Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

 Q. 321. NITI Aayog: Ease of Doing Business Report
NITI Aayog has relesed the Ease of Doing Business report based on an Enterprise Survey of 3,500 manufacturing firms across Indian states and union territories. The survey was conducted to assess the business regulations and enabling environment across India from firms’ perspective.

The major findings of this report are as follows:
  • Economic Performance and Reforms: higher level of economic activity and better performance on a range of doing business indicators are strongly correlated. Enterprises in high-growth states do not report major or very severe obstacles in: land/ construction re­lated approvals; environmental approvals and water and sanitation availability relative to enterprises in low-growth states.
  • Approval time: Newer and younger firms have reported a more favourable business environment in that they take less time in obtaining approvals than older firms. Newer firms include startups established after 2014.
  • Informational gaps: States need to enhance awareness of the steps being undertaken by them to the improve ease of doing business. There is very low awareness among enterprises about single window systems, instituted by states.
  • Labor regulations: are a big constraint for labor intensive firms. 19% more likely to report that finding skilled work­ers is a major or very severe obstacle.
  • Barriers to firm growth: large firms face more regulatory barriers than smaller firms.
 Q. 320. Mosses as pollution monitor
  • Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations. The individual plants are usually composed of simple leaves that are generally only one cell thick, attached to a stem that may be branched or unbranched and has only a limited role in conducting water and nutrients. Bryophytes is a collective term for mosses, hornworts and liverworts.
  • According to a new research, mosses can be used to measure the impact of atmospheric change and could prove a low-cost way to monitor urban pollution.
  • Mosses which generally absorb water and nutrients from their immediate environments are often cheaper to use than other methods of environmental evaluation, and can also reflect changes to ecosystems.
  • The “bioindicator”, moss, responds to pollution or drought-stress by changing shape, density or disappearing. In this way it allows scientists to calculate atmospheric alterations. This method is very cost effective and important for getting information about atmospheric conditions.
  • Humid cities where moss thrives could benefit most from using it as a bioindicator. 
 Q. 319. Mentor India Campaign
  • It is a strategic nation building initiative to engage leaders who can guide and mentor students at more than 900 Atal Tinkering Labs. These labs are established across the country as a part of the Atal Innovation Mission. The campaign will be launched by the NITI Aayog.
  • These labs are non-prescriptive by nature, and mentors are expected to be enablers rather than instructors.
  • Atal Tinkering Labs are dedicated works spaces where students from Class 6th to Class 12th learn innovation skills and develop ideas that will go on to transform India. The labs are powered to acquaint students with state-of-the-art equipment such as 3D printers, robotics & electronics development tools, Internet of things & sensors etc.
  • Atal Innovation Mission is among one of the flagship programs of the Government of India to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country to set up the Atal Tinkering Labs across the country. The Mission is in the process of setting up 900+ such labs across India and aims to have 2,000 such labs by end of 2017.
 Q. 318. National Health Policy 2017
The main objective of the National Health Policy 2017 is to achieve the highest possible level of good health and well-being, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation in all developmental policies, and to achieve universal access to good quality health care services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence.
  • Primary aim: The primary aim of the National Health Policy, 2017, is to inform, clarify, strengthen and prioritize the role of the Government in shaping health systems in all its dimensions- investment in health, organization and financing of healthcare services, prevention of diseases and promotion of good health through cross sectoral action, access to technologies, developing human resources, encouraging medical pluralism, building the knowledge base required for better health, financial protection strategies and regulation and progressive assurance for health. The policy emphasizes reorienting and strengthening the Public Health Institutions across the country, so as to provide universal access to free drugs, diagnostics and other essential healthcare.
  • Broad Principles: The broad principles of the policy is centered on Professionalism, Integrity and Ethics, Equity, Affordability, Universality, Patient Centered & Quality of Care, Accountability and pluralism.
  • Free services: In order to provide access and financial protection at secondary and tertiary care levels, the policy proposes free drugs, free diagnostics and free emergency care services in all public hospitals.
  • Private sector: The NHP, 2017 advocates a positive and proactive engagement with the private sector for critical gap filling towards achieving national goals. It envisages private sector collaboration for strategic purchasing, capacity building, skill development programmes, awareness generation, developing sustainable networks for community to strengthen mental health services, and disaster management. The policy also advocates financial and non-incentives for encouraging the private sector participation.
  • Resource allocation: The policy proposes raising public health expenditure to 2.5% of the GDP in a time bound manner. Policy envisages providing larger package of assured comprehensive primary health care through the Health and Wellness Centers'. This policy denotes important change from very selective to comprehensive primary health care package which includes geriatric health care, palliative care and rehabilitative care services. The policy advocates allocating major proportion (upto two-thirds or more) of resources to primary care followed by secondary and tertiary care. The policy aspires to provide at the district level most of the secondary care which is currently provided at a medical college hospital.
  • Affordability: It seeks to ensure improved access and affordability of quality secondary and tertiary care services through a combination of public hospitals and strategic purchasing in healthcare deficit areas from accredited non-­governmental healthcare providers, achieve significant reduction in out of pocket expenditure due to healthcare costs, reinforce trust in public healthcare system and influence operation and growth of private healthcare industry as well as medical technologies in alignment with public health goals.
  • Preventive healthcare: The policy affirms commitment to pre-emptive care (aimed at pre-empting the occurrence of diseases) to achieve optimum levels of child and adolescent health. The policy envisages school health programmes as a major focus area as also health and hygiene being made a part of the school curriculum.
  • AYUSH: In order to leverage the pluralistic health care legacy, the policy recommends mainstreaming the different health systems. Towards mainstreaming the potential of AYUSH the policy envisages better access to AYUSH remedies through co-location in public facilities. Yoga would also be introduced much more widely in school and work places as part of promotion of good health.
  • Key targets: Among key targets, the policy intends to increase life expectancy at birth from 67.5 to 70 by 2025 and reduce infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019. It also aims to reduce under five mortality to 23 by the year 2025. Besides, it intends to achieve the global 2020 HIV target.
The policy supports voluntary service in rural and under-served areas on pro-bono basis by recognized healthcare professionals under a 'giving back to society’ initiative. The policy advocates extensive deployment of digital tools for improving the efficiency and outcome of the healthcare system and proposes establishment of National Digital Health Authority (NDHA) to regulate, develop and deploy digital health across the continuum of care. The policy advocates a progressively incremental assurance based approach.
 Q. 317. What is Value Capture Financing (VCF)? Explain the components and working mechanism of Value Capture Financing (VCF)?
About Value Capture Financing (VCF)
Value capture is a type of public financing that recovers some or all of the value that public infrastructure generates for private landowners. It seeks to enable States and city governments raise resources by tapping a share of increase in value of land and other properties like buildings resulting from public investments and policy initiatives, in the identified area of influence.

