UPSC Exam: Comprehensive News Analysis – January 25

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/BILATERAL RELATIONS
1. ASEAN leaders at Republic Day
HEALTH ISSUES
1. First India-designed vaccine passes WHO test
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Politics and Ease of Doing Business
2. Rs 1,00,000 crore boost: Centre infuses cash, unveils reforms map for public banks
CYBER SECURITY
1. WEF launches Global Centre for Cybersecurity
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Contest is off but TeamIndus to still go to moon
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY
1. Public Transport and Green Mobility
2. Sea Turtles and TEDs
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: INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/BILATERAL RELATIONS

1. ASEAN leaders at Republic Day

In news

  • India will host heads of state or government of all 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the Republic Day celebrations in a dramatic declaration of intent by New Delhi to boost India’s ties with Southeast Asia.
  • The year 2017 was an important landmark as India and the ASEAN commemorated 25 years of their partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership.

What are the challenges ahead?

  • The challenge now is to map out next steps in the India-ASEAN partnership at this time of unprecedented geopolitical flux in the wider Indo-Pacific.
  • There has been a sense of disillusionment on both sides about the present state of play in the relationship.
  • While the ASEAN member states have been disappointed that India continues to punch below its weight in the region, New Delhi’s expectations regarding a more robust support for its regional outreach too have not been met.
  • India’s capacity to provide development assistance, market access and security guarantees remains limited and ASEAN’s inclination to harness New Delhi for regional stability remains circumscribed by its sensitivities to other powers.
  • The interests and expectations of the two sides remain far from aligned, preventing them from having candid conversations and realistic assessments.
  • India’s economic focus too is not in tune with other regional powers which view ASEAN as an important market for exports and investments.
  • India’s export sector remains weak and the government’s focus has shifted to boosting manufacturing domestically.
  • India’s interest in ASEAN as a multilateral forum remains lacklustre as it continues to privilege bilateral partnerships to further its own interests.

What is India’s main focus? Has India shifted its focus?

  • Though the Modi government’s ‘Act East’ policy is aimed at enhancing India’s strategic profile in East and Southeast Asia, New Delhi’s main focus remains on South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
  • There has been a shift in emphasis with India moving away from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and asserting its centrality in the evolving geography of the Indo-Pacific. But it is no match for China’s regional profile which is largely about viewing Southeast Asia as its backyard.
  • As New Delhi’s gaze shifts to the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar and Thailand have emerged as key players in its southeastern outreach.
  • The hope is to use these nations as a bridge to ASEAN. The temptation to prioritise these countries over others in ASEAN may also prevent others from looking at India as a regional stakeholder.
  • New Delhi is signalling that it is more interested in becoming a member of various regional organisations because of global power credentials even when its substantive engagement with such platforms remains limited.

What is the way ahead for India?

  • It is important for India and ASEAN to chart out a more operational, though modest, agenda for future cooperation.
  • The three Cs of commerce, connectivity and culture have been highlighted but a more granular perspective is needed in terms of a forging a forward-looking approach.
  • There is no getting away from enhancing trade and economic linkages between India and ASEAN. They also need to focus on areas such as digital technologies.

What is the advantage India has over China?

  • India, as a fast emerging major player, has significant comparative advantages.
  • As Chinese giants begin to dominate the digital space in Southeast Asia and concerns rise about their ability to own data, the Indian IT sector may take some advantage of the seeming reluctance of ASEAN states to put all their eggs in the Chinese basket.
  • India as a facilitator of the ASEAN-wide digital economy would not only challenge China but also emerge as an economic guarantor of its own.
  • Instead of talking about ASEAN-wide connectivity projects, New Delhi now needs to focus on more effective delivery of projects it is already committed to.
  • In this context, prompt completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which will run from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar, is key.
  • The plan is to extend this highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in an attempt to project India’s role in the emerging transportation architecture.
  • With China having three times more commercial flights than India to Southeast Asia, improving air connectivity between India and ASEAN countries should also be high on the agenda.
  • Besides, the Bay of Bengal can be used as an exploratory ground for the development of an India-ASEAN maritime framework.
  • Finally, the cultural connect between the two needs strengthening. While India offers scholarships to students from ASEAN states to study at Nalanda University, this initiative should be extended to the IITs and the IIMs.
  • Tourism too can be further encouraged between India and the ASEAN with some creative branding by the two sides.
  • While India and the ASEAN have been very ambitious in articulating the potential of their partnership, they have been much less effective in operationalising their ideas. The need now is to focus on functional cooperation and make the idea of an India-ASEAN partnership more exciting.

