Comprehensive News Analysis - 13 October 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. Draft Water Bill suggests basin-level management

2. U.S. backs Indian position on cross border terrorism

3. Sweden’s SAAB sweetens deal for Gripen jet

C. GS3 Related:

1. Human hair used to produce cheaper cathodes for solar cells

2. Pakistan’s isolation likely to feature in BRICS

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

The Hindu

1. Stop the Saudi war in Yemen

2. Towards a kerosene-free India

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



Useful News Articles

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here today folks!

B. GS2 Related
1. Draft Water Bill suggests basin-level management

Category: Centre-State Relations, Inter-State Water Disputes

Topic: National Water Framework Bill

Key Points:

  • Amid several inter-State water disputes over sharing of river water, the Centre has tabled the final draft of the National Water Framework Bill, 2016, that prioritizes managing water at basin-level and “right measurement” of State’s contribution to river system to resolve conflicts.
  • The draft Bill provides for establishing a River Basin Authority for each inter-State basin to ensure “optimum and sustainable” development of rivers and valleys.
  • The Bill will be placed before the Union Cabinet for its approval in a month, before it is tabled in the Parliament.
  • It asks States to recognize the principle that the rivers are not owned by the basin-States but are public trustees.
  • It says all basin States have “equitable” rights over a river water “provided such use is not in violation to the right to water for life” of any person in the river basin.
  • The draft Bill says every person has a “right to sufficient quantity of safe water for life” within easy reach of the household regardless of caste, creed, religion, age, community, class, gender, disability, economic status, land ownership and place of residence.
  • It suggests that States ensure water is conserved. Presently, there are disputes because states do not know their contribution to a river’s catchment area. When a State will know its exact contribution to the catchment area, it will be aware of the quantum of its rightful share.
  • The Bill focuses on right measurement of the water at basin-level. Describing the draft Bill as “comprehensive” one, he said the model law also stresses on Centre and States working in partnership for managing water.
  • It proposes establishing institutional arrangements at all levels within a State and beyond up to an inter-State river basin level to “obviate” disputes through negotiations, conciliation or mediation before they become acute. “All the basin States are equal in rights and status, and there is no hierarchy of rights among them, and further, in this context, equality of rights means not equal but equitable shares in the river waters,” the Bill says.
  • Water being a State subject, the Bill, however, will not be binding on States for adoption.


2. U.S. backs Indian position on cross border terrorism

Category: International Relations, Internal Security

Topic: Cross border terrorism

Key Points:

  • The U.S. empathises with India’s position that it needs to militarily respond to cross-border terrorism. But given the history of wars between Indian and Pakistan and the heavily militarised character of the region, both sides must show restraint and caution
  • In the clearest indication till date of the Obama administration’s support for India’s pre-emptive military operation targeting terrorist positions across the LoC recently
  • US has condemned this act of terrorism as a horrific attack. Every country has a right to self-defence. But in a heavily militarised relationship that has also experienced three wars, there is indeed a need for caution and restraint.
  • It has empathized with the Indian position that it needs to respond militarily to cross border threat of terrorism. But also advised caution.
  • The U.S and India have significantly increased mutual interaction on Afghanistan


3. Sweden’s SAAB sweetens deal for Gripen jet

Category: International Relations

Topic: Defence Procurement

Key Points:

  • In an aggressive push to capture a share in India’s fighter aircraft market, Swedish aerospace major SAAB has offered its latest radar technology as part of the Gripen fighter package along with significant technology transfer in addition to design consultancy for developing the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk-1A which the Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to induct in large numbers.
  • The move comes even as India is looking to select a single engine fighter aircraft to be built in India in large numbers under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
  • SAAB said that they were the first company to develop an AESA radar with Gallium Nitride which, he said, significantly enhances its efficiency and performance over the current AESA radars.
  • The company officials said that SAAB was looking for a strategic partner for the Gripen program in the long-term and India and Sweden have good relations without political compulsions.


C. GS3 Related
1. Human hair used to produce cheaper cathodes for solar cells

Category: Science & Technology

Topic: Solar energy

Key Points:

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Kolkata have used human hair to produce cost-effective, metal-free cathodes for use in solar cells.
  • This is the first instance where a bio-waste-derived electrode has been used as cathode in a quantum dot sensitized solar cell device.
  • While metal-free cathodes produced in the past have not performed as well as the traditional metal-based ones, the performance of graphitic porous carbon cathodehas been at par with metal-based cathodes. The results have been published in the journal Carbon.
  • The graphitic porous carbon cathode shows an impressive performance to help converting visible sunlight to electricity [power conversion] much higher than commercially available activated carbon cathodes and are comparable with commonly used cathodes made of platinum metal and metal sulfides
  • ‘Green’ cathodes have the potential to bring down the cost of solar cells.
  • Besides its higher efficiency to convert visible sunlight to electricity, the cathode was found to generate high open-circuit voltage, which is at par with conventional platinum and activated carbon cathodes. Thereby, the power conversion efficiencies can also be enhanced.
  • Producing graphitic porous carbon cathode using human hair is also simple, quick and inexpensive. Unlike in the case of other synthetic porous carbons, no physical or chemical activation process or templates were required to produce the pores of 2-50 nm in diameter. The porosity, along with high surface area to volume ratio, plays an important role in adsorption-desorption of electrolyte.
  • The cleaned and dry human hair was first treated with sulphuric acid at 165 degrees C for 25 minutes to achieve precarbonization. It was then heated to different temperatures in the presence of an inert gas for six hours to carbonize and bring better electrical conductivity for efficient charge transfer.
  • A material with high electrical conductivity can be produced by carbonising at higher temperature, but it will not be highly porous.
  • With increasing temperature, the pores collapse and the porosity starts reducing. Therefore, a trade-off is required between electrical conductivity and porosity; It was found that 850 degrees C was the optimum temperature to achieve highly catalytic graphitic porous carbon for fabricating efficient green cathodes.
  • Though others had developed methods to produce porous carbon matrices using human hair for super capacitor applications, large-scale production of porous carbon with graphitic edges and catalytically active sites by a facile synthesis procedure has been rare.


2. Pakistan’s isolation likely to feature in BRICS

Category: Internal Security, IR

Topic: Pakistan, Terrorism

Key Points:

  • The growing rift between the civil and military sections of Pakistan over terrorism has drawn the attention of BRICS delegates arriving in Goa for the upcoming summit of the grouping.
  • The diplomatic isolation of Pakistan and instability in the nuclear-armed country would be discussed during the October 15-16 summit.
  • The targeting of a journalist who wrote the story on civil-military discussion on terrorism is a serious matter. Pakistan right now is super-isolated in South Asia and it will be noted in the backdrop of the summit
  • Pakistan has been facing diplomatic isolation ever since SAARC member states withdrew from the Islamabad SAARC summit of November, citing “interference”, “cross-border terror” and “imposed war
  • Pakistan highlighted Turkey’s support for its position on Kashmir, and announced that Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was briefed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s special envoys on Kashmir. Turkey’s support came on the eve of Mr Sharif’s planned visit to Azerbaijan, which, along with Turkey, has supported Pakistan’s campaign on Kashmir at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
  • The BRICS summit is likely to discuss international terrorism in line with the September 14-15 meeting of BRICS National Security Advisers.


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

1. Stop the Saudi war in Yemen

Category: International Relations

Topic: Yemen Civil War

  • Saudi Arabia’s 18- month- long military operation in Yemen has been replete with attacks on civilian centres and mass casualties.
  • Since its start in March 2015, the brutal military campaign in one of the poorest Arab countries has evoked international criticism against the Saudis for the use of excessive force, even allegations of war crimes.
  • But Saudi Arabia has appeared to pay no heed. Riyadh claims it is defending the internationally recognized regime of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which operates out of the southern city of Aden, against Shia Houthi rebels. But while “defending” a government that doesn’t seem to enjoy any legitimacy at home, Riyadh and its allies have turned Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe.
  • The UN estimates that over 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have so far been killed and millions displaced since the Saudi intervention. Besides, the country’s already poor healthcare system has crumbled and its economy is in a shambles. More than half of Yemen’s 28 million people do not get enough food; while close to 400,000 children endure severe malnutrition.
  • Even from a strategic point of view, the Saudi intervention is a disaster. After 18 months of incessant bombing, the Houthis are still defending their bases, including the capital city, while the Hadi administration operates out of some pockets. Neither the human suffering nor the futility of the campaign has compelled Saudi Arabia to look for other solutions.
  • This is because Riyadh sees this war as part of its rivalry with Iran. It considers the Houthis to be agents of Iran, and does not want Tehran to have a proxy presence in its backyard. But Saudi Arabia cannot be allowed to destroy Yemen further to defend its narrow geopolitical ambitions. Washington supports the campaign through intelligence- sharing and by vetting targets.
  • Moreover, the Obama administration announced a $ 60- billion arms deal for Riyadh months after the Yemen operation began. It expressed “deep concern” after the Sana’a bombing, but stopped short of taking any action.
  • The U. S., which recently pulled out of the Syria peace talks citing Russia’s bombing of Aleppo, should ask similar questions of the Saudis, and use its ties with Riyadh to find a diplomatic solution to the Yemen crisis. What Yemen needs is an immediate ceasefire between the Houthis and the Saudis, followed by talks involving all parties, not more bombings.


