30 June 2019: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

June 30th 2019 CNA:-Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 
1. India seeks Kartarpur talks from July 11 to 14
2. G20 resolves to free Internet of extremism
3. China proposes 5G tie-up with India, Russia
4. A conciliatory tone at G20
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 
1. DD wades into war over waves along LoC in Kashmir
2. Only 20% of Nirbhaya Fund has been used by States until 2018
3. Shah’s statement opens J&K debate
C. GS3 Related
INDIAN ECONOMY 
1. Kerala targets 1 million e-vehicles by 2022
2. Act against fugitive economic offenders: India
3. New GST return filing system from Oct.
4. ‘One nation, one ration card’ from July 1, 2020
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 
1. Nipah virus: Experimental antiviral drug shows promise
2. IISER Kolkata takes a step towards predicting space weather
3. Indian scientist to be Co-I for NASA’s PUNCH mission
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY 
1. Climate change guide
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 
1. Should India stay with RCEP?
GEOGRAPHY
1. Why are monsoons difficult to predict?
INDIAN ECONOMY 
1. Measuring black money
F. Tidbits
G. Prelims Facts
H. UPSC Prelims Practise Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practise Questions

A. GS1 Related

B. GS2 Related

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. India seeks Kartarpur talks from July 11 to 14

What’s in the news?

  • After weeks of an impasse on the Kartarpur corridor, the Government of India has written to Pakistan, proposing the next round of talks to be held from July 11th to 14th, 2019 on the Pakistani side of the Attari-Wagah border.

What will the meeting aim to discuss?

  • “The meeting would discuss the draft agreement on the modalities for movement of pilgrims along the Kartarpur corridor and resolve outstanding technical issues related to alignment and infrastructure along the corridor,” an official source said.
  • It is important to note that the government’s decision to propose the fourth round of talks came a week after the External Affairs Ministry said Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote to his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan.
  • Modi wrote that India was keen on seeing the corridor completed in time for the 550th birth anniversary of Sikh founder Guru Nanak in November, 2019.
  • “We will continue to work for early operationalisation of the Kartarpur Corridor and keeping it functional all year round,” Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said recently.
  • However, talks had been put off as India had sought “clarifications” on several issues including whether to build a bridge or a causeway over the Ravi, proposed caps on pilgrim numbers, and the presence of Khalistani separatists in key posts of the gurdwara committee in Pakistan.
  • Asked if the new Indian proposal for dates meant that the issues had now been resolved, a source said that the move “shows India’s commitment to the corridor”.
  • India has also asked Pakistan to increase the number of pilgrims under the 1974 bilateral Protocol who visit annually various religious shrines in Pakistan on the occasion of Guru Nanak Dev Jayanti, to 10,000 this year.

2. G20 resolves to free Internet of extremism

What’s in the news?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other G20 leaders recently resolved to prevent the use of the Internet to fund and facilitate terrorism and extremism, saying that while the Internet must be “open, free and secure”, it could not serve as a safe haven for terrorists.
  • In a statement after the Osaka summit, the leaders said they were committed to protecting people from violent extremism conducive to terrorism, or VECT, through the exploitation of the Internet.

Citizens’ security:

  • The statement said, “As leaders, one of our greatest responsibilities is to ensure the security of our citizens. It is the state’s role, first and foremost, to prevent and combat terrorism. Here in Osaka, we reaffirm our commitment to act to protect our people from terrorist and VECT exploitation of the Internet.”
  • “We issue this statement to raise the bar of expectation for online platforms to do their part. We, the leaders of the G20, reaffirm our strongest condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
  • The G20 leaders said the live-streamed Christchurch terrorist attacks in New Zealand that killed 51 people, and other recent atrocities, demonstrated the urgency with “which we must fully implement relevant UN resolutions, the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy and other instruments, including the 2017 Hamburg G20 Leaders’ Statement on Countering Terrorism.”
  • Furthermore, the leaders agreed that such efforts must respect human rights and the freedom of expression and access to information.

Concluding Remarks:

  • The Internet must not be a safe haven for terrorists to recruit, incite or prepare terrorist acts.
  • “We urge online platforms to adhere to the core principle, as affirmed in Hamburg, that the rule of law applies online as it does offline. This must be achieved in a way that is consistent with national and international law, including human rights and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and access to information — we hold these in high regard. We commit to collaborate with states, international organisations, industry, and civil society in this endeavour,” they said.

3. China proposes 5G tie-up with India, Russia

What’s in the news?

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping recently pitched for a partnership with New Delhi and Moscow for expanding a joint footprint in the cyberspace.
  • In his remarks at the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Xi urged the three countries, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin, to “expand cooperation in 5G network, high technology, connectivity, energy and other areas,”
  • He also called for reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO), based on consensus.
  • Xi also proposed during the meeting that the three countries should become guardians of “global and regional peace and stability”.
  • Without going into details, he said the trio should “advocate a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept…”
  • It is also important to note that, the three leaders, along with heads of five other Eurasian countries, deliberated on counterterrorism, and related common security issues, during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
  • The trio will meet again in Vladivostok at the Eastern Economic Forum, where Mr. Modi will be the chief guest.
  • Xi said the three countries should jointly combat terrorism in all forms, and work together to address global challenges such as climate change and cybersecurity.
  • He pointed out that the rise of protectionism and unilateralism had seriously affected the stability of the global landscape, dragged down world economic growth, and exerted a negative impact that cannot be ignored on the international order on which emerging-market countries and developing countries depend.