How does it work?
Value capture financing (VCF) works on the conviction that public policy and infrastructure projects typically lead to improvement in the quality of housing, jobs access and transportation, yield other social benefits, and lead to the emergence of important commercial, cultural, institutional, or residential developments in the influence area. This, in turn, leads to an appreciation in land value in the neighborhood.

The VCF process comprises 4 key steps:
i.Value creation: Public regulations, policies and investments lead to creation of value
ii.Value realization by private owners: For instance, the investment made by a developer fetches a bigger monetary value when he sells housing units along a metro corridor planned by the government than he would have without the project
iii.Value capture: It involves the government and private owners agree to a sharing mechanism for the value captured
iv.Value recycle: The resources collected are ploughed back in other parts of the city to create fresh value
  • The different instruments of VCF are: Land Value Tax, Fee for changing land use, Betterment levy, Development charges, Transfer of Development Rights, Premium on relaxation of Floor Space Index and Floor Area Ratio, Vacant Land Tax, Tax Increment Financing, Zoning relaxation for land acquisition and Land Pooling System.
  • Traditional resource mobilization through direct sale of land, the most fundamental asset owned and managed by States and Urban Local Bodies is an inefficient form of resource mobilization. This innovative mechanism could also be used by for investing heavily in building national highways, railway projects, power generation and port infrastructure development.
  • Ministry of Urban Development is working to develop a comprehensive VCF framework so that it can be used efficiently and optimally across the country as a method of financing infrastructure and enhancing the finances of urban local bodies.
 Q. 316. Gut microbes for drugs
The human body is estimated to have about 35 trillion cells, and about two to three times as many microbial organisms. Most of them live in the gastrointestinal tract, which is home to around 3,000-4,000 species of bacteria, not including viruses and other life forms. Some are harmful and many are not.

Building on a growing, global scientific interest in the human microbiome — the colony of bacteria and microscopic forms that live in the gut, skin and other organs of the body — the CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh (IMTech), is working on a programme to tap its vast collection of microbial samples and develop therapeutic products or drugs.

  • Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for health, especially thedigestive system.
  • Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy.
  • Probiotics are naturally found in the body. It can also be found in some foods and supplements.
The global probiotics industry has already started using certain species of bacteria as healing or curative agents. Mother Dairy, Amul, Danone Yakult, and Nestle India are among the leading producers of probiotic functional foods and beverages in India.

How do Probiotics work?
  • When the body loses "good" bacteria from the body (like after taking antibiotics, for example), probiotics can help replace them.
  • They can help balance the "good" and "bad" bacteria to keep the body working like it should.
Types of Probiotics
  • Lactobacillus: This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhoea and may help with people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
  • Bifidobacterium: It can also be found in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
Burgeoning evidence
 On the other hand, burgeoning evidence suggests that atherosclerosis, obesity, intestinal problems, and many psychological disorders lead to distinct changes in the composition of bacteria in the gut. Restoring balance or teasing out how the by-products of these organisms lead to chemical changes that cause disease, is at the heart of this research.
 Q. 315. Micro Irrigation
Investments into drip irrigation systems, while sizeable, appear to pay off quickly as farmers realise a sharp increase in yields, alongside more efficient water use. Drip irrigation is sometimes called trickle irrigation and involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates (2-20 litres/hour) from a system of small diameter plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers. Water is applied close to plants so that only part of the soil in which the roots grow is wetted, unlike surface and sprinkler irrigation, which involves wetting the whole soil profile. With drip irrigation water, applications are more frequent (usually every 1-3 days) than with other methods and this provides a very favourable high moisture level in the soil in which plants can flourish.

Precision agriculture
Precision agriculture (PA) or satellite farming or site specific crop management (SSCM) is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops.

Precision agriculture aims to optimize field-level management with regard to:
  • crop science: by matching farming practices more closely to crop needs (e.g. fertilizer inputs);
  • environmental protection: by reducing environmental risks and footprint of farming (e.g. limiting leaching of nitrogen);
  • economics: by boosting competitiveness through more efficient practices (e.g. improved management of fertilizer usage and other inputs).
'Precision agriculture' seems to be the way out for the future.

