Essential Facts (Prelims): 14th January 2019

 


2+2

  • India and the U.S. reviewed the progress on finalising two key agreements during the 2+2 meeting.
  • The agreements are the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), a foundational agreement.
  • The third foundational agreement is Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement.
  • The ISA is particularly essential as the Indian industry looks for a greater role in defence manufacturing. It allows sharing of classified information from the U.S. government and American companies with the Indian private sector, which is so far limited to the Indian government and the defence public sector undertakings.


NCEF

  • National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) was created out of cess on coal at ₹400 per tonne to provide financial support to clean energy initiatives.
  • Inter-Ministerial Group chaired by the Finance Secretary was constituted to approve the project/schemes eligible for financing under NCEF.
  • Out of India’s total installed capacity of about 345 GW of power, gas-based capacity is about 25 GW or 7.2% of the total. However, its share in terms of generation is only 3.8% as 14,305 MW of gas-based capacity is stranded due to non-availability of domestic gas and unaffordability of imported gas. The consequence is that a large amount of assets in this sector have turned ‘non-performing’ or ‘unproductive’.


The Cow

  • On June 17, the ATLAS survey’s twin telescopes in Hawaii found a spectacularly bright anomaly 200 million light years away in the Hercules constellation.
  • Dubbed AT2018 or “The Cow,” the object quickly flared up, then vanished almost as quickly.
  • Scientists now speculate that the telescopes captured the exact moment a star collapsed to form a compact object, such as a black hole or neutron star.


Far side of moon

  • China’s Chang’e-4 probe has successfully transmitted back images from the far side (also known as the dark side) of the Moon.
  • Chang’e-4 is the first probe ever to land on that side.
  • Over billions of years, Earth’s gravitational pull has brought the Moon’s spin into sync with its orbit.
  • It takes exactly 28 days for the Moon to complete one rotation, and the same time to make one orbit around Earth. This leads to a phenomenon called “tidal locking”.
  • With the Moon’s rotation and orbit keeping it forever in step with the Earth, only one part of it is visible from this planet at any time. The unseen part is the “far side of the Moon”.
  • Although it is also called the “dark side of the Moon” this is actually a misnomer. Viewed from Earth, half the Moon is sunlit at any time; and during a new moon, the near side is dark while it is the far side that is fully lit. The far side of the moon is also lighter in colour.
  • All previous Moon landings, manned and unmanned, have been on the near side. This has been primarily because the Moon would have blocked radio communication between its far side and Earth.
  • To work around this problem, the Chinese mission has used a “relay satellite”, called Queqaio (Magpie Bridge). It is in orbit around a strategically selected point, called L2. Signals between the far side and Earth are transmitted via the relay satellite.
  • While Chang’e-4 is the first spacecraft to actually land on the far side, its images of that side are not the first. In 1959, the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 clicked a number of photographs of the far side, from over 60,000 km away.
  • Chang’e-4 landed on January 3 in the Von Kármán Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon. The SPA Basin (2,500 km wide, 13 m deep) and the Von Kármán Crater (180 km) are both large impact craters.
  • Chang’e-4 landed at an altitude of minus 6,000 m.
  • A study of the Moon’s craters will seek to establish their compositions and ages, a history of collisions between Earth and the Moon, and various other aspects of the early Solar System.


Clean Air Programme

  • Last week, the Centre launched across the country — a Rs 300-crore National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  • It proposes a “tentative national target” of 20%-30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
  • NCAP will be rolled out in 102 cities that are considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
  • The government has stressed that NCAP is a scheme, not a “legally binding” document with any specified penal action against erring cities.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 13th January 2019

 


