UPSC Exam: Comprehensive News Analysis - January 08

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
HEALTH ISSUES
1. Food Poisoning: A Common Outbreak
2. Origins of Hepatitis B
BILATERAL RELATIONS/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Comeback Call for NRIs
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. Demand for Teachers in Higher Educational Institutions
GOVERNANCE
1. Revised promotion policy for Army Officers of Higher Ranks
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. FRDI and Banking Sector
2. Whether or not to divest Government stake in Air India
3. Land Availability in India
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY
1. Solar City Initiative
2. Federalism and Climate Change
D. GS4 Related
E. Prelims Fact
F. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

 

A. GS1 Related

 Nothing here for today!!!

 

B. GS2 Related

 Category: HEALTH ISSUES

1. Food Poisoning: A Common Outbreak

 

  • Recent data put out by the Union Health Ministry’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) has indicated that food poisoning is one of the commonest outbreaks reported in 2017. This is apart from acute diarrhoeal disease (ADD).
  • Acute diarrhoeal disease and food poisoning have been common outbreaks since 2008. This is followed by chickenpox and measles.
  • It is a matter of concern for all as food poisoning outbreaks have increased from 50 in 2008 to 242 in 2017. Similarly, ADD cases have increased from 228 in 2008 to 312 in 2017.

Causes of Food poisoning

  • The IDSP has interpreted that the incidence of ADD and food poisoning is high in places where food is cooked in bulk, such as canteens, hostels and wedding venues.
  • Food poisoning, also called food-borne illness, is caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites or their toxins are the most common causes.
  • Pointing out that the increase in the number of cases was due to better and increased reporting of cases, he said the good thing was that the overall mortality was not alarming.
  • Infectious organisms or their toxins could contaminate food at any point of processing or production.
  • Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked.
  • While it is known that raw meat, poultry and eggs can also harbour diseases, in recent years most outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have been due to contaminated fresh fruits and vegetables.

It is important to follow safety measures and maintain hygiene while handling food.

2. Origins of Hepatitis B

 How old is Hepatitis B?

The DNA analysis of the remains of a 16th century mummy has confirmed that the complex Hepatitis B virus (HBV) has existed in humans for centuries, researchers say.

The findings are based on DNA extracted from the mummified remains of a small child buried in the Basilica of Saint Domenico Maggiore in Naples, Italy.

Previous analysis of the 450-year old mummified remains – which did not include DNA testing – suggested that the child was infected with Variola virus or smallpox.

Using advanced sequencing techniques, researchers now suggest that the child was actually infected by HBV, throwing light on the evolution of the disease.

While viruses often evolve very rapidly, this ancient strain of HBV has changed little over the last 450 years and that the evolution of this virus is complex, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

Background

HBV is a deadly viral infection that attacks the liver, can cause both acute and chronic disease and kills nearly one million people every year.

Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. Most adults who get it have it for a short time and then get better. This is called acute hepatitis B.

Sometimes the virus causes a long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis B. Over time, it can damage your liver. Babies and young children infected with the virus are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B.

It’s caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person.

One may get hepatitis B if He/She :

  • Has sex with an infected person without using a condom.
  • Shares needles (used for injecting drugs) with an infected person.
  • Gets a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren’t sterilized.
  • Shares personal items like razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.

A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during delivery. Medical experts recommend that all pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B. If you have the virus, your baby can get shots to help prevent infection with the virus.

One cannot get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.

Category: BILATERAL RELATIONS/INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Comeback Call for NRIs

Setting the tone for the government’s outreach to the Indian diaspora, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday urged people of Indian origin to take advantage of India’s projects for connectivity to Southeast Asian countries.

Speaking in Hindi at the ASEAN-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore, she said her Ministry prioritised the welfare of Indian citizens living abroad, and urged them to return home to take advantage of the economic opportunities.

Today, 16 Indian cities are connected to Singapore, a trilateral highway project from India to Thailand is making progress, and we plan to extend this further to connect India with other ASEAN countries. India has become a dominant power in the world, and that influence and that sense of power reaches every Indian.

Referring to the challenges such as piracy in the high seas and the armed conflicts that Indians living abroad often encountered, she said her Ministry was committed to helping the crisis-struck Indians at a “supersonic speed”.