Concluding Remarks:

  • The Chinese President also stressed that the three countries need to promote a multipolar world and make international relations more democratic.
  • The three leaders decided to institutionalise their “informal summit” on the sidelines of the G20.

4. A conciliatory tone at G20

Analysis:

  • President Donald Trump went to Osaka as tensions, especially trade ones, were on the rise between the U.S. and several other countries, both its friends and foes.
  • As a matter of fact, a day before the summit opened, he fired a salvo on India, saying India’s tariffs are unacceptable.
  • It is important to note that Mr. Trump had been critical of Japan’s trade practices as well and has also launched a tariff war with China.
  • Besides, the talks his administration initiated with North Korea have been stalled for months, while the U.S. was on the brink of a war with Iran a few days earlier.
  • However, at the G20, despite these tensions, the world saw a more conciliatory Trump.

‘Deal in the offing’:

  • In two days, he held talks with a host of leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China and Shinzo Abe of Japan.
  • Before the crucial talks with Mr. Modi, he said that “a very big deal” with India was in the offing. “I think we were going to have some very big things to announce. Very big trade deal,” he observed.
  • Later, both India and the U.S. said the leaders had a “productive” meeting on subjects such as trade, 5G technology, energy security and the Iran crisis.

U.S. Trade Imbalance with Japan:

  • It is important to note that in the case of Japan, Mr. Trump had repeatedly attacked Tokyo for the trade imbalance.
  • In 2018, the U.S. had a trade deficit of $67 billion with Japan while the total trade stood at about $220 billion.
  • At Osaka, Mr. Abe provided the U.S. President with a list of recent Japanese investments in the U.S.

Trump’s Turnaround:

  • Trump’s most remarkable turnaround was on China with which the U.S. had a $378.6 billion trade deficit in 2018.
  • After trade talks between the two sides collapsed in May 2019, he had threatened to impose tariffs on the $300 billion worth Chinese products that are currently spared in the tariff war.
  • The U.S. accuses China of wrong trade practices, currency manipulation and technology theft.
  • The Trump administration has slapped 25% additional tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate. After trade talks failed, the U.S. had launched a global campaign against Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei.

Talks with Xi:

  • In the talks at the G20 Summit in Osaka, both Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi agreed to resume trade talks.
  • Trump said the U.S. would hold off on further tariffs and allow American companies to sell hi-tech equipment to Huawei, a key demand from China.
  • In return, China would buy large amounts of U.S. farm goods.
  • The most surprising announcement, however, came when Mr. Trump tweeted that he was ready to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the demilitarised zone between the North and South Koreas.
  • It is important to note that the talks between the U.S. and North Korea have stalled after the Hanoi summit of Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim failed to produce any result.
  • Trump’s sudden call for another meeting suggests that he’s keen on pursuing the diplomatic route with North Korea despite the recent setback.

Attack on journalists:

  • While the U.S. President dialled down tensions and appeared more willing to work with world leaders to resolve differences and disputes, there’s one section of people he continued to attack even in Osaka — journalists.
  • “Fake news is a great term isn’t it,” he joked with Mr. Putin, referring to his favourite attack on America’s liberal media.
  • When journalists surrounded Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin with questions after their meeting, the former even quipped: “Get rid of them.” And then he asked the Russian leader, “You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do,” to which Mr. Putin responded, “We also have. It’s the same.”

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. DD wades into war over waves along LoC in Kashmir

What’s in the news?

  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has launched a major drive in the border areas to wean locals from channels beamed from across the border.
  • Over 30,000 free Doordarshan (DD) dish set-top boxes have been earmarked to be distributed in 10 border districts close to the LoC and the International Border (IB), out of the State’s 22 districts.
  • They will provide 100 channels free, including local news channels.

Locals having only dish antennas:

  • It is important to note that hundreds of residents, especially in the Pir Panjal Valley’s Rajouri and Poonch districts, have only dish antennas or traditional antennas because no cable operator can access the tough terrain.
  • Given their geographical location, these antennas easily catch TV channels from across the border, including the official channels of Pakistan Television.

‘A better alternative’:

  • Doing away with the one-time fee of around ₹2,000 for these set-top boxes, the State government will make them available free.
  • “There are undesirable channels, not approved by the Ministry, being received and watched in Jammu and Kashmir. Strategically, the move will help us reach out to people with a better alternative,” a senior DD official said.

2. Only 20% of Nirbhaya Fund has been used by States until 2018

What’s in the news?

  • The States and Union Territories have utilised less than 20% of the budget allocated to them under the Nirbhaya Fund for safety of women by the Central government between 2015 and 2018, according to official data.
  • A sum of ₹1,813 crore has been disbursed by the Centre from 2015 to 2019.
  • It is important to note that the Nirbhaya Fund was set up by the UPA-II in the aftermath of the gangrape of a paramedical student in a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012 with an initial corpus of ₹1,000 crore.
  • The Fund supports schemes for safety of women, and over the past six years it has swelled to ₹3,600 crore through allocation in the Finance Budgets.
  • Though the Fund was instituted in 2013, its disbursement gathered pace only from 2015.
  • The key schemes under which the States have been allocated money include Emergency Response Support System, Central Victim Compensation Fund, Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children, One Stop Scheme, Mahila Police Volunteer, and Universalisation of Women Helpline Scheme.
  • The top five States ranked in terms of utilisation of money across various schemes under the Nirbhaya Fund were Chandigarh (59.83%), Mizoram (56.32%), Uttarakhand (51.68%), Andhra Pradesh (43.23%) and Nagaland (38.17%).
  • However, the government data shows more money was utilised by Chandigarh than what was allocated to it under Central Victim Compensation Fund as well as Women Helpline Scheme.
  • The worst five States include Manipur, Maharashtra, Lakshadweep – which didn’t spend even a single penny – and were followed by West Bengal (0.76%) and Delhi (0.84%).

