TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. Be cautious in shifting to DBT, RBI tells States 2. In knotty problems ECOLOGY 1. Flying into trouble: Harriers decline as grasslands disappear 2. Golden jackal faces threat in its habitat 2. Alarm over mass turtle deaths in Alappuzha D. GS4 Related E. Editorials POLITY 1. A welcome move EDUCATION 1. A helping hand for Indian universities F. Tidbits 1. Crucial week for Section 377 case 2. Only farm loan waivers are driving rural growth: report G. Prelims Fact 1. ‘Paudhagiri’ campaign launched in Haryana H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
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B. GS2 Related
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C. GS3 Related
- Acknowledging that problems have been experienced by three Union Territories (UTs) in the implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for food subsidy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has advised States that are planning to shift to cash transfer to be cautious while effecting the migration.
- At present, three UTs — Puducherry, Chandigarh and urban areas of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli — are implementing the mode of cash transfer, under which 9.31 lakh beneficiaries receive ₹12.82 crore every month through their bank accounts.
- The Puducherry government had approached the Centre to permit it to revert to the old system of supplying rice.
- During 2017-18, the Centre provided the Food Corporation of India and States about ₹1.42 lakh crore towards the distribution of subsidised food grains.
- As for the processes to be followed by States prior to DBT execution, the RBI has referred to certain pre-conditions mentioned in the Central government’s 2015 food subsidy rules.
- These include complete digitisation and de-duplication of the beneficiary database and seeding of bank account details and Aadhaar numbers in the digitised database.
- In its report on State finances, the RBI referred to problems such as inadequacy of transfers to maintain pre-DBT consumption levels, insufficiency of last-mile delivery mechanisms and a weak grievance redressal system.
Advantages of DBT
- On the question of whether cash transfer is an alternative to the public distribution system (PDS), the RBI has stated that the cash transfer mode reduced the need for physical movement of food grains.
- The beneficiaries have the choice of buying food grains from the open market.
- Further, given the wide inter-State and intra-State variations in food consumption habits, the DBT provides greater autonomy to beneficiaries to choose their consumption basket, apart from enhancing dietary diversity.
- Another reason for promoting the concept of DBT is to reduce the leakage in the PDS, as the Central government has to absorb a huge food subsidy bill under the existing system of distribution of food grains in fulfilment of provisions of the National Food Security Act.
- The outcry and ban against plastic bags and single-use plastic packaging holds potential for the jute sector.
- But the more than 100-year-old sector, supporting five million families at the farm and the industry-level, may not be in a position to benefit from this opportunity, right away.
- The availability of quality raw jute and shrinking acreage on the one-hand and the failure of most jute mills to modernise has left the sector dependent on government-support like packaging reservations.
- Only a section of the industry has diversified into non-packaging segments.
- The industry’s ability to rise to these challenges hinges on the quality of the golden fibre.
- West Bengal is India’s single largest raw jute cultivator producing almost 75 % of the crop in Nadia, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts.
- But acreage had stagnated amid low productivity and falling prices of the cash crop.
- With raw jute prices remaining below the support price in 2017-18, area-under-cultivation may stagnate in 2018-19.
- Primitive, labour-intensive cultivation methods and retting (drenching raw jute in water to extract the fibre) — a crucial determinant in raw jute quality — creates problems.
- The I-CARE programme unveiled by the National Jute Board and the Jute Corporation of India seeks to address the retting issue by introducing a pilot project on retting technologies aimed at increasing farmers’ returns.
- A recent initiative called ‘The Jute Foundation’ (TJF) is trying to address many issues pertaining to the environment-friendly product.
- It is trying to engage all stakeholders –farmers, workers, mills, research organisations and consumers.
- An initiative is being introduced for the industry to work jointly with research and development agencies like IJIRA (Indian Jute Industries’ Research Association) and others to develop thin and slim jute shopping bags that can be rolled into a ladies’ handbag.
- Harrier birds, a migratory raptor species that regularly visits vast swathes of India, are declining.
- This may foretell lurking dangers to the country’s grasslands.
