TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related GEOGRAPHY 1. Pollution curbs monsoon’s cleansing B. GS2 Related C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. Centre allows pulses import despite overflowing godowns D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ECONOMY 1. India’s sugarcane industry and farmers: sugarcane crisis SOCIAL ISSUES 1. Temple and state F. Tidbits 1. SBI to stop handling Iran oil payments 2. High UIDAI charges leave banks stressed 3. Majority of Indians in lowest wealth group: BCG 4. Trade deficit widens to $14.62 billion G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
- Other than being an essential source of water for Indian agriculture, the monsoon plays a critical role in flushing out pollutants over Asia.
- However, increased pollution, particularly from coal burning, could potentially weaken this ability of the monsoon.
- In winter, when atmospheric moisture is low, fumes from unburnt particles disperse toward the Indian Ocean, creating a vast pollution haze.
- However, what happened to these particles in summer was a mystery until recent research.
- Researchers performed atmospheric chemistry measurements by aircraft in a campaign called the “Oxidation Mechanism Observations”.
- The researchers measured the summer monsoon outflow in the upper troposphere between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. They found that the monsoon sustained a remarkably efficient cleansing mechanism in which contaminants are rapidly oxidised and deposited on the Earth’s surface.
- However, some pollutants were lifted above the monsoon clouds, and chemically processed in a reactive reservoir before being redistributed globally, including to the stratosphere.
- Pollution particles can cool the sea surface temperature, mostly in winter. When the circulation reverses in summer, the cooler sea surface evaporates less, which can reduce the moisture flux into the monsoon convection, i.e. weaken the monsoon.
- While pollution levels — especially in north India’s Gangetic plane — skyrocket in winter, there have also been spikes in summer air pollution.
- Delhi, Gurugram and several parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are currently in the grip of a ‘dust haze’ that has pushed pollution levels to the ‘severe’ category on the air quality index.
- Scientists had earlier pointed out that the monsoon system may be flushing out pollutants but there was uncertainty over how precisely this affects the monsoon.
- The elevated-heat-pump effect, as it is called, amplifies the seasonal heating of the Tibetan Plateau, leading to increased warming in the upper troposphere during late spring and early summer, subsequently spurring enhanced monsoon rainfall over northern India during June and July.
- Indian rainfall, other scientists have pointed out, is enhanced in spring due to increased loading of black carbon but the monsoon may subsequently weaken through increased cloudiness and surface cooling.
B. GS2 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
C. GS3 Related
- The Union government has allotted quotas for import of pulses and is enforcing an additional import agreement with Mozambique at a time when domestic stocks are at their highest, domestic production is expected to be high and prices are crashing.
- Farmers and millers are unhappy with the situation, but the government says it is balancing the needs of Indian consumers and commitments to foreign trade partners on the one hand and the interests of Indian farmers on the other.
- There is a quantitative restriction that was slapped on pulses imports in August 2017 in response to a glut in domestic supply and falling prices, which continues this year.
- However, the DGFT issued a notice last month exempting pulses imports from Mozambique from the restrictions.
- On the back of a good monsoon forecast, the Agriculture Commissioner predicts domestic pulses production of 24 million tonnes in 2018-19, slightly higher than last year’s.
Fallout of 2016 crisis
- In 2016, in the wake of soaring pulse prices and angry consumers, India signed an MoU to double pulses imports — mostly arhar — from the east African nation over a five-year period.
- This obligates India to buy 1.5 lakh tonnes from Mozambique this year.
- The government has also explored the possibility of similar long-term agreements with countries such as Kenya.
Last year’s surplus
- An inter-ministerial committee made the decision to allow a limited quota of imports which have to be completed by August-end, before Indian harvests, so that Indian farmers are not affected.
- However, this does not take into account the fact that last year’s surplus harvests have already resulted in full godowns.
- The government procurement agency alone had 40 lakh tonnes of pulses in its warehouses apart from stocks still remaining with traders and farmers.
- Farmers’ groups have been agitating about falling crop prices all summer.
- Prices outside India are higher than domestic rates, so it is not viable to import.
- The government should have realised that farmers had increased acreage on the back of rising prices, incentivised by a higher minimum support price and technical interventions to ensure higher domestic production.
- Those statistics pointing to oversupply were completely ignored and instead the government signed long-term deals with other countries, creating trouble for itself.