Lack of utilization of funds by Delhi:

  • Delhi, which was at the centre of nationwide protests following the 2012 gangrape setting the wheels in motion for introducing the Fund, didn’t use any money for three of the four schemes under which it was allocated a total sum of ₹35 crore.
  • These include schemes for emergency support, women helpline, and cyber crime prevention.
  • The national capital used a mere 3.41% of the money it received for compensating victims of gender based violence.

Concluding Remarks:

  • It is important to note that despite a poor record by States in using the money given to them, the Centre has continued to pump in more cash for schemes like One Stop Scheme as well as Universalisation of Women Helpline Scheme — which provides for a single national helpline 181 linked with One Stop Centres for women in distress.
  • Some of the glaring examples include Bihar, which did not use even a single rupee out of ₹5.20 crore for One Stop Centres between 2015 and 2019 but was granted ₹3.9 crore again in 2019 and 2020.
  • Similarly, Uttar Pradesh didn’t use any money from ₹1.91 crore given to it for the Women Helpline Scheme, yet it was granted ₹46.5 lakh again in 2019.

3. Shah’s statement opens J&K debate

What’s in the news?

  • Jammu & Kashmir’s former head of State and senior Congress leader Karan Singh said many provisions in the Constitution were temporary in nature and even the reservation for Scheduled Castes was temporary and originally meant for the initial 10 years.
  • Recently, Home Minister Amit Shah said in the Lok Sabha that Article 370, which extends special status to J&K, was “temporary” and not permanent in nature.
  • Singh, son of the former ruler of J&K, said that “There are several provisions in the Constitution, like Articles 371 (special status to Maharashtra, Gujarat), 371A (Nagaland), that are also temporary.
  • The reservation for Dalits was initially meant only for 10 years, but it has continued for more than 50 years. It is obvious they [the Bharatiya Janata Party] want to do something, but the Constitutional, legal and political implications will have to be looked into.”

A Brief Look at History:

  • Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of J&K, signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947 to accede in respect of only three subjects — Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications.
  • On April 20, 1951, Dr. Singh issued a Proclamation constituting a 75-member Constituent Assembly (CA) for the purposes of framing a Constitution for the State.

Perspective on Article 370 not being abrogated:

  • Faizan Mustafa, Vice-Chancellor of the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), Hyderabad, said 43 presidential orders had been extended to J&K through Article 370 and the Supreme Court had made it clear that it was temporary only in the heading.
  • “The President cannot abrogate Article 370 unless there is a concurrence of the CA of J&K. But the CA was dissolved and not adjourned. If we go purely by text of the Indian Constitution, you will require first a recommendation from the CA of Kashmir and then a presidential order. Now, since the CA is not there, so take the approval of the State Assembly. But if you take a narrow view, the Legislative Assembly is not a replacement of the CA,” Mr. Mustafa said.
  • Singh concurred. “A lot of Articles have been extended to J&K with the consent of the State Assembly. For this major change, the Supreme Court will have to take the final decision. There are conflicting legal opinions and it ought to be challenged in the SC,” he said.

Onus resting on the Assembly?

  • A senior government official said that any proposal to change the arrangement should first come from the Assembly.
  • Clause 3 of Article 370 states, “Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this Article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may specify: provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in Clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification.”
  • Recently, the Centre informed the Rajya Sabha that “At present, Article 370 is part of Constitution of India under the title ‘Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu & Kashmir’ and Article 35A is contained in the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 1954 issued by the President of India under Article 370.”
  • In the month of December, 2017, the Centre informed Parliament that, “No proposal regarding abolition of Article 35A and Article 370 in respect of Jammu & Kashmir is at present under consideration of the government.”

C. GS3 Related

Category: INDIAN ECONOMY

1. Kerala targets 1 million e-vehicles by 2022

What’s in the news?

  • Kerala’s electric vehicle (EV) policy has set an ambitious target of introducing 1 million EVs on the State’s roads by 2022.
  • A pilot fleet of 3,000 buses, 100 ferries, two lakh two-wheelers, 50,000 three-wheelers and 1,000 goods carriers are planned as part of this.
  • Apart from investment, the policy also calls for the adoption of technology best suited for the State.
  • The State-run Kerala Automobiles Limited plans to roll out 8,000 e-autos a year. It has also tied up with Swiss e-bus manufacturer HESS to assemble and later on manufacture e-buses, for which a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed recently.
  • The plan is to make 3,000 e-buses for the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation.
  • KSRTC has already invited bids for 1,500 e-buses on wet lease this year (2019). Thiruvananthapuram aims to have 100% e-mobile public transport within a year.

2. Act against fugitive economic offenders: India

What’s in the news?