Solar plasma

  • Plasma particles from the solar wind make their way into the Moon’s night side, filling up the wake region, long thought to be devoid of plasma particles.
  • This has significance in understanding bodies like the Moon which do not have global magnetic fields.
  • Plasma environment of the Moon is generated mainly by its interaction with the solar plasma wind flowing towards it from the Sun.
  • This plasma wind consists of charged particles such as protons and is partly absorbed by the side of the Moon facing the sun.
  • The rest of the solar plasma wind incident on the Moon flows around it, but leaves a wake (a void) on the side not facing the sun (the night-side of the Moon).
  • Earlier, it was believed that this wake was devoid of any particles. But recent Moon missions such as Chandrayaan-1, Kaguya, Chang’e-1 and Artemis have found evidence of refilling of near lunar wake (heights of 100 km to 200 km above the lunar surface on the night side) with solar wind protons.
  • Unlike the Earth, the Moon has no global magnetic field originating from a magnetized core. It has weak crustal fields that are too small to shield it globally from charged solar plasma particles incident on it.
  • At some regions the crustal fields are quite strong and these are known as magnetic anomalies. The plasma particles scatter off these anomalous crustal fields.
  • The interaction between the Moon and the solar plasma is a topic of interest now because understanding it can help us study any celestial body which has no atmosphere or global magnetic field, such as asteroids and some planetary satellites.


Mobile-CRISPRi

  • Scientists have repurposed the gene-editing tool CRISPR to study which genes are targeted by particular antibiotics, providing clues on how to improve existing antibiotics or develop new ones.
  • Resistance to current antibiotics by disease-causing pathogens is a global problem. The technique, known as Mobile-CRISPRi, allows scientists to screen for antibiotic function in a wide range of pathogenic bacteria.


Wandering pole

  • Rapid shifts in the Earth’s north magnetic pole are forcing researchers to make an unprecedented early update to a model that helps navigation by ships, planes and submarines in the Arctic.
  • The wandering pole is driven by unpredictable changes in liquid iron deep inside the Earth. It’s moving at about 50 km (30 miles) a year. It didn’t move much between 1900 and 1980 but it’s really accelerated in the past 40 years.
  • Scientists must periodically update the World Magnetic Model to map this process, and the most recent version — produced in 2015 — was intended to last until 2020.
  • However, the magnetic field has been changing so quickly and erratically that researchers realised drastic steps were needed.
  • The changes are essential as the system is used by aircraft, ships and even smartphones.


Ladakh

  • Ladakh is set to host the world’s largest single-location solar photo-voltaic plant.
  • The Ladakh project will be located at Hanle-Khaldo in Nyoma, a strategically important area 254km from Leh.


Legacy person

A legacy person is someone who figures in a set of pre-1971 documents such as the 1951 NRC and voters’ lists up to 1971, who an applicant can trace his or her lineage to.


 

Editorial Simplified: Not A Zero-Sum Deal | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relations)


Theme of the article

India and China can work together, bilaterally and in multilateral groupings, to build a secure Afghanistan.


Why has this issue cropped up?

The likelihood of an American pull-out from Afghanistan raises the spectre of instability in Afghanistan, South and Central Asia. If this happens, security could hinge on efforts made by regional powers to stabilise Afghanistan.


Regional powers and Afghanistan

CHINA:

  • Sharing part of a border with Afghanistan, China has a great interest in its stability.
  • China would be adversely affected by war and chaos, which could spill over into north-western China, Pakistan, and Central Asia. As all these areas are vital in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), peace in Afghanistan is critical.
  • Over the last decade, China has gained considerable economic and diplomatic influence in Afghanistan.
  • It has joined the U.S. and Russia in several peace talks with the Taliban and is part of the four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group (with Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S.).
  • It is giving military aid to Afghanistan, with the express intent of fighting terrorism and increasing security cooperation.
  • It has invested in projects such as mining, roads and railways, and health.
  • In 2012, it brought Afghanistan into the regional diplomatic processes by giving it observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

INDIA:

  • India supports China’s role in international negotiations on Afghanistan, the activation of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and other mechanisms of dialogue and cooperation for restoration of peace and development in Afghanistan.
  • India has certainly contributed much ‘soft power’ ranging from telecommunications to education, Bollywood movies and pop music.
  • The building for the National Assembly was built with Indian assistance to support Afghanistan’s democracy.
  • Indian reconstruction largesse, amounting to some $3 billion, has earned it goodwill and popularity.
  • But India’s lengthy absence from regional diplomacy has resulted in its limited contribution to the negotiations that are necessary to stabilise Afghanistan.

