Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

 Q. 295. Designer babies and the future
The IVF question
  • Harsha Chawda, India’s first test-tube baby was born in 1986. In vitro fertilization (IVF), the technique used then, has since gone on to prove a blessing for several infertile couples.
  • However, at the time of inception, this technique faced much criticism. The objections ranged from the ethical—disrupting natural life processes—to concerns about the fate of unwanted or unused embryos generated during the process, and possible social stratification due to the then excessive financial costs of the procedure.
  • Yet, time has broadly validated the technique, reduced costs, and made it safer and more reliable.
In Vitro Gametogenesis (IVG)
  • In vitro gametogenesis (IVG), a newer form of assisted reproductive technology, is now poised for the same hot seat that IVF occupied for several years.
  • Still in an experimental phase, the technology promises genetically linked offspring to not only infertile couples but post-menopausal women, gay couples, single people and even groups of more than two individuals (whether male, female, or a mix of the two) to have their own children.
  • As the name suggests, this technology involves the artificial construction of gametes, i.e. the male/female reproductive cells. Any well-differentiated adult cell (e.g. skin cells, hair cells, etc.) of the human body can be used to do this, surpassing the need for gamete donation, leading to an endless supply. The production of gametes, along with their fusion, occurs in the laboratory, leading to the creation of embryos, thereby providing an alternative to the hassle of assembling embryos within human bodies.
  • This can lead to an inexhaustible supply of embryos, thereby offering parents the chance to select an “ideal” future child.
  • But in addition to its ability to create new embryos from any normal cell, a contribution quite path-breaking by itself, IVG attains full potential when combined with other technological advances that are simultaneously evolving.
CRISPR/Cas9 system
  • Genetically modified human creation can be turned into reality much faster by combining IVG and targeted gene-editing technologies.
  • Such designer babies will no longer be a hypothetical concern, once the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 system, a targeted gene-editing technology, starts finding full expression.
  • This will not only help parents select the best embryo but also facilitate alteration of a certain set of genes, thus creating their version of a “perfect child” with “vanity” traits such as height, enhanced muscular strength, fair skin tone or eye colour and even increased intelligence.
The jury is still out on the merits or otherwise of having “such designer babies” in the midst of normal human beings.
1.Such interventions raise some serious concerns such as off-target mutations and mosaicism. In the former situation, CRISPR could miss the target gene and attach to another similar sequence, thereby creating properties far different from the intended outcomes.
  • The latter scenario arises when the attaching is spot on but the edited gene fails to alter the DNA sequence of all cells. This leaves the embryo vulnerable to genetic diseases, leaving future generations to suffer from the error.
2.Another challenge is that it requires policy deliberation with respect to unauthorized IVG, which involves making babies out of human cellular debris without the explicit consent of the donor.
  • Courts that have till now dealt with non-consensual parenthood, rising from stolen sperm or forced pregnancies, will face new challenges with respect to unauthorized IVG.
  • This will pose worrying legal questions regarding the definition of parenthood and penalties for unauthorized cell access.
  • Such cases can get more complicated when a single embryo has more than two genetic parents. Will the law support multiplex parenting or give more rights to—or saddle with more responsibilities—the larger contributor of genetic material?
Indian scenario
  • In a society like India where prenatal sex determination is banned because of strong cultural preferences for the male child, this era of IVG and designer babies could lead to a further deterioration of the sex ratio.
  • Instead of having to determine gender once the embryo is conceived, parents could choose to engineer the same prior to conception and evade the law. While these solutions may only work with further advancements and exponential cost-reduction, it is good to weigh their impact early on.
IVG’s promises, therefore, come with huge responsibilities in terms of developing rigorous, internationally accepted scientific protocols as well as clear ethical norms and practices. There is a strong need for global conversations around this issue, with India and her stakeholders—ranging across government, the scientific establishment, and the LGBT community—being active participants. Though technology has advanced considerably in the last four decades or so, developments such as IVG compel us to ask roughly similar ethical queries. Who knows how far is far enough—except in hindsight.
 Q. 294. Great Asian One-Horned Rhino
Ans. Status: Vulnerable (IUCN)
Habitat and Distribution
  • The preferred habitat of an Indian Rhinoceros is alluvial flood plains and areas containing tall grasslands along the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • Formerly, extensively distributed in the Gangetic plains, today the species is restricted to small habitats in Indo- Nepal terai and North Bengal, and Assam.
  • In India rhinos are found in Kaziranga, Orang, Pobitara, Jaldapara, Dudhwa.
Conservation Challenges
  • For years, rhinos have been widely slaughtered for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines.
  • Destruction of their habitat over the years, has brought the rhinos to the brink of extinction. These animals are among the worlds' most endangered species.
  • The great one-horned rhino could once be found from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  • Once found across the entire northern part of the Indian sub-continent, rhino populations were severely depleted as they were hunted for sport and killed as agricultural pests. This pushed the species very close to extinction in the early 20th century and by 1975 there were only 600 individuals surviving in the wild.
  • By the turn of the century, this species had vanished from much of its range.
  • Thanks to rigorous conservation efforts, their numbers have increased dramatically since 1975. By 2016, conservation efforts saw the population grow to 3,555 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal in northeast India.
  • Throughout their range, their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to conversion of grassland habitats into agricultural fields and other human pressures. The threat of poaching continues to be ever-present.
WWF-India's Involvement
  • Conserving the rhinos and their habitat is imperative. WWF has been working on rhino conservation for over four decades.
  • The big programme initiated by WWF is the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020). The vision of the programme is to increase the total rhino population in Assam to about 3000 by the year 2020 and just as significantly ensure that these rhinos are distributed over at least seven protected areas to provide long-term viability of an Assam metapopulation of the species. This will be achieved by translocating the rhinos from two-source populations (Kaziranga and Pobitara) into 3 or 4 target Protected Areas (Manas, Laokhowa, Burachapori, Kochpora, Dibrusaikhowa and, possibly, Orang).
Other Challenges
  • The Forest Department faces a major challenge as lack of equipment, finance, political will and shortage of staff makes it difficult to implement conservation work at the grassroot level.
  • Two serious on the ground problems include, containing poaching and loss of habitat to encroachments.
 Q. 293. Indo-Russian venture for 200 copters
  • The long-pending joint venture between India and Russia to manufacture 200 Kamov-226T light-utility helicopters for around $1 billion (over Rs 6,500 crore) is now finally set to kick off.
  • The JV is between defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics and Russian companies.
  • Overall, the armed forces urgently need 484 light choppers to replace their obsolete single-engine Cheetah Chetak fleets.
  • Under the agreement, the first 60 choppers will come from Russia, while the rest will be manufactured in India over nine years.
  • The twin-engine Kamov-226Ts are multi-role helicopters.
  • It can undertake reconnaissance, patrol and disaster relief operations as well as transport eight combat-ready soldiers with a maximum range of 600-km.
 Q. 292. The deadly diseases being released as ice thaws
Ans. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been solid for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they have the potential to release ancient viruses and bacteria that may be capable of springing back to life.
The most recent discovery of an ancient virus came when French and Russian scientists investigated a 30,000-year-old piece of Siberian permafrost.

