidatures
  • The Committee on Contributions
    • The Committee on Contributions recommends the scale of assessments to the budget and the share of each member
    • This is a very important function, since the share decided by the UNGA applies to all the specialised agencies, etc. Even a 0.1 % change can make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • Human Rights Council: There is also the Human Rights Council; we have had almost continuous representation on it. The U.S. lost the election to it a few years ago; there is widespread resentment against the P-5’s presumption to a permanent seat on all bodies
  • P5 – Permanent members of UNSC

Question of Veto

Primarily at India’s initiative, the question of Security Council reform (expansion), has been under consideration since 1970s

  • Unanimous support for non-permanent seats increase: There is near unanimous support for increasing the number of non-permanent seats
  • Controversy over increase of permanent seats: The controversial question is about the increase in the category of permanent seats. The rationale for expansion has been accepted in-principle by nearly all, but the difficulty arises when the actual numbers and their rights are discussed

Demands of various countries

  • India, along with Brazil, Germany and Japan, has proposed an increase of six additional permanent seats, the other two being for Africa
  • The African group is demanding two permanent seats, recognised as reasonable by every member, but there are at least three and perhaps more claimants for the two seats

Controversy of rights of additional members

Then there is the question of the rights of the additional members

  • G4’s position: The G-4’s initial position was for the same rights as the present permanent members, essentially the veto right. Over the years, they have become more realistic and would be willing to forego the veto right
  • Africans’ position: The firm position of the Africans is that the new members must have the same rights as the existing ones. This is a non-starter
  • The P-5 will never agree to give up their veto right, nor will they agree to accord this right to any other country
  • France supports veto for additional permanent members
  • Also, the general membership of the UN wants to eliminate the existing veto; they will never agree to new veto-wielding powers
  • Variants of Veto: Variants of the veto provision have been suggested, such as the requirement of double veto, i.e. at least two permanent members must exercise veto for it to be valid

Who is opposing our proposal?

Many member-states have been pledging support for our aspiration for permanent membership. This is welcome and should be appreciated; it would come in useful if the question ever comes up for a vote in the UNGA. Several P-5 countries have also announced support. The principal P-5 member opposing us is China

India cannot elected alone to UNSC

  • Author states that there is no way that India alone, by itself, can be elected as permanent member. It will have to be a package deal in which the demands of all the geographical groups, including the Latin America and Caribbean group which, like Africa, does not have a single permanent member, will have to be accommodated
  • Even if the Americans are sincere in their support for us, they will simply not lobby for India alone; it will be unthinkable for them to try to get India in without at the same time getting Japan also in. It is equally unthinkable, for a long time to come, for China to support Japan’s candidature. The P-5 will play the game among themselves but will stand by one another, as was evident recently at the time of election to the ICJ

Way forward: Other proposals on the table

We should be realistic. If a permanent seat is not available, there are other proposals on the table

  • One proposal is for the creation of ‘semi-permanent’ seats, according to which members would be elected for six-eight years and would be eligible for immediate re-election

Conclusion

Given India’s growing prestige and respect, it should not be difficult for us to successfully bid for one of these seats; it might be a better alternative than to unrealistically hope for a permanent seat.

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Jerusalem is Israel’s capital:U.S. 

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital:U.S. 

Context

Latest development on Palestine issue

What has happened?

U.S. President Donald Trump reversed decades of policy and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite warnings from around the world that the gesture will further drive a wedge between Israel and the Palestinians.

Plans to move embassy

US administration would also begin a process of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is expected to take years

Significance of the move

The move reflects the reality of Jerusalem as the centre of Jewish faith and the fact that the city is the seat of the Israeli government

Backdrop

Mr. Trump’s predecessors — from Bill Clinton to George Bush — made similar promises on the campaign trail, but quickly reneged upon taking office

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GS-3

Solar Alliance comes into existence 

Solar Alliance comes into existence 

Context

India’s global initiative, the International Solar Alliance (ISA)

What has happened?

India’s global initiative, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) that aims at increasing solar energy deployment in member countries, came into legal, independent existence

