Comprehensive News Analysis - 09 July 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. India working to achieve 8 p.c. growth: Modi

2. SC ends impunity for armed forces

3. U.K. starts trade talks for post-Brexit deal with India

C.GS3 Related:

1. Burhan Wani, Hizbul poster boy, killed in encounter

2. Monsoon picks up, sowing of pulses gets boost

3. 12 Pakistanis among those arrested over Saudi blasts

D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials : A Quick Glance

The Hindu

1. Enayam. Three’s a crowd?

2. To be equal before the law

3. Remembering Babuji

Others

1. PIB

a) India Is the Partner Country of INNOPROM 2016: Commerce Minister Smt Nirmala SitharamanTo Lead The Delegation Of 110 Indian Companies To Russia

b) President Shri Pranab Mukherjee to inaugurate first edition of “India Skills -2016”

c) Cooperatives have to effectively address commodity value chain framework in order to have a place in a globalised world: Vice President Addresses the Foundation Day Celebrations of Nagpur Nagarik Sahakari Bank

2. The Financial Express:

a) The real telecom scam: No clarity on what revenue is

3. The Business Line:

a) Why this fuss about NSG membership?

b) The fat’s in the fire in Kerala

4. The Economic Times:

a) RIL must sell subsidised LPG

5. Quick Bits and News from States

a) ‘ECR can be developed as an economic corridor’

b) India’s Software-as-a-Service market may grow to $1 bn

c) In a first, Kerala imposes ‘fat tax’ on pizzas, burgers

d) SUUTI stake sales may get Centre Rs 60,600 cr, achieve disinvestment target

e) Start-up village, India’s first PPP model incubator, set for scale-up in digital avatar

f) World food prices hit 4-year high in June, says FAO

g) World Bank to extend $290 million credit for Bihar’s JEEViKA II

h) Centre launches KVK portal for monitoring of farm centres

i) Poultry dispute: US seeks WTO sanctions on India

j) Niti Aayog may set up panel to draw up a new poverty line

F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
H. Archives

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Useful News Articles

A. GS1 Related


B. GS2 Related


  1. India working to achieve 8 p.c. growth: Modi

Topic: India and Africa

Category: International Relations

Key points:

  • India is working to achieve over 8 per cent growth in the coming years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Johannesburg (South Africa) on Friday, while attributing the rise of the country to HOPE — Harmony, Optimism, Potential and Energy
  • He told the Indian diaspora that India is “one of the brightest spot in the global economy” and a “land of opportunities” for those who want to invest and have trade
  • Modi said his government is working in a campaign mode to create 500 million new jobs by 2022 besides transforming rural and urban areas of the country through infrastructure development
  • He said while terrorism is a global challenge, fight against diseases like AIDS and Ebola are some of the other priorities
  • The Prime Minister noted that South Africa was the place where Mahatma Gandhi “conceptualised his politics” and is the “birthplace of Satyagraha”

 

2. SC ends impunity for armed forces

Topic: Judiciary

Category: Polity

Key points:

 

  • Dealing a blow to the immunity enjoyed by security personnel under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) against criminal action for acts committed in disturbed areas, the apex court held that “there is no concept of absolute immunity from trial by a criminal court” if an Army man has committed an offence
  • The judgment came on a plea by hundreds of families in the north-eastern State of Manipur for a probe by a Special Investigation Team into 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters involving the Army and the police
  • Throwing out the government’s argument that lack of immunity from prosecution would have a demoralising impact on the security forces, the court asked the Centre to spare a thought for the “equally unsettling and demoralising” picture of a citizen living under the fear of the gun in a democracy
  • A thorough enquiry should be conducted into “encounter” killings in disturbed areas because the “alleged enemy is a citizen of our country entitled to all fundamental rights including under Article 21 of the Constitution”, said the court

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3. U.K. starts trade talks for post-Brexit deal with India

Topic: India and the U.K

Category: International Relations

Key points:

  • A fortnight after Britain voted to exit the European Union (EU), the U.K. Business Secretary held talks with the Indian Commerce & Industry Minister on the possibility of inking a separate UK-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA)
  • In FY’16, India’s exports to the EU were $35.35 billion, while India’s exports to Britain were $9.35 billion. The U.K. government statement said the U.K. is the largest G20 investor in India, while India invests more in the U.K. than the rest of the European Union combined. India has also emerged as the third largest source of FDI for the U.K

 

C. GS3 Related


1. Burhan Wani, Hizbul poster boy, killed in encounter

Topic: Terrorism

Category: Security

Key points:

