Friday, 13 July 2018

Civil Services Snippets for UPSC | 13 July 2018

Inflation now at a 5-month high of 5% #GS3 #Economy

  • Retail inflation spiked to a five-month high of 5% in June on costlier fuel, despite easing food prices, bolstering the chances of more interest rate increases by the RBI. The retail inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index, stood at 4.87% in May. It was 1.46% in June 2017. The earlier high was in January this year, at 5.07%.
  • As per the data released by the Central Statistics Office, the inflation in the food basket was 2.91%, compared to 3.1% in May.

Indu Malhotra, lone woman judge on Bench, makes a strong case against Section 377- Krishnadas Rajagopal #GS2 #Governance

  • Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court hearing the fight against Section 377 of the IPC, made a strong case against criminalisation of homosexuality. Justice Malhotra, the junior-most member of the Bench of five led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, said homosexuality is only a variation and not an aberration.
  • But the prejudice and stigma piled on the LGBTQ community has denied it even basic medical care in the country. Justice Malhotra spoke of the pressure on homosexual people from within the home. They succumb to marry the opposite sex, leading to a life of mental trauma and bi-sexuality.
  • The judge spoke of how homosexuality is not against the order of nature and is nature itself. The judge said Section 377 creates an environment which is conducive for discrimination of individuals on the ground of their sexuality.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud expressed the hope that social stigma vanish if Section 377 is struck down by the court. The judge said Section 377 creates an environment which is conducive for discrimination of individuals on the ground of their sexuality.
  • Mr. Venugopal spoke of the extent to which LGBTQ persons are denied their fundamental right to express themselves. He said a person from the LGBTQ community is unable to express himself in dress, conduct or speech in public view. They are denied the freedom to express their identity.

Temple ‘prasadam’ to be offered first to FSSAI, then God- Deepa H. Ramakrishnan #GS1 #Culture #GS3 #SnT

  • When it comes to temple prasadams, faith in God has traditionally been a good enough guarantor of food safety. But soon, the sacred offerings made to the deities, such as laddus, murukku, vadai, and adhirasam, will get third party validation of their safety and quality in the form of certification by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The 47 major temples in Tamil Nadu plan to sell prasadams in food grade containers that will have ‘best before’ dates.
  • Already, the Sri Dandayudhapani Temple in Palani has gone in for licensing of its Panchamirtham. This famous prasadam now comes packed in containers, along with labelling that enumerates the ingredients, weight, price, FSSAI licence number, and other details stipulated by the Food Safety Department (FSD).
  • Among the major temples in the State, the Palani temple was the first to go in for FSSAI certification. Prasadams in temples are usually made by contractors who get the tender for a year, from July to June.

No pillar shifted, India-Myanmar border untouched: Manipur CM #GS2 #IR

  • Amid tension brewing in the State over alleged shifting of a border pillar in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said the India-Myanmar international boundary has remained “untouched and unaffected” since its construction in 1970.
  • At a press meet in the morning, the CM said the border, separating India from Myanmar, was constructed based on an agreement signed between the two countries in 1967.
  • The government, in view of public apprehension, has written to the Centre to conduct a field visit on July 18 to check if pillar no. 81 at Kwatha Khunou in Tengnoupal district stands at the ‘actual spot’ as per the 1967 agreement in order to convince the stakeholders.

Ayushman Bharat: Use of Aadhaar only ‘desirable, not must’ #GS2 #Governance

  • The use of Aadhaar Card is desirable but not a must to avail benefits under the Ayushman Bharat —National Health Protection Mission. In a release, it said that the notification of the Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission being issued under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act merely enabled the implementation agencies to ask for authentication of identity.
  • In order to authenticate the identity of beneficiaries accurately, the use of Aadhaar card is preferable, but it is not a “must. The guidelines on beneficiary identification clearly state that beneficiaries can bring Aadhaar or any other valid government ID(s) if they did not have an Aadhaar card.

