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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 18 January 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 18 January 2019


 

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  2. Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

 

Know Your Budget series

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: What is Budget, procedure involved, appropriation bill, finance bill, guillotine and vote- on- account? Cut motions.

 

What is it? It is a fortnight series started by the union Finance Ministry on Twitter which explains the importance of Union Budget and its making. It aims to educate the general public about the budgetary process.

 

The government on February 1 would unveil the interim Budget for 2019-20 as the general elections are due in the next couple of months. The final Budget for the next fiscal would be presented by the new government.

 

The first series of tweets explained what is Union Budget and Vote on Account.

 

What is Budget?

Budget is the most comprehensive report of the government’s finances in which revenues from all sources and outlays for all activities are consolidated. The Budget also contains estimates of the government’s accounts for the next fiscal year called Budget estimates.

 

Sources: Toi.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.

 

UNNATI Programme

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: UNISPACE + 50, UNNATI- key features of the programme.
  • For Mains: Significance of UNNATI and Nano- satellites.

 

Context: National space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched the UNNATI (UNispace Nano-satellite Assembly and Training by ISRO) programme at the U R Rao Satellite Centre, Bengaluru. UNNATI is a capacity building programme on nanosatellite development.

 

UNNATI Programme:

The UNNATI Programme is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE+50).

UNNATI programme is planned to be conducted by U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) of ISRO for 3 years in 3 batches and will target to benefit 90 officials from 45 countries.

 

The primary objectives of the programme are:

  • To offer a simplified and increased exposure to satellite fabrication technologies, as part of the UNISPACE initiative.
  • To provide theoretical course on satellite technology.
  • To provide hands-on training to assemble, integrate and test a low cost, modular nano satellite.

 

Sources: pib.


Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. The role of NGOs.
  2. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
  3. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, etc.

 

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Brief overview of stats.
  • For Mains: Concerns, challenges highlighted by the survey and ways and measures needed to address them.

 

Context: The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 has been published by education non-profit Pratham. The latest report collected data from 596 districts by surveying 546,527 students from 354,944 homes.

  • The survey shows the prevalence of learning deficit and the poverty of basic reading and arithmetic skills among students in Indian schools.

 

Highlights of the report:

  • Indian students, especially those in elementary school (Classes I-VIII), are not learning enough. To cite a metric, only half (50.3%) of all students in Class V can read texts meant for Class II students.
  • There seems to have been some improvement in learning levels, especially among students of Class III and Class V, in 2018 compared with those of the previous five years. However, the improvement is not visible at a higher level, for example among students of Class VIII.
  • The deficit is across government and private schools. Traditionally, students in private schools have fared better than their government school counterparts, but that’s a relative situation. For example, while 40% of Class VIII students in government schools can do simple division, the figure is 54.2% in private schools.
  • However, there is gradual improvement in some segments and in some states. The reading ability among Class V students in Kerala jumped 10 percentage points in 2018 from that in 2016. In Himachal Pradesh, the growth is nearly 8 percentage points and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha it is around 7 percentage points between 2016 and 2018.
  • While 30.9% of students in the 6-14 age group were in private schools in 2018, the figure was 30.6% in 2016 and 30.8% in 2014. This is less than a percentage point growth since 2014.

 

Concerns over the poor quality of education and its effects on the workforce of the country:

This poor learning outcome in India is despite the Right to Education (RTE) Act having been in force since April 2010 making eight years of education compulsory for children and the Centre floating schemes such as “Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat”, apart from states’ efforts.

Access to elementary (classes I-VIII) schooling is almost universal and the number of children out of schools is below 4%, but a quality deficit, that too for more than a decade, raises questions about the priorities of governments at the central and state levels.

Last year, the World Bank said Indians born today are likely to be just 44% productive as workers, way below their Asian peers.

 

Why be concerned about quality of education?

India’s demographic dividend depends on the learning level of students. The quality of education has a direct bearing on any economy. With some 240 million students or nearly 20% of the Indian population in school, their quality of learning or lack of it assumes significance for the competitiveness of the country. It has an impact on the quality of life, efficiency at the workplace, and labour productivity issues.

