TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Rural housing achieves only 66% target 2. Rajasthan govt. to push women’s quota INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. India flays Pakistani SC move on Gilgit-Baltistan C. GS3 Related ENVIRONMENT 1. Rajasthan’s State bird may be extinct soon SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Gaganyaan top priority: ISRO 2. India ranks third in research papers on artificial intelligence 3. Saturn’s rings are younger than thought D. GS4 Related E. Editorials POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Nudged into action (Lokpal) 2. The danger of reciprocity (Perspective on the independence of the Supreme Court Collegium) INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Shape of the slowdown (Chinese Economy Slowdown) F. Tidbits 1. Japan satellite off to deliver artificial meteors G. Prelims Facts 1. Once again a palace fit for the Nizams H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
There is nothing from here for today!!
B. GS2 Related
- With two and a half months to go for the end of this financial year, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Grameen) scheme to provide housing for the rural poor has achieved only 66% of its target to complete one crore houses.
- The scheme has been successful in reducing the average time of construction from 314 days to 114 days, according to an official statement.
- However, there has been little headway with regard to one bloc of beneficiaries: the landless, who do not possess the land on which to construct the PMAY homes they are entitled to.
- In a letter to States dated January 4, the Ministry pointed out that only 12% of the 4.72 lakh identified landless beneficiaries had been provided land for house construction.
Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Rural)
- In pursuance to the goal – Housing for all by 2022, the rural housing scheme Indira Awas Yojana has been revamped to Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Gramin) w.e.f. 1st April 2016. Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided for construction of pucca house to all houseless and households living in dilapidated houses in rural areas.
Salient features of the scheme
- Under the scheme, it is proposed to build four crore pucca houses in total, by the year 2022
- The selection of beneficiaries has been through a completely transparent process using the Socio-Economic Census 2011 data and validating it through the Gram Sabha.
- The finished houses come complete with facilities like toilets, liquefied petroleum gas connection, electricity connection, and drinking water availability
- The faster completion of quality houses has been assisted by payment of assistance directly into the beneficiary account through IT-DBT platform.
- In PMAY-G, programme implementation and monitoring is to be carried out through an end to end e-Governance model- Using AwaasSoft and Awaas App.
- Space technology and IT platforms are being used to monitor the cycle of house construction, right from identification of beneficiary to construction stages of houses to completion and each stage is being geo-tagged
- The programme implementation is to be monitored not only electronically, but also through community participation (Social Audit), Member of Parliament (DISHA Committee), Central and State Government officials, National Level Monitors etc.
- Provision of assistance (Rs. 12,000/-) for toilets through convergence with Swaccha Bharat Mission
- The beneficiary is entitled to 90 days of unskilled labour from MGNREGA.
- To ensure good quality of house construction, Rural Mason Trainings have been organized to facilitate availability of trained masons in the rural areas. The programme provides for skilling 5 lakh Rural Masons by 2019.
- Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said on Friday that the State Cabinet has in principle decided to pass a resolution seeking 33% reservation for women in legislative Assembly.
- Gehlot said former Congress president Sonia Gandhi had been fighting for reservation for women in Parliament and legislative Assemblies. He said it is the party’s intention to pass a resolution in State Assemblies where Congress has formed government.
Analysis of the issue
- R. Ambedkar once said that “political power is the key to all social progress”. What, then, to make of the fact that India—a country where women suffer substantially greater socio-economic disadvantages than Western democracies like Spain—has a cabinet that is only 22% female and a Lok Sabha that has a meagre 12% female representation?
- “Our dream of New India is an India where women are empowered, strengthened, where they become equal partners in the all-round development of the country.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Mann Ki Baat.
- Political parties in India tend not to follow provisions in their constitutions reserving seats for women in different committees The second barrier is the lack of education and leadership training
- Since women are not integrated in many local political processes initially, and, unlike men, are not part of the relevant social and power networks, women leaders are prone to inefficiencies
- The Economic survey for 2017-18 tabled in Parliament said factors such as domestic responsibilities, prevailing cultural attitudes regarding roles of women in society and lack of support from family were among main reasons that prevented them from entering politics.
