Editorial Simplified: The Solution Is Universal| GS – III


Relevance: GS Paper III


Theme of the article

Strengthening the MGNREGA would be more prudent than a targeted cash transfer plan like PM-KISAN.


Why has this issue cropped up?

Rural distress has hit unprecedented levels. To allay  the distress, one of the announcements in the Budget was the cash transfer scheme called Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).


Is PM-KISAN a reasonable solution?

  • Comparison with MGNREGA
    •  A month of MGNREGA earnings for a household is more than a year’s income support through PM-KISAN anywhere in the country.
    • PM-KISAN is a targeted cash transfer programme and MGNREGA is a universal programme.
    • Around 40% of rural households are landless and depend on manual labour. The landless can earn through the MGNREGA but are not eligible for the PM-KISAN scheme.
  • Notwithstanding the meagre amount, the PM-KISAN might be pitting the landless against a small farmer.
  • Further, it is unclear how tenant farmers, those without titles, and women farmers would be within the ambit of the scheme.
  • There is also substantial evidence to demonstrate that universal schemes are less prone to corruption than targeted schemes.

Problems with  implementation of MGNREGA

  • The Centre has frequently tinkered with the wage payments system in the MGNREGA. Less than a third of the payments were made on time.
  • Repeated changes in processes result in a hurried bureaucratic reorientation on the ground, and much chaos among workers and field functionaries alike.
  • Field functionaries are pushed to meet stiff targets. Being short-staffed and inadequately trained, this results in many technical and unforeseen errors.
  • A case in point is the rushed manner in which Aadhaar has been implemented for the MGNREGA. Several MGNREGA payments have been rejected, diverted, or frozen as a consequence.
  • In the last four years alone, more than ₹1,300 crore of the MGNREGS wage payments have been rejected due to technical errors such as incorrect account numbers or faulty Aadhaar mapping. There have been no clear national guidelines to rectify these.
  • There are numerous cases of MGNREGS payments getting diverted to Airtel wallets and ICICI bank accounts.
  • In a recently concluded survey on common service centres in Jharkhand for Aadhaar-based payments, it was found that 42% of the biometric authentications failed in the first attempt, compelling them to come later.

Way forward

  • Strengthening an existing universal programme such as the MGNREGA would have been a prudent move instead of introducing a hasty targeted cash transfer programme.
  • The success of the PM-KISAN is contingent on there being reliable digital land records and reliable rural banking infrastructure.

Conclusion

At a time of such acute distress, the Central government needs to improve the existing      universal infrastructure of the MGNREGA before plunging into a programme pretending to augment farmers’ income.


Essential Facts (Prelims): 12th Feb, 2019


Hotels-50K

Category: Science & Technology

  • Scientists are hoping artificial intelligence can help identify and rescue child victims of sex trafficking via an app and more than a million crowdsourced pictures of hotel rooms.
  • Researchers launched an app in 2016 to collect photographs of 50,000 hotels around the world that could be matched up with online advertisements placed by traffickers, who often use selfies taken by their victims in hotel rooms.
  • Hotels-50K can be used to identify where trafficking victims are being held — and ultimately to rescue them.

India Wage Report

Category: International

  • This report has been released by the International Labour Organisation(ILO).
  • Real average daily wages for skilled agricultural workers increased just by 48 per cent from 1993–94 to 2011–12 while for legislators, senior officials and managers, it increased by 98 per cent over this nearly two-decade-long period, according to this report.

PMSYM

Category: Social sector

  • The proposed pension scheme for the unorganised sector workers — Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan (PMSYM) — with the government as a co-contributor, has put a big question mark on the continuity and growth of the existing flagship pension scheme, Atal Pension Yojana (APY), which is also targeted at the same segment of the population.
  • It has also raised questions about duplication of the government’s pension initiatives.
  • The new scheme, promising Rs 3,000 per month pension, will benefit around 42 crore workers in the sector.
  • In APY, previously known as Swavalamban Yojana and announced in the 2015 Budget, the full contribution is by the subscriber.
  • The new pension scheme has the government as a 50 per cent co-contributor which is not there in the APY.

Skill Loan Scheme

Category: Social sector

  • Government of India has launched “Skill Loan Scheme” with a view to support youth by providing a loan facility to individuals who intend to take up skill development courses as per the Skill Loan eligibility criteria.
  • Skill Loan Scheme is applicable to all the member banks of Indian Bank Association (IBA) and any other bank and financial institution including Micro Finance Institution regulated by Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Bank of India being the lead bank of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship has been the first bank to notify and implement such a Skill Loan Scheme.
  • The Loans are available in the range of Rs.5,000/- to Rs.1,50,000/-.