  • India has pitched strongly to deal with fugitive economic offenders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has flagged the issue at all global forums, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, said recently.
  • “We strongly put forward the need to deal with fugitive economic offenders. It has been a strong agenda, we have been working on tax evasion, corruption, economic offences and fugitive offenders running away [from the country]. We have also been very strongly championing this,” Mr. Prabhu told a press conference.
  • We strongly feel that we as a global community must act in unison to deal with such issues of people committing economic offences and running away from their national domicile country,” he told presspersons after the G20 Sherpas’ meeting.
  • Asked why India did not join the Osaka declaration on digital economy, Mr. Prabhu said the reasons had been communicated to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Perspective on the Digital economy:

  • Prabhu clarified that India strongly believed in the digital economy and had taken a host of measures, including a huge number of bank accounts, to give it a thrust.
  • “India has a very massive programme on digital transactions. We have opened bank accounts of a large number of people. Many transactions are happening through the digital forms.”, Mr. Prabhu said.
  • Prabhu, Railway Minister in the first term of the NDA government, said the Railways had almost 8.1 billion passengers a year, and many of them buy tickets through digital platforms.
  • “So, digital is something which we all believe in, we have a market which is growing including the e-commerce market,” Mr. Prabhu said.

3. New GST return filing system from Oct.

What’s in the news?

  • A new return filing mechanism — Goods and Service Tax 2.0 — will be rolled out from October 2019 for big businessmen and from January 2020 for small businessmen.
  • The GST, which is entering the third year from July 1, 2019, will be focussing on simplification of procedures, compliance and crackdown on tax evasion, said Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, who chaired a Group of Ministers’ recently.
  • The GST registered an average monthly collection of ₹91,334 crore in the past 21 months.
  • It is important to note that the meeting of the GoM was held after eight months, the gap largely due to the enforcement of the model code during the Lok Sabha election.
  • Modi said traders and businessmen having zero transactions or nil filers could now file returns through SMS.
  • Whereas, those dealing with business-to-consumer with an annual turnover of less than ₹5 crore a year would have a new format, “Sahaj”, and they could file returns once in four months.
  • A new single return format called “Sugam” is ready for those in business-to-consumer and business-to-business.
  • Businessmen having an annual turnover of more than ₹5 crore will have to file returns every month, Mr. Modi said.
  • Noting that Infosys had developed the GST software, Mr. Modi said online refund from one source (central) and online refunding process would be completed by September 2019.
  • Currently, exporters have been facing many difficulties in receiving export refunding, he said.

4. ‘One nation, one ration card’ from July 1, 2020

What’s in the news?

  • The ‘One nation, one ration card’ scheme, which will allow portability of food security benefits, will be available across the country from July 1, 2020.

What does the implementation of the ‘One nation, one ration card’ mean?

  • This means poor migrant workers will be able to buy subsidised rice and wheat from any ration shop in the country if their ration cards are linked to Aadhaar.
  • All the States have been given one more year to use point-of-sale (PoS) machines in the ration shops and implement the scheme.
  • Already, more than 85% of people covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) have their cards linked to Aadhaar.
  • Next, while the Aadhaar linkage is not necessary to access the NFSA benefits in a beneficiary’s local ration shop closest to her home address, it will be necessary to access the portability scheme.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura already offer this portability.
  • Delhi had begun implementing portability, but was stopped for technical reasons.
  • The States such as Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Tamil Nadu could easily implement the scheme, as they had PoS machines in all the ration shops.
  • A senior Ministry official clarified that migrants would only be eligible for the subsidies supported by the Centre, which include rice sold at ₹3 a kg and wheat at ₹2 a kg. Even if a beneficiary moved to a State where grains were given free, that person would not be able to access those benefits, as they were funded by the State exchequer.

Concluding Remarks:

  • In a bid to reduce nutrition deficiencies among beneficiaries, the Centre would roll out a pilot project in 15 districts to fortify rice with iron, folic acid and vitamins A and B12.
  • This would be available in ration shops from November, 2019.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Nipah virus: Experimental antiviral drug shows promise

What’s in the news?

  • In a recently published study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health, U.S., have shown that Remdesivir was able to treat four African green monkeys which were given a lethal dose of Nipah virus.
  • Remdesivir is a broad-spectrum antiviral drug which is currently in phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of Ebola.
  • Eight monkeys were inoculated with a lethal dose of Nipah virus Bangladesh strain, and, 24 hours later, four of them were treated intravenously with the drug for 12 consecutive days.

Response in monkeys:

  • The ones that did not receive the drug developed respiratory problems with the disease rapidly progressing in about a week. Two of these were sacrificed on day seven due to disease severity, and the remaining two were sacrificed on the eighth day when they reached the humane endpoint criteria (when the experimental animal is in pain and/or distress and the experiment is terminated).
  • The four animals which were treated with the drug survived.
  • They did not show any clinical signs up to 92 days and the experiment was terminated.
  • Though parameters such as body weight and temperature remained unchanged in the two groups, an increased respiration rate and decreased oxygen saturation (oxygen-saturated haemoglobin versus total haemoglobin in the blood) were seen in the non-drug group.
  • When asked if these results hold true for Indian Nipah strain, Emmie de Wit, the first author of the study said: “The Nipah virus that caused the outbreak in India belongs to the same genotype as the Nipah virus from Bangladesh that we used in our study. So although there are some small genetic differences between the two viruses they are very similar. It is always good to confirm, but we are confident that the drug will be effective against Indian Nipah viruses as well.”
  • During the course of the study, the researchers found that one of the drug-treated animals exhibited inflammation of the brain tissues.