ISA

  • Indian initiative: The ISA is an Indian initiative, jointly launched by Indian PM and the President of France on 30th November 2015 in Paris, on the side-lines of COP-21, the UN climate conference
  • Aim: It aims at addressing obstacles to deployment at scale of solar energy through better harmonization and aggregation of demand from solar rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
  • The ISA, headquartered in India, has its Secretariat located in the campus of National Institute of Solar Energy, Gwalpahari, Gurgaon, Haryana
  • Members: So far, 19 countries are part of the compact — Bangladesh, Comoros, Fiji, France, Ghana, Guinea, India, Mali, Mauritius, Nauru, Niger, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tuvalu, Australia, Cuba, Malawi and Peru
  • The ISA, also sees itself as on a mission to mobilise more than $1000 billion in investments needed by 2030 for
    • Massive deployment of solar energy
    • Pave the way for future technologies adapted to the needs of moving to a fossil-free future
    • Keeping global temperatures from rising above 2C by the end of the century
  • India’s commitment: India has committed itself to having 175,000 MW of renewed energy in the grid by 2022
    • India’s contribution: As part of the agreement, India will contribute $27 million (₹175.5 crore approx) to the ISA for creating corpus, building infrastructure and recurring expenditure over five years from 2016-17 to 2020-21
    • Contribution by SECI & IREDA: In addition, public sector undertakings of the Government of India, Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), have made a contribution of $1 million (₹6.5 crore) each for creating the ISA corpus fund
  • Initiatives under ISA:
    • Scaling Solar Applications for Agriculture Use
    • Affordable Finance atScale
    • Scaling Solar Minigrids
    • Scaling Solar Rooftops
    • Scaling Solar E-mobility and Storage.

Common Risk Mitigating Mechanism

ISA has also been developing a Common Risk Mitigating Mechanism (CRMMfor de-risking and reducing the financial cost of solar projects in the ISA member countries. The instrument will help diversify and pool risks on mutual public resources and unlock significant investments. An international expert group has been working on the blue print of the mechanism and it will be rolled out by December 2018.

Digital infopedia

Another major initiative is establishment of Digital Infopedia which will serve as a platform to enable policy makers, Ministers and corporate leaders from ISA countries to interact, connect, communicate and collaborate with one another. The interactive platform was operationalized on 18th May 2017

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PSU banks : reform with recap  

PSU banks : reform with recap  

Context

The proposed recapitalisation of public sector banks

What has happened?

The proposed recapitalisation of public sector banks will include a package of reforms, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel said, adding that the finance ministry would release the details in the coming days

Backdrop

  • The Centre had announced a ₹2.11 lakh crore recapitalisation plan for PSU banks, of which ₹1.35 lakh crore would be raised through recapitalisation bonds
  • Reeling under the pressure of poor asset quality over the last three years, these banks have seen their capital erode
  • Apart from making provisions for bad loans, the lenders would need capital to meet the Basel-III norms and to support their business growth

Priority

Banks that had managed their balance sheets ‘well’ would be given priority for capital infusion while others would have to show the resolve to reform

Working with Deptt of finance

The RBI had been working closely with the department of financial services to finalise the plan for each bank: the aim was to determine the extent of funding to be raised by the bank and the amount of recapitalisation bonds to be placed on its balance sheet as the government’s equity contribution.

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‘India must tap changing trends in manufacturing’ 

‘India must tap changing trends in manufacturing’ 

Context

India needs to consider bringing out appropriate policies soon to help its companies use their success in Information Technology and Information Technology-enabled Services to take advantage of the growing trend of “servicification” of manufacturing

2017 report titled ‘Trouble in the Making? The Future of Manufacturing-Led Development’.

Competition from Philippines

Speaking to The Hindu, Gaurav Nayyar, Economist in the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice and the report’s co-author, said

  • India may not have as many opportunities in the outsourcing industry as it had in the past couple of decades due to increasing competition from countries such as Philippines and owing to the impact of automation on the segment
  • In another 12-15 years, when Industry 4.0 (the trend of data exchange and automation in manufacturing-related technologies) is much more firmly entrenched in Global Value Chains, companies across the world would look for countries with more skilled workers and professionals as well as uninterrupted and quality power supply for technologies such as 3D printing, in addition to a strong Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime. Therefore, India will need to undertake reforms in these areas, in addition to more initiatives on ease of doing business and infrastructure development, if it wants to attract more investment

New policy soon

According to the Indian government, the new ‘future-ready’ Industrial Policy, which is to be announced soon, will incorporate measures to facilitate the use of modern smart technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence and robotics for advanced manufacturing

What India needs to be doing?

Therefore, India would need to swiftly announce suitable policies to help its companies to take advantage of the “opportunities in servicification of manufacturing by leveraging their success in software

Report’s observations

  • The servicification of manufacturing is further enabled by using data that will play an increasingly important role in “smart” manufacturing
  • Interconnected manufacturing –or the Internet of Things (IoT), where networks, machines, and computers are connected to the Internet– requires the sending and receiving of data across the entire production chain
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Unable to see the bamboo for the trees 

Unable to see the bamboo for the trees 

Context

Deregulating bamboo production does not address the issue of building a transparently governed forest sector

Author’s contention

Author states that governments everywhere tend to look for quick-fixes, overlooking complexities and ignoring the big picture. The move by the Centre to “de-regulate” bamboo production by amending the definition of “trees” under the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927, is a great example of this tendency

Changing the British legacy

The British mis-definition was a blatant appropriation of people’s resources. By including bamboo under trees (Section 2(7)), and felled trees under timber (Section 2(6)), and timber in forest produce (Section 2(4)(a)) regardless of its origin, the British established state control on all tree and bamboo growth

  • State’s permission necessary: Felling, sale and transport of any of these species then required state permission. Post-independence India continued this policy

Authors ‘question

Removing bamboo from “trees” amounts to removing it from state control, and should be a huge step in favour of restoring people’s rights. But is it?