- India on Friday summoned a Pakistani diplomat and protested against a recent order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan that brought the region of Gilgit-Baltistan within its ambit.
- A press note from the External Affairs Ministry said the diplomat was told that the region was, and would remain, an integral part of India.
- Pakistan in recent months had taken a series of steps to ensure full constitutional and legal guarantees to the region which was strategically important for the country especially in view of the passage of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through the region.
Jammu and Kashmir
Details of the issue
- Gilgit-Baltistan is a chunk of high-altitude territory at the northwestern corner of Jammu and Kashmir. The region was a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, but has been under Pakistan’s control since November 4, 1947, following the invasion of Kashmir by tribal militias and the Pakistan army.
- At present it has an elected Assembly and a Council headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. This Council wields all powers, and controls the resources and revenues from the region.
- In any case, the so-called regional government is under the overall control of the federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan in Islamabad.
- Gilgit-Baltistan or Northern Areas do not find any mention in the Pakistani constitution: it is neither independent, nor does it have provincial status. This helps Pakistan maintain ambiguity about the region, in the way it does with PoK.
- India sees Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan. The unanimous parliamentary resolution of 1994 had reaffirmed that the region is a “part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession to it in 1947”
C. GS3 Related
- Almost two years after the Rajasthan government proposed setting up of captive breeding centres for the Great Indian Bustards to boost their wild population, the wildlife activists here have called for enforcement of recovery plan for the country’s most critically endangered bird.
- The GIB’s last remnant wild population of about 50 in Jaisalmer district accounts for 95% of its total world population.
Great Indian Bustard
- Once the contender for becoming India’s national bird, the Great Indian Bustard is now facing extinction.
- It is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, in Appendix I of CITES, as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016).
- It has been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- Historically, the great Indian bustard was distributed throughout Western India, spanning 11 states, as well as parts of Pakistan. Its stronghold was once the Thar desert in the north-west and the Deccan plateau of the peninsula.
- Today, its population is confined mostly to Rajasthan (where it is the state bird) and Gujarat. Small population occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
- The Desert National Park (Rajasthan) in Rajasthan is one of the most prominent habitats for the Great Indian Bustard.
- The sewan grassland landscape is the bustard’s natural habitat. The bustard, known locally as godawan, flourished for years in these grasslands, but now most of that land is lost to agriculture and other human activities.
- In 2013, the Rajasthan government launched Project Great Indian Bustard, with the aim of constructing breeding enclosures for the species and developing infrastructure to reduce human pressure on its habitats.
- The priorities for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) this year are working on the human space flight programme Gaganyaan and launching a major student outreach apart from the scheduled missions, said its Chairman Dr. K. Sivan on Friday, while stating that India is no less than China in its space programme.
- “A separate Human Space Flight Centre has been formed in ISRO. The Gaganyaan project will come under it and that’s how we will target the first unmanned mission in December 2020,” Dr. Sivan said.
Young Scientist Programme
- Stating that this year ISRO is planning to spread its wings in new areas, Dr. Sivan announced a Young Scientist Programme (YSP) and termed it their most important project to reach out to students.
- Under the YSP, three students, 8th standard pass, would be selected from each of the 29 States and seven Union Territories and will spend one month at ISRO during which they will be given lectures, get access to research and development and will be given experience to build a satellite.
- Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft intended to be the basis of the Indian human spaceflight program.
- The spacecraft is being designed to carry three people, and a planned upgraded version will be equipped with rendezvous and docking capability.
- In its maiden crewed mission, Indian Space Research Organization’s largely autonomous 3.7-tonne capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 km (250 mi) altitude for up to seven days with a three-person crew on board.