Southeast Asia remained an inseparable part of the plan to convert the 21st century into the Asian century.

ASEAN summit

India hosts the heads of states of the Southeast Asian countries in Delhi on January 25 for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, a high-profile display of its “Act East policy”.

The push for ASEAN ties will be on display on January 9 when India hosts the first global meeting of parliamentarians of Indian origin.

Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

1. Demand for Teachers in Higher Educational Institutions

 Suggestions of Parliamentary Committee

  • Expressing serious concern over the shortage of teaching staff and delays in key recruitments in higher educational institutions, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development has suggested that students pursuing Ph.D. be made to teach some courses at degree level with some financial support to mitigate the crisis of faculty shortage.
  • The total number of sanctioned teaching posts in Central Universities is 16,600. Out of these, 5,928 are lying vacant.
  • The committee feels that the delay in the recruitment process of teachers/facilitators and for the post of Vice-Chancellor in academic institutions leads to lowering of academic standards in these institutions.
  • The committee also points out that the [higher education] department should encourage the institutions to make the students pursuing Ph.D./doctoral degrees to teach some courses at the degree level with some financial support.
  • This would encourage more students to take up teaching profession and also mitigate the crises of faculty shortage in these institutions.
  • Autonomous bodies
  • The government had in its action taken report said universities were autonomous bodies created under a Central or State Act and the onus for filling vacancies lay with them.
  • The steps taken by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, particularly in respect of Central Universities, have hardly achieved any result as more than one-third faculty positions are still vacant.
  • The committee also recommended that the recruitment process should start in advance before a post is vacated so that the newly recruited person occupies the post immediately after the retirement of the previous occupant.

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Revised promotion policy for Army Officers of Higher Ranks

 Why new policy?

  • The Army is faced with long delays in the promotion of officers of the ranks of Major-General and Lieutenant-General.
  • The new promotion policy was promulgated based on the recommendations of an expert committee and the Army’s own consultations which have been approved by the Defence Ministry.
  • Over the past several years, many crucial staff positions have been vacant as eligible officers had not completed their command tenures because of the increased officer pool at the middle level and delays in holding promotion boards. This had increased the overall age of the officers compared with their counterparts in the Navy and the Air Force.

Highlights of the new policy

  • The policy aims to reduce the ages of senior commanders and enhance transparency and stability in the higher ranks and appointments.
  • While deciding to fill only 75% of the annual vacancies for the next four years to bring down the average age of the officers, the new policy will allow Lieutenant-Generals with just 18 months of residual service to be considered for posting as commanders instead of the existing 24 months.
  • To take care of the immediate situation, a cap of 75% of the annual vacancies will be implemented for a brief period of four years to achieve a reduction of average age bracket by one year.
  • The key measures in the revised policy include a clearly defined road map of conducting selection boards in a shorter timeframe for a brief period and calculation of vacancies based on actual exits in a year.
  • Other features include consideration of all affected officers on a common yardstick and promotion of different streams on common seniority. Officials said the measure reducing the qualifying residual service for commanders from 24 months to 18 months will provide a larger pool of competent officers.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. FRDI and Banking Sector

 FRDI and Banking Sector

  • The banking system of any country is built on an edifice of trust that depositors have in their banks. The confidence that money is safe, keeps depositors away from withdrawing their funds unless they really need it.
  • Meanwhile, it allows banks to lend out the money to borrowers which generate interest income for the depositor, profit for the bank and larger economic growth.

Bail-in clause of FRDI Bill

  • However, the ‘bail-in’ clause in the government’s Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill has created confusion. Section 52 of the Bill allows the proposed Resolution Corporation to cancel the liability owed by a failed bank.
  • Since the main liability of a bank is the ordinary depositor’s money, it naturally causes concern whether depositors stand to lose their money beyond what is insured in the event of a bank failure. Unless nipped in the bud, a panic reaction could destabilise the banking system.

Why should depositor liability be cancelled at all?

  • When a failed bank does not have any assets left to pay its creditors, it is natural that depositors will not get back all or part of their money.
  • The government can never commit to pay out all depositors in such an event. Such a commitment would signal to banks that it is acceptable to take more risks because, in case they go belly-up, the government will pay out depositors; the level of risk in the banking system would simply explode. Hence, depositors have to take some hit if a bank fails. This is formalised in the Bill’s bail-in clause.