- This year, for the first time, the government has allowed millers — as opposed to traders — to import pulses.
- The government has stock, traders have stock, millers have stock, and farmers have stock, so there is a surplus.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
Why in news?
- The bailout package for sugarcane farmers does little to fix structural flaws in the sector
- A little over a month after the Centre proposed a special cess under the GST to help alleviate distress among sugarcane farmers, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved a Rs.7,000- crore package for the sugar sector last week.
- This package, with a mix of assured minimum pricing and special incentives for increasing molasses and ethanol production to gainfully mop up the glut of sugar in the country, is independent of the cess proposal that was expected to raise Rs.6,700 crore.
What steps govt has taken?
- To put this in perspective, sugar mills’ dues to farmers stand at Rs.22,000 crore. Under the proposed bailout scheme, the government will procure sugar from mills at a fixed minimum price to help them clear dues to farmers, and also offer them other financial assistance.
- Only about Rs.1,175 crore, however, will be used towards procurement of refined sugar from mills to create a buffer stock of 30 lakh tonnes.
- This is a fraction of the 63.5 million tonnes output expected in the two sugar seasons from October 2017 to September 2019. With the record output, sugar prices have dropped from an average of Rs.37 a kg in the previous season to Rs.26 in the current season.
- The bailout plan promises to pay Rs.29 a kg. Sugar mills say this is below their production cost of Rs.35 a kg, though it may dissipate their immediate liquidity problems to an extent.
About the issues
- Rating agency Crisil reckons that the fixed price for sugar at mill gates and the buffer stock will at best help mitigate about 40% of the outstanding arrears to sugarcane farmers.
- And as production will rise again in the coming season, so will the extent of arrears. The rest of the package will take time to materialise, with Rs.4,440 crore of loans and Rs.1,332 crore of interest subsidies for greenfield and brownfield distillery capacities.
- Over time, this could help to use excess sugar for the manufacture of alcohol or ethanol, but it will not be soon enough to address the present crisis.
- Perpetuating the complex web of state controls in a politically-sensitive sector is no solution.
- All said and done, the Centre’s sweetener for the sector does little to address structural problems and sticks to old-style pricing and stock-holding interventions instead of signalling a shift to market-driven cropping decisions.
- The best way to address the problem of excess supply, in the long run, is to ensure some linkage between the price paid for sugarcane and the end-products it is used for; and
- Encouraging the feedback from market prices to inform farmers’ future cropping decisions. The current sops-driven solution could distort the agriculture sector further.
- How the seeds of secularism were sown in India, and why the state came to play a part in religious institutions
- During colonial rule in India, England was not a secular country with a Jeffersonian wall of separation between church and state. Instead, the Church of England was the established church.
- The “Act of Supremacy” enacted in 1534 declared that the monarch was the “Supreme Head of the Church of England”.
- Initially, the East India Company (EIC) got itself intricately entangled with the administration of religious institutions. Temple employees were appointed by government officials. Royal salutes were fired from the batteries of Fort St. George in Madras, at the celebration of Pongal, and at Ramzan.
- Under the orders of the public officer of the district, a religious offering was made at temples for a good monsoon. Laws were enacted which said that the “general superintendence of all lands granted for the support of mosques [and] Hindoo temples” was vested in the colonial government.
A change of policy
- All this annoyed Christian missionaries and members of the clergy in England and India who put pressure on the government.
- Consequently, in 1833, the Court of Directors of the EIC sent instructions to the colonial government outlining its policy towards India’s religions.
- The Directors wrote that all “religious rites” that were “harmless… ought to be tolerated, however false the creed by which they are sanctioned.”
- However, they wrote: “The interference of British Functionaries in the interior management of native temples, in the customs, habits and religious proceedings of their priests and attendants, in the arrangement of their ceremonies, rites and festivals, and generally in the conduct of their interior economy, shall cease.”
- It was in this manner that the seeds of secularism were sown in India. The colonial government was directed to disentangle itself from “superstitious” Indian religious institutions, because Indian religions were considered heathen and false.
- However, the Church of England in India was still established for a long time.
- The wall of separation between temple and colonial state in India was achieved in 1863, when a law was enacted which said that it would no longer be “lawful” for “any Government in India, or for any Officer of any Government” in his official capacity, to take over the “superintendence of any land or other property” belonging to a “Mosque, Temple, or other religious establishment”, to take part in the “management or appropriation of any [religious] endowment”, to nominate or appoint any trustee in a religious institution, “or to be in any way concerned therewith”.