Ladakh’s connectivity conundrum- Vijaita Singh #GS3 #Environment

  • At a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to discuss issues in the implementation of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP), an official from Jammu and Kashmir said connectivity was a major issue in the Ladakh region. In areas bordering China, only Chinese telecom services were available, not those of Indian operators.
  • Meanwhile, an official from Uttar Pradesh said a bridge was washed away within weeks of its construction as the Kosi river changed course. Under the BADP, the Union government plans to develop villages located 0-10 km from the international borders and make them “self-sustainable.
  • The governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal highlighted their achievements under the BADP, and the steps taken to improve the quality of life for the people in the border areas.

SC defends govt. stand on Sec. 377- Krishnadas Rajagopal #GS2 #Governance

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday quickly came to the rescue of the government when it came under attack for not contesting the challenge to Section 377 IPC, which criminalises homosexuality.
  • The court reasoned that a subsequent “development” in the form of a nine-judge Bench upholding privacy as a fundamental right in 2017, may have prompted the Centre to leave the fate of the colonial provision entirely in the hands of the apex court.
  • Advocate Manoj George, representing the Apostilic Alliance of Churches in India and the Utkal Christian Council, accused the government of taking a “U-turn” before the five-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, examining the legality of Section 377 IPC.
  • Mr. George, in a brief address, supported Section 377 IPC. He criticised the Centre for not standing up to the challenge to the provision. He read out to the court the arguments made by the Centre’s counsel from the December 2013 judgment in the Suresh Kumar Koushal case, which had upheld Section 377 and set aside the historic verdict of the Delhi High Court, reading down the penal provision to exempt consensual acts between adults from the purview of the Section.
  • Chief Justice Misra addressed the courtroom, saying “Let the Bar understand this. The issue raised here is of choice. They (petitioners) are saying ‘I have a choice. The court has conferred privacy on me. My sexual orientation comes with dignity and privacy. Now there is this one provision which annihilates my privacy and dignity. Is this not an interference on my constitutional rights’.”

Relief for guests from Bangladesh- Vijaita Singh #GS2 #IR

  • India will sign a pact with Bangladesh to ease visa restrictions for citizens from the neighbouring country. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on “revised travel arrangements” will be signed during Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s three-day visit to Dhaka.
  • Bangladesh has demanded that travel restrictions for senior citizens be eased and further concessions be given to Muktijoddhas — those who participated in the 1971 Liberation War. Last year, India announced five-year multiple entry visa to the 1971 war veterans from Bangladesh.
  • Citizens from over 150 countries can travel to India on e-tourist visas procured online. This facility is not extended to Bangladesh. The visa rules for senior citizens would be relaxed further and they could visit India more frequently. Similarly for Muktijoddhas , we will ensure smooth travel. There will be facilitation desks to help them
  • In 2014, India decided to relax visa restrictions for Bangladeshis above the age of 65 and below the age of 13. They were allowed five-year multiple entry visas.

Indian startups make a beeline for funding at RISE- Biju Govind #GS3 #Economy

  • From tattooing to dress rentals to security solutions, there is an astounding variety of Indian startup dreams searching for funding at ‘RISE 2018’, Asia’s largest tech event currently on in this bustling Asian business capital.
  • By a rough count, as many as 200 Indian start-ups in alpha, beta and growth stages are at the ongoing event to secure funds either for kick-starting their entrepreneurial dreams or expanding their businesses.
  • Voice is going to dominate for multiple reasons in India in the next few years. In western countries, people are quickly moving from texts to speech. We have set up a development centre in Hyderabad

India, Indonesia discuss Indo-Pacific cooperation #GS2 #IR
  • Taking forward the India-Indonesia shared vision on maritime cooperation in Indo-Pacific, an Indian team visited Sabang in Indonesia to “discuss steps for mutual collaboration.” At the same time, in a first, Indian ship INS Sumitra berthed at Sabang Port close to the Malacca Strait for operational turnaround.
  • “The hosting of the India-Indonesia investment forum in Aceh and the visit of the Indian delegation and INS Sumitra port call at Sabang.
  • Indonesia has recently agreed to give India access to its port for operational turnaround which will increase the Navy’s footprint in the region. “INS Sumitra sailed from Port Blair to Sabang, where it will take provisions and fuel before going for further deployment in the Indian Ocean
  • Key Points-
  • INS Sumitra
  • India- Indonesia relations

Buddha of Swat smiles again- AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE #GS2 #IR

