Current Affairs for IAS PCS Civil Services Exams : 10 March, 2019

Current Affairs : 10 March 2019

Relevant articles from PIB:

Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Infrastructure- energy.

 

National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Key features, objectives and targets of the mission.
  • For Mains: Significance and the need for such missions.

 

Context: The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.

 

About National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Storage:

  1. The Mission will have an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee chaired by Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NITI Aayogto promote clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives.
  2. The Mission will also launch the Phased Manufacturing Programmes (PMP)for Batteries and for Electric Vehicle components.
  3. The mission will finalise and implement strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes (PMP)for electric vehicles, their components and batteries.
  4. The Mission will have a ‘Make in India’ strategyfor EV components as well as battery technologies.

 

Significance:

  • The mission will drive mobility solutions that will bring in significant benefits to the industry, economy and country. These solutions will help improve air quality in cities along with reducing India’s oil import dependence and enhance the uptake of renewable energy and storage solutions.
  • The mission will also lay down the strategy and roadmap which will enable India to leverage upon its size and scale to develop a competitive domestic manufacturing ecosystem for electric mobility.
  • The actions in this regard will benefit all citizens as the aim is to promote ‘Ease of Living’ and enhance the quality of life of our citizens and also provide employment opportunitiesthrough ‘Make-in-India’ across a range of skill sets.

 

Mains Question: Moving forward on the path to electrifying mobility in India is a complex issue and requires many precautions to be taken. Critically Analyze.

Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation and pollution related issues.

 

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Highlights and significance of ICAP.

 

Context: India Cooling Action Plan Launched.

 

Significance:

  • India is the first country in world to develop such a document (ICAP), which addresses cooling requirement across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand.
  • The overarching goal is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.

 

The goals emerging from the suggested interventions stated in ICAP are:

  1. Reduction of cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25 % by year 2037-38.
  2. Reduction of refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by year 2037-38.
  3. Reduction of cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by year 2037-38.
  4. Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by the year 2022-23, in synergy with Skill India Mission.
  5. Recognize “cooling and related areas” as a thrust area of research under the national S&T Programme.

 

The broad objectives of the India Cooling Action Plan include:

  • Assessment of cooling requirements across sectors in next 20 years and the associated refrigerant demand and energy use.
  • Map the technologies available to cater the cooling requirement including passive interventions, refrigerant-based technologies and alternative technologies such as not-in-kind technologies.
  • Suggest interventions in each sector to provide for sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all.
  • Focus on skilling of RAC service technicians.
  • Develop an R&D innovation ecosystem for indigenous development of alternative technologies.

 

The following benefits would accrue to society over and above the environmental benefits:

  • Thermal comfort for all – provision for cooling for EWS and LIG housing.
  • Sustainable cooling – low GHG emissions related to cooling.
  • Doubling Farmers Income – better cold chain infrastructure – better value of products to farmers, less wastage of produce.
  • Skilled workforce for better livelihoods and environmental protection.
  • Make in India – domestic manufacturing of air-conditioning and related cooling equipment’s.
  • Robust R&D on alternative cooling technologies – to provide the push to innovation in a cooling sector.

Relevant articles from various News Papers:

Paper 1 and 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Women related issues.
  2. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.

 

Monster Salary Index Report

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Highlights of the report.
  • For Mains: Concerns raised, challenges and the need for comprehensive reform policy.

 

Context: Monster Salary Index survey has been released. The survey is titled ‘Women of India Inc’.

  • It was prepared by Monster India in collaboration with Paycheck.in with IIM-Ahmedabad as a research partner.

 

Important findings:

  • Women in India earn 19% less than their male counterparts and 60% working women in India feel that discrimination at work.
  • The median gross hourly salary for men was Rs 242.49—earned Rs 46.19—more in comparison to women who earned Rs 196.3 in 2018.
  • Sector-wise, IT/ITES services show 26 per cent pay gap in favour of men, followed by manufacturing sector, where men earned 24 per cent more than women.
  • In healthcare, caring services, and social work men earn 21% more than women, while Banking and Insurance is the only industry where men earn just 2% more.
  • Around 47% of women felt that the most notable form of discrimination is perception that women are less serious about work once they are married.
  • About 46% women feel that maternity leads to a perception that they will quit and the same percentage of women also believe that there is a notion that women can’t put the same number of hours as men.