  • In a paper published in 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists had discovered a new “giant virus” that they named Pithovirus sibericum.
  • Giant viruses are so-called because they are much larger than traditional viruses.
  • Pithovirus is the biggest ever found and measures 1,500 nanometres (billionths of a metre) across. That’s more than 10 times larger than the HIV virus.
  • After thawing the Pithovirus from its frozen state was still infectious.
  • Fortunately, the virus’ targets are amoebae, and Pithovirus poses no danger to humans.
  • However, giant viruses can sometimes be harmful to people.
Revival of such an ancestral amoeba-infecting virus suggests that the thawing of permafrost either from global warming or industrial exploitation of circumpolar regions might not be exempt from future threats to human or animal health.

Warming viruses
  • While global warming has yet to expose any ancient viruses harmful to humans, it has begun re-exposing more familiar diseases that modern society thought it had eradicated.
  • In August 2016, a 12-year-old boy in northern Russia was killed after being infected by Anthrax. The Anthrax outbreak, which saw up to 20 people hospitalised, was blamed on unusually warm weather in the arctic circle.
  • Scientists have also discovered DNA fragments of smallpox in the Siberian permafrost.
Bigger threats
  • While the risk of infectious diseases being released by thawing permafrost is real, scientists are at pains to point out that the chances of any future pandemic are incredibly low.
  • The idea that melting ice would release harmful viruses, and that those viruses would circulate extensively enough to affect human health, stretches scientific rationality to the breaking point.
  • And rather than diseases being released by melting ice, some argue that as Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of "southern" diseases like malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as these pathogens thrive at warmer temperatures.
  • In warmer countries climate change is already having a devastating effect on people’s health. In central America incidences of chronic kidney disease are on the rise, and are being blamed on increased dehydration as hotter days become more frequent.
 Q. 291. Electric Vehicles and Solar Energy
The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) has successfully tested lithium-ion batteries developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre for use in two- and three-wheelers, a development that is expected to provide a fillip to India’s electric vehicles (EV) push.

Electric Vehicles (EV) programme
  • The government is now planning to transfer the technology to companies for commercial production of these batteries, and will also set up a central agency to lead the country’s EV programme.
  • India’s initiatives on solar energy and electric vehicles are closely linked. The country plans to generate 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022. Of this, 100GW is to come from solar power projects.
  • With storage being the next frontier for India’s clean energy push, the batteries in EVs offer a potential solution.
  • India’s EV programme would help with grid balancing, besides complementing the government’s push for solar power, which is generated during the day and can be stored in EV batteries.
Development rush
  • The technology should be transferred to companies in the private or public sector or joint ventures for commercial production of batteries.
  • BHEL is exploring the feasibility of manufacturing cells and batteries with technology developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) for application in electric vehicles.
  • While BHEL, India’s largest power generation equipment maker, wants to manufacture electric vehicles such as buses, cars, two-wheelers and boats, PGCIL, the power transmission utility responsible for establishing green energy transmission corridors, is considering setting up charging stations for EVs.
  • Also, Vedanta Resources Plc is firming up its clean energy plans for India, encouraged by the opportunities offered by the country’s growing green economy. As part of the strategy, the firm is looking at developing battery storage solutions.
Way forward
  • EV on a clean fuel source is a better option for India. It is very important to have an enabling provision and one agency to spearhead the programme.
  • There should also be continuous innovation to bring the cost of battery down and enabling support for infrastructure such as charging stations.
  • It should be available across the country within a definitive time frame in order for EVs to take off as a mass product.
Experts say solar power and EVs are a great combination. Any shift to electric vehicles will help reduce pollution and fuel imports. India’s energy import bill is expected to double from around $150 billion to $300 billion by 2030. The government has been trying to push sales of electric vehicles and has set an ambitious target of selling six million by 2020.
 Q. 290. Despite stiffening of ties between India and Russia, there is still scope for collaboration and cooperation. What are the emerging areas where the two countries can work together to regain the sheen of relationship?
Despite a deep political and diplomatic partnership for decades, the Indo-Russian relationship is beginning to show early signs of stiffening.
Ties between the two countries are overwhelmingly dependent on the sale and, in recent years, joint production of weapons systems.
The only other area of cooperation that has reflected the “special and privileged” nature of the relationship is nuclear energy.
Beyond this, the trade and investment relationship is virtually non-existent. Even in natural gas and oil, where flourishing trade should have existed given Russia’s abundant supply and India’s growing demand, very little exists beyond a few notable Indian investments in Russian oil and gas companies and fields. The deals signed last year, if they come to fruition, could however boost mutual investments in this sector.