India- China cooperation in Afghanistan

  • The Afghan government would like to see India-China economic cooperation in Afghanistan that could boost progress and enhance human security.
  • Last October, in a first, India and China started a joint training project for Afghan diplomats.
  • They could expand cooperation by facilitating Afghanistan’s full membership of the SCO.
  • China’s leadership role of the SCO could give it a vantage in crafting a regional solution on Afghanistan. That should not prevent India and China from working together, bilaterally and in the SCO, to build a secure Afghanistan.

 

Editorial Simplified: Let The Grassroots Breathe | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (Polity and Governance)


Theme of the article

Local bodies must not be administrative vessels for implementing programs of the Central and State governments.


Why has this issue cropped up?

One of the first decisions of the newly elected government in Rajasthan has been to scrap the minimum educational qualification criteria for candidates contesting local body elections.


What were the educational criteria?

  • The previous government had introduced amendments which required candidates contesting the zila parishad and panchayat samiti elections to have passed Class 10 and those contesting sarpanch elections to have passed Class 8.
  • Further, it disallowed those without functional toilets in their home to contest.

Supported by Supreme Court

The court held that prescription of educational qualification was justifiable for better administration and did not violate the right to equality enshrined in the Constitution.


The problems with educational criteria

  • RIGHTS: It unduly restricts a citizen’s right to contest elections and thereby challenges the basic premise of a republican democracy. Denying the right to contest effectively restricts the right of a citizen to vote for a candidate of her choice since more than half the population is restricted from contesting.
  • MARGINAL SECTIONS: Further, it disproportionately disenfranchises the more marginal sections of society: women, Dalits and poor. In a country like India with unequal access to education, it is cruel to blame citizens for the failure of the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations.
  • OTHER ELECTIONS: Such restrictions do not exist for those contesting parliamentary or Assembly elections.
  • ASSUMPTION: It is an ill-informed assumption that those with formal education will be better in running panchayats.
  • 73rd and 74th AMENDMENTS: This approach goes against the very objective of the 73rd and 74th Amendments that sought to make panchayats and municipalities representative institutions with adequate representation from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

Denying local democracy

  • The undermining of local governments as representative institutions does not take place solely through the introduction of restrictions for contesting elections.
  • ELECTIONS: Over the years, many State governments have sought to defang local governments by simply delaying elections on various grounds. The continual delay in elections goes against the purpose of the 73rd and 74th Amendments.
  • SEC : In most States, tasks like delimitation of seats are still done by the State government instead of the State Election Commission (SEC).

Conclusion

India prides itself as a robust democracy with regular elections and smooth transfer of power. However, delaying elections and adding restrictions to contest prevent local governments from becoming truly representative institutions.


 

Editorial Simplified: Parliamentary Disruption | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (Polity & Governance)


Theme of the article

Parliamentary disruption has become the norm, this Lok Sabha mirrors the decline.


The parliamentary disruption

  • Disruption of parliamentary proceedings is not a new phenomenon. MPs have disrupted House proceedings from the early days of Parliament.
  • But disruption which was an exception earlier, seems to have become the new normal. In the last decade, MPs have raised slogans, snatched papers from ministers and used pepper spray in the House.

The role of the presiding officers

  • What was different during this session was the firmness of the presiding officers.
  • Disrupting MPs were warned by the Chair and then suspended from the proceedings of Parliament.
  • The presiding officers of both Houses also initiated steps to change the rules of procedure of the Parliament to better deal with disruptions

The nature of disruptions

  • In most cases, disorders in the House arise out of a sense of frustration felt by members due to lack of opportunities to make his point.They are perhaps easier to deal with.
  • What is more difficult to tackle is planned parliamentary offences and deliberate disturbances for publicity or for political motives.

Loss due to disruptions

  • During this session, Lok Sabha lost about 60 per cent and Rajya Sabha about 80 per cent of its scheduled time.
  • Disruptions also derailed the legislative agenda. Of the 10 Bills passed by Lok Sabha till January 7, nine were discussed for less than an hour-and-a-half.
  • In the Rajya Sabha, disruptions leading to adjournment resulted in only one bill being passed by it till January 8.
  • The problem of inadequate legislative deliberation was compounded in the session by non-reference of bills to parliamentary committees for detailed scrutiny. In the 16th Lok Sabha, fewer Bills (26 per cent) are being referred to Parliamentary Committees as compared to the 15th Lok Sabha (71 per cent) and the 14th Lok Sabha (60 per cent).
  • Disruptions also did not leave any time for discussions on any national issues in the Parliament. Parliamentary debates are recorded for posterity. They offer an insight into the thinking of our elected representatives.