- The crewed vehicle is planned to be launched on ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in 2022. This HAL-manufactured crew module had its first uncrewed experimental flight in 2014
Challenges of the Gaganyaan
- A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed.
- In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.
- For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop include the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after flight, building a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space
- Over the years, ISRO has successfully tested many of the technologies that are required. However, many other challenging ones are still to be developed and tested.
- India ranks third in the world in terms of high quality research publications in artificial intelligence (AI) but is at a significant distance from world leader China, according to an analysis by research agency Itihaasa, which was founded by Kris Gopalakrishnan, former CEO and co-founder of Infosys.
Highlights of the Report
- The agency computed the number of ‘citable documents’— the number of research publications in peer-reviewed journals — in the field of AI between 2013-2017 as listed out by Scimago, a compendium that tracks trends in scientific research publications.
- India, while third in the world with 12,135 documents, trailed behind China with 37, 918 documents and the United States with 32,421 documents.
- Given India’s traditional strength in information technology and AI said to pose a transformation in industry and academic circles, the report was an attempt at mapping the state of AI-based research in India.
- There were only about 50 to 75 principal researchers in the AI-space in India and they were tended to collaborate with each other. The Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology were among the key centres for AI research.
- Healthcare, financial services, monsoon forecasting, retail and education were the key fields likely to benefit from AI and the field was “unlikely to lead” to a destruction of jobs — a key global concern regarding the field.
A note on artificial intelligence
- From the early days of human civilization efforts have been made to replace human hands with machines to make lives easier. Human beings then started looking beyond machines, developing robots and other advanced technologies that could just read the human mind and do the required work.
- Intelligence is the ability to take variables from our senses and to process certain decisions using the brain. Artificial intelligence helps a machine in doing the same. Such a system has a receptor, sensors (to pick data from environment), a memory (that tells what to do depending on what signal it gets), and then it takes a decision that will communicate to another device.
- The term Artificial Intelligence was first coined by American scientist John McCarthy in 1955. Over the years improvement in technology, algorithms, computing power and storage power has made the concept realistic.
- This can be termed as the fourth Industrial Revolution. Each cycle of the Industrial Revolution changes the lives of the common man in unpredictable ways. This has already helped in improvements like in healthcare making surgeries of eye easier, predicting floods and droughts, etc.
- The partnership between think tank in India NITI Aayog (National Institute for Transforming India) with Google to develop India’s artificial intelligence ecosystem will help to improve healthcare, education, agriculture, transportation, develop innovative governance systems and improve overall economic productivity. This will also help in promoting entrepreneurs associated with it, research in the field in premier institutions like IITs and providing crash course to students across India.
- Development in such advanced technologies affects employment opportunities also as machines can do the work of many labours. Whether they can compete with a human brain is also a question.
- India is already making progress in computing technologies with its Digital India campaign in the recent past. Now taking a step towards Artificial Intelligence brings with it various new applications. But the drawbacks of using them are also predicted and how it will design our future is to be seen.
- Saturn’s rings are one of our solar system’s magnificent sights, but may be a relatively recent addition, according to data obtained from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft before the robotic explorer’s 2017 death plunge into the giant gas planet.
- Scientists said that a calculation of the mass of the rings based on gravitational measurements of the planet collected by Cassini indicated they formed between 100 million and 10 million years ago in roughly the final 2% of Saturn’s current age.
- The findings challenge the notion favoured by some astronomers that the rings developed soon after Saturn formed about 4.5 billion years ago along with the other planets, including the earth.
- Saturn’s rings are made up of billions of particles ranging from grains of sand to mountain-size chunks. Composed predominantly of water-ice, the rings also draw in rocky meteoroids as they travel through space.
- Though Saturn appears surrounded by a single, solid ring when viewed by an amateur astronomer, several divisions exist. The rings are named alphabetically in the order of discovery. Thus the main rings are, from farthest from the planet to closest, A, B and C. A gap 2,920 miles wide (4,700 kilometers), known as the Cassini Division, separates the A and B rings.