 

Way ahead:

It is a long time to have only awareness, and a quantum jump in the education sector is the need of the hour. As the problem has now been diagnosed and public advocacy has got the momentum, the governments and civil society need to focus on three aspects—a bigger spending on education, maybe 6% of GDP instead of the present 2.7%, political willingness to improve education, and a drastic change in the quality of teacher education.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Despite the RTE Act being more than a decade old, educational outcomes in India continue to remain poor. Examine. (250 words)


Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
  2. Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.

 

Global Risks Report

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Highlights and key facts on the report, risks highlighted by the report.
  • For Mains: Concerns and challenges exposed by the report, need for tactical measures and significance of multi- stakeholder approach.

 

Context: The Global Risks Report 2019 has been released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

 

Global Risks Report and its significance:

  • Based on the work of the Global Risk Network, the report describes changes occurring in the global risks landscape from year to year and identifies global catastrophic risks.
  • The report explores the interconnectedness of risks, and is intended to raise awareness about the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to the mitigation of global risk.

 

Top 10 risks by likelihood as per the latest report:

  1. Extreme weather events.
  2. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaption.
  3. Major natural disasters.
  4. Massive incident of data fraud/theft.
  5. Large scale cyberattacks.
  6. Man-made environmental damage and disasters.
  7. Large-scale involuntary migration.
  8. Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
  9. Water crises.
  10. Asset bubbles in a major economy.

 

Analysis of the report and key takeaways:

Environmental risks dominate the global risks landscape in terms of impact and likelihood for the third year in a row. This includes extreme weather events and failure of climate mitigation and adaptation. Only 12 years left to stay beneath 1.5C. However, there is a lack of political will to set more stretching targets to cut emissions. The report finds that business leaders are more concerned about climate in the long term. This disconnect will need to be tackled.

Global risks are intensifying, but our capacity to respond to them is declining. Power is moving towards more nationalist, authoritarian states and they are becoming more inwards-looking. With greater geopolitical friction, our ability to cooperate to solve challenges such as cyber risks and climate change has become more challenging.

Geopolitics and geo-economic factors, such as uncertainty and nationalism are fuelling risks. Innovation is also outpacing our ability to manage it and there are growing concerns around technology misuse.

Shorter-term fears are around geopolitical and cyber threats. For top business leaders, cyber risk concern is rising globally and is the highest ranked threat. Other concerns also exist including fiscal crises, unemployment, energy price shocks, national governance failure, interstate conflict and natural disasters.

There is a significant financing gap (US$18 trillion) in infrastructure capital – with only US$79 trillion currently planned between now and 2040. This means 20% more financing is needed than we are putting in today. Furthermore, infrastructure needs to be resilient to extreme weather events. Business, with its reliance on public sector infrastructure, will be impacted and need to work with government on solutions.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Time is running out to keep global warming below 1.5°C since pre-industrial era levels. Do you agree? Discuss. 


Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  3. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

 

Angel Tax

 

What to Study?

  • For Prelims: Angel Tax- meaning, when was it introduced?
  • For Mains: Issues related to it and concerns raised by startups over it.

 

Context: The government has notified changes to Section 56 of the Income Tax Act, in a move that brings relief to start-up founders and investors dealing with the issue of “Angel Tax”.

 

Major Changes introduced:

  • As per the changes, all DIPP-recognised start-ups can apply to the department for approvals requesting exemption from Angel Tax, or Section 56 2 (viib) of the Income Tax Act, which will then be sent to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) for approval.
  • The changes are applicable to start-ups, recognised by DIPP, where the amount of paid-up share capital, and share premium of the capital after the proposed issue of share does not exceed Rs. 10 crore.
  • The notification specifies a list of documents that start-ups will have to submit to the DIPP while seeking approval. The CBDT is mandated to either approve or reject the applications within 45 days.

 

WHAT IS THE LATEST ISSUE?

At least 80 startups have received notices to pay angel tax since last year. Many founders have said they have been asked to pay up as much as 30% of their funding as tax. Angels have also received multiple notices asking them to furnish details on their source of income, their bank account statements and other financial data.

 

Way ahead:

The changes proposed do not ensure that start-ups will no longer receive notices on angel tax from the tax department. The start-up community views this as a step in the right direction, but insists that the issues facing founders and investors due to angel tax remain unaddressed through the notification.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper – 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  2. Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
  3. food security

 

Agri-Vision 2019

 

Context – Agri-Vision 2019, a two-day conference on ‘Envisioning Agro Solutions for Smart and Sustainable Agriculture’ was held at Hyderabad.

