Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mains Questions and Answers from Insights

“The causes, sources and impact of air quality issues are interconnected and they need to be addressed together.” In the light of increasing air pollution in Delhi and other big cities in India, analyse the statement.
1)   Recently The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that 13 of the 20 international cities with the worst fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in air pollution are in India. Delhi, as we all know, ranks as the top offender.
2)   the adoption of compressed natural gas (CNG) for the bus, taxi and auto-rickshaw fleets as well as higher standards for newer vehicles was only partly effective.
3)    According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 77 per cent of Indian urban agglomerations exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for respirable suspended particulate matter (PM10).
4)   The data shows that both the urban and the rural populations are exposed to dangerously high levels of fine particulates (PM2.5).
5)   The WHO has ranked outdoor air pollution among the top killers in IndiaThe annual cost of the environmental damage due to outdoor and indoor air pollution has been estimated to be Rs 1,10,000 crore and Rs 87,000 crore respectively.
6)   The main challenge is there has been an explosive growth in the number of personal vehicles.there’s better fuel and higher emission standards, but the number of cars on the roads is so large that all the plus points are crossed out. In addition, there is the burning of straw in neighbouring states during the winter months. Delhi sucks in this smoke, which then settles down and creates a massive health hazard.
7)   Thus, the causes, sources and impact of air quality issues are interconnected and they need to be addressed together. One solution is better and more extensive public transport, such as the metro and buses. Addressing one air quality issue can often help to reduce other kinds of pollution. The government, in partnership with non-governmental organisations, technical specialists and research organisations, needs to initiate a clean air campaign.
8)   This needs to take the form of legislation as well as behaviour-changing approaches. Governments, both at the Central and state levels, need to reassess their production and consumption of energy and work with partners for a low-carbon future — one that is more efficient, has more natural gas and a growing share of renewable energy, such as solar and bio-gas.
9)   The Indian government cannot delay a roadmap for emissions standards any longer. The Saumitra Chaudhuri committee’s suggestions on better standards are quite significant in this regard because only better regulation and the adoption of an inclusive approach that promotes healthier lifestyles will result in cleaner air.

The current tension in Nepal-India relations found its echo at the United Nations, perhaps for the first time in the 62-year-old bilateral relationship.
1)   asking Nepal to solve Madhesi parties’ agitation, the deputy prime minister and Nepal replied that it can solve its internal problems on its own.
2)   And it alleged that the obstruction of supplies to landlocked Nepal has led to an accumulated loss of $5 billion — more than the loss suffered because of the April earthquake.
3)   China-is busy in
a.    supplying petrol more
b.    the process of opening six additional trade checkpoints,
c.     equally encouraging of Nepal’s human rights initiative.
d.   asking Nepal to work more towards promoting children’s education, those with disabilities, emphasis to poverty alleviation programmes.
e.   reiteration that Nepal should solve its own problems
f.     China would do everything to protect Nepal’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
4)   India’s representative in Geneva said that those guilty of violating human rights during the years of conflict must be brought to justice. The UPA brought the Maoists to the center stage in 2006, after assessing that they were the emerging force that India should be working with. But the action against the civil war guilty, as demanded by India now, targets the very Maoists to a large extent. This indicates that India’s next policy in Nepal would be to move against the alliance of the two communist parties currently in power in Kathmandu.
5)   But India has lost much and the current scarcity in essential commodities, following the blockade, has made anti-Indianism widespread.
6)   stand-offs between the two sides are not new — and they have been sorted out in the past — but India chose to make an adverse comment on Nepal’s human rights and political situation at an international forum, will be seen as a clear admission that Delhi’s decisive role in Nepal is over.

