22 May 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
GOVERNANCE
1. First Indian vessel with an all-woman crew
2. Arunachal finds place on commercial aviation map
3. NHRC notice over children in prisons
HEALTH
1. Kerala may seek WHO help to battle Nipah
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Talks with Putin
C. GS3 Related
ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
1. Camera traps record rare black panther in Odisha
ECONOMY
1. SEBI proposes stringent norms for debt disclosure
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. On the great Asian highway
ECONOMY
1. Miles to go for the new bankruptcy code
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. The Meghalaya example
F. Prelims Fact
G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. First Indian vessel with an all-woman crew

 

  • History was made on Monday at Verem in north Goa when INSV Tarini was received at the INS Mandovi jetty by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, INSV Tarini became the first Indian vessel with an all-woman crew to successfully circumnavigate the world.
  • The expedition, named Navika Sagar Parikrama, was flagged off by Ms. Sitharaman on September 10 last year. The team of six women sailed for 254 days and covered 22,000 nautical miles.
  • In the course of its voyage, the indigenously built vessel, which was inducted in the Navy in February 2017, met all the criteria of circumnavigation, including crossing the equator twice, crossing all the longitudes and touching the three great capes (Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope).
  • The journey had six legs, with halts at five ports: Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), Cape Town (South Africa) and Port Louis (Mauritius).
  • The vessel ran into rough seas on numerous occasions, with wind speeds in excess of 60 knots and waves up to 7 metres high at some places in the Pacific Ocean.

2. Arunachal finds place on commercial aviation map

 

  • A wartime airstrip laid 66 years ago helped Arunachal Pradesh create history on Monday by becoming the last of the eight northeastern States to be on India’s commercial flight service map.
  • Pasighat airport made it to the record books — as India’s easternmost airport with civilian operations — when an Alliance Air flight touched down at 2.30 p.m. from Kolkata via Guwahati, carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and other passengers.
  • Pasighat, about 570 km northeast of Guwahati, is the headquarters of East Siang district and the State’s oldest city. The airport is roughly on 95.33°E longitude, while Mohanbari airport near Dibrugarh in adjoining Assam, hitherto the easternmost civilian airport, is on 94.91°E longitude.
  • The Alliance Air flight took off a couple of hours later for Kolkata. Officials of Alliance Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, said the near-full flight holds promise for the thrice-a-week service on the Kolkata-Guwahati-Pasighat circuit, introduced under UDAN, the regional air connectivity scheme.
  • Pasighat airport, one of six operational advance landing grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh primarily for military use, was laid in 1952 but was virtually abandoned after the China-India war in 1962, until the Indian Air Force took it over in 2010.
  • The airport was inaugurated in August 2016 with the landing of a Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet. A civilian terminal was built in 2017 and a test landing of Alliance Air’s commercial flight was carried out in April this year.
  • Arunachal Pradesh is working on a bigger airport at Hollongi near Itanagar. The project is yet to take off because of land acquisition issues.
  • On April 27, the UDAN scheme connected Meghalaya’s Umroi airport near State capital Shillong via an 18-seater Air Deccan flight. Umroi, though, had erratic commercial flight service more than a decade ago.
  • Air connectivity for Sikkim, too, was opened on March 10 this year when a 70-seater SpiceJet flight from Kolkata touched down at Pakyong Airport near Gangtok.
  • Assam is the best air-connected State in the northeast, with Guwahati being the communication hub. The other civilian airports with commercial flight service are at Dibrugarh, Silchar, Jorhat, North Lakhimpur and Tezpur.
  • The busiest airports after Guwahati are Imphal and Agartala, followed by Lengpui near Mizoram’s capital Aizawl, and Nagaland’s commercial hub of Dimapur.