 

Indian Agriculture

 

  • Agriculture sector accounts for 18 per cent of India’s GDP and provides employment to 50 per cent of the workforce of the country.
  • The Gross Value Added by agriculture, forestry and fishing is estimated at Rs 17.67 trillion (US$ 274.23 billion) in FY18.
  • During 2017-18 crop year, food grain production is estimated at record 284.83 million tonnes.
  • The introduction of high yielding varieties, irrigation facilities, increased input flow through fertilizers and pesticides, farm mechanization, credit facilities, price support, and other rural infrastructure facilities ushered the green revolution over the past few decades.
  • Growth of Agricultural sector is important for inclusive growth and poverty alleviation.
  • Need for concerted efforts from all stake holders to find long term solution to various challenges faced by Agricultural sector, Loan waiver is only a temporary relief but proves futile in long run in addressing Farmers concerns
  • India today is not only self-sufficient in respect of demand for food, but is also a net exporter of agri-products occupying seventh position globally. It is one of the top producers of cereals (wheat & rice), pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and marine fish. However, we are still facing deficit of pulses and oilseeds. Although, the availability of fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and fish has increased, the most important aspect is to ensure access and affordability to a vast majority of Indians, including farmers.

 

Food processing industry

 

  • Plays a critical role in improving agrarian economy, raising farm incomes, reducing wastages, ensuring value addition, promoting crop diversification and generating employment opportunities as well as export earnings. 
  • Vital link between agriculture and industry.
  • The Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth largest.
  • The Indian food processing industry accounts for 32 per cent of the country’s total food market, one of the largest industries in India.

 

Organic Farming

 

  • India holds a unique position among 172 countries practicing organic agriculture. 
  • India is home to 30 per cent of the total organic producers in the world, but accounts for just 2.59 per cent (1.5 million hectares) of the total organic cultivation area of 57.8 million hectares.

 

Horticulture

 

  • leading horticultural country of the world with a total annual fruits and vegetable production of 306.82 million tonnes during 2017-18
  • India is the second largest fruit producer in the world.

 

Livestock

 

  • Has been growing faster than crop sector.
  • The contribution of livestock output to the total output of the agriculture sector has significantly increased from 15 per cent in 1981-82 to 29 per cent in 2015-16
  • acts as cushion and engine for agricultural growth.

 

Dairy industry

 

  • India is also the world’s second largest milk producer and is emerging as a major exporter now. 
  • It is contributing around 26 per cent to total agriculture GDP.

 

Challenges

 

  • Climate change, fragmented land holding, increase in demand for food, stagnating farm incomes, declining productivity, diminishing and declining natural resources etc.
  • Lack of favourable terms of trade, vagaries of monsoon, technology not reaching farmers in time, absence of proper marketing strategies etc.
  • 85 per cent farmers are small and marginal with land holding of less than 2 hectares.
  • Linking these small farmers with market is another major challenge in our system.
  • To enhance the farmers’ income, it is necessary to link them with marketers, traders and exporters.
  • Challenges for food security in the 21st century is not only improving productivity but also yield stability through the development of crops which are disease-resistant, pest-resistant and adaptable to climate change.

 

Solution to address the challenges

 

  • Some ways to address the issues – accord top priority to farmer-oriented marketing, providing adequate cold storage facilities and refrigerator vans, focusing on food processing through value addition, extending timely and affordable credit to farmers and ensuring that innovations and technologies reach the farmers, researchers and farm experts to come out with solutions to the multi-dimensional problems faced by the farming sector.  
  • United efforts by governments, scientific community, Krishi Vigyana Kendras and farmers to realize the ambitious goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • Students pursuing agri courses must spend at least six months with farmers to have a first-hand understanding of the problems faced by the latter.
  • Adopt the latest technologies from seeds to post harvest management to marketing and to improve productivity on par with the other leading nations.
  • The use of Information Technology, Space Technology, Geo-Informatics, Internet of Things (IoT), Block Chain Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics and their first-mile connectivity to farmers is vital for enhancing farm incomes. Digital technologies can also help in countering vagaries in farming and optimising the resources.