1.     The existing global trade rules are rigged in favour of rich countries continue to provide tens of billions of dollars regardless of the distortions they cause in the international markets.
a.      The cotton farmers of West Africa have suffered untold misery because of the American subsidies.
b.      The US, for example, provides around $50,000 to its farmers on a per capita basis annually.
c.       In contrast, India offers around $200 per farmer. And the number of people dependent on farming in India runs into hundreds of millions while in the US they add up to a little more than 25,000 farmers.
2.     Come 15 December, trade ministerial summit of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting is also an acid test for the future of WTO and whether it continues to pursue the unfinished Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations.
3.     The US and the European Union started the Doha negotiations in 2001, , promising that “the needs and interests of developing members” will be squarely addressed. After adopting intransigent positions during the past 14 years, the two trade elephants are working round the clock to bury the Doha negotiations at Nairobi.
4.     In recent INDO-AFRICA summit Modi said that, they should ensure that the “the Doha Development Agenda of 2001 is not closed without achieving those fundamental principles”. They should also “achieve a permanent solution on the public stockholding programmes for food security and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) in agriculture for the developing countries,”
5.     These two outcomes are central to the survival of poor farmers in India and other developing countries.
a.      The public stockholding programme enables governments in the developing world to procure food grains at market prices from subsistence farmers and then distribute them at cheaper prices to people for their daily consumption. But the rules governing the public stockholding programmes are filled with conflicting provisions. While the public stockholding programmes figure in the so-called green-box subsidies that are exempted from reduction commitments, they also come under the purview of trade-distorting subsidies. This anomaly needs to be corrected.
b.     SSM is critical for preventing unforeseen surges in imports of agricultural products coming from subsidized farmers of rich countries.
6.      The G-33 coalition of 47 developing countries led by Indonesia, in which India, China, and other countries of Africa, Asia, and South America are members, have offered simple proposals based on the decisions taken in the Doha negotiations.
Stand of developed countries
a.     the US, the EU, Australia, Canada, Norway, along with Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Pakistan, othersciting extraneous reasons.
b.     china pointed a finger at these countries for having walked away with the trade facilitation agreement last year while turning their backs to the remaining issues of the DDA.
c.      Indeed, New Delhi had blundered by signing the bilateral agreement with the US on the public stockholding programmes without securing cast-iron guarantees last year. It should have known that there was never any genuine intention on the part of the US and other countries to deliver on the promises they made either in the DDA or at the Bali ministerial meeting.
d.     They want to transform WTO to serve their egregious interests and sweeten bilateral deals struck among them.
7.     Solutions-
a.     China, India, South Africa, Indonesia and other countries should form a robust alliance to prevent these sordid developments at the 10th ministerial conference.
b.       The developing countries must ensure that WTO is not reduced to a permanent satellite of Washington and Brussels.
“Go as far as you can see, and when you get there, you’ll see farther”, as a saying by Thomas Carlyle, The Supreme Court has gone as far as invalidating an attempt to provide a legislated alternative to its own collegium system of judicial appointments.
1.       After restoring the judge-made system, it has to necessarily  enhance transparency in appointments and provide reasonable eligibility criteria for prospective judges.
2.      It has embarked on a unique process to involve the entire society in the exercise by inviting suggestions from the public. By widening the range of views to include the public at large, the court has made it as close to a democratic exercise as possible.
3.      However, Public participation may provide a rare opportunity for the government and the judiciary to understand the expectations of the public.
4.      the process should not be bogged down by impractical or highly idealistic suggestions, but be one that puts together the best practices of different possible selection mechanisms, and attracts the best available talent drawn from diverse sections of society.
5.      It is time for the stakeholders to come together, leaving behind any hint of a conflict between parliamentary sovereignty and judicial primacy.
6.      it will be wiser if the norms to be laid down are converted into law. The government should offer to bring in legislation in line with the court’s own mechanism.
1.   India’s overall GDP growth is between 7-7.5 per cent. But if this growth is to translate into significant poverty reduction, but most of the poor are in or around agriculture, engaging almost half of India’s workforce and supporting roughly 60 per cent of its population.

2.   Government is in pursuit of making India a manufacturing hub.

a.    But all major countries with large populations, like the US or EU, as well as emerging economies like China and Indonesia, have been supporting their farmers through myriad policy tools — high output prices, low input prices, direct income support, or crop insurance.
b.    The OECD has developed indicators like producer support estimates (PSEs) to assess the levels of total support to farmers as a percentage of gross farm receipts.

3.   India aspires to compete with China.
a.    but are our policymakers aware of how China produces more than double India’s foodgrain from an agricultural land smaller than India’s and with an average holding size half of India’s? One of the reasons behind China’s spectacular achievement on the agri-front is the level of support given to farmers.

4.   The Chinese government has realised the limitations of using pricing policy to provide inputs at cheaper rates. It has begun making direct payments for input subsidies to farmers at a flat rate per unit of land.

5.   There are two important lessons here for India:

a.   if India wants to feed its people well, it has to almost double its support  to farmers, from current levels of about 6-8 per cent of the value of agri-output;
b.   it should move from price policy support to income support directly on per hectare basis. More like a DBT.

