Continuing with our phenomenal success over the last more than two decades with thousands of successes and toppers into the coveted Civil Services, SRIRAM's IAS announces the 10-months Program for General Studies (Prelim and the Mains), Essay, CSAT and Optionals to be conducted by UPSC for 2018 Examination. The Coaching is imparted in English medium only. All the classes are held for two hours daily. Classes are held with a clear and pre - announced schedule. Faculty is experienced. Our focus is on the New System that is in vogue since 2013. Students are continuously assessed on the Prelims as well as Main Pattern in the classroom. Personal attention, effective teaching, senior faculty and adaptability to the changing trends stand us out. SRIRAM's UPSC Coaching for General Studies includes Study Material, Test Series (Pre & Main), and classes for Essays without any additional payment. Personality Test: will train all its students for interview test also without taking any extra fee.
It is the process of adding geographical identification like latitude and longitude to various media such as a photo or video.
Geotagging can help users find a wide variety of location-specific information from a device.
It provides users the location of the content of a given picture.
Geomapping is a visual representation of the geographical location of geotagged assets layered on top of map or satellite imagery
Why is Geotagging important?
Several assets are created in the states under various schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture. Under RKVY also, states have been utilising substantial amount of funds for creation of infrastructure/assets in agriculture and allied sectors such as soil testing labs, pesticide testing labs, bio fertiliser setting units, custom hiring centres, vaccine production units, veterinary diagnosis labs., dispensaries, milk collection centres, fish production units, godowns, cold storage, shade nets, pandals for vegetable cultivation etc. Monitoring of such wide spread activities is of paramount importance to states and Government of India to understand flow of funds, inventorising the assets, bringing in transparency, planning of assets for future, and finally informing the farmers about the facilities available.
Geotagging for monitoring of assets has already started in Ministry of Rural Development for MGNREGA and Department of Land Resources for monitoring of watershed activities in the states. Postal department has also geotagged the post offices using NRSC Bhuvan Platform.
Which agency does it?
National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), ISRO at Hyderabad.This centre of ISRO has a software platform, Bhuvan that allows users to explore a 2D/3D representation of the surface of the Earth. It also acts as a platform for hosting government data. Application
The assets created under RKVY could be monitored by Geotagging them using BHUVAN. In future, the location of the infrastructure created and distances from each other could also be utilised for arriving at distribution of assets and optimum number of that particular asset required in a district or state. The process involves development of a mobile app for mapping the assets through photographs and Geo-tagging (providing geo co-ordinates) before hosting on to DAC –RKVY platform that would be specially created for RKVY monitoring.
Q. 298. Why the ease of doing business matters?
In the World Bank’s (WB) 2017 Doing Business ranking, India stands at the 130th place in a list of 190 nations—just a spot higher than in the 2016 rankings. A curious case is being made that higher rankings do not really imply good economic outcomes such as higher foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows or higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Ease of Doing Business Concept
The ease of doing business rank is a stock concept: It represents the reforms that a country has undertaken on various issues like infrastructure, legal systems, etc., over a couple of decades or even more. Hence, this rank ought to be more intricately associated with corresponding macroeconomic stock variables like the level of per capita GDP.
In the long run, a country can’t become rich in the per capita sense unless it has a high ease of doing business index rank.
Only oil-rich countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, Venezuela and Angola managed to get sufficiently rich even with a relatively low ease of doing business score.
On the other hand, if you have a sufficiently high ease of doing business score, then you are almost guaranteed to become a rich country.
Index GDP relation
Once we know that a high ease of doing business index is almost equivalent to being a rich country, it is foolhardy to expect that a high index will also imply higher GDP growth. The convergence hypothesis proposed by the neo-classical growth theory, says that poorer countries tend to grow faster in per capita terms. Estimates from the recent work at Harvard suggest that for every per-unit increase in the log of per capita income, the long-run growth rate drops by almost 1.22% per annum. Evidence
The real per capita income level for countries with a score below 50 is around $1,500 and for countries with a score of more than 70, it is around $38,000—that’s a huge difference.
Once adjusted for the convergence factor, countries with a better score outperform by a decent rate of 0.35% per annum.
Hence, the higher index not only shows better living standard in the long run but also indicates faster growth and catching-up for poorer countries.
A higher ease of doing business ranking predicts lower inflation for both rich as well as lower-income countries.
No country with a score greater than 70 registered an inflation greater than 5%.
Brazil, Turkey, Russia and Argentina stand out as relatively higher-inflation countries precisely because they have a lower ease of doing business ranking, which indicates higher corruption, a poor legal structure, lack of infrastructure—all of which point to supply constraints.
The higher ease of doing business rank for China shows up in a lower inflation compared to India, which lies above the line of best fit. This indicates how important it is for a country to target the reforms that the index reflects upon.