- The rings themselves contain a number of gaps and structures. Some are created by Saturn’s many small moons, while others continue to puzzle to astronomers.
- Saturn is not the only planet in the solar system to have rings — Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also contain faint ring systems — but with its satellites spanning three-quarters of the Earth-moon distance (175,000 miles or 282,000 km), it is by far the largest and most visible.
D. GS4 Related
There is nothing from here for today!!
- The idea of creating an anti corruption ombudsman, in the form of a Lokpal, was first conceptualized in 1968 in the fourth Lok Sabha.
- Thereafter in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001 efforts were made to enact legislation to create the institution of Lokpal, but these efforts remained unsuccessful. Over the last few years the issue of enacting a law to create Lokpal has seen active citizen engagement.
- Continued civic engagement with the issue resonated with the government and the legislature and led to the passing of the Lokpal Bill in the recently concluded winter session of Parliament.
- The bill has received parliament’s assent on 01 Jan 2013.
- Though a Bill to set-up an anti-corruption body was put forth as many as eight times between 1968 and 2011, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, stands as the base for the Lokpal Act in the present form.
- A Group of Ministers chaired by Pranab Mukherjee proposed this Bill, to which the Standing Committee made substantial modifications. The modified Bill, called as Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, was passed by the Parliament with the support of all major political parties, barring the Samajwadi party, making it the Lokpal Act of 2013.
Salient features of the Act:
- The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.
- The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members. The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.
- The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending. The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
Powers of the Lokpal:
- The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
- As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
- An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.
- Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.
- The Lokpal can award fine up to Rs. 2 lakh for “false, frivolous or vexatious” complaints.
Who appoints the Lokpal?
- A five-member panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist nominated by the President, selects the Lokpal.
A Brief Historical Timeline:
- 1963: The idea of an ombudsman first came up in parliament during a discussion on budget allocation for the Law Ministry.
- 1966: The First Administrative Reforms Commission recommended the setting up of two independent authorities- at the central and state level, to look into complaints against public functionaries, including MPs.
- 1968: The Lokpal Bill was introduced in parliament but was not passed. Eight attempts were made till 2011 to pass the Bill, but in vain.
- 2002: The Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by M.N. Venkatachiliah recommended the appointment of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas; also recommended that the PM be kept out of the ambit of the authority.
- 2005: The second Administrative Reforms Commission chaired by Veerappa Moily recommended that office of Lokpal be established without delay.
- 2011: The government formed a Group of Ministers, chaired by Pranab Mukherjee to suggest measures to tackle corruption and examine the proposal of a Lokpal Bill.
- 2013: Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, was passed in both Houses of Parliament.
- 2016: Lok Sabha agreed to amend the Lokpal Act and Bill was sent to Standing Committee for review.
- Experts have expressed a sense of anguish that it requires a Supreme Court order to nudge the government to make any progress towards establishing an anti-graft institution such as the Lokpal. They opine that this is a poor commentary on its functioning.
- The Honourable Supreme Court has asked the eight-member Search Committee under the Lokpal Act to recommend a panel of names before the end of February, 2019.
- This shortlist has to be sent to the Selection Committee, headed by the Prime Minister.
- It is important to note that it has taken five years since the Lokpal Act, 2013, received the President’s assent on January 1, 2014, for a Search Committee to even begin its work.
- Further, it was formed only on September 27, 2018, after Common Cause, an NGO, filed a contempt petition against the government over the delay in constituting the authority despite a Supreme Court verdict in April 2017.
- Although, it is true that setting up the Search Committee requires some groundwork, as its composition should be drawn from diverse fields such as anti-corruption policy, public administration, law, banking and insurance; also, half its membership should consist of women, backward class, minority and SC/ST candidates.
- However, it is the government’s duty to expedite this process and not cite it as a reason for delay.
- Even after it was formed, the Search Committee has been handicapped because of lack of office space, manpower, infrastructure and a secretariat.