Precision farming
  • “Precision agriculture” may be the only way to reduce agrarian water dependency, says the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bengaluru (UAS-B) which has demonstrated that water-intensive sugarcane can be cultivated using 40-50% lesser water through drip irrigation.
  • UAS-B will be testing these technologies, including sub-surface irrigation, on the fields of about 400 farmers for four years. Initial results show that yields have gone up by around 40%.
  • Though farmers were not keen on water conservation in the beginning, the series of drought and water shortage has seen their interest increase.
Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices one can use in the garden. Mulch is simply a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of the soil. Mulches can either be organic -- such as grass clippings, straw, bark chips, and similar materials -- or inorganic -- such as stones, brick chips, and plastic. Both organic and inorganic mulches have numerous benefits:
  • Helps soil retain moisture in summer
  • Suppresses weed
  • Improves soil texture
  • Deters some pests
  • Protects plant roots from extreme temperatures
  • Encourages beneficial soil organisms
  • Provides a barrier for edible crops coming into contact with soil
Mulching: Costs and constraints
  • Given the constraints relating to water availability, farmers in Telangana had to opt for short duration crops such as tomato and chilli whose crop cycle lasts from about 60 to 120 days, depending on the variety transplanted.
  • The input cost is close to ₹80,000 per acre and a major portion of this is for the purchase of mulching sheets (close to ₹16,000 an acre), and labour charges.
  • Mulching sheets covering the drip system will ensure that there is no run off or evaporation besides bringing down incidence of pests. The drip put in place ensures that water is just sufficient to the particular variety sown is given.
Andhra Pradesh -  Rain guns
  • In Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, farm ponds are being combined with “rain guns,” which shoot harvested rainfall through a high-pressure jet into the air, and it lands on precious crops as natural rain would.
  • The State government opted for this innovation, wiser from the failed implementation of previous programmes under the Desert Development Programme. Those schemes concentrated primarily on creating check-dams to retain water. Today, the focus is on a systematic expansion of farm ponds.
  • The idea is that once the farm ponds are filled up by rains, the stored water could be used through rain guns or sprinklers to give protective wettings to the groundnut crop once or twice, during long dry spells, until the next rain spell takes over the task.
Micro irrigation movement underway
  • The vast stretches of land in drought-hit Prakasam district are barren, with one exception: the village of Chinnakothapalle, near Addanki, abutting the Hyderabad-Ongole expressway.
  • This village is an oasis in the rain shadow region as most of the 300 farmers here have adopted drip irrigation, even though their district was reeling under the impact of severe drought in all the 56 mandals.
Cost savings
  • Micro Irrigation (MI) system saved them around 40% of production costs and increased productivity by 20%, by allowing water to drip slowly to the root zone through a network of valves, pipes, and tubes.
  • As many as 188 farmers were provided with subsidised MI system to grow crops in about 400 acres. Rest of the eligible farmers will be covered before start of Kharif season.
NTR Jala Siri programme
The department proposes to bring more than 20,000 hectares into the MI system under the flagship NTR Jala Siri programme ('NTR Jala Siri' is the flagship programme of Govt. of Andhra Pradesh with NABARD and MGNREGS with a view to consolidate the gains made in the Land Development Project of the later programme and to ensure sustainable and comprehensive development of the land securing livelihoods. The project aims at providing assured source of irrigation to the 10 lakh acres of fallow and uncultivable land belonging to the 6 lakh SC/ST farmers of the state. This will act as a welfare measure in terms of enhancing the productivity of the lands thus maximizing their incomes.) in 2017-18.
 Q. 314. Mukaish Badla Embroidery
Ans. Mukaish Badla Embroidery
  • One of the most beautiful embellishment and ornamentation art- THE MUKAISH BADLA finds its origin in Lucknow.
  • Mukaish, an almost dying craft of Lucknow, is age-old embroidery where thin strips of metallic wire are inserted into the fabric and then twisted to create metallic embroidery. Initially real silver and gold was used to make threads for the embroidery, but now real raw material is not used. Craftsmen have different ways of polishing the thread to make it appear brighter.
  • Over time, Chikankari travelled far and wide but Mukaish remained in Lucknow’s narrow lanes. The karigars of this craft, also known as Badla in Gujarat and Maharashtra, are a dying breed.
  • Considering the amount of time that goes into making Mukaish, which is an expensive and labour intensive craft, there are just a handful of craftsmen left in Lucknow, most of them being Muslims.
The artisans are the real treasure of Indian as their work is unparalleled and authentic. No machine work or FAST fashion can replace the grandeur and regality that they can create on clothing. However, their plight is pitiable and their population is dwindling.

Interesting facts
  • This type of embroidery has been around since the Rig Veda era, and it went onto prosper during the Mughal period.
  • Initially, real silver and gold was used to make these threads, but now real raw material is not used. Craftsmen have different ways of polishing the thread to make it appear brighter.
  • BADLA is also used at times to give the appearance of sequin work (Sequins are used as adornments on fabrics, footwear, and bags) but it requires much more intricate artisanship.
 Q. 313. ISROs solar hybrid electric car
ISRO has developed a high energy lithium ion battery that will be used in space crafts. Now ISRO is all ready for a technology transfer of this innovation to the automobile industry for the manufacture of solar hybrid electric cars.

How does it work?
  • ISRO has developed this high energy lithium battery for a solar panel.
  • This panel will also control the electronics of the vehicle and will ensure a steady power to provide a smooth ride.
The hurdle that is being faced by ISRO is how to reduce the cost of the car making it affordable to all. The technology was tested at the Vikram Sarabhai space centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram.
 Q. 312. Why Official language of Union of India only as Hindi needs a debate that is logical rather than chauvinist?
Hindi can be first among equals when it comes to national languages, but it cannot hope to become the only one.
One of the most detailed debates in the Constituent Assembly was whether Hindi should be the official language of India. B.R. Ambedkar revealed that no other issue had generated as much heat as the one on the official language of the new republic. Hindi was accepted by a slim margin of one vote. It was supposed to replace English in 1965 as the language of government. The status quo was maintained after violent agitations in several states of peninsular India.