PMEGP

Category: Social sector

  • MSME Ministry is implementing the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP).
  • PMEGP is a major credit-linked subsidy scheme since 2008-09, to set up micro enterprises and to generate employment in rural and urban areas of the country.
  • The maximum cost of the project under PMEGP scheme is Rs.25.00 lakhs for manufacturing sector units and Rs.10.00 lakhs for units under service sector.
  • Under the scheme, women entrepreneurs are covered under Special Category and are entitled to 25% and 35% subsidies for the project set up in urban and rural areas respectively.
  • About 30% projects have been setup by women out of total projects set up under PMEGP.

Swachh Shakti

Category: social sector

  • Swachh Shakti-2019 is a national event which aims to bring in to focus the leadership role played by rural women in Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • Women Sarpanches and Panches from all over the country will be attending the event.
  • Govt launched the Swachh Shakti program first in 2017 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • The second Swachh Shakti event, Swachh Shakti-2018 was held at Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Now the third edition is being inaugurated from Kurukshetra.
  • Swachh Shakti is an example of how at the grass root level, rural women champions are acting as a change agent to mobilize the community and lead from the front women taking initiatives for a Swachh Bharat.
  • The movement is a part of ongoing activities under the aegis of the Swachh Bharat Mission, launched on October 2nd, 2014, at achieving a Clean and Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2nd October, 2019.

Essential Facts (Prelims): 10th Feb, 2019


Leprosy

Category: Health

  • The rise in the number of recorded leprosy cases reported a decade and a half after India was declared leprosy-free in 2005, has turned the spotlight on the hotspots for the disease.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the goal of zero children with leprosy and deformities by 2020, and less than one patient per million for other newly diagnosed patients.
  • Today, though, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra remain the ‘hotspots’ from which maximum prevalence was detected last year.
  • High population density, poor sanitation and inadequate access to nutrition are among the reasons for the number remaining high.

Tropical centipedes

Category: Geography

  • Continental drift (the moving apart of continents) almost 100 million years ago created many species of Ethmostigmus centipedes in the world’s tropics.
  • In the Indian peninsula, these centipedes first originated in the southern and central Western Ghats, and then spread across the ranges here.
  • India is home to six, fairly large Ethmostigmus centipedes: four dwell in the Western Ghats, one in the Eastern Ghats and one in north-east India.
  • Africa, south-east Asia and Australia are also home to other species of Ethmostigmus centipedes.
  • A single ancestor gave rise to all Ethmostigmus centipedes in the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana (continents including Australia, Africa and peninsular India comprised this single landmass then).
  • The subsequent breakup of Gondwana and the drifting away of different landmasses shaped the early evolutionary history of Ethmostigmus.

Orion Source I

Category: Science & technology 

  • Astronomers have detected chemical fingerprints of common salt (sodium chloride) in an unusual place – around a star.
  • Orion Source I is a young star behind the Orion Nebula.
  • The salt may be formed from colliding dust grains in the surrounding disk.

Hydrothermarchaeota

Category: Science & technology 

  • Hydrothermarchaeota, or microbes living in extreme environments may hold clues to the evolution of early life.
  • These microbes use carbon monoxide and sulfate as sources of energy – chemosynthesis.

Sepsis

Category: Science & technology 

  • Sepsis occurs when bacterial infections spiral out of control and cause an inflammatory cascade to propagate through the body.
  • The resulting inflammation then damages blood vessels and deprives organs of oxygen and nutrients, leading to organ failure and death.

Bedin 1

Category: Science & technology 

  • It is a modestly sized, elongated galaxy that measures only around 3,000 light-years at its greatest extent — a fraction of the size of the Milky Way.
  • Not only is it tiny but it is also incredibly faint.
  • These properties have led astronomers to classify it as a ‘dwarf spheroidal galaxy’.
  • Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are defined by their small size, low-luminosity, lack of dust and old stellar populations.
  • Bedin 1 was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Gist of Editorials: The View From The Outside (The Hindu) | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (Polity and Governance)

[750 words summarized to 100]


Human rights situation in India

  • deteriorating climate in relation to human rights.
  • Extrajudicial killings in Uttar Pradesh.
  • first ever UN report on human rights violations in Kashmir
  • Assam National Register of Citizens process
  • online hate speech
  • the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh,
  • jailing of human rights defenders,
  • deportation of Rohingya refugees,
  • excessive police response to protests

Way forward

  • record of upholding human rights is abysmal; India must do better.
  • welfare and rights of individuals within the purview of the state.

