Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – May 4, 2018


Q. 1)What are the lessons for India and Pakistan from the Korean summit? How can it be implemented to reduce the differences between the countries?

A historic summit held between the two Koreas in the truce village of Panmunjom sparked a debate on whether the same strategy could be used to improve bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. Both these pair of countries possess nuclear weapons and were partitioned after the second world war.

But unlike India and Pakistan, both North and South Korea are formally committed to the idea of unification.The shared commitment to unification, however, has not gotten the divided Peninsula very far. For now only a peace treaty, an open border, greater economic and commercial cooperation is being considered. But the current peace process is certainly animated by the idea that Korean people are one.

The idea of a shared identity has been shunned by the military leaders of Pakistan. But efforts to improve bilateral ties are always on the agenda of both the civilian government.The focus is on resolving outstanding political disputes and normalising economic and cultural relations.

With regard to nuclear weapons, the whole focus of South Korea id the “denuclearisation” of the Peninsula while the North wants to use it as a leverage againsts major powers. While the North that has its own nuclear weapons, the South depends on the extended deterrence offered by the US nuclear arsenal. Here in Asia ,both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.

After the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in the summer of 1998, the world first demanded that Delhi and Islamabad roll back their nuclear and missile programmes. But soon enough it was clear that the international community had to live with a nuclear South Asia. At present, India has been nearly integrated into the global nuclear order and Pakistan wants the same status accorded.

The relationship between nuclear weapons and peace is also framed differently in the two regions. In Korea, denuclearisation is seen as a precondition for peace. In South Asia, political reconciliation between India and Pakistan, many argue, will help reduce the salience of nuclear weapons.

The way in which the nuclear weapons are being used by all the countries is different. North Korea escalated and openly carried out nuclear tests within a short span of time. Pakistan and India have obtained nuclear weapons only as a deterrence and respect the sentiments of other nations with respect to their nuclear programmes. But it is strongly suspected that it was Pakistan which shared its nuclear technology with North Korea.North Korea, unlike the others has been using its nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip.

The role of great powers in the conflict between the countries is also a major factor. Since India spearheaded the Non Aligned Movement, the role of USA, Russia etc in South Asia was minimum. In contrast, Korean Peninsula was one of the major theatres of the Cold War. The great powers have a strong hold over it even today.

After the end of Cold War, the US, China, Russia and Japan have played an active role in promoting peace in the Peninsula through the framework of six-party dialogue involving the two Koreas. India took the Kashmir question to the United Nations Security Council. It accepted American and Soviet mediation with Pakistan during the 1960s. After 1971, India insisted on the bilateral approach with Pakistan and other countries stayed out.

The recent Korean summit displays the use of creative diplomacy. It has shown that nuclear weapons, or the use of hard power have a limitation, mutually assured destruction will nullify the whole objective. It is high time both the countries make sincere efforts to improve bilateral ties. An informal summit on the lines of Wuhan Summit which was held between India and China can be held for starters.

Q.2)India is planning to shift to BS-VI fuels by 2020.What are the challenges in its implementation and what supplementary measures can be taken to reduce the atmospheric pollution in india.

Introduced in 2000, the Bharat norms are emission control standards that are based on the European regulations (Euro norms). They set limits for release of air pollutants from equipment using internal combustion engines, including vehicles. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board which is under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and Climate Change.

The central government on May 2019 told the Supreme Court that BS-VI auto fuel can be introduced in most districts of the National Capital Region (NCR) as well as Agra by 1 April 2019.This is the first step towards meeting the deadline of pan-India BS-VI roll out by April 1, 2020.

Challenges in implementation:

1)Diesel Pricing: Court has asked the centre to look into diesel pricing so that its lower price does not encourage purchase of mid-segment passenger vehicles.

2)Technological Difficulties:Automobile manufacturers had informed the supreme court about technological difficulties in converting vehicles to meet BS-VI emissions standards from 2019 in order to meet the April 2020 deadline.

3)BS-VI Compliant Engines:Although the OMCs are making efforts to prepone the implementation of the BS-VI grade auto fuel in some cities ahead of the pan-India schedule, full benefit of the eco-fuel can be derived only when the engines of the automobiles are BS-VI compliant.

4)Existing vehicles: They need to be retrofitted with necessary equipment like catalytic converter, diesel particulate filter, selective catalytic reduction etc to get full benefit of upgraded fuel

5)Issues with BS-VI Fuel:The fuel is said to have a lower lubricity value and its readiness to burn due to lower sulphur content. But then, various additives can correct these issues.

Other ways to reduce atmospheric pollution:

1)Encourage public transport.

2)Implementation of National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.

3)Encourage R&D in cleaner greener fuels.

4)Improve roads to reduce the consumption of vehicles.

5)Vehicles to be mandatorily serviced after a particular period of time.

6)Strict regulation on industries and emissions.

7)Cleaner fuels for households

Way forward:

Move towards cleaner fuels should be followed by other measures to reduce pollution as a whole. It must be seen in the larger context of climate change and India’s commitment to its citizens under Article 21.

Q.3)Write short notes on:

1)Issues with sugarcane subsidy

  • The government provides production based subsidy to the sugarcane industry.
  • Due to depressed market sentiments and crash in sugar prices, the liquidity position of sugar mills has been adversely affected, leading to accumulation of cane price dues of farmers which have risen to more than Rs.19,000 crore.
  • The subsidy is not linked to the market price and does not provide relief to the cash starved mill owners and farmers.
  • Since the farmers are not paid on time the production cycle is affected and the farmers are caught in a debt trap.
  • To overcome these problems an informal ministerial panel had explored options such as production-linked subsidy, imposition of sugar cess and reducing GST on ethanol to help sugar mills clear dues to cane farmers.
  • The Centre has doubled sugar import duty to 100 per cent and scrapped export duty to check sliding domestic prices. It has also asked mills to export 2 MT sugar. To clear cane arrears, the association has been demanding that the government provide production-linked incentive to cane farmers as it was done in 2015-16 marketing year.

2)Monsanto’s Bollgard-2

  • The Delhi High Court revoked the patent provided to Monsanto’s Bollgard 2.
  • Bollgard-2 is an insecticidal technology which uses a gene called Cry2Ab from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt).
  • Monsanto’s 2008 patent on Bollgard-2 protects several aspects of this technology: the modification of Cry2Ab to make it compatible with the cotton genome, the process of introducing this gene at a specific location in the cotton genome, and the protein expressed by the plant containing the gene.
  • Lack of patent protection would discourage crucial research by the agri-biotech industry.
  • Transgenic technologies such as Bt cotton are an important part of India’s cotton production arsenal
  • The patent was rejected on the grounds that Monsanto’s Bt gene was useless to farmers unless inserted into a cotton hybrid, which farmers could then grow to repel pests. This insertion is carried out by seed companies, who cross a Bt gene-containing plant (from Monsanto’s donor seeds) with their proprietary cotton varieties. The judge argued that this crossing of plants was a natural and biological process.
  • This move has undermined Monsanto’s patent, because under Section 3(j) of India’s Patents Act, a seed or a plant, or a biological process to create a seed or plant cannot be patented.
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