Lingua Franca
  • Indian nationalists have for long recognized that a diverse country such as ours needs a common language for communication. The natural candidate for that is either the language most commonly spoken in India or the classical language of Indian civilization—Hindi or Sanskrit.
  • The Zionists united Israel by reviving Hebrew.
  • The overwhelming majority of national leaders—from M.K. Gandhi to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar—wanted some variant of Hindi.
  • Ambedkar argued for Sanskrit and Subhas Chandra Bose was in favour of Hindi written in the Roman script.
All these issues have come to a head once again—
  • be it the decision to have milestones on national highways in Tamil Nadu written in Hindi,
  • the advice given by the Central government that all its ministers should make their speeches in Hindi,
  • or making Hindi compulsory in schools.
Such impositions will quite naturally come up against opposition in states that have cultural identities based on other languages.

Warning: India is not Pakistan, but it is useful to remember that the imposition of Urdu on the Bengalis was the first catalyst of the movement that eventually created Bangladesh.
There are a few issues that need clarity.
  • First, Hindi is best placed as a language to ease communication between different states. It cannot be seen as a replacement for local languages as a lingua franca.
  • Second, the discussion has been about Hindi as an official language of the Indian nation. It is not meant to be a national language.
  • Third, native Hindi speakers who are puzzled at the opposition to the imposition of their language on other citizens should ask themselves how many other Indian languages they have tried to learn.
  • Fourth, India finally accepted a system of linguistic states because of the realities of sub-national identity that should never be ignored.
Hindi chauvinism has had several unthinking champions. Even sophisticated leaders such as the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia and the great scholar Rahul Sankrityayan—though not chauvinists —did not take account of the reaction in other parts of India to their aggressive insistence of Hindi.

Spread of Hindi
The curious fact is that Hindi has very peacefully spread across the country over the past 50 years. Few would today remember the language riots in what was then Madras. Hindi cinema has done a lot to make the language understood in most parts of the country; it may not be the pure Hindi that was mercilessly lampooned in the 1970s comedy Chupke Chupke, but a more open variant that has absorbed even the lingo of the Mumbai streets. Cable television has also helped this process in more recent years.

A traveller can today hear Hindi spoken in most corners of the country. The language is bound to spread further in the coming years thanks to migration, commerce and entertainment. That should be welcomed. What should not be welcomed is either the force-feeding of the language with colonial intent or seeing it as a substitute for Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, etc., in their respective states. The eighth schedule of the Constitution lists 22 national languages. Hindi can be the first among equals. It cannot hope to become the only one.

These are crucial issues that the most aggressive votaries of Hindi often forget. India has seen language riots when the republic was young. We are now a more mature nation—and reopening those old wounds is pointless. Especially when Hindi has peacefully spread across the country and can live with other Indian languages.
 Q. 311. Geographical Indication
What is a Geographical Indication?
A geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. It is used to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.
In December 1999, the Parliament had passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act,1999. This Act seeks to provide for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods in India. The Act would be administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks- who is the Registrar of Geographical Indications. The Geographical Indications Registry would be located at Chennai.

Examples of Indian Geographical Indications.
  • Basmati Rice Darjeeling Tea, Kanchipuram silk saree, Nagpur orange Kolhapuri chappal, Bikaneri bhujia, Agra petha.
What are the benefit of registration of geographical indications?
  • It confers legal protection to Geographical Indications in India
  • Prevents unauthorised use of a Registered Geographical Indication by others
  • It provides legal protection to Indian Geographical Indications which in turn boost exports.
  • It promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods produced in a geographical territory.
Who can apply for the registration of a geographical indication?
  • Any association of persons, producers, organisation or authority established by or under the law can apply.
Who is a producer in relation to a Geographical Indication?
  • The persons dealing with three categories of goods are covered under the term Producer:
  • Agricultural Goods includes the production, processing, trading or dealing
  • Natural Goods includes exploiting, trading or dealing
  • Handicrafts or Industrial goods includes making, manufacturing, trading or dealing.
Is a registration of a geographical indication compulsory and how does it help the applicant?
  • Registration is not compulsory
  • Registration affords better legal protection to facilitate an action for infringement
  • The registered proprietor and authorised users can initiate infringement actions
  • The authorised users can exercise the exclusive right to use the geographical indication.
Who can use the registered geographical indication?
An authorised user has the exclusive rights to the use of geographical indication in relation to goods in respect of which it is registered.

How long the registration of Geographical Indication is valid?
The registration of a geographical indication is valid for a period of 10 years

Can a Geographical Indication be renewed?
It can be renewed from time to time for further period of 10 years each.

How a geographical indication is different from a trade mark?
  • A trade mark is a sign which is used in the course of trade and it distinguishes goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.
Whereas a geographical indication is an indication used to identify goods having special characteristics originating from a definite geographical territory.
 Q. 310. N.K. Singh Committee
Ans. The N.K. Singh panel to review India’s fiscal discipline rules has recommended:
  • Debt-to-GDP ratio of 38.7% for the central government, 20% for the state governments together by financial year 2022-23
  • Fiscal deficit of 2.5% of GDP (gross domestic product) by financial year 2022-23
  • Enacting a new Debt and Fiscal Responsibility Act after repealing the existing Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act
  • Creating a fiscal council
In 2016-17
  • debt-to-GDP ratio for the central government was 49.4%
  • fiscal deficit at 3.5% of GDP
The government is hoping to end 2017-18 with a fiscal deficit that is 3.2% of GDP, marginally higher than the 3% mentioned in the FRBM Act.

Fiscal council
The proposed three-member fiscal council will prepare multi-year fiscal forecasts for the central and state governments (together called the general government) and provide an independent assessment of the central government’s fiscal performance and compliance with targets set under the new law.

The committee favours a:
  • debt-to-GDP ratio of 60% for the general government by 2022-23
  • 40% (38.74%) for the central government and
  • 20% for state governments.
Within the framework, the committee has recommended adopting fiscal deficit as the key operational target consistent with achieving the medium-term debt ceiling, at 3% of GDP for three years, between 2017-18 and 2019-20.
Revenue deficit-to-GDP ratio has been envisaged to decline steadily by 0.25 percentage points each year from 2.3% in 2016-17 to 0.8% in 2022-23.