Way forward: collaboration in new and emerging technologies
One way to shake up this fast atrophying relationship is for India and Russia to direct their attention towards collaboration in new and emerging technologies. Both India and Russia have made significant advancements in sunrise sectors, and offer unique advantages for each other. There are four broad areas where the two countries can join forces.

Quantum computing
First is the field of quantum computing. Quantum computing, which uses subatomic particles for computing instead of standard binary bits, is poised to be the next great technological leap.
  • The possibilities of this technology for everything from space travel to medical research are staggering, and have created an inevitable race to develop the first industrial quantum computer, in which China seems to have stolen a march on the rest of the world.
  • While some recent breakthroughs by Indian physicists have shown that indigenous expertise does exist, a credible support structure is lacking.
  • Russia has been making a concerted effort to pioneer quantum computing, primarily through the Russian Quantum Centre. Significant collaboration in this sector will allow India access to the cutting-edge infrastructure necessary to indigenously develop this technology while providing Russia with ready market access for any quantum technologies it may develop in the future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics
Second, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics present a unique opportunity for joint action.
  • While AI is the buzzword of our times, Indian investments, whether public or private, in this sector have been negligible. Despite a large talent pool, neither the Indian state nor the private sector has made a concerted effort to take advantage of this sector’s possibilities.
  • Russia, on the other hand, has made great strides in the militarization of AI and robotics and in allied fields like drone warfare, which could be immensely beneficial for India.
  • While high-tech defence collaboration between India and Russia has focused thus far on conventional weapons like fighter planes and missiles, a greater emphasis on AI and robotics will help extend the military relationship into the future.
Cyber security
The third avenue wherein both nations can work together is cyber security.
  • While this may be a controversial suggestion in the light of recent events, from a purely strategic point of view, India has much to learn from the Russian experience.
  • The two countries have recently signed an agreement which establishes a high-level dialogue on cyber issues and provides for cooperation, coordination and exchange of information on counter-terrorism.
  • However, a case can still be made to widen the scope of this engagement to include the training of Indian cyber response teams and officials.
  • Russia, home to leading cyber security companies like Kaspersky, has also built considerable state capabilities towards establishing an effective and robust cyber force.
  • With India currently establishing a unified cyber agency, closer collaboration with Russia would immensely benefit Indian cyber preparedness.
Information Technology (IT) and software
The final arena of partnership is traditional information technology (IT) and software, including and especially Big Data.
  • With the US, UK, Singapore and Australia now closing their doors to Indian IT workers, it becomes imperative for India to find alternative avenues that can absorb its technology workforce.
  • Russia’s highly developed IT infrastructure is facing an increasing shortage of skilled labour. Indian IT talent is well placed to take advantage of this shortfall. Russia could also be an outlet for Indian IT investment, given that its location provides ready access to the untapped markets of Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
 The Indo-Russian relationship is one of the few long-standing successes of Indian diplomacy. Given the increasingly volatile nature of global politics, it becomes imperative that this relationship does not become moribund. With limited economic interdependency and recent efforts to work jointly in areas that have traditionally formed the bedrock of bilateral relations, both nations must pay greater attention to those emerging technologies that have the potential to push the relationship firmly into the future.
 Q. 289. Why the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not tried to prevent the recent rise of the rupee even though it now seems overvalued in real terms?
  • The rupee touched its highest level against the US dollar in 17 months recently.
  • The Indian currency has rallied against the greenback since the beginning of this year.
  • So have many other emerging market currencies despite the increases in interest rates by the US Federal Reserve.
  • India has also in recent months seen strong capital inflows that have been in excess of what it required to fund a modest current account deficit. These capital inflows have pushed up the value of the domestic currency.
Policy conundrum
There is an important policy conundrum here. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not tried to prevent the recent rise of the rupee even though it now seems overvalued in real terms. The real effective exchange rate against a basket of 36 other currencies was 118.38 in February—one of the highest levels in many years. Even though Indian exports have recovered in the past few months, it is sobering to remember that currency overvaluation has most often led to higher current account imbalances in the medium term.

Why RBI has not intervened?
  • Many wonder why the Indian central bank has not intervened to keep the rupee down even though it seems overvalued by its own metric. One possible reason could be the excess liquidity that is currently sloshing around in the Indian financial system.
  • The demonetisation announced in early November forced citizens to park their currency holdings with banks.
  • The restrictions on withdrawals meant that the composition of broad money changed dramatically as demand deposits substituted currency in portfolios.
  • Banks remained wary of lending the money pouring into deposits because they were not sure of how long this money would remain with them.
  • The central bank did try to mop up some of the excess liquidity with the banks through the issue of market stabilization bonds. Yet there is no doubt that there is still too much liquidity at a time when the monetary policy outlook has moved from accommodative to neutral.
  • Any aggressive buying of dollars by the RBI at this juncture will only add to the excess liquidity that is already so evident in the money market.
It is thus likely that the Indian central bank has stayed away from foreign exchange intervention because it does not want to further exacerbate the excess liquidity problem, because it will have to release rupees into the market whenever it buys dollars. Sterilization firepower is limited right now, which is precisely why it had to issue market stabilization bonds in the first place.

Market Stabilization scheme (MSS) is a monetary policy intervention by the RBI to withdraw excess liquidity (or money supply) by selling government securities in the economy. The MSS was introduced in April 2004. Main thing about MSS is that it is used to withdraw excess liquidity or money from the system by selling government bonds.