3. NHRC notice over children in prisons

 

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notices to all States and Union Territories seeking details of children languishing in jails with their imprisoned mothers, after the case of 46 such children living in Odisha prisons without proper facilities came to light.
  • The commission said it has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report about the plight of 46 boys and girls, aged between one month and six years, who are living in prisons in Odisha with their mothers, including nine convicted and 36 undertrial prisoners.
  • Accordingly, the commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Prisons of all States and Union Territories seeking reports along with statistics, showing how many children were being kept with their mothers in the jails under their jurisdiction.
  • The commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, amount to human rights violations of the innocent children.

Category: HEALTH

1. Kerala may seek WHO help to battle Nipah

 

  • The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has declared a third major outbreak of the Nipah virus infection in the country, as at least four people died of the zoonotic disease since May 5 in Kerala’s district.
  • Nipah Virus is an emerging infectious disease that broke out in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999.
  • It first appeared in domestic pigs and has been found among several species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep. The infection is also known to affect human beings. 
  • The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus.
  • Nipah virus infection gets its name from the village in Malaysia where the person from whom the virus was first isolated succumbed to the disease.
  • The virus has been listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code and must be reported to the OIE (OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code).
  • The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids.
  • Presumably, the first incidence of Nipah virus infection occurred when pigs in Malaysian farms came in contact with the bats who had lost their habitats due to deforestation. Furthermore, transmission between farms may be due to fomites – or carrying the virus on clothing, equipment, boots, vehicles.
  • The State government is reportedly planning to involve the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the diagnosis and preventive work.
  • A team from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences is expected to visit the State. Around 60 samples of blood and body fluids have been sent for laboratory tests, and nine people have been kept under observation at various hospitals in the district.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Talks with Putin

 

  • Ahead of their summit President Putin will discuss Russia-India military cooperation with Mr. Modi, amidst U.S. sanctions on Russia.
  • Earlier, official sources said the possible impact of the U.S. sanctions against Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Indo-Russia defence cooperation might also figure during the talks between Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin.
  • The CAATSA is a U.S. federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia’s defence and intelligence sectors.
  • India is not going to allow its defence engagement with Russia to be dictated by any other country adding New Delhi has been lobbying with the Trump administration on the issue.
  • India could face U.S. sanctions for purchasing high-value military defence items, in particular state-of-the-art S-400 Triumf missile defence system, from Russia under the act.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

1. Camera traps record rare black panther in Odisha

 

  • The wildlife wing of Odisha’s Forest and Environment Department has recorded the presence of a black panther in a forest in Sundargarh district. The photographs make Odisha the ninth State in India where the elusive and rare big cat has been seen.
  • Black panther or melanistic leopard is a colour variant of the Indian leopard. It was the first ever footage of a black panther in the forests of Odisha.
  • The leopards’ skins vary in colour and the jet black melanistic form is called black panther. It is as shy as a normal leopard and very difficult to detect. It is mostly found in densely forested areas of southern India.
  • The reserve forest where the footage of the black panther has been recorded is spread across the Hemgir and Gopalpur Range, covering an area of 5947.47 ha and 4090.65 ha respectively. Although the presence of black panther was reported 26 years ago, no scientific or pictorial records could establish the claim.
  • Black panthers have also been reported from Kerala (Periyar Tiger Reserve), Karnataka (Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary), Chhattisgarh (Achanakmar Tiger Reserve), Maharashtra (Satara), Goa (Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary), Tamil Nadu (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve), Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Category: ECONOMY

1. SEBI proposes stringent norms for debt disclosure

 