- The poorly studied species is the focus of a study by two researchers from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), who compared previous records of sightings with more current observations to determine what many had feared.
- Every winter, several species of harrier birds travel thousands of kilometres to escape frigid Central Asia for the grasslands of the subcontinent.
- The researchers collated published data, unpublished accounts and their own field research on roosting harriers to analyse trends in their population since the mid-1980s.
- At least five species of harriers were recorded in India over the years; India has one of the largest roosting sites in the world for Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers.
- The researchers focused on six of the 15 major roosting sites in six States, where consistent observations had been made for over five years.
- While a general declining trend was observed in all the monitored sites, researchers noted the most dramatic changes at the Rollapadu Bustard Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, one of the largest.
- In the mid-1990s, an estimated 1,000 birds roosted here. By 2016, the number was down to less than 100 birds.
- In Hessarghatta on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Western Marsh Harriers declined significantly, leaving the area nearly deserted.
- The importance of area protection can be seen in the number of birds.
- While there is a median count of 125 harriers in protected areas, it’s less than half that number — 48 — in unprotected areas.
- The study notes that the population of the species in Central Asia has not seen any drastic changes.
- The researchers think this is improbable that the migrant birds have found better places to roost than India.
- Considering the overall decline is spread out, the numbers could signify a lowering trend in populations.
- There is a possibility of a combination of multiple factors for the fall.
- The gravest concern is the loss of grasslands, either to urbanisation or to agriculture.
- In February-March, peak season for the arrival of the birds, farmlands are burnt or over-grazed.
- Of the 15 roosting sites surveyed, eight no longer exist as grasslands, and only five are protected.
- Excessive use of pesticides in farms in and around the roosting sites could also be a reason for the lowered population counts.
- In crops such as cotton, the use of pesticides kills grasshoppers, the harriers’ primary prey, and could lead to mortality of the birds themselves as they are on the top of the food chain.
- Globally, of the 16 Harrier species, only two are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, even though most of them are declining.
- While more intensive research is needed, the conservation of India’s grasslands could be a start in protecting the magnificent migrators.
- Destruction of mangrove cover in the Bandar Reserve Forest (BRF) is forcing the golden jackal (Canis aureus) out of its habitat, triggering a conflict with the local communities.
- It is a sign of its destruction.
- Amid uproar over the aqua ponds, the Vigilance authorities in 2017 recommended to the State government to hand over the 24,363 acres under the BRF and the BRF extension (I to IV) to the Forest department for protection.
- Since 1970, the BRF has been in the hands of the Revenue department as the final notification to de-reserve the forest land (25,259 acres) was still pending owing to various reasons.
- The Revenue authorities, on the other hand, are helpless in preventing the encroachment of the mangrove along the Machilipatnam coastline.
- The golden jackal (Canis aureus) is a wolf-like canid that is native to Southeast Europe, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and regions of Southeast Asia.
- Indian golden jackals exhibit the highest genetic diversity, and those from northern and western India are the most basal, which indicates that India was the center from which golden jackals spread.
- The conservation status of the animal is the ‘least concern’.
- The golden jackal is both a predator and a scavenger.
- Due to their tolerance of dry habitats and their omnivorous diet, the golden jackal can live in a wide variety of habitats.
- Golden jackals appear in Indian folklore and in two ancient texts, the Jakatas and the Panchatantra, where they are portrayed as intelligent and wily creatures.
- The ancient Hindu text, the Mahabharata, tells the story of a learned jackal who sets his friends the tiger, wolf, mongoose, and mouse against each other so he can eat a gazelle without sharing it.
- The Panchatantra tells the fable of a jackal who cheats a wolf and a lion out of their shares of a camel.
- In Hinduism, the jackal is portrayed as the familiar of several deities with the most common being Chamunda, the emaciated, devouring goddess of the cremation grounds.
- Another deity associated with jackals is Kali, who inhabits the cremation ground and is surrounded by millions of jackals.
- The sudden mass turtle deaths in different parts of the district have sparked fears of disease outbreak as authorities remain clueless about the cause.
