14 Feb 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
GOVERNANCE
1. NHRC seeks action taken report on pesticide deaths
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. New RBI norms to spur surge in NPAs
2. PSU insurers’ merger may be completed by March 2019
3. Centre plans to merge small savings, PPF laws
4. India in pact with UAE to spur energy security
ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
1. Rapid rise in sea level
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. U.S. telescope to help solve mystery of dark energy
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
1. Biofuels: an opportunity for India
2. Adapting better to climate change
F. Prelims Fact
G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. NHRC seeks action taken report on pesticide deaths

 

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sought an action taken report from the Tamil Nadu government following a spate of pesticide poisoning deaths reported from the State in October and November last year.
  • A fact-finding team investigated into the deaths and several instances of hospitalisations after exposure to pesticides in Perambalur, Ariyalur, Salem and Cuddalore districts.
  • TN has delayed submission of report though notice was received last month: activists
  • Acting upon the complaint of an activist who was part of a fact-finding team that investigated into the deaths and several instances of hospitalisations after exposure to pesticides in Perambalur, Ariyalur, Salem and Cuddalore districts of Tamil Nadu, the Commission issued a notice last month demanding the State government to submit a report on the actions undertaken to address the problem.
  • However, response from the concerned authorities is still awaited as per the status displayed on the NHRC website.
  • In the NHRC complaint, activist V.M. Parthasarathy alleged that no concrete preventive measures had been put in place by the government, and no ex-gratia relief provided to the affected.
  • Earlier, the fact-finding team that had met with the affected families and concerned government officials presented evidence to show that more than 500 hospitalisations and 9 deaths have taken place in Tamil Nadu due to pesticide poisoning.
  • NHRC’s action comes at a time when the Punjab government has announced a ban on monocrotophos as well as 19 other pesticides.
  • The State government of Punjab has also put out orders to stop issuing fresh licenses for these pesticides, since the State can only issue a ban for 60 days.

Background

  • Monocrotophos, which has been found to be in common usage in Yavatmal among other substances, has been in the news before.
  • The internationally banned pesticide, which is known to make plants look green and healthy, was linked to the death of 23 school children in Bihar in 2013.
  • Monocrotophos is one of the oldest pesticides still in use, and although it is known to be toxic, it is not alone.
  • There are two kinds of toxic pesticides: acute ones which cause immediate effect, and chronic pesticides which have a built-up effect over a long period of time.
  • Monocrotophos is an highly acutely toxic. But somehow, it is still used for non-food products.
  • The World Health Organisation has placed monocrotophos in Class 1b — a category reserved for highly hazardous pesticides.
  • The substance was banned in 2005 in India for use on vegetables. Currently, monocrotophos is mostly used to grow cotton.
  • Monocrotophos can be absorbed into the human body through multiple pathways, including inhalation, skin contact and ingestion, and is acutely toxic by all routes of exposure.
  • The first two modes of exposure put Indian farmers at an unusually high risk.
  • Farmers here mostly work without any protective equipment, and this puts them at risk of pesticide uptake by inhalation and absorption through the skin.

How monocrotophos affects the body?

  • Monocrotophos is an organophosphate insecticide, which is a type of pesticide. These kinds of pesticides are known to be neurotoxins, which affect the work of neurons in the body. Monocrotophos is found to be lethal because of its action on the central nervous system of the human body.
  • The nervous system is made up of a large and complex network of nerves. When a signal reaches the end of a nerve, it releases a substance called neurotransmitter that carries the signal to the adjacent nerves or organ.
  • Many nerves in the nervous system release a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Once the signal passes onto the next nerve, an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase destroys the acetylcholine. And this is where monocrotophos comes in.
  • Organophosphorus compounds, like the pesticide at hand, block this enzyme, thus preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine.
  • And hence, acetylcholine acts for an excessively long period of time, causing symptoms like twitches and increased secretions at the junctions between nerves. After a long duration of this process, muscles get fatigued leading to paralysis.
  • This also prevents communication in the nervous system, either between two nervous cells or between a nervous cell and a muscle cell. If this spreads throughout the body, death of the affected person becomes a highly likely outcome.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. New RBI norms to spur surge in NPAs

 

  • Early identification of stress and resolution will prevent future ever-greening, says Moody’s unit ICRA
  • The Reserve Bank of India’s new norms directing banks to start insolvency proceedings on accounts, if stress is not resolved in 180 days, could result in an increase in bad loans, according to Moody’s unit ICRA.

What did the RBI say?

  • The RBI said that for accounts where a bank’s exposure exceeds Rs. 2,000 crore, a resolution plan must be implemented within 180 days from the date of first default, and in case a resolution is not implemented, lenders should file an insolvency petition within 15 days of the expiry of the 180 days.
  • This has been the case with most of the NCLT 2 list of borrowers, whereby the resolution plans failed for most of the borrowers and were referred under IBC; this is expected to further spike up the credit provisioning requirements for banks during FY2019.
  • The RBI had sent two lists of firms against which insolvency proceedings could be taken at the National Company Law Tribunal.
  • Banks have to make a 50% provision in respect of accounts that are subject to insolvency proceedings. In comparison, the provisioning norm for sub-standard assets is 15-20%.