The RBI will also have to take into account the fact that loose money market conditions could eventually feed into inflation. Getting the balance right will thus be important.

The question is whether this is a temporary issue that will go away once people begin to withdraw money from their banks or when bank lending picks up. But there can be no doubt that the excess liquidity sloshing in the system right now could be one important reason why the RBI has not been intervening more aggressively in the foreign exchange market to keep the rupee down.
 Q. 288. Why there is a need to revamp the Indian Foreign Service? What can be done to revive the lost prestige of IFS?
The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is one of the most prestigious services in the country and only a few people get a chance to enter it. Those who desire to be a part of this service and become a career diplomat needs to clear the Civil Services Examination (CSE) first.

After selection, candidates go through a gruelling training period during which they are taught various aspects of diplomacy. This process has been going on for decades, but it needs to change now. The reason being that diplomacy is not the job of a ‘generalist’, which anyone can try their hands at. It needs specialisation. A diplomat is a representative of his country and a foot soldier of its foreign policy. Good armies fight wars and win. Good diplomats deter wars and win.

Specialised job
Being a specialised job, diplomacy needs people who have prior theoretical and historical knowledge of the subject before being trained in its practical aspects. Diplomacy involves the conscious pursuit of the national interest through well-designed policies and initiatives. That requires an understanding of international relations including the nature of the state, political systems, international order, among others. In other words, the job of diplomacy demands that its practitioners be first well equipped with the basic knowledge of the subject of international relations.
Committee findings
  1. That there are quality issues with recent recruits to the IFS was highlighted by a parliamentary committee last year. Pointing to the ‘deterioration’ in the quality of recruits to the IFS, the committee noted that, unlike in the past, when only those with the highest ranks in the CSE were taken into the service, it was surprised to find that even low-ranked candidates are now able to enter the service. ‘This development is both a symptom and a reason for the erosion of prestige in the IFS’, noted the Committee.
  2. The second concern that the committee highlighted was the low strength of the IFS. It is well known that when compared to India’s global profile and its image as an emerging power in the international system, it needs many more officers in the field with a deeper knowledge and understanding of the areas they are about to serve in.
Way Forward
Among the many ideas that have been floated to address such problems include ‘lateral entry’ and ‘revolving door’.
  • Lateral entry would involve posting an officer from any other All India service to an overseas mission to execute a specific job. For instance, a railway service official is posted for executing railway projects in a neighbouring country, or a Commerce Ministry official is posted to handle complex trade negotiations. But lateral entrants are not given an opportunity to grow into the service. They have had to return to their parent service after the completion of assigned tasks. The advantage of absorbing such officials into the IFS is that they are exposed to an international work environment and could be valuable assets in carrying out relevant tasks pertaining to the work of overseas missions.
  • The other option to revamp the IFS is to introduce the ‘revolving door’ concept. Industry should be given an option to serve in the diplomatic corps. The walls between these fields and diplomacy need to be broken down and inter-operability need to be given a chance. The United States has been following this kind of inter-operability for decades, and with success.
Entry rules
Another critical area of revamp pertains to the IFS entry rules, which need to be made more specialised. Only those candidates who have an academic background in the subjects of international relations, strategic studies, security studies or foreign policy studies should be allowed to appear for the examination, which could either be conducted by a separate body or be a separate exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) itself.

  • The clear advantage of such a change is that those who have already done a degree course in subjects related to international relations and foreign policy would have a better understanding of the job requirements prior to joining the service, unlike candidates with an engineering or medicine or management background who have no prior knowledge or very little knowledge of the subject.
  • Since candidates with an academic background in the discipline of international relations and allied areas would have already invested in understanding the subject, they would only require training in specific skill sets after being chosen into the service — like language training for instance. That, in turn, would enhance the quality of the service as a whole. The government has tried this method of recruitment in other fields. For instance, getting into the Indian Engineering Services and Indian Geological Services requires candidates to have an engineering and geography/geology background, respectively. The time has come to apply the same standards to the IFS, if India wants to have a large number of quality diplomats. The argument is not that existing IFS recruits are of lesser quality but to highlight the fact that the rank of candidates in a ‘generalist exam’ decide their fate whether they would become career diplomats or not.
Area of concern
One problem though is that very few educational institutions offer courses in International relations and even fewer provide quality education in the field, with the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University being notable exceptions.

The government needs to build institutions focused on international relations, defence, security and diplomatic studies in order to get the best skilled talent in the field. This is being practiced by many countries such as Russia and France, among others, where they groom students from these fields to become career diplomats. With changing times and the growing profile of India in the international system, there is a need for a change in the structure and process of recruitment into this very important service.
 Q. 287. Moisture Adequacy Index (MAI)
Ans. The moisture, that is necessary for the sustenance of a crop or a vegetation species, can be best derived from knowledge of the moisture adequacy index. The moisture adequacy index is a true representative of moisture effectivity, thus, can be used in correlative studies of vegetation in relation to climate.
  • The information on spatial and temporal availability of moisture adequacy index could be helpful for the optimum utilization of water resources.
  • The MAI is prime factor for crop planning especially in tropics and varies both in time and space.
  • MAI is worked out on the basis of average monthly rainfall.
  • Droughts affect the agricultural production and agricultural droughts of high severity cripple the economy of a State. To assess the agricultural drought, it is necessary to measure the extent to which rainfall and soil moisture is falling short of the water requirement of crops during the cropping season.
  • Moisture Adequacy Index (MAI) is a better measure for assessing the degree of adequacy of rainfall and soil moisture to meet the potential water requirement of crops. 
Methodology for calculating MAI
Moisture Adequacy Index (MAI) is the ratio of actual evapotranspiration (AET) to the potential evapotranspiration (PET). Agricultural droughts during different seasons (years) were classified into four groups based on average MAI during the season.
 Q. 286. Operation Clean Money
Ans. Operation Clean Money is to detect the generation of black money after demonetisation. Operation Clean Money, CBDT said, is being conducted by the tax department through the use of advanced data analytics allowing "optimisation of government resources and causing minimum inconvenience to the taxpayers.