 Category: HEALTH ISSUES

1. First India-designed vaccine passes WHO test

In news:

  • For the first time, a vaccine conceived and developed from scratch in India has been “pre-qualified” by the World Health Organisation.
  • The Rotavac vaccine, developed by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Limited last year, was included in India’s national immunization programme
  • To be “pre-qualified” means that the vaccine can be sold internationally to several countries in Africa and South America

Features:

  • Several vaccines from India have been pre-qualified, this is the first that was entirely developed locally
  • The Rotavac vaccine protects against childhood diarrhea caused by the rotavirus
  • It was built on strain of the virus isolated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences here over 30 years ago

Rabishield:

  • Pune-based Serum International also has developed a rotavirus vaccine called Rabishield
  • It has also been included in India’s immunization programme

C. GS3 Related

 Category: ECONOMY

1. Politics and Ease of Doing Business

What is the controversy?

  • Earlier this month, the World Bank announced that it would revise the methodology it uses to calculate the ease of doing business index, a move that is expected to affect the rankings of countries in the last four years.
  • As its name suggests, the index ranks countries based on how welcoming they are to businesses, as measured by criteria like the number of days it takes to start a business or obtain a licence.
  • The decision to revise the methodology comes after the Bank’s chief economist Paul Romer raised concerns that the rankings could have been influenced by politics. Incidentally, India recorded its best-ever improvement in the latest ease of doing business rankings.

Why is it significant?

  • The ease of doing business index has become a popular tool tracked by governments trying to show the world that they offer a favourable investment climate for private businessmen.
  • This stands true despite the fact that many countries, such as India, have expressed their displeasure in the past over their own standing in the rankings. For the first time, a top official at the Bank itself has admitted to the possibility of political influence over the rankings.
  • In an interview with the Wall Street Journal , Mr. Romer stated that he could no longer defend the integrity of changes made to the methodology used to rank countries.
  • Meanwhile, some critics have pointed to Chile which has seen its ranking fluctuate widely based more on the ideology of the government in power than on underlying business conditions.

What are the other issues?

  • A common criticism of the ranking is that it limits its sample size to just a few major cities, thus projecting an imperfect picture of overall business conditions.
  • Others have wondered if governments may be gaming the rankings by tailoring their policies to specifically fit the World Bank’s criteria instead of trying to enact wider structural reforms.
  • Another criticism is whether the bank is right to measure a country’s business environment based on written legal rules rather than investigating the actual ground conditions in which businesses operate. Many businesses, for example, may be able to bribe their way out of bad rules.

2. Rs 1,00,000 crore boost: Centre infuses cash, unveils reforms map for public banks

In news:

  • The government has announced details of how Rs 80,000 crore of funds raised through recapitalization bonds will be allocated to 20 PSBs by March-end
  • A total of around Rs 1 lakh crore will be infused in the PSBs by March-end
  • Twenty PSBs will be getting the amount from government. These include 11 weak and 9 strong banks

RBI’s Prompt Corrective Action:

  • The eleven weak banks are currently under the RBI’s Prompt Corrective Action (PCA)
  • PCA kicks in when banks breach regulatory norms on issues such as minimum capital, amount of non-performing assets and return on assets
  • The central bank enforces these guidelines to ensure that banks do not go bust and follow prompt measures to put their house in order

Banks asset quality:

  • The government announced a set of measures to keep a close watch on the asset quality of the banks
  • These include “specialized monitoring” by agencies for corporate loans of more than Rs 250 crore
  • Banks have been asked to ring-fence cash flows of corporate borrowers, to ensure that their earnings are not diverted for other purposes
  • The government has also mandated each of the PSBs to have a stressed assets management vertical and monetize their non-core assets such as real estate to boost their capital adequacy