- Referring to this law in the legislative council, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal said that it would “rid” the government of a “burden”.
The missing clause
- However, this colonial vision of secularism was rejected by India’s founding fathers. After the Government of India Act, 1919, Indian legislators came to power at the provinces.
- Indian political leaders enacted the far-reaching Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1926, which virtually took over the management and administration of Hindu temples in the province.
- It established “boards” appointed by the government. Temple trustees had to furnish accounts to and obey the instructions of the boards. Temples’ surplus funds could be spent by the boards themselves, on any “religious, educational or charitable purposes not inconsistent with [their] objects”.
What does the constitution says?
- The entanglement of the government with religious institutions in India would be impermissible in the U.S. The first amendment to the Constitution there prohibits Congress from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion”.
- In the Constituent Assembly, B.R. Ambedkar drafted an establishment clause which said that “The State shall not recognize any religion as State religion.”T. Shah’s draft said that the government would be “entirely a secular institution”, which would “maintain no official religion or established church”.
- If these clauses found their way into the Constitution, the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1926, could possibly have been found unconstitutional.
- Then, something odd happened. In April 1947, the sub-committee on fundamental rights in the assembly discussed the establishment clause, and K.M. Munshi and K.M. Panikkar promised that they would re-draft it, “so as to provide for those cases where religion is already accepted as a State religion.”
- A few days later, when the sub-committee presented its report on fundamental rights, the establishment clause unceremoniously vanished. Later, H.V. Kamath tried to move an amendment in the Constituent Assembly to introduce an establishment clause into the draft constitution to the following effect: “The State shall not establish, endow, or patronize any particular religion.” However, his amendment was put to vote and rejected.
- The Supreme Court has allowed governments to heavily regulate Hindu temples on the theory that the freedom of religion does not include secular matters of administration which are not essential to the religion.
- Sometimes, the court has perhaps gone a little too far since the line between integral religious practice and non-essential secular activity is often hard to draw.
- For instance, though the government cannot interfere with rituals and prayers at temples, it can regulate the amount that temples spend on such things. Even the appointment of priests in Hindu temples has been held to be a secular activity, which the government can regulate.
- In a letter written in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson advanced the idea of a “wall of eternal separation between church & state” in the U.S.
- The wall of separation between temple and state in India was first constructed by a colonial government which wanted to distance itself from religions that it considered heathen and false. That wall was then pulled down by Indian leaders who felt that government entanglement in religious institutions, especially Hindu temples, was essential, even in a secular state.
- India’s imports of Iranian oil may be hit from the end of August after the State Bank of India (SBI) informed refiners it would not handle payments for crude from November.
- The move by India’s biggest bank, comes after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran last month, pledging to reimpose tough sanctions within 180 days.
- Although New Delhi had cut imports from Tehran in 2017-18 due to a dispute over a giant gas field, Iran remained its third-biggest oil supplier.
- Iran supplied about 458,000 barrels per day (bpd), or about a tenth of India’s more than 4.5 million bpd of imports, in the fiscal year to March 2018.
- India’s refiners currently use SBI and Germany-based Europaeisch-Iranische Handelsbank AG to buy Iranian oil in euros.
- India has said it does not follow U.S. sanctions, but companies and banks with links to the U.S. financial system could face penalties if they do not comply.
- Iran offers Indian refiners a 60-day credit period on oil sales. Analysts contend Iran may have to offer more incentives to protect its oil sales to India.
- Bankers have questioned the “exorbitant” charges prescribed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for Aadhaar authentication services.
- Calling for a review of the charges, banks have warned that smaller lenders may have no option but to shift the burden to customers.
- Most of the non-scheduled UCBs are unit banks or have less than five branches. UCBs with a customer base of five crore are meeting the credit needs of the poor and marginal sections and playing an efficient role in financial inclusion and growth of the country.
- While there are about 1562 urban cooperative banks (UCBs) in India, officials in larger banks are also concerned about the UIDAI’s costs but are wary of placing it on record.
- Banks have to pay a fee of Rs.20 lakh with a validity of two years for production environment facility for authentication of Aadhaar.