How can banks convince depositors that their money is safe?

  • One way is through prudential regulations such as capital requirements and supervision. The other way is to guarantee through an insurance scheme that the insured part of deposits will be paid out to depositors by an insurance company.

Comparison with income

  • In India, up to Rs. 1 lakh of a depositor’s money is protected by insurance provided by the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC), a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India. However, this insurance limit has not been changed since 1993 even while income and deposit levels have grown substantially.

Global Scenario

  • Many countries revised their deposit insurance limits after the global financial crisis of 2008 but India did not do so. Deposits up to $250,000 are protected by insurance in the U.S. while the figure is $1,15,000 in the U.K.
  • But the accurate comparison should take into account the average income in a country. Deposit insurance limit is 3-4 times the average income levels in the U.K. and the U.S. In the case of emerging countries like Brazil and China, the insurance limit is 9 times the per capita income.
  • Compare that with India where the insurance limit is actually a little less than its per capita income.

What can be done in India?

  • Perhaps the government may review the present limit of insurance cover for deposits and enhance it. The government should increase the deposit insurance limit under the Bill, considering that at about $1,600, it is at a much lower level than some of the other developing or larger economies.
  • There should be provision for a periodic review to raise the quantum of deposits covered by insurance. With private sector banks gaining market share in loans and deposits, a higher deposit insurance amount in the Bill goes in favour of depositors; otherwise the precedence reflects that the failure of a private bank has put the onus of bail-out on the regulator rather than the shareholders.

Banking supervision

  • The current elevated level of non-performing assets and mounting losses of banks indicate that the RBI could have been more proactive in its supervision. More frequent audits with public disclosure of audit findings would improve transparency.
  • Further, depositors should also evaluate performance of banks at least on a yearly basis and take informed decisions.

Why FRDI is controversial?

  • So far, it has been up to the RBI to act in the instance of a bank failure as it deemed fit. The FRDI is meant to formalise the existing process and improve it further. But tactless wording in the Bill and inadequate clarifications have created confusion in the minds of depositors.
  • People were taken by surprise at the explicit recognition of a bail-in process which was thus far implicitly present. The government tried to soothe nerves by talking about implicit guarantees for deposits in PSU banks.
  • There are two problems with this clarification. First, the implicit guarantee cannot be emphasised beyond a point lest it creates a moral hazard in the form of risky behaviour by banks and lazy monitoring of banks by depositors.
  • Second, what about private banks who hold 25% share of total deposits in the country? Are their customers not deserving of the same protection from the government?

Way Forward

  • The government must increase deposit insurance limits immediately or at least give a firm commitment that it will happen, adding that deposit insurance can also generate moral hazard by creating a false sense of security among banks and depositors as in the case of a government guarantee.
  • One option was to make riskier banks pay a higher insurance. premium. But the aim must be to ensure that the relatively less affluent have 100% insurance coverage and the affluent investors diversify across asset classes.
  • Some disagree with this suggestion as it is not about affluent or less affluent which needs to drive the deposit protection; rather it’s the faith which needs to be built in the system about the safety of the deposits. Else, the financialisation of our savings will be impacted and the savings will get channelised to less productive assets like gold, real estate etc and as a country we will remain starved of capital for investment.

2. Whether or not to divest Government stake in Air India

Divestment is not a good idea: Parliamentary Panel

  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture feels that this is not the appropriate time to divest government stake in Air India (AI), which should be given at least five years to revive and its debt written off, a Parliamentary panel is likely to tell the government.
  • The panel is also understood to have concluded that the equity infusion in the national carrier, as part of the turnaround plan (TAP), was made on a piecemeal basis, adversely affecting its financial and operational performance and forcing the airline to take loans at a higher interest rate to meet the shortfall.
  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture concluded that the government should review its decision to privatise or disinvest AI and explore the possibility of an alternative to disinvestment of our national carrier which is our national pride.
  • Observing AI has always risen to the occasion at times of need like calamities or political unrest in India or abroad, the Committee said it would be lopsided to assess and evaluate the functioning of AI solely from business point of view, as has been done by NITI Aayog.