  • HizbulMujahideen commander Burhan Wani (22), the architect of the social-media driven psychological warfare in Kashmir, was killed along with two other militants in an encounter in Anantnag district on Friday evening
  • Described by security agencies as “the biggest-ever success” in recent times, Wani, who carried a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head, was tracked after a tip-off that he was planning to come down from the Tral forest area for Eid celebrations
  • Wani, the face of new-age militancy in Kashmir, played a key role in making HizbulMujahideen stronger than the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the Valley.Fearing violence, the State government has imposed curfew-like restrictions in Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian, Sopore, Kupwara and Kulgam

 

2. Monsoon picks up, sowing of pulses gets boost

Topic: Agriculture

Category: Economy

Keypoints:

  • With monsoon picking up in the first week of July and compensating for the lower rainfall in June, the sowing of kharif, especially pulses, has gained momentum and boosted the hopes for a higher production than last year
  • Pulses have been sown on 45.94 lakh hectares in June-July against 36.44 lakh hectares in the corresponding period last year, according to government data released on Friday(The area under pulses has gone up on account of good rainfall in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra, where they are mostly grown)
  • Similarly, the area under rice (paddy) has gone up from 77.31 lakh hectares during 2015-16 to 81.93 lakh hectares as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana have received good rainfall.In all, the kharif crops have been planted on 406.27 lakh hectares so far as against 431.82 lakh hectares in the corresponding period last year, according to the government data released on Friday
  • The good monsoon, however, has not yet had a positive impact on the water level in major reservoirs, which has gone down because of the poor rainfall in the preceding years. The reservoirs are at 18 per cent of their storage in the week ending July 8, according to the data( It was 55 per cent of the storage in the corresponding period last year)

 

3. 12 Pakistanis among those arrested over Saudi blasts

Topic: Terrorism

Category: Security

Keypoints:

  • Nineteen people, including 12 Pakistani nationals, have been arrested in Saudi Arabia following suicide attacks on Monday, including one near Islam’s second-holiest site in the city of Medina, the kingdom’s Interior Ministry
  • Seven people are believed to have been killed and two wounded in three separate attacks — in Medina, at a Shia mosque in Qatif, and in western Jeddah, the economic capital, not far from the U.S. consulate

 

D. GS4 Related


E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance

 

The Hindu


  1. Enayam. Three’s a crowd?

Topic: Ports

Category: Governance

Keypoints:

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the construction of a new port on Tamil Nadu’s west coast at Enayam near Colachel
  • The location of the facility so close to another “mega” container terminal, however, has invited doubts about its viability, even its necessity. Envisaged as a gateway container trans-shipment hub for cargo moving to and from India and along one of the world’s major shipping lanes connecting the Suez Canal to east Asia, Enayam is being projected as a competitor to Colombo. Chosen for its natural water depth of about 20 m, and proximity to the east-west international shipping lane, the proposed port will be located about 40 km south of Vizhinjam in Kerala, where the Adani Group is developing a trans-shipment container terminal
  • It is planned under the landlord model, where the State’s publicly owned Chennai Port Trust, the V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust, and the Kamarajar Port will make the initial equity investment, build the breakwater, undertake dredging and enable road and rail connectivity, while private companies operate the berths and provide the equipment
  • Enayam port is expected to cost about Rs.6,500 crore in the first phase, when container handling capacity is projected at 1.5 million TEUs(Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit is the unit of the capacity of a container ship). The proposed initial funding for the Rs.27,000- crore project raises questions over the facility’s feasibility given the capital requirement and the ability of the existing major ports to find the money
  • Another concern is about the proximity to the Adani concession at Vizhinjam, leave alone the Vallarpadam facility off Kochi; whether two major container trans-shipment hubs can be justified in terms of the potential traffic they aim to attract is debatable
  • With global trade still becalmed by the worldwide economic slowdown, the outlook for container shipping demand remains cloudy
  • That Enayam will be designed to berth the latest and largest Triple-E class container vessels, however, does indicate that the Ministry’s planners have a strategic vision and are counting on a future rebound in world trade
  • According to the preliminary study for this port, trans-shipment traffic at the terminal is projected to surge fourfold from 700,000 TEUs in 2020 to 2.8 million TEUs by 2025, and touch 3.9 million TEUs by 2030
  • Whether the potential is realised ultimately hinges on several factors. These include commitment from the State and Central governments to promote industrial activity in the port’s hinterland; speedy, transparent and fair land acquisition; and provision of world-class road, rail and coastal shipping links to allow cargo to move rapidly in and out of the port

Map South India


2. To be equal before the law

Topic: Equality

Category: Polity

Key points:

  • On June 30, following a seminal vote, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution creating a post of an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. This expert, once officially appointed, will be tasked with the job of studying and reporting annually on the nature, the cause, and the extent of discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons around the world
  • India chose to abstain from voting altogether to appoint the expert
  • At Geneva, India offered no official reasons for its abstention. The Ministry of External Affairs, however, said later: “As you know, the issue of LGBT rights in India is a matter being considered by the Supreme Court under a batch of curative petitions filed by various institutions and organisations… As you also know, the Supreme Court is yet to pronounce on this issue. As such we had to take this into account in terms of our vote on the third UN resolution to institutionalise the office of an independent expert to prevent discrimination against LGBT persons.”
  • It is no doubt true that the Supreme Court is presently seized of cases challenging the constitutionality of the law that criminalises homosexuality
  • But, it’s also worth bearing in mind that this fact, that the issue is sub judice, has scarcely stopped India from voting to embrace a series of amendments that weaken the larger resolution adopted to appoint an independent expert. One of these amendments that were introduced by Pakistan, on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and that was adopted after India voted in its favour, explicitly states that the expert’s mission would ensure, at all costs, respect for the sovereign right of every country to implement its own national laws — in India’s case, this is a direct reference to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes even consensual homosexual activity a crime. Therefore, any report of the newly appointed expert would have to give sufficient weight to the fact that India’s laws proscribe, and even criminalise, homosexuality
  • When viewed in this light, it’s clear that India’s abstention in the principal vote to appoint the expert is an act of deception aimed at furthering the reach of a law that is decidedly iniquitous
  • In July 2009, the Delhi High Court, recognising the inherent injustice in Section 377’s operation, rendered a momentous verdict, and found that the law, in persecuting a community purely based on the sexual orientation of its members, was patently opposed to the Constitution’s essential promises. However, just over four years later, in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation, the Supreme Court reversed this finding
  • Section 377, plainly read, punishes with imprisonment for life or for a term of up to 10 years any person who voluntarily has “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. At its core, therefore, is an intention to enforce a decree against actions that are professed to be beyond the warrants of society’s moral compass
  • Any reasonable analysis of Section 377 would show us that to regard homosexual activity as somehow immoral violates the innate natural autonomy that every person has over his or her respective sexuality. The judgment is predicated on a bizarre belief that the only point of a democracy is to accept the majority’s verdict. But, as is evident from any sensible reading of the Constitution, democracy demands something more than the enforcement of the popular will. It requires a commitment, among other things, to our bill of rights, specifically to Part III of the Constitution
  • Although the Supreme Court has already once refused to review its judgment in Koushal, in February this year it agreed to list a batch of curative petitions — which question the correctness of its decision — before a Constitution Bench of five judges or more
  • Now, with the curative petitions still left undecided, a group of five individuals has once again approached the Supreme Court questioning the law’s validity. On the face of it, the timing of this new challenge might appear curious, given the pendency of the curative petitions. But regardless of any concerns over strategy, the issue’s implications remain gravely significant. After all, the questions raised in the new petition concern individuals who have each been treated as an outcast by a society that purports to be equal
  • What’s more, since the judgment in Koushal, there has been a rise not only in homophobia but also in instances of an abuse of the process of the law contained in Section 377. Simultaneously, there have been repeated efforts made by the present ruling dispensation to further perpetuate the law’s deeply damaging effects
  • Among other developments, at least two private member’s bills moved in the Lok Sabha, which sought decriminalisation of homosexuality, were met with predictably wicked defeats
  • It is also worth considering that although the referral to a Constitution Bench of the curative petitions offers a glimmer of hope, the chances of their success, given the court’s usually guarded approach to such challenges, are terrifyingly slim. Viewed thus, the new petition questioning the validity of Section 377 — which was referred by a two-judge bench to the Chief Justice, for him to decide whether it could be heard in conjunction with the curative petitions — assumes particular significance
  • A failure to annul the Supreme Court’s verdict in Koushal would only perpetuate what is really a gross miscarriage of justice. Ultimately, the court’s legitimacy as a vital pillar of our democracy depends on its ability to nullify popular will when the decisions of the majority transgress the Constitution’s guarantees
  • By reversing Koushal, the court can help usher India into a more equal future, where the tyrannical belief of some does not deny to any person the right to be treated as an equal member of society, and the right to enjoy the Constitution’s foundational liberties

 

The Indian Express
  1. Remembering Babuji

Topic: Political History

Category: Polity

Key points:

  • July 6 marked the death anniversary of the Dalit leader who emerged from the rural hinterlands of Bihar to serve as a Union minister for more than four decades in independent India
  • BabuJagjivan Ram held significant portfolios like defence, railways, agriculture and irrigation and went on to become the first and only Dalit deputy prime minister in the first non-Congress government
  • When the nation is celebrating the 125th birth anniversary of B. R. Ambedkar, it is appropriate to reflect upon the contribution of his contemporaries who dedicated their lives to the uplift of the erstwhile “untouchables”. BabuJagjivan Ram, K. R. Narayanan, Jogendranath Mandal, Shaheed Udham Singh and Kanshiram played an important role in the pursuit of social justice
  • Young Jagjivan Ram took his religious-cultural inspirations to the next level with the creation of AkhilBharatiyaRavidasMahasabha in erstwhile Calcutta. He went on to organise a number of RavidasSammelans and started observing Sant Guru Ravidas Jayanti in different parts of eastern India. Sant Guru Ravidas is revered till date in parts of northern and eastern India because of his role as a major social reformer from the Dalit community
  • Jagjivan Ram’s fight for the independence of the country was never divorced from his struggle for social justice. Apart from being instrumental in the formation of All India Depressed Classes League, he was involved in the Bihar state HarijanSevakSangh and many other organisations committed to the cause of social harmony
  • In his work on the liberation war of Bangladesh, The Blood Telegram, Gary Bass has called BabuJagjivan Ram the most “hawkish” defence minister, owing to his role in the victory of India in the war of 1971 that subsequently resulted in the bifurcation of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh. As communications minister, he nationalised private airlines and extended postal facilities to the remotest corners of India. Little is known about his contributions as union minister for railways. During his tenure, apart from expansion and modernisation of railways, a new post was instituted: The Paani Pandey, who was supposed to provide drinking water to passengers at platforms. Preference was given to candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes in the appointment to this post. As agriculture minister, he assumed charge under compelling circumstances of grain scarcity and ushered the country’s first ever green revolution. He introduced the public distribution system to ensure that food was available to the masses at a reasonable price. He envisioned affirmative action in promotion as he noticed that preferential treatment was required for the first generation beneficiaries of reservation policy as they were unable to cope up with their contemporaries from a privileged social origin
  • His unflinching stance during the Emergency is worth remembering. He formed the Congress for Democracy in the wake of the deepest constitutional crisis the nation was about to witness. Atal Bihari Vajpayee brought him in touch with Morarji Desai and subsequently BabuJagjivan Ram was sworn in as deputy prime minister. The Dalit leadership in the states during this period was largely the product of his art of cultivating leadership at the ground level. His efforts lead to DamodaramSanjivayya and BholaPaswanShastri being sworn in as chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar
  • Dalit politics in independent India represents a plethora of complications, contradictions, and commonalities. Perhaps, the panacea of social ills lies in integration and not confrontation. BabuJagjivan Ram’s life exemplifies the efficiency of such a mode: He chose to strive for equity and social justice from within the fold of Hinduism. He was the only leader from the Congress party to be present at the meeting where the VHP was formed. He was vehemently against conversion and felt that it would result in gradual erosion of our civilisational core. His temple entry movement resulted in the opening of the Vishwanath temple in Kashi, Meenakshi temple in Madurai and Jagannath temple at Puri to Dalits. We must analyse the contributions of BabuJagjivan Ram in a dispassionate manner, instead of restricting his legacy to any specific ideology or political outfit


Others:


1. PIB


a) India Is the Partner Country of INNOPROM 2016: Commerce Minister Smt Nirmala SitharamanTo Lead The Delegation Of 110 Indian Companies To Russia  

Aims To Strengthen Bilateral Trade And Fast Track Investment Opportunities 

INNOPROM, the largest annual international industrial trade fair of Russia, organised to showcase engineering innovations from across the world will kick-start on 10th of July, 2016 in Ekaterinburg. India is the Partner Country for INNOPROM 2016. With “Industrial Net” being the lead theme for the exhibition, the 4-day event aims to bring together all important components to improve efficacy under one roof. The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce &Industry, is leading the delegation of over 110 Indian companies that will showcase India’s engineering prowess at the Russian engineering and technology event under the Brand India Engineering campaign. The India participation is being organised by EEPC India with branding support from the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF). India and Russia have set the goal of boosting bilateral trade to US$ 30 billion and mutual investment to US$ 15 billion by 2025

 

b) President Shri Pranab Mukherjee to inaugurate first edition of “India Skills -2016” 

 President Shri Pranab Mukherjee will inaugurate the first edition of “India Skills Competition” on the occasion of World Youth Skills Day on 15th July, 2016.  Skill India will be celebrating its first anniversary on the occassion.

In a recent initiative, 1500 employees at the Rashtrapati Bhavan got certified under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) component of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), across 18 job roles. The program has ensured that the people working at the President’s house get oriented to their job roles, are assessed on their existing skills and then certified basis the National Skills Qualification Framework.

India Skills is a national competition steered by Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to select the best talent who will lead India’s participation at the biennial World Skills International Competition scheduled at Abu Dhabi in 2017.

The year has been remarkable with more than 1.04 crore youth trained under various initiative of Skill India in 2015-16, marking 36.8% growth compared to the year before.

WorldSkills International Competition, which is globally recognized as Olympics for Skills and is also recognised by UN, where candidates from more than 75 member countries participate.