  • The Buddha of Swat, carved on a cliff in the seventh century, was dynamited by the Pakistani Taliban in 2007. Now it has been restored, a powerful symbol of tolerance in the traumatised Pakistani valley.
  • The holy figure, depicted in a lotus position at the base of a granite cliff in northern Pakistan, was severely damaged by Islamist insurgents in an echo of the Afghan Taliban’s complete destruction of its more imposing counterparts at Bamiyan in 2001.
  • The Buddha sits in Jahanabad, the epicentre of Swat’s Buddhist heritage, a beautiful valley in the foothills of the Himalayas. There the Italian government has been helping to preserve hundreds of archaeological sites, working with local authorities who hope to turn it into a place of pilgrimage once more.
  • The reconstruction of the face itself was first prepared virtually in the laboratory, in 3D, using laser surveys and old photos.

Industrial growth dips to 7-month low #GS3 #Economy

  • Industrial production growth slipped to a seven-month low of 3.2% in May mainly on sluggish performance of manufacturing and power sectors coupled with poor offtake of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).
  • Factory output growth, measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), was revised down to 4.8% in April from previous estimates of 4.9%, according to the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
  • The IIP had expanded by 2.9% in May last year. The previous low of industrial production growth was 1.8% in October 2017. During April-May this fiscal, the IIP recorded a growth of 4.4% as compared with 3.1% in the same earlier year period.
  • The manufacturing sector, which constitutes 77.63% of the index, grew by just 2.8% in May, marginally up from 2.6% in the corresponding period last year. Power generation growth decelerated sharply to 4.2% during the month as compared with a high of 8.3% the year earlier.
  • The mining sector output recorded an impressive growth of 5.7% in May as against 0.3% in May last year. The FMCG sector was the worst performer among the user-based goods segment with its output declining by 2.6% as against a growth of 9.7% the year earlier.
  • As per use-based classification, the growth rates in May 2018 over May 2017 are 5.7% in primary goods, 7.6% in capital goods, 0.9% in intermediate goods and 4.9% in infrastructure/construction goods.
  • Industry group ‘manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products’ has shown the highest positive growth of 27%, followed by 21.1% in ‘manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ and 13.2% in ‘manufacture of furniture’.
  • On the other hand, the industry group ‘other manufacturing’ has shown the highest negative growth of (-) 31.9% followed by (-) 15.6% in ‘manufacture of tobacco products’ and (-) 12.8% in ‘manufacture of wearing apparel.
  • In terms of industries, 13 out of 23 industry groups in the manufacturing sector have shown positive growth during May 2018 as compared with the corresponding month of the previous year.

Stock brokers can’t accept cash from clients: SEBI #GS3 #Economy                          

  • Investors can no longer deposit cash in their broker’s account to trade in stocks. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) made it mandatory for stock brokers to accept client funds only by way of bank or electronic transfers such as cheques and mobile banking.
  • The capital markets watchdog highlighted the fact that the government had promoted various means for transfer of funds through digital mode for encouraging a cashless economy and financial institutions and banks had introduced various modes of electronic payment. The new norms take effect immediately.
  • The move is in line with SEBI’s plans to encourage paperless and cashless stock market trading. Incidentally, applications in an initial public offer (IPO) are now completely done through ASBA - Application Supported by Blocked Amount — a mechanism wherein the bid amount is blocked in the subscriber’s account at the time of bidding and is debited only after the allotment of shares is finalised.