Conclusion

When we look at the work done by the Parliament, our MPs might have fallen short of their constitutional duty.


 

Essential Facts (Prelims): 12th January 2019

 


Gaganyaan

  • ‘Gaganyaan’ would send a manned mission to space by 2022.
  • The Human Space Flight Centre [based in Bengaluru] will carry out all activities related to the human programme. Under it will function the Gaganyaan Project.
  • Gananyaan wil be launched aboard the GSLV-MkIII.


Industrial growth

  • Industrial output growth dropped to a 17-month low of 0.5% in November.
  • The drop is on account of contraction in manufacturing sector.
  • Factory output is measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
  • The manufacturing sector constitutes 77.63% of the index.


Ocean heating

  • Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change.
  • A new analysis found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a UN panel estimated five years ago.
  • About 93% of excess heat — trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels — accumulates in the world’s oceans.
  • A key factor in the more accurate measurement of ocean heating is an ocean monitoring fleet called Argo, which includes nearly 4,000 floating robots that “drift throughout the world’s oceans to measure its temperature, pH, salinity and other bits of information,”.


Bhartiya Shiksha Board (BSB)

  • It will be the country’s first national school board for Vedic education.
  • It will be a fully-funded autonomous body under the HRD Ministry.
  • Apart from affiliating traditional pathshalas, BSB will also be assigned the responsibility of evolving new kinds of schools that offer a blend of Vedic and modern education.


FDI

  • Mauritius, the favourite hotspot of foreign investors to route their investments to India, has witnessed a 70 per cent decline in foreign direct investment (FDI).
  • Singapore which overtook Mauritius has turned out to be the preferred country for routing FDI with a 78 per cent jump in investments.
  • FDI equity flows routed through Mauritius declined sharply reflecting the impact of the amended DTAA (double tax avoidance agreement).
  • After the DTAA amendment, India gets taxation rights on capital gains arising from alienation of shares acquired on or after April 1, 2017, in a company resident in India with effect from financial year 2017-18.
  • Japan came third in the FDI chart .
  • FDI inflows since 2000 has been routed through Mauritius and Singapore which enjoyed special status under the DTAA signed with India in 1982 and 1994, respectively.
  • The DTAA provided for a capital gains tax exemption to resident entities of these countries on transfer of Indian securities. These agreements were amended in 2016 with the purpose of source-based taxation of capital gains on shares, preventing round tripping of funds, curbing revenue loss and preventing double non-taxation.
  • In 2017-18, Mauritius was the top source of FDI into India with $13.41 billion investments followed by Singapore.


ADB

  • Having committed $3.03 billion in loans to India in 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) plans to scale up its lending to $4 billion annually.
  • ADB committed the highest ever annual lending to India in 2018.
  • The bank’s lending commitment included $557 million in loans for the private sector.


UAE

  • Among all the Gulf nations, the largest outflow of Indian workers in 2018 was to UAE, with about 1 lakh (or 35%) of the total workers being granted emigration clearances.
  • It was followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with 65,000-odd and 52,000-odd workers headed to these countries.
  • In 2017, Saudi Arabia had relinquished its position as being the most attractive destination among Gulf countries for Indian workers. the Nitaqat scheme for protection of local workers — the decline in expat workers, including from India is attributed to this scheme and the economic conditions.
  • Qatar stands out by being the only country in the Gulf region, where the number of workers shows an increase in 2018 as compared to the previous year.
  • there are an estimated 6 to 7.50 lakh Indian migrant workers in Qatar, constituting the largest expatriate community and nearly double the number of native Qataris.


 

Editorial Simplified: India’s Atlantic Challenge | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II
(International Relations and Foreign Policy)


Theme of the article

Trump’s ‘America First’ policy and the Brexit deal could pose more challenges to India.