Mode of action:

  • de Wit adds that “Remdesivir can stop the virus from making new copies of its genome. Because the genome is an essential part of the virus, the virus cannot replicate itself very well in the presence of the drug, and there is less damage to organs and thus less severe disease.”

2. IISER Kolkata takes a step towards predicting space weather

What’s in the news?

  • On July 2nd, this year (2019), a total solar eclipse becomes visible in parts of Chile and Argentina.
  • A team of researchers from the Indian Insititute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata has given out a computer model-based prediction of the shape of the Sun’s atmosphere that the eclipse will reveal.
  • Many Indian and international solar physicists will be gathering in Argentina to observe the eclipse and discuss the Sun’s influence on our space environment.
  • If the Indian prediction works, it will help us forecast how the Sun’s temperament can affect space weather. This, in turn, can help monitor the safety of the electronic sensors in satellites, astronauts’ well-being and even the impact on Earth.

Looking at the Sun’s corona:

  • The Sun’s corona, which is like the Sun’s atmosphere, although hotter than its interior, is less dense and therefore emits fewer photons.
  • Therefore, in normal times, the Sun’s surface shines so brightly that it obscures the corona.
  • Only when there is a total solar eclipse does the solar disc get ‘occulted’ by the moon, exposing the corona to our view, albeit using instruments for photographing it.
  • It is also important to note that the Sun’s magnetic field lines stretch out from the surface and permeate the corona.
  • Solar plasma wind and storms including flares and coronal mass ejections are born in the coronal magnetic field.
  • Emergence of magnetic field from below the Sun’s surface and dynamic restructuring in the outer layers changes the shape of the corona.
  • Now a team of researchers from IISER Kolkata, has found a way to predict the shape of the corona well in advance.

Two-step process:

  • The team uses a two-step process to predict the shape of the corona.
  • Using a model for the way the magnetic fields emerge as sunspots and evolve on the sun’s surface, they first predict what will be the form of the sun’s surface magnetic field on the day of the eclipse. Then, they use another model to extrapolate this to reveal what the corona will look like.
  • The coronal brightness and structure are determined by the magnetic fields of the Sun, which emerge out of the surface and spread out into the corona.
  • Using computational models, the research scientists have predicted the Sun’s surface magnetic field on the day of the eclipse. They have used this as input to generate the prediction for the coronal field.
  • Coronal regions which have more intense, closed petal-like loop structures appear brighter because the underlying magnetic fields heat the corona and control its emission.
  • According to their calculation, the occulted Sun will show two petal-like formations on either side of the corona with extended plume like structures stretching out into the solar system from their tips. It is to be noted that while solar north points upwards on paper, the eastern side is to the left and western side is to the right, unlike the conventions for geographical maps.
  • The eclipse will last for four minutes and 33 seconds. It will be visible during sunset in parts of Chile and Argentina.

3. IIndian scientist to be Co-I for NASA’s PUNCH mission

What’s in the news?

  • NASA has selected Texas-based Southwest Research Institute to lead its PUNCH mission which will image the Sun.
  • This is a landmark mission that will image regions beyond the Sun’s outer corona.
  • Dipankar Banerjee, solar physicist from Indian Institute of Astrophysics is also a Co-Investigator of the PUNCH mission.

A Note on the Mission:

  • PUNCH, which stands for “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere,” is focused on understanding the transition of particles from the Sun’s outer corona to the solar wind that fills interplanetary space.

Focus on polar regions:

  • Banerjee will be working to study how the solar wind is accelerated. He will focus on the polar regions of the Sun.
  • The team also plans to observe the Sun using joint observations from PUNCH and Indian mission Aditya, which is underway.
  • India is planning to send up its own satellite Aditya-L1, a mission to study the Sun’s corona, and Prof. Banerjee is the co-Chair of the Science Working Group.
  • “We expect co-ordinated observations of Aditya and PUNCH in order to understand our space weather environment,” he says.

Constellation of satellites:

  • PUNCH will consist of a ‘constellation’ of four suitcase-sized microsats that will orbit the Earth in formation and study how the corona, which is the atmosphere of the Sun, connects with the interplanetary medium.
  • The mission is expected to be launched in 2022.
  • The mission will image and track the solar wind and also the coronal mass ejections – which are huge masses of plasma that get thrown out of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • It is important to note that the coronal mass ejections can affect and drive space weather events near the Earth.

A Note on other probes:

  • Other missions such as NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and the ESA-NASA joint project, Solar Orbiter, which is due to be launched in 2020, can study the structures of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • The PUNCH mission enhances these by tracking these structures in real time.
  • Since the Sun’s corona is much fainter than its surface layers, it cannot be viewed by the instruments directly.
  • So PUNCH will block out the light from the Sun to view its corona and the structures in it.

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. Climate change guide

What’s in the news?

  • Dendrochronology is the analysis of tree rings to infer things about the past.
  • This study can now be used to understand the future.
  • A study, published in Nature Communications, of tree rings of living and dead conifers suggested that slowly growing trees sequester more carbon than fast-growing ones.
  • This finding can inform environmental policies that rely on plantations of fast growing trees to mitigate global warming.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Should India stay with RCEP?

What’s in the news?

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which announced the idea of a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2012, is pushing stakeholders to conclude talks by the end of 2019 and take it forward. At the ASEAN summit which ended in Bangkok last Sunday, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said he is willing to push through the trade agreement without India “for the time being.” Others said all 16 members must agree on the final RCEP document. India apart, Australia and New Zealand have raised concerns about joining such a partnership.