- The court has now asked the government to provide the required infrastructure. In the past too, the court has admonished the Centre for the delay in creating the institution.
- In its April 2017 verdict, the court brushed aside the reason that the government was awaiting the passage of an amendment based on a parliamentary committee report and said there was no legal bar on the Selection Committee moving ahead with its work even if there was a vacancy in it.
Reasons for the Delay:
- Experts point out that there is a good deal of politics behind the delay.
- The Selection Committee, which includes the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist, has met in the past without Mallikarjun Kharge, who heads the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
- He has been skipping meetings, as he is aggrieved that the government has not made him a full member, and has roped him in as a ‘special invitee’.
- The government sticks to its view that he has not been recognised as the Leader of the Opposition by the Speaker.
- This minor issue has been resolved in respect of appointments to other posts such as CBI Director and Central Vigilance Commissioner by a simple amendment to treat the leader of the largest Opposition party as the Leader of the Opposition for this purpose.
- This amendment has not been brought about despite a parliamentary committee report endorsing the idea in December 2015.
- Nothing except the lack of political will to establish the Lokpal can explain years of delay.
A Brief Note on the Collegium System:
- First Judges Case-1981, Second Judges Case-1993 and Third Judges Case-1998 are three of the own judgments of the Supreme Court, collectively known as the Three Judges Cases.
- Over the course of these three cases, the court evolved the principle of judicial independence.
- This meant that no other branch of the state i.e. the legislature and the executive would have any say in the appointment of judges.
- It is with this principle in mind that the SC brought in the collegium system.
Collegium System – In the Third Judges Case, 1998 the court clarified that the collegium would comprise CJI and four senior-most colleagues, in appointments to the Supreme Court.
- And, the CJI and two senior-most colleagues in the case of appointments to the high courts. Additionally, for HCs, the collegium would consult other senior judges in the SC who had previously served in the HC concerned.
- On whether these views of the consultee-judges are binding on the collegium or not, the judgments are silent.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC):
- The Government of India, through the 99th constitutional amendment, sought to replace the collegium with the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
Composition of NJAC:
- Chairperson: Chief Justice of India.
- Two senior most judges of the Supreme Court following the CJI.
- Law Minister of India.
- Two eminent persons (Can be selected from Women/SC/ST/OBC/Minority communities. Appointed by a select committee with CJI,PM, and the Leader of opposition from Lok Sabha or a Leader of the single largest party in the Lok Sabha.)
- The Supreme Court however struck NJAC down. The court’s rationale was that the NJAC law gave politicians an equal say in judicial appointments to constitutional courts.
- Independence, impartiality and fearlessness of judges are not private rights of judges but citizen’s rights.
- Ultimately judicial legitimacy/ power rests on people’s confidence in courts.
- We have yet another controversy surrounding the Supreme Court, with the collegium revisiting decisions made at an earlier meeting and recommending the elevation of two junior judges to the Supreme Court.
- Although no one has any doubts about the competence or integrity of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, but the manner in which it was carried out puts the spotlight once again on the controversial collegium system of judicial appointments.
- Experts believe that this seriously undermines the independence of judges and raises unnecessary doubts about the credibility of the highest court as the government is not only the biggest litigator but also the greatest threat to the abuse of power.
- It is important to note that judicial review as a concept is supposed to control the government and keep it in check.
- However, how has this panned out in the past? Let’s look back at the Justice K.M. Joseph case. He had struck down the Modi government’s imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand and saw the government returning the recommendation for his elevation to the Supreme Court to the collegium in April 2018 — his appointment was cleared in August 2018.
- This time the government not only did not return the recommendation to the collegium for reconsideration, but approved the appointments instantly.