The concern

While 2019 is a year of hope for India, a lingering concern is that the Atlantic Ocean may throw up many economic challenges that might rock India’s economic growth.


How US is creating a problem?

  • The Trump administration is attempting to replace the rules-based trade order with a bilateral trade agreements and sanctions network, a system that has distinct disadvantages for India.
  • Last year, when Mr. Trump gave the green light to start a trade war by escalating tariffs between U.S. and its three main trade partners – the EU, China and NAFTA – a relatively small yet strategically significant tariff spat broke out between Washington and New Delhi.
  • Both countries engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff policy, giving momentum to global trends towards trade protectionism. When India was denied an exemption by the U.S. from increased tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, it reciprocated by hiking import duties on 29 American export products, including pulses and iron and steel products..
  • A broader disadvantage for India of a spiralling trade war with the U.S. is that it could easily spin out of control and create rifts in other areas such as security and diplomacy. If that happens, it may be of considerable benefit to China.

The U.K. problem

  • If the U.K. has a ‘hard Brexit’, India may be looking at unexpected complications regarding trade adjustment, and a U.K.-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) may be out of the question.

Way forward for India

  • For India to secure its trade interests, it needs to renegotiate with both the EU and the U.K. for goods and services.
  • Also, the discussion on FTA with the EU must be resumed and a similar conversation must be launched with the U.K.
  • If these negotiations are managed carefully, Brexit may even emerge as an opportunity for India to recalibrate the legal terms of its trade with the U.K. and the EU, at the multilateral level, and through free trade agreements.

 

Essential Facts (Prelims): 10th January 2019


Composition Scheme

  • Currently, the Composition Scheme allows small manufacturers and traders, with an annual turnover of less than ₹1 crore, to file quarterly returns and pay GST at nominal rates.
  • These traders, however, cannot avail input tax credits or deal in items exempt from GST.

Tokenisation

  • The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) decision to allow card payment providers to offer tokenisation services will ensure the safety of digital transactions and reduce chances of fraud.
  • Tokenisation involves a process in which a unique token masks sensitive card details like card and CVV number.
  • The token is used to perform card transactions in contactless mode at Point Of Sale (POS) terminals, Quick Response (QR) code payments, etc.
  • Tokenisation is expected to increase digital transactions in India.

Gold scheme

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made some changes in the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS) .
  • Apart from individual and joint depositors, the scheme could now be availed by charitable institutions, the Central government, the State government or any other entity owned by the Central government or the State government.

GDP

  • India’s GDP is expected to grow at 7.3% in the fiscal year 2018-19, and 7.5% in the following two years, the World Bank has forecast, attributing it to an upswing in consumption and investment.
  • The bank said India will continue to be the fastest growing major economy in the world.
  • China’s economic growth is projected to slow down to 6.2% each in 2019 and 2020 and 6% in 2021.

Private consumption

  • Domestic private consumption, that accounts for a major portion of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), is expected to develop into a $6 trillion growth opportunity. Currently it is at $1.5 trillion.
  • That would make India the world’s third-largest economy by 2030, says a latest study by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

How the potential will be realised?

  • The potential would only materialise if business and policy-makers pursue an inclusive approach towards the economic and consumption growth.
  • Second, India will have to manage socio-economic inclusion of rural India as, by 2030, 40% of Indians will be urban residents.
  • Finally, business and policy-makers will have to take the initiative on improving health and liveability for India’s citizens.

Mona Lisa Effect

  • In science, the “Mona Lisa Effect” refers to the impression that the eyes of the person portrayed in an image seem to follow viewers as they move.
  • Researchers have demonstrated that this effect does not occur with the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Thirsty landscaping

  • Bangkok is fighting floods with ‘thirsty landscaping.
  • Parks are designed as places not only as a green space in the middle of the congested city but also as a place that could also retain large amounts of water, reducing monsoon flooding around urban areas.
  • Parks and “green roofs” planted with vegetation soak up rain during the annual monsoon and help dense urban centres like Bangkok adapt to climate change.

Sikkim

  • Sikkim will be the first state to roll out Universal Basic Income (UBI) and has started the process to introduce the unconditional direct cash transfer scheme.

10% quota Bill

  • It is 124th Amendment Bill.