  • Listed companies might soon have to make a quick disclosure in the event of a default on debt securities or even if the company is merely expecting a possible delay or default in the payment of the interest or the principal amount.
  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), whose attempts last year to tighten the disclosure norms for default of loans taken from banks or financial institutions met with opposition and failed ultimately, plans to amend the listing regulations to make such disclosures mandatory.
  • SEBI has proposed amending the Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements Regulation 2015, with which all listed companies have to comply.
  • The watchdog has proposed changes that would make it compulsory for a company to disclose within 24 hours, any default or an expected default or delay in the payment of interest or dividend on debt instruments such as non-convertible debt securities (NCDs) or non-convertible redeemable preference shares (NCRPS).
  • Further, if there is any action or proposal that could affect the redemption, conversion, cancellation, retirement in whole or in part of the debt securities then it will also have to be disclosed as soon as reasonably possible but not later than twenty-four hours from occurrence of event or information, as per SEBI’s discussion paper.
  • There was a view that SEBI’s circular last year on debt default disclosure went beyond the securities market and so got stalled. This time though, the regulator has acted within its powers and has proposed changes to tighten the regulations for disclosure by amending the LODR regulations, which every listed entity has to comply with.
  • With the proposed changes, the regulator aims to move from principal-based to regulation-based disclosure requirements.
  • While there are obvious incentives for companies to suppress such disclosures, the proposed changes would explicitly state the compliance requirements for the listed entities.
  • Among other things, the regulator wants listed companies to disclose five days prior to every quarter details related to interest or dividend payable on all NCDs or NCRPS during the quarter. Thereafter, within two working days from the end of the quarter a certificate needs to be provided confirming all such payments.
  • Companies will also be required to report any material deviation in the use of proceeds on a quarterly basis instead of the current requirement of providing such information every six months.Material deviations in the use of proceeds is a serious issue and needs to be intimated more frequently than the instant provision.
  • SEBI has sought to address two key issues in relation to the listed companies who have their debt securities listed.
  • First, to tighten up the disclosure and governance norms whilst leaving no room for delay in dissemination of material information and second, to also rationalise the disclosure norms to mitigate the unwarranted hardships faced by the issuers.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. On the great Asian highway

India and China must forge an understanding to cooperate on regional connectivity projects

  • One of the key non-military issues that does not just bedevil India-China relations but also significantly affects many countries in the region is the inability of the two Asian giants to communicate, cooperate and coordinate on matters of regional trade and connectivity which could have benefited all.
  • India on declining to endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the just concluded Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

The BBIN way

  • Looking into South Asia, where most multi-country connectivity initiatives are usually deemed,one recent positive development has been the trial run of a Bangladesh-Nepal bus service through India under  the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement.
  • It shows that the ambition of establishing physical connectivity among the smaller states of South Asia through India can eventually be realised and break the usual political gridlock that characterises the region.
  • Although Bhutan failed to ratify the agreement due to opposition from its parliament, instead of halting progress, the country asked other stakeholders to move ahead and expressed hope of joining the initiative if and once it gets clearance from the parliament.
  • Bhutan’s positive go-ahead not only demonstrated the immense potential to be realised through simple cooperation but also showed that it is possible to implement pragmatic plans even when all members are not able to participate at the same time.
  • Poor connectivity is the major reason why intra-regional trade is among the lowest in South Asia. South Asia, with its 1.8 billion population, is only capable of conducting around 5% intraregional trade as connectivity remains a constant barrier.
  • Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) continue to plague the region and addressing infrastructure deficits can do away with 80% of the NTBs.
  • In addition to enhancing trade, connectivity can significantly improve people-to-people interaction leading to better understanding, greater tolerance and closer diplomatic relations in the region.
  • States in South and Southeast Asia are involved in multiple regional initiatives led by India and China but are unable to get the benefit due to their slow progress.
  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation remains moribund with little hope of it becoming functional in the near future.
  • The Bay of Bengal too remains among the least integrated regions in spite of having immense potential of enhancing trade through utilisation of its ports and waterways.
  • The India-led Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, has made little progress.
  • Serving as a funnel to the Malacca Straits, one of the world’s busiest waterways, the Bay of Bengal has now become one of the most important strategic hotspots for global trade and all countries in BIMSTEC are losing out due to this prolonged period of dormancy.
  • In all this time, the organisation has only had meetings, negotiations and leaders’ summit and stalled free trade agreement negotiations.
  • However, there has been some progress through the establishment of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre and a task force on Trans Power Exchange and Development Projects, which was established to develop a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection.