RBI flags States’ fiscal stress #GS3 #Economy

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has pointed to the fiscal stress that States are facing due to several factors including farm loan waivers, and said higher borrowing by them could crowd out private investment.
  • In a report ‘State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 2017-18 and 2018-19,’ the central bank noted that States’ consolidated gross fiscal deficit (GFD) overshot the budget estimates in 2017-18 due to shortfalls in own tax revenues and higher revenue expenditure.
  • While States budgeted a gross fiscal deficit to gross domestic product (GFD-GDP) ratio of 2.7% in 2017-18, revised estimates reveal GFD-GDP ratio of 3.1%, the RBI said. “The deterioration was located in the revenue balance. In contrast, the capital account has helped to contain the GFD.”
  • Since the combined GFP to GDP was at 6.4% as compared with the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Committee’s (FRBM) medium-term target of 5%, there is a risk that private investment gets crowded out of the finite pool of financial resources.
  • Risks are also likely to emanate from possible higher pre-election expenditure in more than 10 States and implementation of the balance pay commission awards, particularly to the extent that they are not fully provided for under the budgeted expenditure.
  • While States together have projected a revenue surplus and a lower consolidated GFD of 2.6% of GDP in 2018-19, 11 States have budgeted for fiscal deficits above the threshold of 3% of GDP.
  • The RBI said with States continuing announcements and roll-out of farm loan waivers, the budgeted GFD could be at risk, and additional borrowing requirement could produce a concomitant impact on the already elevated borrowing yields.
  • Among the factors responsible for fiscal stress in certain States are farm loan waivers that have been announced since 2014, with States like Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and recently Karnataka announcing agriculture debt waiver schemes.
  • According to the report, the total debt waiver granted during 2017-18 amounted to 0.32% of GDP as per revised estimates as opposed to budget estimates of 0.27% of GDP. Total debt waivers are budgeted at 0.2% of GDP during 2018-19.
  • Apart from having a dampening impact on rural credit institutions, such loan waivers, the report pointed out, impact credit discipline, vitiate credit culture and dis-incentivise borrowers to repay loans, thus engendering moral hazard.

China eyes Indian pharma as U.S. trade turns cloudy- REUTERS #GS3 #Economy

  • China is preparing to give swift regulatory approvals to India-manufactured drugs, the head of an Indian export promotion group said, as Beijing looks for new commercial partners ahead of what could be a protracted trade war with the United States.
  • Indian firms are looking to fill gaps in Chinese demand for generic drugs, software, sugar and some varieties of rice. No concrete deals have been signed but the outlook for pharmaceutical sales from India is positive, according to officials from both nations.
  • India dominates the world’s generic drugs market, exporting $17.3 billion of drugs in the 2017/18 (April-March) year, including to the U.S. and the EU. But only 1% of that went to China, the world’s second-largest market for pharmaceuticals.
  • The EU is already one of India’s key export markets for medicines, and accounted for about 15% of overall drug exports in 2016/17. Swift regulatory approvals in China would allow Indian companies to boost revenue at a time when pricing scrutiny and regulatory troubles have hurt U.S. sales.
  • China and India are witnessing a growth in pharmaceutical trade, and the two sides are in sound communication on opening the Chinese market to drugs from India and conducting dialogue and co-operation between the two sides’ pharmaceutical industries.
  • In May, China exempted import tariffs on 28 drugs, including all cancer drugs, a move that would help India reduce its trade imbalance with China. China also lags far behind in terms of drug approvals versus developed markets.

MoEF to launch dust mitigation measures #GS3 #Environment

  • In time for the winter, which sees a dip in air quality in the capital, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has lined up a slew of measures to tackle dust pollution, which will see the launch of three pilot projects — installation of filters on top of buses, use of dust separation chemical sprays and installing equipment that will suck in particulate matter.
  • The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) will run the pilot project on installing equipment to suck in particulate matters. The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which was drawn up by the MoEF, is likely to be finalised by the end of this month, and sent to states so that they can make plans to curb air pollution.

India’s position on CECA too far apart from us #GS3 #Economy

  • The negotiating positions of India and Australia on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) “are too far apart” for its conclusion to be a realistic objective in the near term. Australia should prioritise trade negotiations with India in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and return to bilateral trade negotiations once an RCEP deal is concluded.
  • Australia and India have been negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement — termed the CECA — since 2011. The RCEP negotiations were launched in November 2012 by leaders of 10 ASEAN Member States (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and six ASEAN FTA partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand) during the 21st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  • India’s ability to make sufficiently credible market access commitments in RCEP is constrained by its sensitivities in goods, particularly agriculture, but also by its desire to lower its trade deficit with China. A low-ambition agreement, that does not deliver commercially meaningful outcomes, would be a missed opportunity for the region.
  • The report also talked about the China as a factor in strategic partnership between Australia and India. “It is important to understand that Australia and India do not approach China from identical perspectives. Indeed, there are some large differences in our respective relations with China.
  • For Australia a democratic China becoming the predominant power in the Indo-Pacific is a very different proposition to an authoritarian China occupying this position.


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