1)    Asia's work force is set to shrink over coming decades with India overtaking economic rival China as the region's biggest source of workers.
2)    By 2050, the Asia Pacific region will have nearly 50 per cent of the world's total work force, down from 62 per cent today, according to Bloomberg analysis of United Nations data.
3)       The shifting patterns will see India account for 18.8 per cent of the global work force compared with 17.8 per cent today, toppling China from the top spot. China will account for 13 per cent, down from 20.9 per cent now.
4)      India's super sized labour force is often referred to as its demographic dividend, a key asset on its way to achieving economic superpower status. But there's a lot of catching up to do:
a.       its per person income is just a fifth of China's.
b.      One obvious problem for India will be finding jobs for such a large populace. A survey of selected companies including those in the leather, car and transportation sectors show employment growth fell to 64,000 new jobs in the first three months of the year from 117,000 in the previous quarter, and 158,000 before that.
c.       India also suffers from a skills shortage. About 5 per cent of workers have formal skills training, compared with 96 per cent in South Korea.
d.      Another question for India is when and if it will be ready to transition out of the informal jobs sector, which according to the government employs more than 90 per cent of the work force, among the highest rates in the world. That would mean higher tax revenue, which in turn could be spent on education.
counter argument from the government is "The informal sector generates more jobs than the organized industry."

1.   the government imposed a cess of 0.5 per cent on service tax which is used exclusively for the government's Swachh Bharat initiative. For a full year, if taxes on services yield the estimated Rs 2.1 lakh crore, then the 0.5 per cent would bring in just over Rs 1,000 crore.
2.   The education and higher education cesses are budgeted to bring in just under Rs 30,000 crore this year, and are to be spent on the relevant schemes.
3.   The road cess on petroleum is budgeted to net just under Rs 50,000 crore. There is also a cess on exports; on clean energy; and so on. The total amount from cesses is Rs 1.16 lakh crore.
4.   The Fourteenth Finance Commission vastly increased the states' share of the common pool of resources. In effect, the states' share of tax revenues was increased by almost 55 per cent this year, compared to 2014-15. However, the Centre began to react to this generosity almost immediately. The Budget for 2015-16 reduced total central assistance for state Plans by over 26 per cent, reducing the gain in fiscal space for states.
5.   It also played around with cesses and surcharges. High-income taxpayers were levied a surcharge of two per cent on income tax; the Rs 9,000 crore to be collected from the new impost would not be shared with the states.
6.    The cess on petrol and diesel was also raised, and the money would go only to the Centre; this followed a reduction in excise on the fuels of the same proportion. In effect this transferred the states' share of duties to the Centre.
7.   It is difficult not to see the increasing use of cesses and surcharges as the Centre's attempt to regain ground it lost under the Fourteenth Finance Commission.

As with all cesses, the revenue from the Swachh Bharat cess is earmarked for the government initiative to improve cleanliness. Swachh Bharat is a laudable initiative. But it must be followed up by institutional support for greater civic hygiene, especially at the local level.
1.   The whitefly, a pernicious pest, has ravaged cotton crop in northern states, especially in Punjab, Haryana and surrounding areas. Cotton growers, therefore, have to remain vigilant against the pest build-up and initiate appropriate remedial measures when their population crosses the threshold level.
2.   The pest control measures have to be strictly according to the advice of farm experts. Otherwise, these can turn counterproductive. Most farmers sprayed the crop with whatever insecticides were recommended by the pesticide dealers and more than it was.
3.   They also did not adopt the correct method of spraying. To kill whiteflies, the chemicals need to be applied on the underside of the leaves where these insects dwell.
4.   Repeated application of insecticides during the early and mid-season of the crop cycle often leads to a resurgence of whiteflies. such indiscriminate spraying tends to destroy even the useful entities such as spiders, which are natural enemies of whiteflies and other pests.
5.   The scientists recommend a judicious mix of bio-pesticides and other pest-control measures to achieve best results. Neem oil, fish oil resin soap and neem-seed kernel extract provide a relatively more effective control of whiteflies, they say.
6.   The Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) has designed some novel, easy-to-operate devices that trap whiteflies. It does not harm either the cotton crop or the predators and other natural enemies of the whitefly.
7.   The sticky trap is an effective scouting mechanism to alert farmers on the impending pest menace, apart from capturing the insects.
8.   Lack of appropriate technical guidance to the farmers as well as the wrong choice of pesticides and seeds.Although over 300 transgenic Bt-cotton hybrids are available in the market, farmers normally opt for those recommended by the dealers or private companies which were not giving expected yields..
9.   However, regardless of the high risk of losses due to pests, unfavourable weather, price fluctuations or other factors, cotton growers are disinclined to stop growing this crop as it remains more lucrative than its alternatives
10.              The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices has observed in its kharif price policy report for 2014 that out of the 14 major kharif crops, cotton yielded the highest returns, estimated at Rs 31,790 per hectare. However, the situation might change if the problems facing the cotton cultivation are not suitably addressed.

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