3. Land Availability in India

 Land with Government

  • The Centre does not know exactly how much property it owns.The actual size and value of government-owned land resources is thus a matter of speculation. The information provided by the Government Land Information System (GLIS) is both incomplete and patchy.
  • While various Central Ministries admit to owning only about 13,50,500 hectares of land, disparate official sources suggest that the correct figure is several times more than what is disclosed.

The problem of unused land

  • What is worse is that a large proportion of government land lies unused. The Ministries of Railways and Defence, respectively, have 43,000 hectares and 32,780 hectares of land lying vacant, without even any proposed use.
  • According to reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the 13 major port trusts have 14,728 hectares of land lying idle.
  • They exclude several departments of the Centre and, more importantly, don’t take into account excess land holding by the States.
  • What is really unfortunate is that a large part of the unused land is high-value property in prime areas in major cities. Land hoarding by government agencies has created artificial scarcity and is one of the main drivers of skyrocketing urban real estate prices.
  • Even after the recent correction in property prices, middle- and lower-income households find adequate housing unaffordable. High land prices also reduce competitiveness by increasing the cost of industrial and development projects.
  • Moreover, the allocation of unused land is rife with corruption. Scams involving the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, the Srinagar airfield project, and the Kandla Port Trust are a few of the many examples of alleged complicity between private developers and local officials to misuse government land.
  • At the State level too, instances abound of public land being resold to private entities in dubious deals.
  • The CAG also reports that none of the government agencies maintains adequate ownership records. For instance, the 13 major ports have failed to produce title deeds for as much as 45% of their land holdings. This makes squatters difficult to evict, and so they gravitate to these areas.

Land use patterns

  • Land is a crucial and often constraining input for production, not only in agriculture but also in secondary and tertiary sectors. The problem of land scarcity has been aggravated by grossly wasteful land use by government agencies.
  • While stock of land is fixed, its supply as an input in production is not — it crucially depends on land use patterns. A useful measure of this is the floor space index (FSI), which the total floor area is built per square metre of land.
  • For example, if a single-storey building occupies 50% of a plot, the FSI would be 1/2. If the building is expanded vertically to have four stories, the FSI will go up to two (4 times 1/2), as the effective floor area has quadrupled.
  • The demand for land increases with both population density and economic growth. Therefore, to maintain efficiency, the FSI should also increase. By this token, the FSI should be the highest in major city centres, where the demand for space is highest, and it should taper off gradually towards the periphery.
  • Apart from supplying space for economic activities, such an arrangement would also help maximise the gains from transport infrastructure.
  • However, most Indian cities defy these basic tenets of urban planning. The main reason is the large areas of unused or underutilised government land with an irresponsibly low FSI.
  • Residential zones in Lutyens’ Delhi and Nungambakkam in Chennai are examples of this gross underutilisation of land. Other cities don’t fare much better. The problem is most acute in government residences and office locales. Indian metros thus have the lowest FSI compared to those in other developing countries with similar population densities.
  • The FSI in Shanghai is four times of that of Delhi and Mumbai. Moreover, the investment per square metre gradient of Indian cities is very low and haphazard. This is a pity as solving the problem of wastage could generate employment and pull masses out of poverty, thereby aiding the economy to grow fast.
  • People have the right to know the size and use of land holding by government agencies, since most of the official land has been acquired from them by paying pittance by way of compensation. It is because of this subsidy that government agencies, and in many cases private companies, have been able to amass large stocks of unused land.
  • For instance, another report by the CAG on Special Economic Zones shows that as much as 31,886 hectares, or 53% of the total land acquired by the government for these zones, remains unused — land which would have been put to more productive use by its original owners.
  • In a welcome initiative, the Centre has asked departments to identify surplus land. Unfortunately, agencies seem to be loathe to cooperate.
  • The need of the hour is a comprehensive inventory of land resources and usage patterns for all government branches. It should include information on the location of each property, its dimensions, the legal title, current and planned use, and any applicable land use restrictions. This will enable effective identification of suboptimal land use, as well as of the land that is surplus.