China is leading its own regional ambition with its BRI.

  • A portion of the Maritime Silk Route crosses the Bay of Bengal and involves Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
  • Both China and India are pursuing regional initiatives on their own which could lead to benefit for all involved states.
  • Regional agendas could have been pursued efficiently if the initiatives were complementary rather than competing. If the BRI, BIMSTEC and BBIN were developed through coordination and consultation, led by the two Asian giants, the projects under the schemes could have been implemented more efficiently.
  • With the minimum required cooperation in pursuing regional initiatives, India and China can significantly enhance trade, investment and connectivity in the region.
  • This would not only would be a win-win for the two giants but also enormously benefit smaller countries.

Make good in Qingdao

  • As Prime Minister of India and Chinese President meet again, after the Wuhan informal summit, in June for the SCO summit in Qingdao, China, they have an opportunity to forge a pragmatic understanding on the efficacy of regional initiatives through greater communication, enhanced cooperation and better coordination.
  • In the end, slow moving regional projects end up hurting most the resource-constrained citizenry of the region who are deprived from the benefits emanating from well-thought-out and carefully strategised regional connectivity projects.
  • Caught in the quagmire of continental, regional and sub-regional geopolitics, the smaller states are losing out and having to pay the price of missed economic opportunities as the two Asian giants shake hands but seldom see eye to eye even on matters of common economic and strategic interests.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Miles to go for the new bankruptcy code

  • The new bankruptcy code yields its first success, but many wrinkles remain.
  • Good news has finally started to roll out of the refurbished bankruptcy courts.
  • Tata Steel acquired 73% stake in the bankrupt firm Bhushan Steel for about 35,000 crore, making it the first major resolution of a bankruptcy case under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
  • Bhushan Steel was one among the 12 major accounts referred to the National Company Law Tribunal at the behest of the Reserve Bank of India last year to ease the burden of bad loans on banks.
  • The proceeds from the acquisition will go towards settling almost two-thirds of the total outstanding liabilities of over 56,000 crore that Bhushan Steel owes banks.
  • While it may be unwise to read too much into a single case, the Bhushan Steel resolution is nevertheless an encouraging sign for banks because they typically manage to recover only about 25% of their money from defaulters.
  • In fact, between April 2014 and September 2017, the bad loan recovery rate of public sector banks was as low as 11%, with non-performing assets worth 41 lakh crore written off from their books.
  • The Finance Ministry now expects banks to recover more than 1 lakh crore from the resolution of the other cases referred by the RBI to the NCLT.
  • If the banks do indeed recover funds of this scale, it would considerably reduce the burden on taxpayers, who would otherwise have to foot the bill for any recapitalisation of banks.
  • Even more important, speedy resolution would free valuable assets to be used for wealth-creation.

Challenges:

  •  The resolution of one high-profile case, however, should not deflect attention from the many challenges still plaguing the bankruptcy resolution process.
  • The IBC, as the government itself has admitted, remains a work in progress. This is a welcome piece of legislation to the extent that it subsumes a plethora of laws that confused creditors; instead it now offers a more streamlined way to deal with troubled assets.
  • But issues such as the proposed eligibility criteria for bidders have left it bogged down and suppressed its capacity to help out creditors efficiently.
  • Also, the strict time limit for the resolution process as mandated by the IBC is an area that has drawn much attention, and it merits further review in order to balance the twin objectives of speedy resolution and maximising recovery for the lenders.
  • To its credit, the government has been willing to hear out suggestions. It would do well to implement the recommendations of the Insolvency Law Committee which, among other things, has vouched for relaxed bidder eligibility criteria.

                 Way forward:

  • Amendments to the bankruptcy code should primarily be driven by the goal of maximising the sale price of stressed assets. This requires a robust market for stressed assets that is free from all kinds of entry barriers.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. The Meghalaya example

  • As the first State to pass a social audit law, its experience is instructive on how to increase awareness of entitlements
  • Nearly 300 people, mostly women, gathered in a community hall in Iewshillong village, Meghalaya waiting for the “social audit meeting” to begin.
  • They wondered what the ‘social audit’, that had unfolded in their village over the past five days, was going to amount to.