Conclusion

The respect of the rights of individuals must be non-negotiable.


 

Gist of Editorials: Learning Little (The Hindu) | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (Education)

[430 words summarised to 120]


What ASER Report says

  • Only 44% of students in Class 5 could read a text meant for Class 2.
  • Some states such as Kerala did much better in arithmetics compared to states such as Uttar Pradesh.
  • Students were not even able to recognise letters appropriate for their class.

Way forward

  • The Centre should institute a review mechanism involving all States.
  • A public consultation on learning outcomes, can help.
  • The RTI Act needs a supportive framework to cater to learners from different backgrounds.
  • Innovation in schools and incentivising good outcomes can help. For example, bonus pay to teachers.

Conclusion

The solutions may lie in multiple approaches. However, governments are not doing their duty.


 

Gist of Editorials: Learning to compete (The Hindu) | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Indian Economy)

[1000 words summarized to 200]


Pillars of skill development

There are five pillars of the skills ecosystem:

  • the secondary schools/polytechnics;
  • industrial training institutes;
  • private training providers offering short-term training;
  • 16 Ministries providing mostly short-term training; and
  • employers offering enterprise-based training.

Efforts towards skill development

  • All training programmes/courses to be NSQF-compliant.
  • National skill competitions, or India Skills
  • Participation in World Skills Competition
  • Abilympics for Persons with Disabilities.
  • Sharda Prasad Expert Group report

 Hurdles

  • industrial training institutes courses are not aligned with the NSQF.
  • NSQF has not been well accepted or adopted across India.
  • no clear definition of the course curriculum within the NSQF
  • no connection of tertiary level vocational courses to prior knowledge
  • no real alignment between HRD Ministry and Ministry of Skill Development

Way forward

  • need for more holistic training
  • need to re-examine the short-term NSQF-based NSDC courses.
  • reduction in complications caused by too many Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) anchoring skill courses
  • provide broader skills in broader occupational groups.
  • Consolidation of sectors with the National Industrial Classification of India.
  • India could learn a lesson from other nations such as Germany
  • Vocational education must be imparted in broadly defined occupational skills

Conclusion

Skill India needs a sharp realignment, if India is to perform well in the World Skills competition later this year.


 

Editorial Simplified: Corporate Taxes Must Be Rationalised| GS – III


Relevance: GS Paper III


Theme of the article

For kick-starting the investment cycle, the Centre has to cut tax rates for large companies.


Introduction

While the government can take pride in having pushed through the landmark indirect tax reform, it has fallen short in its efforts to rationalise corporate tax rate in the country.


Corporate tax issues

  • The corporate tax rates in India are too high when compared to those in other countries and there is widespread tax evasion, with larger companies paying lower taxes than smaller ones.
  • The gov had embarked on a roadmap for bringing down the corporate tax rate in the country from 30 per cent to 25 per cent over the next four years. However, the corporate tax rate was lowered to 25 per cent only for some companies.
  • In the tax-cut exercise, larger companies — with turnover exceeding ₹250 crore — have not seen any change in the tax rate. The tax burden for these companies has in fact moved higher.
  • Withdrawal of some of the corporate tax incentives is also increasing tax incidence for larger companies.
  • Given the inability of GST to reach its full potential in garnering tax revenue yet, the Centre is in no position to slash corporate tax rates as of now. It has instead adopted a calibrated approach to rationalising rates, in a bid to please the largest number of companies.

Global comparison 

  • Countries across the globe are moving towards lower corporate tax rates. The average corporate tax rate globally has declined from 30.19 per cent in 2003 to 20.6 currently.
  • The current peak corporate tax rate in India, at 35 per cent, is the highest among the BRIC as well as the Asia-Pacific countries.

Way forward

  • Tax on income of companies needs to gradually slide lower so that the surplus available to invest in capacity expansion and augmenting business, increases.
  • The Centre has been trying to ward off the impending cut in corporate tax rate for larger companies, it needs to do so soon. Reduction in rates for smaller companies may be beneficial to these entities, but is unlikely to have the impact that similar cuts for larger companies is likely to have in boosting private investments.
  • Corporate taxes account for around one-third of total tax collections. But instead of trying to increase revenue by holding higher rates, it could try to reduce rates, which, in some circumstances, can result in higher compliance.