2nd Phase
  • The income-tax department has identified more than 60,000 persons, some of them described as "high-risk”, under the second phase of Operation Clean Money.
  • Entities that will undergo "detailed investigations” as part of the next phase of the operation include businesses claiming cash sales as the source of cash deposits, such as petrol pumps and other essential services like hospitals, which are found to be excessive compared with their past profile or industry norms after the note-swap was announced on November 8.
  • It will also probe government or public sector employees who made "large cash deposits” as well as people who made high-value purchases, "layered” or laundered funds by using shell companies and who did not respond to queries under the first phase of the operation.
  • All the cases where no response is received shall also be subjected to detailed enquiries. It may take more than a year to complete but technology and continuous enforcement action will be deployed to ensure no one slips through the net.
1st Phase
  • The threshold under the first phase of the operation, which began on January 31 and ended on February 15, was kept at deposits of Rs 5 lakh and above.
  • More than 400 cases have been referred by the tax department to the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation). Surveys have been conducted in more than 3,400 cases by assessment units.
  • Online queries were raised in 35,000 cases and online verification was completed in more than 7,800 cases. The department closed verification when a satisfactory explanation was given.
  • In cases where the cash deposit has been declared under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), the verifications would also be closed.
Demonetisation was aimed at the elimination of black money that casts a long shadow of parallel economy on our real economy and the latest operation is one of the major steps aimed at achieving this goal and also widen the tax base. 
 Q. 285. What are the flaws in the current budgeting for the police? Which areas in Policing needs modernization for effective policing?
As the law enforcement agency of the government and the first point of contact in the criminal justice system, the police is critical for sound law and order, and a good quality of life. There is perceptible dissatisfaction with policing in India today. It is often argued that poor resourcing is part of the problem, and that the police require a higher quantum of budgetary allocations.

  • While the police need to be well-resourced, higher allocations by themselves are not enough.
  • The structure of budgetary allocations can have a disproportionate impact on the operations of the department, and consequently on police performance.
  • It is, therefore, useful to analyse how police departments structure their budgets, and the manner in which the budgetary allocations are actually spent.
Maharashtra Police: An example
  • Analysis suggests that budget outlays for the police only meet the establishment cost.
  • Salary is the main component of budget, consuming almost 90% of the total allocation.
  • The residual amount covers costs of domestic travel, maintenance of motor vehicles and petrol cost.
  • Budgets, as they stand, barely allocate funds for operational expenses of running police stations, or maintenance costs for computer systems, arms and ammunition.
  • The analysis suggests that police budgets have focused solely on manpower.
  • On an annual basis, budgets do not have allocations towards capacity building, and are not structured to achieve desired outcomes.
  • The police also suffer from inadequate expenditure management.
  • Expenses on items other than salary are not monitored frequently enough.
Spending on the modernization of police
  • In the year 2000, an assessment of police infrastructure deficiency by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), a federal agency under the ministry of home affairs, estimated that Rs30,000 crores were needed over 10 years to fill the identified gaps in infrastructure.
  • Notably, the Modernisation of Police Forces Scheme to fund deficiency in state police infrastructure has been in existence since 1969-70, the cost of which is shared by the Centre and states.
  • Annual allocations to this fund were raised substantially, following the BPR&D study.
  • Since 2000, the focus has been to build secure police stations, increase the supply of police housing, improve forensic laboratory, equipment, training infrastructure, communication systems and mobility of the police force.
  • The scheme has had limited success.
  • An impact evaluation of the scheme, acknowledged the positive impact of the scheme, but stated that it “has been able to fill very limited gaps compared to the actual requirements of the police forces”.
  • The assessment also pointed to inadequate training and lack of funds for repair and maintenance of assets created under the scheme.
  • Despite the short supply of resources, the study found under-utilization of funds as a result of delays in release of funds and cumbersome asset-procurement processes.
The two examples demonstrate different problems with police budgets. Either funds are spent entirely on salaries, with little left for capacity building, or are underutilized even though they are not enough to begin with.

Desired outcomes of Policing
As with any budget, police budgets too need to be tied to outcomes. Broadly, the desired outcomes of policing are
1) safety and security of citizens;
2) collection of intelligence;
3) investigation of crime;
4) sound public order.

In the current form, budgets only fund salaries, and thus are not fully aligned to create conditions conducive for outcomes. First and foremost, aligning budgets to these outcomes will require outlays to fully cover the office or operating expenses of the police station. It is estimated that office or operation costs for running a police station in an urban area are around Rs5–6 lakhs per year, while the figure for rural areas is between Rs4-5 lakh per year. This cost estimate covers expenses on any item of miscellaneous nature, such as stationery, translations, etc., while performing police duty.

Capacity Building
  • The second input to achieve these outcomes is to build capacity within the police.
  • This may be through focused training to keep pace with the changing nature of crime and prevention techniques, or the creation of IT infrastructure for tracking cases to tackle delays due to mounting pendency.
  • It will also require investment in management techniques, soft skills, new technology, and building of databases to allow for seamless access to information, among other heads.
A dynamic process of evaluating the needs of effective policing, and aligning the budgets accordingly is an important step towards achieving a well-functioning police
 Q. 284. Waste to Energy
The high volatility in fuel prices in the recent past and the resulting turbulence in energy markets has compelled many countries to look for alternate sources of energy, for both economic and environmental reasons.
With growing public awareness about sanitation, and with increasing pressure on the government and urban local bodies to manage waste more efficiently, the Indian waste to energy sector is poised to grow at a rapid pace in the years to come. The dual pressing needs of waste management and reliable renewable energy source are creating attractive opportunities for investors and project developers in the waste to energy sector.