Social Audit:

  • Meghalaya became the first State in the country to pass a social audit legislation, the Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act. This Act mandated social audits across 21 schemes and 11 departments.
  • Later in the year, the Meghalaya government decided to pilot social audits in a campaign mode to unpack the modalities that would have to be institutionalised across the State for meeting the mandate of the legislation.
  • Eighteen villages representing Garo, Khasi and Jaintia Hills were selected for the pilot. The process began in the third week of November 2017 and culminated with public hearings in 18 villages, including Iewshillong.

Social Audit exercise:

  • The Meghalaya exercise demonstrated how social audits can be developed as an ongoing process through which citizens participate in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the programme.
  • Meghalaya is a Sixth Schedule Area, so the audits had to be built on traditional tribal institutions, leveraging their inherent strengths and facilitating their engagement with contemporary democratic practices.
  • The audits were deliberately positioned to be a platform for sharing information about schemes, and enhancing awareness amongst people about their entitlements;
  • Detecting beneficiaries who were eligible, but had been left out;
  • recording people’s testimonies;
  • identifying priorities for inputs for planning; registering of grievances; and
  • pinpointing systemic shortcomings.
  • The critical requirement of recording financial and procedural irregularities and deviations between fact and record remained a core part of the exercise.
  • The audits helped identify and bring about evidence-based policy changes.
  • More than 21 issues were identified based on pilots alone that needed a change in policy, in the interest of the community.
  • For instance, several instances of local discretion in drawing up pension beneficiary lists for the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) and the Chief Minister Pension Programme were recorded, because the CM pension provided twice as much remuneration as the NSAP.
  • At a culmination meeting, the government announced parity between the two schemes, benefiting thousands of pensioners.

Citizen oversight

  • In India today, there is a growing acknowledgement of social audits as a credible means of institutionalising citizen oversight.
  • There is, therefore, an urgent need to come up with a working protocol for facilitating social audits across a range of interventions.
  • The experience of Meghalaya has taught us how social audit is intrinsically related to processes of community participation and grievance redress.
  • The Meghalaya pilots have also helped formulate a practical framework through which that can be done. Draft rules were prepared on the basis of consultation.

Conclusion

  • By passing and rolling out a social audit law, Meghalaya has made a breakthrough in the framework of accountability to the people.
  • Social audit is much more than just a tool of “good governance”.
  • Knowing the reluctance of most government establishments to share power or become accountable, this initiative is unlikely to spread or become robust, unless driven by citizens groups.
  • Civil society needs to shape the social audit campaign, be a watchdog, and staunchly protect the independence of the process.
  • Social audits must become part of the demand for effective legislation for the whole country.

G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about Navika Sagar Parikrama:
  1. This is the first-ever Indian circumnavigation of the globe by an all-women crew.
  2. The crew is collating and updating meteorological, ocean and wave data on regular basis for accurate weather forecast by India Meteorological Department (IMD), as also monitoring marine pollution on high seas.

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following statements:
  1. Nipah Virus is an emerging infectious disease that broke out in Malaysia and Singapore.
  2. The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses.

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. Consider the following statements:
  1. Debentures are long-term financial instruments which acknowledge a debt obligation towards the issuer.
  2. The debentures which can’t be converted into shares or equities are called non-convertible debentures (or NCDs).

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 4. Consider the following statements:
  1. Non-convertible debentures are used as tools to raise long-term funds by companies through a public issue.
  2. To compensate for this drawback of non-convertibility, lenders are usually given a higher rate of return compared to convertible debentures.

Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer

H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

 General Studies II

 

  1. In the context of India-China relationship,matters of regional trade and connectivity can play a major role in diffusing the border conflicts. Critically Analyse.

 General Studies III

  1. Discuss the challenges faced in the implementation of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

 

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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