Editorial Analysis:

What is RCEP and why does it matter for the world?

  • Billed as the world’s biggest trade agreement, the RCEP of 10 ASEAN countries with its six free trade agreement (FTA) partners India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea could well change the face of global trade as we know it.
  • Let’s take a look at what the RCEP includes:

The RCEP includes countries that make up 45% of the world’s population with 33% of its GDP, and at least 28% of all trade in the world today.

  • If the RCEP is concluded, as ASEAN countries that are driving it hope it will be, by the end of this year, it will bring stability to an otherwise unpredictable world market.
  • The worry is that it could also make world trade less flexible, putting members into a quasi-bloc with China at the helm.
  • Most RCEP members also conduct substantial trade with the United States, and the ongoing U.S.-China trade war may force many of them to take sides, causing a geopolitical rift within the group even before it is fully formed.
  • As a result, the next four months leading up to the next RCEP summit will be watched closely by the entire world.
  • Anticipation levels are high, and the ASEAN grouping even has a countdown to the summit, to be held on November 19th, 2019 in Bangkok, on its website.

Why has it taken so long to negotiate?

  • This week marks the 26th round of negotiations for the RCEP, which are being held amidst high secrecy in Melbourne, Australia (June 22-July 3, 2019).
  • So far, seven of the 18 final RCEP agreement chapters have been concluded, say officials, and ASEAN chair Thailand has committed to wrapping up all the rest in time for the November summit.
  • It is important to note that the concept of the RCEP was promoted by ASEAN countries in 2011, but an RCEP declaration came at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh in 2012, and negotiators met for the first time in 2013.

Looking at the main stumbling blocks for the RCEP:

  • The main stumbling blocks for the RCEP are the India-China trade relationship, as well as some concerns from Australia and New Zealand on labour and environmental protections.
  • While much has been agreed on, and all countries remain committed to concluding the RCEP agreement, the last-mile will only be crossed when all those concerns are met.
  • In May 2019, China proposed a plan to conclude the negotiations without the naysayers, i.e. take the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) into the agreement, while leaving space for India, Australia and New Zealand to join later.
  • The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, echoed the idea after the ASEAN summit recently, but the move was opposed by most in the grouping.
  • As one ASEAN diplomat put it, given the size of India’s market there is “no point without India in RCEP”.

Reasons for India to stay in the RCEP:

  • For India, there are many reasons to stay in the deal.
  • Apart from giving up the first mover’s advantage, India would give up the chance to frame the grouping’s rules and investment standards if it fails to join the RCEP at this stage.
  • Staying out would also run counter to the Narendra Modi government’s plans to ramp up its engagement with ASEAN countries through the “Act East” policy, as well as its hopes for maritime cooperation in the India-Pacific.

Why is India holding up the deal?

(a)   Taking a look at India’s Concerns:

  • India’s chief concern with the RCEP is the fact that it needs to protect its economy from the flooding of cheap imports from China.
  • Of all the countries in the RCEP, India is the only one not involved in any bilateral or multilateral negotiations for an FTA with China, and the worry for the government and industry is that an FTA within the RCEP will just become a cover for duty free trade into India for Chinese goods.

(b)   What have the RCEP negotiators agreed to?

  • RCEP negotiators have thus far agreed to allowing India a differential tariff ladder, for its FTA partners and its non-FTA partners (China, Australia and New Zealand) within the grouping.
  • China wants zero tariffs for over 90 per cent tariff lines however, which could see low-cost “Made in China” goods kill locally manufactured goods.

(c)   Voices of concern and opposition:

  • It is important to note that several industry groups have already petitioned the government not to go ahead with the RCEP, including manufacturers of steel and aluminium, copper, pharmaceuticals and textile, which will be the worst hit in such a scenario.
  • Adding to the pressure on the Modi government is its own protectionist underpinnings within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
  • Ahead of the last round of negotiations in February 2019, the RSS’s trade body, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, had called for a clear declaration that the government would quit RCEP negotiations entirely, citing the impact the agreement would have on agriculture and dairy sectors.
  • The SJM also pointed out, like many other industry bodies, that India’s trade deficits have only grown with each country it has an FTA with, and already has deficits with 11 of the 15 other RCEP countries.
  • As a result, the government has been cautious about moving ahead.
  • India has asked for strict “Rules of Origin” markings on all goods, so they don’t come in through a third country.
  • In addition, India wants to ensure the free flow of services (manpower) to RCEP countries as well, but has faced an uphill task as most countries tighten their immigration laws.
  • During the current round of talks in Melbourne, trade negotiators are focussing on market access for goods, services, and investment as well as negotiations on Rules of Origin, Intellectual Property and e-commerce, and the outcome of this round will be most keenly watched.

The Road Ahead:

  • Once the Melbourne round ends, a three-member delegation consisting of ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi and representatives from Thailand and Indonesia will be coming to New Delhi to put the negotiations on a fast track.
  • For its part, China says it is willing to reassure India on its concerns, and sent a delegation led by Vice-Minister for Commerce Wang Shouwen for talks with India’s Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan earlier in the month of June, 2019.
  • Furthermore, in the past year, China has improved market access to several Indian agricultural and pharmaceutical products, and says it is working on ways to balance the nearly $60 billion-plus trade deficit that India suffers at present.
  • Officials privy to the discussions on the RCEP, however, said the talks were inconclusive.
  • Last year, Mr. Modi and others at the RCEP summit had convinced the group to wait a year, given that elections in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia were due.
  • With fresh mandates, each of the leaders of those countries, including Mr. Modi, is expected to have a greater ability to take tough decisions this year.
  • The worry, say many diplomats, is that 2019 is a make or break year for the RCEP, and if it doesn’t conclude now, the deal itself could be “dead in the water”.