Proactive resolution

  • The RBI norms entail proactive resolution of stressed assets with lenders needing to finalise the resolution plan as an account slips into special mention account category.
  • SMA category indicates the time period over which repayment on a loan has not been made. Banks’ gross NPAs and standard restructured advances were estimated at 12.6% as on September 30, 2017.
  • The RBI had estimated SMA 2 advances (where repayment is not made for more than 60 days) to be 3.5% of gross advances.
  • ICRA said overall stress levels of banks including SMA0 (overdue between 1 and 30 days) and SMA1 (overdue between 31 and 60 days) borrowers was much higher than the reported GNPA level of 10.3% as on September 30.

Is it a good move?

  • While in the short-term this will increase the pain for the borrowers as well the lenders, early identification of stress and resolution will prevent future ever greening of loans and ensure a good financial health for the banking system in the long-term.

2. PSU insurers’ merger may be completed by March 2019

 

  • The proposed merger of three public sector insurance firms may be completed by early 2019.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in the Budget, proposed a merger of three general insurers — National Insurance Co. Ltd., United India Insurance and Oriental Insurance Company Ltd.

What are the advantages?

  • There are a lot of operational advantages and savings that will accrue from this proposed merger.
  • An awareness campaign was needed to remove the air of distrust between the insurer and the insured while encouraging people to take care of their health.
  • Health insurance was not for aggrandisement of the hospital chains but for helping a person in health distress.

3. Centre plans to merge small savings, PPF laws

 

  • In a bid to consolidate the legislations pertaining to small savings schemes, the government is proposing a merger of the various laws into a Government Savings Promotion Act.
  • The government gives highest priority to the interest of small savers, especially savings for the benefit of the girl child, senior citizens and regular savers who form the backbone of our country’s savings architecture.
  • In order to remove existing ambiguities due to multiple Acts and rules for small saving schemes the government has proposed merger of Government Savings Certificates Act, 1959 and Public Provident Fund Act, 1968 with the Government Savings Banks Act, 1873.
  • All existing protections have been retained while consolidating PPF Act under the proposed Government Savings Promotion Act.

Benefits retained

  • No existing benefits to depositors are proposed to be taken away through this process. The main objective in proposing a common Act is to make implementation easier for the depositors as they need not go through different rules and Acts.

4. India in pact with UAE to spur energy security

 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent trip to the UAE has resulted in two agreements being signed that will strengthen India’s energy security, said Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
  • Two highlights of the PM’s visit were the signing of the Concession Agreement between an Indian consortium and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company for award of 10% stake in Lower Zakum Offshore oil field, and an agreement between Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves (ISPRL) and ADNOC to operationalise the filling up of a strategic petroleum reserve cavern in Mangalore.
  • The Lower Zakum oil field is coming up for rebidding for 40% of its capacity, of which 10% had been awarded to India.
  • The second agreement allowed ADNOC to invest in the strategic crude oil storage facility in Mangaluru.

Category: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

1. Rapid rise in sea level

 

  • Sea level rise is accelerating and could reach 26 inches by century’s end, in line with United Nations estimates and enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities, a study said.
  • The past annual rate of sea level rise – about three millimeters (0.1 inches) per year – may more than triple to 10 millimeters per year by 2100, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The findings are based on 25 years of satellite data.

  • This acceleration, driven mainly by accelerated melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate –to more than 60 centimeters instead of about 30.
  • This study highlights the important role that can be played by satellite records in validating climate model projections.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. U.S. telescope to help solve mystery of dark energy

 

  • DESI to be mounted on the Mayall telescope will collect spectra from 30 million galaxies and quasars to make the biggest 3D map of the universe ever.
  • A 45-year-old telescope in the U.S. will create the largest three-dimensional map of the universe, which could help scientists solve the mystery of dark energy that is believed to drive the accelerating expansion of the universe.
  • Besides finding evidences about the universe’s expansion, DESI would help set limits on theories related to gravity and the formative stages of the universe.
  • It could even provide new mass measurements for a variety of elusive yet abundant neutrinos, a kind of subatomic particles.
  • One of the primary ways that we learn about the unseen universe is by its subtle effects on the clustering of galaxies.
  • The expansion of the telescope’s field-of-view will allow DESI to map out about one-third of the sky.
  • Instead of one at a time we can measure the velocities of 5,000 galaxies at a time, we will measure more than 30 million of them in our five-year survey.
  • Installation of DESI’s components is expected to begin soon and to wrap up in April 2019, with first science observations planned in September 2019.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

1. Biofuels: an opportunity for India

 