- According to bankers, such high charges for enabling the Aadhaar environment for customers are not justifiable since the unique identification numbers were sought to be used for social objectives.
- The high charges are particularly affecting smaller banks and small finance banks.
- A new report shows that 55% of the total wealth in the country is with those having less than $1,00,000 net worth.
- In contrast, only 18% of the global wealth is with those in this category.
- The Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG’s) Global Wealth Report 2018 also shows that those with more than $1 billion in personal wealth, have cornered 16% of total wealth in India. This is the second largest category under the wealth distribution head.
- The report goes on to estimate that personal wealth grew at 12% from 2017 to 2018 in India, compared with 15% in the previous year.
- Overall, the report estimates a 13% CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) from 2017 to 2022.
- This matches with the growth rate in Asia (excluding Japan) for the same period but is much faster than the 7% growth in personal wealth estimated for the world.
- The character of personal wealth in India is also slowly changing, according to the report.
- While investable wealth — listed equity, bonds, investment funds, currency and deposits and other smaller asset classes — accounted for 64% of total personal wealth in 2012, this proportion is expected to increase to 70% by 2022.
- Further, the category that has and will see most growth is investment in equities and investment funds, the report showed.
- While this category made up 17% of the personal wealth in 2012, it increased to 22% in 2017, and is expected to further increase to 32% by 2022.
- India’s merchandise trade deficit widened to $14.62 billion in May 2018, official data showed.
- The shortfall was $13.72 billion in April 2018 and $13.84 billion in May 2017.
- Exports during May 2018 were valued at $28.86 billion as compared to $24.01 billion during May 2017 exhibiting a positive growth of 20.18%.
- In contrast, merchandise exports in April had grown by only 5.17%, while imports grew 4.6%.
- The export growth in May 2018 was better than that seen in May last year, while the import growth was slower. Exports grew 8.32% in May 2017, while imports grew 33.1%.
- The major export groups that witnessed strong growth in May 2018 included engineering goods (14.8%), petroleum products (104.5%), organic and inorganic chemicals (34.2%), drugs and pharmaceuticals (25.7%), and cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups and handloom products (24.7%).
- Escalating trade war between the U.S. and China would vitiate the global trading environment, making it imperative for India as well to keep a vigil on the fast-moving developments.
- With the U.S. confirming 25% tariffs on $50 billion Chinese imports and the Chinese stating they would retaliate, it is time for India to keep engaged with both the U.S. and China to safeguard their own interest.
- Oil imports during May 2018 were valued at $11.5 billion which was 49.5% higher in dollar terms and 56.7% higher in rupee terms compared to $7.69 billion in May 2017.
- Oil imports during April-May 2018-19 were valued at $21.91 billion which was 45.6% higher in dollar terms and 50.5% higher in rupee terms compared to $15.05 billion in the corresponding period last year.
- The government, however, did mention that global Brent prices had increased by 50.7% in May 2018 compared with their levels in May 2017, as per commodity price data from the World Bank.
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Which of the following are included in the criteria for declaring a community as a schedule tribes?
- Indication of primitive traits
- Distinctive culture
- Extensive contact with community at large
- Geographic isolation and backwardness
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 1, 3 and 4
- Only 1, 2 and 4
- All of the above
Question 2. For eradication manual scavenging, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act 2013 was enacted. With reference to the act, consider the following statements.
- It prohibits engagement of persons for hazardous cleaning of septic tanks.
- It provides for the comprehensive rehabilitation of manual scavengers in time- bound manner.
- The monitoring mechanism has its chairman as Chief Minister at state level and Prime Minister at national level.
Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?
- All of the above
- Only 2 and 3
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 1 and 3
Question 3. The population size of a region directly depends upon-
- Birth Rate
- Demographic dividend
Select the correct answer using the codes given:
- Only 1 and 3
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 1, 3 and 4
- All of the above
Question 4. The commodity market in India is regulated by-
- Forward Market Commission
- Ministry of consumer affairs directly regulate it
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
Public participation is at the heart of good governance. Discuss.
- Regionalism poses a significant threat to the federal structure of our nation. But this federal system is the one responsible for differential levels of development across the nation, which in turn has strengthened regional romanticism. Analyse.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
“Proper Current Affairs preparation is the key to success in the UPSC- Civil Services Examination. We have now launched a comprehensive ‘Current Affairs Webinar’. Limited seats available. Click here to Know More.”