- The dead turtles include Softshell turtle and Indian black turtle.
- The Animal Husbandry Department sent the carcass of a turtle to a laboratory at Thiruvalla for examination, but they could not ascertain the cause of death as the carcass was in a decayed condition.
- Now, a live turtle has been sent for investigation.
- The number of turtle deaths has not been determined yet.
- The disease outbreaks are not new to Alappuzha.
- In 2016, bird flu (avian influenza), caused by H5N8 virus, was detected among ducks in Kuttanad.
- Prior to that, H5N1 was reported in the district in 2014.
- On both occasions, several ducks died and thousands were culled to tackle the spread of the disease.
Indian black turtle
- It is a medium-sized freshwater turtle found in South Asia.
- The species occurs in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal, and the Chagos Archipelago.
- Despite its name, the colour of its upper shell or carapace can vary from reddish to dark brown and black with yellow streaks running along its length.
- The Indian black turtle also known as Indian pond terrapin is classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Softshell turtle is found in rivers and other water bodies.
- It is a vulnerable species that feeds mostly on fish, amphibians and aquatic plants.
- The Indian softshell turtle (Nilssonia gangetica), or Ganges softshell turtle is a species of softshell turtle found in South Asia in rivers such as the Ganges, Indus and Mahanadi.
- These turtles are often maintained in the temple ponds of Orissa where they are considered sacred.
- It is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
- In a vital decision that will help secure the rights of Internet users in the country, the Telecom Commission has approved the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on net neutrality.
- By endorsing steps that call for amendments to access services licences for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Telecom Operators, the Commission has made it clear that any violation of net neutrality will be treated as a violation of the licence conditions.
- Some specialised and emerging services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) may be exempt from the non-discriminatory principles, but these cannot be at the cost of the overall quality of Internet access.
- Combining this approval with the fact that TRAI had barred telecom service providers from charging differential rates for data services (zero rating, for example), India will now have among the strongest net neutrality regulations.
- Net neutrality is the basic principle of an open Internet that does not allow for content discrimination by Internet Service Providers.
- The user is free to access any web location at the same paid-for speed without any discrimination by the ISP.
- This proviso has helped democratise the Internet and undergird its growth from a networked system of computers that enabled e-commerce, social interaction, knowledge flow and entertainment, among other functions.
- Internet pioneers have consistently maintained that the principle of net neutrality is built into the structure of the Internet itself.
- The layers and protocols for connectivity via the network have been erected in such a way that access is seamless irrespective of the nature of the physical infrastructure of the network.
- It is to the credit of the Telecom Commission and TRAI that this principle has been upheld in India — in contrast, in the U.S., on President Donald Trump’s watch, the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality regulations that had been put in place by the Barack Obama administration.
- The repeal was ostensibly to allow ISPs and broadband providers to invest in new technology although evidence shows that such investment was not affected by the regulations.
- The other argument for the repeal has been a functional one, suggesting that the Internet is very different today, controlled by a handful of big companies, unlike the much more egalitarian environment earlier; and that therefore, the principle is redundant now. This is misleading.
- In India, the steep growth in Internet access and use has allowed for newer services to thrive.
- The government should now ensure that net neutrality is followed in practice.
- The future of Indian universities (public and private) will significantly depend upon our ability to harness the possibility of individual, institutional and corporate philanthropy for the purposes of higher education.
- Some years ago, a report by a committee constituted by the then Planning Commission and headed by the then chief mentor of Infosys, Narayana Murthy, focussed on the role of the corporate sector in higher education.
- It acknowledged the importance of stronger private initiatives and recommended steps such as free land for 999 years (sic), 300% deduction in taxable income to companies for contributions towards boosting higher education and 10-year multiple entry visas for foreign research scholars.
- It also recommended a ₹1,000 crore scholarship fund (with tax exemption for corporate sector contributions) to promote greater accessibility of higher education to the underprivileged.
- However, these recommendations were not implemented.
- A major legal and policy reform to promote some form of mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) was initiated through the Companies Act, 2013.