  • The short-term solution exists in the quick and scaled-out expansion of biofuel-powered public transport across the country
  • Government announcement to incentivize and go all-electric by 2030 is a very aggressive goal for a middle-income country like India and
  • Second, even assuming that this was to happen, do we all need to suffer the ill effects of pollution for another 12 years?
  • India’s transport policy needs to prioritize renewable vehicular fuels for large transport
  • e-mobility alone will not achieve the ambition of creating a sustainable transport sector

Raw material for biofuel production

  • We can use 170 million tonnes of agricultural waste out of the 800 million tonnes generated to be used for ethanol production in the current situation
  • This could easily be ramped up to 250 million tonnes per year, to produce between 31-47 billion litres of ethanol by 2020
  • 31-47 billion litres is a radical increase from the current production of 2 billion litres

Solution to stubble burning

  • This will lead to a huge reduction in stubble burning because of an economic incentive available to remove and give the crop waste to biofuel plants
  • Sewage treatment plants (STPs) can also contribute as India generates around 70 billion litres of waste water every day
  • By building biogas generation and upgrading facilities at the STP sites, the output can potentially substitute 350 million litres of diesel, 2.3 gigawatt hours of natural gas fired power and over 8 million LPG cylinders of 14.2kg each

Ongoing biofuel powered projects

  • We have started with some encouraging pilots for biofuel-driven buses in cities like Nagpur
  • In Nagpur, the government has allowed special purpose vehicles to own and operate these buses along with the plants and the depots required to fuel the buses
  • According to a study, the increase in ethanol production alone has the potential to create over 700,000 jobs when targeting only the base potentia
  • States with a combination of high agricultural activity and large fuel consumption like Maharasthra, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh would be the best positioned to exploit this opportunity
  • Countries like Sweden and a developing country like Brazil have used ethanol in a big way to achieve their environmental and economic objectives
  • We need measures, which are available today and at affordable costs
  • This one measure of pushing for biofuel buses for public transport within a specific timeline like 2020, would help transform our public transport services, improve the health of our citizens, provide economic impetus and create jobs
  • Surely a win-win proposition at a fraction of the cost associated with the subsidy-driven push being planned for E-mobility

2. Adapting better to climate change

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

  • There are ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restrict global warming to below 2°C or even below 1.5°C
  • These projects on adaptation have been funded or implemented in a number of countries, either by individual governments or with the help of external donor funds
  • A 2010 survey of over 1,700 projects concluded that adaptation projects were not helping the most vulnerable communities
  • Many projects on adaptation begin by studying what climate impacts are expected, what kinds of vulnerabilities exist locally and how these can be addressed in a given local context
  • When several projects from the Global Adaptation Fund, an international fund managed by the United Nations climate secretariat to help developing countries with climate change adaptation projects, were analyzed, they too were found not to take into account unequal power structures

New framework to assess failure in adaptation

 It involves four main themes to show that failures in adaptation

  1. The first is enclosure, which is when private agents acquire public assets or expand their authority over them
  2. Exclusion is the second mode of failure, which is associated with some stakeholders getting excluded or marginalised, thus limiting their access to decision-making processes
  3. The third is encroachment, in which the adaptation actions undertaken during the project end up intervening in areas that are rich in biodiversity. These interfere with ecosystem services and often result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions
  4. The last is entrenchment, where the condition of those who are already disempowered or marginalised in the local social context, such as the poor, women or other minorities, worsens from the intervention

What can be done to reduce such incidences?

  • Politics and power struggles to control resources need to be acknowledged as being part and parcel of adaptation projects
  • Mechanisms to anticipate and deal with them correctly should be incorporated well in advance
  • Elite networks will capture prized outcomes of projects, such as land, water or other resources and privileges, should be accepted
  • Measures to prevent or mitigate their actions need to be identified

F. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about FATF:
  1. FATF is an initiative of the G7 countries to combat money laundering.
  2. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the headquarters of the OECD in Paris.

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following statements about UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy:
  1. Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism is one of the pillars of the strategy.

  2. The General Assembly reviews the Strategy every two years.

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 3. Consider the following statements about New Insolvency rules announced by RBI:
  1. Banks will have to file for insolvency proceedings against loan defaulters with Rs 20 billion ($311 million) or more if a resolution plan is not implemented within 180 days of the initial occurrence of default.

  2. Any process involving restructuring or change in ownership for large accounts with loans of 5 billion rupees or more will need independent credit evaluation by credit rating agencies that are authorized by the RBI.

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 4. Consider the following statements about Special Mention Account:
  1. Before a loan account turns into a NPA, banks are required to identify incipient stress in the account.

  2. SMA-0 is an account in which principal or interest payment not overdue for more than 30 days but account showing signs of incipient stress.

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. Economic growth without investment in human development is unsustainable – and unethical. Discuss.
  2. The success of a society is to be evaluated primarily by the freedoms that members of the society enjoy. Analyze.
  3. “Globalization can be very unjust and unfair and unequal, but these are matters under our control. It’s not that we don’t need the market economy. We need it. But the market economy should not have priority or dominance over other institutions”. Critically comment.

 

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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