Learnings from the past
- Take the case of Justice A.N. Ray, who was appointed Chief Justice of India (CJI) in 1973 superseding three senior judges, or Justice M.H. Beg, who was appointed CJI superseding Justice H.R. Khanna in 1977. Both Justice Ray and Justice Beg were excellent judges, but favoured the government. They were considered not forward-looking judges but judges who looked forward to the office of the CJI.
- In the bank nationalisation case (1970), while as many as 10 judges went against the government, Justice Ray approved the government’s action. Similarly, Justice Beg, in the Indira Gandhi election case, held that while democracy is the basic structure, free and fair election is not.
- Some experts point out that the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was struck down by the Supreme Court because it would have compromised the independence of the CJI and given a role to the government in the appointment of judges.
- Further, it is important to note that unlike in the U.S. where judges are appointed by the President and are known to be leaning towards the Democrats or Republicans, Indian judges are not supposed to have any political affiliation.
- Having said that, is it possible to completely insulate judges from governmental influence? The answer is no — as George Orwell pointed out in 1984, the government is everywhere, and judges as fellow human beings do get influenced by it.
- The judiciary asserts its position only when the government is weak. This collegium system was asserted when we had weak Central governments in the 1990s.
Power and influence
- ‘Power’ and ‘influence’ are fundamental concepts in society.
- ‘Influence’ is sometimes considered to be an aspect of ‘power’.
- Indira Gandhi was influential because she was powerful. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is, similarly, not only powerful but hugely influential. According to the American sociologist, Alvin Ward Gouldner, the universal norm in human societies is that individuals are obligated to reciprocate favours received. Gouldner articulated the “norm of reciprocity” in the following manner: “people should help those who have helped them” and “people should not injure those who have helped them”.
- In his NJAC judgment (2015), Justice J.S. Khehar discussed the issue of reciprocity at length in striking down the commission.
- He referred to Laura E. Little’s work on American judges who felt obliged to the President for nominating them and Senators who helped them in the confirmation process.
- Justice Khehar therefore preferred exclusion of the political executive from the appointment of judges as a feeling of gratitude towards the government impacts the independence of the judiciary. It was for this very reason that even B.R. Ambedkar wanted to insulate the judiciary from political pressures.
- Some experts believe that the prospect of a 15-judge bench overturning Kesavananda Bharati . v. State of Kerala (1973), which outlined the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution, does not look too remote in the near future if the government continues to exert pressure on the collegium and if the collegium, due to reciprocity, does not effectively assert its power and independence.
- Most governments prefer pliable judges but many of our judges remain wedded to their oath and decide cases without fear or favour.
- Lastly, true reciprocity affects humans but since our judges are addressed as ‘Lords’, let them not have any feeling of gratitude towards anyone
- China’s growth is slowing down. China, the world’s second-largest economy, has reported that its exports for December 2018 fell by 4.4%, the sharpest fall in two years amidst rising trade tensions with the United States and fears of a global economic slowdown.
- Further, China’s trade surplus with the U.S. has increased to $323 billion, its highest level since 2016 and up 17% from a year ago. This is likely to put added pressure on Chinese exports to the U.S.
- Besides, China’s factory activity contracted to a two-year low by the end of December 2018 while car sales in 2018 dropped for the first time since 1990, pointing to faltering demand from Chinese consumers.
- There are increasing fears that the Chinese government may further drop its growth target to 6% in 2019, from 6.5% in 2018.
- Given its implications for global growth, markets across the world have naturally been worried about the fate of the Chinese economy.
- China’s stock market, in particular, was the worst-performing among major economies in the year 2018.
- Apple, Jaguar Land Rover and other companies have warned of weak earnings due to a slowdown in their sales in China.
- Responding to fears of a serious slowdown in the economy, the People’s Bank of China on 16th January, 2019 injected cash worth $83 billion into the economy through open market operations in order to boost bank lending and overall economic growth. It is believed that the Chinese government may be prepping for a stimulus worth trillions of yuans to step up spending in the economy.
- China has been struggling to transition from its earlier growth model led by cheap exports and huge capital investments into a more domestic consumption-led economy.