- Path-breaking, it had the potential to transform the relationship between business and society.
- A range of reforms are being promoted in higher education.
- Recognising that universities in India need to be significantly empowered in order to achieve excellence, the government has initiated five major reforms in the areas of regulation, accreditation, rankings, autonomy and internationalisation.
- Unfortunately, the results so far have not been encouraging.
- The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has observed that among the 5,097 companies that have filed annual reports till December 2016 (financial year 2015-16), only 3,118 companies had made some contribution towards CSR expenditure.
- During FY 2014-15, 3,139 companies had spent 74% of the prescribed CSR expenditure — most were to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
- There has been very little strategic thinking and innovation in the CSR where corporations can play a leadership role in contributing to society.
- This also shows that companies in India have generally not understood the larger goals of CSR, viewing it more as a charitable endeavour.
- The historical evolution of public universities in India and their exclusive dependence on the government for all financial resources have contributed to limiting the capacity of funding that could be available for public universities.
- Today, public universities (State universities and other higher education institutions) face serious financial challenges.
- While the Central universities and institutions of higher education are better situated, complex procedures, incessant delays, regulatory obstacles and a labyrinth of regulations for access to the funds have created many disincentives for universities to have the necessary freedom and flexibility to spend resources as per their needs and priorities.
- As far as private universities/higher education institutions are concerned, the problem is even more serious.
- The opening up of the private sector to higher education has ended up creating many mediocre institutions.
- The privatisation of higher education has not been driven by philanthropy but to a large extent by commercial and for-profit interests that do not have a symbiotic relationship with the vision, values and ethos of a university.
- Higher education and universities (private or public) by their very nature ought to be not-for-profit and established through philanthropy.
- While there is much that deserves attention under the CSR framework for contributing to the social sector, the fact is that higher education and universities do need to receive significantly more attention.
- Every aspect of a university’s growth requires substantial financial resources: hiring of world class faculty; developing research centres; funding research projects; having rewards and incentives for faculty publications; building physical infrastructure and making available scholarships for students.
- The Ministry of Human Resource Development should be working closely with the MCA to have a road map that incentivises CSR funding to be made available for universities.
- Every year, educationists have put forth the argument that we need to increase the budget for higher education.
- Marginal increases in budgets and creative reallocation of resources to show more spending on higher education are not going to help.
- A thorough and even a radical re-examination of budgetary resources is essential.
- The higher education sector can be truly re-energised only by a significant increase in loans, grants and philanthropy.
- Banks and financial institutions have been rather timid and even indifferent towards funding in higher education.
- Therefore, there is an urgent need for policy intervention, where universities and related funding should be designated a priority sector.
- It should be seen as being more important than infrastructure development.
- The Institute of Eminence (IOE) policy by the government did create hopes and expectations for establishing world class universities in India.
- Unfortunately, the policy, procedure and the process of selecting IOEs has been marred by a lack of transparency, vision and imagination in institution building.
- Therefore, there is an urgent need in Indian universities to reflect upon the crisis of leadership and the inability to seek reforms relating to institution building.
- In this, leadership in philanthropy is central to enabling an institutional vision that will help build the future of higher education in India.
- The Constitution Bench hearing in the challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is entering a crucial second week.
Arguments against the judgement
- Last week, pro-Section 377 lawyers asked why the court was hearing a batch of fresh writ petitions to delete it when the court had twice upheld the penal provision — in December 2013 and in the government’s review petition in January 2014.
- These lawyers have asked why the five-judge Bench is not deciding the curative petition pending since 2016.
- The curative petition was filed as a last resort for the LGBTQ community to overcome the court’s confirmation that homosexuality is a criminal act.
- Instead of taking it up, the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has chosen to decide the new writ petitions filed by choreographer Navtej Singh Johar and others under Article 32 of the Constitution.
- The petitions seek a declaration that the fundamental right to life under Article 21 includes the right to sexuality, sexual autonomy and choice of sexual partner.
- Questions have also been raised why the Bench, by hearing these writ petitions, ignored the express prohibition in the Rupa Ashok Hurra judgment of 2002.