Annual EASE index survey

  • An independent agency will conduct an Annual EASE (Enhanced Access & Service Excellence) Index Survey of banks
  • This will be to ensure that banks comply with the reforms parameters
  • As per the EASE plan, the government wants to ensure that there is a banking facility within 5 km of every village in the country

 Category: CYBER SECURITY

1. WEF launches Global Centre for Cybersecurity

Global Centre for Cybersecurity

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) announced a new Global Centre for Cybersecurity
  • It will help safeguard the world from hackers and growing data breaches — especially from nation-states

About the center

  • Headquartered in Geneva, the center will become operational from Marc
  • It will bring together governments as well as international organizations
  • WEF will reach out to key industry players and G-20 countries in the beginning

Cybersecurity:

  • Cybersecurity is a borderless problem
  • Urgent action is needed to create a safe operating environment for new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, robotics, drones, self-driving cars and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Criminal abuse of virtual currencies is also happening at a faster rate

 Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Contest is off but TeamIndus to still go to moon

Private Indian mission to the moon

  • Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) organizer has called off its 10-year-old challenge
  • Space startup TeamIndus had planned to send a lander-rover to the moon on an ISRO launcher

About the mission

  • Space startup TeamIndus and Antrix Corporation had come together to send private Indian mission to moon along with Japanese partner Hakuto
  • They were to develop an unmanned lunar rover

 Category: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY

1. Public Transport and Green Mobility

What are the challenges with Bus Transport system?

  • The State Transport Undertaking (STU) model has lost its way. It has, over the years, neglected reforms for expansion, modernisation of services and acquisition of new technologies.
  • By contrast, personal mobility choices led by cars and two-wheelers have kept pace with global trends, adding features of comfort and convenience. This has drawn several commuters away from ramshackle buses and unreliable services.
  • Governments are also more ready to aid car use, while fixing losses of State transport corporations on low fares paid by bus users.
  • A study by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in 2015 in Tamil Nadu estimates that infrastructure investment was Rs. 31.6 per car trip while that for a bus user was Rs. 0.90 per trip.
  • That data should be read along with the National Sample Survey Organisation’s finding in 2015 that the expenditure of urban households on bus/tram as a percentage of the total household travel expenditure was as high as 58%. The emphasis on additional cost recovery from such users is clearly not justified.

What are the alternatives that are replacing bus transport?

  • In many urban centres, bus transport is ceding ground to nimble new operators such as app-based aggregator taxi companies which have leveraged technology to provide on-demand, shared, air-conditioned door-to-door services.
  • Rather than respond quickly to new opportunities flowing from technology such as mobile phone applications and geographical location features, bus corporations are lobbying for price control and heavy-handed regulation to obstruct new entrants.
  • On the other hand, cities such as Chennai have for long tacitly encouraged unregulated growth of transport, by allowing eight-seater vehicles (share autos) to operate along with buses on several routes, although these are illegal and take revenue away from the corporations.
  • Since share autos are off-the-record un-ticketed services, the government does not even have an estimate of the revenue it is losing.
  • Ironically, several operators of the share autos claim allegiance to the same trade unions which represent workers of government bus corporations, whose revenues they continuously crop.
  • Such is the policy paralysis that the Tamil Nadu government has no organised feeder service for the Chennai Metro, affecting both bus and Metro revenues.
  • Buses are the original idea of shared travel but suffer from a poor image. Globally, the bus system is looking to change that. In design terms, most of India’s buses operating in cities are obsolete — just crudely designed cabins fitted on lorries with hard suspensions.
  • There is also the problem of supply: there are far too few buses. A KPMG study published last year forecasts that an additional 4.6 lakh buses are needed to achieve 50% of all urban transport trips by public modes by 2031, at the present level of ridership per bus.
  • Such a target would be consistent with national commitments on climate change, and control of fine particulate matter in the air.
  • The difficulty in creating modern bus networks is often attributed to weak revenue streams from low fares.