Why Waste to Energy?
  • Most wastes that are generated find their way into land and water bodies without proper treatment, causing severe water and air pollution. The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environment-friendly waste to energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal.
  • The environmental benefits of waste to energy, as an alternative to disposing of waste in landfills, are clear and compelling. Waste to energy generates clean, reliable energy from a renewable fuel source, thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the combustion of which is a major contributor to GHG emissions.
  • These measures would reduce the quantity of wastes, generate a substantial quantity of energy from them, and greatly reduce pollution of water and air, thereby offering a number of social and economic benefits that cannot easily be quantified.
In addition to energy generation, waste-to-energy can fetch significant monetary benefits. Some of the strategic and financial benefits from waste-to-energy business are:
1. Profitability - If the right technology is employed with optimal processes and all components of waste are used to derive value, waste to energy could be a profitable business. When government incentives are factored in, the attractiveness of the business increases further.
2. Government Incentives - The government of India already provides significant incentives for waste to energy projects, in the form of capital subsidies and feed in tariffs. With concerns on climate change, waste management and sanitation on the increase (a result of this increasing concern is the newly formed ministry exclusively for Drinking Water and Sanitation), the government incentives for this sector is only set to increase in future.
3. Related Opportunities - Success in municipal solid waste management could lead to opportunities in other waste such as sewage waste, industrial waste and hazardous waste. Depending on the technology/route used for energy recovery, eco-friendly and “green” co-products such as charcoal, compost, nutrient rich digestate (a fertilizer) or bio-oil can be obtained. These co-product opportunities will enable the enterprise to expand into these related products, demand for which are increasing all the time.
4. Emerging Opportunities - With distributed waste management and waste to energy becoming important priorities, opportunities exist for companies to provide support services like turnkey solutions. In addition, waste to energy opportunities exist not just in India but all over the world. Thus, there could be significant international expansion possibilities for Indian companies, especially expansion into other Asian countries.
MNRE(Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) has promoted the national programme for the recovery of energy from industrial and urban wastes. Since this programme seeks to promote setting up of waste-to-energy plants, various financial incentives and other eligibility criteria have been proposed by the MNRE to encourage the participation in waste-to-energy projects.
These are listed below:
  • Financial assistance is provided by way of interest subsidy for commercial projects
  • Financial assistance is provided on the capital cost for demonstration projects that are innovative in terms of generation of power from municipal/ industrial wastes
  • Financial assistance is provided for power generation in STPs
  • Financial incentives are given to municipal corporations for supplying garbage free of cost at the project site and for providing land
  • Incentives are given to the state nodal agencies for promotion, co-ordination and monitoring of such projects
  • Financial assistance is given for carrying out studies on waste to energy projects, covering full costs of such studies
  • Assistance is given in terms of training courses, workshops and seminars and awareness generation
Basic Techniques of Energy Recovery from Waste
Energy can be recovered from the organic fraction of waste (biodegradable as well as non-biodegradable) through thermal, thermo-chemical and biochemical methods.
A brief description of the commonly applied technologies for energy generation from waste is as follows
  1. Anaerobic Digestion/ Biomethanation: In this process, the organic fraction of the waste is segregated and fed into a closed container (biogas digester). In the digester, the segregated waste undergoes biodegradation in presence of methanogenic bacteria and under anaerobic conditions, producing methane-rich biogas and effluent. The biogas can be used either for cooking/heating applications, or for generating motive power or electricity through dual-fuel or gas engines, low-pressure gas turbines, or steam turbines. The sludge from anaerobic digestion, after stabilization, can be used as a soil conditioner. It can even be sold as manure depending upon its composition, which is determined mainly by the composition of the input waste.
  2. Combustion/Incineration: In this process, wastes are directly burned in presence of excess air (oxygen) at high temperatures (about 800°C), liberating heat energy, inert gases, and ash. Combustion results in transfer of 65%–80% of heat content of the organic matter to hot air, steam, and hot water. The steam generated, in turn, can be used in steam turbines to generate power.
  3. Pyrolysis/Gasification: is a process of chemical decomposition of organic matter brought about by heat. In this process, the organic material is heated in absence of air until the molecules thermally break down to become a gas comprising smaller molecules (known collectively as syngas). Gasification can also take place as a result of partial combustion of organic matter in presence of a restricted quantity of oxygen or air. The gas so produced is known as producer gas. The gases produced by pyrolysis mainly comprise carbon monoxide (25%), hydrogen and hydrocarbons (15%), and carbon dioxide and nitrogen (60%). The next step is to ‘clean’ the syngas or producer gas. Thereafter, the gas is burned in internal combustion (IC) engine generator sets or turbines to produce electricity.
  4. Landfill Gas recovery: The waste dumped in a landfill becomes subjected, over a period of time, to anaerobic conditions. As a result, its organic fraction slowly volatilizes and decomposes, leading to production of ‘landfill gas’, which contains a high percentage of methane (about 50%). It can be used as a source of energy either for direct heating/cooking applications or to generate power through IC engines or turbines.
 Q. 283. Governors in Indian states: A colonial imprint
  • It is surprising to note that our Constitution is eerily silent on the manner of appointment of chief ministers by the governor when there is no clear majority by any of the contesting political parties.
  • Equally overwhelming is its silence on the conduct of floor tests in assembly/Parliament.
These deafening silences give the governors unyielding powers, the reasons for which can be found in the troubled history of colonial India, a flawed Constituent Assembly and the quasi-federal nature of the Indian Constitution.