Multiple laws and caveats

States have their own laws: In fact, the IFA no longer holds a pre-eminent position in Indian forest law. Most States have passed their own forest Acts and Rules

  • Many have also passed other Acts that, for instance, regulate tree felling outside forest areas, such as the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976, or regulate the movement of forest produce, such as the Madhya Pradesh Van Upaj (Vyapar Viniyaman) Adhiniyam 1969
  • Each of these Acts and Rules defines forest produce and trees, and includes bamboo in them. Amending the IFA does not affect these State laws and, therefore, changes nothing on the ground
  • Moreover, even as it amended the definition, the Central government introduced a caveat that this de-regulation applied only to bamboo grown on non-forest lands

Authors ‘view

  • This contradicts the letter of the amendment which makes no such distinction
  • How are guards at forest check posts to know where a particular truckload of bamboo is coming from?
  • This means that trucks carrying bamboo from private lands will still need transit passes, which means that forest officials will have to monitor the felling. How is that different from the current situation?

Point of ownership

  • Dodging the real problem: By supposedly deregulating only privately grown bamboo, the government is dodging the real problem. The bulk of bamboo in the country today is on forest lands
  • But “forest lands” is an umbrella term that includes, for instance, community forest lands in Northeast India. Following the Supreme Court’s Godavarman judgment, tree harvest in all these lands is regulated by the forest department. If the amendment does not deregulate bamboo grown on these lands, then how will it unleash the vast economic potential of bamboo in that region?
  • Similarly, “forest lands” also includes community forest resources to which title has been granted under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. Tens of thousands of gram sabhas have now received such titles, and many thousands more await it. The FRA explicitly grants rights over bamboo and other non-timber forest products such as tendu patta to forest dwellers. Nevertheless, forest officials have constantly (illegally) denied bamboo harvesting and transport rights to communities, citing the IFA

Mini revolution in Maharashtra

Only in Maharashtra, due to the intervention of the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, were gram sabhas able to auction their bamboo. Subsequently, the Maharashtra Governor unequivocally amended the IFA as well as other State Acts to exclude bamboo and tendu patta from State control, facilitating a mini-revolution in forest-based livelihoods in eastern Maharashtra in the past few years.

Conclusion

The need of the hour therefore is to follow in Maharashtra’s footsteps and remove any caveats accompanying the amendment of the IFA, and amend all other State-level Acts and Rules to remove any contradictions with the FRA

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Unwavering caution — on RBI holding repo rate 

Unwavering caution — on RBI holding repo rate 

Context

The RBI’s decision to hold rates reflects its expectations of faster inflation 

Price stability: Main criteria

For the Reserve Bank of India there is just one economic indicator that dominates its policymaking calculus: price stability

What has happened?

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has opted yet again to keep interest rates unchanged

Rationale

  • Price gains as measured by the Consumer Price Index had accelerated to a seven-month high in October and the RBI’s survey of household expectations for inflation over both the three-month and one-year horizons showed a “firming up”
  • Price gains excluding the volatile food and fuel categories are particularly at risk from “the staggered impact of HRA increases by various State governments” that could push up housing inflation in 2018 
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At the same rate 

At the same rate 

Context

RBI signal: Policy support to growth can be discounted for now. Government must ease path for private investment

What has happened?

Reserve Bank of India has decided keep key policy rates unchanged

Decision of Monetary Policy Committee

The Monetary Policy Committee chose to maintain a “neutral” policy stance, projecting a relatively higher inflation of 4.3 to 4.7 per cent in the next two quarters while going with the earlier GVA (Gross Value Added) estimate of 6.7 per cent for FY 18, taking into account the upward pressure on food and fuel prices

Rationale for the decision

  • Oil prices: The MPC and other analysts reckon that oil prices, already at well over $50 a barrel, may sustain, with the risk of a negative impact on margins of companies and, in turn, on growth
  • Food prices: Food prices, too, were high in October, especially perishables like vegetables, though this should moderate in the winter months
  • RBI’s own survey of households, indicates a firming up of inflation expectations in the year ahead and the risks arising from global financial instability because of fiscal expansion in the US and monetary policy normalisation in advanced economies
  • The RBI says it has seen an uptick in credit growth in October and expects demand to rise in the next two quarters, with its own industrial outlook survey indicating a pick-up in the third quarter

Conclusion

With the government and the RBI readying to fortify banks with more capital, there could be a recovery down the line. But the wait may be longer than what many had projected at the start of this fiscal

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