Category: GEOGRAPHY

1. Why are monsoons difficult to predict?

Background:

  • The southwest monsoon made a late entry into Kerala on June 8th, 2019, after a delay of nearly a week.
  • However, things haven’t looked rosy.
  • With India having posted its lowest pre-monsoon rain from November 2018 to March 2019, reservoirs were depleted and a good monsoon was necessary.
  • As of June 27th, 2019, India got only slightly more than two-thirds of rain it normally gets in this month.
  • Many places, including Chennai, are in the grip of a water crisis and about 80% of the country’s meteorological divisions have registered deficient rainfall.

Editorial Analysis:

What is the prediction for the months ahead?

  • July and August are most important for the monsoon and contribute nearly 66% of the 89 cm of rainfall that India gets from June-September.
  • This year (2019), the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast in May that July rainfall would be 95% of what it usually gets and August 99% of its normal.
  • These numbers were calculated on the assumption, in April 2019, that an El Niño—characterised by a warming of the Central Pacific Ocean — that seemed to be visible on the horizon, would slowly lose steam.
  • It is important to note that an El Niño is generally associated with a weakening of monsoon rains in India though there are several other climatological factors that too could cause a drying up of monsoon rains.
  • In May, 2019, the IMD said India would get ‘normal’ rains from June-September.
  • The agency, however, refrains from giving a specific forecast for the month of June. It is important to note that historically, there’s no correlation between the amount of rainfall in June to what lies in the month ahead.
  • Cyclone Vayu that formed in the Arabian Sea and threatened Gujarat was a major hurdle to the progress of the monsoon.
  • Later a western disturbance — a rain-bearing system that passes over Pakistan, Jammu Kashmir and parts of north India — was also obstructing monsoonal currents.

What is behind the delayed progress of the monsoon?

  • The delayed progress of the monsoon, that is causing national consternation, is largely due to the laggardly branch of the monsoon that begins in Kerala and travels upwards along the western coast.
  • The monsoon branch that enters eastern India, around the same time as the southern branch, is relatively better performing thanks to convective currents formed in the Bay of Bengal.

To what extent has the monsoon covered the country?

  • The monsoon has covered the whole of south as well as eastern India.
  • By July 15th, 2019 the monsoon should have ideally covered its last outpost in western Rajasthan, but this is unlikely given the delay in the monsoon’s advent.
  • Experts opine that in the week ahead, it’s expected to make further inroads into central India and most of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.
  • However, the geographic spread obscures the quantity of rain.
  • Only two of India’s 36 meteorological subdivisions have posted normal rainfall and 27 of them are grappling with deficient rainfall.
  • By June 30th, 2019 a low pressure pulse is expected to form over the Bay of Bengal and give a significant push to the monsoon.

How is the monsoon forecast?

  • Until about 2010, the only method employed by the IMD to forecast the monsoon was statistical models.
  • These essentially involved identifying climate parameters linked to the performance of the monsoon — for instance, the sea surface temperature gradient between North Atlantic and North Pacific, the volume of warm water in the equatorial Pacific and the Eurasian snow cover.
  • Their values in February and March are correlated to values of actual rainfall over a hundred years and then, using statistical techniques, extrapolated to forecast a particular year’s monsoon.
  • This has, however, proved wrong and the IMD missed its mark on forecasting major droughts and rain-deficits — particularly 2002, 2004 and 2006.
  • The IMD responded by finding new parameters but keeping the technique essentially the same.
  • Only around 2015 did it start testing a dynamical system.
  • This simulates the weather at a chosen set of locations on a given day — the land and ocean temperature, moisture, windspeeds at various heights, etc. — and computers calculate how these weather variables will change over days, weeks, months.
  • It’s able to do this by solving physics equations that show how each of these weather variables is related to each other.
  • Though meteorological agencies around the world are shifting to such techniques, they still aren’t considered entirely reliable for forecasting the monsoon.
  • The IMD and several private weather agencies are increasingly relying on more sophisticated and high-resolution computer models to give localised forecasts, or warn farmers of changes in weather 10-15 days ahead.
  • Rather than long-range forecasts that only give a broad tenuous picture of the likely performance of the monsoon, these shorter forecasts are far more reliable and help farmers make decisions about sowing.
  • These models are also useful for anticipating heat-wave or a cold-wave and therefore useful to urban planners and government.
  • The statistical model continues to be the bedrock of the IMD’s forecast philosophy but its days are numbered.

Does the monsoon have a bearing on India’s water crisis?

  • Yes and no. India’s water crisis, according to experts, is due to over-extraction of groundwater resources and not enough storage of rain water and surface water.
  • The Central Water Commission, in its recommendation of how reservoirs should store and release water assumes that reservoirs will be empty on June 1 and gradually refill over the course of the monsoon, and be available for the non-monsoon months.
  • Given that June contributes only 17cm or about 20% of the monsoon rainfall and is known to progress in spurts, farmers have already delayed sowing and relying on crop varieties that grow relatively quickly.
  • Moreover, several farmers plant intensely water-guzzling crops that aren’t suited to their climate or prevalent water table.
  • It is important to note that while a July rainfall can temporarily alleviate parched ground, it can’t solve the graver crisis of depleting groundwater and insufficiently charged aquifers.

