9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 14th, 2018

Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here

GS 2

Making ‘lateral entry’ work

Making ‘lateral entry’ work


  1.  Egon Zehnder, leader global leadership advisory, discussed How India can tap into new sources of leadership talent.

Important facts:

  1. Governments as well as most CEOs are facing the talented leadership challenge.
  2. Indian government has responded to this challenge by taking the initiative to invite executives from beyond the ranks of the civil service for the Joint Secretary posts.
  3.  At Egon Zehnder(Egon Zehnder is the world’s largest privately held executive search firm and the third largest executive search and talent strategy firm globally), author has worked extensively with governments around the world on similar initiatives, and has identified five elements that increase the chance of success.

4 Establish objective criteria:

  • This gives decision makers confidence that their appointments will be able to stand up to public scrutiny.

5. Target the talent you need:

Public announcements inviting lateral entry applicants for open government positions preserve transparency.

  • Government must proactively identify and approach executives with the desired skills and experience.
  • This is necessary to fight the country’s urgent economic and social challenges.
  • In addition to the right motivation, there are three key personal traits that predict success of lateral hires in such roles.

a. Resilience: It is essential on the part of government bureaucracy to have the ability to preserve in the face of constant pulls and pressures and aligning multiple stakeholders.

b. Successful lateral hires also have a high level of curiosity.

c. The ability to build consensus among stakeholders is essential.

6. Less is more when it comes to selection panels:

  • The government screening process traditionally includes appearing before section panel interviewers.
  • This approach often results in only a surface-level understanding of the candidate.
  • More focussed interviews should be supplemented with extensive referencing with finalist candidates.
  • This will provide insight into a candidate’s character, integrity and moral compass, all critical qualities for government roles.

7. Accelerate the new hire’s integration:

  • India’s lateral entry programme has the potential to introduce new thinking and new expertise into key ministries.
  • Leveraging on lessons learned elsewhere will allow India to more completely draw from the country’s rich array of talent while maintaining the objectivity necessary to preserve the public trust.
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India rejects U.K. proposal on DNA tests for ‘illegal migrants’

India rejects U.K. proposal on DNA tests for ‘illegal migrants’


  1. India rejected a proposal by the U.K. to use DNA sampling to establish the nationality of illegal migrants.

Important facts:

  1. Earlier, the U.K authorities suggested that the nationality of document-less illegal migrants suspected to be Indians could be established by matching DNA samples of their family members living here.
  2. However, the Indian government raised objections that this was a breach of privacy and unethical.
  3. In January, Union Cabinet approved the contents of a MoU on “return of illegal migrants” to be signed with U.K.
  4. As per the original MoU, the security agencies in India were to verify the antecedents of document less illegal migrants in the U.K within 72 days and those with documents within 15 days.
  5. If no report was given within the time frame, the illegal migrant would be deported automatically.
  6. India pulled out of the pact saying the time frame was not feasible.
  7. According to the British government’s data, there around apex 1 lakh Indians overstaying their visa in the U.K. But as per India’s estimate the number will not be more than 2,000.
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GS 3

Coral reefs could survive global warming, says study

Coral reefs could survive global warming, says study


  1. Scientists found that coral-algal partnerships have endured numerous climate change events since the age of dinosaurs.

Important facts:

  1. Their relationship with algae has endured numerous climate change events in the past.
  2. The relationship between corals and the mutualistic micro-algae that enable them to build reefs is considerably older and more diverse than previously assumed, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology.
  3. Past estimates placed the initiation of these symbiotic relationships at 50 to 65 million years ago.
  4. The micro-algae, commonly called zooxanthellae, lives inside the cells of corals, allowing them to acquire energy from sunlight and to build the massive, economically valuable reef formations.
  5. Finding that the origin of the algal symbionts corresponds to major increases in the abundance and diversity of reef-building corals implies that the partnership with Symbiodiniaceae was one of the major reasons for the success of modern corals.
  6.  The team used genetic evidence — including DNA sequences, phylogenetic analyses and genome comparisons — to calculate the micro-algae’s approximate age of origin.
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Huff and e-puff

Huff and e-puff


  1. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a stand against e-cigarettes.

Important facts:

  1. In a recent hearing on a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court, the Delhi government said it was planning to ban e-cigarettes.
  2. If it follows through, the NCT will join States such as Karnataka and Maharashtra in the ban.
  3. The controversy exists partly because it is a new and rapidly evolving
  4. Impact of e-cigarette:


  • The evidence so far indicates that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes. Because they heat a liquid to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol, instead of burning tobacco, they do not produce toxic tars.

5. In the American Annual Review of Public Health, in January 2018 a group of researchers argued that e-cigarettes must be viewed from a “harm minimisation” perspective.

  • Researchers highlighted that combustible cigarettes are more noxious than electronic ones, switching from the former to the latter can only help addicts, they argued.


  • They are not completely safe.
  • At high temperatures, e-cigarettes produce carcinogens such as formaldehyde, although these are fewer in number compared to regular cigarettes.
  • They also increase the odds of lung disease and myocardial infarction, but to a lesser extent than normal cigarettes do.
  • In the American Annual Review of Public Health, in January 2018 a group of researchers advocated the precautionary principle.
  • They argued that these e-cigarettes are a young technology; it will take time to uncover their ill-effects.
  • Some carcinogens in e-cigarettes have a non-linear effect on cancer.
  •  This means even the low doses in e-cigarette aerosols can be carcinogenic if inhaled for years.
  • Recent surveys also show that e-cigarettes can act as a gateway drug for young people.
  • A 2011 study of Korean adolescents found that e-cigarette users were more likely to turn into regular smokers eventually.
  •  As per 2004-2014 data from the U.S. National Youth Tobacco Surveys suggest that young people at low risk of taking up smoking are turning to e-cigarettes.