 

c) Cooperatives have to effectively address commodity value chain framework in order to have a place in a globalised world: Vice President 

Addresses the Foundation Day Celebrations of Nagpur NagarikSahakari Bank

The Vice President of India has said that the cooperatives have to effectively address commodity value chain framework in order to have a place in a globalised world. He was addressing at the foundation day celebrations of Nagpur NagarikSahakari Bank, in Nagpur.

The Vice President said that our founding fathers saw the cooperative movement as an important tool in carrying forward the policy of rapid and equitable economic development. The cooperative movement in India today is the largest in the world, and the sector played a pivotal role in the economy, especially in our primary sector production, he added.

The Vice President said that the cooperative credit societies have clearly not been effective in providing adequate and affordable credit flows to our small-scale farming sector. Identifying some of the reasons for weakness and the correctives, the Vice President said that there has been an over-bearing role and intervention from the Government, the politicization of cooperative leadership, the size of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies has been small, there was lack of professional management of societies and land reform and caste also had an impact.

The Vice President said that given the role that agriculture enjoys in India’s economy, cooperatives remain an important plank in our approach to equitable development and as an important conduit for delivery of goods and services in areas not serviced by Government or private channels. Some of the areas where cooperatives continue to have relevance include – cooperative farming societies, improved access to financial services and Agricultural Insurance business, he added.

 

2. The Financial Express:


a) The real telecom scam: No clarity on what revenue is

Topic: Telecom

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • A CAG report is cited to argue thatprime minister Narendra Modi is trying to cover up a Rs 46,000 crore telecom scam. In February 2016, the CAG talked of how leading telcos had under-paid spectrum charges and license fees
  • The government immediately issued a press note saying that notices would be sent to all the telcos and, along with penalties, no effort would be spared to recover the money
  • What this ignores, however, is that 14 years after the dispute first arose, there is still no clarity on what should be included/excluded from telecom ‘revenues’—and since there is no clarity, whichever way the case is finally decided, where is the question of paying a penalty?
  • Should a foreign exchange gain/loss a Bharti Airtel makes on its African operations be included in this or not? In the initial years, Vodafone operated in India through eight companies which, on occasion, lent money to one another—is this to be included in telecom ‘revenue’ and should the government be given a share of this? Clearly not, you’d think, but that is what the case is all about
  • In 2007, TDSAT ruled against the government which then appealed this in the Supreme Court. Since, by then, the TDSAT had asked Trai for its suggestions and the report was submitted, SC dismissed the case and asked all parties to approach the TDSAT. When the government didn’t get its way at the TDSAT, it once again went to SC which gave a ruling that confused matters further. SC said that while the TDSAT could not decide on whether the terms and conditions of the license were valid, it was free to decide on any dispute based on the interpretations of these conditions. With matters back with TDSAT, expectedly, most parties went to various courts. Meanwhile, Trai came out with its recommendations on what revenue was!
  • While the new telecom minister can take a call on the CAG report once a decision is taken on what ‘revenue’ is, the decision has larger ramifications. Not including foreign exchange losses, capital gains, or interest earnings on company deposits in ‘revenue’ is an easy decision. But if payments made to other telcos are included in revenue and the government gets license/spectrum fees on this, this will discourage infrastructure sharing; it will also ensure MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) never take off. In the rush to apportion blame, no one is talking about the real issue

Note:A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), or mobile other licensed operator (MOLO), is a wireless communications services provider that does not own thewireless network infrastructure over which the MVNO provides services to its customers. An MVNO enters into a business agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently

 