What are the changes initiated by the Government?

  • In the European Bus System of the Future, the quest is to address the image problem and provide social connectedness to the vehicle through GPS and Wi-Fi.
  • India finally implemented a national bus code for quality and design on January 1 this year, overcoming prolonged resistance from transport lobbies. Commuters now look to its strict implementation for better quality travel, although social connectedness remains distant.
  • National Urban Transport Policy, 2006, talks of creating higher-priced public transport options for the relatively affluent, in addition to a cheaper universal offering.
  • This should have led to a rapid expansion of urban bus systems, offering deluxe guaranteed seating, Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning, through demand aggregation just as app-based taxis do. The traditional STU system, however, has found this too challenging.

What are the further steps that can be taken?

  • But if financing is the key issue, the carbon emissions mitigation route could have been used to raise funds, especially after the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Congestion charging in cities presents another ready option.
  • We need a new law that mandates annual expansion of STU bus fleets in all million plus cities using tax funds and a congestion charge on cars.
  • If these are politically challenging, the entire system of bus regulation should be revisited. A new scheme will make it possible to purchase benchmarked services from cooperatives or private providers, paying for actual kilometres operated.
  • Share auto-style small entrepreneurs can enter such a scheme. Arguably, the most neglected aspect of India’s bus operations is the failure to use digital data.
  • Government-owned corporations either do not possess real-time GPS data for buses in operation, or even if they do, are unwilling to share it with the open data community which is ready to build apps and make it accessible to the commuter. GPS data can do wonders for the utilisation of bus networks and make more trips possible.
  • The Central government should make data-sharing a focus of its digital India and smart cities priorities. It is incongruous that Uber and Ola have a better understanding of a city’s travel patterns, and serve passengers using algorithms, but not the State operator.
  • Ironically, the Indian taxpayer has already paid for such validated real-time passenger information (RTPI) technology developed at the mobility laboratory of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, and it has been tried in parts of Chennai.
  • Fast-moving technology trends highlight the need for an apex mobility corporation for each city, which places the bus at its core.
  • The emerging paradigm is one of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS): the commuter only wants a seamless travel experience. It is up to the operator to provide access to buses, trains and Metro rail, and use innovations in technology and ticketing to unify them.
  • That seems a far cry for Indian commuters. Today, they have to purchase bus and train tickets with cash, use a UTS app for Indian Railways and carry a separate Metro travel card. They deserve a better deal.

2. Sea Turtles and TEDs

In news

  • Every year, thousands of sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed by mechanised boats, trawl nets and gill nets operated and used by comercial fishermen. They can also sustain internal injuries from fishing hooks or suffer serious external injuries after becoming entangled in nets.
  • Each year, environmentalists record a high number of dead turtles washing up ashore. This heavy toll, of injuries and deaths, occurs when turtles begin migrating to their nesting grounds on beaches and in fishing areas that are their feeding grounds.

What are the laws to protect them?

  • There are five species in Indian waters — Leatherback, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley.
  • In India, though sea turtles are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, under the Schedule I Part II, they face grave threats.
  • Bycatch is one such example, which is the name given to ocean animals that are unintentionally caught by fishing gear.
  • Scientists are now working on programmes such as new fishing nets and gear that reduce the amount of bycatch while fishing.
  • Growing public interest in bycatch reduction programmes is motivated by factors such as an appreciation for endangered species and concern for maintaining marine biodiversity.
  • The turtle breeding season is usually between November and December. In Tamil Nadu, for example, the Olive Ridley nests between December and April along the Chennai-Kancheepuram coastline.
  • The eastern coastline is the feeding area for Olive Ridley, juvenile Hawksbills and Green turtles. Off-shore waters are also migratory routes for the Olive Ridley while moving towards beaches in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
  • Sea turtles, especially the leatherback, keep jellyfish under control, thereby helping to maintain healthy fish stocks in the oceans. The Green turtle feeds on sea grass beds and by cropping the grass provide a nursery for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
  • The Hawksbill feeds on sponges in the reef ecosystem and opens up crevices for other marine life to live in. Turtles are also transporters of nutrients and energy to coastal areas. Unhatched eggs, eggshells and fluids help foster decomposers and create much needed fertilizer in sandy beaches.
  • As turtle populations in general decline, so does their ability to play a vital role in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans. Integrated conservation measures are needed to rebuild their populations to healthy levels so that they can carry out the full extent of their key roles in ocean ecosystems.
  • Under current regulations, mechanised trawl boats are not allowed to operate within 8 km of the shore in Andhra Pradesh, 5.5 km in Tamil Nadu and 5 km in Odisha. However, these limits are not being enforced. Similarly, nets set for ray fish are banned under the law during the season.
  • However, their use by some categories of fishermen is widespread. The ban needs to be enforced at all levels of fishing and monitored by the respective Fisheries departments, marine police and the Indian Coast Guard. All areas where fishing boats land need to be monitored.