Escape clauses
The panel has introduced escape clause triggers that can allow the government to skip the fiscal deficit target for a particular year, in situations that include national security concerns, acts of war, national calamities, a collapse of the agriculture sector and far-reaching structural reforms with unanticipated fiscal implications.

While the committee has recommended that deviations from the stipulated fiscal targets should not be more than 0.5%, the Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel was not in favour of such a large deviation. Mr Patel, who was also a member of the panel along with Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, was inclined to only permit a 0.3% deviation from the target.
The escape clause can also be triggered if real output growth in the economy slips by 3 percentage points from the average of the previous four quarters.

Buoyancy clause
A similar buoyancy clause has been proposed, so that fiscal deficit must fall atleast 0.5% below the target if real output grows 3% faster than the average of the last four quarters.
 Q. 309. The Motor Vehicles (Amendments) Act 2016

Act passed in Lok Sabha
The Motor Vehicles (Amendments) Act 2016 was passed in the Lok Sabha on April 10.

  • The commitment to reduce road traffic deaths by 50% is certainly a laudable objective. In fact, road traffic accidents have been recognised as a serious problem at the national level and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has been issuing policy statements and announcing programmes to address the rapidly growing safety problem since the revision of the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) in 1988.
  • Since then, a common theme in all policies and government initiatives has been the emphasis on improving driver education, driver training, driver licensing system and the need for higher penalties. The number of deaths have continued to increase at a rate of 8-9% per year over the past 20 years.
  • About 75% of the victims are pedestrians, motorised two wheeler-riders and bicyclists (vulnerable road users or VRUs) both on intercity roads and intracity roads.
  • National data available with MoRTH and NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not report the involvement of pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists in fatal crashes correctly. The rate of traffic fatalities has increased 3-4 times in cities where highways have been upgraded.
  • The important amendments emphasise driver education, stricter licensing systems and higher penalties for various traffic offences.
  • The Bill defines taxi aggregators, guidelines for which will be determined by the central government.
  • Penalties for all offences have been increased through insertions and few new penalties have been introduced like faulty registration details, the concessionaire or the contractor who is responsible for faulty road design or has not followed standards, the guardians of juvenile offenders to be penalised, and states to have power to increase penalties.
  • The current MVA includes provisions for recalling defective vehicles and holding the contractor or the concessionaire responsible for faulty road design.
  • However, if there are no systems to continuously monitor the performance of road designs and evaluate performance of vehicles’ effectiveness, good intentions will remain weak.
  • The amendment on safety devices, like use of safety belts, helmets (by all those riding motorised two wheeler) etc., is a welcome addition.
  • The bill requires all those above four years of age to wear a helmet. While the importance of helmets for two-wheeler riders cannot be ignored, the question arises as to why most states have not implemented this when helmets were made compulsory in the 1988 Act itself.
  • The bill proposes increased computerisation of various services - issue or grant of licences or permits, filing of forms or applications (such as for licences and registration), receipt of money (such as fines) and change of address. This will perhaps improve our data base for registered vehicles and drivers.
  • Good Samaritan clause is intended to protect civilians who step up to help victims of road accidents (rather than victimising them in turn). The guidelines recommended by the apex court urge medical establishments, the police and the judiciary to treat good Samaritans with respect, dignity, sensitivity and compassion.
  • Effectiveness of provision for the protection of Good Samaritans, cashless payment for accident victims may look useful, but a careful evaluation of these systems in the coming year will be required to prove it.
  • Clause 91 which states that the Centre may constitute a National Safety Board to look into various aspects of traffic safety. If because of this amendment we end up with a permanent agency with safety experts, we can hope to see a decline in traffic fatalities in the coming years.
Other issues of concern
1.Stricter and higher penalties
While the penalties have to be there for offenders, there seems to be no correlation between stricter and higher penalties with reduction in road traffic crashes in countries where road traffic deaths have reduced over the years. Higher fines as a deterrent to traffic crashes are based on the assumption that the driver is careless, and that the fear of higher penalty will encourage “careful” behaviour on the road.

2.Private operators
Private operators focus on maximising profits and externalities like accidents, pollution and service to the needy are ignored. Private operators have to be carefully regulated. Without effective regulatory mechanisms, private operators will come into the market, existing state transport corporations will suffer and all negative externalities will increase. In short, the overall impact will be exactly the opposite of what this amendment is intended for.

3.Drivers’ address
In the current system where often drivers’ addresses are not updated and passenger vehicles do not require annual registration, electronic surveillance for speeding, red light jumping and violation of other offences remain meaningless since the correct address of the driver is not known. If the address change requirement is implemented in all earnest, the e-challan system will become more effective.

4.Hit and run
Under the Act, compensation for hit and run victims comes from a Solatium Fund.  The Bill creates a new Motor Vehicle Accident Fund in addition.  With a Fund already existing to provide compensation for hit and run accidents, the purpose of the new Accident Fund is unclear.