3. The Business Line:
a) Why this fuss about NSG membership?

Topic: Nuclear Energy sector

Category: Governance

Key points

  • The decision of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to deny India membership to its club is hardly surprising despite the government employing its diplomatic muscle in the run up to the group’s plenary meeting in Seoul this month
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal pleas to leaders of important countries, including China, certainly helped build broad support among NSG members for India. However, China’s resolute opposition (which is quite independent of Pakistan’s obstinacy) has ensured keeping India outside the NSG tent for now.
  • NSG membership, while desirable, is an issue of marginal importance to India’s nuclear energy development
  • After the grand bargain following the nuclear détente with the US in 2005, India has gained substantially from the NSG waiver and partial safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008 without having to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and compromise its nuclear weapons programme.
  • There is already enough leeway for India to deal with nuclear vendor countries bilaterally for importing uranium, reactors, and fuel cycle technologies. Hence seeking formal membership to NSG even before fully exploiting the benefits of the 2008 grand bargain appears to be an unnecessary distraction from pursuing more important strategic objectives
  • The failed attempt in Seoul, however, presents India an opportunity for a hardnosed evaluation of priorities in the nuclear sector and to undertake steps to recover lost ground. In any case, a NSG membership is not going to make countries rush to India with nuclear reactor orders
  • Only a few countries with deep pockets have sustained their interest in building nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster. The most popular choice for new builds is light water reactors (LWRs) for which India itself will have to depend on countries such as Russia, France, US and Japan
  • The heavy water reactor (HWRs) technology that India could potentially export with or without NSG membership is fading into the sunset because of its declining share in the global reactor fleet
  • HWRs may be of interest to countries that aspire to build nuclear weapons under a civilian cover, but it is unlikely that India will show any enthusiasm to export reactors to countries with dubious reputations. Obstacles for import of specific technologies could be overcome through strategic bilateral engagement with relevant nuclear vendor countries
  • Hence India is better off limiting its civilian nuclear engagement with Russia, France, the US, and Japan while also preserving the indigenous expertise in HWRs and associated fuel cycle technologies. While the domestic nuclear programme is testimony to India’s sustained efforts to preserve its technological independence during the sanctions era, there is nothing sacrosanct about it
  • Re-examination of nuclear technology options and policy correction in order to adjust to new realities is not a sign of weakness. India will have to use the present window of opportunity (for which NSG membership is immaterial) to obtain critical technology transfers from friendly countries to manage future uncertainties
  • This is not to suggest giving up on the hard-won indigenous nuclear capability. India is now a world leader in HWR development after the Canadians turned their back on the technology
  • India is also one of the few countries that have acquired a formidable research and industrial experience in breeder reactor technology, even though its economic case has never been persuasive, especially when identified global uranium resources appear adequate for fuelling projected demand through the end of this century
  • The reluctance of the nuclear bureaucracy to admit this reality and its continuing obfuscation about the economic benefits of certain aspects of the indigenous programme has made it an easy target for criticism
  • Denial of NSG membership amidst fresh opportunities provided by the grand bargain of 2008 should encourage India’s nuclear mandarins to take a fresh look at their development priorities
  • With focused and sustained efforts it is within the realm of possibility that the NSG will find a way to accommodate India in a matter of time, provided India plays its cards well. In this context, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) would do well to look at the recent successes of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its enhanced global stature
  • India’s space programme was also subject to sanctions like the nuclear programme, but ISRO’s focused and modular development strategy seemed to have paid off well. ISRO recently launched 20 satellites in one go including two student satellites from Indian universities and 17 of four foreign countries, and has become a world leader in a niche market
  • Although the DAE is a technically superior and resourceful organisation compared to ISRO it seems to have muddled in the process of juggling with several reactor development fronts
  • Perhaps, what is needed in the wake of denial of NSG membership is a hardnosed realism regarding priorities for nuclear energy development and a strategy to navigate the tangled thicket of international nuclear trade and commerce through bilateral engagements

 

b) The fat’s in the fire in Kerala

Topic: Health

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • The newly-elected government in Kerala has just introduced a ‘fat tax’ on junk food items such as pizzas, burgers and tacos
  • The State Finance Minister, presenting the new government’s first State Budget has announced that a 14.5 per cent tax would be imposed on branded restaurants selling items such as pizzas and burgers
  • The aim of this tax is to ostensibly attack the growing problem of obesity in the State, especially among kids
  • According to the National Health Survey report of 2015, Kerala stands second in the country (after Punjab) in child obesity. A State health department study across 1,500 schools showed that one in two students in Kerala faced lifestyle diseases.
  • The rationale for the tax may be right. But is this the right way to tackle the issue? Or is it a half baked idea? Questions arise instantly on how the government will implement it
  • First of all which food would be classified as junk? Will the State government undertake an exercise to determine the nutritional value and saturated fat content of fast food? After all there are pizzas and pizzas — would whole-wheat pizzas with a minimal amount of cheese get the same treatment as maida-based cheesy pizzas?And what about the desi culprits? It would be interesting to see how a parotta and beef fry stacks up against a McDonald’s burger
  • This is not the first time a government has tried imposing a ‘fat tax’. Denmark famously did it in October 2011 in a bid to limit the intake of fatty foods among its population. Food that had more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat was subject to a surcharge.This meant that dairy foods and processed foods all came under the same bucket of unhealthy
  • The Danish government had even considered a move to tax sugar. But within a year the Danes had scrapped the fat tax. Why? Because the fat tax led to job losses, inflation, cross-border shopping and proved to be an administrative nightmare
  • If an efficient Scandinavian state failed, would an Indian State be able to implement it? Awareness drives in schools, malls and stringent warnings — such as those on tobacco packs — might be a better way to tackle obesity
  • Also it would be more beneficial if restaurants were forced to declare the nutritional value and fat content on their menus
  • The common man may be able to stomach that better than a tax!