  1. Towards a kerosene-free India

Category: Energy

Topic: DBT, PDS

Key Points:

  • After the success of Direct Benefit Transfer ( DBT) for liquefied petroleum gas ( LPG)/ cooking gas, the government has now decided to launch DBT for kerosene ( DBTK), starting with pilots in the State of Jharkhand. While the move is well- intentioned, it may not be simple to implement at scale, and may even fail to eliminate the diversion of subsidized kerosene that it intends to.
  • The biggest hurdle is the lack of a streamlined and unified digital consumer database, which formed the backbone of the robust and rapid implementation of DBT for LPG. Here, the entire database across India was managed by just three public sector oil marketing companies, which are directly under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
  • This enabled easier coordination for a nationwide rollout of the scheme. In comparison, the database of subsidized kerosene beneficiaries falls under the Public Distribution System (PDS), which is managed and maintained by each State government.
  • Coordination among the large number of State- level actors, especially in the case of a non- digitized PDS beneficiary database, can create barriers. While e- PDS is being implemented across India, a digital PDS beneficiary database is not yet available for all the States to enable implementation of DBTK.
  • The second hurdle is the political economy associated with subsidized kerosene. While the Centre burns the fiscal impact of subsidy, the States determine who gets the subsidy and to what extent — in terms of the quantum of subsidized kerosene. This is an important political currency for State governments. Thus, political alignment of States to buy into the idea of DBTK is critical in ensuring effective implementation of the scheme.
  • The good news is that many States have expressed interest in conducting the pilot, which reflects the remarkable efforts made by the Centre towards aligning the States, including those governed by the Opposition.
  • However, even if the government overcomes these hurdles, a major drawback is the limited ability of DBTK to reduce incentives for diversion. Currently, subsidized kerosene is mainly diverted as a substitute or as an adulterant to diesel. Given the significant Central excise and State taxes on diesel, its market price remains much higher than the unsubsidized price of kerosene.
  • Another challenge is in ensuring that the subsidy is accessible to its major beneficiaries — poor households. The Pradhan Mantri Jan- Dhan Yojana ( PMJDY) has succeeded in providing bank accounts to a substantial number of households, accessing the subsidy amount is still not easy for several poorer households, who may, at times, lose their potential day wage in withdrawing this subsidy from far- located bank branches.
  • National Sample Survey Office data highlights that kerosene is predominantly used as a lighting fuel in rural India, with less than 1 per cent of households using it as a primary cooking fuel. In urban- poor households, it is used for both lighting and cooking.
  • A recent report by the CEEW shows how shifting from kerosene to alternatives such as solar- assisted solutions for lighting and LPG for cooking could be economically beneficial for both the government as well as households. The shift would provide households with much better end- services and avoiding the adverse health impacts associated with kerosene use.
  • As LPG is a clean and efficient fuel, it is rational to continue subsidizing it for the underprivileged who cannot afford it otherwise. However, with energy security and clean energy access high on India’s priorities, we must look beyond kerosene to provide cooking and lighting solutions to poor households, while ensuring affordability, reliability and universal availability of these alternatives.
  • The government has been persistently focusing on structural reforms in various sectors of the economy, and moving away from subsidized kerosene, and envisioning kerosene- free India would be one such visionary step.

F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
  • National Water Framework Bill
  • Cross Border Terrorism
  • Solar Energy
  • BRICS Summit
  • Direct Benefit Transfer

H. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: Consider the following statements about ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana’ -
  1. It is a National Mission for Financial Inclusion to ensure access to financial services
  2. It provides for opening Zero balance accounts
  3. Overdraft facility upto Rs.25000/- is available under the scheme

Which of the statements given above is /are correct?

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 only

c) 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

Question 2: Gulf of Aden can be directly accessed from which of the following countries

a) Bahrain

b) Turkey

c) Jordan

d) Yemen

Question 3: In the draft of the National Water Framework Bill, 2016, which of the following provisions have been provided -

a) It calls from amending Article 262

b) It provides for judicial review of tribunal awards by the Supreme Court

c) It asks States to recognize the principle that the rivers are not owned by the basin-States but are public trustees.

d) The final authority in deciding water sharing vests with the central goverment

Question 4: Which of the following are correctly matched –
  1. Dassault Typhoon
  2. Boeing F-18
  3. Eurofighter Rafale
  4. SAAB GrippenM

a) 1 only

b) Both 3 & 4

c) Both 2&4

d) neither

Question 5: BRICS Summit 2016 is being held in:
a) Goa

b) Yekaterinburg

c) Fortaleza

d) Durban

Check Your Answers

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