What is the scenario elsewhere?

  • In the U.S., all trawl shrimp fishing vessels need to be equipped with turtle excluder devices or TEDs, which are two-dimensional net inserts with large escape openings for turtles.
  • Likewise in India, trawlers meant for shrimp fishing are required by law to be fitted with TEDs. If used correctly, TEDs have been found to reduce turtle captures by 90%.
  • There are closed seasons for certain types of fishing vessels. In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the closed season for commercial fishing boats is from April 15 to May 29 (east coast) and June 15 to July 29 (west coast). Here, mechanised fishing trawlers are banned from fishing.
  • In Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, the season is between April 15 and May 31. Trawlers and motorised craft with an engine output greater than 25 hp are banned.
  • In all these areas/States, all non-motorised and motorised craft with an engine output of less than 25 hp are permitted to fish during this season.
  • Unfortunately, none of these closed seasons takes into account the sea turtle nesting season that falls between January and April. Areas where sea turtles forage and congregate need to be identified and additional seasonal closures need to be implemented within these areas.
  • If sea turtle conservation is to have meaning, all trawl boats should be fitted with a vessel monitoring system that must be kept on at all times. This will provide a simple system of monitoring by the Coast Guard. These small but meaningful measures will help the sea turtles that are our marine heritage have another chance at survival.

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: Fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH)
  1. is a physical mapping approach that uses fluorescein tags to detect hybridization
  2. is used for finding specific features in DNA for use in species identification

Which of the above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None

See

Answer

 

Question 2. Consider the following with reference to ‘Paryatan Parv’.
  1. It is being organized by the Ministry of External Affairs.
  2. Ministry of Culture as a part of ‘Paryatan Parv’ is organising ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav’.
  3. It is being organized in all major countries where Indian embassies are present.
  4. The main focus of the festival is to showcase Indian heritage abroad and increase foreign exchange received by India.

Select the correct answer using the codes below.

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 3 and 4 only
  4. 1, 3 and 4 only

See

Answer

 

Question 3. Which of the following countries have a system of “Inheritance tax”?
  1. USA
  2. UK
  3. Spain
  4. India

Select the correct answer using the codes below.

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 2 and 4 only
  3. 3 and 4 only
  4. 1, 3 and 4 only

See

Answer

 

Question 4. Consider the following: "Value Engineering Program" will
  1. Be implemented by Department of Science and Technology
  2. Look to use new technologies and materials in highway construction projects

Which of the above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None

See

Answer

 

Question 5. Choose the correct circuits that comes under thematic tourism circuit - Swadesh 
Darshan Scheme
  1. North-East India Circuit
  2. Buddhist Circuit
  3. Himalayan Circuit
  4. South Indian Circuit

Choose the correct statement

  1. 1, 2 and 4
  2. 1 and 3
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. All are correct

See

Answer

 

G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

GS Paper I
  1. Distinguish between religiousness/religiosity and communalism giving one example of how the former has got transformed into the latter in independent India.

GS Paper III
  1. On December 2004, tsumani brought havoc on 14 countries including India. Discuss the factors responsible for occurrence of Tsunami and its effects on life and economy. In the light of guidelines of NDMA (2010) describe the mechanisms for preparedness to reduce the risk during such events.

     

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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