 

Way ahead:

The narrowing of the gender pay gap by just one percent is not just a cause for concern, but a reminder to genuinely introspect if we are doing enough. It becomes pivotal to galvanize forces across corporates and industries to work towards gender pay parity.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: According to Monster Salary Index, India suffers from huge gender pay gap. Discuss the causes and remedies.

Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

 

Guidelines For White Label ATMs

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: What are white label atms, significance, need and different types of atms?

 

Context: The Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) has come up with a review of operations of White Label ATMs (WLAs)in the country.

 

As per the new guidelines, it has been decided to allow:

  • The WLA Operators to buy wholesale cash, above a threshold of 1 lakh pieces (and in multiples thereof) of any denomination, directly from the Reserve Bank (Issue Offices) and Currency Chestsagainst full payment.
  • The operators to source cash from any scheduled bank, including Cooperative Banks and Regional Rural Banks.
  • The operators to offer bill payment and Interoperable Cash Deposit services, subject to technical feasibility and certification by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • The display advertisements pertaining to non-financial products / services anywhere within the WLA premises, including the WLA screen, except the main signboard. However, it shall be ensured that the advertisements running on the screen disappear once the customer commences a transaction.
  • Banks to issue co-branded ATM cards in partnership with the authorised WLA Operators and may extend the benefit of ‘on-us’ transactions to their WLAs as well.
  • All guidelines, safeguards, standards and control measures applicable to banks relating to currency handling, and cyber-security framework for ATMs, shall also be applicable to the WLA Operators.

 

What is White label-ATM?

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) set up, owned and operated by non-bank entities are called “White Label ATMs” (WLAs). They provide the banking services to the customers of banks in India, based on the cards (debit/credit/prepaid) issued by banks.

 

What was the need to allow non-bank entities for setting up of WLAs?

Keeping the fact in view that banks won’t be able to provide their ATM facilities in each and every place, non-bank entities were allowed by the RBI to set up White Label ATMs. This was done to increase the geographical spread of ATMs and enhance the customer service.

 

Key facts related:

  • Non-bank entities shall commence setting up and operating WLAs only after it has been authorised to do so by the RBI under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
  • Taking over of ATMs operated by banks would not be permitted. Entities may ensure to draw a strategic plan for installation of such WLAs based on the criteria set during authorization. White Label ATM Operators (WLAO) may also indicate the value added services it proposes to offer at the WLA while seeking authorisation.
  • WLAO is permitted to have more than one Sponsor Bank. All the transactions of WLAs serviced by this Sponsor Bank would be settled through it.
  • Cash Management at the WLAs will be the responsibility of the Sponsor Bank, who may if required, make necessary arrangements with other banks for servicing cash requirements at various places.
  • WLAO may establish connectivity with any of the authorised ATM Network Operators/ Card Payment Network Operators and ensure that the settlement of all the transactions at the WLAs shall be done only in the books of the Sponsor Bank through the ATM Network Operators/ Card Payment Network Operators with whom the WLAO has established connectivity.
  • Maintenance and servicing of the WLAs shall be the sole responsibility of the WLAO.

 

In addition to cash dispensing, ATMs / WLAs may offer many other services / facilities to customers. Some of these services include:

  • Account Information.
  • Cash Deposit (not permitted at WLAs).
  • Regular Bills Payment (not permitted at WLAs).
  • Purchase of Re-load Vouchers for Mobiles (not permitted at WLAs).
  • Mini / Short Statement Generation.
  • PIN change.
  • Request for Cheque Book.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

India’s Official Secrets Act, its history and use

 

What to study?For Prelims and Mains: Key features of the act, concerns over certain provisions and the need for review.

 

Why in News? Attorney-General’s request for “criminal action” against those responsible for making “stolen documents” on the Rafale deal public, has brought the Official Secrets Act into focus.