5.Taxi aggregators
State governments will issue licenses to taxi aggregators as per central government guidelines.  Currently, state governments determine guidelines for plying of taxis.  There could be cases where state taxi guidelines are at variance with the central guidelines on aggregators. 
Every state should be encouraged to propose a time-bound roadmap for adopting this system. 
 Q. 308. Internet of Things
Ans. What is the Internet of Things (IoT) ?
  • The internet of things or as it’s also known, IoT isn’t new: tech companies and pundits have been discussing the idea for decades.
  • At its core, IoT is simple: it’s about connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, applications, and each other.
  • It scales up to include smart cities – think of connected traffic signals that monitor utility use, or smart bins that signal when they need to be emptied – and industry, with connected sensors for everything from tracking parts to monitoring crops.
Is it safe? Can the internet of things be secured?
Everything new and shiny has downsides, and security and privacy are the biggest challenges for IoT.
  • All these devices and systems collect a lot of personal data about people – that smart meter knows when you’re home and what electronics you use when you’re there – and it’s shared with other devices and held in databases by companies.
  • Security experts argue that not enough is being done to build security and privacy into IoT at these early stages, and to prove their point have hacked a host of devices, from connected baby monitors to automated lighting and smart fridges, as well as city wide systems such as traffic signals.
  • However, hackers haven’t, for the most part, put much attention to IoT; there’s likely not enough people using connected appliances for an attack against them to be worth the effort, but as ever, as soon as there’s a financial benefit to hacking smart homes, there will be a cyber-criminal working away at it.
  • It can therefore be said that, IoT is relatively safe. However, there’s no guarantee, and so far not enough is being done to ensure IoT isn’t the next big hacking target.
How will the internet of things affect business and work?
  • This all depends on the industry: manufacturing is perhaps the furthest ahead in terms of IoT, as it’s useful for organising tools, machines and people, and tracking where they are.
  • Farmers have also been turning to connected sensors to monitor both crops and cattle, in the hopes of boosting production, efficiency and tracking the health of their herds.
  • The examples are endless, and all we can predict is that connected devices will likely creep into most businesses, just the way computers and the web have.
What does the internet of things mean for healthcare?
  • Smart pills and connected monitoring patches are already available, highlighting the life-saving potential of IoT, and many people are already strapping smartwatches or fitness bands to their wrists to track their steps or heartbeat while on a run.
  • There’s a host of clever connected health ideas: Intel made a smart band that tracks how much patients with Parkinsons shake, collecting more accurate data than with paper and pen;
  • Sonamba monitors daily activities of senior or ill people, to watch for dangerous anomalies; and people with heart disease can use AliveCore to detect abnormal heart rhythms.
Healthcare is one area where more data has the potential to save lives, by preventing disease, monitoring it and by analysing it to create new treatments. However, our health is also one of the most sensitive areas of our lives, so privacy and security will need a bit more preventative medicine first.

Is the internet of things real?
  • Surprisingly, it’s tough to answer. Technology is full of marketing and hype – it’s often difficult to decide early on whether an innovation is truly ground-breaking or not.
  • But the internet of things is one of those wider ideas that isn’t dependent on a single project or product. The idea of connected sensors and smart devices making decisions without our input will continue.
  • A decade from now, everything could be connected or perhaps only bits and pieces with specific benefits, such as smart meters; and we may call it IoT, smart devices or not call it anything at all, the way smartphones have simply become phones.
 Q. 307. Bangladesh Prime Minister's Delhi Visit
That the bilateral ties between the two South Asian neighbours have been on an upward curve is beyond denial. This is manifest in the fact that between 2010 and now there has been four exchanges of visits at the level of heads of government. Each has been laced with cordiality, warmth and fond utterances for each other. It is not surprising, therefore, that this relationship, rooted as it is in history and conditioned by geography, finds its rightful place at the top of the foreign policy agenda in Bangladesh and a priority one in India.

The two major issues that drew most attention in the build-up to the visit were a possible defence related deal and whether there would be any forward movement on the thorny question of sharing of the waters of common rivers with special focus on Teesta.

While the first was signed, sealed and delivered, the second was again marked off as work in progress, albeit progress at a glacial pace. The significant difference this time was a public pronouncement by Prime Minister Modi that a solution to this matter would be found during the tenures of the respective governments in Dhaka and Delhi.

Teesta issue
West Bengal Chief Minister’s suggestion: An alternative solution, suggesting that water from threeother rivers(Torsa, Dharla, Mansai) in West Bengal be diverted to Bangladesh on the grounds that there was not enough water in Teesta to share. The redeeming feature here is that officials in India, and sections of the media, were quick to dismiss this proposal because of its sheer absurdity. Subsequently, Bangladesh officials also rejected it, stating that Dhaka would count on the pledge made at the highest level from India.
While the West Bengal Chief Minister’s concerns for her constituents is understood, the sustained forward movement of Bangladesh-India relations in all fields should not be held hostage to those concerns. Delhi sincerely understands that, and Dhaka believes it.
During his official visit to Dhaka in 2015, Prime Minister Modi commented that “rivers should nurture the India-Bangladesh relationship and not become the source of discord”. He went a step further this time by publicly committing his government to a deal sooner rather than later. Initial steps on this are already underway in India. This is heartening and needs nurturing.
  • However, not even a reference to the Joint River Commission, JRC, which was launched as early as 1972 specifically for this purpose, was a surprise as was the absence of a firmer pledge to cut down to zero the killing of Bangladeshis at the border.
  • A significant event during this visit was the belated formal recognition from Bangladesh of the supreme sacrifices made by members of the Indian Armed Forces during its Liberation War in 1971.
More than 20 deals of varying shapes and covering a wide range of issues were signed following the official talks.
  • India also offered to sell an additional 6o megawatt of electricity to Bangladesh and connectivity was boosted with new rail and road connections.
  • A credit line of USD 4.5 billion from India was signed to cover costs related to multifarious projects, boosting Indian investments in Bangladesh, and cooperation on peaceful nuclear technology and in outer space.
  • Furthering the ongoing cooperation on combatting trans-boundary terrorism and violent extremism was also agreed.
  • The much talked about defence deal materialised with the signing of two major documents, one a framework Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the other a USD 500 million line of credit for the Bangladesh military. In form and content, the framework MoU is not much different from the ones Bangladesh has with others. In any case, defence cooperation between the two militaries has been on a constant rise in recent times. The deal provided a framework for institutionalising these links.
On balance, the outcome of this visit weighed more on the side of optimism than otherwise.
 Q. 306. World Economic Forum travel and tourism competitiveness index: India wasted tourism potential
The recent World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) travel and tourism competitiveness index, showed that India had moved up 12 places and now ranks 40th among 136 nations globally.
  • The report also noted that this was the largest leap made by any country in the top 50, thereby making India, with its rich and diverse cultural heritage and natural beauty, a prime candidate to lead the so-called Asian century in travel and tourism.
  • The numbers tell a complex story.
  • On the one hand, foreign tourist arrivals have been on an upward trajectory at least since the turn of the century.
  • According to the ministry of tourism, India hosted 8.89 million tourists last year compared to only 2.65 million tourists in 2000.
But when compared with other countries, India’s performance leaves much to be desired.