 

4. The Economic Times:


a) RIL must sell subsidised LPG

Topic: Subsidy

Category: Economy

Key points:

  • Reliance Industries has reportedly sought government nod to distribute subsidised LPG cylinders.
  • There is no reason why LPG distribution should remain the monopoly of the trio of public sector oil majors, IOC, HP and BP. We clearly need more players to step up investment, improve logistics and competitively boost supply, and in the process, bring down prices and improve delivery and service
  • But instead of the avoidable case-by-case approach to opening up, we need clear-cut policy for parallel marketing, and not just of LPG but also the main oil products like automotive fuels
  • The consumer should receive subsidy for cooking gas, not for gas bought from a PSU. The plain fact is that the effective ring-fencing of the retail market for oil products only for public sector oil companies, with attendant monopoly rights, comes at a huge national cost
  • It is perverse incentive for opacity and cost-padding, and it precludes competitive prices and efficiency improvement in what is slated soon to be among the top three oil markets globally. There is every reason to reform and overhaul market design in the retail oil market
  • The ‘independent retailers’ of petroleum products in the mature markets have long accounted for about half of all retail offtake of oil. In tandem, we need norms on sharing of infrastructure and storage costs, for parallel marketing in LPG to take off. By opening up and reforming the market for LPG distribution, the government, the exchequer and the consumer would all stand to hugely benefit
  • The Centre needs to announce a budget for LPG subsidy payouts and leave it to the more efficient players to gainfully compete for custom, to boost revenues and supply. In parallel, we need to shore up piped natural gas supply in urban areas, to supply cooking fuel that does not bear subsidy

 

5. Quick Bits and News from States


a) ‘ECR can be developed as an economic corridor’

East Coast Road (ECR) could be developed as an Economic Corridor in the event of State Government handing over the stretch to the Centre for conversion into a four-lane National Highway, Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping.Union Commerce Minister had already discussed with the Chief Minister of T.N the scope for extending the proposed Vizag-Chennai Corridor up to Colachel in Kanya kumari.The proposed Colachel Commercial Port will result in uniform economic progress of all the Southern districts of T.N. Tamil Nadu will have the distinction of being the only State with four major ports. Colachel port, in particular, will be patronised more since exporters will be able to send their consignments directly to destinations of their choice.

 

b) India’s Software-as-a-Service market may grow to $1 bn

The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market in India is expected to triple to about $1 billion by 2020, according to a research report by Nasscom. The SaaS is mainly provided by Start-ups in India.

Listing out reasons for the shift to SaaS model from on premise software solutions, the research report stated that organisations can shift resources from operational items such as IT to core competencies, reduce IT fees due to reduced amount of services, software and support needed from IT, reduce time and costs to upgrade software since it is handled by third party vendors.

Increased focus on content solution being deployed over mobile devices is also pushing firms to opt for SaaS-based products. Healthcare, BSFI, e-commerce and education are some of the prominent verticals in SaaS adoption.

 

c) In a first, Kerala imposes ‘fat tax’ on pizzas, burgers

Kerala imposed a 14.5 per cent “fat tax” on pizzas, burgers and other junk food. The measure was spelt out in the state budget.The “fat tax” on junk foods sold through fast food chains such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut is the first ever such impost by any government in India. This tax, aimed at discouraging consumption of foods linked to obesity, was first introduced by Denmark in October 2011, only to be scrapped after about a year. Others such as France, Hungary, UK and Finland have imposed sugar taxes on sugary drinks and confectionaries.

 

d) SUUTI stake sales may get Centre Rs 60,600 cr, achieve disinvestment target

The government has kick-started the process to sell its stakes in as many as 51 companies held through the Specified Undertaking of the UTI –Unit Trust of India(Suuti), in what could boost its non-debt capital receipts, and enable it to keep the pace in capital spending despite a tight fiscal situation.

Among the government’s Suuti stakes, the prized ones are the holdings in ITC, Axis Bank and L&T, which, at current market prices, could fetch it close to Rs 60,600 crore, more than the government’s disinvestment revenue target of Rs 56,500 crore, for FY17.

 

e) Start-up village, India’s first PPP model incubator, set for scale-up in digital avatar

Start-up Village (SV), India’s first PPP model incubator, is all set for a national scale-up with the Department of Science and Technology approving Start-up Village’s phase 2 in its completely digital version. The world’s first digital incubator for student start-ups ‘SV.CO’ will be launched on July 13 at Thiruvananthapuram.

The Phase 2 will focus on creating an entrepreneurial culture amongst the country’s five million engineering students by providing them a completely digital incubation framework, ranging from application for admission to teaching, mentoring and graduation, officials of SV said.

 

f) World food prices hit 4-year high in June, says FAO

World food prices posted their biggest monthly rise for four years in June, buoyed by a surge in sugar and increases for most other edible commodities, the United Nations food agency said.

Food prices have been gaining ground since hitting a near seven-year low in January after four straight annual declines, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO) now expects them to be stable for the next decade.