 

About Official Secrets Act:

The law meant for ensuring secrecy and confidentiality in governance, mostly on national security and espionage issues.

  • The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904 was enacted during the time of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
  • One of the main purposes of the Act was to muzzle the voice of nationalist publications.
  • The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) replaced the earlier Act, and was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.

 

Ambit of the Act:The secrecy law broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, which is dealt with in Section 3 of the Act, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, which is dealt with in Section 5. The secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information.

 

Need for review:

  • Since the classification of secret information is so broad, it is argued that the colonial law is in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act.
  • Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information, and the person receiving the information, can be punished by the prosecuting agency.
  • The SARC report states that as the OSA’s background is the colonial climate of mistrust of people and the primacy of public officials in dealing with the citizens, it created a culture of secrecy.
  • Another contentious issue with the law is that its Section 5, which deals with potential breaches of national security, is often misinterpreted. The Section makes it a punishable offence to share information that may help an enemy state. The Section comes in handy to book journalists when they publicise information that may cause embarrassment to the government or the armed forces.

 

Sources: Indian express.

Mains Question: It is often argued that the Official Secrets Act (OSA) which is of 1923 vintage and a complicated piece of legislation has no reason to remain on our statute books after the Right to Information Act of 2005. In the light of leak of important information from key ministries of the union government, critically comment.

Facts for Prelims:

 

Idukki’s Marayoor Jaggery gets GI tag:

Context: The Marayoor Jaggery, the traditional and handmade product from Idukki district of Kerala, has received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the Central Government.

  • The Jaggery is produced in Marayoor, a town in Idukki district of Kerala. It is made from sugarcane and no chemicals are added during the manufacturing process.
  • It is not produced in modern factories or using modern equipment. It is prepared in sheds located on the sugarcane farm.

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

Why are fires frequent at the Bandipur reserve?

Context: A five-day fire that raged through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve has reportedly burnt more than 15,400 acres of forests.

 

Concerns:

  • Increase in intensity and frequency.
  • long-term damage to the ecosystem.
  • Effects on Nilgiri Biosphere that hosts the world’s largest tiger population, at more than 575 (2014 census).

 

Why there is increase in intensity and frequency?

  1. Bandipur is a dry deciduous forest in the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats, and is no stranger to fires. Periods of drought invariably lead to fires. Between 1974 and 2014, 67% of the Nilgiri Biosphere had seen some form of forest fire, with Bandipur having reported the most incidents.
  2. The 2018 monsoon was particularly strong, but the year-end northeast monsoon has failed. If the monsoon led to dense growth, the blistering heat since September has turned vegetation brittle and dry, with vast swathes becoming tinderboxes.
  3. Besides, as with most forest fires, it is assumed that Bandipur’s ignition was man-made as miscreants set fire in multiple locations. Compounding matters is the ubiquity of lantana camara, an invasive weed species native to South America, that has spread through nearly two-thirds of the forest area.

 

Impacts of Forest Fires on Environment:

  • Fires are a major cause of forest degradation and have wide ranging adverse ecological, economic and social impacts.
  • Loss of valuable timber resources.
  • Degradation of catchment areas.
  • Loss of biodiversity and extinction of plants and animals.
  • Global warming.
  • Loss of carbon sink resource and increase in percentage of CO2 in atmosphere.
  • Change in the microclimate of the area with unhealthy living conditions.
  • Soil erosion affecting productivity of soils and production.
  • Ozone layer depletion.
  • Loss of livelihood for tribal people and the rural poor.

 

Why forest fires are important?

  • India’s forest policy encourages a zero forest fire approach for its protected landscapes — whether it is Bandipur or the rainforests of the upper Western Ghats.
  • Scientific literature has shown this blanket approach may be doing harm to dry, deciduous forests where trees have evolved to co-exist with fire.
  • The trees in this landscape were closer to those in a savanna than in rainforests 100 km away. Trees have dramatically thicker barks, implying that they had evolved to be fire-resistant.
  • When fires are relatively frequent, adult tree mortality in these systems is very low. Many saplings sprout shortly after the fire from underground reserves, and the system returns to its original state in a few years.
  • Conversely, when fires are suppressed — including by curbing the tribal practices of controlled fire burning — a greater biomass builds up that can lead to high intensity fires which affect the ecosystem negatively.