Governors in British India and the Government of India Act, 1935
Ivor Jennings, observed that all Constitutions are the heirs of the past as well as the testators of the future. According to him, this can be best summed up by using the language of Roman-Dutch law i.e., every generation is bound by fideicommissa (an arrangement similar to a trust by which a testator gave property to a person for the benefit of another who could not, by law, inherit property).
Similarly, our Constitution is primarily based on the Government of India Act, 1935 (“GoI Act, 1935”). However, the GoI Act, 1935 was a bad precedent for the Constitution of an independent country. Jennings rightly opines that the recurring motif under the GoI Act, 1935 was whether a power was to be in British or Indian hands and, if the hands were to be Indian, whether they were to be tied closely or left comparatively free.

Section 49 of the GoI Act, 1935, stated that the executive authority of a province shall be exercised on behalf of His Majesty (George V) by the governor. This is a clear example of federal principle in the constitution wherein the provinces derive their power directly from the sovereign and not from the central government as its agent or delegate.
Relationship between a governor and his ministers: in the ordinary exercise of his constitutional discretion, a governor is unquestionably competent to reject the advice of his ministers, whenever that advice seem to him to be adverse to the public welfare or of an injurious tendency. In such a contingency, if no compromise was possible, either the resignation or the dismissal of ministers must ensue. Thus, before the Constituent Assembly started its work on the Indian Constitution, the existing system had a well-established institution of governors in the provinces who were directly answerable to the King of UK.

In other words, the British administration had provided a strong working machine in each of the provinces and it was, understandably, impossible for the Indian leaders to start afresh when the provinces became states under the Union of India.

Constituent Assembly Debates
Article 164 of the Constitution provides that the chief minister shall be appointed by the governor. It reads as follows: “The Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister, and the Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor. …”
Article 164 was based on section 51 of the GoI Act 1935. Section 51(1) of the GoI Act 1935 reads as follows: “(1) The Governor’s ministers shall be chosen and summoned by him, shall be sworn as members of the Council, and shall hold office during his pleasure. …”

The debates on this provision happened on June 1, 1949. It is indeed surprising to note that the members of the Constituent Assembly chose to focus on two points and completely missed the elephant in the room.

The debates centred around the following two topics:
  1. the need to include a provision mandating all ministers to disclose all or any of their interests, shares etc., in any enterprise, business, trade or industry; and
  2. reservation of tribal members in the cabinet.
It is also pertinent to note that the whole set of articles relating to state governments were passed in a hurry in one day.

Convenient setup
In Role of State Governor in India, K.V. Rao, an eminent political scientist, says that the whole structure of the Constitution in this regard was designed in such a way as if the Congress and its then high command would be in power for a long time.

Having experienced the British administration’s federal set-up in India, the Congress party clearly knew the worth of having a strong centre with distributed legislative powers to its units. The quasi-federal nature of the Constitution allows the centre to control the constituting units: the fact that the Union can change boundaries of any state without obtaining their permission is one such example of quasi-federal nature of the Indian Constitution.

Drama begins
As rightly pointed out by eminent scholar H.M. Seervai in Constitutional Law of India, it was only after the defeat of the Congress party in some states in the 1967 elections that problems arose as to the exercise of power of the governor in forming ministry. The problem was complicated by a large number of “independent” candidates and none of the other parties securing a clear majority.

The fact that the governor holds his office during the pleasure of the President who is bound by the advice of the council of ministers at the centre, makes the “discretion” of the governor to appoint the chief minister a mere farce.

It is not a mere coincidence that we have very vague provisions with respect to the exercise of powers by the governor.
The lackadaisical approach by the Constituent Assembly while discussing provisions relating to the state executive clearly shows the intent of the system—a powerful centre with weak units. 
 Q. 282. Indo-Russian venture for 200 copters
  • The long-pending joint venture between India and Russia to manufacture 200 Kamov-226T light-utility helicopters for around $1 billion (over Rs 6,500 crore) is now finally set to kick off.
  • The JV is between defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics and Russian companies.
  • Overall, the armed forces urgently need 484 light choppers to replace their obsolete single-engine Cheetah Chetak fleets.
  • Under the agreement, the first 60 choppers will come from Russia, while the rest will be manufactured in India over nine years.
  • The twin-engine Kamov-226Ts are multi-role helicopters.
  • It can undertake reconnaissance, patrol and disaster relief operations as well as transport eight combat-ready soldiers with a maximum range of 600-km.
 Q. 281. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau
The Wild Life Crime Control Bureau has been created under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.  The mandate includes collection, collation of intelligence and its dissemination, establishment of a centralized Wild Life crime databank , coordination of the actions of various enforcement authorities towards the implementation of the provisions of the Act, implementation of the international Conventions, capacity building for scientific and professional investigation, assistance to authorities in other countries for a coordinated universal action towards control of Wild Life crime and to advise the government on various policy and legal requirements.
Central Zoo Authority
The Central Zoo Authority was created by the Central Government through an amendment of the Wild Life (Protection) Act in the year 1992.  The main objective was to enforce certain minimum standards and norms for upkeep and health care of animals in Zoos and to restrain mushrooming of unplanned and ill-conceived Zoos that were cropping up as adjuncts to public parks, industrial complex and highways.