Essential Facts (Prelims): 9 Feb, 2019

Essential Facts for Prelims – CSE 2019. Daily Compilation of Important Factual Information from Relevant News Sources for Civil Services Prelims Exam (UPSC)

 


Angel tax

Category: Economy

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) agreed to compile a list of startups eligible for angel tax exemption.
  • The government also decided to raise the maximum time limit below which a firm would be deemed eligible for angel tax exemption to 10 years from the earlier seven.
  • Further, the paid-up share capital threshold below which startups would be eligible for an exemption has been set at ₹25 crore.
  • In cases where the investment exceeds ₹25 crore, the firms would be eligible for exemption if the angel investors can prove a net worth of ₹2 crore or more in the previous financial year. For investments below ₹25 crore, no questions would be asked.
  • Angel tax is imposed on the excess share capital raised by an unlisted firm, over and above the fair market value of its shares.

Ladakh

Category: Polity & Governance

  • Jammu and Kashmir Governor granted Ladakh a divisional status, thus creating three administrative units of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in the State.
  • Earlier, Ladakh was a part of the Kashmir division.
  • The move leaves the Kashmir valley geographically the smallest division at 15,948 sq. km, Jammu division at 26,293 sq. km and Ladakh, the biggest division, at 86,909 sq. km.
  • Ladakh will now get its own Divisional Commissioner and Inspector General of Police.
  • During the winter months, the entire Ladakh region remains cut-off from the rest of the country for almost six months. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the area makes it eligible for establishing a separate division.
  • Ladakh’s Kargil and Leh districts already have separate hill development councils for local administrative powers.

Lion conservation

Category: Environment & Ecology

  • The Centre and the Gujarat government have announced a Asiatic Lion Conservation Project.
  • The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species.

Helina

Category: Defence & Security

  • India test-fired its helicopter-launched version of one of the most-advanced anti-tank weapons.
  • Helina is the helicopter-launched version of the Nag anti-tank guided missile with a hit range of 7-8 km.

1950

Category: Polity & Governance

  • The Election Commission has launched a Voter Verification and Information Programme (VVIP) for citizens to cross-check their names, new registrations, changes in the voter details and corrections in the voter identity cards for the coming Lok Sabha election.
  • The voter helpline number is 1950.

Green Cards

Category: International

  • Two identical legislation backed by top companies from Silicon Valley, like Google, have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to end the per-country limit on green cards.
  • They could benefit thousands of Indian professionals waiting to gain permanent legal residency.
  • The U.S. currently offers 1,40,000 green cards every year to employment-based immigrantst.
  • The existing law, however, provides that not more than 7% of these green cards can go to nationals of any one country — even though some countries are more populous than others.
  • Because of this limit, a Chinese or an Indian postgraduate may have to wait half a decade or more for a Green Card, much longer than a student from a less-populated country.

GSP

Category: International 

  • India could lose a vital U.S. trade concession, under which it enjoys zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States, amid a widening dispute over its trade and investment policies.
  • A move to withdraw the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) from India, the world’s largest beneficiary of a scheme that has been in force since the 1970s, would be the strongest punitive action against India since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, vowing to reduce the U.S. deficit with large economies.

PCA
Category:Economy

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lifted restrictions under prompt corrective action (PCA) on three public sector banks last week.
  • There are eight more public sector banks (PSBs) that are under the PCA framework after restrictions were lifted from Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra and Oriental Bank of Commerce.
  • The government had infused capital in banks that was used to increase provisions and lower the net NPA ratio enabling RBI to lift restrictions on the three banks.
  • Breaching net NPA ratio of 6% is one of the conditions that trigger restrictions.

Editorial Simplified: US pull-out | GS – II

This coincided with his decision to order a complete withdrawal of US forces from Syria, and Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to end the US deployment in Afghanistan.


Relevance: GS Paper II (International Relations)


Why has this issue cropped up?

President Donald Trump declared victory against the ISIS in December 2018 and decided to withdraw all US forces from Syria. He also announced that the US would withdraw half the troops from Afghanistan.


Impact of the above decision

Both decisions contravene carefully formulated strategies to defeat the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. In Afghanistan, in particular, Trump has unwittingly handed over the initiative to the Taliban.


Present situation in Afghanistan

  • The Afghan National Army (ANA), supported by the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), is not losing but the resurgent Taliban now controls about one-third of the country.
  • While the ANA controls most of the large towns, the writ of the Taliban runs in huge areas of the countryside.
  • The Taliban continues to haunt government forces.
  • Sporadic strikes by terrorists belonging to ISIS to stoke sectarian conflict by attacking the Shias continue unabated.
  • Governance is weak, crime is rampant and corruption and tax evasion are widespread.
  • The presidential election that was scheduled for April 2019 has been postponed to July 2019.
  • The withdrawal of troops ordered by President Trump further emboldened the Taliban and weakened the Afghan government.

