Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – March 6, 2019

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Q.1) What is U.S.’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. How would removal from it would impact India? What course of action according to you government must take?

Answer:

Established by the Trade Act of 1974, GSP promotes economic development by eliminating duties on thousands of products when imported from the designated beneficiary countries and territories.

Impact on India:

  1. It will impact the exports of a few domestic sectors such as processed food, leather, plastic, building material and tiles, engineering goods, and hand tools etc.,
  2. Removal of these duty concessions would make some products relatively uncompetitive in the US market compared to exports from other developing countries.
  3. India will lose a vital U.S. trade concession, under which it enjoys zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States.

What India can do:

  1. Diversifying export markets.
  2. Strengthening export competitiveness by focusing on India’s unique strengths.
  3. Incentivising exporters through Ease of Doing Business reforms, credit availability and market support.
  4. Earlier, India proposed tariffs of about $235 million on 29 American goods.
  5. India has also attempted to address the trade deficit, with purchase of American oil, energy and aircraft. A similar comprehensive trade “package” can be conceived.

 

Q.2) Incentivising work-from-home jobs through policy-level initiatives can help in creating jobs in the ITES domain while increasing the available talent pool for the sector. Comment.

Answer:

The government is working on a scheme to push work-from-home jobs in the IT sector by offering financial incentives to both employees and employers.

Benefits of such a policy:

  1. This will create employment opportunities in the IT/ITES industry, especially for women and differently-abled persons
  2. The policy may extend relaxation in labour laws similar to that given to start-ups under the Startup India programme thus boosting employment.
  3. The policy proposes to provide 50% of the actual expenditure on technical infrastructure required for enabling such jobs, thus leads to more employment.
  4. It reduces the cost of setting up industries and leads to increased investments.

 

Q.3) Despite the number of cases and deaths more than doubling in less than 20 days due to H1N1 influenza since the review, the Ministry has made no additional effort to contain the spread. In this regard critically analyze the steps taken by government for prevention of H1N1 influenza.

Answer:

H1N1 challenge:

H1N1 flu is also known as swine flu. It’s called swine flu because in the past, the people who caught it had direct contact with pigs. That changed several years ago, when a new virus emerged that spread among people who hadn’t been near pigs.

Steps taken:

  1. Union Health Ministry had reviewed the preparedness and action taken by States to deal with influenza cases.
  2. The ministry has issued a guidance “recommending” vaccines for health-care workers, and deeming them “desirable” for those above 65 years of age and children between six months and eight years.

Way ahead:

  1. Mandatory vaccination for healthcare providers.
  2. Ensuring vaccine availability in peak season.
  3. Guidelines for all risk groups including old age, hypertension and diabetic patients.
  4. Measures include screening and triage of symptomatic patients and implementation of respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
  5. Information could be collected from different surveys and surveillances to:
    1. Find out when and where influenza activity is occurring
    2. Determine what influenza viruses are circulating
    3. Release timely modified vaccines
  6. Facilitate prompt awareness and characterization of influenza-A viruses with pandemic potential and accelerate the implementation of effective public health responses.

 

Q.4) Discuss the obstacles in the way of achieving government’s target regarding residential rooftop solar power. What measures should be taken to remove these obstacles.

Answer

Challenges in adoption:

  1. Lack of information: One of the key barriers to installing rooftop solar systems is that they do not know who to contact to understand the processes to be followed and permissions required.
  2. High installation cost: The most significant barrier to rooftop solar in India is high upfront costs for installation. Commercial and industrial consumers are often reluctant to invest such a high amount upfront.
  3. Limited finance availability: Due to perceived high risks and suspicion about performance for this relatively new sector, banks are reluctant to lend to solar rooftop projects. Borrowing costs can therefore be as high as 12% or more.
  4. Implementation of the net metering policy: Another key barrier to rooftop solar adoption is the poor implementation of net-metering policies across the states.
  5. High cost of energy storage: As solar power can only be generated during the day time, it warrants energy storage to ensure continued usage at night time or when solar radiation is low. Currently, the cost of a rooftop solar system with battery storage could be between INR 90,000 and 135,000 per kW depending on voltage (MNRE 2017 b).

Measures to promote SRTE:

  1. Information must be accessible to common citizens  on the different dimensions, like:
    • amount of shadow-free roof area needed for generating a unit of electricity and pricing;
    • operating the system,
    • after-sales maintenance and support; and
    • reliable rooftop solar vendors.
  • Building capacity of local electricity linesmen, electricity inspectors, and other nodal officials in the electricity department in billing and metering for solar power can go a long way in improving consumers’ experience.
  • Processes for approving net metering applications and disbursing subsidies will need to be efficient and painless to motivate consumers to invest in this new technology.
  • Finance is one of the major hurdle. Loans need to be made available for the installation, which requires significant capacity building of retail bank branches.
  • Instead of providing subsidies, government must rely on policy initiatives and administrative reforms.
  • Due to lack of monitoring and enforcement, initiatives like clause in EIA notification for SRT has become futile. There is requirement of mechanism that can monitor the progress on mandatory guidelines.
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