- In this judgment, another five-judge Bench unequivocally held that no Article 32 petitions can be filed against a final judgment of the Supreme Court.
- The pending curative petition has great limitations, and in all likelihood would have failed merely because of the restrictions imposed on the curative jurisdiction itself.
Views of the bench
- Chief Justice Misra’s Bench has handled the questions with aplomb.
- It has indicated that the historic nine-judge Bench verdict declaring privacy a fundamental right, has been a game-changer for the LGBTQ community.
- In separate judgments on August 24, 2017, the Bench concluded that the 2013 verdict by a two-judge Bench pandered to a majoritarian view to turn down the LGBT community their inherent fundamental rights of life, personal liberty, equality and gender discrimination.
- The Constitution Bench now hearing the Section 377 petitions has reasoned that the privacy judgment is a subsequent development which is not part of the pending curative petitions.
- Chief Justice Misra has observed that his Constitution Bench has to view the issue of Section 377 in the fresh light thrown upon the issue of Section 377 by the privacy judgment of 2017.
- Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who authored the main opinion in the privacy case and is now one of the five judges on the Misra Bench, had observed that the chilling effect of Section 377 poses a grave danger to the unhindered fulfilment of one’s sexual orientation.
- The green-shoots of demand growth seen in some rural pockets is driven by farm loan waivers and not likely due to real increases in rural incomes and wages, indicative of the fact that the economy is still some time away from a full-fledged rural revival, says a report.
- According to recent Nielsen data, rural growth outpaced urban demand, rising by 13.5% in the March quarter.
- Many large States have announced farm loan waivers last year, as farmer suicides became a big political tool.
- Karnataka became the latest State to join U.P., M.P., Maharashtra and Punjab, among others, to write off farm loans.
- But the extent of this pick-up depends on a number of factors.
- Firstly, a good monsoon alone will not do the trick.
- Adequate procurement and the effectiveness of MSPs to act as a floor for crop prices will be crucial.
- Though there are clear signs that rural demand is recovering from setbacks due to the 2016 note-ban and GST disruptions, there are reservations over the extent of this increase as this could be due to the loan waivers.
- The recent jump in items such as tractor sales could have at least been driven by farm loan waivers.
- A similar phenomenon was witnessed in 2009 when the then government had waived farm loans and tractor sales grew by 30%.
G. Prelims Fact
- Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has launched the ‘Paudhagiri’ campaign, aimed at increasing the green cover in the State.
- Under the campaign, 22 lakh students from Classes VI to XII of all government and private schools in Haryana will plant a sapling each during three months of the monsoon — July, August and September.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements with respect to Curative petitions.
- Curative petitions are not heard in open court.
- Only two issues can be raised in them, that the judgment was passed without hearing the party and judicial bias.
Which of the above statement/s is/are correct?
- Both are correct
- Both are incorrect
- Only i is correct
- Only ii is correct
Question 2. Which of the following can be stated as the reasons for the peasants’ and workers’ movements in the 1930s?
- Impact of the economic depression of 1929.
- Civil Disobedience Movement.
- Rise of the left parties.
Choose the correct option:
- I only
- I and II only
- I and III only
- All of the above
Question 3. Consider the following statements regarding the revolutionary movements in India.
- I. They contributed in the propagation of modern political ideas like federalism, democracy, etc.
- They tried to provide an alternative to mainstream politics.
- Although in early phase they had religious influence, their approach
was mostly secular in nature.
Which of the above statement/s is/are correct?
- II only
- I and II only
- II and III only
- All of the above
Question 4. Identify the correct statements:
- Sufis were organized in to orders known as “silsilas”.
- Sufis who followed Islamic laws are called “Be-shara”.
- Sufis who did not follow Islamic laws are called “Ba-shara”.
- i and ii only
- ii and iii only
- i only
- iii only
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 aims to empower the interests of consumers. What are the salient features of the bill? What will be its impact on e-commerce?
- Co-operative federalism is a Myth. Illustrate with examples.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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