Across the World
  • While India hit an all-time high last year, it was still nowhere close to France, which topped the list of foreign tourist arrivals with 84.5 million visitors.
  • The US (77.5 million) was second, followed by Spain (68.2 million), China (56.9 million) and Italy (50.7 million).
  • Europe’s dominant position on the list can be explained through the Schengen agreement, which allows citizens of member states to travel freely across international borders.
  • The US too has a visa-waiver agreement with most European Union countries as well as a handful of others for easy access.
  • Non-Schengen states like China—or, for that matter, Turkey (39.4 million tourists in 2015), Mexico (32.1 million) and Russia (31.3 million), all of which have significantly higher tourist numbers than India.
India Vs Others
  • India’s foreign exchange earnings from tourism has followed a similar pattern.
  • In 2015, for example, India earned more than $23 billion in revenue from international tourism, a significant hike from the $3.5 billion it made in 2000.
  • However, the US earned $204.5 billion from international tourists and China $114.1 billion, in 2015—making India’s $23 billion seem like chump change.
  • However, parsing the numbers more carefully shows that while overall revenue from tourists in India is low because of fewer visitors, the average revenue per tourist is actually quite high.
  • For example, while the average tourist spends about $2,639 in the US, she spends about a comparable $2,610 in India and about $2,005 in China.
  • In France (and this is generally true for other European countries as well), the number drops to $543 per tourist.
  • This is because a large chunk of the tourists visiting France are other Europeans with Schengen privileges on short trips from across the borders. But while such tourists add to the numbers, they don’t always spend a lot of money.
Indian question
  • In contrast, when a French or German tourist takes a long-haul flight to India for what is ostensibly a well-planned holiday, they tend to stay longer and spend more money.
  • For India, this is not as much a success story as much as it is an indication of a missed opportunity: When they are here, tourists are clearly willing to spend; but they are simply not coming here in adequate numbers in the first place.
  • Is this because of India’s many problems, such as cumbersome visa regulations, bad travel infrastructure, poor sanitation, collapsing law enforcement systems and concerns about women’s safety?
  • On each of these counts, India ranks poorly on the WEF index.
  • Five-star luxury—given the high revenue per tourist—may shield visitors somewhat from these issues but it cannot get rid of them entirely.
  • Yet another factor at play here is the large number of business tourists (who expectedly are high-spenders) that India gets vis-a-vis leisure tourists, which somewhat skews the narrative.
  • It is worth asking then: Is India getting its fair share of budget travellers especially since it is otherwise one of the most affordable travel destinations? Are middle-class tourists, who want a certain degree of comfort and hassle-free travel but cannot afford to go the five-star route, staying away?
  • If true, that is another challenge for India as it will have to prepare for the changing profile of the international tourist.
As the WEF report notes, foreign travel is no longer a luxury enjoyed only by wealthy Westerners. The lowering of trade barriers and the rise of the middle class in many emerging economies mean that North America and Europe, which have dominated the travel markets till now, may give way to international travel from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Currently, India receives the maximum number of tourists from the US, followed by Bangladesh, while regionally, Western Europe and North America make up for a large chunk of the country’s foreign tourists—at 23.42% and 18.62% in 2015, respectively.

South Asia tops the list with 24.25% but that is to be expected given that it is India’s neighbourhood. What is of concern though is that other regions that are expected to send out tomorrow’s tourists don’t seem to have India on their radar.

The silver lining here is that all these regions, except Eastern Europe, have been sending more tourists to India than before and the government is also cognizant of the fact that a lot more needs to be done on the home front. It has started with liberalizing the visa regime which is expected to improve the numbers quickly. But that’s only the first step. Making it easier to visit India won’t do much when being a tourist in India is replete with problems.
 Q. 305. The government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slaughter across the country through rules made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Can this be considered a constitutional misadventure? What are the legal aspects associated with such a move?
Ans. The government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slaughter across the country through rules made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Though the rules do not explicitly ban slaughter, they ban the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at agricultural markets and therefore, in effect, are attempting to put an end to all kinds of cattle slaughter across the country.
It is a constitutional misadventure on multiple grounds involving fundamental rights, separation of powers and federalism.
  • It was the Indian Parliament that enacted The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (the Act) and that legislation empowers the Government of India (as the executive) to make rules to implement the Act. The executive’s power to make rules under a legislation cannot be exercised in a manner that is contrary to parent legislation — and the latest set of rules does exactly that.
  • The Act through section 11 criminalises cruel treatment of animals by listing a wide range of activities and then, in sub-clause (3)(e) of that very provision, declares that killing an animal for food will not be an offence unless it is “accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering”. It is explicit and clear as day that the Act does not contemplate a prohibition on the slaughter of animals for food.
Killing of animals permitted under other existing
Further, in sub-clause (3)(c) of the Act, it is clearly stated that killing of animals permitted under other existing laws cannot be made an offence. There exist multiple state legislations that permit the slaughter of cattle and the Government of India (GoI) cannot then use this Act to render such slaughter illegal. In issuing this latest set of rules, the GoI has exercised power it does not have under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Glaring anomaly
Another glaring anomaly in the new rules is that the government seems interested in preventing cruelty only to cattle (defined as bovine animals including the cow, bull, bullock, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels). There cannot be any constitutionally acceptable reason for leaving out chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, fish, rabbits, etc.
Different state legislations
  • Cow slaughter is regulated/prohibited across the country in different ways by various state legislations. Different state legislations have variations on the kind of cattle that can be slaughtered and when they can be slaughtered.
  • That is the reason for getting only buffalo meat in Delhi, the meat of bulls and bullocks in Kerala and a complete prohibition on slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks and buffaloes in Madhya Pradesh. Such prohibitions/regulations are achieved through separate state legislations because the power to make such laws is given exclusively to the states under the constitution.
Cow slaughter in the Directive Principles of State Policy
  • And there is very good constitutional logic for that. There is no religious protection for the cow or any other cattle under the constitution and the issue of cow slaughter in the Directive Principles of State Policy is tied to agriculture and the interests of animal husbandry.
  • That approach flows into the constitutional logic of leaving the power of determining cow slaughter regulations exclusively to the states because issues relating to livestock are invariably tied to local conditions of agriculture, availability of fodder, customs, dietary preferences, etc.
  • An all-India anti-cow slaughter legislation by Parliament is unviable because the constitution does not give Parliament the power to make such a law.
Indian Courts
  • The Bombay High Court in a constitutionally mature decision upheld the constitutional liberty to determine individual dietary preferences and struck down the prohibition contained in the Maharashtra legislation.
  • The Supreme Court is yet to look at anti-cow slaughter legislations from this angle and neither has it ever before looked at the impact of anti-cow slaughter legislations on the dietary habits of social groups and on those working in the leather industry.
 Q. 304. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
PKVY is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). Under PKVY Organic farming is promoted through adoption of organic village by cluster approach and PGS certification.