Way ahead:

  • Instead of complete banning the technology, while selling normal cigarettes, could take away a promising smoking-cessation aid.
  •  A more pragmatic option would be to regulate e-cigarettes tightly, by creating standards for the aerosols and banning underage and public use.
  •  This would leave smokers with a therapeutic alternative, while protecting youngsters from a gateway drug.
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Growth may pick up, but concerns remain

Growth may pick up, but concerns remain


  1.  C. Rangarajan, former RBI Governor, discussed the issues relate to growth.

Important facts:

2. Concerns

Agriculture sector:

  • The monsoon has been somewhat below expectations.
  • There were 11 meteorological divisions (of a total of 36) which were deficient.
  • The area sown has come down.
  •  Rice-producing Bihar, for instance, has been severely affected.
  • There is no consensus on the future behaviour of the monsoon.
  •  Agricultural growth may at best be equal to what it was last year — 3.4%.

Service sector:

  • The services sector may perform better because public expenditure will be maintained at a high level.
  • According to the data of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for the first quarter, there is substantial improvement over the corresponding period of the previous year.
  • The correlation between the IIP and national income data on manufacturing is poor.
  • The problems of the goods and services tax (GST) may have been largely overcome, but it is still a work in progress.
  • A pick-up in the growth rate in the manufacturing sector is likely.
  • Looking at the overall GDP, after several quarters of low growth, there was a strong pick-up in the last quarter of 2017-18.
  • If this momentum is maintained, the growth rate (2018-19) will certainly be above 7%. How much higher above 7% will depend on a number of factors.
  •  International financial institutions have forecast a growth rate of 7.3%.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) expects it to be 7.4%.

Trade war:

  • Trade wars have already started and can get worse.
  • The U.S. has raised duties on several products such as steel and aluminium, and on certain products imported from China.
  •  In turn, China has retaliated.
  •  India has also been caught in this exchange.
  • Besides these, there are country-specific sanctions such as those against Iran, which have a direct impact on crude oil output and prices.
  •  India benefited from the fall in crude prices earlier but this position has reversed.
  • As a net importer, India’s balance of payments can take a beating if crude prices rise again.
  •  India’s current account deficit was as low as 0.6% of GDP in 2016-17.
  • It rose to 1.9% of GDP in 2017-18, mainly because of crude price rise.
  •  India’s trade deficit has always remained high.
  •  In 2016-17, the merchandise trade deficit was 4.8% and rose to 6% of GDP the next year.
  • The fall in crude oil prices had also affected our export growth earlier. In 2017-18, India’s export growth rate was 9.78%. There is an inescapable need to raise our export growth rate.

NPA issue:

  • The banking system continues to be a source of concern. The RBI’s latest report on financial stability shows that the gross non-performing asset (NPA) ratio of scheduled commercial banks rose to 11.6% (March 2018).
  • The high NPA level has a dampening effect on the provision of new credit.
  • Credit to the industrial sector has slowed down considerably.

Impact on the fisc

  • The third concern relates to the fiscal position.
  • There are two aspects of the fisc which need to be kept under watch.
  1. One relates to GST. It is estimated that GST revenues are currently running behind budgetary projections.
  2. The second concern relates to the impact of the proposed minimum support prices (MSPs) for various agricultural commodities.
  3. The MSPs have been raised sharply in the case of some commodities. Except in the case of rice and wheat (where there is unlimited procurement at MSPs), there is no indication of how the MSPs will be implemented in relation to other commodities.
  4.  If market prices fall below MSPs, there are only two ways in which farmers can be assured of the minimum price.
  • One is the M.P. model where the State pays the difference between market price and MSP.
  • The other alternative is for the government to procure excess production over normal production so that market prices rise.

5. Suggestions:

  • Need to create more jobs and reduce poverty.
  • Raising export growth which has shown severe swings in recent years.
  • Need to ensure that the rupee does not appreciate in real terms. With a rising trade deficit and some outflow of capital, the rupee has depreciated.
  • The RBI should act only to ensure that the adjustment is smooth and there are no violent fluctuations.
  • Need to make  exports  competitive.
  • Improved efficiency in production and better infrastructure are equally important.
  • Maintenance of domestic stability also plays a key role.
  • Over the medium term, we need to search for an alternative fuel.
  • Reviving the banking system. Recapitalisation of banks has become an urgent necessity.
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Pune tops Ease of Living Index

Pune tops Ease of Living Index


  1. Recently, the first Ease of Living Index released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

Important facts:

  1. 2. State wise performance:
  • Three cities in Maharashtra- Pune, Navi Mumbai and Greater Mumbai, top the list.
  • The national capital, New Delhi is ranked 11 among 65 cities.
  • Chennai is in 14th place.
  • Kolkata did not participate in the survey.
  • The other cities in the top ten include Tirupati, Chandigarh, Thane, Raipur, Indore, Vijayawada and Bhopal.
  • The three cities at the bottom of the rankings are Rampur, Kohima and Patna.

3. The performance is based on four parameters:

  • Institutions or governance
  • Social indicators
  • Economic indicators
  • Physical infrastructure.

4. Cities which were unable or unwilling to provide data received low scores.

5. For example, New Delhi has a score of “zero” on indicators regarding inclusive hosing and mixed land use and compactness, and a score of just 0.12 on economy and employment.

  • The ranking marks “a shift to a data-driven approach to urban planning and management.
  • The future editions of the Index may also incorporate citizen and stakeholder feedback rather than relying on government data alone.

6. The index faced challenged in collecting information from data-starved urban local bodies.

7. Hurdles were seen in indicators such health-where local governments did not have access to data from private hospitals.

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