 

g) World Bank to extend $290 million credit for Bihar’s JEEViKA II

Centre, Bihar government and World Bank today signed a USD 290-million credit agreement to help improve livelihood opportunities for poor rural households across 300 blocks and 32 districts of the eastern state (not covered in the earlier phase or through National Rural Livelihood Project)

Bihar Transformative Development Project, also known as Jeevika II, will mobilise rural population into self-help groups (SHG) and higher level federations and help them gain access to markets, public services and a range of financial services from formal financial institutions, the World Bank said.

 

h) Centre launches KVK portal for monitoring of farm centres

The Centre has launched a KrishiVigyan Kendra (KVK) portal for online monitoring and review of the 645 centresfocussing on farm knowledge and research spread across the country and also provide a platform for providing information and advisories to farmers.The portal (https://kvk.icar.gov.in/), apart from online monitoring of KVKs will include reporting of major events on a regular basis and submission of monthly reports online, the portal will also provide information on different services being provided by them.

Weather and market related information can also be accessed on the portal, a release said, adding that information on programmes such as training programmes organised by the KVKs would be available too.

Farmers and other stakeholders can also pose agriculture related questions on the website which will be answered by experts.

 

i) Poultry dispute: US seeks WTO sanctions on India

The US is seeking trade sanctions against India after winning a dispute at the World Trade Organization regarding Indian restrictions on import of American poultry meat, eggs and pigs, the WTO said.

The US has requested a WTO meeting on July 19 to launch the claim for compensation, according to an agenda circulated by the WTO. The agenda did not give any details, but the US Trade Representative’s office has previously said US annual exports of poultry meat to India could exceed $300 million.

The US won the dispute last June, when the WTO’s Appellate Body ruled that India’s restrictions were discriminatory and based on unsubstantiated fears over bird flu. The US argued that it had not had an outbreak of high pathogenic avian flu since 2004, while India had 90 such outbreaks.

 

j) Niti Aayog may set up panel to draw up a new poverty line 

The government may soon come out with a new definition of poverty, with the NitiAayog likely to set up a panel of experts to formulate a new ‘poverty line’.

The re-look at the controversial issue was necessitated as the NitiAayog has to measure the impact of the government’s anti-poverty schemes and other welfare initiatives, and set a target for poverty reduction while preparing its first 15-year vision document and seven-year strategy paper, which have replaced the five-year plan.
ANitiAayog official said the new poverty line will only define poverty, and won’t be used to identify the poor or allocate resources under government schemes. It will purely be a tool to measure the impact of programmes, the official added.
The new line, which will be different from the existing Tendulkar line and Rangarajan line, will also be based on the latest consumption expenditure survey. “The need for a re-look arises as the Tendulkar line was seen as too low while the Rangrajan line was perceived as high,” a source said.


F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
  • AFSPA, 1958
  • Monsoon
  • Major Ports of India
  • Babu Jagjivan Ram
  • Skill India
  • TDSAT
  • TRAI
  • NSG
  • Light Water Reactors
  • Heavy Water Reactors
  • Breeder Reactors
  • Poverty Line


G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: Which of the following statements is/are correct?
  1. The light-water reactor (LWR) is a type of thermal-neutron reactor that uses normal water as both its coolant and neutron moderator
  2. A heavy-water reactor (HWR) is a nuclear reactorthat uses deuterium oxide (D2O) as coolant and neutron moderator
  3. A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor which creates fissile material at a faster rate than it uses another fissile material as fuel

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1,2 and 3

d) All the Above


Question 2: Which of the following ports is/are included in the major ports of India?
  1. Chennai Port
  2. Tuticorin Port
  3. Kochi Port
  4. Ennore Port

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1,2 and 3

d) All the Above


Question 3: Which of the following statements is/are correct?
  1. Gandhi extended assistance to Indians in opposing a bill to deny them the right to vote in South Africa
  2. Gandhi fought against the Transvaal Government Actcompelling registration of Indian and Chinese populations
  3. Gandhi adopted his methodology of Satyagraha or nonviolent protest, for the first time in South Africa

a) 1 only

b) 3 only

c) 1 and 2 only

d) All the Above


Question 4: Which of the following statements is/are correct about the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA)?
  1. Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), are Acts of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to theIndian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”
  2. One such act passed in1958 was applicable to India’s northeastern states
  3. Another passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997
  4. An act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since

a) 1 only

b) 1 and 2 only

c) 1,2 and 3 only

d) All the above


Question 5: Which of the following statements is/are correct?
  1. The Tendulkar committee stipulated a benchmark daily per capita expenditure of Rs27 and Rs33 in rural and urban areas, respectively, and arrived at a cut-off of about 22% of the population below poverty line
  2. The Rangarajan committee raised the benchmark daily per capita expenditure in rural and urban areas to Rs32 and Rs47, respectively, and worked out poverty line at close to 30%

a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) Both 1 and 2

d) Neither 1 nor 2


Check Your Answers

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