The Moscow format

A Russian initiative, called the Moscow format, succeeded in bringing together the Taliban and Afghan representatives but the Afghans were from the High Peace Council, a “national but non-government institution.


Afghanistan and India

  • Given its geographical location on the strategic crossroads to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and West Asia, a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is a vital national interest for India.
  • India has not been invited to join ISAF; nor is there any support for military intervention in India’s policy community. However, India is now being urged by the Trump administration to do more to help resolve the conflict.
  • India has invested over $3 billion in reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, donated four Mi-25 attack helicopters, provided training to Afghan military personnel, civilian pilots and administrators and has been regularly providing humanitarian aid and medical supplies.
  • The Indian embassy in Kabul and Indian consulates as well as road construction protection parties of ITBP have been attacked by the Taliban and have suffered a large number of casualties.
  • Till very recently, the Indian position for conflict resolution was that there should be no negotiations with the Taliban as it is a terrorist organisation. Yet, India sent two former diplomats as unofficial observers to the Moscow conference with the Taliban.
  • India appears to have now accepted that negotiations for conflict resolution cannot take place without talking to the Taliban leadership.
  • The worst case scenario for India would be the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul. If that happens, Pakistan’s ISI would be sure to divert many of the hard core Taliban fighters to Kashmir.

Conclusion

India’s national interest lies in formulating a comprehensive strategy, jointly with the Afghan government, that ensures that a Taliban takeover can be prevented.


 

Editorial Simplified: We Need A Leap In Healthcare Spending | GS – II

In India, allocation for healthcare is merely 2.2% of the Budget. Per capita spending on health in the Budget in India is ₹458 (₹61,398 crore/ 134 crore, which is the population).


Relevance: GS Paper II (Social sector)


Theme of the Article

India needs to focus on long-term investment, not only episodes of care.


Why has this issue cropped up?

The Central and State governments have introduced several innovations in the healthcare sector in recent times.


Issues with health care in India

  • The U.S.’s health expenditure is 18% of GDP, while India’s is still under 1.5%.
  • While the Interim Budget is responsive to the needs of farmers and the middle class, it does not adequately respond to the needs of the health sector.
  • Per capita expenditure on health is about $20, or about $100 when adjusted for purchasing power parity. U.S. spends $10,224 per capita on healthcare per year.
  • In Budget terms, S.  spends 23.5% of the Budget. In India, allocation for healthcare is merely 2.2% of the Budget.
  • Allocation to the National Tobacco Control Programme and Drug De-addiction Programme is only ₹65 crore. The allocation for each of the wellness centres is less than ₹1 lakh per year. This is a meagre amount.
  • Prevention of chronic kidney disease, which affects 15-17% of the population, is not appropriately addressed.
  • Due to lack of focus in preventive oncology in India, over 70% of cancers are diagnosed in stages III or IV. The reverse is true in developed countries.

Way forward

  • To reach its target, the government should increase funding for health by 20-25% every year for the next five years or more.
  • The ₹6,400 crore allocation to Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY in the Interim Budget will help reduce out-of-pocket expenditure on health, which is at a massive 67%.
  • The mandate of health and wellness centresunder Ayushman Bharat. should include health education and holistic wellness integrating modern medicine with traditional Indian medicine.
  • Both communicable disease containment as well as non-communicable disease programmes should be included in health and wellness centres.
  • History shows that where there is long-term commitment and resource allocation, rich return on investment is possible. For instance, AIIMS, New Delhi is the premier health institute in India with a brand value because of resource allocation over decades.
  • A focused approach in adding tax on tobacco and alcohol, to fund non-communicable disease prevention strategies at health and wellness centres, should be considered.
  • Increase of GDP alone does not guarantee health, since there is no direct correlation between GDP and health outcomes. However, improvement in health does relate positively to GDP, since a healthy workforce contributes to productivity.
  • For various diseases, allocation should be realigned for disease management over a defined time period, not merely for episodes of care.
  • The health sector must be made a priority area, like defence.
  • Since a major innovation in universal healthcare is being rolled out, it must be matched with a quantum leap in funding.

Conclusion

Only if we invest more for the long-term health of the nation will there be a similar rise in GDP