Editorial: Life without GSP

Context:

The U.S. has ultimately acted on its threat to withdraw concessions granted to Indian imports under the Generalised System of Preferences.

The Indian government confirmed that the United States has given a 60-day withdrawal notice to India on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) benefits, which amount to duty reduction of 190 million dollars a year.

 

About Generalised System of Preferences (GSP):

The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

GSP was instituted on January 1, 1976, by the Trade Act of 1974.

GSP has been given on non-reciprocal basis yet the US has linked it with market access and tariff reductionwhich is against the basic tenets of GSP.

Often GSP authority lapses before it is renewed, in which case duties on imports that are normally covered are held in escrow pending renewal.

US President has said he intends to end the preferential trade status granted to India and Turkey, asserting that New Delhi has failed to assure America of “equitable and reasonable” access to its markets, an announcement that could be seen as a major setback to bilateral trade ties.

 

India says GSP concessions by US amount to duty reduction of $190 million:

Since the review initiated by the United States in April 2018 on India’s GSP benefits, both countries have been discussing various trade issues of bilateral interest for a suitable resolution on mutually acceptable terms.

GSP benefits are envisaged to be non-reciprocal and non-discriminatory benefits extended by developed countries to developing countries.

In India’s case, the GSP concessions extended by the United States amounted to duty reduction of only 190 million dollars per annum.

The United States had initiated the review on the basis of representations by the US medical devices and dairy industries, but subsequently included numerous other issues on a self-initiated basis.

 

GSP duty benefit withdrawal by US will have marginal impact on few sectors:

  • The US decision to withdraw duty benefits under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme will have a marginal impact on few domestic sectors such as processed food, leather, plastic, and engineering goods, exportersbody FIEO.

 

  • India is predominantly exporting intermediate and semi-manufactured goodsto the US under the GSP, the same has helped in cost-effectiveness and price-competitiveness of American downstream industry.

 

  • Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) Presidentsaid that as these sectors were availing higher GSP benefits, the government should look into providing fiscal support to these segments.

 

  • The government should look into providing fiscal supportto such sectors so that exporters reduce their export prices factoring in the fiscal support with a view that the landed price of such products remain more or less what was under the GSP regime.

 

  • Therefore, the GSP withdrawalwill also impact the competitiveness of many manufacturing sectors and will hit the consumers at the same time.

 

  • Adding that the import priceof most of the chemical products, which constituted a large chunk of India’s exports, is expected to increase by about 5 percent.

 

  • The withdrawal of the benefitswill also hit the import diversification strategy of the US where it is keen to replace China as the main supplier to other developing countries. India’s exports to the US will remain unaffected despite withdrawal.

 

Conclusion:

The issue of Indian tariffs being high has been raised from time to time. It is pertinent that India’s tariffs are within its bound rates under WTO commitments, and are on the average well below these bound rates.

India’s trade-weighted average tariffs are 7.6 per cent, which is comparable with the most open developing economies and some developed economies.

On developmental considerations, there may be a few tariff peaks which are true for almost all economies.

We hope that the exporters would be able to absorb the duty loss where it is 2-3 percent, we need to provide fiscal support to those products where GSP tariff advantage was significant particularly in the labour-intensive sector.

 

Way Forward:

India said it was able to offer a “very meaningful way forward” on the issue of market access for various agriculture and animal husbandry products.

Relaxation or easing of procedures related to issues like telecom testing, besides conformity assessment and tariff reduction on information and communications technology (ICT) products.

India was agreeable to a very meaningful mutually acceptable package on the above lines to be agreed to at this time, while keeping remaining issues under discussion in the future.

It is important to recognise that China, unlike India today, was not browbeaten over tariffs in the 1990s when it was at a similar stage of development.

This is because the US besides not being led by a truculent President was heavily invested in China’s economy.

India needs to ensure a similar level of economic engagement with the rest of the world.

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