The Scheme envisages:
  • Promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.
  • The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improve the health of consumer.
  • It will raise farmer's income and create potential market for traders.
  • It will motivate the farmers for natural resource mobilization for input production.
Programme implementation
  • Groups of farmers would be motivated to take up organic farming under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).
  • Fifty or more farmers will form a cluster having 50-acre land to take up the organic farming under the scheme. In this way during three years 10,000 clusters will be formed covering 5.0 lakh acre area under organic farming.
  • There will be no liability on the farmers for expenditure on certification.
  • Every farmer will be provided Rs. 20,000 per acre in three years for seed to harvesting of crops and to transport produce to the market.
  • Organic farming will be promoted by using traditional resources and the organic products will be linked with the market.
  • It will increase domestic production and certification of organic produce by involving farmers
 Q. 303. Annual Report: Marine fish catch
  • Gujarat has retained the first position in marine fish landing in the country.
  • Among the fish varieties, Mackerel, the national fish, topped the catch list but sardine declined considerably.
  • The county’s marine fish catch registered a slight increase of 6.6% in 2016 compared to the previous year as reported by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in Kochi.
  • The total marine fish landings for 2016 was 3.63 million tonnes, with Gujarat remaining at the top for the fourth consecutive year followed by Tamil Nadu. Kerala, with its vast coastline, for the first time dropped out of the top three and ranked fourth behind Karnataka.
  • Marine scientists say fisheries sector is experiencing more pressure and there is an urgent need to implement control measures to maintain the harvest at sustainable level.
 Q. 302. Lucky Grahak Yojana and the Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana
NITI Aayog announced the launch of the schemes Lucky Grahak Yojana and the Digi-धन Vyapar Yojana to give cash awards to consumers and merchants who utilize digital payment instruments for personal consumption expenditures. The scheme specially focuses on bringing the poor, lower middle class and small businesses into the digital payment fold. It has been decided that National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) shall be the implementing agency for this scheme. It would be useful to reiterate that NPCI is a not for profit company which is charged with a responsibility of guiding India towards being a cashless society.

The primary aim of these schemes is to incentivize digital transactions so that electronic payments are adopted by all sections of the society, especially the poor and the middle class. It has been designed keeping in mind all sections of the society and their usage patterns. For instance, the poorest of poor will be eligible for rewards by using USSD. People in village and rural areas can participate in this scheme through AEPS. The scheme  became operational with the first draw on 25th December, 2016 (as a Christmas gift to the nation) leading up to a Mega Draw on Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti on 14th April 2017. It  comprises of two major components, one for the Consumers and the other for the Merchants:

a)    Lucky Grahak Yojana [Consumers]:
                            i.            Daily reward of Rs 1000 to be given to 15,000 lucky Consumers for a period of 100 days;
                           ii.            Weekly prizes worth Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10,000 and Rs. 5000 for Consumers who use the alternate modes of digital Payments
This will include all forms of transactions viz. UPI, USSD, AEPS and RuPay Cards but will for the time being exclude transactions through Private Credit Cards and Digital Wallets.

b)    Digi-धन Vyapar Yojana[ Merchants]:
                       i.            Prizes for Merchants for all digital transactions conducted at Merchant establishments
                     ii.            Weekly prizes worth Rs. 50,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs. 2,500
To ensure that the focus of the scheme is on small transactions (entered into by common people), incentives shall be restricted to transactions within the range of Rs 50 and Rs 3000. All transactions between consumers and merchants; consumers and government agencies and all AEPS transactions will be considered for the incentive scheme.
The winners are identified through a random draw of the eligible Transaction IDs [which are generated automatically as soon as the transaction is completed] by software to be especially developed by NPCI for this purpose. NPCI has been directed to ensure a technical and security audit of the same to ensure that the technical integrity of the process is maintained.
The estimated expenditure on the first phase of the scheme (up to 14th April 2017) is likely to be 340 Crores . The Government will simultaneously carry out a review for further implementation. India is transitioning at a rapid rate from a cash-user society to a cashless society. This is a historic moment in our nation’s history when our nation is shedding old habits and rapidly adopting new means which shall propel us into a truly modern age.