National Zoological Park
The National Zoological Park was set up on 1st November 1959 as per the decision taken in the 1st Meeting of the Indian Board for Wild Life in 1952. It is being directly managed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
Wildlife Institute of India
Wildlife Institute of India was established in 1982 as an attached office of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Subsequently, it was granted autonomous status in 1986.  The institute is mandated by Government of India to carry out research on various aspects on Wild Life conservation, conduct training programmes for capacity building of Wild Life managers, build up repository of knowledge of Wild Life and provide technical and advisory services to the State and Central Governments in the country.
 Q. 280. New Zealand river recognised as living entity
  • A river in New Zealand has become the first in the world to be recognised as a living entity with the legal status of a person after a 170-year battle by the local Maori people.
  • The nation’s parliament passed a bill to allow Whanganui River –known by the Maoris as Te Awa Tupua - to represent its own interests and advocate on its own behalf.
  • The third-largest river in New Zealand, the Whanganui runs approximately 321 km from the interior mountains in the Hawkes Bay region of northern New Zealand, south until it merges with the Tasman Sea.
  • It will be represented by two nominees - one appointed by the Maori community, or Iwi, and one appointed by the government.
  • The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same.
  • The approach of granting legal personality to a river is unique. Te Awa Tupua will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person.
  • While the Whanganui is the first river in the world to be granted personhood, it follows the former Te Urewera national park in New Zealand, which was granted the same status in 2014 through the Te Urewera Act.
  • The local community has fought for recognition of its relationship with the river since the 1850s, including a legal battle that has lasted about 80 years and has been the longest-running litigation in New Zealand’s history.
  • The parliament’s bill will end the battle and includes £45 million as financial redress and £17 million for a fund to protect the river.
In the precolonial era, the Whanganui River was a vital communication route for Maori people and it navigability attracted large-scale settlement in the Whanganui River valley. When colonists arrived, it was the most densely populated part of what is today called the North Island. For these reasons, the area is rich in Maori history and culture.
 Q. 279. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)
  • The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) is a simple graphical indicator that can be used to assess whether the target being observed contains live green vegetation or not.
  • In an effort to monitor major fluctuations in vegetation and understand how they affect the environment, 35 years ago Earth scientists began using satellite remote sensors to measure and map the density of green vegetation over the Earth. 
  • By carefully measuring the wavelengths and intensity of visible and near-infrared light reflected by the land surface back up into space, scientists use an algorithm called a "Vegetation Index" to quantify the concentrations of green leaf vegetation around the globe.
  • When sunlight strikes objects, certain wavelengths of visible and near-infraredare absorbed and other wavelengths are reflected. The pigment in plant leaves, chlorophyll, strongly absorbs visible light (from 0.4 to 0.7 µm) for use in photosynthesis. The cell structure of the leaves, on the other hand, strongly reflects near-infrared light (from 0.7 to 1.1 µm). The more leaves a plant has, the more these wavelengths of light are affected, respectively.
  • Scientists create detailed maps of the Earth’s green vegetation density that identify where plants are thriving and where they are under stress (i.e., due to lack of water).
 Q. 278. Startup definition enlarged
Ans. Government has enlarged the definition of what constitutes a startup to a venture that's as much as seven years old from five now, relaxed the norms for tax benefits and included employment generation potential to give a big push to job creation and entrepreneurship. That's to account for the longer gestation period for companies in the sector.

These changes are an effort to ensure ease of starting up new businesses to promote the startup ecosystem and build a nation of job creators instead of job seekers.

The Startup India initiative launched in January 2016 offered incentives to such ventures to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

The government has also eased norms for getting income tax benefits available under the Startup India programme.

The new definition will allow more startups to avail tax benefits announced in the action plan last year. Startups won't have to furnish a letter of recommendation from an incubator or industry association to be eligible for the tax benefits and recognition under Startup India.

Companies incorporated after March 31, 2016, could avail of a three-year tax holiday in the first seven years of their existence as part of the incentives announced for the upcoming firms.

The definition's scope has been broadened to include scalability of business models with the potential of employment generation or wealth creation.

One of the main thrusts of the Startup India programme was to create employment opportunities for the country's youth, but that hadn't been included in the definition at the time. 
 Q. 277. Plastic raises breast cancer risk
  • A chemical commonly found in hard plastics, currency bills and paper receipts, may increase the aggressiveness of breast cancer.
  • Bisphenol S (BPS) may increase the aggressiveness of breast cancer as it is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, researchers say.
  • Most breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive and, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, 55 to 65 % of women who inherit a harmful mutation in the BRCA1 gene will develop breast cancer.
 Q. 276. What should the government do to get the most out of GST?
The GST will greatly improve a fractured tax system and help create an integrated Indian market. But to make the most of this bold innovation, the government has a lot more work to do.

Current tax system
  • Under the current tax system, different states impose separate levies as goods move across the country.
  • Truckers spend hours idling at internal borders, filling out forms and awaiting inspection.
  • Small and medium-sized companies prefer not to grow rather than have to deal with the administrative burden of becoming national enterprises.
  • Compared to this, even a less-than-perfect GST would be an improvement.
More work ahead
  • Unfortunately, the GST in prospect is further from perfect than the government had hoped. Delhi needs the support of individual states to implement the new tax.
  • To gain it, officials have settled on a complex structure with at least four different brackets (five if we include zero-rated staples), as well as an additional levy on sin and luxury goods.
  • Resorting to multiple rates sacrifices some of the GST’s economic benefit. It would have been better to follow the example of many other countries around the world, which collect a tax of the same kind—a so-called value-added tax—using a single rate applied to a virtually all goods.
  • The added complications will weigh especially heavily on India. They’ll be gamed by firms and consumers used to navigating bureaucratic mazes. That will make it harder, in turn, to thin the bureaucrats’ teeming ranks, which ought to have been a high priority. The burden of compliance will be lightened, but less than it could have been.
So once the GST is in place, the government should keep working toward its original goal of having only one or two rates, with as few exemptions and as little paperwork as possible. To make the reform stick, and to build support for other initiatives, India needs to see the benefits of the GST as clearly and as quickly as possible. A simpler system would yield better results in short order, and serve over time as a more powerful spur to economic growth. The new GST, imperfect as it may be, will be a great step forward for India.