Similar analysis shows that a better ease of doing business score is associated with a lower level of structural unemployment. Foreign Direct Investment
On inward FDI stock expressed as a percentage of GDP to the ease of doing business rank. FDI stock represents the total FDI that a country has received in the long run. Data shows a clear positive link between the two.
But there are some interesting outliers. Japan, with a high rank, attracts less FDI due to country-specific problems like customer liking for domestic known products and the connected nature of Japanese firms.
On the other hand, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium, all ranked lower than Japan, attract very high FDI owing to their tax-haven strategies.
So, country-specific factors are important for FDI success but in general, few countries with a relatively low ease of doing business scores have been able to attract FDI in the long run, except for a few tax havens.
In summary, a country can’t progress without undertaking the reforms that lead to better business conditions. These reforms are critical to achieve better living standards, moderate inflation, low-inflation uncertainty and high-growth rate. In short, India’s efforts to improve its ease of doing business ranking is not an unnecessary obsession.
Q. 297. Country's Biggest Solar Park in Rajasthan
Bhadla village on the fringes of the Thar Desert about 200 km from Rajasthan's famed Jodhpur city is the heart of India's clean energy push, home to the Bhadla Solar Park.
A recent auction of solar power to be generated at a new 250 megawatt plant was recently auctioned for just about Rs. 2.62 for every unit, or kilowatt-hour. This would be among India's cheapest sources of power, certainly a lot cheaper than the average tariff of Rs. 3.2 per unit for coal-fired thermal units.
Once the solar park is fully operational it will generate 2,255 megawatts of power. That is a little more than one-third of the peak daily demand in the national capital of 6,000 MW, or for that matter, Rajasthan total demand for power.
Finnish company Fortum and South Africa's Phelan energy and Cleanteach are already investors in Bhadla.
But the park has done a lot more than breathe life in this part of the state. It is also creating opportunities for local businesses and employment for the youth that could bring about a huge turn around in the economy of this backward desert region.
Q. 296. Wastewater
Each year a specific aspect of water is highlighted while observing International World Water Day (March 22); this year’s theme was “wastewater”, which is defined as any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influences and as a result of domestic, industrial, commercial and agricultural activities.
In recent decades, population growth, accelerated urbanisation and economic development have resulted in an increase in the quantity of wastewater and the overall pollution load being generated. Most of our freshwater sources are under threat. When public awareness of pollution is limited, the cost of pollution to our health and the ecosystem is huge. The victims are generally the poor or socially vulnerable communities, and the end result is a high financial burden on the community and government.
Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated goes back to the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
1.8 billion people use drinking water contaminated with faeces which increases their risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
663 million people still lack access to improved drinking water sources.
In India, about 29,000 million l/day (mld) of waste water is generated from Class-I cities and class-II towns, out of which about 45% (about 13,000 mld) is generated from metro cities alone. A collection system exists for only about 30% of the wastewater through sewer lines, while treatment capacity exists for about 7,000 mld.
By 2030, the global demand for water is expected to grow by 50%. Most of this demand will be in cities. In low-income areas of cities/towns within developing countries, a large proportion of wastewater is discharged directly into the surface water drain, without or with limited treatment. Traditional wastewater treatment plants may not remove certain pollutants.
Industrial water consumption accounts for 22% of the global water used. The industrial sector in India discharges around 30,730 million cubic metres of effluents, without proper treatment, into waterbodies. Unfortunately, most common effluent treatment plants are not performing satisfactorily due to improper operations and maintenance.
Run-off from agriculture fields is another major source of pollution.
India, with 17% of the world’s population, 4% of water resources and 2.4% of land area, extracts water significantly for various developmental purposes. Hence, the water flow or storage capacity of water bodies has declined substantially, adversely affecting their waste assimilation/sink functions.
There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the problem, though complex, is solvable. While it is not realistic to aim for zero water pollution, a level of socially acceptable pollution, respecting the integrity of ecosystems and service provision, can be reached.
At the national and regional levels, water pollution prevention policies should be integrated into non-water policies that have implications on water quality such as agriculture and land use management, trade, industry, energy, and urban development.
Water pollution should be made a punishable offence.
The effectiveness and power of the “polluter pay principle” should be considered.
At the local level, capacity building enables the community to make decisions and disseminate them to the appropriate authorities, thus influencing political processes.
Market-based strategies such as environmental taxes, pollution levies and tradable permit systems should be implemented, and can be used to fight against or abate water pollution. Incentive mechanisms such as subsidies, soft loans, tax relaxation should be included in installing pollution management devices.
In industrial pollution management, technological attempts should be made through cleaner production-technology. Sophisticated pollution management technology developed overseas should be introduced in India. The application of eco-friendly inputs such as bio fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture and the use of natural dyes in textile industries can reduce the pollution load considerably.
Since fresh water is increasingly getting scarce, wastewater generated in urban areas can be used for sub-urban agriculture, industry, and even sanitation and certain domestic applications after treatment. Wastewater need not be a burden any longer but an asset instead.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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