Category: INDIAN ECONOMY

1. Measuring black money

Background

  • The Standing Committee on Finance recently came out with its report on the ‘status of unaccounted income and wealth both inside and outside the country’.
  • It came to the conclusion, after consulting three premier think-tanks and doing multiple analyses using various methods, that there was no reliable way to quantify black money whether in India or abroad.

What is black money?

  • It is important to note that there is no official definition of black money in economic theory, with several different terms such as parallel economy, black money, black incomes, unaccounted economy, illegal economy and irregular economy all being used more or less synonymously.
  • The simplest definition of black money could possibly be money that is hidden from tax authorities.
  • That is, black money can come from two broad categories: illegal activity and legal but unreported activity.

A Look at the different categories of black money:

  • The first category is the more obvious of the two. Money that is earned through illegal activity is obviously not reported to the tax authorities, and so is black.
  • The second category comprises income from legal activity that is not reported to the tax authorities.
  • For example, let us assume that a piece of land is sold, with the payment made in the proportion of 60% by cheque or electronic transfer, and 40% in cash.
  • If that 40% cash component is not reported to the Income Tax Department, then it is black money.
  • A large number of small shops around the country almost exclusively do business in cash without receipts. All of this could potentially be black money.
  • Another major source of black money is income earned by companies that is routed through shell companies abroad, thereby evading tax authorities.

Why is it difficult to measure it?

  • The very definition of black money makes it extremely difficult to quantify.
  • An important question arises: How is the government supposed to measure the economic activity that is actively being hidden from it?
  • According to the Standing Committee’s report, the sectors that see the highest incidence of black money include real estate, mining, pharmaceuticals, pan masala, the gutkha and tobacco industry, bullion and commodity markets, the film industry, and educational institutes and professionals.
  • As the report also notes, neither are there reliable estimates of black money generation or accumulation and nor is there an accurate well-accepted methodology to make such an estimation.
  • It is important to note that every estimate depends upon the underlying assumptions made by the designers of the measurement, and so far there is no uniformity in the assumptions made by the various agencies tasked with measuring the black economy.
  • The estimates of the black money in the system provided by the Standing Committee vary from 7% of GDP to 120% of GDP, highlighting the wide variance in the methods of estimation.

What are some of the methods used?

  • One of the more popular methods is the monetary method. This method assumes that the existence of and changes in the share of unaccounted income is reflected in the stock or flow of money in the system.
  • In other words, track the money in the economy and you’ll get an idea of how much has not been accounted for.
  • Another method is the global indicator or input-based method. In this method, unaccounted income is modelled using a single universal variable with which it is assumed to be highly correlated, therefore these estimates are also called input-based estimates. Basically, the estimated level of activity in these indicators is compared to the reported level of GDP to arrive at an estimate of under-reporting.
  • One common input used in this method is the quantity of land freight transport. The idea is that matching the actual amount of freight transported in the country to the reported amount of economic activity in the related sectors could give an estimate of how much is not being reported.
  • A third method to measure black money is a straightforward survey. This one, however, requires voluntary information from people and businesses concealing their incomes and so is prone to inaccuracies.

How can the government curb black money?

  • There are several ways and the first is through legislative action.
  • The government has already enacted several laws that seek to formalise the economy and make it necessary to report economic transactions.
  • These include the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, the various GST Acts at the State levels, the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act to name a few.
  • Another method employed by the government to make it harder for transactions to be hidden is to mandate the reporting of PAN for transactions of more than ₹2.5 lakh, and the prohibition of cash receipts of ₹2 lakh or more and a penalty equal to the amount of such receipts if a person contravenes the provision.
  • The Income Tax Department has also started monitoring non-filers of income tax returns using third-party information to identify persons who have undertaken high value financial transactions but not filed their returns.

F. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

H. UPSC Prelims Practise Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements: 
  1. The Sun’s corona, which is like the Sun’s atmosphere, although hotter than its interior, is less dense and therefore emits fewer photons.
  2. The Sun’s magnetic field lines stretch out from the surface and permeate the corona.

Which among the above statements is/are correct?

a) 1 Only
b) 2 Only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

See
Answer
Q2. Consider the following statements
  1. Dendrochronology is the analysis of tree rings to infer things about the past.
  2. A recent study suggests that slowly growing trees sequester more carbon than fast-growing ones.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a) 1 Only
b) 2 Only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

See
Answer
Q3. Consider the following statements: 
  1. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is a proposed Free Trade Agreement between ten ASEAN member states and their six Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners namely India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea.
  2. The RCEP is expected to provide market access for India’s goods and services exports and encourage greater investments and technology into India.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a) 1 Only
b) 2 Only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

See
Answer
Q4. Consider the following statements regarding NASA's PUNCH mission
  1. PUNCH, stands for “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere”.
  2. The mission is focused on understanding the transition of particles from the Sun’s outer corona to the solar wind that fills interplanetary space.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a) 1 Only
b) 2 Only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

See
Answer

I. UPSC Mains Practise Questions

    1. Examine the concerns regarding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership mooted by ASEAN. (15 Marks, 250 Words)
    2. Examine the difficulties to quantify unaccounted income both within and outside the country. What are the steps the government can take? (15 Marks, 250 Words)

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June 30th 2019 CNA:-Download PDF Here

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