 

 

Government initiatives

 

  • Improve soil fertility on a sustainable basis through the soil health card scheme.
  • Provide improved access to irrigation and enhanced water efficiency through Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY).
  • Support organic farming through Paramparagat KrishiVikasYojana (PKVY).
  • Creation of a unified national agriculture market to boost the income of farmers.
  • To mitigate risk in agriculture sector, “Pradhan Mantri Fasal BimaYojana (PMFBY) has been launched for implementation from Kharif 2016.
  • Focusing on irrigation with schemes like “Per Drop More Crop”, provision of quality seeds and nutrients based on soil health, setting up warehouses and cold chains to prevent post-harvest crop losses, promoting value addition through food processing, creating a National Farm Market, removing distortions and e-platform across 585 Stations.

To achieve the target of doubling farmer income by 2022 increasing investments in agricultural R&D and rolling out efficient institutional reforms are vital to tackle the emerging challenges in agriculture, including food and nutrition security both at national and regional levels.

 

Focus areas

 

For Prelims – Agricultural Schemes

For Mains – Facts, stats, India’s ranking, challenges & solution

 

Source: PIB


Facts for Prelims:

 

Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC):

Why in News? Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC).

About SFAC:

The Government established Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) as a Society in January 1994 to facilitate agri-business ventures by catalysing private investment through Venture Capital Assistance (VCA) Scheme in close association with financial institutions. The role of State SFACs is to aggressively promote agribusiness project development in their respective States.

Management: The Society is governed by Board of Management which is chaired, ex-officio, by Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare as the President and the Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, is the ex-officio Vice-President.

The main functions of SFAC are:

  • Promotion of development of small agribusiness through VCA scheme.
  • Helping formation and growth of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) / Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs).
  • Improving availability of working capital and development of business activities of FPOs/FPCs through Equity Grant and Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme.
  • Implementation of National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) Electronic Trading platform.

 

Gist of Important Editorials:

 

Opinion | Why India’s sedition law needs to be buried?

Source: https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/IQ2o3mXhLJ8kIzlVrStpZK/Why-Indias-sedition-law-needs-to-be-buried.html.

 

Summary:

Context: A charge sheet was recently filed against 10 people, including student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, and Anirban Bhattacharya, in a sedition case for allegedly raising “anti-national slogans” during an event on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in February 2016.

 

Charges of sedition- recent concerns:

  • There have been many incidents in recent times where “misguided” people have been termed “anti-national”.
  • Law enforcement agencies forget the fact that the sentiment could have been demonstrated through a slogan, a cheer, a statement, protest against a nuclear power project, or an innocuous post on social media. In all these cases, the state, across regimes, has filed charges of sedition.
  • Authorities often forget the fact that sedition can’t be applied to instances of criticism of the government or a political functionary. More importantly, words alone are not enough for such a charge to be slapped. Incitement to violence is the most crucial ingredient of the offence of sedition.
  • Going through the numbers that the National Crime Records Bureau puts out every year, it is clear that despite the rise in sedition cases, convictions happen in barely a few. Even if these people are not convicted, the slapping of these charges is a way the governments over the years have been sending a strong message to its own people—obey or be ready to face consequences.

 

What is Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code?

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

 

Why should it be scrapped?

Draconian laws such as the Section 124-A only serve to give a legal veneer to the regime’s persecution of voices and movements against oppression by casting them as anti-national.

 

What has Supreme Court ruled?

The Supreme Court has persistently held that for the offence of sedition to be satisfied, there has to be a causal relationship between speech and acts of violence, and mere speech, regardless of how subversive it is, does not amount to sedition.

 

Short term measures to be put up in place:

  • All speech-related offences should be made bailable offences; this would lessen the harmful impact of using arrest and custody as a way of harassing anyone exercising their rights under Article 19(1)(a).
  • The offences should be made non-cognisable so that there is at least a judicial check on the police acting on the basis of politically motivated complaints.
  • In the case of hate speech, it is important to raise the burden of proof on those who claim that their sentiments are hurt rather than accept them at face value. And finally, it is crucial that courts begin to take action against those who bring malicious complaints against speech acts.

 

Mains Question: What do you understand by sedition? Critically comment on the way the courts have interpreted the Section 124(A) of the penal code.