- In particular, the government and the central bank have in recent years tried to wean the economy off cheap debt that fuelled its impressive growth run.
- The Chinese central bank fully opened the credit taps of the economy in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis that threatened to derail growth.
- However, even as it tries to steer the economy towards more consumption-led growth, the state has been wary of allowing economic sectors like real estate that were earlier boosted by the availability of cheap credit to go bust.
- A true restructuring of its export- and state-led economic model will not be possible until China allows the liquidation of uneconomical projects that were begun only because of the availability of ample amounts of cheap credit. This will be the first step towards building a more market-driven economy.
- Currently, it is not clear whether China is willing to bite the bullet and stop feeding its economy with cheap credit.
- China may be tempted to go further and look at socialising the losses coming from defaults on business loans. None of this will be good for the long-term health of the Chinese or the global economy.
- A rocket carrying a satellite on a mission to deliver the world’s first artificial meteor shower blasted into space on Friday, Japanese scientists said.
- A start-up based in Tokyo developed the micro-satellite for the celestial show over Hiroshima early next year as the initial experiment for what it calls a “shooting stars on demand” service.
- The satellite is to release tiny balls that glow brightly as they hurtle through the atmosphere, simulating a meteor shower.
- It hitched a ride on the small-size Epsilon-4 rocket that was launched from the Uchinoura space centre by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday morning. The rocket carried a total of seven ultra-small satellites that will demonstrate various “innovative” technologies, JAXA spokesman Nobuyoshi Fujimoto said.
- If all goes well, and the skies are clear, the 2020 event could be visible to millions of people, it says. The company has not disclosed the price for an artificial meteor shower.
G. Prelims Facts
- While Hyderabad’s heritage structures and sites are being seen as prime real estate up for grabs, the restoration of the Chowmahalla Palace to its age-old grandeur, putting it on top of the city’s must see bucket list, is a silver lining.
- Once spread over 60 acres near the city’s Mecca Masjid, the palace complex with its eight buildings is restricted to just about 12 acres now.
- A big moment was the coronation of Mukarram Jah Nizam VII in 1967 after the demise of his grandfather Nizam VI Mir Osman Ali Khan.
- After 1976, however, the palace complex was left untended and uncared for till Princess Esra, former wife of Mukarram Jah, stepped in to begin restoration efforts in 2000.
- Chowmahalla Palace or Chowmahallatuu (4 Palaces), is a palace of the Nizams of Hyderabad state.
- It was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty and was the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad while they ruled their state.
- The palace was built by Nizam Salabat Jung. The palace remains the property of Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah, heir of the Nizams.
- The place is named chowmahalla, which means four palaces. The word char, and its variation chau, means four and the word mahal means palace in Urdu and Hindi.
- It is more likely derived from Farsi words, as it was the official language of the Hyderabad State at the time.
- All ceremonial functions including the accession of the Nizams and receptions for the Governor-General were held at this palace.
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
Question 1. Consider the following statement regarding The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)
- European Union to head The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) from 1st January 2019
- The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market by United Nations General Assembly Resolution.
Which of the following statements is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- 1 and 2 both
- Neither 1 and 2
Question 2. Ex Cope India-18 is a Bilateral Joint exercise between which of the following countries.
- India and USA
- India and Russia
- India and Japan
- India and China
Question 3. If the Earth is not tilted on its axis and it performs only revolutionary motion, which of the following phenomena will occur?
- Phenomena of Day and Night
- Varying lengths of Day and Night
- Seasonal change
Select the correct answer using the codes given below:
- Only 1
- Only 2 and 3
- Only 3
- All of the above
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- SAARC has failed to perform its role as an integrator and to address areas of common interests. Critically evaluate the statement (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
- As India becomes increasingly digital and its population grows gradually, it is poised to become the top destination of technology companies. However, India also poses several unique challenges to such companies. Discuss (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
See previous CNA