The use of surplus land

  • Surplus land should be utilised to meet the ever-growing demands for services, such as water and waste disposal, as well for government-sponsored housing and transportation projects.
  • It is crucial to avoid the temptation to sell surplus land as excessive acquisition of land may become the norm and unwilling sellers are typically under-compensated. Land intended for future use can be rented out till such time it is needed, through a transparent auctioning process. This will not only buoy the public exchequer but prevent plots of land lying waste for years.
  • The problem of inefficient land use by government departments and public sector units is complicated and endemic. Correcting such inefficiency is no mean feat. However, given the importance of land for the country, we need to be creative in finding solutions.
  • A public-government partnership seems to be the way out. We could take a cue from Britain. There, the government has pledged to provide details of ownership, location, and intended use for all properties. Citizens are invited to contest official land use and suggest alternatives.
  • Therefore, as a first step, the government should agree to disclose its land use and release of excess land, the use of which it cannot justify.

Category: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY

1. Solar City Initiative

 

  • To promote the use of renewable energy in the Capital, BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL), in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-PACE-D and Indo-German Collaboration (GIZ), launched a ‘solar city initiative’.
  • The BSES said the ‘utility anchored rooftop programme’ aims to maximise utilisation of solar rooftop potential in south and west Delhi.
  • Under this programme, rooftop solar installations will be provided at a single point for the entire apartment complex. In the first phase, around 150 societies will be targeted in Dwarka.

2. Federalism and Climate Change

 In news

The Emissions Gap Report 2017, released last year ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, underlined that fulfilment of national pledges related to carbon emission reductions under the Paris Agreement would be inadequate to keep global warming below 2°C.

Talanoa Dialogue

The Talanoa Dialogue of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, beginning this month, will facilitate the parties to take stock of progress post-Paris.

India’s Role

  • As a key player in international climate governance, India could set the precedent in deepening the dialogue process through an action-oriented, inclusive, bottom-up approach, involving extensive participation and collaboration of its States.
  • In a federal democracy like India, subnationals or States are a vital part of the grand coalition between the Centre, civil society, businesses, and key climate stakeholders.
  • India’s State Action Plan on Climate Change supports the integration of national climate change goals into subnational policies.
  • India has committed to meet its current target of 33% reduction in emission intensity of the 2005 level by 2030, by generating 40% of its energy from renewables. States are important for the realisation of this goal.

Role of States in India

  • Enhancing climate actions is expected to involve routine engagement of the States in the international process. The Under2 Coalition, a Memorandum of Understanding by subnational governments to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions towards net-zero by 2050, is generating a unique precedent for bold climate leadership, with its member states and regions surpassing 200 in number.
  • Currently, Telangana and Chhattisgarh are signatories to this pact from India, as compared to representations from the other top emitters: 26 subnational governments in China and 24 in the U.S. Greater representation of Indian States is crucial.
  • It is equally imperative to examine the progress of subnational actions in meeting national climate targets. Towards this end, both national and State plans would need to be periodically reassessed and reviewed. A transparent framework for review, audit and monitoring of GHG emissions is needed.
  • As State capacities vary significantly, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities should be applied to allocate mitigation targets in different States, based on the principle of equity.States have enormous mitigation potential, but the evidence pertaining to its effectiveness is still scarce.
  • Therefore, India must look towards creating knowledge action networks and partnerships under both national and State action plan frameworks. Kerala has taken the lead to build such a knowledge network funded by the National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for Today!!!

E. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

F. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about Hepatitis B:
  1. It is a viral infection.
  2. There are no vaccines for treatment of Hepatitis B.

Which of the above 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 “Green Co” rating:
  1. It is a rating for companies on their environmental performance.
  2. It is launched by CII-Confederation Of Indian Industries.

Which of the above 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 Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank:
  1. It is a bank initiated by China.
  2. India is the second largest shareholder.

Which of the above 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 Atal Pension Yojana:
  1. It is a social security scheme for unorganised workforce.
  2. It is available to all citizens of India aged between 18-40 years.

Which of the above statements are correct?

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

See

Answer

 

G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

GS Paper II
  1. Critically analyse the need for regulation of Land use in India.
GS Paper III
  1. Tackling Climate change is not just a global or national problem, rather the solution lies in the collective efforts at the sub-national level. Discuss.

 

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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